Saturday, 31 January 2015

Head-to-Head: The Joker

It's been a while since I did my last one of these articles. I've had a bit of a busy month, but that's now out of the way so I can proceed with a head-to-head of the Clown Prince of Crime, the Master of Mirth, Mister J himself...the Joker!

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Joker is not only one of the most popular villains in the DC universe, he's also probably the leader of the most used crew in the Batman Miniatures Game. This second detail comes from a combination of his crew being one of the first released, his Kaos Agent ability making the crew excellent for new players, him having more options for his gang than any other villain leader and him being such a popular character.

Knight Models currently have two versions of the Joker available. 'Arkham' Joker, as featured in the Arkham series of console games, comes in the Joker crew starter pack with three henchmen for roughly £24 (depending on your retailer).

'Heath Ledger' Joker is, as you might expect' a representation of the Joker as played by Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight', and is available individually for about £12.

There is a third version of the Joker due to be released as a limited edition accompaniment to a limited edition version of the new rulebook. The Red Hood Joker is (possibly) the Joker before he became the Joker. There are apparently on 500 of these being released and this model will have the same stat card as Arkham Joker, and so doesn't really need separate analysis. 

I should point out that Red Hood Joker is only available if you pre-order the limited edition rulebook with the Joker of the cover before February 15th. If this is the Joker you want, you'd better move sharpish.

Round 1: Crew Building

This first round is a tough one to call as frankly, both versions of the Joker have access to exactly the same resources in terms of crew building. This is not a negative as the Joker crew has three potential Sidekicks, loads of Free Agents to pick from, more Henchmen than you can shake a stick at and even a gang specific objective token in the form of Joker Gas Canisters.

In terms of Reputation, these guys are pretty even too, Arkham Joker is 90 and Heath Ledger Joker is 80. Both represent excellent value for points, but in this game 10 points is not really a massive difference, and will only allow you to buy one very low level henchman (either a Pavillion A Lunatic or a Blackgate Prisoner), which actually facilitates one of Heath Ledger Joker's rules - see combat. I'm always wary about considering whether low or high points is a good thing in terms of Cheaphammering, one allows you more in your crew, the other allows you to spend less. Both are a win in my book.

The only other way to slip a playing card between them in this category is to point out that there's no way to get the Henchmen from the Joker starter set other than with Arkham Joker. Technically this means that Heath Ledger Joker has less choice in terms of Henchmen, unless you're willing to trawl ebay. Although to be honest, there are so many choices available to the Joker crew, this isn't a massive problem.

However, it is enough for round 1 to go to Arkham Joker.

Round 2: Movement

Neither version of the Joker is much to write home about in terms of movement, with a Movement value of just 2 and not much in terms of special rules on this front. In fact, the only trait worth mentioning here is Heath Ledger Joker's Undercover trait allowing him to deploy up to 20cm outside of the deployment zone. This means he can steal a march on the enemy early in the game and get into range with his Custom Gun from the start of the game.

Arkham Joker only response to this is that his main weapon is ROF 1 so he doesn't need to slow down to shoot, however, this is not a massive impact because Heath Ledger Joker would only be slowed down for two turns so round 2 goes to Heath Ledger Joker.

Round 3: Attack

This is the big one. Both Jokers have an Attack value of 4 and some frankly quite devastating attacks available to them.

Arkham Joker has Exploding Teeth which have the Remote Control trait and when combined with his Total Vision means that he essentially has homing bombs that are impossible to hide from. In fact the only defence the enemy has is to spread out to reduce the number of models hit (which leaves them ripe for being ganged up on). Combined with this he has the dreaded One Shot Gun which has the potential to remove any model in the game as a casualty. Finally, he has a Poisoned Knife, and his Poison Master trait means that if he inflicts a Poison Critical, its harder to get rid of its lasting effects.

Heath Ledger Joker is no slouch either. His main weapon is his Custom Gun, which is a Firearm with a potential damage of 6 blood, which will outright kill most Henchmen in one shot. He also has a one shot weapon in the form of his Henchman Bomb, which  kills one of the Joker's henchmen, but inflicts significant damage on everyone nearby. Finally, up close, Heath Ledger Joker is also armed with a Knife, but it lacks any poison.

Side Note - I'm not sure whether you can use this ability on henchmen who aren't directly members of the Joker gang. If you can, this is an excellent use of a really cheap henchman, like the one that is made available by the points saved by using Heath Ledger Joker instead of Arkham Joker.

To split the difference I'm going to have to break this into three categories:
  • Main Weapon: I prefer Arkham Joker's Exploding teeth as despite the fact that Heath Ledger Joker's weapon is potentially more deadly, the opponent's inability to hide means that they have to take evasive action or risk taking damage across the gang, putting them on the defensive immediately.
  • One Shot Weapon: For me, Heath Ledger Joker's Henchman Bomb is more reliable, simply because you can hit more opponents with it and increase your odds of damaging. However, the One Shot Gun is brilliant when it works.
  • Close Combat: The addition of poison gives this one to Arkham Joker.

This is really down to opinion, but being that little bit better in close combat gives round 3 to Arkham Joker. However, don't be mistaken, both are awesome!

Round 4: Defence

Again, both Jokers are the same and have a Defence value of 4.

Heath Ledger Joker's only real defensive trait is Psycho, which means his Willpower won't ever be reduced. Combined with his Leader ability to re-roll Willpower tests, this provides him security against game effects such as Poison Ivy's hypnosis. It's a bit situation specific, but can be very handy.

Arkham Joker has no directly defensive traits, but his Remote Control teeth and Total Vision mean that he can have a significant effect on the game without having to expose himself to enemy fire. As this is a more regularly useful ability, round 4 goes to Arkham Joker.

Round 5: Special

This category is actually impossible to split. As Leaders, both Jokers have Inspire, the also both have Trickster and grant Trickster to the Henchmen with Kaos Agent which massively strengthen the crew by allowing them to move their Action Counters around at will. Both Jokers also get Luck, which allows a re-roll of important dice (such as the One Shot Gun) and offers insurance in both attack and defence.

As both Jokers are exactly the same in this category, round 5 is a tie.

Overview: If You Only Buy One...

Although it was actually mighty close in each category, at 3-1, the result is in and Cheaphammer recommends Arkham Joker.

There really is not much to choose between these models in game, and both with give your opponents fits. Heath Ledger Joker is a bit more conventional in game terms and searches out targets to gun down. However, Arkham Joker's ability to pull the strings of the game without exposing himself to danger really captures the character in my opinion. The fact that he's dangerous no matter what the enemy does, really gives him the edge. It's also really hard to argue with the value presented by the starter packs.

Once again, I hope you enjoyed the article. All judgments are simply my opinions, nothing more, so please don't be put off from Heath Ledger Joker. He's an excellent character in game, and actually will be greeted with interest by many opponents as Arkham Joker is so popular.

Comments and observations are, as always, very welcome.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Operation Unthinkable: Bolt Action Soviets & VBCW Royalists

This year I've set myself the challenge of finishing off an ongoing project each month with the goal of completely clearing my lead pile by the end of the year. I've given myself motivation by pledging that everything in the project that remains unfinished by the end of the month must be got rid of.

January's target was to complete my Bolt Action Soviets,which I'm happy to report, I've done!

This was a fairly easy goal, as I was testing the water for the project as a whole and I knew January would be a busy month. I only had a few odds and end to finish off, but it's nice to get them done.

Pin-Markers (Warlord Games)
We use these to indicate units without an NCO.

Medium Mortar Team (Warlord Games)
I've been suffering from having no artillery...until now!

HMG Team (Warlord Games)
Should prove interesting against Matt's inexperienced tanks

Soviet Scouts (Artizan Designs)
These will be combined with a sniper to complete the unit.

Anti-Tank Dog Mine Team (Warlord Games)
These are just a bit of fun...unless you're a dog.
I'm really happy to have succeeded in my first month, although technically I've still got to print out a flag. It means that I can not concentrate on other projects, and I now have enough variation in my Soviets that I am able to provide at least a little surprise for my opponents. I may still buy a couple more vehicles for this army to allow me to play tank wars with them, but for now, they're done.

For February I'll be targeting a project that's been left untouched for quite a long time, my VBCW Royalist alliance. I have 8 Chaps on the Hunt from Woodbine Designs and a similar number of Armed Schoolboys from Gripping Beast. Along with them I've got a Schoolmaster, Matron and two younger boys who I've got interesting plan for. If I get chance I might also add a few more details to my steam tank, the Wortley Dragon, but that model is not at risk of disposal.

Next week, I'm hopefully playing a couple of small games of Bolt Action to get my new Russians into action. I hope the others bring some vehicles, otherwise the Dog Mines are going to be somewhat superfluous.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Double the Fun

Way back when I began my Batman project, when it wasn't focused on BMG and I was planning to write my own rules, a Heroclix Joker was one of the first models that I painted. Despite the general difference in quality between Heroclix and Knight Models, I've been very happy with my Joker. In fact, not being able to use him at the tournament I attended last year meant that I had to experiment and put together a surprisingly effective Harley Quinn crew.

I had no plans to replace my Joker with an official model. I'd toyed with the idea of getting a Heath Ledger Joker for official use, but it certainly wasn't a priority.

However, I then came across an opportunity to get a second hand Joker starter set at a knock down price and...well..Cheaphammer happened!

So now I have an official Joker model which opens up more options for tournament play. I'v done a fairly conventional paint job on him, but I'm particularly pleased with actually managing to get teeth showing in his mouth.

However, what I'm absolutely delighted with are the tails of his coat. These were missing on the model I received (hence the reduced price) and I had the rather excellent idea to make my own using some old GW Wood Elf bits (cut from one of the banners, if you're interested). A bit of cutting, sticking and filling later and I had solved my problem. Once the paint was on, the join is practically invisible and I have to say, I think I prefer my tails to the real ones.

Along with the Joker, I got three more henchmen. I showed what I'd done with the Knife Clown on my last post, but Ringmaster and Contra-Auguste presented a slight problem in that I already have both of these models and they're not the kind of henchmen that you can use more than once in a crew.

So I decided to get creative...

This is Contra-Auguste done with a weapon swap to give him a crowbar, and a paint job that allows me to call him 'Red Hoodie'. These two details amuse me endlessly, but you need to be a bit of a comic book nerd to get the 'joke'.

I'll be using this model as a generic Tube Clown. As this is a model I don't actually own yet and a character that can be duplicated within a gang, this doesn't limit my future purchases at all. However, given that the Tube Clown comes with a model I'm not that keen on (Master of Ceremonies), this also potentially save me some money.

I'm now turning my attention to what to do with the Ringmaster model. He's a bit trickier to convert, and even tricker to make him look distinctive from the one I already have, but I've got some ideas. More to follow...

Friday, 9 January 2015

Bat in Business

I've finally returned to my Batman painting by...well...painting Batman!

This is the Arkham Origins version of the character that I 'won' at the Titan Games tournament in Lichfield. I really like the model, but I found some of the detail on it a little shallow for my tastes, especially the bat-symbol on his chest. I initially wanted to do it yellow, but I just couldn't get the edges crisp enough and so I reverted to black, which I think is fine.

I've also done another member of the Joker gang: the creatively titled Clown (Knife). Catchy, isn't it? I've pretty much got a system for painting Joker Henchmen now which allows me to get them done quite quickly. Although I've not done anything special, I'm happy with him as he's quite characterful. I think I might be identifying with the paunch.

I wasn't intending to add any more Joker ganger for a while, but an opportunity came up to get hold of some second hand models quite cheap, and you know well enough how I respond to that kind of thing. So I've got Joker (an official one) and two more henchmen to paint. The henchmen are duplicates of models I've already got, so I'm going to have a go at converting them into something a little different.

Finally, you can see in the background a roof access door to add a little variety and cover to the rooftops of my city. It's from Ainsty Castings, and I've still got quite a bit more scenery to complete.

In other Batman news, Knight Models has finally put their hard copy rulebook up for pre-order. There are two versions available. The standard version (pictured) comes with an exclusive (and free!) Alfred model which will be playable in the game. The other version is a limited edition with the Joker on the cover and it comes with a Red Hood (the Joker version, not Jason Todd) miniature as an alternate sculpt for the Joker rules. Apparently, the free models only come with pre-orders placed before February 15. If you're at all interested in the game, this might be the time to jump in with both feet.

Finally, Operation Unthinkable continues apace. I've had an extremely productive and completed all the miniatures I needed to do. All that remains are the pin markers, the bases and the damn flag that I've been meaning to do since I first began painting my Russians.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Operation Unthinkable: Bolt Action Soviets

Happy New Year!

Being the first day of 2015, this is an appropriate time for the first post of my New Year's Resolution project: Operation Unthinkable. The goal is quite simple; to become lead pile free by 2016.

Each month I will endeavour to complete an unfinished project and remove all associated models from my lead pile. Any models not completed by the end of the month must be got rid of via sale, trade or other means of disposal. As an added means of motivation, I'll be arranging a game with the newly painted models for the end of each month.

First up are my Bolt Action Soviets.

This isn't a massive job. January's going to be busy for me so this is a nicely achievable project to complete. I've already got over 1000 points of Soviets painted, what remains are a few bits and pieces that I bought to add a little variety to my somewhat one-dimensional force.

The elements I need to complete are:

1 HMG Team
1 Medium Mortar Team
2 Mine Dogs and 2 Handlers
4 Scouts (not pictured, but these have already been base-coated some time ago)
1 Flag for my Flag Bearer
6 Pin Markers to be used as dead NCO markers (I know I have these somewhere, I just need to find them)

At the end of this month we've arranged to play a few 500 point games as Pete and Matt are also starting new armies; British and French respectively. The models I'm painting will form the core of my force for these games.

So, here goes...Operation Unthinkable has begun.