Friday, 31 May 2013

A Dark Night In Gotham - Batman Miniatures Game & Review

Well, I've finally managed to get a game of the Batman Miniatures Game. I'll present this as a battle report rather than a review initially, and then sum up my thoughts about the game itself at the end.

For simplicity's sake Matt and I decided to play the game without the variables of objectives, street lights, sewer entrances and strategies. We rolled up the Patrol scenario in which both sides are trying to get to the opposite corner of the board from their deployment zone. Our gangs had the unusual reputation of about 180.

Matt was using his SWAT miniatures from his own Flashbang game as Commissioner Gordon (in the suit with the pistol) and Officers Alpha (MG), Bravo (Sniper Rifle/Shotgun) and Delta (Hand Gun & Invisible Riot Shield). He also used his available funds to equip provide flash-lights and handcuffs to his men.

As Matt was running cops, I broke out the Joker, his main squeeze Harley Quinn and the only henchman in town, Two-Gun Turk. As the rulebook was particularly confusing on the additional equipment for Joker's gang, I simply bought more ammo for Turk. I also used Joker's Kaos Agent rule to reduce the game from the standard 6 turns to five, putting the pressure on both sides to get moving.

Aware that the Joker is on the loose, Gordon and Bravo move carefully through the poorly lit (no street lights, remember?) streets.

Further down the block, Delta and Alpha move up in support, keeping their eyes peeled for the Clown Prince of Crime.

Meanwhile, Harley Quinn and Turk make a run to across the street on another absurd errand for the Giggling Godfather...

...who waits in his warehouse lair, laughing maniacally, as he is wont to do.

The police continue to carefully search the buildings and alleyways for the dangerous fugitive.

Suddenly, a high pitched giggle and flash of red and white draw the cops attention down the darkened street.

Harley and Turk dive into the cover of a warehouse, whilst next door Gordon and Bravo are distracted by a chattering sound; their eyes are drawn to the curious sight of some clockwork teeth slowly making their way across the road towards them...BOOOOOM!

The windows of the building are blown inwards, showering the cops with glass, injuring Bravo. Alpha and Delta run up towards the sound of the blast on the other side of the street.

With the cops distracted, Harley slips through a window and makes a run for it whilst Turk lies in wait the ambush the flatfoots.

Gordon staggers out of the smoke and into the doorway of the warehouse and a furious but ineffectual fire fight ensues as he and Turk blaze away at each other, mainly splintering wood (it turns out that we were playing the Blink! rules wrong and so cover was far too effective. Suddenly, a booming shot rings out from the warehouse across the street and Gordon crumples to the floor wrapped in multi-coloured streamers (Joker's one shot gun should actually have taken him out of the game on a critical, but again, we played it wrong and just had Gordon incapacitated).

The cops rush to where the shot came from, hoping to corner the assassin.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Harley Quinn finally reaches to Joker's real target and stashes a small, but highly explosive device in a skip owned by an important player in Gotham's underworld, the detonation of which at an opportune moment is likely to cause chaos.

The cops continue to hunt Gordon's assailant and stumble upon the Joker's hideout. Can they apprehend the Clown Prince of Crime?

Another flurry of shots ring out as the struggling Gordon is hit again, this time by real bullets, as the forgotten Turk takes revenge for the three years he spent in Blackgate. Gordon slumps into unconciousness.

With the cops closing in, Joker slips out the back, one of the SWAT team briefly has a shot on his purple clad form, but he disappears chuckling into the night. Another mad scheme well under way...

When it came to counting up victory points, we had both managed to infiltrate the other's deployment zone, but the game was won by the taking down of Gordon. And so on to the review:

  • It feels like Batman - Joker's rather impressive range of abilities puts him in the roll of mastermind calling the shots, Harley skips and somersaults her way around the board and the cops do cop things (even calling in a searchlight from air support - which Matt forgot to use)
  • I like the dark - the light rules are a nice variation to the standard skirmish and give some credence to the short ranges, adding in street lights will really strengthen ranged weapons and the way that flash lights work is a nice touch. Characters who can see in the dark are at a big advantage
  • It's short and to the point - just a handful of turns really puts the pressure on and raises the stakes
  • Tactical thinking - the mini battle-boards are a nice touch, having to plan ahead (unless you're the Joker) makes you have to consider your options; which are many thanks to the range of abilities each character has
  • Team building - the flexibility in creating a gang already allows for a big range of strategies, do you go for a swarm of henchmen, opt for a bruiser like Killer Croc, or go for someone more subtle like The Riddler
  • The game flows - once you're playing pretty much everything becomes fairly intuitive very quickly, despite the apparent complexity, it's an easy game to play once you've started
  • It's Batman - seriously, the massive advantage this has over other similar skirmish games is that I know and care about the characters and can happily invent narrative on the fly, this is something games like Malifaux and Warmachine (which I am assured are very good games in their own right) will never have for me

  • The rulebook - seriously, this needs work. I know that it's translated from Spanish, but at least get an English speaker to give it the once over before publication as there are numerous instances of skills having different names, clauses being missed out, words not being effectively translated and all in all it takes a couple of reads and a bit of detective work to puzzle some bits out
  • The scenarios - I know the game is nominally based on Arkham City and gang wars, but that's not really Batman to most folk. The scenarios are a bit bland and even. Some more fun capers like robberies, kidnappings and doomsday devices would really add some colour to proceedings.
  • Lack of a campaign structure - you may have worked out that I like narrative. I'd like for skirmishes to matter in some way beyond bragging rights and the inevitable tournaments and ultimate combos, although flawed, Necromunda is still the standard setter for this kind of structure and so I'll probably end up cobbling something together of my own using that structure
  • It's a little token heavy - I may need to find a way around that, Matt and I were already using black and red dice for stuns and injuries

All in all, I like the game, and the things that I don't like are largely due to this seemingly being an early draft. Matt like the game too, and I've already furnished him with some spare Heroclix I had no plans for to allow Batman and Robin to join his cops and the Joker to team up with the Scarecrow, Mr Freeze and some henchmen.

I'd really recommend giving these rules a spin as there's a lot to like. Due to Knight Models' free downloads, you don't have to use their models to play. I'm going to be sticking with this game for my Gotham project for the foreseeable future and my enthusiasm for it has prompted me to get some more stuff painted which you'll see more of in the coming days. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

"A gun is a coward's weapon..."

This is a quick update with my latest Batman villain...Turk!

Don't recognise him? Thought not. That's because he's simply a henchman. The model is a repaint of a a Heroclix 'Hitman', a character I confess I'd never come across. I've done him as a quick re-entry into painting and so that I can have roughly even sides in my first game of the Batman Miniatures Game tomorrow against Matt.

I'll be running the Joker, Harley Quinn and Turk (a gun toting escapee from Blackgate Prison - as featured in the Blackgate Prisoners by Knight Models). You'll notice from the image below that there's absolutely no resemblance between the two...I don't care. He's not from the Batman universe, so he's open to interpretation. For the sake of argument, let's say that I've painted him as he looked before he got put away.

Matt will be running the Gotham City Police Department SWAT team led by Comissioner Gordon (another set from Knight Models) using his own collection of SWAT miniatures from his own game 'Flashbang!'.

One of the beauties of the Batman Miniatures Game is that all the rules and stat cards are available for download so you don't have to use their models to play the game. Although this seems counter intuitive to selling miniatures, I think it's a great idea as able to cheaphammer where I can but still pick up their models to round out my collection (I recently got Mr. Freeze to add to the cops and Killer Croc, and I've got my eye on the Dark Knight Rises Bane). This is a particularly good feature given the variable scale and quality of the Heroclix miniatures that I'm mainly using.

The flip side of this is that you can't use characters which don't have models yet, such as my Firefly. However Knight Models are releasing miniatures at a surprising rate so it's really just a matter of time.

I'll post a write up and review of the game later in the week.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Trouble With Triples

So this weekend was the Sheffield Triples wargames show at the English Institute of Sport. I go to this event every year as it's local, and this year's purchases are:

  • 3 Zvezda Opel Blitz 3-Ton Trucks (along with a Panzer III that came as part of the deal)
  • 11 Smoke Markers for games against Pete's tanks
  • 6 US Riflemen - I always pick up something for a War of 1812 project I've never started
  • 'The Kid' from Crossover Miniatures - bears a striking similarity to the Boy Wonder
  • Roof tile sheets from Warbases - to cover the roofs of my warehouse

I'm certainly not unhappy with any of my purchases.

However, I returned from the show somewhat perturbed. Each year I'm finding Triples less and less inspiring. It's a feeling that seems to come from a range of sources:
  1. The move to the E.I.S. from the Octagon a few years ago. I find the big open spaces distinctly 'un-wargamey'. I remember the Octagon from when I attended the Northern Militaire there and all the nooks and crannies made attending a wargames show exciting and full of discovery (I get a similar feeling at Vapantak in York). The sterile atmosphere of the E.I.S. just doesn't work.
  2. The lack of traders. Key traders for me like Peter Pig, Gripping Beast and Sarissa Precision simply don't attend Triples. I know that there are other traders, but for the specific genres I'm interested in, I actually find it tricky to spend money at Triples.
  3. The demo and display games. This isn't just Triples, but I'm just not inspired by the games on show. I think it's a combination of the lack of ancients (which seems to be a growing issue) and the lack of inventiveness on display. I'm just not seeing anything that grabs me. Even a Mad Max game with blaring speakers and outrageous costumes was remarkably similar to a demo game I played as a kid 25 years ago, just with more fanfare.
  4. The ever more corporate nature of the industry. More and more of the stalls are carrying the same stock and it's entirely possible to plan your purchases online before you go (and then get disappointed that the company hasn't brought them). There used to be a veritable cornucopia of small traders which took an age to discover. It's just less fun.
It seems to me that Triples is just not as exciting as it used to be. It may just be me, but it feels that some of the quirky spark has disappeared. I'm going to go to a wider range of shows this year to see whether smaller shows still have the oddball quirkyness I remember.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Firestorm: Lorraine - Opening Clash

Last Saturday saw the first battle in our Firestorm: Lorraine campaign. Rather than play three player, I opted to sit it out and act as war reporter (my cyber-bullying of Matt resulted in him bringing a proper camera), whilst Pete and Matt duked it out. We merged out armies to give a greater range of choice and allow the game to reach 2000+ points.

According to the campaign rules we determined that Matt, as the Americans, would be making a Hasty Attack across the Moselle river just south of Luxembourg in an attempt to cut off the FHH Panzerkompanie from supply and make them easier to defeat. Matt's invading force was appropriately chosen from the Blood, Guts and Glory, 4th Armoured Division list (Confident Veteran) and consisted of:

HQ - 2 M4 Shermans
Tank Platoon - 5 M4 Shermans
Tank Platoon - 5 M4 Shermans
Light Tank Platoon - 5 M5A1 Stuarts
Light Tank Platoon - 5 M5A1 Stuarts
Tank Destroyer Platoon - Security Section/4 M10 Tank Destroyers
Recce Platoon - M3 Halftrack & Jeep
Infantry Platoon - 9 Stands (inc. Bazooka & Mortar) - FIRESTORM TROOPS
Priority Air Support - FIRESTORM TROOPS

Rather less appropriately, Pete used the Herman Goering Panzerkompanie (Confident Veteran) from Dogs & Devils. The reasoning behind this was that Pete's Germans are actually Early/Mid War and so there are limited lists that allow him to use them in Late War. Purists might find the images below disturbing as you'll have to imagine the schurzen on several tanks and I suspect that the guns aren't right either. It's sort of proxying but all Panzer IV tanks are Panzer IV tanks and so on. His list was as follows:

HQ - Panzer III
Panzer Platoon - 2 Panzer III
Panzer Platoon - 2 Panzer III
Kampfgruppe - 3 Panzer IV
Panther Platoon - 3 Panthers
Tank Hunter Platoon - 2 Stug G
Recce Platoon - 3 Motorcycle and Sidecars (should be Kubelwagons)
Grenadier Platoon - 7 Stands (Panzerknacker)
Grenadier Platoon - 7 Stands (Panzerfaust, Confident Trained) - FIRESTORM TROOPS
Moselle Defences - 2 HMG Nests, 3 Trench Lines


Dig In!
On the German left, the CV Grenadiers occupy two trench lines (the other was in the middle) protecting an objective which Matt would choose to remove, leaving the poor infantry over-extended and far from help.

Gentlemen! Start Your Engines!
Opposite the infantry, a platoon of Stuarts revved up ready for some trademarked flank-turning.

Engage Warp Drives!
Supporting the Stuarts were the Tank Destroyer Security Section. Not only would these be able to support the slaughter of the infantry, but their invisible friends would also provide an effective counter to any late arriving Panzers.

On Your Marks!
On the opposite flank, American infantry and Shermans surround an objective which will play little to no further part in this battle report...did I just give away the American strategy?

The Far Right.
Judiicious use of an immediate ambush sees the Panthers arrive to support the CT Grenadiers, the CiC and the Panzer IV Kampfgruppe in defending the other two objectives on the German right. The Americans had a platoon of Shermans, a Platoon of Stuarts and a Recce Platoon in reserve. The Germans had two pairs of Panzer III's, a pair of Stugs and a Recce Platoon as well.

Opening Moves

First Blood.
Sporadic German fire takes down the only Sherman foolish enough the pop out from cover.

Go And Get 'Em!
The Stuarts molest the trenches, whilst the TD Security Section sprat the survivors with MG fire. Given how he attacked here, I'm not entirely sure why Matt removed the objective on the left. I'm sure he had a plan.

The Iron Curtain.
Panzer IV's and Panthers form an impenetrable wall and keep the Shermans' heads down.

The P-47 Thunderbolts show up and begin what would be a somewhat underwhelming performance from them - the destroyed a single tank in the entire game.

The Better Part Of Valour?
The Shermans break cover to take the fight to the Panzer IV's. They fail to destroy a single German tank. In return, combbined Panzer and Panther fire destroys two and breaks the remainder of the platoon.

We'll Be Home For Christmas!
The Security Section finish off the remains of the Grenadiers, whilst the Stuarts trample HMG nests in their thrust towards the central objective.


Here Come The Cavalry!
American reserves arrive. The second Stuart platoon follows the path of the first to occupy the village. The second Sherman platoon steams into the centre ground, whilst the Recce platoon moves cautious;y to support the infantry.

Killing Ground.
Stugs and Panzer III's arrive just in time to maul the Stuarts, contest the objective and send the Security Section scuttling for cover.

Target Acquired!
With German tanks in the open, the Tank Destroyers are called in to bring their big guns to bear. However, they begin a long range duel with the Panthers which prevents them from haing a significant effect.

Nothing Ventured...
Under pressure from the Panzers, the Americans push a second Stuart platoon into the teeth of the Germans, whilst the Shermans rush headlong towards the Panthers' jaws.

...Nothing Gained...
The Shermans take heavy fire, blunting their attack.

Knife Fight.
Two Shermans, including the 2iC make a push to get shots into the vulnerable side armour of the Panthers. Their stabilised shots go wide, leaving the two tanks horribly exposed.

End Game

Cannons To The Left Of Them...
The Shermans are gutted by short range fire from the German big guns.

Cannons To The Right Of Them...
Meanwhile, the Tank Destroyers shift their focus and begin to eat medium tanks for breakfast.

Swirling Melee
Stuarts and Panzer IV's circle each other amidst the burnt out wreckage of ally and enemy alike.

Move In For The Kill
Tank Destroyers break cover to concentrate their fire power in an attempt to nullify the Panthers.

Pyrrhic Victory?
Despite their losses, the Americans can still sense an opportunity if they can get their infantry across the battlefield fast enough.

The German positions look much as they did at the beginning of the battle as they await the final push from the Americans.

Failure to damage the Panthers proves costly as the big cats find their range and beat the M10's at their own game.

The One That Got Away
A single Stug survives the carnage surrounding the central objective.

A Branch Too Far
MG fire from the woods nullifies the threat of the US Infantry as they skulk amongst the charred hulks of their armoured support.

Prowling Panthers
The kings of the battlefield hunt down and destroy the last American tanks, forcing 4th Armoured to break. The Moselle bank had been held...for a while...

This was actually a really enjoyable game to watch. If I was asked, which I haven't been, I'd offer the following tactical snippets:

  • Matt made a mistake removing the objective on the German left. His massed tanks swamped the infantry there and could have won the game quickly, especially if he'd pinned part of Pete's force in place on the other flank.
  • Pete left his flank hanging and was lucky that his reserves arrived when they did, as he let the Stuarts run riot in the early stages.
  • Matt should have sent Stuarts after the Panthers (nipping round the flanks) and focused the M10's on destroying lighter tanks. When they eventually did this, they chomped through the Panzer III's and IV's.
  • Both sides could have made better use of their infantry to support the tanks. The infantry were casual observers for much of the battle. Pete lost his best infantry too easily and Matt only tried using his when it was too late.
So the Germans held on (the score was 4-3). We forgot to roll for Firestorm Troops at the end (because it was getting late) but I rolled for them later and neither unit of infantry were destroyed. In terms of the campaign, not much has happened. The Allies have lost an opportunity and wasted an air sortie,and by starting in the lead, the status quo suits the Germans.

I'm not sure when the next game will be, but this game has left me certainly wanting to get stuck in.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Firestorm: Lorraine

Were kicking off our Firestorm: Lorraine Campaign tonight with a big three player game. Pete and I will join forces as the diminished Wehrmacht trying to hold the line against Matt's Americans. We've not picked armies yet as the Firestorm troops involved and the location of the battle should impact on our choices.

Here's the map at the start of the campaign:

We're not going to be too intensive about things, so this is a project that could take some time.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Panzergrenadiers vs Tankovy - Round 2 (Late War, 1000 points)

As I mentioned in a previous post, the demise of our regular club has had the unexpected up side of forcing me arrange games with people I haven't played in a long while. Therefore, on Tuesday I arranged a game with Bill, who i don't think i've played in at least 18 month, at my house.

The game was only 1000 points because I currently only have access to a 3'x4' board. For simplicity's sake, we decided to play Free-For-All with only a single objective each, simply because objective would be so close together that they might as well count as one.

Bill took Tankovy from 'Red Bear', whereas I took the opportunity to try out the Reluctant Trained Panzergrenadiers from 'Blood, Guts & Glory'; mainly so that I could still use Panthers without being crippled in a small game, but I was also conscious that the infantry would be packing Panzerfausts on each stand (consider that lesson learned from the last game).

The lists were as follows:

Panzergrenadiers (RT)
HQ platoon
Panzergrenadier Platoon (7 stands, Panzerfaust/MG)
Panzergrenadier Platoon (7 stands, Panzerfaust/MG)
Pioneer Platoon (7 Stands, Panzerfaust/Rifle/MG, Supply Truck)
Panther Platoon (3 x Panther)
Tank Hunter Platoon (2 x Marder IIIM)

Tankovy (CT)
HQ (T-34/76)
Tankovy Platoon (7 x Matilda II, Tankos)
Tankovy Platoon (5 x T-34/76)
Sapper Platoon (6 Stands)
Tank Hunter Platoon (3 x SU-100)

You'll notice that the photos are much better...that's because Matt wasn't involved...

My little battlefield.
T-34's, Matildas and Sappers surround the Soviet objective in the top left; SU-100's are off the bottom left corner of the shot. Pioneers, Marders and Panzergrenadiers guard the German objective in the bottom right; Panthers and Panzergrenadiers lurk around the ruined church in the top right.

Operation N.C.P.
Lack of artillery or air support meant that the Soviet tanks could bunch up to their hearts' content.

The Kop.
Likewise, the German infantry adopt the 'mob' formation.

Bait and Switch.
The Matildas dive to the right, out of the Panthers' sights and towards the objective. Meanwhile, the T-34's take cover behind a single tree.


Big Guns.
The Soviet commander and the SU-100's rumble forwards to take advantage of their range superiority.

Operation Speedbump.
While the German big guns open up, bailing a T-34 and destroying an SU-100, Panzergrenadiers rush forwards to the cover of the trees with the sole aim of dying slowly under the tracks of the Matildas.

Forward Comrades!
Knowing that they can't survive a long range duel with the Panthers, the T-34's rush forwards hoping to draw fire away from the steadily advancing Matildas.

Open Fire!
Concentrated fire from the Marders and Panthers wipes out the T-34's and without an assault to launch the Panzergrenadiers look cheekily towards the undefended Soviet objective in the distance.

If you go down to the woods today...
Needing to make headway, the Matildas pour fire into the dug in infantry, pinning them prior to launching the assault which will crush them and open the path to victory...

...You're sure of a big surprise...
Despite being pinned, accurate Panzerfaust fire destroys one tank and bails two, driving off the assault and leaving the Matilda's stranded in the open and easy prey for massed Panther fire that destroys the platoon.

Run Away!
With only three tanks and a handful of infantry remaining the Russians retreat to the cover of the town and set up defensive positions to protect the objective from Panzergrenadiers sneakily doubling down the flank.

All Quiet on the Eastern Front
With the Soviets safely ensconced, the Germans settle in for long range shelling of the communist positions.

Victory is mine!

Admittedly, it's a 3-1 rather than a clear cut victory, and Bill's army list was somewhat hurriedly put together and was pretty much the natural prey of my list, and we were on a narrow table where the mobility of a tank company are largely negated, and I could operate without fear of bombardment...but a victory nonetheless. I feel like a striker in a dry spell and I've just scored with my arse - it still counts!

Contrary to the previous game, I did things right. Even without the Panzerfausts, the Matildas would have been in a world of hurt had they destroyed the infantry in the forest. I concentrated fire much more effectively and also didn't just sit back and react. Overall I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

The fact that my troops were reluctant was never put to the test, but being trained did cause problems for the Pioneers digging in, even with the supply truck. I'm not sure that this will be my regular list. However, it's a nice change to have numerical superiority once in a while.

It was great playing Bill again and I'm looking forward to more games with people I haven't played for some time.