Wednesday 31 August 2011

Cheaphammer Update

Seeing as I've called this blog Cheaphammer, I thought I'd provide a short update on how I'm doing on saving money through my nefarious means. Hopefully I can prove that this hobby isn't prohibitively expensive and can be fully engaged with on a budget.

For this comparison, I'm going to quote prices currently listed on the GW website and present the price of units according to how much it would cost to furnish that many 'official' models (even if that means buying more models than would be needed).

So, here goes...

The 1600 point army currently includes:
8 Knights of the Realm
5 Knights Errant
20 Peasant Bowmen
30 Men at Arms
3 Pegasus Knights
1 Grail Reliquae & 6 Battle Pilgrims
1 Field Trebuchet
1 Damsel/Prophetess on Foot
1 Damsel/Prophetess on Steed
1 Battle Standard Beared

To purchase this officially through GW I've worked out that at minimum you would need to buy the following:
Bretonnian Battallion (£55.00)
Box of Bretonnian Knights - spare Knight can be made into Battle Standard (£20.00)
Box of Bretonnian Men at Arms - spares can be made into Bowmen (£20.00)
2 Bretonnian Pegasus Knights (£19.50)
Grail Reliquae and Battle Pilgrims (£25.50)
Bretonnian Field Trebuchet (£25.50)
Bretonnian Damsel with Staff, Foot and Mounted (£20.25)
TOTAL = £185.75

My spend has been as follows:
Bag of Hundred Years War archers (FREE)
Box of Bretonnian Bits from Andy (FREE)
Box of Bretonnian Bits from Dave (£20.00)
Bok of Bretonnian Knights from FLGS (£18.00)
Bretonnian Damsel with Staff, Foot and Mounted at Triples (£3.50)
Bretonnian Battle Standard at Triples (£3.50)
Wargames Foundry ECW Mortar (£6.40)
TOTAL = £52.40

That's a saving of £133.35!

Additionally there are spare models to consider. The official army would leave me with 2 spare Knights and 2 spare Men at Arms. I currently have 3 spare Knights, 2 spare Pegasus Knights and 12 spare Men at Arms/Bowmen which are currently being converted into Battle Pilgrims for even bigger savings. In fact, the models I currently have will allow the army to grow to 2000 points...all for less that £60.

Cheaphammer IS the way forward. Remember:

1. Let the army choose you; begin with models you already have.
2. Ask your friends if they have anything useful for sale or trade.
3. Be creative and convert models.
4. Make interesting unit fillers.
5. Use small, expensive (in points) units where you can.
6. Build an army that can be used in more than one game and/or as other armies.
7. Try to avoid buying new.
8. If you must buy new, ask for these items for Christmas/Birthdays.
9. Shop creatively; buy cheaper models to 'count as'.
10. Avoid being tempted by new projects and armies.

Saturday 27 August 2011

August Progress Update

The Knights Errant are done and I've met my August target. I have to say that there was a point where I thought I wouldn't. Two weddings and a seventieth birthday all in different corners of the country have put some unexpected time pressures on me. Throw in a couple of days in Scarborough and tooth extractions and I was up against it.

However, they're done. I've maintained the base colour scheme, reflecting that these are household knights of my (yet to be bought, let alone painted) General. However, I've taken the look of the 4th edition Bretonnian army by leaving the Knights Errant helmetless (80's soft rock hair-dos all round) and without crests on their shields, to reflect that they have yet to prove themselves. If you study the army closely , you'll also notice that the Knights Errant have the same field designs as other models in the army, a hint that these are their sons and heirs.

Also this week, I've been performing some cosmetic surgery on my Battle Standard Bearer and replaced his banner. There were a number of reasons for this: I wasn't to keen on the original banner in the first place; I think I'd got the colour balance wrong on the banner so it was too dark; it was also a big chunk of lead that unbalanced the model and meant it kept falling over, causing chips and damage to itself and other models. So, in a fit of pique I tor his arm off, hacked of the metal monstrosity and pinned a plastic banner in its place.

I'm much happier with the final result. The colours are better and brighter (more 'heraldic'); the model looks less ponderous; and it doesn't fall over all the time. I'v also worked out what the tiny shields on the knights' sprues are for and so in time I'll add some to the other banners.

There you have it. I'm calling time on this month as I'm starting a new job in September and I need to get up to speed on some stuff next week. A fair amount done (to be honest, I'm not sure that all of the Batman stuff was done this month, but they're in the picture anyway) and I'm making good headway on the army. I've also had a fair few battles this month and even won one!

Next month, I've decided to give myself a bit of a break. The new job, being fed up of painting knights and wanting to leave some possibility of working on other projects mean that I'm not being too ambitious in my target setting. Therefore, next month's target is the completion of the Grail Reliquae unit which means painting a dozen or so Battle Pilgrims, all made from bits of Men-at-Arms and Peasant Bowmen - proper Cheaphammer (have you seen the cost of the proper models?!?!?).

Thursday 18 August 2011

Who said the Tomb Kings are slow?

The Bretonnian host took to the field for the third time last night against Craig's Tomb Kings and is was a near run thing, littered with freak occurrences and irritating mistakes. The scenario was Blood and Glory.

The Tomb Kings were arrayed in all their glory with a Heirophant, a Liche Priest, a Tomb Prince, 3 Chariots, 30 Skeletons, 3 Necropolis Knights, 13 Archers, a Heirotitan and a Casket of Souls. Craig deployed towards the left flank of our narrow battlefield, with the Casket in the centre at the back and the Heirotitan holding the left. A General and 3 standards gave Craig a fortitude of 5. Essentially I had to destroy the Skeleton Warriors (with the Tomb Prince in to win).

Facing them, the Bretonnians featured a Prophetess, a Damsel on horseback, a Battle Standard Bearer and a Paladin on foot (borrowed from my Vampires for the occasion). In terms of troops, the Knights Errant weren't ready so I had 8 Knights of the Realm, 30 Men at Arms, 20 Peasant Archers, a Trebuchet, a Grail Reliquae and 3 Pegasus Knights. 5 standards and a General gave me a fortitude of 7, which was good for a small game, Craig needed to get several units and my general to win.

I deployed as above, and the Pegasus Knights used their vanguard move to advance up my left. Predictably, the Tomb Kings advances with all but the Casket and I held my ground as we traded spells, arrows and large rocks (I misfired on the first turn, but finally hit both the Chariots and the Skeletons in later rounds - 18 Skeletons flattened!).

Predictably, the Necropolis Knight popped up in the most annoying position possible, between my Knights and my Men at Arms. I turned to face them with both units, threatening to catch them in a vice if my Knights were able to avoid the killing blows. I was hoping to destroy the Necropolis Knights before the rest of the Tomb King army arrived.

Here's where the mistakes and freak occurrences kicked in. I'd forgotten to move my Pegasus Knights, who were threatening the rear of the Tomb King lines, and they found themselves charged by the Heirotitan. The Pegasus Knights proceeded to fail two fear tests but still hold the stone giant, who as it turned out, couldn't hit a barn door. They were helped in their efforts by making an outrageous number of armour and ward saves, and by the end of the game they were whittling the Heirotitan down.

The two remaining chariots (one had been splatted by the Trebuchet) barrelled into the Grail Reliquae, which also proceeded to make an outrageous number of ward saves, and not only held, but then went on to destroy the Chariots over the next three turns! Admittedly, they were helped a bit by the Sinister Statue blasting the chariots up the bottom every so often.

The Necropolis Knights charged the Knights of the Realm and...failed to do a single wound! Again, outrageous ward save got my bottom out of the fire, especially because I'd not thought about my formation properly and both my Damsel and BSB were exposed to killing blows. One Necropolis Knight was crumbled and things were looking good.

All I needed now was a rear charge and some hexing and the Necropolis Knights would crumble and I'd be able to turn to face the oncoming Skeleton Warriors with both units and win the game.

As you can didn't quite turn out like that. My magic was a complete damp squib and although I won the combat by 5, the last Necropolis Knight was left with one wound. Again, I'd not thought about formation properly and my exposed BSB was killing blowed (this was to be crucial later).

Still, the Skeletons were 14 inches away, I could still win if they failed their charge...they didn't. The buggers came sprinting into the flank of the Men at Arms. I surprised the the Tomb Prince, who was trying to challenge the Prophetess I had stupidly left in the unit, by accepting the challenge with my ASF Paladin. They traded wounds (if I'd have killed the Prince, I would have won) and although the last Necropolis Knight was killed, the Skeletons won the fight. The Men at Arms broke and were run down, the Trebuchet and Peasant Bowmen panicked and ran off the table! The Tomb Kings had won.

So what did I learn?
  • I need to think ahead about character placement - I stupidly lost both my BSB and my Prophetess by not thinking about where they were in units.
  • Leadership is a killer for the Bretonnians - I've got to get a handle on it. Unfortunately, this whole psychology thing is new to me after years of playing Vampires and Wood Elves.
  • I need to ensure I don't forget things - the Pegasus Knights could have been a real thorn in Craig's side if I hadn't allowed them to be charged.
  • I need to focus on the scenario objective - I have this irrational (Elf-based) fear of Chariots and Skeleton Archers, I should have been focusing everything on the Skeleton Warriors to win the game.
  • The Knights can really take some hammer and still keep plugging away. I can afford to be more aggressive with them (the experience with the Chaos Knights notwithstanding).
  • In terms of the Tomb Kings, the Heirotitan is weaker than it looks. A good combat unit will clobber it.
Overall, a good game that either of us could have won.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Mid-Month Progress

As is the usually case with the summer, I never have as much time as I think I will. A series of family events and trips away have put me behind on my target for the month. However, I am not downhearted and have arranged a 1500 point game against Craig's Tomb Kings as an incentive to get things done.

So without further ado, here's where I'm at:

This is Giselle's younger, more buxom, sister Chantelle. Overall, I'm quite happy with this model, although the face is a bit wacky if you look at it from the front (not sure why). I'm really happy with my decision to use an Elven Steed as opposed to the horse she came with - it not only adds more dynamic movement (which matches the knights she'll be with) but it also references the fluff connection between the Lady of the Lake and the Wood Elves.

Obviously, the base needs finishing but I'll do that when I've finished the Knights Errant. On which subject, I'm slowly getting their horses done (have I mentioned that I hate doing horses?) and the knights are sitting in their undercoats ready for me to start on them. I'm hoping they'll be done by tomorrow so that they can die gallantly when they are foolishly lured into charging Craig's Heirotitan.

As for my other project, the major criticism Matt had of my new game when we play-tested was that the characters he was controlling were a bit samey. This is easily fixed by using a different arrangement of characters, and so I present the League of Shadows:

For the uninitiated in Bat-lore the characters above are the Scarecrow (the Master of Fear, played by Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins), Talia al Ghul (the daughter of Ra's al Ghul and eventual mother of Batman's son), Bane (the 'man who broke the Bat', and apparently the major villain in the forthcoming film 'The Dark Knight Rises'), a League Assassin (think ninja), and Ra's al Ghul himself (head of the League of Shadows, played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins).

Technically, this lot are not a 'team' but as they have all, at some point or another, been part of the League of Shadows (or League of Assassins) I figured that they'd give Matt what he was after. This is especially true as they sport a range of powers including Super Strength, Fear Gas, Regeneration as well as swords, knives and guns. To enable these powers to be represented in game, I've completed the powers for the rules. Hopefully we should be able to reflect these characters appropriately with the rules.

As for the models, although the Scarecrow wash just a simple wash and touch-up of the existing paint job, the rest were full repaints. I'm fairly happy with them although this group do reveal the limitations of Heroclix sculpts. Talia has a bit of a funky pose and (although you can't see it on the picture) an almost dislocated arm, Bane has a severe flat spot on the back of his arm (and looks like he watches 'The Word') and all of the faces lack character. However, they're all improved from their original paint job and are perfectly adequate for my purposes.

Anyway, enough of this jabbering. I need to get back to those horses...I hate painting horses...

Friday 5 August 2011

So, why a new game?

I thought I take a moment to discuss why I've decided against getting into the three major (and 'only' I think) Superheroes miniatures games on the market and design my own. Before I begin, however, I should point out that this is in no way an attack on these games and I'm sure that they're great in their own right.

1) Heroclix

Right, let's begin with the biggy.

I've bought into Heroclix in a fairly big way, mainly because I'm a bit of a Batman nut and I spotted the DC Icons Starter Set (the four models I've already converted for POW! were in it) on sale some years ago. It was an impulse buy which was followed up shortly by the Batman Alpha set (Batman characters only) and I was on a full on collecting spree (OCD...). I also had some Marvel (specifically X-Men and Spidey) and JLA stuff but I sold it.

In terms of the game, it just didn't have what I want. The games are all "smash 'em" with no real room for scenarios, you're actively encouraged to break the fluff and have Batman and Joker on the same team (or even , 'shudder', three Batmen in one team), characters often don't meet my expectations of their abilities, there is a massive learning curve for new players (you will get 'owned' by someone who's even barely more experienced than you) and it's 'collectible', which essentially means that the most willing to lay out big bucks on super rare figures (and super effective) will have a major advantage.

What's more, and most fundamentally wrong for me, is the big black clicky podium they're all stood on. Come on! Where's the suspension of disbelief?

So in short, not for me. However, despite the fact that I'm raiding my clix for models for POW!, I will be keeping many of the models as a) someone in the club might fancy a game some time, b) I'm a terrible hoarder of Batman related goods, and c) unlike Star Wars minis (which are now all sold and paid for two and a half painted painted armies), most Heroclix don't seem to retain much resale value, so there's often no point flogging them.

However, I can recommend Heroclix as a good source of cheap superhero miniatures (particularly recognisable ones) as they're really easy to remove from their bases and sometimes even just a dip is enough to liven the model up. (Some of the sculpts and paint jobs are appalling though.)

2. Pulp City

At first glance, this game had me. Superheroes: check. Attractive miniatures: check. Free rules: double check. Downloadable resources so I can try it out without parting with any cash: check. Go and have a mooch around the website - it's a really good looking game.

But...and it's a big's a game set in a specific 'world' with specific characters. You can play with the Pulp City Supremes (their word for spandex-clad do-gooders) or...well, that's it. There's no customisation available so you can't make your own characters or use well known heroes in the game. It's clear that Pulp Monsters (the makers of Pulp City) have put a lot of time and effort into their setting and characters, but I simply don't care - I don't give a stuff about Guerilla, Ace of Wraiths or Red Riding Hoodoo, no matter how pretty the game is. This is one of my issues with many of the 'new' (showing my age) skirmish games like Malifaux, Confrontation or Warmachine; I'm just not invested in their world and I don't have the time or energy to learn about it (I wasted my teenage years learning about Warhammer, Middle Earth, Gotham City and a Galaxy Far Far Away - I'm just a bit busier now).

What's more the rules remind me quite a lot of Confrontation (which I did give a go a few years back - pretty models, wierd world, etc.) in which I found the fact that every character has different special rules to be annoying. This was because you can't possibly know them all, so you have no idea whether your opponent is getting them right and you can't possibly prepare for what's coming unless you've studied the rulebook in depth. I've also noticed that these games have a habit of being rewritten every few years, invalidating the handy cards that came with the minis and requiring you to buy a new rulebook.

Again, Pulp City is really attractive, but just not suited to the type of game I want to play. On a side note however, if you are interested in it, pop over to Pulp Citizen's blog in the sidebar - well worth a nosey. the way...check out the price of the minis on the Pulp City site and then consider the name of this blog. It was never going to work, was it? It's not you Pulp City, you're great, it's me...I've changed.

3) Supersystem
Now, here's the awkward one. This game has customisation, a lot of it; is highly recommended in the wargaming world; doesn't support particular characters or require the purchase of anything but the rules (although Four Colour Figs do have their own line of generic superhero minis sold through Old Glory); and it's built for scenario play. It seems like a winner. What's more the rulebook is only 64 pages long and so it's no tome either.

Before I continue, I should point out that I've only read the free downloadable primer, not the full rules, and I've certainly not played the game. I'll also point out that the action points system the game uses looks very interesting and has loosely inspired a couple of points in the design of POW!.

However, I don't like it. It's a gut thing.

I realised that I didn't like it when I read that heroes that charged gained a +2 bonus. This just struck me as being too like an RPG (roleplaying game, not rocket propelled grenade launcher). What's more I then discovered that characters test to do things successfully (very RPG). This just strikes me as wrong for the genre. Batman doesn't failed to jump a gap between buildings, he just does it. The mooks don't miss when they shoot at him, he avoids their bullets. In short, super-people succeed when they do super things, unless another super-person stops them. If they don't, they're just not...well...super; they're ordinary schmoes like me (I fail at basic tasks all the time - photography, painting, gaming, speling, etc.).

With Supersystem, it's the game mechanics that are the problem. They seem too realistic. Which, I suppose is not really a criticism, more an issue of taste.

Summing Up

As you can see, faced with a visually unattractive game that can't handle scenarios; a beautiful game that doesn't allow for creativity; and a creative game that just doesn't feel right, I'm kind of stuck unless I get off my fat arse and write my own game. So that's what I'm doing - my own game which allows for attractive models and scenery; is focused on objective driven scenarios; sticks to the fluff that you want to stick to; allows you to play with the characters you want; requires no specific purchases and makes superheroes seem super.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Meanwhile, back at the Batcave...

So, it appears that there are some in the blogging world who believe that I have been unproductive in the last month...

...yes, I thought they were being mean as well...

Anyway, I thought I'd share what I've been working on alongside the Bretonnians recently. In short, I developing a superhero skirmish game and so I've been building a small game board along with buildings and painting (or repainting) a few models to begin testing the rules out with.
Why superheroes? Well the main reason is the fact that I've always been a bit of nerd and I want to play superhero games - research proved that really there's only a few games out there (Supersystem, Heroclix and Pulp City) and none of them are exactly what I want. However, I've also been looking for a skirmish game to get into and nothing on the market really grabs me as they're all either really similar to games I've played and got bored of, or they contain lots of rather tedious fluff which isn't as interesting as their creators think it is. Finally, skirmish games often (although not always) come with overly expensive miniatures which you need to buy to get the stat cards and so my policy of substituting with what I've got (Rule 3) runs into trouble here - also writing rules is cheaper (and more fun) than buying them!

Essentially, the game will be a generic superhero action game which aims to be a 'pick up and play' game which doesn't require an in depth tutorial or weeks of study and regular consultation of the rules). The reason for this is that I'm aware that most gamers are not going to make a skirmish game their main game and a superhero game is even less likely to be dominant, so it needs to be easy to get to grips with, while at the same time quite tactical and fun. I'm also trying to make it as playable for none gamers as it is for gamers due to the fact that my regular failed attempts to get my wife interested in gaming over the years have shown that this hobby generally has an extremely steep learning curve for the uninitiated. It's really difficult to feel like you can compete against people with even a bit more knowledge than you in most games.

My model for the kind of game I'm looking to design is Wizkids' Pirates. Fun, friendly but still containing tactical depth (or at least as much as most skirmish games) and it looks good on the tabletop; although my game will not be a 'collectible' game. Pirates is a game that I haven't tired of and I have introduced several people to over the years. New players grasp the concepts simply and are able compete really quickly, making the game more challenging and fun for me too.Wings of War (the basic rules - I'm not a fan of all the fiddly altitude stuff) is another example of this kind of elegant and straightforward game design - although I am still sulking over the fact that I'd bought it, played it and sold it (due to lack of opponents) two years before the rest of the club really showed any interest.

So the secret's out. Recently I've been using time which could have been used for painting horses to research rules, test ideas, build a small terrain board (which I call 'Cheap Street') and paint some figures. The models are mainly Heroclix that have been rebased and at least washed to bring out details, although there has been some highlighting, touching up and repainting required. I also bought a pack of Copplestone Castings KGB Men from the Kiss Kiss Bang Bangrange to use as henchmen (or 'Mooks').

The game is tentatively called 'POW!', although I am concerned that many wargamers will automatically think 'prisoner of war' and end up very confused as to why they aren't playing a game set in Vietnam or Colditz. Playtesting has begun in earnest and I'm happy to report that the basic game system seems to work as I'd hoped. I'm now in the process of introducing new abilities and testing them before I begin to develop the optional rules (civilians, vehicles, etc.) and scenarios. I'm also hoping to build a proper game board (about 4' x 3') and fill it full of urban terrain.

Expect more updates, photos and design commentary as the game develops.

Oh, and the flash, done on my phone which appears to be better for close up work. However, natural light is still limited by the fact that I can't take these pictures whilst my daughter's awake!

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Too Close To Call

Well, another game with the Wood Elves under my belt, again against Andy's Beastmen at 2400 points. No pictures today but a small synopsis of the battle.

Andy had gone for a massive unit of Bestigor (55 I think) as the centrepiece to his army and had followed it up with a solid unit of Gor and a horde of Ungor. In support were 3 chariots, two small units of skirmishers and two units of Harpies. A lord, a BSB, a Level 4 and a Level 2 (both with Lore of Beasts) completed the list.

I put out what is beginning to become my standard build with the Woodies. Characters were: a Level 4 with Life magic, a BSB with the Hail of Doom Arrow, an Eagle riding Noble and (new for this game) a level 1 Branchwraith with Cluster of Radiants. 20 Glade Guard, 10 Glade Guard, two units of 8 Dryads, 3 Treekin, 2 Eagles, a Treeman, 7 Wardancers and 10 Wild Riders made up the list.

Andy deployed with his Bestigor in the centre, the other units on either side and the support units around the flanks. I endeavoured to refuse the left flank in an effort to avoid contact with the main body of his army - the aim being to knobble one of the big units and pick up points from the small stuff.

The first half of the game was characterised with the Beastmen advancing and me shooting and delaying. My Wardancer suicide squad failed to take down his general, but my Eagles did a bang up job of delaying and redirecting his Bestigor (although it did get them killed). My shooting and magic took down a unit of Harpies, half of the Gor unit and drove back one unit of skirmishers and a chariot (although to be fiar the chariot and my Wild Riders were trying to stare each other into making a mistake. Perhaps the best part of the first half was the Dryads I'd kept on the left, drawing the Ungor unit out wide and effectively out of the game.

The second half of the game was more bloody. Andy failed a couple of longish charges that could have really done for me, but this allowed me to redirect a little more and throw my Treeman into the Gors, although combat was a damp squib as I failed to wound the Bray Shaman. On the same turn, my Eagle rider hit a chariot, destroying it before it attacked back, and my shooting and magic crippled another chariot.

In Andy's turn my Treeman was appalled to find that the Bray Shaman had turned into a Chimera which proceeded to roast him (not really a surprise as he was still carrying wounds from being Amber Speared earlier in the game), although in the process the miscast cost him all but four of the Gors. In my turn, with the Transformation of Kadon dispelled, I countered with a combo charge from the Treekin and Wild Riders which clobbered the 300 point Shaman and 200 point unit and got me back in the game.

We were now in a game of cat and mouse. He Amber Nuked my Eagle Rider and the Bestigor finally got something to clobber in the form of my small unit of Glade Guard. I shot up the wounded chariot, chased off a unit of skirmishers and managed to cast Dwellers Below on the Bestigor (killing 21 of them!). However, my cavalry was unable to catch up with his other Shaman and the game ended in a draw.

A great game and for the first time with the Wood Elves in 8th I felt like I had a plan and the plan worked. The only real mistake I can think of was being too timid with the Wild Riders, however, it's arguable that they survived and retained their points because of this.

The Branchwraith is definitely staying as the extra dispel die was really useful, as was the ability to double cast Treesinging along with the Treeman. I'm going to find a way to get Glamourweave back on the Eagle Rider as it really is vulnerable to shooting. Finally, it's official, I'm sticking with the Lore of Life; it may be defensive, but that's how I use my wizard.