Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Another wallpaper

Another wallpaper. I'm not as happy with this one as I am with the guitarist one, I think its too 'flat', and not as interesting. Its a 40K sketch I found on google images (kudos to the artist, whoever they are), with an aquilla added in the background.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Some experiments with Inkscape

I've been learning to use some of the more advanced features of Inkscape (mostly from web tutorials). Here are two pieces I've done (click for full sized versions):

This is based on a photo I took a two years ago at my high school's 'activity day', when I did half a day of digital photography. This shows my friend Mark posing with a glue gun in a science room that was being used for some craft activity. The above is just a series of bitmap traces of various transparencies overlaid over each other, with a muzzle and some text added.

Being fairly chuffed with the first piece, I decided to try something a bit more ambitious, resulting in the wallpaper above.

Anyway, that's my first foray into graphic software.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Urban War Review

I must admit I was sceptical about Urban War at first. It had army lists. It had a points system. It used 40K-esque 'to-hit, to wound' mechanics. The models were expensive. Both 40K and VOID had left a bad taste in my mouth (the former for being a money-grubbing simplistic tactic-less marketing machine, and the latter for being an unimaginative ripoff of the former).

On first read of the rules my view wasn't much improved- the combat resolution system seemed like 40K all over again, there seemed to be modifiers all over the place, I had to worry about all these markers, everyone had these silly melee weapons in The Future and models had those stat-line things I don't like. In short, I wasn't expecting great things.

Eventually, I gave in to peer-pressure and decided to get some models so I could play. Upon perusing the Urban Mammoth online store I saw that, whilst expensive, the models were very nice- the designs were very evocative, the sculpting looked top-notch, and they looked different to the standard sci-fi fare from other companies. I liked the look of the Triads (gasmask ninjas in space!), so I ordered a starter set, and Hiro Tarikishi (because he looked awesome) on Wednesday evening. My brother purchased a squad of Viridians off my friend's brother who had bought lots of them at Salute and then promptly lost interest in miniature gaming. He got them assembled on Thursday and undercoated them on Friday (he's just finished painting one of them as I type. I wish he wasn't so damn good, he makes all my stuff look crap).

Come the club meeting on Saturday, my stuff hadn't arrived, despite me ordering them First Class postage (then again, it is coming from Scotland, and carrier pigeons can only fly so fast :P) so I assembled a force of proxies and set off to try the game out. First game was a 3 player game with 300pts each- My Triads versus my brother George's Viridians versus Daniel's Junkers. Me and George immediately went at each other, with a long range sniper duel wiping out most of our armies making us easy pickings for the Junkers, who cleaned house.

George went off to play Warhammer, so me and Daniel had two more games. The first one was an overwhelming victory for me. My sniper and some retainers kept all his competent figures pinned down, whilst Hiro killed four legionnaires in two turns in a Riddick-esque massacre in a forest. The third game was a reverse of the above. We played the Bridge scenario from the rulebook. Turn three saw eight legionaries and a Lictor sitting on the objective in a group huddle. Lacking any kind of explosives or automatic weapons I just couldn't kill them fast enough to stop them completing the mission, and thus I lost.

From those three games, I learnt a few things:
  • Kabuki Dolls die really easily. In all three game my Kabuki Doll got shot to ribbons as she charged the enemy.
  • High Calibre models own, with their bonuses to hit with aimed shots, follow on actions, extra movement when rushing and the penalties to shoot them at longer ranges. In particular, Hiro (or any high CAL melee unit) kicks ass in dense terrain where they can't be shot at easily. In the second game he charged one legionnaire, killed him, reactivated, charged another legionnaire, killed him, charged another one, drew the combat. Rinse and repeat next turn.
  • Overwatch is useful, if tricky to utilise properly. Even if your opponent doesn't send any models into the interdicted zone, you can still deny him areas of the table; useful in objective based games- a few snipers covering the objective might make your opponent hesitant to go for an early rush on the objective.
OK, enough rambling, here's a review:

Lets start with the models: Very nice, if pricey. The Junkers and Viridians I've seen have excellent sculpting, lots of detail, paint up really nicely, and just look *cool*. Effort has obviously been put into giving the range a coherent visual look, which really pays off when you see them on the table. Now all I need is some Urban stuff to fight over...

The rulebook costs £1 for the PDF, and clocks in at 110 pages. Not a bad deal, really. It has a very full colour cover, with b/w illustrations throughout, with a predilection towards people in gasmasks and semi-naked female ninjas. No complaints here, but a little more variety would have been nice. Overall production values are high- the art is very good and evocative, the layout is good. It will eat your ink cartridge though, so either get a gullible friend to print it (like I did) or get it printed at a copy shop or your college or something.

The first six pages are taken up with fluff and maps and such. Basically, in The Future humanity is mainly split into the three factions of the Tripartate Alliance (Junkers, Viridians and Syntha), with VASA as a kind of space police, with the alien Koralon as the Big Nasties. The human factions are involved in various low-intensity wars with each other, and the Koralon are trying to eat everyone. The game is set on Iskandria, a massive city-world full of high-tech buildings and stuff. Its Urban. There's a War. Nothing surprising there. The six human factions are all loosely styled after real-world cultures (except Syntha, who are all robots)- the VASA have a Soviet Russian theme, with fur hats, long coats and babes with jetpacks; the Junkers are based on ancient Rome, complete with scutum, lorica segmentum and those funky helmets; Viridians are all gasmask wearing faceless soldiers of a very capitalist culture reminiscent of a cynical view of America; the Triads are styled after ancient Japanese culture, with ninjas, cybersumos and guys in straw hats; the Gladiators are, unsurprisingly, based on Roman gladiators.

The next page has all the obligatory "What is wargaming?" "Whats a tape measure?" "Why has this dice got all these sides, it must be an instrument of the devil!" stuff. Then come the rules, which are about 25 pages long, discounting force-lists. They are clearly written, although they could do with more examples. The force lists take up about 35 pages, followed by the armoury. A few basic scenarios round out the game rules section.

The game works thusly:

Each model has a stat line. The stats are rather 40K-esque, with a model having scores in Assault, Shooting, Strength, Toughness, Wounds, Command, Size, Move and Calibre (CAL). The first five will be familiar to anyone who has played 40K or warhammer, and are basically the same. Command is used for morale, reactions, motivation etc and is *very* important. Size is only really important for very big or small units, as it gives opponents a modifier to shoot at them. Move is self explanatory. Calibre is variable- that is, each unit can be purchased at various levels of Calibre. Calibre is very important- it gives penalties to shoot at the model at longer ranges, it lets them reactivate after a Snap-fire action, it lets them perform actions better on Lock-fire orders and it improves their chances of successfully pulling off an overwatch shot. Calibre is thus VERY important. Consequently, there are restrictions on the number of high-CAL models you can have in your force, as detailed by your force list.

Each turn is split into three phases: The marker phase, the order phase and the actions phase. The marker phase is purely administrative, where you remove all leftover order markers from last turn and remove one shock marker from each figure with such a marker (I'll explain those in a bit).

The order phase is where most of your tactical decisions are made. There are three orders you can give each model- Snap-fire, lock-fire and overwatch. You place the appropriate marker face-down by each figure to show their order status. This may sound tedious (I know it did to me), but this is where the game gets really tactical. Models on overwatch cannot take any active actions, but can fire to disrupt enemies that take action within their LOS. Models on Snap-fire orders act first, but are not as effective as models on lock-fire. For example, models on snap fire can only move up to their Move stat with each action, whereas models on Lock-fire can move double this, and often further through use of CAL. Thus, you must often choose between acting first, and acting effectively. This means you really have to thinking about this game, which I think is a break from the 'set 'em up and knock 'em down' approach of GW's games.

Next comes the action phase. This is where the models actually activate. Firstly, players roll a d10 (the game uses d10s exclusively) for initiative. The player who rolled highest gets to activate his models first, unsurprisingly. First, all the players reveal their figures with overwatch counters. You're supposed to do this in initiative order, but we didn't see the point so just did it simultaneously.

Models on overwatch are basically 'on hold', waiting to act in response to an enemy's actions. They can interrupt another model's turn to act, either by shooting at them or counter-charging. This is fairly powerful, and is balanced by the fact that units on overwatch can only react once per turn, and because if no enemies take action within their LOS they can't act at all, wasting their activation. Thus it is often prudent to place a few models with powerful long-range weapons on overwatch to cover other troops whilst they move in to take an objective or close with the enemy, but sticking your entire force on overwatch is very rarely a good idea.

To successfully react to an enemy in their LOS, the model has to pass a command check. They get to add their Calibre to the roll, and subtract one for each range band beyond short. If successful, they get to take a shot at the enemy model. If they fail, they don't. Either way, they lose their overwatch counter, so you often see one model drawing the overwatching models fire so his mates can cross his LOS without problems.

Next, players alternate activating their models on Snap-fire, one at a time. Models on snap fire can either shoot (with penalties for snap firing), move their move stat, move half their move stat and shoot (with even more penalties) or charge their move stat into melee. They also have a limited ability to react to the enemy- they can counter-charge, evade incoming template weapons, and can make reaction shots in a similar fashion to a model on overwatch. However, reaction shots are more limited than overwatch fire, as they can only be made in reaction to an enemy firing at the model itself, and whereas overwatch fire automatically happens before the enemy action, reaction fire may not- both players roll a d10 and add the Calibre of their models. The highest roll shoots first.

Models on snap-fire may be able to take follow-on actions after their normal actions. They must make a successful command check. If successful, they can immediately take another action. They can take a maximum amount of follow-on actions equal to their calibre (thus calibre 0 models cannot use them at all). This make high-calibre models very powerful, as they can potentially act to or three times more than everyone else. This means leaders can be powerful figures without having to give them ridiculously high numbers in everything ala 40K.

After all snap-fire models have been activated, models on lock-fire orders are activated, one by one. Models on lock-fire perform their tasks better than figures on snap-fire. They can either move or shoot, but cannot charge, so only models on snap-fire can engage in melee. If they choose to move, they can move double their move stat. Also, for each point of Calibre they can make a command check. For each check they pass they can move an extra 2". Thus high calibre models can zip around all over the place.

If they choose to shoot, they can make a command check for each point of calibre. For each pass, they can add +1 to their shooting roll. This can be really useful for long range sniping shots in the early game.

Shooting works very much like 40K- the shooting figure rolls a d10, and needs to score a certain number of higher, as determined by his Shooting score. There are modifiers for range, depending on the weapon used, as well as for the type of orders he is on. If a hit is scored, then the Damage of the weapon is compared with the Toughness of the target, giving a score to wound on a table. If successful, the target loses a wound. If, like most models, it only has a single wound, it dies. Unlike 40K, most models don't have an armour save. Only models in cover, and those with the Heavy Armour special rule get a save, and they are often fairly unimpressive. Then again, every little helps.

A model that is hit -but not killed- by shooting, for whatever reason, must make a Shock test. This is a command test (see, told you it was important). If it is failed, the model receives some shock tokens, the number of tokens depending on whether it has been activated or not, or if it is currently active. The net effect is that the model loses its next activation, as models with shock tokens cannot be given orders, and a shocked model will always have at least one shock counter left in the orders phase of the next turn. This means that, unlike 40K, models actually care if they've been shot at *before* they die.

Also, a model that is wounded, but not killed, because it has multiple wounds, a model that loses a close combat or a model that sees a friendly model of a higher calibre die, must make a Panic test. This is again a command test. If it is failed, the model gains a panic marker. This remains until removed, again by a command test. Models with panic markers have -2 to hit in melee and shooting and cannot charge or countercharge. Between them, Shock and Panic add enough psychology that models don't run around like fearless automatons, which is good.

Close combat is also very much like 40K- you compare the two models' Assault stats on a table, and find the core needed to hit. Then you use the same damage procedure as for shooting, with the exception that close combat does not cause Shock. Two notable difference from 40K is that very few models have multiple attacks, and that there is no 'Initiative' or equivalent- models both roll a d10, and add appropriate modifiers, such as charging or counter-charging, defending cover etc. The winner strikes first. One other difference from 40K I like is that grenades are an actual weapon, not just a close combat modifier. This just feels right- grenade should make people go boom!

Each faction has about 5 or 6 unit types, excluding sergeant-types. They have a nice variety between the faction reflecting their different play-styles- the Viridians and VASA have lots of heavy firepower, the Triads and Koralon have lots of close-combat troops, the Junkers and Gladiators have hordes of low-quality troops.

Overall, the game is great. I really like it. It's much more cerebral than 40K, with lots of difficult strategic choices to make, and a psychology system that's a bit more complex than "25% of our men are dead, lets run away". Its not perfect- the cover rules are a bit tedious, the psychology could have done with more development, more friction in the command and control system would have been nice, but these can all be house-ruled in. Overall, a solid game that I would recommend to someone looking for a fun 'beer and pretzels' sci-fi game that had a bit more to it than 40K.

Urban Mammoth's Website

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Finally, some pictures

Managed to persuade my dad to take some photos of my models with his fancy pants SLR camera. Click on the images for a larger image.

The first
model is a grav tank form Antenociti's Workshop. This is a fantastic model, with lots of great detail, nice clean aesthetics thats different from all the Moar Skullz Gothic vehicles you see today, and it fits together perfectly, practically no sanding required. My one problem was that no instructions were included, and their website had none, despite the packaging saying that the instructions were there, leaving me with two springy shock-absorber type things that I had no idea what to do with, and in the end I left them off. The model was undercoated black with Wilkinson's spray paint, then drybrushed with succesively lighter shades of grey to achieve the texture seen here. The areas around the engines and thrusters recieved a yellow to orange drybrush and some orange ink as appropriate.

The second load of models are NSL Panzergrenadiers from Ground Zero Games. I really like these figures-they are nice and armoured without looking over the top and silly like space marines. They have a nice clean aesthetic to them which lends itself well to drybrushing. The figures were undercoated black, then simply drybrushed grey. The visors were painted light blue. The flesh on the helmetless figures is GW bronzed flesh with a Flesh Wash to shade.

The next set of figures are more GZG, this time ESU heavy infantry. They were sprayed black (noticing a pattern here?) then drybrushed a dark grey of some sort (humbrol acrylics, can't remember which one and the labels are long since gone), then another drybrush of lighter grey. Faces are various mixes of bronzed flesh and different browns, to reflect the multiculturalness of the Union.

Next- yet more GZG. This time Japanese Mercs. These were also sprayed black, then drybrushed boltgun metal. I then blue inked the central tabard, the drybrushed more boltgun metal over the top to retain the metallic look. Flesh was some mix of bronzed flesh and bleached bone. I'm not entirely happy with it, and may redo later.

Next is Painless Joe from Heresy. This is a fantastic model- very big and full of character- a word of advice, though. A 40mm base is not quite big enough for him, as I found out, so make sure you order him with a nice big base. He was sprayed back, the the fleshy bits were painted bronzed flesh then washed with flesh ash (yes, this is my default method for flesh), then the massive gun, ammo belt and backpack were drybrushed boltgun metal. The base was done with sand and cat litter, painted black then drybrushed with shades of grey. This really is a fantastic model, which my paint-job really doesn't do justice to.

Last of my contributions are a pair of scavengers from EM4 miniatures. Very nice models, very flavourful. Arrived deflashed and primered, which was a nice touch. Can't remember how I painted these guys as it was a while back.

Next are a few GZG Kra'Vak painted by my brother, who's a much better painter than me.

Also from my brother is a piece of scenery- an old Robogear walker glued in a crashed position to a CD, then covered over with filler. Then painted brown and a load of static grass stuck on. I think he went a bit overboard with the static grass myself, but at least he's actually finished a terrian piece, unlike me.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

My latest bunch of purchases...

Once again I found myself with money burning a hole in my pocket, so I went to Spirit Games in Burton, my Friendly Not-So-Local (20 mile drive) Gaming Store. As always the service was excellent and the staff were friendly. And as always I walked out with a bunch of stuff I don't really need.

This trip's haul:

  • 1x 'Raptor' Assault Biped from Scotia Grendel. Nice AT-ST-esque walker, should go well with my GZG infantry
  • 1x GZG Neu Swabian Panzergrenadiers Squad
  • 1x GZG Japanese Corporate Mercenaries Squad
  • 5x Copplestone Bio-Chem Troopers. Nice looking models
  • 1x Bag o' Zombies. To fight the Bio-Chem Troopers. I couldn't resist 100 zombies for £7
  • 1x Small Urban War Platformer set. These will end up as colony hab-blocks, I wager
  • Various basing materials

Hopefully, I should get them finished over the remainder of term, pacing myself so I can keep going until Christmas. Not very likely, but a nice idea.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Stargrunt AAR (Or: Do Not Feed The Claymores)

Played my first game of SG2 in ages at the club on Saturday, against my friend Daniel. We decided to try to try the Convoy scenario from the SG rulebook, with me being the Blue side, using my ESU (I'll get round to posting some pictures eventually), and he playing the Red side, borrowing my NAC. Between us we had 3 APCs, which was just enough to transport my short platoon of ESU, but no trucks, so we changed the scenario slightly and removed the 'claim the cargo' aspect.

Daniel started by rolling abysmally for his counters, only getting two mines and one dummy counter. He did manage to get two veteran squads, though they both had abysmal leadership. For my part, I managed to get two green squads, and a regular platoon command squad with Ld 3. From the start things were not looking good for me.

Terrain was a fairly open stretch down the middle ('the road')' with fairly dense trees and rocks on either side. Whilst I went to get a drink, my opponent set up his counters. The obligatory AV mine was placed roughly halfway down the board, with one counter on top of a hill, another between that hill and a clump of trees, and several dotted about the trees, including one in a crater in the ground. For some reason, he had put all his stuff on one side of the road.

The troops in the lead APC faired well, considering they ran over a mine, with only one figure dying. The squad's first action was to reorganise and check the wounded man, and he turned out to be fine. Obviously a dud mine. The troops in the other APCs dismounted shortly before their rides got toasted by IAVRs.

Before the troops firing the IAVRs could open up on my infantry, I moved them behind the smoking wrecks of the APCS, which were large enough to block LOS. Problem was, because of the part of the road I 'd stopped on, there was no way I could get round the APCs to fire at them without leaving my troops out in the open. So I tasked one of the green squads to trek off down-table to try and set enfilade fire on the ambushers, whilst the other two held the fort. Big mistake.

Two ambushing squads came round the trashed convoy, one from each end, whilst a third went off to deal with my flanking unit. The fourth still hadn't activated and was hidden.

My platoon command unit tried to call in artillery fire on the squad going after the flanking squad, but his abysmal leadership meant I kept failing my comms rolls. Shortly after, the rather depleted command squad was close assaulted by a full-strength NAC squad and ran off, its morale dropped to Broken. This was not good.

The flanking squad had managed to advance most of the way up the table and had taken the NAC squad tasked to deal with them under fire, pinning them in a patch of wood. They tried to combat moved across the road, and managed to almost make it. They had been advancing towards a counter I assumed to be a dummy, or his concealed command squad. After dicing for the combat move, the squad ended up 4" away from the counter.

Suddenly remembering the second mine counter, I measured the distance from the counter, and was relieved to find none of the squad were within 3" of it. Then Daniel smirked and flipped the counter, revealing a CDM. As my entire squad was within 6", the effect was horrific. Of the 8 man squad, only two survived, and rifle fire from the nearby squad soon finished those two off.

With my only squad still functional pinned by fire, and my only hope of rescuing them a nasty red smear on the ground, I conceded.

Overall, a fun game. With hindsight it was fairly obvious the counter was a mine, but I thought my opponent was trying to double-bluff me and ran headlong into it. Very Russian, but not really a smart move. If my squad had managed to get stuck in and deal with the NAC squad, I still don't know if I could have salvaged the game, with only two squad to his four, with one of mine pinned down by fire. Still, it was a laugh.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Setting the Scene

After the US and Russia pulled out of Serdaristan, the small country was left with a massive debt in gold bullion to The Legionnaire's mercenary unit. With Serdar in self-imposed exile, his son, Serdar II, undertook to write off this debt and get his country back. Russia offered to bail them out, but naturally, their were strings attached, and Serdaristan soon became a Russian satellite state.

Thus, when the Eurasian Solar Union was formed, Serdaristani colonists were amongst the settlers who began staking the People's claim to the outer rim. New Sedaristan was a small backwater colony, until significant natural resources and diamond deposits were found. However, the ESU was uninterested in such capitalist prizes, and so the significant wealth was left untouched by the ESU, and found its way into the pocket of the planets ruler, Serdar XII. This piece capitalist imperialism went unnoticed by the small navy picket left in the area by the ESU, even as it funded Serdar's shiny new house, golf course, custom yacht and lavish lifestyle. The Serdaristan people were left in their People's Housing Bureau tower blocks, living on pittances. Business as usual for Serdarastani government.

Then the Third Solar War happened. New Serdarastan's position close to the NAC recently moved spatial border made it a suddenly vital strategic point. Realising a large ESU force would be on the way soon, who would undoubtedly not be too understanding about his 'expenses', Serdar panicked and defected his planet to the NAC. An ESU force was dispatched to 'protect the People from exposure to capitalistic rhetoric and imperialism' and bring Serdarastan back into the ESU fold, arriving almost simultaneously with the NAC force sent to secure this new strategic and economic asset, and after an inconclusive space battle both sides made planet fall and a long ground engagement followed.

The principle sides in the New Serdarastan conflict are the NAC and ESU ground forces, the Serdarastan Patriotic Army (TO&E to follow), a number of mercenary contingents and various militia and insurgency groups. The SPA is nominally allied with the NAC, though its main goal seems to be to secure Serdar's rule and control of the diamond mines. Apparently not learning his lesson from his namesake's mistakes, Serdar has hired several mercenary contingents to assist in the task of securing his rule in the face of the ESU onslaught. In the occupied areas, several Serdarastani insurgent movements have emerged, such as the People's Front of Serdarastan, the Serdarastan People's Front, The Popular Front of the Serdarastan People and The Serdarastan People's Front for Popular Freedom, all at odds against each other and the power blocs.

Whatever happens in Serdarastan, its no going to be pretty.