Tuesday 24 September 2019

Crimson Fist Reinforcements


I recently posted about some Crimson Fists dug out from the collection. As alluded to I had a few more minis to paint up to add to them, so I did:

Ta da! Some scouts and Terminators. I'm pretty pleased with how they came out, and even had a go at some freehand fists. It did remind me that painting marines is pretty dull though. Not enough rust and dirt!

Personally, I still think these scout sculpts hold up pretty well. I've not personally played Space Marines in so long that I still think of the plastic ones as 'new'. These ones definitely stand out from their contemporaries in 2nd edition.

Terminators were a mix of the Battle for Black Reach ones and assorted bits from the full kit and other marine sets. Lots of purity seals and the like to bling them up a bit. As veterans of the Crimson Fists, they all got two red hands, and an attempt at a chapter symbol on the shoulder. Some of them are definitely better than others, but I think, at a distance at least, they do the job.

So now some shots of a full, legal battalion. Captain, Lieutenant, two Tactical squads, the Scouts and the Terminators. I'm sure it's not going to be incredibly powerful, but it looks cool and it might be a handy core to expand upon (unlikely) or add allies to.

Friday 20 September 2019

Match Report - Halflings vs Halflings


After a bit of a hiatus, the Fiery Fowlers have come back to the Bloodbowl field! This time, they returned to the Taylored Games Arena to play once more against Coach George. With a one all record against his various teams so far, this time it was a decider, and the Fowlers were up against the only team in Bloodbowl as hungry as they are - other Halflings!

As is tradition, George's team (let's call them the Greyfield Gobblers) consisted of an unhealthy palid looking group with uniforms matching their skin tone. Obviously they had not been getting their five a day! The 'flings were accompanied by two treemen who at least had some colour to their complexion, but weirdly insisted on saying 'I am Groot' over and over. His team also sprinkled a few of the new Halfling special positionals in there for added flavour - they didn't really do a lot though so that's probably the last you'll hear of them in this report.

The Fiery Fowlers started with the kick, and we were off! The Greyfield Gobblers quickly retrieved the balls and, amongst ineffectual treemen fights, we prepared for the first Halfling throw of the game. He didn't land on his feet and the ball was soon grabbed by the Fowlers.

Moving around the flank, we quickly found that it's pretty hard to keep Halflings out of a cage. The ball was dropped and the Gobblers were in position to grab it...

But the Fiery Fowlers are a tough bunch, and in a rare show they out muscled their opposition! Many Greyfield 'flings were flung into the crowd!

By the end of the drive the Gobblers had almost been cleared off the pitch entirely! Touchdown for the Fowlers, but as is the case with Halfling teams, there are usually plenty of them so there was no danger of the Gobblers running out of players.

With time running out in the first half, the Fowlers kicked again, and managed to get the ball back without too much trouble. Second Halfling throw attempt saw three of the little guys knocked over and no touchdown.

Back for the second half, and the Fiery Fowlers were given the ball. They quickly formed up against a very aggressive Greyfield team for a throw attempt.

But the tree fumbled, dropping the poor 'fling on his head (even with a reroll!) The Fowlers held position against the Gobbler's advances, ready to try again with another Halfling, but the tree obviously had some slippery branches, because he dropped the Halfling again!

It was enough of an opportunity for the Gobblers, who were by this stage pretty well camped in the opposition half. They got the ball chucked up the field and safely caught. With backup they were able to keep on their feet long enough to get the touchdown.

All squared up at one all, and the Fowlers were receiving. The Gobblers formed into the deep 'throw protection' line. They and the ticking clock put the pressure on to force the throw...

A Fowler 'fling got up the field with the ball, but he wasn't able to reach the endzone. The Gobblers pounced greedily on their chance...

One more successful treeman throw in the dying seconds of the game and the little Halfling went for it as fast as his little feet would carry him, just about making it into the endzone before the whistle. (That four was the Go For It roll required for the touchdown.)

A Win for Coach George and the Greyfield Gobblers, and another loss for the Fiery Fowlers. They are pretty used to it by now, but of course it still left a bitter taste in their mouths. Oh well, I'm sure the after match feast was glorious!

George and I had a lot of fun with this one. Halflings are a weird team to play against, and now we've both had that experience. Most of the standard Bloodbowl tactics go out the window and you pretty much have to rely on punching them and hope the dice don't fall well for their throws. The new GW minis are also very nice, I'm sure they would look good with a bit of paint on them...

Sunday 15 September 2019

Adeptus Titanicus at Boards and Swords


I recently took a trip to Derby, to play Adeptus Titanicus with a couple of hobby legends in The Claw and Gambit. We agreed to meet at Boards and Swords, which for us was a new venue that I'd only been made aware of after seeing a tweet from Andy Thornley having just finished their new Adeptus Titanicus board. I felt that was a good a reason as any to give them a go.

Anyway, having not played AdTit for some time, The Claw and I had a little refresher with a Reaver and a Warhound each. It was fairly uneventful, but it turned out we had remembered some of the rules at least! It also looked pretty special on this wonderful board.

After our reminder game, and Gambit had suitably recovered from the previous night's entertainment, we commenced with the main event - Traitors vs Loyalists. My Legio Mortis teaming up with The Claw's Legio Magna vs Gambit's Legio Gryphonicus. Both sides had a pair of Warlords, and while we had a Warhound each, Gambit took a Reaver. We selected mission cards, granting the loyalists the Retrieval mission, to rescue a fallen Titan's crew in the centre of the board, and us the (considerably easier) objective to Hold the Line.

Deployment looked like this. Our Warhounds were on the flanks, ready to do Warhound things, while all the Warlords were positioned to blast each other with little movement required. Gambit's Reaver was ready to rush in and grab his objective.

Turn one consisted of trading fire. Not much damage done, though I think we stripped the shields from the enemy Princeps Senioris' Warlord. In turn two however, the War Griffons took the bold move to run the Reaver to the objective and turn away from our guns, with the full stride order in effect to move again...

However, that put the Reaver firmly in the sights of my Warlord...

The first engine kill of the day! However, the retaliation was swift and brutal, my Warhound that had been in position to finish off the Reaver if required got annihilated, and the Flaming Skulls 'hound didn't fare too well either.

We traded fire and Warlord kills, taking down the Princeps Seniors, but loosing my Warlord in the process. That meant the Death's Heads had no further presence on the battlefield. However with the last loyalist engine boxed into the corner, we were comfortably able to complete out objective and deny our half of the city to the War Griffons.

With Gambit sitting out and eventually returning home to paint Warhounds/power nap, The Claw and I played another game. This time I had my full, currently painted maniple against a Warlord and two Reavers. We randomly drew objectives once more, and this time we both had to kill the enemy's most expensive unit as quickly as possible - in this case it was hunt the warlord.

Unsurprisingly the Warlords ended up facing each other, but The Claw's Reavers ended up slightly out of position, while I was able to use mine to draw a bead on the prized foe. First Fire orders caused no damage to my shields, while I got very lucky and stripped all of them off the Warlord with my Reaver. Characterfully, the Legio Mortis capitalised on this weakness...

...blasting the Warlord with my volcano cannons before finishing it off with aimed shots to the damaged legs from the apocalypse missiles.

With secondary objectives still in play, we continued, the Legio Magna Reavers putting some punishing fire onto the Warhounds, stripping most of their void shields. 

With the reactor running hot, this Warhound ran over to stand next to the enemy Reaver in case of an explosion. It was destroyed, but merely stumbled harmlessly into the larger engine.

However, the explosions were soon to follow. My Reaver blasted one of it's opposite number with such ferocity that it's magazine detonated, destroying my second Warhound and damaging both the remaining Reavers in the process!

With one engine remaining, the Legio Magna were in a spot of bother. However, my Reaver was hurting, so The Claw targeted it.

Continuing the theme of engine kills backfiring, the Reaver was destroyed, got the Wild fire result, and pointed itself directly at the enemy that had wrecked it, stripping the shields as it fell. Just in time for a volley from my Warlord to finish the Flaming Skull's resistance, and be the last engine standing!

So I think the three of us had a great day. Titanicus is awfully fun, and it's always nice to play with good people, well painted minis and on great terrain. We were also quite impressed with the venue, seen here in part from their first floor section. Plenty of space, staff member was helpful and awesome, and it's really easy to get to from the main road. As an added bonus, Titanicus is definitely a thing there, we saw at least two other games going on (including two other Legio Mortis forces in action!) I'd definitely go back for another go.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Video Battle Report with SorcererDave - Adeptus Mechanicus vs Eldar


I've been over at SorcererDave's again. This time I brought my Ryza AdMech for the first time on film, and played against his beautiful (mostly ebayed) Aeldari, also in their first video (that made it to the internet at least). It was a narrative type game, but we played a match play scenario - Cut Off The Head - which involves holding the objective (in this case a webway gate) with your characters and keeping them alive. We played a smaller game for a change - 1000 points, which is nice for a slightly more 'zoomed in' feel where individual characters and units can have more of a dramatic effect on the game.

As usual, SorcererDave has put loads of extra effort into this report, there is a five minute narrative introduction to set the scene and another bit of narrative goodness after the battle. Definitely worth sticking around after the battle for a bit of a sneaky, but not so subtle hint as to what happens next...

Friday 6 September 2019

Lessons from the Unbroken Islands - my D&D campaign.


For two and a half years, I have been running a D&D campaign over discord - the Adventures in the Unbroken Islands. In the past week we had the final session, a climactic showdown with the big baddie that had been causing problems behind the scenes for well over a year. The campaign was run using slightly modified 5th edition D&D rules in a custom setting - the titular Unbroken Islands, a largely unexplored archipelago with many mysteries lost to time. It was also run in the style of a West Marches game, which meant a larger cast of players who would play as and when they could attend sessions, and a sandbox setting that player groups could explore as they liked in discrete single session adventures.

I was heavily inspired by the Rollplay West Marches series run by Steven Lumpkin, but I did tone down the difficulty and input required for navigating the world and passing on information by updating the world map myself and writing up a ‘story so far’ document with short notes on each session. This was primarily because I wanted the game to appeal to new players and players who could only make a few sessions every now and then, rather than just heavily committed players who would be there almost every week.

Anyway, the campaign as a whole went well, the players seemed to enjoy it, and the final session was suitably epic but the heroes got to save the day. I had a blast running it, but I did get a little burned out towards the end, and I definitely think along the way there were things I could have done better. To that end I have written up a list of lessons from the campaign, things that didn’t quite go according to plan, how I dealt with it, and what I’d do differently next time. Some of these lessons might only apply to this style of game, but some are applicable to pretty much any game.

Lesson: The game is not balanced around large, high level parties getting to have one or two encounters between long rests. 

This was probably the most noticeable issue in the late stage of the campaign, when the players all had many more powerful abilities than they could reasonably use in a single session. Having lots of abilities also slowed down combat as many players struggled to decide which to use in the moment. D&D 5E is designed for 6-8 regular encounters per ‘adventuring day’, between long rests where all their abilities reset, but this was next to impossible to achieve in a single 3-4 hour session once the players got to higher levels. 

The solution of course was just to make the encounters harder - but this resulted in even longer combats that turned most sessions into one of two basic formulas: either a roleplaying bit, then a big fight, or just two big fights. It also had the problem of really punishing players that had lagged behind in experience points (see below.)

In future I think I would have to find a better way to force players to conserve their resources. One idea is to limit long rests in some way, so perhaps players only get half their resources back between sessions, or they can only take a long rest at specific times. I have an idea for a campaign where the ‘hub’ that the players return to after each session moves around a map, and they can only get the full benefits of a long rest if it is in a ‘safe’ location. I think that could work well, because the time between long rests could be scaled according to the level of the party.

Lesson: Players gaining XP individually and getting ahead of the rest by attending more sessions isn’t a massive problem, providing the gap isn’t too far. 

I found that, as expected, some players played a lot, and some didn’t. As I gave out XP for those who played at the end of each session, this meant some players got very far ahead of others. A few levels either way didn’t cause too many problems, but having a new player turn up in a party with level 10+ characters did make it very tricky to give them challenging encounters that didn’t just instakill the lower level members.

I put a few things into the campaign to combat this. I slowly increased the starting level for new characters, so they wouldn’t be too far behind, I gave an XP bonus to the lowest level player in a party and I allowed players to have multiple characters if they had played long enough so they might have lower level options. This all helped but I still feel there were times when players were put off by how far behind they were. 

Next time, I think I would either put a level cap in place that would slowly increase, (e.g. Players start at level 1 and can go up to 3, until a certain point where both the cap and starting level increase) or I would just do away with experience points and use milestone leveling for the whole group. I think the experienced players would still gravitate towards taking charge in adventures and being the ‘main’ characters, but the other players would be able to contribute just as well when it came to combat and skill tests.

Lesson: Unlimited downtime is a problem.

At the start of the campaign I essentially let everyone do whatever they wanted between sessions, allowing them to build up their influence, craft magic items and even scout out upcoming adventures. This was ‘realistic’, but it quickly caused a few issues. Most notably it gave regular players even more of an advantage over the others, because they were always involved in plots and could craft themselves all sorts of cool gear. It also caused the big issue for me of becoming very time consuming as players pushed it to the point of practically completing the adventures in downtime.

This was largely solved by implementing a somewhat ‘gamey’ system of downtime actions. Essentially players were given a list of options, and could choose one to do, or two if they had not played the previous week. I was a bit disappointed that I had to limit the players this way, but I think it worked out very well in the long run. It also allowed me to modify the rules for crafting so it would be harder to spam out loads of cheap items, but also easier to create those rare magic items that, by the DM’s guide, should take over a year’s work. I left some of the options a little vague, and allowed plenty of leeway to let players do some unusual narrative stuff, but having a simple system in place really helped to focus the players on the game itself, rather than the time between the games.

Lesson: Some players do not like being ‘left behind’ in the story. 

I’m not entirely sure how much this is linked to the experience point gap discussed above, but some players who played infrequently did not want to come back after some time away, as they felt the ‘plot’ had moved on without them, and they wouldn’t know what was going on. The ‘Story So Far’ document was meant to address this issue, but I think the nature of the setting was that it was quite hard to keep up. I think in future it would be helpful to have a single overarching goal that all players are working towards, so there would always be an anchor point for anyone returning. “How are we getting on with defeating the evil wizard?” “We’ve found out where he lives, but his tower is too well defended for now, we need to find allies.” Something like that.

Lesson: Some players don’t like leaving ‘unfinished’ areas. 

Players would often see a dungeon or similar area and thing they should be able to explore it in a single session. While sometimes they could, some areas were designed to be returned to multiple times, but players often felt a bit unhappy to leave at the end of a session, especially if they still had many resources available. I think it was immersion breaking as much as anything, to suddenly have to go home for no in-world reason. Sometimes they would come up against a powerful enemy and be forced to flee, if only because the fight would take far too long to resolve.

In future I intend to split dungeons into discrete sections, be it levels or locked doors or whatever, to signal to the players that ‘this is a session’s worth of content’ without explicitly saying so. I’d also be sure to telegraph the size of a dungeon where possible. A single tower might reasonably be a session’s work, but an underground labyrinth could take much longer.

Lesson: Most players don’t want to write a report or update a map between sessions.

As mentioned, I tried to remove some of the player homework required for this kind of game to lower the bar of entry, but I was still keen for players to convey information to each other about what they had discovered. While early on players often wrote in character write ups of adventures, for which I rewarded XP, this tailed off towards the end of the first year.

I could think of a number of ways to further try and incentivise write ups, but I don’t think it really solves the issue. What I’d like to do in future is have some kind of wrap up at the end of each session where players each get to place a note on a map, or leave one piece of information to put into a report. That way the information given is player generated, but I can ensure it is shared with the group as a whole.

Lesson: Players like random loot, but generally they do not use the stuff they get. 

Towards the end of the campaign we had an ever growing pile of unused magic items because random rolls frequently gave out things no one wanted or could use. In addition, they all got so much money that after a while they could pretty much buy or craft whatever they wanted anyway. Partially this is an issue with me giving out too many magic items but it’s also the result of random magic item tables that are not geared towards a specific party (because the party would change between sessions).

A simplified loot system would help - perhaps random elements but with player choice for specifics. E.g. roll up a magic weapon, player gets to choose the type of weapon. I also think there could be some situations where magic items are time sensitive or specific to certain locations, so players would want to use them and then be forced to discard them, rather than hoarding them all.

Lesson: Players often like to role play character disagreements, but sometimes too much!

This is of course an age old problem with roleplaying games - when players decide their characters don’t get on, and as a result the session comes grinding to a halt while they play out a lengthy scene and the other players just have to wait. The thing is, we all love a bit of drama, it’s what makes these games special, and characters in conflict is great drama. But it can get too much. I thankfully had very few issues with ‘that’s what my character would do’ causing people to be upset, but it can happen even with people who aren’t wangrods.

My preferred solution, which I would try to implement in future, is to have some defining characteristic unite all the player characters. Perhaps they are all members of the same mercenary company following the same orders, or they have all had their town destroyed by the same evil wizard. Whatever it is, they should have a shared cause that would force them to, at very least, work together while they bicker.

So that’s what I learned, and some of what I’d do differently next time. I hope that was helpful to some people, if only to show that if you play a long running D&D campaign there will be issues to resolve, but that doesn’t mean it will be a failure or that people won’t have fun. It is always a learning experience and the more you learn, the better your game will be.

Monday 2 September 2019

DZTV Open Day


Over the weekend I went to the Deployment Zone TV Open Day at Element Games, and it was awesome! Here's Winters talking about it.

About a hundred assorted DZTV subscribers filled the North West Gaming Centre, listened to some characteristic (slightly still drunk) Winters and Liam rambling, drank many beers, spent too much money and played a lot of 40k.

We learned, among other things, that people are willing to come from Germany to see Winters and Liam, that there is in fact a DZTV business plan and that Farseer Winters IS a thing!

Anyway, while I was there, I did of course play a few games of 40k. Many of us brought 1000 point lists for this, I decided to bring a fun, low model count list - an Alpha Legion Vanguard with a Daemon Prince, 3 Helbrutes, 2 Contemptors and 2 Obliterators. Equiped mostly with multimeltas and fists, I didn't think it'd be that effective, but in hindsight it was quite a tough list to crack for an average 1000 points.

First game was against another Dan. He is a new player with some Space Wolves, bringing mostly assorted Primaris, a Redemptor dread, and a couple of squads of grey hunters in a rhino. We played a classic Cleanse and Capture mission aka 3 cards a turn, every turn.

The Alpha Legion marched up the board, destroying the Rhino early. Firepower and this double 6 super smite did some damage but didn't stop the dreads reaching the enemy lines.

The objective cards told me to charge in, so I did. The oblits dropped in an deleted some intercessors, while the Khorne Helbrute charged in and chopped up the Redemptor.

Dan's Wolves didn't have the luck of the cards or the dice, and were pretty quickly boxed in. The Rune priest and the Hellblasters did some decent work and eventually took out one of the Contemptors, but they eventually fell. The last wolf standing was the Lord, who took a charge from the Prince and very nearly survived, but for a failed rerolled invulnerable save. The Space Wolves fought bravely, but they were no match for the warp-touched war machines of the Alpha Legion.

Second game was against Gavin and his shiny new codex Space Marines. He again had mostly Primaris, with Aggressors, Interceptors, Hellblasters, some troops and the Captain/Lieutenant combo. His chapter were the Grey Skulls and were using the traits to allow them to ignore the penalty for firing assault weapons after advancing, and +3 range to their weapons. Again, we played Cleanse and Capture.

Gavin backlined most of his force, knowing I was coming to him, apart from the jumpy-dudes in reserve, and the Flamestorm Aggressors who were hiding behind this ruin. I stomped up the board, claiming some points while avoiding significant damage. Then in turn two I decided to charge the Aggressors. DO NOT DO THIS! The tactical doctrine had come into effect, and now they get to shoot twice in overwatch. The first Helbrute took 67 hits from 4 remaining Aggressors. It died. In the name of science, and the gambler's fallacy, I proceeded to charge and lose the two Contemptors and the Prince. The last 'brute managed to not die, but failed the charge anyway. This got interesting.

The Grey Skulls went for the kill, dropping the Interceptors in to shoot the last remaining Helbrute, who had just rage-killed some scouts, while also claiming the objective. Luckily for me, the dread survived. In my turn the Obliterators arrived to counter, and between them and the 'brute all the jumpy dudes fell.

With the feared Aggressors all the way over the other side of the board, the dread and Oblits did some work on the right flank, keeping me in the lead on the points. Thanks the Hellblasters and rapid firing Intercessors, the Oblits eventually fell, but they took their toll. In the end the card gods did not favour Gavin and I ran away with it (literally, the last couple of turns featured the damaged Helbrute getting as far away from the Aggressors as possible).

The final game was against a familiar face. It was a continuation of sorts of this SorcererDave battle report featuring... Alpharius.

Yup, it was Alpha Legion vs Alpha Legion. The Fractured Truth vs The Hydra's Reach. Al took a list that was... quite tasty. Lord Discordant, Hammer jump lord, 3x5 Marines with Autocannons, 2 Venomcrawlers, and a Deredeo dreadnought. Because this one was... personal, we just played classic Kill Points.

Al's shooting killed off the exposed Helbrute turn one, then the Disco lord charged in around a corner to kill another one. He walked into a bad place though and got slapped by the Daemon Prince and his buddies. The Venomcrawlers followed up coming around the corners, killed off the Prince but got beat up by the remaining dreads.

The Oblits dropped in and began an all game shooting duel with the Deredeo. Elsewhere the hammer Lord made tough work out of a badly wounded Contemptor, before finally killing it and dying in the explosion. The game went on to turn 7 (and only took a bit over an hour), and the Hydra's Reach finished several points in the lead after auto-cannoning my remaining dreadnoughts, but failing to finish off the last Obliterator. The Fractured Truth were defeated, but perhaps that was the plan all along...

Anyway, it was a great day. It was great to catch up with plenty of 'internet friends' and generally be part of this great community the DZTV crew have built up. Hopefully I can do it again next year!