Wednesday, 25 January 2017

7TV: Juliet Who? Doctor Bravo?

With two starter casts pretty much done, it was time to play my first ever game of 7TV using exclusively Crooked Dice models. Given what I had painted, it was time for Doctor Who to travel back to the nineteen eighties and help the cast of Juliet Bravo defeat a evil cult, guest starring Sigourney Weaver as Michell the 'Bell Witch'.

The casts were as follows:

The Doctor - Unearthly Traveller - Star
Amy Pond - Plucky Assistant - Co-Star
Inspector Jean Darblay - Investigative Academic - Co-Star
The Hartley Constabulary - Police Patrol Unit
   Police Sergeant - Extra
   3 Police Constables - Extras

Pastor Lawrence - Sinister Mystic - Star
Michelle the Witch - The Bell Witch - Co-Star
The Watcher - Animated Construct - Extra
The Conclave of Blood - Cultist Coven Unit
   Cult Leader - Extra
   4 Cultists - Extras

Hartley Station gets a call from the Jenkins Farm...
...about strange sounds emanating from the abandoned churchyard... 
...and shapes moving through the trees at night.
The Hartley boys in blue arrive to investigate.
Joined by an oddly dressed WPC, called Pond, from Scotland.
And her medical associate; he wouldn't give his name.
Inspector Darblay finds nobody home at the farm...odd...
Suddenly a ghostly figure appears in front of Amy in the church.
Red robed figures can been seen amongst the trees.
One armed with a rifle also bears down on Inspector Darblay.
The experience officer moves quickly to incapacitate the man.
Whilst the Doctor is able to set light to another's robes.
Amy tries to tussle with the intangible figure facing her. 
She comes off worse as they fight back and forth.
Darblay fails to get the cuffs on in time. 
However, the flaming Cultist runs off into the distance.
Amy scrambles through a window to where the Police lie in wait.
The Doctor offers 'helpful' advice to the Inspector.
The Witch appears amidst the Police and seizes the initiative.
Bewitching one Constable into attacking his Sergeant.
Pastor Lawrence assaults another Bobby.
More Cultists rush towards the Doctor and the Inspector.
The Witch's chill touch takes the fight out of Amy.
The thin blue line gets thinner.
Things look bad.
The Cultist with the rifle is finally apprehended.
Baxter manages to strike the Witch, but then just seems to stop.
There's still a chance; the Cult Leader is arrested, but Darblay is hurt.
The Doctor discombobulates the Cultists enough to escape
The Doctor flees, the Inspector is wounded, and Amy is missing...
 In a fun packed game, everything went wrong for the good guys. I constantly drew negative Countdown Cards, failed strike rolls (including two rolls of 1 when trying to hit the stunned Witch) and got caught out by the fast moving and tricksy cultists. I probably wasn't aggressive enough, but the Inspector made very heavy weather of a single Cultist and the Pastor and the Witch went through the Police like a hot knife through butter. It has however, set up a possible follow up game in which the Doctor seeks to rescue Amy from a sacrificial altar.

Tune in next week...or whenever I get around to playing it...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Batman: War Games

As I alluded to in my previous post, I was at another Batman Miniatures Game tournament. Again I was at the (newly done up, with heating and everything) Holmfirth Gaming Centre for another Animosity themed event.

This time the event had the players split into three teams which each had mission objectives on top of the normal 'try to win' goal. They were:
  • Batman & Law: needed to arrest of KO more than half the opposing crew
  • Underworld Unleashed: needed to casualty more than half the opposing crew
  • J.A.N.U.S. Directive: needed to kill the opposing leader
Given the less than stellar result of my Justice League 'experiment' last time, this time I decided to take things a little more seriously and break out the filth:

The crew list was as follows:

Arkham City Joker (Leader)
Hush (Free Agent)
Suicide Squad Captain Boomerang (Free Agent)
Ringmaster (Henchman with Grapple Gun & Antidote)
Borgon (Henchman)
Sniggering (Henchman)
Contra Auguste (Henchman)
Clown with Shield (Henchman)

My basic plan was to use Joker's slightly naughty explosive teeth and Sniggering to soften up the opponent (possibly with the aid of Joker Gas Canister objectives), for the henchmen and Hush to beat up when they got close. Captain Boomerang would make straight for his priority target and (or so I thought) leg it in classic Catwoman fashion. Hush and Joker also combined their abilities to give me a few pre-game advantages - more counters in the bag than my opponent for turn activation and being able to cancel opposing strategies (which nobody else can do now the Batmatch rules are in place).

Well, that was the plan, anyway...

Game 1 - Joker vs Bane (Sammy) - Street Fight

As I was using Joker, I was placed in the Underworld Unleashed team, and my first game saw me paired against Sammy's Bane crew, which were part of the J.A.N.U.S. Directive. I've played Sammy at the last event and I learned all about how not to use Hawkgirl as Sammy's Penguin thugs clipped her wings en masse. His Bane crew looked like this:

Dark Knight Rises Bane
Suicide Squad Deadshot
Ted Hunter
Mohawk (with a Grapple Gun)
Axe Prisoner
Smoke Bomb Prisoner (with Backpack)

We were paired on the Gaming Centre's newest Batman board, which posed some interesting tactical quandaries, especially given that we had corner deployments. We pretty much knew that there would be an almighty clash on the centre of the bridge...

...except there wasn't.

This was a really strange game, as we ran out of time on turn three. I don't know if we were playing slowly (it didn't feel like it), we took too long setting up, or we didn't have the same amount of time as the other games, but we had to end the game before the crews clashed properly.

The beginning saw my gas canisters deal out minimal damage, despite Hush ensuring that Sammy's Fast Advance was cancelled so the Bane crew remained tightly packed, due to Deadshot conveniently having Leadership, allowing them to reroll their Willpower rolls. We both moved cautiously towards the bridge and grabbed loot. I took an extra turn to get Boomerang to his loot, but this was balanced out by Sammy forgetting to grab the loot with his backpack guy, preventing him from simply running off with it. I was wary of Deadshot, who surprisingly took two goes to put Sniggering out of action. Meanwhile, Joker took advantage of the tightly packed henchmen on the bridge to dish out liberal damage, eventually KOing Smash.

What turned out to be our final turn saw a concerted effort to take Shield Clown (who was on 'get in the way' duty) out of the game, and in return, Ringmaster swung down from the bridge to not only KO the Smoke Bomb prisoner, but also deny Sammy from scoring his loot in the final round. I picked up a scenario VP for holding more objectives...and that was it.

It was a shame we didn't get to play more as it was shaping up to be a really even game and the the crews were about to clash. I think the Bane henchmen are a bit better in combat, but they were almost all carrying damage from Joker and the cannisters, and both Boomerang and Hush had full ammo. It would have been a fun fight.

Anyway, it was an interesting prelude and a draw was a fair result.

Final Score: Joker 7 - Bane 6

Game 2 - Joker vs Riddler (Jimmy) - Fight For Gotham

For this game I was paired against another J.A.N.U.S. Directive crew, however, this time I was against the Riddler, a crew I've never actually played against. Having never played against Riddler, I didn't really know what my best strategy would be, but looking at his line up, it seemed certain that I was going to have to shut down a few Riddler Bots...

Arkham Knight Riddler
Classic Deadshot
Captain Boomerang
Axe Prisoner
Six...count 'em...six Riddler Bots

There are apparently different types of Riddler Bots, but even after playing, I'm no clearer on which ones are which. I'd be chasing these guys around the Lian Yu board that had caused me issues in previous events. This time, however, as a special table rule, there was guaranteed fog, which reduced vision (for everyone except Joker and Deadshot) to 20cm.

Jimmy deployed in a long line, clearly intent on spreading out to drop clues everywhere he could. I opted for a fast advance to get me up the board and enable me to get stuck in as soon as I could, and get to my own objectives to counter Riddler's steady flow.

Hush ran up the left on his own, popping off shots at Bots that he passed, and even killing one, before he got to my Ammo objective to start racking up points. Captain Boomerang and Ringmaster went up the right to secure the loot. Once this was grabbed, Boomerang began taking out Bots with pinpoint accuracy, whilst Ringmaster turned on the pace to run to the Titan Container in the centre of Jimmy's deployment zone.

In the centre, Sniggering blasted a Riddler Bot and managed to survive a strangely inaccurate Deadshot. Joker's teeth blew a hole in the Riddler's line, and the clowns poured through, pouncing on those who'd been knocked down by the explosion. Shield Clown was brought down by Jimmy's Boomerang, but he, in turn, was taken out by Sniggering, who was surprised to find him close enough.

Riddler tried to turn the tide against the clowns, repairing Bots and knocking out Contra Auguste, but the game was really up when Joker sauntered up and took him out with the One Shot Gun. At the end of the game, Deadshot, outnumbered and out of ammo was swarmed and brought down. The final tally was even worse because the scenario granted me extra VPs for everything I killed.

In retrospect, this was one of those game where the scenario, the board and the crew match-up all favoured me, as there was nothing to stop my guys getting to grips with the Bots. Top add insult to injury, Deadshot was misfiring, whilst Joker was on fire - pretty much everything I did went right. I admire Jimmy for keeping his spirits in the face of such dire circumstances.

Final Score: Joker 53 - Riddler 19

Game 3 - Joker vs Two-Face (Chris) - Skirmish

It was time for me to face the Law...yes, I know it's Two-Face, but sometimes things need to stretched to make the teams, and at least he was a lawyer.

Game 3 would be against Chris, the organiser of the event. Chris has been at all the Animosity events, but I've never played him. What's more Two-Face is another crew that due to circumstance, I've never faced. A quick glance revealed that whilst I probably had the advantage in combat, Chris certainly had more guns.

Arkham Origins Deadshot (yes, I faced all three versions in one day...yay!)
Mr Pink (guess which one he is...)
MG Goon
Axe Goon
2 Hammer Goons

We would be playing on the bizarre Joker's Fun House board (it seemed appropriate). Replete with mirrored surfaces and perspex, getting your head around what you could see was tricky. I opted to deploy at the top end to deny Chris from getting some sniper towers for his guns. I also chose Fast Advance again to enable me to get to grips with the foe quickly, and as Two-Face, Deadshot and the MG Goon deployed on my right, I formulated a plan to place my objective on the left, so that I could get forward without worrying about guns.

After not bothering against the Bots, I once again broke out the Joker Gas Canisters, which were really effective against the low willpower goons, putting blood damage on almost all of them. The first turn also saw Sniggering execute a Two-Face Goon who was standing too close to a lamppost.

On my left, Captain Boomerang ran forward to grab his loot, before heading to the centre, whilst Hush ran past to take out another Goon and jump on the Ammo, where he was happy to stay for the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Ringmaster swung down to intercept Boris, before he could do anything to stop Hush, and slowly beat him into unconsciousness. Despite the fact that Mr Pink grabbed his priority target loot as well, this meant that without anything else happening, there was a steady 3VP advantage to me each round, which steadily began to build during the game.

In the centre, Chris wisely avoided bunching, which meant that Joker really had to target the solitary MG goon, and so the exploding teeth were all used on knocking him out. Christ has placed his objectives in the open near the middle of the board, forcing me to choose to defend them and get shot, or hide.

I opted for a slightly different tactic, my clowns spread out to cover and ran an intercept strategy, either blocking the way forwards, or running out at opportune moment to prevent Chris scoring from his objectives. Shield Clown was shot early (guess who by) but Borgon did a sterling job of activating late to contest Chris' Ammo, and ensured that he only scored off it for one round.

Man of the Match was Contra Auguste, who somehow managed to survive beign shot at by Two-Face (twice) and Boris and mauled by Axe Goon long enough to slow them down, forcing them to keep moving to get shots on him.

The final turn saw the game turn heavily in my favour, as Joker stepped out from hiding to One Shot Gun Deadshot to the floor, for Borgon to step out again an smash his head in. Captain Boomerang used his monitoring device to shoot round corners and take out the Axe Goon.

I was really pleased with how this game played out. I was a little fortunate with Contra Auguste's extended death scene, but overall my strategy of frustrating Chris' attempts to score worked well. By this point in the day it was beginning to dawn on me that having two people who could shoot round corners, whilst being able to manipulate the number of activation counters and cancel opposing strategies was actually really quite powerful. This was another really fun, but challenging game.

Final Score: Joker 39 - Two-Face 21

Game 4 - Joker vs Batman (Reuben) - Patrol

It seemed fitting that the final game would see Joker pitted against Guano-Man. I've actually played Reuben twice before, and both times he's been fielding a lot of police. The first time we played, Poison Ivy did terrible things to his henchmen, and the last time, Batman made the Penguin run and hide. I enjoy playing Reuben, and this game was no exception.

Dark Knight Rises Batman
Commissioner Gordon
SWAT Alpha
SWAT Bravo
Agent O'Connell
2 GCPD Detectives (one of them is the Rorschach model)
Female Cop

This game saw me playing Patrol on the city street board, which I've played on twice before...doing the Patrol scenario. I kind of knew how this game would play out and decided to use a defensive strategy to wear down the cops as they slogged across the board, whilst Ringmaster and Hush made a dash over the rooftops and through the sewers to reach my objectives. I wasn't sure what I would do about Batman, as he was more than a match for any of my guys in combat, but I hoped that Ringmaster might lure the Bat into chasing him away from the main fight.

Batman began by zipping down the street and using his EMP strategy to put out the lights around him, whilst the cops ran up behind, securing loot and taking pot shots at clowns lit up by Gordon's aerial support. The clowns clustered behind the white car for cover, whilst Boomerang grabbed loot Reuben had conveniently placed nearby. Hush jumped in a sewer, Ringmaster took to the rooftops, whilst Joker detonated the SWAT team to minimal effect due to their bulletproof vests.

The cops continued to advance at pace, their better firepower causing the clowns to withdraw, but not before Sniggering managed to kill one of the Detectives and Contra Auguste took significant damage. With Batman not taking the Ringmaster bait, I ran Borgon forward to the alleyway, hoping to lure Batsy away and keep him fighting by stacking my Defence dice. However, I forgot about this Batman having Sneak Attack, and Borgon suddenly found himself on the receiving end of 6 stun damage and a knockdown. Things looked bad.

Simply because he was in range, I took a chance with Captain Boomerang, who threw his LE Boomerang round the corner to inflict 4 blood damage on the Dark Knight. He then, thanks to the fact that I had the advantage in activation counters and got first turn again, followed up with a regular boomerang. This, due to his ability to re-roll to hit and damage, inflicted another bunch of damage, knocking out the Bat in two rounds. I didn't see that coming, and neither did Batman. Literally.

From this point, Reuben was in trouble. His cops were running out of ammo and he needed to get Batman back in the game. Agent O'Connell leaped out of sewer to knock out Borgon and protect Batman, but Hush did the same, killing the second Detective and persuading Gordon to act at the wring time to do anything about Ringmaster, who swung down into Reuben's deployment zone, and grabbed a Joker Gas Canister for good measure. Bravo made a dash towards my deployment zone, but fell short by a couple of centimetres.

Another really good game, I was fortunate with Boomerang taking Batman down, but having re-rolls and the ability to shoot round corners, there was a good chance of doing significant damage anyway. I think I've got the measure of this board and knew that running up the centre into gunfire was a bad idea, and my strategy with running Ringmaster over the rooftops was sound and effective. Had we played on a more conventional board, I think Batman might have been able to terrorise my clowns more effectively.

Final Score: Joker 21 - Batman 5

So, after four games and three solid wins, I was delighted to find myself in second place overall. First place was taken by Mark, who won all of his games, including his last one against a Cyborg/Starfire/Batsignal crew in which he heroically one-shotted Starfire on the first turn, knocking her out with a multi-fire attack from Green Arrow, which caused her to fall to the ground, killing her. Everyone agreed that this alone was worthy of the win.

As ever the prize support was excellent, and I won a Mr Freeze Crew starter set, a limited edition Harvey Bullock stat card and a certificate for finishing as the highest placed Underworld Unleashed player. Yes, of course I've framed it. It will go with the only other gaming trophies I've ever won: WPS Club Challenge Most Sporting Warhammer Player and the GIMPS (our old club) Bloodbowl League Champion (I didn't get a second one when I won it for a second time).

All in all, it was another cracking day out, and I'd like to say a big thanks (if they're reading this) to Animosity (especially Chris), the staff at Holmfirth Gaming Centre and all my opponents. These events really are played in the right spirit by everyone who attends.

In terms of what I learned, here are my 5 takeaways from the day:
  • Arkham City Joker is very, very good for his points. His ability to control the game beginning (activation counters), middle (exploding folk with no risk to himself) and end (using the one shot gun to finish the job) is frightening.
  • Under the new Batmatch rules, which ban the Snitch strategy, Hush's ability to cancel the opponent's key strategy, whilst your own is guaranteed is signifiantly more powerful. He's also a solid Free Agent in game.
  • Captain Boomerang is excellent. Although a little slower than Catwoman on loot grabbing, his lethal ranged ability allows him to contribute much more to the rest of the game. Having both him and Joker shooting round corners felt a bit dirty...but, you know, the good sort of dirty...
  • Ringmaster is underated. Whenever I see him discussed, the focus is always on damage. However, he is durable, versatile and mobile. In ideal candidate for heading off alone to grab an objective, especially if given a grapple gun.
  • I need to speed up. With more models than I'm used to, I need to play faster as in all but the second game, we were struggling for time.
I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with Joker next time, as this was a very successful crew set up. However, I do like to use the all the models I've painted and there are still Black Mask and Wonderland Gangs I have yet to use. I've also got the Freeze Crew and the Suicide Squad box to work through, so who knows. Mind you...the Suicide Squad box has Joker stuff...and Deadshot...hmmmm...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Dynamic Duos

A quick post with some eclectic pairings I've been working on recently.

First up are the Doctor and Amy Pond from Crooked Dice. These models are sadly out of print now, along with pretty much all of Crooked Dice's not-Doctor Who models; clearly an unfortunate result of the imminent release of the official Doctor Who game from Warlord Games. However, I was fortunate to scoop these up from Grekwood Miniatures remaining stock and so can actually do some of the Doctor Who gaming I've been planning for so long.

As ever, Crooked Dice models are a pleasure to paint. Matt Smith is not my favourite Doctor, but these are lovely sculpts, and there are no decent David Tennant sculpts out there (Heresy probably did the best, but that's disappeared recently too) so there'll more than do the job for my gaming needs.

Next up, some reinforcement for my fledgling HYDRA forces. The guy on the right is the Silver Samurai; can you guess why he's called that? He's a Dixon miniature, I think, that I picked up from a show for this reason and was, as you can imagine, a doddle to paint.

The last time I used my HYDRA forces, the henchmen found themselves horrendously out manoeuvred by Daredevil and Black Widow, and one of the main reasons for this was that they struggled to generate enough plot points to activate. Therefore, I decided to add a Minion Commander to the team to enable me to use the Minion unit card and free up some plot points in game. I'd previously converted this model to turn into Baron Zemo, so I needed to replace his weapon hand, and a radio seemed appropriate for a commander.

The final pairing includes Captain Boomerang from the BMG Suicide Squade boxed set. I'll admit to having felt a bit overwhelmed when 14 new miniatures suddenly needed painting, and have shied away from starting on them. However, I'm off to another event tomorrow, and wanted to include Captain Boomerang, so that seems to be motivation I was needing.

The model itself was surprisingly simple to do, something that I think is due to him wearing clothes rather than a costume. The unicorn was made from some bits I won at a previous tournament and is both a nod to the movie, and actually based on a game mechanic as Captain Boomerang has Primary Target: Loot (Unicorn), so I'll be using the unicorn as a loot counter in games.

I'm really enjoying my eclectic painting at the moment, so expect it to continue.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Scarper! It's the Rozzers!

The main part of the second of my 7TV starter sets. This time it's the Police. These five come with a Tough Detective, Investigative Academic and a Marksmen, however, at least for now, I'm not sure that those three models, lovely as they are, really fit the humdrum seventies feel of these five, and so I'm going to be backing them up with a couple of, in my opinion, more suitable models which you'll see over the next couple of days.

First up is the Sergeant. An imposing figure, with his sleeves rolled up and ready for action. He's probably my favourite of bunch.

Next up is a short, rather rotund chap who almost certainly stood on his tiptoes to pass the height requirement.

This is clearly a young officer, possibly played by Nick Berry, whose so action oriented that he's out of focus.

This hirsute chap makes me think that his name should be need to be of a certain age, and have watched BBC school based reference to know why. It annoys me that my own eyes did not pick up the flash on the hand, but the camera has. I might need to go back to that now.

The WPC has destiny to actually be the station commander in some games as my wife has expressed an interest in playing some games based on Juliet Bravo. Am I the only one who was confused as a youngster that the title wasn't the main character's name?

All in all, these have been quick and fun to paint. I really enjoy Crooked Dice miniatures, as there's a real charm to them. The lack the extraneous detail that clutters, and doesn't really add to, the modern CAD designed miniatures that seem to be all the rage. I often find that a lot of the details cause me a lot of hassle, for no real benefit, as nobody is ever going to notice that tiny buckle on the inside of the ankle.

These are simple and straightforward. I like simple and straight forward.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

New Year, New Game

It finally arrived!

Over a year since I first backed the Kickstarter campaign, six months after the expected delivery date, and three months after they began shipping, I eventually received my Dropfleet Commander starter set. And it looks like it's been worth the wait.

The models are excellently detailed, multi-purpose plastic kits that are straightforward to assemble. The rulebook is a thing of beauty, with only a few charming typos - Traffic James, I'm looking at you. The gameplay seems simple but some difficult aspects to master. It is even a game of space combat which manages to provide a logical reason why the battle is taking place on a single plane (all the battles take place over the surface of a planet). All in all, its a good product.

Its also meant that I've been able to finish off my starter fleet that I began when Wes received his pledge.

Note the detailed bases with battlegroup colours...snazzy!

One of the new ships - a Wyvern Cruiser

A Shenlong Heavy Cruiser - a veritable space shark.

Obviously, getting a new game, means needing to play a new game, and so Matt brought his Shaltari fleet over for a game. Unfortunately for me, Matt had already played one game, and so had already learned what not to do.

The Wyvern does a suicide rush at the Shaltari frigates.

After destroying the Obsidian Heavy Cruiser, my Ifrit is in trouble.

The Shenlong stirkes, but is crippled in the explosion.
At the end of the game, an unfortunate spell of ground combat went against me, giving Matt the victory by a score of 15-11. Had I won the combat, the game would have finished 14-12. This basically pointed to it being very close. I had probably lost the Wyvern too cheaply and should have at least tried to do something about the Shaltari Voidgates, given that Matt was being cautious with his Emerald Mothership. Meanwhile, Matt had split his frigates from his cruisers, which had led to them being overpowered and allowed me to gang up on his cruisers towards the end of the game.

Overall, it was a fun and cagey game, and although we definitely got some stuff wrong, there was a general feeling that we didn't get as much wrong as we usually do with new games, which is a good sign.

There will be plenty more games of Dropfleet in the coming weeks.