Tuesday 30 December 2014

An Unthinkable New Year...

Another year ends and with it arrives our traditional Christmas gaming day. This year we decided to play a couple of board games and a big game of Bolt Action. We each brought an 800 point force and then decided randomly the scenario and who would be on which side.

It turned out that my Russians would ally with Matt's Partisans to combat Wes's Americans and Pete's Germans (complete with a newly minted SS unit) in an encounter that could only happen as part of Operation Unthinkable in 1945.

The scenario we rolled up was Top Secret, for which Wes had an ideal objective: a top secret Hiller Flying Platform.

When fighting communism, it's important to dress well.

The table after a cagey first two turns.

German infantry with US armoured support.

A mixed bag of eastern Europeans. Yes, you can see a fire engine.

In brief, Matt and I poured infantry of variable quality towards the objective, losing most of it in the process (very Stalinist, I'd say). Meanwhile, the dastardly Germans managed to convince the Americans to take the brunt of the Partisan booby traps and Wes lost two entire units.

Air power was available in abundance, but the Soviet air force was a bit more telling than the USAF, taking out the Sherman tank, whilst we lost an Inexperienced unit (my free one) and gained some pins on the T-34. Also in abundance, was artillery: we had a light howitzer and a light mortar against their light howitzer and two medium mortars, and these units proved to be more frighteningly more accurate than the typically inept snipers that dotted the field.

In the end, my Guards unit managed to grab the objective and return to the cover of a building before the German, heavily pinned, infantry were able to respond. They then handed off the objective to my Lieutenant, who almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing his orders test on turn five. There then followed some desperate shuffling of units to try to ensure that somebody would be able to run the objective off the table on the final turn. Orders tests were passed, and one of Matt's officers was able to leg it off the board to the sound of complaints from the U.S./Nazi alliance (the Tea Party?) about the cheatiness of Partisan bombs (they are quite cheaty).

 We then played a quick game of Munchkin, which I won. Given that 'you're only as good as your last game', it turns out that I'm ace, and the others suck! :)

In other news, I've done some painting.

This is the Russian truck I bought at the Other Partisan Show back in October. Easy to put together, easy to paint. I'm happy with it, but I've yet to use it as I stupidly forgot to put it in the box for the Christmas game. Well done me. It turns out I suck too.

And so on to the final part of my post.

New Year's Resolutions

Here's what I aimed (rather ambitiously) to do over the last year:

1. Continue to build and paint Batman miniatures at a steady rate.
DONE. I can now put out a full table of scenery and can field 350 point crews for Batman, the Joker, the League of Shadows, Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Bane (although the last three are a bit Free Agent heavy at the moment). Recent acquisitions mean that my Batman, Joker and League crews will all be official tournament viable too.

2. Finish the Lorraine Campaign and play a big D-Day anniversary game of FoW.
NOT DONE. The Lorraine Campaign splutters on, but the D-Day just seemed to be at an awkward time for getting games in.

3. Begin a solo All Things Zombie campaign.
NOT DONE. Although this has come a step closer, as I now have the potential to leave games running. More on that soon.

4. Finish of my Bolt Action Russians and two VBCW units.
HALF DONE. The Russians all got done earlier in the year (although I've bought more since), but the VBCW units have been overlooked.

5. Paint my Sicillian Greeks for Impetus.

6. Play in a Blood Bowl League.
DONE. Sort of. I've played two games in a league that has struggled to get going.

7. Learn how to make the Dominion not suck in Attack Wing.
DONE. I've stopped using them and bought Borg ships instead!

8. Get games in with people from the old club.
NOT DONE. Although I've had games with a few people like Bill, Wayne and Trev, I really need to put more effort into this.

9. Begin my War of 1812 Napoleonics.
NOT DONE. I might be giving up on this idea.

10. Keep the blog regular and become more active.
HALF DONE. The blog seems to be quite healthy right now, but it struggled in the summer. This has been my least active year so far. I need to reverse that trend. My Batman articles seem to be a good thing, as they don't rely on me painting.

I give myself an appalling score of 4 out of 10.

Good grief, that's awful!

And now on to this year...welcome to my own Operation Unthinkable.

I am going to be LEAD PILE FREE by the end of the year. Yes. LEAD. PILE. FREE.

Each  month I'm going to identify one of the game systems or armies that I still have things to paint for, and I'm going to paint them. All. I'm clearing the decks, finishing off projects and emptying my bits boxes. Anything that isn't painted, is going to be got rid of. They can be sold, traded, given away, or incinerated, but by the end of each month, the project will be done.

To be honest, this isn't as drastic as it sounds. I've actually done a good job at keeping the lead pile under control over the last few years, and so for example for Bolt Action, I've just got a Mortar team, and MMG team, some Scouts and a Mine Dog team to do. This is much the same for most projects, and I'm going to be careful about what I choose to do, when.

So there you go. There's my stupidly unrealistic resolution. What's yours?

Happy New Year blogosphere!

Friday 26 December 2014

Head-to-Head: Bane

Following on from my comparison of the two Harley Quinns for the Batman Miniatures Game, I've had couple of requests to look at the three Banes that are currently available for the game.

Before I begin, I'll stress that this is just my analysis of the different versions of the character and, to use an internet cliche, YMMV. Also, I won't be taking into account the sculpts, which with Bane are radically different, as really this is a matter of taste. If one model appeals more than the others, in my view that's the one you should go for, as that's the one you actually want.

However, for those still deliberating, we'll begin.

Head-to-Head: Bane

As stated earlier, there are three models currently available for Bane. Firstly there is Bane as featured in the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City console games, a hulking model that sports pipes, tubes and a massive tank on his back. This model is referred to as Titan Bane.

Next up is the version of Bane that features in the prequel game, Arkham Origins. This is another big guy, but this time without all the pipes. The presence of this model explains why Titan Bane isn't known as Arkham Bane. Anyway, this version goes by the sobriquet of Origins Bane.

Finally, we get a little smaller for a rendition of Tom Hardy as Bane in the Dark Knight Rises movie. Sporting the slightly too large sheepskin coat, and the voice muffling mask that's divided opinions, this version is known as DKR (Dark Knight Rises) Bane.

There are significant price differences between the three models. DKR Bane is half the price of the other two, but it's worth noting that Origins Bane comes in a crew starter pack with three henchmen (Dallas, Smash and McGregor) and so is therefore, technically cheaper than the other two if you take this into account. What's more, Origins bane is currently the cheapest big guy in the game if you factor in the proportionate cost of the henchmen.

One thing that does sadden me is that the version of Bane that is conspicuously absent is the character as he appeared in the Knightfall story line, which was responsible for making me into the Bat-fan I am today.

Round 1: Crew Building

Titan Bane comes in at a whopping 150 rep (the joint highest rep in the game), which makes him a starting crew all by himself and almost half of a tournament points level force (350 rep). To my mind this makes him good value, especially if you're a reluctant painter, as this keeps to model count of your crew down. What's more, as well as being a Bane crew leader (naturally), Titan Bane can be played with another crew as he has Affinity to Batman. Yes, you read that right, Batman...I'll just leave that there.

DKR Bane is a slightly more palatable 96 rep, which is quite reasonable for a leader and leaves you plenty of room for Henchmen and Free Agents. He is also available for another crew, the League of Shadows, in which he operates as a Sidekick rather than a Free Agent. This is significant as it means that when working for the League, he not only gives a re-roll to Let's Go rolls, but also gives away fewer VP for being knocked out. Fittingly for the movie version of Bane, he also has True Love: Talia, which makes him a very good fit for a League crew which foregoes the might of Ra's Al Ghul.

Origins Bane has the lowest rep of the three, 93. He is also the only one which is not available for any other crews. In fact, this is only model that is unique to to the Bane crew as the Henchmen he comes with are available for the League of Shadows. For me, it is the Henchmen that give Origins Bane the edge in this category as for the same cost as Titan Bane, you are able to field a crew of higher rep (185 vs 150), and the Henchmen give you the same start into a League of Shadows crew that DKR Bane does. 

What's more, a Bane crew really benefits from the presence of the henchmen that come with Origins Bane. Dallas in particular, combined with Night Vision Goggles, brings the range that the other henchmen available to the crew (Blackgate Prisoners and Lunatics) lack.

All of this means that in my opinion, especially if this is your first crew, round 1 goes to Origins Bane.

Round 2: Movement

Let's be clear. Mobility is not really the forte of any version of Bane. All three are in danger of finding themselves outmaneuvered by Batclaws and Acrobats. DKR Bane comes off worst with a Movement skill of only 2 and will need to rely on others in his crew to deal with foes on rooftops.

Origins Bane and Titan Bane are somewhat better, with a Movement skill of 3. Also, as Large characters they have a higher basic move and can ignore some smaller obstacles.

The two are split by several details in favour of Titan Bane. Firstly, a higher Willpower means that Titan Bane has more counters to spend and therefore more to devote to movement. Secondly, the two Titan Doses he begins the game with mean that his Movement skill can be increased to 4 at least twice in the game, and being a Titan Addict means that he can access this increase at other times in the game. Additionally, and this is a very small advantage, Titan Bane is a slightly larger model than Origins Bane, which means that he can ignore a few more obstacle. Finally, clever use of Primary Target: Titan Container can get round other crews' mobility by forcing the enemy to come to you. Send Titan Bane straight for his target objective and dare your opponent to come to you to prevent you racking up 3 VP's per round.

Round 2 is a clear win for Titan Bane.

Round 3: Combat

All three versions of Bane come with reinforced gloves, meaning that they inflict 2 stun damage with each successful hit at Strength 3+. Both Origins Bane and Titan Bane are able to Charge and are Master Fighters, which means that they gain +1 to hit. Origins Bane has an Attack skill of 5, whilst Titan Bane has an Attack skill of 6 (which is very hard to block) and the ability to increase this with his Titan Doses.

Like Origins Bane, DKR Bane also has Strength (3+) and Attack skill 5. However, the Combo trait means that DKR Bane actually has the potential to inflict a maximum of 15 stun damage in one round (Titan Bane can only match this by taking a Titan Dose). What's more, the Brutal trait allows him to re-roll his Collateral Damage die, significantly increasing the chance of both critical damage or, more significantly, a knock down.

I found this round a hard one to call. However, despite DKR Bane's abilities, it's very hard to argue with the reliability of Titan Bane's volume of attacks with an increased chance of hitting, due to being a Master Fighter and difficult to block. Round 3 also goes to Titan Bane.

Round 4: Defence

Again, Titan Bane and Origins Bane share similarities in defence. Both have a Defence skill of 3 and both have Resilient (re-roll Endurance rolls) due to being Large, but similarly, both suffer from reduced Blink rolls against shooting. Once again, Titan Bane wins the stand off (as you might expect, given his higher Rep). The combination of higher Endurance (10) and Insensitive make him not only incredibly tough to take down, but also able to continue to function at his full number of Action Counters until he's knocked out. What's more, he has the ability to raise his Defence value through the use of Titan Doses.

Origins Bane is no slouch, with Endurance 8 and Sturdy (only lose 1 Action Counter for each 3 points of damage), but he is significantly weaker than Titan Bane. However, despite this, Origins Bane has hidden defensive move linked to his attacks in the form of the Lethal Blow trait. Each time he inflicts a successful hit, he inflicts the Shock effect, which prevent the character he hits from spending any Action Counters for the rest of the round. This means that if Origins Bane gets his attacks in first, he can protect himself from return attacks. This does depend on Origins Bane going first, but if he can get the drop on his opponent, he can be very well protected.

DKR Bane is also a surprise package when it comes to Defence in ways which are not always that obvious. He has Endurance 8, which is the same as Origins Bane, Insensitive like Titan Bane, and has a Defence skill of 4, which makes him significantly harder to hit. He also takes full advantage of Blink rolls against shooters, which given his lack of a ranged attack and poor mobility is probably a good thing. Runaway is also a useful skill in certain circumstances against Batman, Law and Green Arrow crews.

However, the point for me that really seals the deal for me with DKR Bane is Combo. Although this is an attack trait, the fact that DKR Bane only needs to use 4 Action Counters to make 6 attacks, means that he can fight at pretty much full effect and still put three Action Counters in Defence. Combined with his Defence skill of 4 and being able to use cover more effectively makes him noticeably harder to hit and in my opinion, this more than counters Titan Bane's additional Endurance points.

Round 4 goes to DKR Bane.

Round 5: Special and Support.

Titan Bane is not really a team player. With the exception of the Scheming trait (which seems to be of dubious value), he is solely focused on breaking faces and grabbing his Titan Objective.

Origins Bane is a little better in this regard. His Scheming value of 2 is better than Titan Bane and he can also use his Lethal Blow to support his crew. Not only does the Shock effect protect Origins Bane, it also renders opponents vulnerable to the Henchmen by effectively removing Action Counters placed in defence. What's more, combining this trait with Charge could mean, in the right circumstances, that Origins Bane can burst through a whole host of enemy models, potentially robbing several enemies of their ability to act at all beyond basic movement. Yes, it's a circumstantial, but it's definitely worth keeping your eye out for.

DKR Bane, as might be expected from a member of the League of Shadows, is much better a coordinating with his allies. Strategist supports the whole crew before the game begins, and like Origins Bane's Lethal Blow, DKR Bane's Brutal trait can be used to set opponents up for the henchmen to attack by knocking them down. DKR Bane is even more effective at leading the line in this manner, as his Kill Them trait grants extra Attack Counters to nearby henchmen before they strike.

Although not really a fair comparison, DKR Bane is even better when part of a League of Shadows crew. He gains the benefits of being a sidekick, but also has the potential to team up with the League's version of Scarecrow. It's already become a well known combo in the game that DKR Bane, can use his formidable attack capabilities to knock an opponent out, and then Scarecrow's Death or Exile ability removes the enemy model from the game.

Clearly round 5 goes to DKR Bane.

Overview: If You Only Buy One...

Erm...we've got a draw.

And quite fittingly so. I actually think that when it comes to Bane, it really depends on what you want.

Origins Bane struggles against both Titan Bane and DKR Bane in attack and defence. He's the least powerful of the three, although he does have some hidden depth. However, the biggest draw for this model is the fact that he's proportionately cheaper, in terms of pounds-for-points, and comes with three henchmen that can't be accessed otherwise. Without these three a Bane crew is limited to Blackgate Prisoners and Lunatics for henchmen. To get the best out of this Bane, he needs to be used aggressively, and early in your turn, to use his Lethal Blow to render powerful enemy models inactive and vulnerable. Cheaphammer recommends Origins Bane for a Bane crew which doesn't have to use Free Agents.

DKR Bane is an interesting proposition, and certainly as capable as the other two. However, this model was originally released to be used only with the League of Shadows, and to my mind he still works at his best there. He combines with Talia Al Ghul very well, and can lead the line as a sidekick without the danger of losing the Leader VP's, whilst combining him with Scarecrow can be devastating. His Kill Them trait is also a big help for one of the League's weaknesses, the henchmen's lack of Action Counters. The big argument against using this version of Bane in a Bane crew, is that he's just better in the League of Shadows. Again, use him early in the round to get the most out of Kill Them and Brutal, DKR Bane is a linebreaker. Cheaphammer recommends DKR Bane for the League of Shadows.

Titan Bane is a powerhouse and actually fits best with running a crew of prisoners and lunatics, but he will need to use Free Agents (such as Deadshot, Deathstroke or Mr Freeze) to combat the relative lack of mobility in his band, however, this will lead to a shortage of numbers in the crew if you use too many. Due to the cost of the model, Titan Bane probably needs to be scoring VP's in as many rounds as you can manage. He should either be pummeling his opponents into the dirt or controlling his Titan Objective to bring the enemy to him. Use Titan Doses to achieve these two goals and to keep him standing. Cheaphammer recommends Titan Bane for a low model count Bane crew featuring Free Agents.

Whichever Bane you choose, this is a model that needs to be fighting to get the most out of him. Be wary of high damage shooters, because your opponent will want to weaken Bane before he reaches their lines. Also be prepared for an enemy that tries to isolate Bane from the game, keep him where the action is. Carefully managed, Bane shouldn't fear anybody in combat, even big hitters like Clayface, Croc or the Batman...

...especially Batman...

Again, I hope you find this article useful. I'm certainly getting a clearer understanding of the different models and how they work through doing these comparisons. Let me know if there's a character you'd like me to cover, and as previously, feel free to add opinions on anything you think I've overlooked.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Head-to-Head: Harley Quinn

A week or so ago, there was an article on the Crits Kill People blog (which is a really good source of Batman Miniatures Game related articles) commenting on the apparent lack of online articles about the game. This got me thinking about what I could do to contribute.

Since I began my Batman project, I've been documenting my miniature painting and terrain building, but although I'm happy with what I've done, I'm not kidding myself that there's anything immensely inspiring about my work. I've also been writing some game reports, and a tournament report, that have been well received, but are limited by the games I'm playing and events I'm attending.

I've always been wary of writing tactics articles, because even though I'm now technically one of the top ten Batman players in the country by virtue of attending the first tournament for the game, I'd still feel awkward setting myself up as some kind of expert.

So finally I turned to the spirit in which I first created this blog; keeping costs down. Perhaps the major criticism I've heard of this game is the relatively high cost of the miniatures in relation to other manufacturers. I know that there's a license, and they are high quality sculpts, but £13 for a single model can, and does, put people off buying in to the game. This problem can be exacerbated when people realise that there are multiple versions of different characters available.

Therefore, to address this issue, this is the first in a series of articles designed to help new players who are working with a budget decide which of the different versions to purchase based on something other than "which one do I like the look of?" The goal of these articles will be to discuss the way that these models work in the game, leading to a recommendation of which to buy if a player is only going to buy one version.

So, without further ado...

Head-to-Head: Harley Quinn

There are currently two versions of Joker's main squeeze available in the game. 'Arkham Harley' appears in the costume Harley Quinn adopts in the Arkham City console game, armed with her trust baseball bat. 'Classic Harley' (a.k.a. 'Fanservice Harley') is dressed in Harley Quinn's more traditional getup, and is posed leaning (somewhat provocatively) on a huge mallet. Both models are available in single blister packs and retail at the same price.

Arkham Harley

Classic Harley

Round 1: Crew Building

Both models are from the Joker crew (naturally) and both have the True Love: Joker trait, which grants Harley extra Willpower and an extra pip in  Attack if Joker falls casualty. Essentially, this means that both work equally well when paired with the Joker in your crew build.

There are two major differences between the Harleys in terms building your crew. Firstly, there is a difference in points cost. Arkham Harley costs 61 reputation points, whilst Classic Harley costs 75 reputation points. Although a small difference, 14 points is enough to hire an additional henchman for the crew when you use Arkham Harley. This is actually quite significant which will become apparent later when discussing the role these two characters play later in the article.

The second major difference between the two is that Classic Harley has the Affinity to Poison Ivy trait. This means that Classic Harley can operate as a Free Agent in a Poison Ivy Crew, allowing for a Gotham City Sirens crew if you add Catwoman into the mix.

Although an extra henchman is useful, the ability to use one model for more than one crew is always going score points in a Cheaphammer article. So for that reason, round one goes to Classic Harley.

The Gotham City Sirens...or Team Fanservice!

Round 2: Movement

With a Movement stat of 4 and the Acrobat trait granting faster movement and the ability to pass obstacles and difficult ground more easily, whichever version of Harley you buy, she will be able to get where you want her to go in a hurry.

However, with the Fast trait, Classic Harley is able to re-roll the dice for additional movement that come from spending MC. This guarantees (to some extent) faster movement than Arkham Harley. Round 2 goes to Classic Harley.

Always where you need her to be.

Round 3: Combat

On first glance, combat is another area that seems to be in Classic Harley's favour. Although both characters are armed with weapons that inflict two stun damage and have the Tough/Heavy trait that increases Harley's Strength to 4+, the fact that Classic Harley has an Attack skill of 4 compared to Arkham Harley's 3 seems to seal the deal.

However, a closer look reveals a couple of significant details that, in my opinion change things significantly. Classic Harley has 360 degree strike, Reach and Push, which means that she has the potential to leap into the centre of an enemy crew, and with the right application of counters, send the enemy flying, inflicting damage to several enemy models at once. She also has Distract, which can reduce a specific opponent's Defence by -1.

Arkham Harley, on the other hand, has Technique, which allows you to increase the probability of knocking the enemy down and making them vulnerable to the rest of your gang, and Handy (in my view, one of the best traits in the game) which allows you to re-roll attack rolls.

Classic Harley's combat skills are potentially very effective, but quite situational (and avoidable by a canny opponent) and Distract is a skill that is in plentiful supply elsewhere in the Joker Crew. What's more, without re-rolls, she's more vulnerable to bad dice and this could be bad news if you've run her into the centre of the enemy crew. Arkham Harley, although less dangerous, is more reliable and precise in her attacks. Re-rolled attacks with Technique have the potential to put even a heavy-hitter like Batman on his back and at the mercy of the rest of the crew, which could be devastating.

For me, smaller potential damage output is more than countered by reliability and the ability to take down more powerful opponents, so round 3 goes to Arkham Harley.

Prepare to be bat-tered!

Round 4: Defence

Again, raw stats point to Classic Harley as being the better defensively. Both have a Defence stat of 4, but Classic Harley has an Endurance of 7 to Arkham Harley's 6, making her marginally more survivable. However, with the only defensive trait either model has being Acrobat (allowing them to dodge shooting attacks), neither model is ideal for a prolonged slugfest (which is another points in favour of Arkham Harley being better in combat - she's more likely to put her opponents down), so you need to be careful how and where you commit either Harley to combat.

Even though there's not much between them, that extra point of Endurance could be crucial, and so round 4 goes to Classic Harley.

Not a doormat...but not a rock either.

Round 5: Special & Support

Both versions of Harley Quinn have some interesting skills which reflect her role as Joker's second-in-command and her annoying and diversionary nature.

Classic Harley is able to use Discourage to reduce an opponent's Willpower (and therefore the number of Action Counters they have) during the Raise the Plan phase of a turn to reduce their effectiveness. Arkham Harley has Disarray, which allows her to move 2 counters on an opponent's card, potentially negating their ability to do something crucial (like shooting for example). I personally prefer this skill to the apparently more powerful Discourage, as it is more precise and can ruin the opponent's plan, rather than just reducing the scope of what the opponent plans. However, it is worth noting that Disarray is almost useless against another Joker crew.

In addition, Arkham Harley comes with the Follow Me! trait, which allows her to give out additional MC to nearby Henchmen (of which there are likely to be more in a crew that includes her), combating one of the few weaknesses the Joker crew suffers from - lack of Action Counters.

For her ability to weaken the enemy, whilst also strengthen her allies, round 5 goes to Arkham Harley.

Arkham Harley works well with Henchmen

Overview: If You Only Buy One...

The results are in, and with the score at 3-2, the decision is clear. Cheaphammer recommends Classic Harley.

Classic Harley is faster, tougher and more versatile in terms the crews you can use her with than Arkham Harley, and when you're learning the game, she's more suitable for being used independently (which suits a Poison Ivy crew, where she won't have many allies). To my mind, she operates best as an objective grabber (she has the speed to get anywhere on the board) and opportunist - looking for clusters of the enemy to 360 Degree Strike and Push or the right target to Discourage and Distract. Her versatility is her strength.

Arkham Harley was only narrowly beaten, but she is a narrower character. She shines if you are going for a Henchmen heavy build for you Joker crew. She gives you more points to play with for your crew, Follow Me! gives those henchmen more tokens to use, Disarray protects the gang from dangerous shooters and Handy and Technique allow her to set up tougher enemy characters for the Henchmen to swamp. She's at her best when activated early in the turn, allowing her to set up opportunities for others to exploit.

If you know that you want the build a Joker crew with lots of Henchmen to take advantages of Joker's Chaos Agent ability, then Arkham Harley may be the best fit for your build. However, for each Elite Clown, Titan Clown or Free Agent you hire (or if you're considering a Poison Ivy build), then Classic Harley becomes more and more favourable in comparison.

I hope that you've found this article useful. If you think I've missed anything, or disagree, please feel free to add your comments, suggestions and thoughts.

Hopefully, I'll be doing more of the articles to offer more suggestions of which version of a model offers most bang for its buck.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Clowning Around - Tournament Report

As previously advertised, today I went to participate in the first Batman Miniatures Game tournament in the UK. It was held at Titan Games in Lichfield and was, quite frankly loads of fun.

Due to the limitations of my slightly cheaphammered collection of miniatures, the crew that I took was somewhat unorthodox, eschewing a leader in favour of a Joker crew led not by the Clown Prince of Crime, but rather his main squeeze and chief henchwench, Harley Quinn.

The official rundown of my crew was as follows:

Band Leader - Harley Quinn, 61 rep
Free Agent - Clayface, 116 rep
Free Agent - Mr Freeze, 75 rep
Henchman - Ringmaster (Clown Painting), 32 rep, $150
Henchman - Sniggering (Magazine), 25 rep, $800
Henchman - Contra-Auguste, 21 rep
Henchman - Clown, 16 rep

My plan was to run Harley and the majority of the clowns together as a mob, to swarm opponents and grab objectives. Meanwhile, Sniggering would find a vantage point to unleash a hail of bullets at targets that presented themselves, while Clayface would get up close and personal. Mr Freeze would head off on his own quest for his personal loot, shooting icy blasts as he went.

So, I had the models, I had a plan, I had even printed off a crib sheet just for the gang.

Unfortunately I had the times wrong, but only ended up arriving about half an hour late following some rather reckless driving.

Upon arrival I was greeted by the sight of some very well prepared boards as Titan Games had gone the extra mile with their terrain. 

Some folk had also gone the extra mile with their outfits, although almost everyone was attired in batman themed t-shirts, one or two outfits stood out.

As round one was well underway, I was unable to get involved, but I did manage to grab a brief friendly skirmish against Dan, who was running the event. I was particularly pleased about this because I'd mainly attended to properly learn the game rules and an extra game would help with this. What's more it was nice to catch up with Dan who I'd attended some very small Star Wars Miniatures Game tournament with several years ago.

Dan put together a quick crew which was a little short on points and equipment that looked rather familiar:

Band Leader - Joker, 90 rep
Free Agent - Clayface, 116 rep
Henchman - Ringmaster, 32 rep
Henchman - Triston, 26 rep, $200
Henchman - August, 25 rep
Henchman - Contra-Auguste, 21 rep
Henchman - Clown, 15 rep

 We decided that we were playing a lover's quarrel at Joker's HQ in which two different Clayfaces (Matt Hagen and Basil Karlo) had taken sides.

Although we only managed to only get three turns in, in that time, my Sniggering and Clayface had unleashed hell on Dan's Clayface and took him out of the game in just two turns. Dan managed to miss with Joker's one shot gun, and thanks to a bit more dice imbalance, by the time we finished, my Clayface was beginning to make a mess of Mr J.

It was a fun intro to the day, and I really appreciated Dan giving me even half a game as it allowed me to get on top of the rules of my crew, and therefore sped up my later games.

Despite Dan's abysmal luck, my first round game was recorded as a minor loss, which I considered more than fair given my massive screw up.

After lunch, and being advised by a parking attendant not to bother paying for too long in the car park because they were all knocking off early for the Christmas party, it was time for round two.

My round two opponent was Pete, who some gamers might recognise as a regular contributor to Flashback Generations excellent YouTube videos on the Batman Miniatures Game.

Pete was also packing a Joker crew that leaned heavily on the henchmen.

Band Leader - Joker, 90 rep
Sidekick - Mr Hammer, 71 rep
Henchman - Borgon, 42 rep
Henchman - Asker, 38 rep, $200
Henchman - Triston, 26 rep, $200
Henchman - Contra-Auguste, 21 rep
Henchman - Sniggering (Thrower), 25 rep, $800
Henchman - Clown, 14 rep
Henchman - Clown, 15 rep

The scenario was patrol, in which there are bonus points for getting into the enemy's deployment zone. I developed a plan which involved sending Clayface on an end run, whilst the rest of the crew grabbed some objectives and held on against the onrushing hordes.

Pete made straight for my outnumbered clowns and despite hunkering down as wee as she could, Harley Quinn was eventually taken down. However, my fighting retreat worked as I managed to keep Petes crew away from his objectives and my shield Clown grabbed a loot objective and hauled it back away from danger.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the board, Clayface advanced unopposed, grabbing a loot objective on the way and hauling it all the way to the far end of the table where he dropped it in favour sitting on an Ammo crate for more VP's. Freeze and Sniggering also managed to double team one of Pete's clowns with a hail of gunfire, although they couldn't quite do the same to Asker the Elite Clown.

In the end, I think the score was 13-9 to me, which in the tournament rules counted as a draw. That's how the game felt. It was a cagey affair where I deliberately held off from combat as I'd sent a third of my force off by himself.

My third round game was against Tom's Green Arrow crew:

Band Leader - Green Arrow - 117 rep, $300
Sidekick - Speedy - 74 rep, $200
Free Agent - Black Canary, 69 rep
Free Agent - Huntress, 66 rep, $100

It was nice not to to be up against a Joker crew (no disrespect to the others, but I was glad to be facing non-Tricksters). This game was loads of fun. Right from the off, Harley Quinn began to cause chaos with the archers  with her Disarray ability. Sniggering found himself being hunted down by the Green Arrow, and sure enough he fell, but not before he'd managed to land three blood damage on to Speedy.

Mr Freeze went off after Canary, who'd snaffled some loot, but was stranded in the open by her Canary Call and found himself the target of numerous shots from Green Arrow and Speedy. He survived however, largely due to his excellent (an possibly cheesy) armour rules.

Clayface and Harley double-teamed Huntress, knocking her out for most of the game and then climbed a wall to go after Speedy. This initially went badly when Speedy proved why giving him Charge was a good idea by pushing Clayface off a building (which it's just occurred to me he couldn't have done because Clayface is big...ah well, it was funny). However, they eventually knocked him out as well.

Despite all this action, my MVP's were my clowns, who solved two Riddles, grabbed a Loot objective and a Titan Container and denied Green Arrow points from an Ammo Crate by contesting it.

The final score was 14-7 (I think) and a narrow victory to me. It was interesting that Tom had enough spare reputation to include a Police henchman, and this might have tipped the balance, grabbing some objectives before I could have done, making it at least a draw.

The different styles of these gangs made for a thrill packed game.

So, with a win, a draw and a loss on my record, I came in sixth. The winner was Sai Harris, also from Flashback Generations, who was apparently doing some evil things with his Watchmen. I didn't any of his games, but his opponents all seemed to leave their games looking like they'd been deconstructed, in much the same manner that Alan Moore did to the superhero genre.

Everyone was given an alternative character card for Talia al Ghul, simply for turning up. There was also a whole host of blister packs available as prizes that had been donated by Knight Models. Again, everyone was able to walk away with new miniatures, the top two got crew packs and the winner was awarded a 70mm Batman. The last placed player also received a 70mm Joker.

For my pains, I picked up an Arkham Origins Batman, which, as an official model, will now allow me to run a Batman crew at the next event. Good times.

 So, what have I learned?

1) I know the rules better than I thought and was able to clarify areas I was unclear about. I can now go back to my regular opponents and admit to all of my mistakes.

2) In this game, I think it's important to play the scenario and objectives rather than the fight. Most of my points came from objectives, and they're much easier to achieve than taking characters out.

3) You need to concentrate attacks to score points off enemy models. Keep your eye on the damage you've inflicted. I let Speedy off the hook at the end of my final game. I went after Huntress, rather than Speedy, who I had more chance of removing as a casualty for more VP's.

4) Harley Quinn is awesome at messing with shooters. Her Disarray ability can shut down enemy shooting extremely well. However, the skill is useless against the Joker.

5) Clayface and Mr Freeze are a really good combo for points denial. They are both really tough and difficult to take down. They can do significant damage if left alone, but can take a lot of punishment. They draw a lot of heat away from the more vulnerable henchmen.

All in all, a great day. Really well organised, really nice people, really good games. Thanks to Dan and Titan Games for running the event, and thanks to Knight Models for supporting it. Well played!

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Clay Pride

Latest addition to the Gotham City landscape is Clayface.

This shapeshifting villain has had numerous different backstories as the concept has been reused several times in the comics. In believe that the miniatures game version is Basil Karlo, but my Clayface will always be the animated series version, Matt Hagen, an out of work actor who is duped into testing an unsafe prototype face-lift formula following a disfiguring accident.

Painting him was really quite straightforward, brown with a wash and dry-brush, then add detail. I've tried to add some globules of clay on his base as if they've fallen off his body by using greenstuff, but i'm not sure of they're too regular or just look like the area he's passing through is used by dog walkers.

In the game, Clayface is a bit of a beast in combat and tough to take down (unlike most characters, he can actually regenerate blood damage). I'm hoping that he'll lead the line for me this weekend at a Batman Miniatures Game tournament I'm entering in Lichfield.

I'm not overly hopeful of victory because not only am I still learning the game, but the rules (naturally) forbid any of my cheaphammer shenanigans and so I've been forced to cobble together a crew from my official miniatures. Even I can spot the tactical holes in my force and so I expect others to exploit this mercilessly. Fortunately, this event is using the Swiss system, so after a couple of games I should have found my level and may stand a chance of winning a game.

I'm going to try to take some pictures and put together a tournament report next week, so watch this space.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Firestorm: Lorraine - Thinking Like Hitler...

...no, not like that!

We finally returned to our long postponed Firestorm: Lorraine campaign for Flames of War, and as I was taking over direct control of the Germans, I thought that I could surprise Matt's Americans as they attempted to surround Metz by bringing a surprising amount of Reluctant Trained troops.

Yes, that's exactly what Hitler thought in the real campaign in 1944. It didn't work for him either.

My forces were roughly as follows:

Panzergrenadierkompanie (Blood, Guts & Glory)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Armoured Pioneer Platoon
RT Panthers x4
RT Marder IIIM x2
CC Infantry Platoon (Firestorm Troops)

Yes, I had no artillery or AA guns (largely because I don't own any), but I figured I'd be fine if Matt brought his tanks I'd stand a fighting chance as I was packing a comfortable amount of anti-tank fire. I was aware that if he decided to bring his Parachute Company with Air Support, I'd be struggling to kill enough of them fast enough.

His forces were (as I remember):

Parachute Company
FV Parachute Platoon
FV Parachute Platoon
CV Artillery (of some sort)
CV M5A1 Stuart Light Tanks x5
CT M4A1 Sherman Tank x3, M4A1 Sherman 76mm Tank (Firestorm Troops)
Priority Air Support


The scenario that we were playing was Breakthrough, with me defending. Here's how we deployed:

I deployed two of my infantry platoons, and the pioneers in the woods to the north, with another platoon in the fields near the closest objective. The conscript unit were stationed in the village as a speed-bump. My Panthers (kampfgrupped into two units) and Marders were held in reserve.

Matt massed his troops as if he was completely unafraid of the template weapons I didn't have. His artillery were obviously at the back, with their spotter in the central woods, ready to rain down destruction on my emplacements. The Stuarts were neatly parked ready to rush towards the road and one of his parachute units was deployed dangerously close to my infantry; clearly gearing up for an assault.

I immediately noticed that I'd buggered up deployment. Not only were my Reluctant Trained infantry about to get eaten by some of the best infantry in the game, but I'd put the one unit without Panzerfausts in the village as the 'speed bump'. I was even more pessimistic about the outcome of this game than usual.

However, on the up side, it was cloudy so the USAF would be arriving immediately...well, at least until turn two.

Here's what happened:

A:The Stuarts sweep down to the road and push, largely unopposed, towards the nearest objective, pausing only long enough to spray the Conscript Infantry with enough lead to pin them into oblivion. 
B: The Paratroopers launch the expected assault sweeping through the opposing infantry.
B: The even survive a vicious counter-attack, but are so reduced in numbers that they're rendered largely ineffective for the remainder of the battle.
C: The swift US advance calls for rapid redeployment as the Pioneers and the remaining infantry unit move quickly to the objectives.
C: However, clearer skies mean that both units are bombarded by both Artillery and Air Strikes for the remainder of the battle.
D: German reserves finally arrive but are too little, too late and too inaccurate to relieve the pressure on the Infantry. Not a single Stuart falls to the Panthers.

E: US reserves arrive right on cue, with Shermans attacking the Pioneers, whilst the Paratroopers advance threateningly towards the remnants of the German infantry. The German commander realises the game is up and surrenders. At least he won't have to face the Fuhrer's wrath.

I'm not sure I've been battered like that in a long time. It was a perfect storm of a one-trick-pony army + bad deployment + awkward scenario + late reserves + poor shooting + capable opponent = butt-whipping.

I have always struggled against Matt's Americans; mainly because he has a lot of options that he knows how to use well, so I can never really get the drop on him. I still need to round out my German army as I'm forced down and all attack or all defence route by my only armour being so expensive. Curiously, I don't have the same problem playing against his Germans, but he'd freely admit that his Armoured Pioneer Company with Tigers and Flak 88's isn't exactly an optimal force.

Anyway, back to the campagin. Not only did the Americans win, but they destroy my Firestorm troops and have encircled Metz. I suspect that the hammer will fall there the next time Matt attacks. For me, I need to win initiative and attack somewhere that I'm sure I can win, in order to put the Americans on the back foot for a bit.

Oh, and I need to avoid playing like a numpty too!

Monday 3 November 2014

Zomtober Epilogue: The Game

As last Friday was Halloween, we gathered on Saturday to have our soon to be traditional Halloween Weekend Zombie Game. We would be using Akula's Rules Skirmish Edition for the game as they were simple and straightforward for a multi-player game. 

Matt and I combined our city terrain to create a larger than usual board. The goal would be to get from the car park at one end of the board to the refinery at the other end, pick up some fuel and then get back to the car.

Attempting this feat would be Stephanie from Lazytown (me), a Policeman (Pete), a Redneck (Wes) and Shaun of the Dead (Matt).

Exiting the car, we quickly became trigger happy, taking down a few zombies but alerting every other shambler in the vicinity. Shaun of the Dead, gripped by bloodlust, charged, cricket band in hand, into the the throng. He was dragged down in short order, shortly followed by Policeman Pete, who'd got to close.

Stephanie and the Redneck decided to be a little more circumspect in their use of firearms from that point on.

We decided that it would be 'hilarious' to not only have Matt and Pete take one new character, but to isolate them on the board and have Wes and I pick their character. Eschewing the chance to give them useful characters we saddled Pete with an Old Man with a stick wandering aimlessly in the park...

...and we gave Matt and Red Haired Woman, who was unaware of the apocalypse and was clearly heading out on a date.

Meanwhile, back at the car park, the Redneck fought his way clear, largely by reverting to type and targeting minorities and women. Stephanie, however, found herself trapped and backed off towards the car, hoping to drive through the zombie horde.

Also seeing the value in getting motorised, the Old Man climbed into his car, put his driving gloves on, popped a Werther's Original into his mouth, checked his mirror and then sedately pulled out into the road. Motoring along in second, he was caught up by the Redneck who 'walked shotgun alongside' clearing zombies from the car's path.

Being a young driver, Stephanie was more erratic and rammed straight into the zombies, lost control and careered into the fence. She managed to avoid being dragged out of the car and escaped back towards a second car, hoping to have another go.

The Old Man discovered that 15mph wasn't fast enough to escape the horde and was similarly blocked. He also escaped the clutches of the zombies and backed off with the Redneck into the park.

Isolated and terrified, the Red Haired Woman fled through a warehouse to escape her pursuers. She briefly commandeered a lorry and succeeded in turning the tables on the zombies until her vehicle was stopped by a Tank Zombie and she was pulled screaming to her death.

The Redneck took up a firing position behind the park wall, but although accurate, his fire served only to lure more zombie towards him and the Old Man.

Back in the car park, Stephanie pulled off what I call the 'Zombieland Maneuver,' in which she ran round the car park, luring the zombies after her until she had a chance to slide over a bonnet and escape. Sportacus would be proud.

Unfortunately, after her acrobatics she was grabbed and killed by a lone zombie in an alleyway.

With half of the zombies on the table chasing Stephanie, the Redneck and the Old Man managed to sneak around the shamblers threatening them and scurry into refinery. Unfortunately for them, they were being followed by fast zombies.

Matt's third character, the Survivalist Woman emerged from the wreckage of the bus in a, currently, quiet part of town.

As the Old Man was caught and killed by the fast zombies, the Redneck was within reach of his goal when he was grabbed from below by legless zombie hauling itself along the ground.

Pete's third character, Bill (from my recent Zomtober painting), emerged from the alleyways and began shooting as if he intended to end the zombie apocalypse by himself.

Meanwhile, my second character, a Sikh Businessman, emerged from his offices and calmly strolled around the corner into the refinery, without the slightest concern about zombies.

A couple of close shaves with the zeds that had killed the Old Man and the Redneck notwithstanding, the Businessman was able to get hold of the fuel quite easily. Unfortunately, the only working vehicle that hadn't already be crashed was at the other end of the table.

Wes' second character, Woman with Handbag, emerged from her shopping spree to discover that the world had gone to hell and a Tank Zombie was bearing down on her. She ran.

Bill carried on shooting.

Which helped to draw zombies away from the Businessman, who began his long roll with the fuel.

He was also aided in this by the Survivalist Woman who had found a firing position behind a wall and began to shoot wildly at passing zombies...

Which was not, with the benefit of hindsight, the best idea in terms of surviving.

Matt's fourth character, 'the Guvner', emerged from his premises, wondering what all the noise was about. Being a canny geezer, he spotted the man with the barrel and decided to help him with his load.

The Woman with the Handbag ran to the sound of Bill's firing, but it was a mistake as zombies were also homing in on his position. It turned out that a shotgun was better for self defence than a handbag.

Wes' third character, Cop Lady, walked out onto the street to protect and serve. We'd been quite kind to Wes as we'd given him a character who was not only armed, but was wearing body armour too. There is a school of thought that this would make Wes overconfident...

Back on the barrel roll, I was slowly making progress.

Here's the state of play at this point in the game. Cop Lady is at the bottom of the picture shooting zombies like it was going out of fashion. Bill is up in the top left; having killed all the zombies near him, he was about to go hunting. The Guvner is up in the top right about to follow the Businessman into the warehouse. As the evening was getting on, we decided not to have any more replacement characters from this point onwards.

In the warehouse, the Guvner managed to protect the Businessman from fast zombies.

However, in trying to complete his journey, he was subsequently dragged through a window and killed.

Cop Lady and Bill managed to make enough noise to draw out the zombies that had been milling around the car park. However Cop Lady got bogged down and dragged down.

Now on his own the Guvner hauled the barrel out of the warehouse window and snuck past some fast zeds that were battering at the door.

Similarly isolated, Bill took drastic action, and in a scene reminiscent of 'La Horde', hauled himself up onto the overturned bus and was soon joined by the Guvner.

Carefully the managed to get the barrel from the bus to the lorry that Red Haired Lady crashed earlier and dropped down into the now vacated car park.

Bill refuelled the car whilst the Guvner got it started and the two of them reversed to victory.

Yes, I know the story makes no sense, but that wasn't the point. A good time was had by all and it was a different gaming experience to our usual fare. Akula's Rules are simple and effective for a multiplayer game and anytime a situation came up which wasn't covered, we just made it up.

I was in initially worried that Matt and I wouldn't have enough zombies between us for the bigger table, but it turned out that with the respawning mechanic, we had plenty. In fact it's made me think about not worrying about painting loads more individual models, but perhaps looking at doing a couple of zombie horde bases and a few spawn points.

We've tentatively decided that the Halloween Weekend Zombie Game is officially 'a thing'.