Thursday, 30 April 2015

Operation Unthinkable: Flames of War Germans

For you, ze var is over...

This is the final installment of my long running German Flames of War Army. I began this army about five years ago (maybe more) when I traded some stuff I didn't want, for eight painted Panthers. This led to a sharp learning curve where I learned quickly that Flames of War required a combined arms approach. As time went on I added infantry, artillery and smaller units one platoon at a time until I was able to field an infantry based force rather than one built around expensive and inflexible tanks.

The units I've finished off this month are the last gasp of completing this process.

First up are three Zvezda Opel Blitz trucks. These are cheap little models which I've given a simple paint job to because I can't image that they'll ever see much table time. They're a functional necessity more than models that I desperately wanted...hence why I've left them until last.

Next up, three Marder IIIM tank hunters from Forged in Battle. In truth, only the central model has been painted this month, but I've touched up and detailed the others. Marders are great for ambushing enemy armour as although being lightly armoured, they pack a hefty punch. Their low cost allows me to include more of the expensive and well-trained German infantry.

Finally is a little diorama I've made to use as an objective marker. This was made with bits and pieces I had left over and depicts officers debating tactics by a parked Field Car with it's engine running.

I like doing little dioramas like this, my other objective marker is a checkpoint, complete with red and white sentry box. They give a chance for a little bit of creativity in what is a pretty uniform (pun intended) army.

So that's another month done. I did give away a sniper team and a Goliath Demolition Carrier that I wasn't going to use to Matt and a tank commander to Pete, but I've still got a few bits and pieces, like gun barrels and ammo boxes that will go in the bits box.

Next month I won't be focusing on completing an old project, I'll be working on a new one. I've just bought a starter box for Dropzone Commander, so this month I'll be trying to get that painted in order to get playing soon.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Law and Disorder

Whilst everybody else in the world was at Salute in London (or at least it seems that way from my blog feed), I managed to squeeze a game of Batman in with Matt, who hasn't played in over a year.

We arranged a 200 rep game, pitting my unused Two-Face 'gang' against his proxy-fest Law band. Matt has been working on his own rules for a SWAT team game (called 'Flashbang') and so his collection facilitates enough models to make an appropriate crew for BMG - you may have notice that I'm not a stickler for officialdom, so we got our game faces on and prepared to face off over a Plunder scenario.

I set up the terrain to try out a diagonal road layout. I was also pleased to get all of my new terrain pieces on the table: warning signs; roof furniture; SWAT van, and newly purchased police cars.

I gave Matt the choice of ends and he, fittingly, chose to deploy by the Police Station (with all the Police vehicles around it), whilst I would be attacking through the factory.

My Two-Face Crew

  • Two-Face
  • Rottor (with Ammo & Bulletproof Vest)
  • Mottom (with Bulletproof Vest)
  • Big Stikka Prisoner (with Bribe)
  • Tube Prisoner (with Handcuffs)

Matt's Law Band

  • Commissioner Gordon (in the suit)
  • Alpha (with the SMG)
  • Bravo (with the rifle)
  • Agent O'Connell (with the pistol)
  • Male Cop (with the small round shield)
  • Female Cop (with the large rectangular shield)

With the wire fence bisecting my deployment area, I decided to split my force. Two-Face, Mottom and Tube Prisoner took position in the refinery and eyed a Titan Container and Loot Counter.

Meanwhile, Rottor and Big Stikka made the Ammo Crate by the Limo their target.

At the other end of the table, the Police also split up, with  Gordon and the SWAT team heading up the main street, whilst Agent O'Connell led the baton cops round the back streets.

Turn One

I won initiative but let the Police take the lead. Two-Face made good use of Inspire to allow his crew to move quickly to gain control of the Titan Container and Loot Counter.

However, Rottor's cry of "Follow Me!" fell on deaf ears as Big Stikka struggled to drag his big stick past the Limo.

Matt began the game with what be the opening salvo in an evening of terrible rolls as his cops rolled low for movement and failed to get control of either their Titan Container or Ammo Crate. Gordon, however, managed to make it to base contact with a Riddle.

With two scoring objectives secured I gained the 4VP scenario bonus and took a significant early lead.

Two-Face 7 - Law 0

Turn Two

Rottor and Big Stikka continued to make heavy weather of walking up a street, but they at least managed to secure the Ammo Crate and Rottor got into a position to fire on the following turn.

After another moment of inspiration from his boss, Mottom dropped of his Loot with Two-Face and launched himself into the Police lines, swinging his axe wildly and crippling Alpha. Matt's appalling luck continued as Gordon, Alpha and Bravo all fired at Mottom to no avail, his remarkable bulletproof vest turning aside all shots.

The police at least managed to grab their Titan Container and dose up, and Gordon completed two Riddles, but only broke even on VP's (more terrible dice from Matt).

Two-Face 13 - Law 2

Turn Three

Things went from bad to worse for the Police as I took the lead and Two-Face not only called his Attorney's Allegation but blazed away at Bravo, crippling him too, before moving over to behind the car. Bravo fired blindly at Mottom as he backed off to behind the SWAT van.

More shots bounced off Mottom's bulletproof vest to no avail, and he charged in to finish off Alpha with a flurry of blows.

In a brief flurry of misfortune for me, Tube Prisoner rushed in to support Mottom, but found himself tasered and beaten to the ground in a shocking outbreak of Police brutality. Fortunately, he was down but not out.

However, a poor movement roll prevented Big Stikka from joining the fray as he was forced to run directly towards a lamppost (at least he had some cover), whilst Rottor failed to hit anyone with his shotgun.

Despite losing Alpha, Matt had secured two objectives whilst I had abandoned mine to no real effect, which meant the gap was closing.

Two-Face 15 - Law 7

Turn Four

More shots failed to penetrate Mottom's vest, but O'Connell's stun gun finally hit home, However, Mottom hit back with a savage blow from his Axe. In an amazing display of bravado, Tube Prisoner stood up, stole the Male Cop's baton and ran for it back towards his boss, who had secured the Titan Container. Disarmed, Male Cop joined the assault on Mottom.

Big Stikka finally negotiated the lamppost and managed to take a swing at Bravo behind the Ammo Crate, knocking him out, whilst Female Cop looked on from behind a Titan Container.

Two-Face 18 - Law 9

Turn Five

For some reason I didn't get any pictures of this turn, but whilst Tube Prisoner and Rottor secured the Ammo Crate and Titan Container for more points, Two-Face gunned down Male Cop and advanced towards the fray.

The Female Cop still held the Titan Container, but the inability of Gordon and O'Connell to bring down Mottom was really costing Matt.

Two-Face 25 - Law 11

Turn Six

Gordon was finally able to put Mottom on his back, and despite a late assault by Two-Face that sen the Commissioner sprawling, nothing could stop O'Connell from slapping the cuffs on Mottom.

Bravo backed off from Big Stikka, abandoning the Ammo Crate, but the Female Cop came rushing in from behind an brained the big man, knocking him out.

Despite this late flurry, I still had control of two objectives and so gained another scenario bonus. The game was over.

Two-Face 31 - Law 14

That game got off to an bad start for Matt and he was never able to get back level. He was severely limited by his inability to deal with Mottom, thanks to a seemingly under-priced bulletproof vest and the steady flow of objective VP's was difficult to match. If we played again, I imagine that Mottom might find a baton-wielding welcoming committee with armed support rather than the other way around.

Mottom was clearly MVP, but my favourite moment was Tube Prisoner cheekily stealing a Cop's baton and running off: I really want to do that with Ra's Al Ghul's sword or a Ninja's katana.

I really liked the constant ebb and flow of Action Counters in the Two-Face gang, and having a Henchman with 'Follow Me' is really useful. I'm not convinced by Shotguns, as a single dice roll goes wrong too easily. Both Shotguns in this game were fired numerous times to very little effect. Two-Face's Thompson, however, is filth!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

SWAT's the Problem

With the Easter holidays coming to an end, so is my unpainted pile of Batman miniatures and terrain. Almost the last in the queue were my two Blackgate Prisoners and the MDF Police Van.

The prisoners, Big Stikka and 'Tube' Prisoner. These normally come in a pack of four, but I picked these up second hand initially in the belief that they were 'henchmen*' (which means you can include more than one of each in a band), however this classification was changed a long time ago and I'd never noticed. Therefore, if/when I pick up the Blackgate Prisoners pack, the two duplicate models will be painted up in different colours (perhaps with head swaps) to join my Two-Face gang.

Tube Prisoner is only 10 reputation and is therefore one of the most useful models in the game as he will neatly fill up villain crews which fall short of the game limit. Armed only with a length of Pipe, don't expect too much of him, but he's great for camping on an objective, guarding a sewer entrance or any other task which you don't want to waste more valuable members of the crew on. Alternatively, with Handy and Heavy granted by his weapon, he could be a good choice for trying to grab bigger enemy to reduce their Defence against more damaging attacks. I expect this model to see a lot of table time.

Big Stikka is a slightly different proposition. His big stick is Heavy and does a single blood damage, but has the potential to do an additional 3 stun damage on a critical hit. If this comes off it could have a dramatic effect on a game, but him swinging for crits is not something I'd want to pin a strategy on.

However, I would want to prioritise sending him in to fights (probably against weakened enemies) as if he manages to cause a KO or a Casualty, the Criminal trait grants him an additional WP, and therefore another Action Counter. Big Stikka also has a better chance than many henchmen of making it into combat as his Elusive trait increases his Defence against shooting. This is a model I'd use as part of a main attack, activating him later in a round to try to take advantage of weakened enemies.

And now on to the SWAT van...

It's a clever piece of construction to make a convincing vehicle out of MDF, and I really applaud the ingenuity of the designer, apart from the fact that I needed to clip the corners off the doors to make them fit behind the wheel arches.

However, I can say without a hint of doubt, this was the worst MDF kit build that I have done. The problem stemmed from the fact that in places the laser cutter had not cut all of the way through the MDF, which made the usually simple act of removing the pieces from the sprue an absolute arse.

Despite my best attempt to clean up the pieces, it's also left some of the edges looking quite rough, which you can see on the front fender. What's more, it also caused me to snap the windscreen frame. I managed to mend it with a quick application of glue, but again, if you look closely you'll see where it happened.

I was going to put clear plastic in for the windows, but by that point I'd lost patience and decided to keep things simple so I didn't end up throwing the damn thing across the room.

The problems with removing and cleaning up pieces also led to a couple of areas of poor fit, which it most noticeable at the back of the vehicle. Mind you, I was quite chuffed with getting some mesh into the back windows.

Painting this piece was a much more pleasurable experience than assembling it, and like the warning signs, it has crisp details and paints up easily.

Overall, I'm happy with how the model has come out, but the experience has made me more wary about buying more of Knight Models' MDF kits. I will still buy some of them, but not online as I'd want to check whether the MDF has been cut properly before buying.

I do have to say that it sometimes feels that Knight Models have quality control issues that need to be addressed. Others have reported similar experiences with some MDF kits, quite a few of the game cards have been released with misprints, and some people (not including me) have had issues with miniatures missing parts or being moulded poorly. Their customer service seems excellent, but they might not have to work so hard if a little bit more effort was put into quality control.

Rant over.

I'm still a fan, but assembling this van was very annoying.

All that remains unpainted of my Batman backlog it the Dark Knight Returns Batman I was given for Christmas. After that, there's nothing to do...until my birthday in ten days, which should rejuvenate the lead pile.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Keeping It In The (Bat) Family

I'm making really good progress with my painting at the moment, I've not only already got part of my Flames of War target done (more on that later in the month), but I've also completed these two: Robin and Alfred.

Alfred is the limited edition model that came with pre-orders of the BMG rulebook and has actually turned out to be one of the easiest and most satisfying model to paint. In the game he is possibly the least aggressive piece in the game, serving as a healer, providing additional funding and an additional pass each turn.

It seems odd that thematically Alfred works best with a small, vigilante heavy, crew, whereas his rules (and lack of mobility) seems best suited to a crew that is fielding a lot of gun toting cops that he can move up in support of. During the game, he's likely to find himself equipped with handcuffs and a whistle to allow him to contribute more to the game.

I've got Robin thanks to Leon (of PulpcitizenAnima Tactician and Eclectic Gentlemen Gamer fame), who kindly gave the miniature to me, as he already had one, on the grounds that I'd get it painted sooner than him. In the face of this generosity, Robin found himself moved up the paint crew to at least prove him right.

Robin is an odd model in the game, his Bo Staff does minimal damage and rather than Batarangs, he's armed with Smoke Bombs. It seems that the character is designed to run interference and grab objectives (Bat-Claw and Detective help here). However, he also has the Follow Me trait which like Alfred sees him needing to stay with the Henchmen to use it. Again, it seems odd that Robin is neither one thing nor the other. Personally, I'd like to see him gain the Defensive trait on his Bo (something that would help the League Ninja Shadow too) and swap Follow Me for Dodge. This would make him a much better dedicated objective grabber. As it is, however I use him, there are going to be skills that I can't use to their full potential.

In terms of painting, Robin is bothering me. There's something not quite right about him. Initially I realised that I'd forgotten to do the 'R' on his chest, which has improved it, but I'm still bugged by something. I was wondering whether the gloves aren't a bright enough green or need metal plates like the boots. Any suggestions would be gratefully received (although the words 'blending' and 'layering' will be ignored due to my simplicity with a brush).

So, with the two of them, I am now able to do a 350 reputation, tournament legal, Batman crew that doesn't require the slightly incongruous presence of Mr Freeze. Is suspect that I'll be taking my Batman Crew to my next tournament (whenever that is). Whether anything else gets added in the meantime will depend on when the next event is, and what turns up on my birthday in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Escape to Victor-Z...

Apologies for the appalling pun, but I was struggling to find a title that linked my most recent progress.

First up, I've finished off the two remaining models from the Arkham Lunatics pack, the serial killer Victor Zsasz, and the awkwardly named File No 08923. These have been sat half-finished in the paint queue for well over a month as I found them quite daunting for different reasons.

File No 08923 has a lot of fiddly detail on the face as it appears that the authorities have mysteriously decided that the best way to treat his aggressive schizophrenia (his special rule in the game) is to use metal clips on his eyelids and mouth. I don't know about you, but personally, I suspect that would make me and my multiple personalities more aggressive. This character's rules seem to imply that he rushes madly towards whoever is closest, so I'm not sure how I'd use him in game, but he'll get a run out at some point.

Victor Zsasz is one of my favourite villains. First appearing in 'The Last Arkham' storyline, he's a sinister killer who marks a tally of his kills in his own skin, and it's these scars that gave me pause when painting him. However, I eventually psyched myself up to get them done and overall, I'm happy with them. I've someone gets up close they might find fault, but at normal wargaming distance, the scar looks like what they're meant to be.

I have to say that I'm not overly keen on the look that the Arkham City game gave to Victor Zsasz as I think it's a bit too 'fetish', and those blades are a bit daft. I've quite liked the version of Zsasz that's turned up in the Gotham TV show (even though he's a bit shooty), and with Knight Models now having the rights to produce characters from that programme (they released the Penguin this month), I'm hopeful that an alternative Zsasz will become available.

I've also finished off the second MDF warning sign. This one's not quite in the same colour scheme as seen in the Arkham City game, I've replaced the paler red with black lettering with dark grey and white lettering. I quite like it. These two signs will bring some much needed colour to my currently quite bleak rooftops or allow me to at least create an effective Arkham Asylum entrance using my fences and the gate from Fenris Games.

These signs have been fun to do. The details are clearly etched and so they have the feel of painting-by-numbers, which is more relaxing than most of my painting. I think I said in an earlier post that I was initially sceptical of the need for these as terrain pieces, but I wholeheartedly take that back and I'm genuinely looking forward to getting my hands on their new billboards set.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ladies' Night

Peter came over for a game of BMG last night and brought his burgeoning Watchmen crew featuring Ozymandias and a partially painted Rorschach. To bring his crew up to 200 points he borrowed one of my cops and ran the crew as if it was Law (i.e. the cop got Law equipment).

Pete's Watchmen Crew
Agent Ron (Magazine, Patrol Training, Police Badge)

My Poison Ivy Crew
Poison Ivy (Arkham version)
Spore Plant (Sense Mutation, Extra Spores)
Creeper Plant (Titanic Mutation, Spikes Mutation)

The scenario we drew was Plunder, which is a rush for objectives in the centre of the board. We selected strategies, which naturally led to both of us taking Snitch to cancel each other's Snitch (is there anybody who doesn't do this?) and with my one remaining point I purchased Patrol to give Catwoman a head start towards her primary objective loot counter. As Ozymandias is a Mastermind, Pete had three strategy points to spend and chose Ambush and Secret Objective.

I deployed Catwoman and Poison Ivy near the factory gates to give them a clear run at objectives in the hope that I could grab objectives quickly to gain a bonus 4vp's as per the scenario rules. However, as Pete's crew consisted of an Acrobat (Ozymandias deployed in the park), an Undercover Cop (behind the stretch Limo) and a Hidden nutter (Rorschach behind the blue bin).

Turn 1
The Watchmen took the lead and made straight for objectives. Ozymandias and Rorschach headed towards the riddles and, using Mastermind and Detective respectively, managed to solve both of them (Pete perhaps made an error in not waiting in order to gain the scenario bonus for controlling two objectives), and Agent Ron managed to grab a Titan dose.

Predictably, Catwoman made straight for the loot counter, whilst Ivy ran as fast as she could towards the second Titan container, keeping the cars between her and Agent Ron's gun.

Victory Points - Watchmen 4 vs. Poison Ivy 2

Turn 2

With the Watchmen getting closer, Ivy decided to mix things up by summoning her plants. The Creeper plant emerged (with its Titanic Mutation) next to Agent Ron, who also decided to take his dose, contesting the objective.

The Spore Plant came up in an alleyway next to the Watchmen's Ammo objective. Not only would it at least contest the objective, but it also had good lines of fire across the centre of the table.

In response to this new threat, Agent Ron immediately went in to attack the Creeper Plant. His blows were ineffective, but so were the retaliatory strikes from the Plant as well as the Spore Plant's shots from across the road.

Ivy grabbed a Titan Dose and some victory points whilst using Discourage on Agent Ron. Meanwhile the rest of the characters moved into position for the next turn. Rorschach bat-clawed up to a roof ready to swing into action, Catwoman brought her loot to the corner, whilst Ozymandias stopped by the Titan Container to also grab a dose. Whatever happened, things were going to get bloody in the next round.

Victory Points - Watchmen 4 vs. Poison Ivy 6

Turn 3

The Watchmen took the lead and Ozymandias bypassed the fight between Agent Ron and the Creeper Plant and charged Catwoman. In what was to prove a pattern for the game, Ozymandias did not prove to be as dangerous as he looked and only managed to land two hits on Catwoman for four stun damage, leaving her still able to act effectively (this would prove crucial).

The Creeper Plant attacked the Discouraged Agent Ron and managed to land a successful hit, Agent Ron fluffed his response and then was knocked out by a successful shot from the Spore Plant.

As if things weren't bad enough, Pete's turn got worse when Rorschach didn't move far enough on the rooftop to be able to Bat-claw into combat. This left him in charge range of the limping Catwoman (still hanging on grimly to her loot), who managed to not only hit and wound, but also rolled a knockdown on Rorschach, leaving him prone and in seductive stroll range of Poison Ivy.

Sure enough, a Titan Dosed Ivy sauntered up and succeeded in grabbing the vigilante and planting a Mortal Kiss on him, taking him out of the game.

Victory Points - Watchmen 4 vs. Poison Ivy 13

Turn 4

As if things couldn't get worse for the Watchmen, Poison Ivy ran from the scene of the crime and used Chlorokinesis to get out of Ozymandias' charge range. Ozymandias proved to be extremely susceptible to  bad dice as Catwoman succeeded in blocking his few successful attacks and then also running from him, taking her loot with her.

The two plants flailed at the unconscious Policeman, slowly working his stun damage into blood and pushing him inevitably towards removal.

Victory Points - Watchmen 4 vs. Poison Ivy 15

Turns 5&6

With the Sirens making themselves scarce, Ozymandias turned his attention towards helping out the downed Agent Ron, but ultimately failed to do any significant damage. Ivy rushed in to finish of the Policeman and the Creeper Plant flailed around ineffectually.

At the end of the game, the whole Poison Ivy crew was still standing, Catwoman still held her loot and Ozymandias was forced to retreat, having lost all of his allies.

Victory Points - Watchmen 4 vs. Poison Ivy 19

Wow, that got ugly quickly. Turn 3 really went badly for Pete and Ozymandias' poor rolling prevented him from clawing back any points. I was surprised to discover how lethal Ivy is against the incapacitated and I enjoyed using the Plants as  spoilers.

In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea for Pete to split up so much, and he might have made more headway by ganging up on my immobile plants before coming after the girls. However, when a turn implodes on you, there's not a lot of tactical thinking that will fix it. I think the Watchmen really take some getting used to, so I expect games against Pete to get steadily trickier.

For me, I found the Ivy crew interesting and fun to use, presenting a really different experience from the other crews I've used. I suspect that Ms Isley may be invited out again...