Friday, 29 January 2016

Battle Report: Ambush at Minas Urgal

We thought this battle quite some time ago, but I've only just got round to writing it up. It is the third instalment in a (very slow burning) Middle Earth campaign. The scenario rules can be found here.
I was playing the defending bad guys, who were positioned in the centre of the table, around the central tower (Minas Urgal, or Ergal, translation issue and nothing to do with me forgetting the name, honest guv), they couldn't move until the alarm had been raised by one of my four sentries. The sentries could move but only in a pre-planned way. 

After moaning that the scenario was biased against him Edward completely forsook the element of surprise and just rushed the camp. Above his troops can be seen emerging from the woods.

Above, The camp. A group of wildmen are clustered near the base of Minas Urgal, the Black Numenorean Sorceress is near the tents and a sentry wonders past on guard duty.

Above, The Black Numenorean was the focal point of the game, if she stayed alive then the bad guys won, if she was taken out of action the good guys won. Here she is keeping her distance and wishing she'd chosen her spells more wisely as a fray breaks out in the distance. 

Above, an overview of the battle field.

Most of the battle centred around one complicated combat. I tried to tie up as many of the attackers as I could, in an attempt to stop them getting to the sorceress who was powerful with spells, but awful in combat.
This was the first time we'd used the Advanced version of the Song of Blades and Heroes rules. The reaction rule really made this tense: one slip up from the attackers was enough for me to react and hold get another defender into combat.
In the end I got the Black Numenorean too close, Edward got an archer free from combat and took her out of action, thus winning the battle. Afterwards she was rolled for and deemed to have survived, so the fight goes on.
Nest time we will be playing another version of this scenario but reversing the rolls, the bad guys will be creeping into town to take out an important good guy.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Miniature Spotlight: Alternative Armies Hobgoblins

I'm always on the look out for Middle-Earth Orcs. Such is the influence of Games Workshop on our hobby that it is no mean feat to find Orcs that are not of the jut-jawed, ape built variety. Tolkien's Orcs were a different breed altogether, being twisted and warped versions of the elves. That is why I was so pleased when I saw the new releases from Alternative Armies earlier last year.
OH2 is a pack of 4 hob-goblins, perfect for my Middle Earth hordes.

I wrote to Alternative asking some questions and had a very prompt reply from Gavin Syme. He told me that that there were two more codes of foot Hob Goblins and one mounted to be released and that the sculpts dated back to the 90s, more than that he really didn't know.

Well I have been so long writing this post up that all these packs are now available from the Alternative Armies website, more on them in a minute but first lets look at the original pack.

Disclaimer: These are not the best painted examples, what little photography skills I possess also seem to have left me on this occasion.

The minis look pretty much how I expect Middle Earth Orcs to look, with quite dynamic poses for that era and twisted features. I painted them a khaki colour to match the rest of my orc tribe.

 Size-wise they are also pretty much perfect, being slightly smaller than a man. They can be seen below with a Greandier Orc and an old Citadel Orc from the ME range. 

The other packs look equally as promising, full of old school charm and character. They are marked up as Khan, Marauders and Cavalry. As the name suggests they have an eastern feel to the armour and clothes, which fits my view of Tolkien-esque Orcs quite well. Almost certainly they will form the next recruits to my version of Middle Earth.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Review: Dark Heresy

Something a little different this week, a review of a roleplay game, namely Dark Heresy by Fantasy Flight.
Traditionally our little gaming group has struggled to maintain the enthusiasm needed to keep an rpg campaign going. However for the past 18 months we have managed to semi regularly indulge in a cross between Warhammer Quest and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. 
Our intrepid band of adventurers....
Amazed by our own powers of concentration we decided to explore Games Workshop's other IP. Dark Heresy was originally released through Black Industries, an imprint of Games Workshop, and was based on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay system. It was then licensed out to Fantasy Flight, who have produced a number of RPG's set in the 40k universe with similar mechanics.
...what they might look like in game.
In Dark Heresy the PCs take the part of low ranking member of the Inquisition, an organisation tasked with rooting out the enemies of the vast galactic-spanning Empire. Not exactly good guys, but then there aren't really any good guys in the grimdark future of the 41st millennium.
d100s take some getting used to.
Other Fantasy Flight books allow the PCs to play as soldiers in the Imperial Guard, Space Marines, Rogue Traders and even devotees of the chaos gods. Warhammer 40k has been around since 1987 and has been expanded on in novels, computer games, board games, card games, comics, and who knows what else as well as the miniature wargame, so there is certainly plenty of background material to work with. 
Through the hatch, you see a scorched landing field, broken ground blackened from innumerable shuttle and lighter engines... Our GM captivates his audience.

There is apparently a 2nd edition of Dark Heresy, which we didn't know until mere hours before we played for the first time. From what I can gather the main difference is in the character generation, and as we had already done this, we decided to go with 1st edition. At some point we may upgrade.

Our party of adventurers consisted of Dripping Sump, a ratskin guide; Barak a Guardsman from an Agri-World; Silvanus, a cleric; and Mungo a top notch, salt-of-the-earth, hive scummer. Character generation in 1st edition is relatively simple. You choose a home world and a career, which gives you some basic skills and traits. They also give modifiers to basic stats which are randomly rolled (2d10). there a few other bits and pieces, like appearance, divination (a fortune cookie like prophecy with attached bonus or penalty) and quirks. Most of these can either be chosen or rolled for, as the player wishes. Finally each PC is given 400 experience points to boost stats or skills. More experience points are given out for adventures which can be spent in an increasingly wide range of ways.
Proxies and stand-ins abound
Combat is basically an expanded version of the 40k system and based around a d100 system (as is most of the game). WS skill is given as a percentage and you must roll below this to hit. Circumstances and choice of attack type (guarded, all out etc) give bonuses or penalties. A successful
hit means rolling for damage, depending on weapon type and strength. The target's armour and toughness is then taken from this total and the result is number of wounds suffered.

Our first game was adventure was clunky, but then that is only to be expected with a completely new system. It didn't help we only had one copy of the rulebook between us. I fully expect we will get faster, and the dice rolling will fade into the background, allowing the roleplaying to come to the fore. The adventure (from the rulebook) is intriguing, quite heavy on detail but seems promising.
Watch this space for more details....

Friday, 8 January 2016

Terrain Building: Minas Urgal

A few months ago I wanted some terrain for an ongoing (very slow) Middle Earth campaign. The battle (report of which will hopefully follow next week) was an ambush by some Elves and Rangers (and one Dwarf) who had tracked some orcs back to their camp.
The evil doers are camped around an ancient tower, Minas Urgal, and it was this tower I needed.
I started with two squares of insulation foam, one about three inches square, the other about four, and a piece of mdf, about 6 inches square. 
I arranged the foam on the board at angles, I didn't glue it at this stage as I wanted to get everything in place first.
I cut some smaller cubes of the insulation foam, and arranged them as shown above, these were to form the stairway to the tower.
When I had got an arrangement I liked I glued bigger pieces of foam with PVA, not the smaller ones yet though.

I then cut the smaller cubes into stair sections with a craft knife, I wasn't too worried about being neat with this, it is a ruin after all.
I also cut stone block texture into the top (smaller) foam square, this will be the foundations of the tower.
Next is the ground floor. I cut four wall sections from foam, so they would sit flush with the foam underneath. I cut a door way in one (so it matched up with the stairs) and covered these in stone block texture again.

A small stair section, slightly shorter than the height of the walls was cut, and again textured to look like blocks.

I cut some small square section lengths of foam, about 1/4" wide, three lengths were attached to the top of the inside of the walls, as shown above, this will provide something for the upper floor to sit on.

An upper floor was built from one full wall (with arrow slots) and two partial walls, again textured with block pattern. They were glued so they sat above the floor supports added in the last stage.

I built a floor from plasticard planks glued to balsawood struts, it was made to fit the floor supports.

I mercilessly hacked at the bottom square of foam, rounding off corners and making it less square.
I splathered the bottom layer of foam, and some of the 2nd tier with polyfilla to form the hill. I made sure everything that didn't have a block texture was covered, and even some that did was as well, this made it look as if the foundations went right into the ground.

PVA glue and sand was liberally splashed over the polyfilla

The whole building was then sprayed black. I brought out the stone work, and some of the rocks, with dry brushes of grey, the ground I did in browns and greens. 

Then a layer of flock (and a very blurry photo)
Some static grass was added to the ground, and scatter glued to the walls for creepers. Finally I used rubberised horse hair and the same scatter to make bushes which I added to the base.
And there we have it, Minas Urgal.