Yearly Archives: 2016

2016 Year in Review

I don’t have to tell you that 2016 was, as years go, a murderous sack of crap.  I’m trying to focus on the positive, though, and fortunately: there was a fair amount of positive things I can look back on.

2016 wasn’t as stressful as 2015: but there was a moment there in the middle, when I made a major career change. A couple strands of grey in my beard became an inch-thick band of white in my beard while working through whether or not I should make it: not exaggerating at all.  I’m still settling in at the new job (ie: hanging on by my fingernails) but so far it feels like the worst is over.

Year in Review

  • January was spent grinding out the table & finishing up my Amiens TGS game.  And, of course, running it.  Room for improvement, but it was successful.

  • February saw me painting up a bunch of Partisans for a Bolt Action league at Huzzah.

  • In March, I built a light arch, which was a very smart move and has helped me a lot.

  • In April, I painted up some Stuarts.  They placed at Historicon, but let’s face it: they got third because, surely, there was one other entry. They’re notable, though, because they were a huge breakthrough for me in terms of airbrushing tanks.  I have miles to go, but I finally get it, because of these tanks.

  • May and June were for Flames of War – Great War: Chris ran a Great War tournament, and I’d picked up a bunch of stuff for it the previous year.  I painted all of it. It was hugely liberating to blow through so many minis in so little time, and set me up to jump on a bunch of USMC stuff for Flames of War: Pacific when it came out.

  • The penultimate Historicon was in July.  I ran a game that was poorly attended, played poorly in a By Fire & Sword Tournament, got to play in the League of Augsburg game, and crushed it at the painting competition.

  • August was, as is traditional, a lot of NOVA prep.
  • September began with NOVA, which was a good time despite me not having any idea what I’d be doing at it, and ended with Arnhem, which was a feat (that I got to contribute to).

  • October, November, December were radio silence as I worked on, then ran, then recovered from running 40K Black Ops.

Hobby Charts

Clearly, I peaked early (with the Flames of War bases), but kept up a solid, excellent pace, and finished 2016 having done more than any previous year.

I also managed to paint more actual models this year than any previous year.

I think I can, unquestionably, thank 15mm and 1/72 models for this.

Hobby Spending

This is also the first full year I was able track all of my model purchases against my model painting achievements (I’d tried it a few years ago, and failed within weeks). This practice was intended to help me throttle down on buying more crap than I painted by making me aware of how much was coming in vs. going out.

Basically: I’d log how much I’d spend on minis as a positive, then log the MSRP of the minis as a negative (this last part was to cover minis that have been sitting around in my closet, for which I don’t have a record of how much I paid… also to encourage me to get things at less than MSRP). Selling minis (not something I’m especially good at) would also be tracked as a negative.  The goal being to get that balance to be zero or even a little negative.

Whoops.  Selling my old NIB copy of Mordheim in October and then painting up a metric ton of Deadzone terrain blew my Δ to over a grand ahead of where I wanted to be.  That difference is so great as to be unhelpful (by the “keep that number negative” rule I could run out and buy a Forgeworld army and still be good; obviously no good), but the constant awareness of in vs. out was very helpful to me.

Now that I’ve kept it up for a year, I think I’ll be able to persist it into 2017.

Goals

2016 Goals

  • FinishComplete Success – Man, I did great. I prepped and GM’d two really good games (Amiens, Black Ops), and contributed to another (Arnhem). I painted a ton of complete forces: I finished a ton of 18mm WWI Germans, painted almost the entire gamut available of 15mm FoW WWI Germans, a whole Partisan force for Bolt Action, a platoon of 1/72 Red Devils for Arnhem, a Wrath of Kings Goritsi warband, a ton of stuff for Frostgrave, and thirty models for Black Ops. I built a WWI table and painted enough for a crowded, urban sci-fi table. I got stuff done.
  • PaintComplete Success – Unquestionably so.
  • CompetePartial Success – I played in a couple of tournaments, but would assert I was only really competitive in one of them.
  • AmiensSuccess – It happened.  I ran it again at Madicon
  • Step it up at NOVAInconclusive – I think I did well in the Captial Palette this year, but with the shifting format I think it’s tough for me to say whether or not I “stepped it up.”  I only painted one thing specifically for it, and “paint models for competition” is probably what I really meant to do.
  • Game in my basement – Complete Success – Dark Heresy continued to run in the basement.  I’ve been running a barely coherent DCC game there.  Did some wargaming: Amiens, Frostgrave, Black Ops.

2017 Goals

  • Finish
  • Paint
  • Compete
  • Step it up for Historicon – Normally, Historicon gets my NOVA entries from the previous year. I didn’t really have those this year.  Given that 2017 will be my last Historicon (screw the move to New Jersey), I would like to go out on a high note.
  • Step it up at NOVA – Actually paint some competition entries.
  • Stay away from Kickstarter –  I think I did okay on Kickstarter this year: a little but not a lot.  Let’s keep that up.

Not really sure what else I want to do next year.  I’d like to keep up the momentum of tackling small, manageable projects and finishing them.  In the immediate term: I’d like to experiment with some other Wrath of Kings forces to see if one better fits my playstyle.  I’ve got some friends I don’t really wargame with that like Heroes of Normandie: it’d be nice to play that with them.  I’ve got Zombicide: Black Plague sitting in my closet, still unplayed. I’d like to expand my ability to run 40K Black Ops with more diverse forces.

Demogorgon

Finally got around to finishing Demogorgon.  No, no hyena heads.  This is the other one.  Nothing amazing, but I like the blunt color scheme.

I also finished a couple final Frostgrave Cultists a while back (back when I finished my first batch of cultists for Black Ops) and neglected to photograph them.  I love those grotty Cultist faces.

40K Black Ops – Models

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Although a bajillion other scenarios have popped off (Stormtroopers assaulting a Kroot encampment! Cultists infiltrating a Militarum base!  Goddamn Space Marine!  Just one!), my initial plan was to do Stormtroopers vs. Cultists.

I got a bunch of cultists back in the Dark Vengeance box and, even when I traded away the rest of the Chaos models, I hung onto them because they’re cool and they’re the sort of model I’d like to have around painted.  Obviously, it took me a bit to get to them.cultists-group

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They’re definitely Chaos-y, but maybe not so specific I can’t use them for whatever.

I was really excited about painting up some Stormtroopers.  I’ve been into the models since they came out, but haven’t had an excuse to paint them up.  Because they’re supposed to be stealthy, I used the same paint scheme for them that I used on the Deadzone Pathfinders I painted up a few months ago, and I’m nuts for it.  It’s black without being black, which is always the problem with painting things black, you know?

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I also used some of the Mantic Peacekeeper shields because, well, I thought they deserved some riot shields.

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40K Black Ops – Rules

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First off: some links:

As I said yesterday, I wanted to be able to run Black Ops-style scenarios (elite specialists assaulting a position held by less elite bad guys via stealth) in the 40K universe.  I wanted the attackers to go in ignorant about the force they’d be facing: in both general and particular.

Go ahead and open one of those up and and either read through them or follow along with them as I ramble through my thought processes.

Goals

So my goals were to:

  1. Use the 40K unit and weapon stats and rules wherever possible
    • I didn’t want to have to reinvent a way to articulate how an Ork is stronger than a Guardsman or how a Kasrkin is better trained than a Cultist.
    • I didn’t want to have to reinvent a way to articulate how an autopistol is different from a flamer or from a missile launcher.
  2. Emphasize stealth
    • The defender’s ability to recognize and respond to the attacker should be limited, pulling as much from the Black Ops noise rules as possible.
    • The attacker should initially know as little about the defending force as possible; with details about
  3. Single model activation
    • A skirmish game with 10-20 models a side simply requires that models be activated and treated individually.

The expectation was to run the game as a GM’d, convention-style game.  The hope would be that players would address the game creatively and with initiative… and that I wouldn’t have to try to account for every potential scenario in writing.  I think it’ll handle random, non-arbitrated play, but it definitely benefits from a GM.

As a baseline, I envisioned an elite squad of Imperial Guard Stormtroopers (yeah, yeah, “Tempestus Scions”) striking against a gaggle of Chaos Cultists.  I had 10 of the former and 20 of the latter.

Orders

For starters, I’m in love with the Bolt Action activation system.  I might hate the second edition of the game, but those dice provide a lot of flexibility, spontaneity, and complexity in a manner that is immediately understandable to a new player. I decided to shamelessly steal an idea that Casey had: each model (not squad) gets an activation die and, to reflect the better training and badassery of special characters, Character models get a number of activation dice equal to their number of wounds.  So, a squad of 10 guardsmen would get 11 dice: 1 for each guardsman and 2 for the sergeant.  When the sergeant loses a wound, a die’s removed from the bag.

The orders have to change a little bit: Pins and BA-style morale fall apart immediately when you’re looking at a single model.  Fortunately, I needed a catch-all order for button pushing, prisoner interrogation, and psychic power use, so “Rally” becomes “Special.”  I also wanted more of a 40K-style Overwatch, in which a model can fire repeatedly in a limited arc, than a BA-style Ambush, in which a model gets a single fire response to someone they can draw line of sight to, so “Ambush” becomes “Overwatch.”

The rest of everything comes together pretty quickly: Down is down, Fire, Advance, and Run all remain pretty much the same except an articulation of what sort of weapon can be fired on what order.

I did take the opportunity to change a thing I’ve never liked about 40K Rapid Fire Weapons: instead of this range-based 2 shots at 12″, 1 shot at 24″ business, I’ve always thought Rapid Fire weapons should fire two shots when standing still and one when on the move: so that becomes 2 shots on a Fire order, 1 shot on an Advance.

Nothing here is groundbreaking.  I’m sure any number of 40K players who’ve encountered Bolt Action have noodled through something that looks very, very similar to this… but it’s got to be documented, right?

Rules That Are Probably Going

I did want to cover multiple attacks: in 40K, if you shoot a Heavy Bolter at a bunch of guys, you might kill three of them… but that only works because it’s really just one unit of models.  I’ve got a rule that says you can “walk” attacks 2 inches: if you had a 2 shot weapon, for example, you could decide to allocate 1 shot at a model and the other shot at a model 2″ away.  If you had, say, 3 shots, you could allocate 1 at a model, loose one in the middle, and 1 at a model 4″ inches away…. the same for close combat.

I thought it would be a good bit of spackle.  In effect, it didn’t come up once, which means it’s unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, I wanted to pull a bit from Infinity’s ARO system: I put in rules that allowed models access to a subset of Orders (Fire, Down, Advance) that they could take in response to an activating model (like BA’s ability to go Down in response to being fired at), with a test to continue to be able to accept orders.  Again, it never came up at all, was complicated and kind of hard to articulate.  So, I’ll keep the list of Reaction orders and dump the test and ability to continue to respond.

That’s about it on how I fiddle with the 40K mechanics to make it work for the this.  The rest all speaks to how those mechanics are used: stealth missions

Stealth Missions

This began as a very clear port of the Black Ops rules, but after some playtesting it became clear that it wasn’t going to work the way I wanted it to.

We’ve done a ton of “hidden model” scenarios in TGS and have seen what works and what doesn’t: even better, having encountered Infinity (but not having played it as much as I’d like) I’m familiar with the idea of silhouette markers.  In fact, I love them.  So much so that, for this sort of game, I’ve ordered and numbered 32 of them.

Each side gets a DBT tray with an insert that looks like this:

tray-template

Silhouette Marker 03 corresponds to whatever model’s sitting on 03 in the tray.

10 of the defenders are “Guards” these run on autopilot and respond to noise generated around them.  This started as a direct port from Black Ops, where all of the defenders worked off of the table, but that left the defender with too little agency.  So, instead it’s just the 10, and then the defenders get to control a handful of models in the same way that the attackers get.  Both attackers and (non-Guard) defenders begin as silhouettes.

The Guards are fine on the table, because they’re generic enough: Cultists are Cultists, and I’ll be picking up a handful of Cadians to use as Guards when the baddies are attacking.

The Noise table is what really drew me to BO, but quickly changed enough that I feel comfortable dropping it into the rules doc above: I’d originally planned to just say “Reference the book”.  “Noise” was confusing, because so much of it is visible, so I renamed it “Disturbance.”  In fact, I broke out the types of disturbance into Visual and Auditory.  Different weapons generate different amounts of disturbance and different ways.

For example:

  • Lasguns, which are just shooting beams of light, generate visual disturbance that’s centered on the shooter.
  • Grenades, which are freaking grenades, generate visual and aural disturbance that’s centered on the blast.
  • Corpses are sources of disturbance (that hopefully don’t go anywhere), but only to guards that see them.
  • Guards screaming bloody murder generate disturbance that anyone around can hear.

Finally, I was dissatisfied with the reaction table: it was both too forgiving and too punishing.  There’s a strong likelihood that I replace this table with a leadership test instead of a single d6 roll and have a few more options, but need to do some math to make that work.

Anyway, that’s all there is to the rules!

40K Black Ops – Overview

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A while back, I picked up Osprey Games’ Black Ops.  It’s a game that covers games like Zero Dark Thirty and Metal Gear Solid: modern (or five-minutes-in-the-future) skirmishes with a strong emphasis on attacker vs. defender and stealth. Like most Osprey Games it looks like it’s probably perfect for a convention-style game that probably wouldn’t hold up to extended, concentrated play.  A solid basis for the sort of game it set out to be.

I really dug the idea of a stealth game, but I’m not interested in trying to recreate contemporary conflicts that are actually getting actual people killed actually right now.

Fortunately, I had a fix for that: I love 40K, of course, but as should be obvious around here I haven’t wanted to play the game in a long time.  40K’s a complex setting, and even though the tabletop game’s become about The Big (sometimes you’d think it was a skirmish game at 5½ ” scale), there’s still a lot of room for the sort of smaller scale engagements that are analogous to the ones Black Ops intends to serve.

Now, I don’t have an opinion about the Black Ops game.  I haven’t played it.  I could immediately tell that it wasn’t going to work, though: it covers humans fighting humans using modern equipment: not humans fighting orks fighting daemons with microwave and laser guns. In the end, I ended up mashing together a whole mess of rules that I described in the initial game pitch as “It’s like 40K talked Bolt Action into having a three-way with Infinity, but Bolt Action and Infinity are kind of really into each other and neglect the hell out of 40K and now 40K just feels miserable and awkward and alone.”

I noodled on it for a long while, then finally decided: actually execute on the dang game: schedule it, build and paint for it, then run the damned thing.  That happened over the past weekend.

This is what’s occupied most of my hobby time over the past two months and, because I wanted things to be a surprise, that’s why I’ve been so quiet around here.  I’ve been busy… just not able to post about it.

I’ll break this across a couple of posts: this overview, a link to and a discussion of the rules, the models I painted, and some game photos.

Arnhem, September 18 1944

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Back in March, during our Foy game, we got to talking ’bout some Arnhem.  A quick lookup turned up that the anniversary of Market Garden actually lined up with our regular gaming slot in September, with the actual day being the anniversary of Operation Berlin (aka: the evacuation ending the endeavor).  With six months lead-time, surely we could do a big Market Garden game by then, right?

Fortunately, we very quickly scaled back our plans from a series of linked games covering the high points of the Operation from start to finish down to ‘simply’ doing Frost’s attempt to hold onto the bridge in Arnhem.  This was the right call.

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Steve, who knows a lot more about this than I do (I’ve watched A Bridge Too Far, and have read the book on which it’s based, but that’s about it), did all the planning,  John already had the Germans painted, and did all of the table, which is (as you’ll see) amazing.  I painted up the British paras.

There was an online, pre-game component where the British and German teams determined how they would deploy and maneuver.

 

Although the Germans responded the same way they did historically, the British did things a little differently, which resulted in 1) Frost not even getting to the bridge and 2) the British that did needing to defend it from the town and across the river.

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(Would you just look at this table?)

I ended up on the German team. Because we assumed they would concentrate their forces on the buildings overlooking the bridge, the plan was to advance through the buildings on the East side of the causeway, ensuring they were clear and approaching under cover.

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That didn’t last long. It turned out the British were riddled throughout the those houses.  Assaulting in Bolt Action 1E is decisive, and my rolling wasn’t so hot, so I lost 2 out of 3 assaults, which wiped out my infantry units pretty much by the very beginning, leaving me with a tank and not much else.

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That’s the silver lining of playing Germans in WWII: when you’re winning, you’re winning.  When you’re losing, the Germans are losing, and that means all is right with the world.

 

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We had a tough time pushing up that flank: both because the BA building rules, which are normally Good Enough, are especially punishing when there’s basically nothing but buildings. Needing to go room-to-room is entirely on point here, but I think we need to tweak things a bit somewhere here.

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Eventually, the models I painted deigned to leave cover, which let me get some photos of them in action:

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(I’m particularly pleased with that first image in the post. How cool is that?)

We eventually got near enough to the buildings around the bridge, which meant the PIATs opened up.  I did have one, brief, shining moment of usefulness when a PIAT from the top floor of one of the buildings fired on a tank: my tank returned fire and handily returned fire, killing everyone in the top floor.

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At the end of the game, though, the German progress was too slow: of the six buildings around the bridge, the Germans had taken/cleared two of them, and the British still occupied four.  All pretty much agreed that the British had won the game.

Frostgrave – Well of Dreams and Sorrows and Horrible Death

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Played another game of Frostgrave last week with Casey.  Third in the series.  The campaign is nominally “Thaw of the Lich Lord” (literally: that’s what I’ve been putting on my warband sheet), but we’ve mostly been goofing around with it.  Game 1 was Thaw’s “Total Eclipse”, Game 2 was “The Mausoleum”, and this one (Game 3) was “The Well of Dreams and Sorrows” except, obviously, we used the Dungeon Set-up.

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Because things blend in a bit: yellow stars are treasure, green stars are special roll-on-the-Lich Lord table treasure tokens, blue stars are dungeon entrances (we didn’t have enough ways in, so the stairs down are warband entrances and Wandering Monsters can pop up out of floor hatches or, if undead, out of sarcophagi.  We also parked Giant Frogs on top of the special treasures because that 16+ for Random Encounters doesn’t produce enough mayhem for my tastes.

The pool of blood in the center is, obviously, the Well.

I neglected to take photos turn-by-turn (maybe we’ll make a point of doing so next time?), but you can kind of see the direction the game goes in: both of us break some guys off to each side and push down the middle with our Wizards.  Wizard vs. Wizard, Apprentice vs. Apprentice.

On the left, my Treasure Hunter chumped the Giant Frog, leaving the special treasure for the Thief to collect.  He sent two models into the secret room to fight the Giant Frog on his side, which was a Mistake.   They were obliterated by the Giant Frog immediately.  What was going to be an Apprentice-on-Apprentice showdown ended early when his Apprentice caught a Crossbow Bolt to the face.   Things are going my way, right?

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Not as much in the middle.  A bit of back-and forth, a few henchmen cutdown, and a clever gambit on my part that fell apart after reading all of the Leap spell text, and before we knew it the game boiled down to both of our Wizards, standing a few feet from each other, on their last legs, flinging Bone Dart at each other.

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At this point, I would really like you to picture two guys, somewhere further along the Kovacs’ Wizard DCC evolution track:

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standing in a mall food court gibbering, spitting, and flinging chopsticks at each other for an extended period of time. People stand by, uncomfortable and unsure how to respond. It goes on and on.  Suddenly, a chopstick embeds itself in one of the combatants eyes.  He screams, and blood sprays across across the bystanders as he dies messily.

Seriously, round after round of “I’m at 1 wound.  I probably should run away, but he just missed Bone Darting me, and he’s only at 1 wound, too, and if I can Bone Dart him I’ve got this!  Okay.  Bone Dart it is!”  Ending, of course, with my Wizard getting eyeball chopstick’d and dying messily.

We’re using the Just Play rules, that are explicit about between game order of operations: roll for Treasure, then roll for injuries.  I got out with one of the Lich Lord treasures.   Rolled: Crystal Rose (lets you reroll on an Injury table).  Rolled for my dead henchpeople, then the Wizard: rolled a 2.  DEAD.  A dead hireling isn’t a big deal, but a dead Wizard is HUGE.  But wait: Crystal Rose!  Re rolled the 2, and got a Close Call!  My wizard lost all of his gear (Magic Spectacles and a Staff of Power (3)), but lived on!

Talk about close calls!