Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Frostgrave as an RPG Campaign?

I wrote about Frostgrave almost a year ago and while we have not done much with it I still think about it from time to time. You can see that post for a summary of what it is but the short version is an ancient city suddenly frozen in ice in a magical disaster is slowly thawing, drawing in adventurers (particularly wizards) and looters and thieves and bandits. The main game book is concerned with exploring the ruined city itself but subsequent books have covered the undercity, the barbarian tribes outside the city, and the resurgence of a specific villain in "Thaw of the Lich lord".

You see what they're doing here right? They publishing a lightly-disguised long-term regional RPG campaign. We have the ruined city, the dungeons of the city, the dangerous parts of outside the city, and a campaign adventure to kick things off!

I mean sure, it's sold as a miniatures game but it has all of the background info and general area info you need. There are no big maps of the city or the area so you're free to work up or adapt one that you like, but it is a specific, interesting scenario with a designated state (mostly ruined) and a climate that's not generic (cold and frosty). It's post-apocalyptic in a sense in that there is no organized government so you're free to act as you wish. Monsters are described and I would summarize it as constructs, elementals, demons, undead, and animal types, plus hostile humans. It's not generic "broken city full of orcs or goblins". It's at that just-right level of detail where you have enough to build something with the intended flavor but not so much that you're tripping over it. You don;t have to worry about getting the street name wrong, for example.

It's a little weird because maps are one of those things that get my wheels turning. This set of books really doesn't have any. The concept really appeals to me though in spite of this. I suspect it's the ruined city thing that pulls me in - that's probably my favorite adventuring environment. From Dwellers of the Forbidden City, to Phlan, to Neverwinter, to Ruins of Intrigue, to a whole lot of Gamma World that's one of the instant interest hot buttons for me. I posted about it years ago here and none of that has changed for me.  I've even been looking at Big Rubble for a potential Runequest game so it really is a constant thing.

So I really like the idea and could probably have a ton of fun with it with an intermittent miniatures campaign, but if I really like it that much why not go a little further? Instead of each player running a warband why not have each player as part of the same warband? Co-op instead of PvP? It narrows the focus and let's you dig in that much deeper. It probably doesn't help that I am readin "Playing at the World" at this same time and that whole evolution of wargames and miniatures into RPGs is covered in great depth there. this feels like something we could recreate in our own way.

Inevitably you have to look at rules. "What would you run it in?" someone asks. Not sure yet.

RQ is interesting but I don't know that it would be a great fit for a direct translation. There's a little more magic in Frostgrave - items, locations, spells - and RQ doesn't focus on that quite as much.  The un-freezing ruined city full of danger and magic though ... that does tie in to the whole quest for Runes and things. I think it could be done but the flavor would be a little different.

Dungeon Crawl Classics is another option and would be more mechanically interesting than some games. The monsters and magic fit just fine. DCC has its own flavor too though and while it definitely fits I'm still torn on whether it is the best fit. Maybe the party starts off as zero-level nobodies working for a wizard, then gradually move up the level chain.

5th Edition? Well yeah, and it even has the same 20-level progression. I had not thought about it much before working on this post but it would be a new setting for the new game. The different types of wizard would fit well within the assumptions of the setting.

Basic/Labyrinth Lord/Swords and Wizardry/Some other retroclone ish type game would all work pretty damn well here too. Let's see you're a band of people searching a ruin for loot and magic. The whole setting is basically a return to the birth of D&D!

I think 4th Edition could certainly do it. The emphasis on miniatures combat and the more structured approach to monsters and magic items fits in with the actual Frostgrave game mechanics pretty well. The problem is that I already have a stack of ten thing's I'd like to do with 4E. I'd rather make this something else.

It's not a bad idea for a Pathfinder campaign either but I'm on a break from PF so we won;t be doing it that way.

Last, one that I almost missed but that seems so obvious: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Frostgrave is clearly related to Mordheim, so why not use the Old World and the associated rules for the whole thing? This might be one of the best concepts to get that game onto my table.

So there are seven options for rules that I think might work. What are the general traits I am interested in?

  • Something new! Make it its own setting. I don't want it in the Realms, or Glorantha. I might consider Greyhawk if I went with a D&D type game as it does actually fit in there fairly well, but it's not a place you've been before. I'd consider putting it in the Warhammer world as I mentioned and again it's an unknown region. Other than that it needs to be a new game in a new world. I could even let my players sketch out where they are from in the outside world. 
  • The city is the star! Regardless of setting the campaign is the city! It's not going to get invaded by an evil empire, or the drow, or hobgoblins, or aliens - the adventure is in uncovering what's there. It's not a political campaign and it's not a war story. There may be factions in the city as time goes on but it's not about running for mayor. As for outside the city, that stuff doesn't really matter. We won;t be getting caught up in world wide events or leaving the city for an epic quest across the seas or even the planes - there's enough going on right here to keep everyone busy.
  • People come and people go! It's a rotating cast but it's one big story. Characters can be injured or killed but the game goes on: the "story" of the campaign is the exploration of the city, not that of any one character or even one band of characters necessarily. Frostgrave has rules for bases such as inn, libraries, and towers so characters can retire or take a break to run those while the rest continue. 
I'll post more as I dig farther into it. This is one option for the potential "fantasy campaign comeback" and I need to do some more work on it but it feels like it has a lot of potential to me. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Running Mutants and Masterminds - Some Notes

I've run a few sessions of both second and third edition over the last 15 months or so now and thought I would share some of my experiences, both good and bad, as far as actually running the game.

  • 3E has a really great core mechanic. Your character typically has a ranged attack bonus and a melee attack bonus.  Each power has an effect rank, effectively a "damage" rating. Even if I don't know all of the details of a power I can be sure that it will have a type - melee, ranged, area, or perception - that will tell me how it "hits", and that the rank and defense will tell me how to resist it. This is all easily done without cracking open a book (assuming it's part of the character sheet) and keeps things moving. 
  • M&M also has a nice damage system: I roll to hit against your fixed defense (dodge, parry, etc) then you roll to resist my fixed "damage". It's nicely balanced and sets up a certain rhythm to the game. Shadowrun had a system  like this and I always liked the way that it flowed. It feels somewhat similar here. 
  • 3E's modifiers are generally +/- 2 or +/- 5. Not a chart, not a list, but basically "minor" or "major" and the same numeric modifier every time. It's one of the things I liked about D&D 4E and I'm glad it was carried over here. 
  •  The unified conditions of 3E are also a huge win. Instead of having separate and slightly different rules for every little thing like sleep, entangle, paralysis every place it appears (like a lot of older games) there is a set list of conditions for the game. Different attacks or events can inflict those conditions and once your players know what "Hindered" means they can roll with it whether it comes from fatigue, terrain, or that net wrapped around their legs.

  • The downside of those unified conditions is that all of those separate old powers like Flash, Stun, Entangle etc are now rolled up into one giant power called "Affliction". Players do not immediately grasp this, that this power is the gateway for almost anything they want to do to a hostile target that isn't "damage". There's been a complaint from fairly early on that this takes some of the flavor out of the game. To me though, it really only takes some of the flavor out of the rulebook - it takes nothing away from your players or your game. If your "Insta-Hardening Foam" blast is mechanically an affliction that inflicts Hindered and Bound conditions progressively that doesn't seem like it's reduced in flavor. Maybe it's the old Champions player in me that started playing with effects-based power design a long time ago, but I do not mind. 
  •  One on one combats between evenly matched opponents can take a little while. Nothing like a higher level Pathfinder game, but not instantaneous either. The most common outcome of an attack is a -1 to future toughness rolls. The next one adds a "Dazed" to that, then the next one adds a "Staggered" (dazed and hindered) and failing the roll by a lot means "Incapacitated" which means the fight is over for you. It can take a while, or a few lucky rolls, for an attacker to put enough -1's on an opponent to get to that last level. Now if multiple attackers jump on one similarly-leveled opponent they can rack those up pretty quickly and overwhelm their enemy and that seems to be the key to faster combat. 
  • Related to that and speaking strictly as a GM it's tricky to run a full team of super-enemies against a full team of super-player-characters. Some of that will improve with time I hope but considering that each super-character is a unique set of stats and skills and powers it can be some real work to keep up with what each bad guy wants to do in any given round. Let's see I have a battlesuit guy, a speedster, a mentalist, a stretchy guy, and a gadget genius. That's five different sets of powers and tactics and personalities I have to juggle, far more than the typical D&D encounter of say 5 orc barbarians, a shaman, and a chief! It is easier when you build them yourself, and it's a good idea to include minions and sets of similar bad guys, but it's not always possible. 
In search of ways to make the game run even easier I've been using HeroLab and its combat console and that does have the benefit of keeping all of the characters and their numbers and power descriptions right there at hand. The downside is that I have to make sure everyone is in HeroLab before I start. There is a pretty big batch of pre-made villains and minions and animals and robots and ninjas all in there which makes it even easier to bring new things in on the fly. 

The only real problem is that I don't really like running it from the computer. 

I mean, I've run Pathfinder this way for years and it works, but for M&M I feel like I'm spending more time looking at the screen than I am at the table and the players. I ran D&D 4E and all of its conditions and powers from paper, surely I could run this the same way?

It's very much a "feel" thing. I might even keep the laptop handy for reference purposes, but I'd like the default to be paper, not screen.

I think the key is something like condition cards, one of which is up higher on this page. Combat and powers tend to stick conditions on people and that's where some decent ways to track that you're at half movement, can only take a standard action, and are at a -2 for everything would help. I saw one idea for using color-coded poker chips for this and while I like it they would not tell you the mechanics of the condition directly.  I'm leaning towards some kind of tent cards with the condition name on one side and the details on the back as I think that covers everything in one go.

Anyway, more to come on this. I'll post pictures if I get something together that looks halfway decent.

Friday, February 10, 2017

40K Friday: Blood Angels Lessons Learned and Future Plans

I had a lot of fun with these guys playing 4 games in one week. It's been a while since I've built a new marine army and gotten it out on the table. The Blood Angels are not considered a "power codex" in 7th edition but they have a lot of units that are just fun to play. I decided early on to go light on vehicles with this one and focus on more of a drop pod and jump pack army for speed.

Things I really like:
  • Furioso dreads
  • Mephiston
  • Being just a little bit faster and stronger in assault than other marine armies
  • Grav bikers
  • Drop pods
  • Heavy flamers
Things I am pondering
  • Troops choices: The Baal Strike Force requires two of them , just like a standard CAD. 
    • The two minimum tac squads did alright in the last battle and a heavy weapon lets them contribute to the fight. I'd like to get more out of them though.
    • A bigger tac squad with maximum flamers is a candidate for the 4th or 5th drop pod if I add more
    • Scouts! The cheapest option is a pair of minimum scout squads. They aren't all that strong but they do have infiltrate and outflank options which makes them more interesting than "five guys sitting in a ruin". Fitted for close combat that's potentially 15 attacks at S5 I5 on the charge, plenty to hurt a minimum tac squad or backfield heavy weapon squad.
  •  Elites: 2 Death Company and a Furioso are definitely a regular part of the force. The question is at slot #4
    • The sternguard are great but they do come with a cost. For small to medium fights I may have to use something else, but I am building a 10-man squad of them regardless.
    • Death Company - I will be building these out to two 10-man squads. 
    • Sergeant Nameless' Assault Squad might get promoted to Vanguard Vets. For a smallish price bump they go to 2 attacks each over a regular assault squad. I'm not looking at storm shields and all of that for them - just another speedy melee squad to back up everything else.
    • Command Squad - these would be Mephiston's "other" bodyguard unit - 5 guys in a drop pod. It's mandatory to take one of them as the company champion which is not something I would take on my own but he does relieve Meph of having to accept challenges. I would also include a medic which gives Meph Feel No Pain - very important considering his lack of an invulnerable save. The other three guys will have plasma guns. This unit isn't quite as versatile as the sternguard but they are still pretty mean (7 plasma shots if inside of 12") when shooting and in melee (with Meph of course) and help keep him alive with FNP and Look Out Sir options. These guys are under construction right now.
    • I have a blast cannon Furioso, a regular assault cannon dread, and a flexible confiuguration Furioso all finished with a librarian, a regular lascannon, and an undecided furioso/DC dread all waiting. One of these would go in the "other" of the 4th or 5th drop pod.
    • Terminators: I have some, I'm just not sure I see a need for them right now. Back burner.

The pod assault melta squad under construction. The sergeant's in a rather "Josey Wales" pose and that's not an accident.  
  • Fast Attack: This section is getting crowded!
    • The melta vets in a pod are solid and won't be going anywhere. I am building a squad configured exactly how I want it right now.
    • I built a jump melta squad too, just in case
    • The bikes really crowd things up here: 6 grav bikes and two MMAB's mean I have two or 3 slots filled as I've been thinking about breaking the attack bikes off into their own 2-bike unit. These are all built or being built right now.
    • I have 2 other "traditional" assault squads with swords and pistols. I don't know how much action they will see as this slot is already so crowded. They're already built and painted so it's no extra work.
    • I haven't even tried to fit landspeeders in here but I could make some.  They'll have to wait for now.
  • Heavy Support:
    • I have a Baal predator. It's painted and done. I thought I wanted more but I'm just not sure it fits into how I see this force working
    • I have old-style over-the shoulder missile launchers, lascannons, and heavy bolters I have already set aside for this army. I don't know how much use they will see as devastators but they also give me options to swap in for the heavy weapon on some of those tactical squads I am pondering. 
    • Land raiders, vindicators, whirlwinds, etc - maybe next year will be "build the Blood Angel tank army" year but I don't see it happening this year. 
Beyond adding two more drop pods I do have one other angle I am thinking about trying out. With BA Rhino's being fast vehicles they could do a 24" move on Turn 1 and pop smoke. That should be enough to get say a heavy flamer tac squad onto an objective or into the fight, -OR- it would be enough to get a devastator squad with say two multi-meltas into range to threaten some stuff on Turn 2.  

Bikes and parts everywhere!

Final complication: I also decided to bump up the army to the current standard 32mm bases for full-on marines in power armor (meaning "not the scouts"). It's some extra work and a little bit of extra expense but since I'm just now building them why not make the change? If I like it I may do it to the Dark Angels as well since they are in a similar state of construction. Right now I'm planning to go with some green static grass and some gray rocks to give a little contrast with the red/white/black/gold on so many of the figures.

So there's the "state of the army" for the BA's for 2017. Once it's all painted up I'll have 3000+ points which should make for plenty of choice in games for the rest of this year. Lots of building, lots of painting, lots of "bits" being purchased to finish these things out too, so thank goodness for eBay. 

More to come!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Freedom City: Thoughts Around the Campaign(s)

I ran another session of Time of Crisis over the weekend and it's a blast - but more on that later!

 In the aftermath I've been looking around at my notes and character sheets and past blog entries for the various M&M campaigns and realized things are kind of scattered. The tag over there on the right side of the screen is for "Freedom City 2000" which was one of my early ideas for a Freedom City campaign but isn't terribly relevant to what I am doing now. Over on the left I've noted it as Freedom City: Year One which is more relevant as it is what I am trying to do but even then it's not entirely correct. To me, what I've been doing the past five years or so with one or two games a year and what I'm doing right now are really all more of a prologue, a prelude to a regular, ongoing, city-based modern superhero campaign. That said, you take what you can get. I'm really trying to get it organized in my head as much as anything as what's done is done and what's being done is being done and what we will do is not really a thing yet. It's very much like the comic book universes we all know so I can at least take some comfort in that.

None of this matters to my players of course - they show up, we have a good time, and we schedule the next session. We get some "old warhorse" stories but not nearly as many as say D&D because we haven't played as much supers in comparison. They don't care so much who was or wasn't here for a particular session or that Captain So and So's powers changed between Session #1 and Session #3 because they're playing it, not reading it or watching it. Noting it (at least) and explaining it (hopefully) matters to me because I am trying to create a connected universe, hopefully something that wows them months or years from now with a callback to something that happened in one of these early sessions.

So here's where I am - I need to think more carefully about these kinds of things and keep it a little more organized. So ...

  • Freedom City: Prelude is what I am running now and is what all of my old FC2K stuff falls into. I was hoping that it would neatly fall into a system category too and that Freedom City for M&M 3E would be out by now but it's just taken too long for that. Of course now that I have actually started a regular game I'm sure they will get it out the door this year. You're all welcome! The original concept is described here.

    The idea is that this is all in the past and covers all of the old 1E/2E history and events, culminating in the Time of Crisis! ToC is the Great Retcon  - when it's over I'm probably going to let my players rebuild their characters completely and put them at PL11. I'm also toying with the idea of changing up the timeline and the history. This is partly to emphasize the elements I want to use in the campaign and partly to put our own spin on it. The original 2E (and forthcoming 3E) timelines would be one version of history while this new one would be ours. This helps me put the PC's at the center of things. It also has the benefit of giving me an easy "alternate history" to jump to when needed, one where the PC's are not the driving factor, one where they might not even exist as heroes at all!

    I'm also thinking about calling it "Year Zero" then once we finish ToC going to "Year One". Not super original I know but it does make it easy to follow, keeps the actual year generic, and lets me insert Big Events as a mini-campaign without getting too specific on the timing. I see stuff like the robots, Spatula City, and the bridge adventure and the others as leading up to ToC and the big reset. Sketching out 10-12 events at first for each season and letting the characters drive more and more as the game goes on should be enough for the traditional 12 "issues".  The whole year Zero thing also covers us learning how the game works to a much greater degree, much like the characters are learning their whole thing. I like that parallel.

    Feel/Tone/Thing that makes it different: This is the high four-color superhero campaign. Most of it is in the city, some around the world, a little bit in space. Mutants, aliens, robots, altered humans and every type of hero rub elbows in Freedom City. It's Marvel New York. It's the "everything" campaign, the "anything is possible" campaign. It's also the "anyone can join" campaign and the "sure you can roll up another hero" campaign. This is the Avengers or Justice League campaign.

  • Emerald City: Same universe, same continent, different feel. At one time I was trying to slide this over to the DC universe and considering how little we have played it that might still happen. The idea here though is that EC is not over-populated with heroes or villains and the player characters are the only heavy-ish hitters in town. It's more structured and less free-for all. The idea is that each player would really only have one hero in this game and they would be more tied in to the local people and organizations. I would be aiming for a more intimate feel. This campaign would be more like the X-Men, but instead of "mutants" as the unifying element "Emerald City" itself would be the unifying element. I don't know how well I could pull it off but I think it might be an interesting change from the main campaign. Turning EC into another FC kind of eliminates the need for a separate city anyway - it needs to feel different and not just be a different set of names doing the same things. 
  • Atomic City: Completely different universe - this one is totally my homebrew creation. When FC feels to restrictive, too much like "other people's characters", this is where we go. I see it as a Bronze Age four-color game as well but with a totally different cast of characters and no connection to the M&M setting. There will be a heavy dose of Champions lore in it, particularly old 2nd-3rd-4th edition lore. Not the "Universe" stuff but the villains and maybe even some of the heroes and organizations that some of us loved from that game. If I ever run Champions again it would probably be set here, but M&M is still the mechanics set of choice here for now. Except for the Animated Series, which is still ICONS. Want to team up with Marksman, Seeker, and Minuteman? This is probably where that happens.

    I could see this running with a different group or on a different night or just as an occasional one-shot here and there. Maybe I run it for the Apprentices or for one set of friends in between the FC sessions.  Maybe we come up with a plot that needs to be resolved and run a special 4-issue limited series here.

    Really this one is "home" - take everything I like about comics/movies/animated stuff, mix it in with what I have liked about other super games and super game settings, add in stuff I have come up with over the years that I like and this is what you get.

Of course this also sets up the ultimate fun scenario - crossovers! We've already pretty much established that the DC comic and TV universes also exist in this cosmos  - see the recaps for those details - and I expect Marvel to follow soon. Why not let the players establish this kind of thing, especially this early in the campaign? It pays off now and it will pay off down the road too. 

...and no, I do not have the time to run all of these on a regular basis. Keeping one of them on track for once a month, and working in the others a few times a year is probably as much as I can hope for right now. I'm OK with that though, as that's still a ton of fun.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

40K Thursday - Blood Angels Holiday Battle 4: 2000 points "Cloak and Shadows II"

The undercard featured Blaster's Eldar vs. Red's Necrons
Despite losing badly in terms of card-based VP's last time I felt like I was finally figuring out how to use the Blood Angels on the table. With 2000 points to play with this time I had some new ideas I wanted to try out - let's talk about the list:

This is a Baal Strike Force - it means they get the Red Thirst rule which is a +1 initiative on the charge and can take 4 Elite choice, vs. the 3 of a normal Combined Arms Detachment. Most of their units have Furious Charge (+1 Strength on the charge) as a standard thing anyway. Swinging with a Strength of 5 at an initiative 5 means they go before most armies and hit harder than most as well so melee is definitely a place they want to be.

  • Mephiston
  • Librarian (with a jump pack, Mastery Level 2)
I really like Mephiston and had fun with him last game so I brought him in again. He will once again be riding the drop pod express. He has a bodyguard upgrade this time - more on that below.

I decided to double-down on psykers by bringing in a generic level 2 librarian. I wanted someone to accompany one of my Death Company squads so I gave him a jump pack. The priest had worked alright last game but the DC already has the Feel No Pain special rule which is the Priest's main benefit, so he doesn't add much to that unit. A psyker on the other hand adds a variety of useful buff powers so he made more sense this time.

I mean he's basically Dracula with power armor and a lightsaber - how can you not like that?
Also, remember that in 40K he's one of the good guys.

  • Tactical Squad: A 5-man squad with bolters and a missile launcher
  • Tactical Squad: A 5-man squad with bolters and a plasma cannon
I caved here. I've always been a "full 10-man squad" guy when it comes to tactical marines, from my original Howling Griffons (20 tac marines in two squads) back in Rogue Trader through my Crimson Fists (30 in 3 squads) to even my chaos marines (30 in 3 for my Iron Warriors too). It's a new age though and for the BA's tac marines are just not where the action is. All of the marine forces have formations now that reward taking multiple tactical squads in some way but none of them require full-strength versions. These typically require 3-6 of these squads so the incentive is to take minimum size units to get the bonus then spend your points elsewhere. The current BA version of this formation is nothing special but the Baal Strike Force is hungry for points for those 4 Elite choices. For this fight I went with the two minimum sized squads with a heavy weapon each. They can park on an objective or in cover and maybe contribute in some way.

  • Death Company: A 7-man jump pack squad with two power weapons (accompanied by the Librarian)
  • Death Company: A 7-man jump pack squad with two power weapons (accompanied by Dante - see below)
  • Furioso Dread with a frag cannon and a heavy flamer in a drop pod (appeared in the last two fights)
  • Sternguard veterans: An 8-man squad with 4 combi-meltas and 2 heavy flamers in a drop pod (accompanied by Mephiston)
This is a big chunk of the "hammer" part of the army. Two units of Death Company this time, both accompanied by a heavy-hitter. Jump packs give them speed, plus they are fearless and have Feel No Pain and 5 attacks each on the charge ... yeah. 

The always-good dread in a drop pod to clear a squad out of cover with triple templates. I expect one of these will be in pretty much every list I take from now on.

The biggest change here is the Sternguard. You don't hear a ton about them in most Blood Angels lists but they are in the book. They're legendary for being a drop-melta squad but they have uses beyond that. Their Special Issue Ammo makes them good against anything in the game. Being able to take a combi-weapon is a nice option, but being able to bring heavy flamers is good too. Their 2 attacks (along with all of the other BA boosts) means they can do some harm in assault as well. I think they have a lot of potential, and Mephiston will only make them better.

Fast Attack
  • Assault Squad: 5-man squad with 2 melta guns plus two inferno pistols on the sergeant in a drop pod (also appeared in the last fight)
  • Bike Squad: 3 bikes, 2 grav guns plus a combi-grav on a sergeant, and an Attack Bike with a multi-melta (altered since the last fight)
  • Bike Squad: 3 bikes, 2 grav guns plus a combi-grav on a sergeant, and an Attack Bike with a multi-melta (altered since the last fight)
This is the rest of the "hammer" of the army. Despite their inability to kill the land raider last time, I still like the drop-melta squad. That can't happen every time, right? They are a much bigger threat than the classic multi-melta dread in a drop pod and give me 4 melta shots instead of just one. I think they're a must-take. 

The bikes have been reshuffled this time. Instead of one bigger squad (with fewer guns) I've split them into two squads and added multi-melta bikes as reinforcements. This makes them really nasty against heavy infantry and vehicles both. It's a little tempting to gear up those sergeants - make him a veteran, give him a power sword, and charge them into something since they are such a mobile unit but  I really want them to shoot things, not charge things, so I'm keeping him bare bones other than the grav weapon. 

Heavy Support

None! No devastators! No predators! No land raiders! This is unusual for me but I am learning.

Lord of War

  • Dante, the chapter master of the Blood Angels

A chapter master leading a unit of death company - yeah! It might be overkill but he is a beast in melee and so are they so they should work well together. I've had a nicely painted mini of this guy for two years now and never gotten the chance to use him. With artificer armor, an iron halo, and Eternal Warrior he's not going down easy, and with Hit and Run he and his boys can go find another party if they get bored in any particular fight.

The plan
The tac squads, the bikes, and the DC all start on the board, with 3 drop pods waiting in reserve.

  • The bikes are a shooting threat to almost any unit in a marine army so they each pick something and go for it, grabbing objectives as needed
  • The tacs hold ground
  • The DC target the biggest threats and begin jumping their way. I don;t care much about objectives with them - they are on the table to destroy things.
  • Turn 1 the drop-melta assault squad pods in and wrecks a tank
  • Turn 1 Meph and the sternguard pod in on the biggest other threat - tank or infantry or monster - and melta/special/flamer/psyker it off the board - this is my most flexible unit for both positioning (being able to land anywhere on the board) and ability to destroy any target
  • Turn 2 (or whenever we roll him up) the Furioso pods in and erases a troublesome squad

The Fight
Blaster took most of usual faves - Blood claws + wolf priest in a land raider crusader, long fangs, couple of grey hunter squads, and this time he also added a pair of dreadnoughts. He also brought Logan Grimnar, chapter master of the Space Wolves, so there was a chance we could have two chapter masters going toe to toe in this fight.

I went second. I forgot to grab a pre-game pic of the field so we will open with the end of Turn 1:

You can see we already have a pretty good fight going on here. 
  • At the top of the picture his grey hunters are behind the tower as my Dante-led death company move up towards them.
  • On the right side my librarian-led death company have com over a bridge headed for the land raider
  • The upper drop pod is my melta assault squad. They were aiming for the land raider but deviated ridiculously far and ended up over there. They opened up on that plasma cannon dread and managed all of 2 hull points. Again.
  • The lower drop pod is the sternguard. They were kind of  a patchwork unit for this fight so there are red guys, blue guys, and Meph but that's all one squad. Meph has buffed the squad and then they blasted the raider and took off 3 (out of 4) hull points - gah! We did manage to immobilize the thing though. The yellow rings are crew stunned or something similar. 
  • At the bottom of the pic that's a grey hunter squad on the ground and his long fangs up in the building. 

Here's another view of Turn 1 - one of my tac squads is in that red ruin at the left getting blasted by his long fangs. the other is out of frame in the woods at the middle of the bottom there. 

Turn 2

At the back of the field Logan Grimnar and his Thunder Hammer Storm Shield wolf guard terminators deep strike in. 

The inevitable swarm of blood claws gets the jump on my death company. My guys are not quite as strong when they don't get the charge so this is bad - my guys eventually go down under the weight of attacks here.

Both grav bike squadrons find themselves within range of Logan's squad. Zap zap!

Dante and the other death company leap in to the claws, determined to avenge their brothers.

The grand melee: In the center the long fangs blast the sternguard and blow several away. The plasma cannon dread torches the drop-melta squad who break and run. The grey hunters shoot more sternguard. The Blood Angels return the favor and finish them off. 

Turn 3

On Turn 3 the plasma dread charges Mephiston who points his trusty plasma pistol that way and ZAP! The dread goes down to an incredible overwatch shot that hits and glances, taking off his last hull point, dropping the armored wolf in his tracks!

The Furioso drops in with a goal of eliminating the long fangs. He drops in, moves up into the building, and BLAM BLAM WHOSH ... the long fangs are gone! Exactly as planned!

Logan's damaged squad blasts the tac marines in a desperate attempt to claim objective 5, then fails its charge. The tac squad kills one more terminator as the bikes close in.

On the BA turn Mephiston charges in and destroys the remaining wolf dread with his red lightsaber and Blaster concedes!

(That's two dreadnought kills on one turn for the psychic vampire BTW)

The VP total was only 4-2 but I was about to score Slay the Warlord and he didn't have much left on the table.  
  • Dropping a TH/SS unit with his warlord that far back seemed like a mistake to me. he had two cards that would score if he took objective 5 and that does matter but I don't know that would drop 400+ points that far away from the more intense part of the fight.
  • The Furioso did exactly what I wanted him to do!
  • Sternguard are awesome but they are fairly expensive tooled up like that. I may have to adjust them some in the next battle.
  • Meph was a superstar just as I had hoped. I think he's my guy for medium to bigger fights
  • It sucks when your death company get charged - but that's why you take two of them!
  • The tac marines sat on objectives and took casualties. they didn't inflict much harm but they did their job.
  • Drop pods are amazing but they don't always land where you want them to - that's why you take 3 of them! Or maybe 5 next time ...
I'll have more thoughts in the next post wrapping up the whole series and also what I'm going to do with the army next.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Something New for Monday: How Playing Cards are Made

Seemed appropriate with a Deadlands game starting up ...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

40K Sunday - Blood Angels Holiday Battle 3: 1500 points, "Contact Lost Again!"

Jumping up to 1500 points opened up a lot of options for me, and the experience from the previous two fights demanded changes.


  • Mephiston
  • Sanguinary Priest (with a jump pack, Fury of Baal, and Valour's Edge)
I like psykers and the BA's can take a level 3 in Mephiston. He can buff a unit with his powers and also by being a part of it as he is pretty stout in melee. He's an interesting special character and I wanted to try him out.

The priest is there to accompany a jump pack assault squad and improve them both offensively (with his weapons) and defensively (with Feel No Pain). 

  • Scouts: A 5-man squad with sniper rifles and a missile launcher
  • Tactical Squad: A 9-man squad in a drop pod, heavy flamer, and two hand-flamers on sarge. These guys were accompanied by Mephiston.
  • Death Company: A 6-man squad with a power weapon. 
  • Furioso Dread with a frag cannon and a heavy flamer in a drop pod (appeared in the last fight)
Fast Attack
  • Assault Squad: 6-man squad wearing jump packs with 2 plasma pistols, vet sgt with a power sword - the pirest went here (appeared in the previous fights)
  • Assault Squad: 5-man squad with 2 melta guns plus two inferno pistols on the sergeant in a drop pod
  • Bike Squad: 5 bikes, 2 grav guns, and a combi-grav on a sergeant (upgraded since the last fight)
Heavy Support
  • Devastator Squad: 5-man with 4 missile launchers
Looking back at it now this is not a list I would take again. I've learned a lot. It seemed OK at the time though and I had a lot to learn. 

Turn 1 
The Wolves went first, blew away my scouts and tore up my devastators again. All the cover in the world won't save you if someone puts enough shots into them. First blood to the wolves! 

I moved the bikes and the jump troops up. Then I landed two of the pods. 

The drop-melta squad landed right in front of Blaster's trademarked core force of 15 blood claws + priest in a land raider crusader. I figured if I could take it out I would have a notable advantage. I also figured 4 melta shots would be enough to do it. We'll never know about the first thing because I was wrong about the second thing. I believe I blew up a weapon and knocked off a total of two hull points. With 4 meltas ...

The tac squad led by Mephiston landed in between a pack of grey hunters in some ruins on the ground (behind the pod in the pic above), a dreadnought, and the long fangs up in the tower. The original purpose of this squad was to blow up the long fangs but I got distracted by the difficulty of getting the flamers onto that tower so I went for the easier target. Three flamer templates and a bunch of bolter shots hammered them good but left a few alive. Oh, and Mephiston managed to hurt himself with his plasma pistol. One step forward, one step back. 

Turn 2
The far-left (to me) grey hunter squad shot my drop melta squad off of the table, allowing the crusader to turn towards the center of the board and disgorge the expected horde of space wolves. They proceeded to fail their charge roll against my guys and were in a perfect position to be blasted on my turn. 

The space wolf dreadnought charged Mephiston and what was left of the tac squad and Mephiston showed his stuff. First he shot it with his plasma pistol and took off a hull point (overwatch!) and then he cut it in half with his Sanguine Sword! The joke now is that his special psyker power is really a red lightsaber he found somewhere. 

On the BA turn the grav bikers unloaded into the blood claws, the Furioso came down and blasted them hard, and pretty much anything I had shot them up. There were only a few left after this so the assault squad jumped over to deal with the grey hunters emerging from the woods. Meph and the boys finished off the grey hunters in the ruins with a charge of their own.

Turn 3
The Blood Claws move up but are not in a great position. The grey hunters moved up. Oh and the long fangs wiped out the last tactical marine and Mephiston with it. Plasma cannons are tough on marines, especially with no invulnerable save. At least I got to conduct a thorough review of the look out sir rules during these first few turns. Slay the Warlord for the Wolves!

The assault squad charged into the remaining grey hunter squad. The Rune Priest turned out to be geared up for melee and was pretty tough. 

Turn 4
The grey hunters take out the assault squad and poor sergeant nameless! I didn't see that coming but that wolf psyker had some serious wargear! 

The dread blasts the last few blood claws leaving only their wolf priest leader alive.

Turn 5
The grey hunters charge the dread; the wolf priest charges the bike squad. The long fangs are busy blowing up drop pods.

Turn 6
The last biker dies but the Furioso dreadnaught wipes out the hunter squad, including the rune priest, giving me Slay the Warlord!

The End
By the end only my dreadnaught is left alive, while he has the long fangs, a damaged land raider crusader, and his wolf priest.

The game ended 7-1 in favor of the Space Wolves. Yes, the only point I scored was that STW on Turn 6! My cards were terrible! "Go get this objective" - sure, the one I just moved away from? I'll get right on that. I really treated this more like a kill point game and did not pay enough attention to the cards. I'm usually the one who preaches "know your victory conditions" in this game but I largely ignored my own mantra this time. 

This is not an effective anti-tank force
Goats of the game:
  • My way-too-small-for-this-size-battle Death Company started out on the far right of the field opposite a predator annihilator. They spent the whole game moving towards the middle trying to get in on the action and achieved nothing! I did not use them properly at all. That's 150 points of nothing!
  • His Predator started out in that ridiculous position "in" the bunker (ruins) and stayed there the whole game with not much to shoot at once my DC moved off. 
  • My scouts were wiped out turn one by the hunters and the land raider. My BA's are developing a legacy of unfired missile launchers over the course of these games. That's an 86 point squad that served only to give my opponent first blood.
I was fighting stuff like this the whole time too - "hitting on 3's!"

Things I learned:
  • Drop pods are good but not auto-win.
  • Drop melta squads are good but not auto win
  • Furioso dreadnaughts in a pod are a ton of fun
  • Grav bikes are good but a 5-man unit means two of those guys (42 points worth) are just shields for the other three. Why not spend a few more points and take 6 bikes split into two 3-man squads? That's two maneuver units and twice as many grav guns. Why I could even throw in an attack bike to beef them up a bit more.
  •  Heavy Flamer Tactical Squads: I like them, or at least I want to like them, but I'm not sure they are strong enough to be a hammer unit, even with Mephiston there to buff them. The Furioso kind of covers the "nasty anti-infantry template weapons" drop option even better than these guys. Theoretically they should be able to fry a unit, then move in and hold that ground but it hasn't worked all that well in the games I have played with them. 
  • Death Company: they do not need to cover a flank. They need to cover the middle or wherever the action is. Also six is not enough. Need more. I've believed for a long time that if you like a unit in this game and want it to succeed TAKE TWO OF THEM DAMMIT!  From now on I will. 
  • Last, but not least, Mephiston: He is two tons of fun! A level 3 psyker means a decent set of powers plus his red lightsaber. Even without a charge he is WS6 and I5 with 5 attacks at strength 10! That is assuming you got the sword up - and you did because that's his thing. With some buffs from the BA's special discipline he makes his squad better and if they get into melee he is nasty nasty nasty. Sure, he lacks an invulnerable save for some dumb reason but that's why he travels with a squad - look out sir is his invulnerable save! he will be in every force I deploy if I can manage the points at all.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Header Change - Iron Warriors

I've been building up the Iron Warriors force for about two years now and they are almost finished. At about 3500 points with a full set of choices for Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support, I feel like it's about as solid as I can make it given the state of the current codex. I figured that was worthy of some time at the top of the blog.

It's funny - my original plan was to make them an ally force option for my demon army (to give them some shooting) or my Nurgle marines (in case I got tired of my "no tanks" mandate for that force) but along the way they kind of jumped in front of both of those to become my "main" chaos force. Why? I'd say it's because 1) I didn't really put any restrictions on the force and 2) they're really easy to paint, at least to a decent tabletop standard. That makes a huge difference in getting them to the table.

You'd think Nurgle stuff would be easy to paint and it id to a degree but there are many many versions of a "Nurgle" paint scheme - some people will go old school bright green and purple, some will go more rust or brown and paler green, and other will go with the Death Guard scheme of white and green. It's difficult to keep a consistent look to the army if you add in some already painted pieces because there's so much variety out there.

Iron Warriors have none of that trouble. It's metal all the way - silver, bronze/gold, and some yellow and black hazard stripes here and there. It's a scheme that looks great on the table and one that is easy to match or blend.

Here's a breakdown of where things stand:


  • Chaos Lord on foot in power armor with powerfist and lightning claw
  • Warpsmith with the usual gear, also on foot
  • Demon prince with wings and psyker levels - usually Tzeentch
  • Sorcerer on a bike, usually unmarked
A normal CAD means only two of these guys make it to each fight but I like options. It's hard to fit a 300 point demon prince into a 500 or 750 point game so the warpsmith often shows up there. If I'm not taking my Iron Bikers squad the sorcerer stays home and the Chaos Lord jumps into a Rhino, usually with the plague marines. The plan for the future is that most of the time, at 1500+ the prince and the psyker biker will be leading the army.

  • 3 ten man squads of chaos marines - one with double plasma, one with double flamers, and one with plasma gun and missile launcher. The first two are usually in rhinos.
This is not a terribly efficient setup but I don't play chaos marines to play cultists. The missile squad holds a backfield objective while the other two go get into trouble. 

Fast Attack
  • Heldrake with a baleflamer
  • Five chaos spawn
  • Six chaos bikers
The Heldrake is still a terror against marine types. The spawn are one of my favorite units in the book and have a ton of uses and are fast - something the chaos marines need. 

The bikers are a unit I am still building and I am torn on what weapons to give them. Melta makes a lot of sense for mobile anti-tank but relentless means they could take plasma guns and still charge a unit. They will spend a lot of time Nurgle-marked to increase their lifespan as they are also the bodyguard for the sorcerer. An unmarked sorcerer can take biomancy among other things and he would want to be in melee if he does. It's a difficult choice.

Heavy Support
  • Triple-lascannon Predator
  • Havocs with 4 autocannons
  • TBD
The predator is the old standby for chaos anti-tank. It has a tough time vs. AV14 but anything else is a fairly easy kill. I've toyed with the idea of a second one to fill that last spot but I'm not sure I want to go that heavy on these.

The havocs are another chaos standard. Nobody else can field good autocannons this easily so I feel like I have to take them. They're also just so damned useful, reliably putting five to six S7 hits on anything within 48 inches. They threaten bikes, most vehicles, monstrous creatures, and most infantry.  They're worth taking in every battle.

The third slot is really my most up-in-the-air position in the army. Could go with a 2nd predator - more strong anti-tank is a good thing. I could grab a three-man obliterator squad as they are tough and versatile but two of them cost as much as the predator! My main inclination so far has been "Maulerfiend" - it's fast, tough enough, and another form of anti-tank too. In the full army if it's running upfield alongside 3 rhinos. the spawn, and a biker squad then that's a lot of fast targets for an enemy to deal with. I'm leaning towards it but I haven't picked one up just yet.

  • Five Plague Marines with double plasma, usually in a rhino
  • Eight Berserkers
  • Helbrute with a plasma cannon and a power fist
This section is due for some changes. 

The plague marines have done really well for me but I do want to limit the amount of marked troops in the army as that's never been the Iron Warriors main thing. If I take either of the two foot-mounted HQ's they usually ride in the Rhino with these guys. It makes for a pretty nasty little squad. 

The Helbrute, well, I just like the model, it seems fitting for an IW force, and it's one of the few ways to get a plasma cannon on the table in a chaos marine army and that's a weapon I just find useful. Sure, occasionally it overheats and hurts the dread or the blast deviates into your own guys but quite a bit of the time it removes heavily armored infantry from the table. 

The berserkers are there in case I want heavy melee but I rarely take them and no longer think they really fit the army. They will probably transfer to the Khorne Daemonkin force that's taking shape on another shelf in the room. 

Replacing the berserkers will likely be a unit of chosen. You can get 4 or 5 special weapons into a chosen squad and I am coming around on the idea of going full melta with these guys. I'll probably put them in a rhino so I'm either going to need one more or somebody else is going to lose their ride. They're vets (so 2 attacks base) and they keep their pistols and chainswords so they can stand up in melee as well. I think 5 or 6 of them plus their champion, plus a warpsmith would make a nasty nasty package up close. 

I'm also looking at some terminators. They're not the strongest unit  anymore but I have quite a few old metal chaos termies sitting around and they could do the drop-melta termicide thing (when I can;t afford the mayhem pack) or switch to backfield/anti-drop-pod work with a reaper cannon and a bunch of powerfists.

It's good to have options.

This force started out as an allied detachment, then quickly grew into a full combined arms detachment and is now straining the seams of that a little bit. I already had a ground-pounding force of mostly plague marines. I wanted something different.

My biggest concern was speed - much of the current version of the game requires decent mobility for seizing objectives and reacting to enemy movement. Rhinos are an OK start, but I wanted more. The bikers, the Heldrake, and the spawn are all aimed at that same goal: something that is both fast and a serious threat to enemy units. With the force I have now all of the HQs, all of my troops, most of my elites, and all of my fast attack are able to cover 12" or more in that very first movement phase, leaving only the havocs and the helbrute and maybe a tac squad in the backfield. It's still a little short on anti-vehicle firepower though, in my opinion. Marine armies have the sternguard in a drop pod, the multi-melta dreadnought in a drop pod, multimelta speeders, and multimelta attack bikes that can all threaten even the heaviest of tanks on Turn 1 and I wanted something like that. There's nothing that good in the CSM codex, but there is one dataslate: Enter the Mayhem Pack

Mayhem Pack
  • Three Helbrutes each with a Mutlimelta, a Heavy Flamer, and a powerfist
The dataslate special rule is that they all get It Will Not Die (nice) and this:

Mayhem from the Maelstrom: 
All of the units in this Formation must begin the game in Reserve. When making Reserve Rolls, make a single roll for the entire Formation. On a successful Reserves Roll, all of the units in this formation arrive from Reserve by Deep Strike.

Yes! Deep striking chaos dreadnoughts! With those weapons they can threaten every unit in the game, and they can drop in anywhere on the table! It's just the type of unit a chaos force should have.

Now admittedly the last time I used them one immobilized himself in some woods, one was out of range of anything and then was blown up before he could do anything but the third actually got to hurt some people. It's roughly 350 points to build them out like this but they are a ton of fun and can really change up the game. 

So that's the force as of now. I'll finish up the bikes this week, figure out what I'm doing with my elites, and maybe get in a game next weekend. More to come!

Friday, January 27, 2017

40K Friday: Blood Angels Holiday Battle 2: 1000 points, "Contact Lost"

No pictures of this one, really, because it didn't last that long! I reshuffled the army significantly and it looked like this:

  • Captain (with the tac squad below)
  • Sanguinary Priest with a jump pack so he could run with the assault squad
  • Furioso Dread in a drop pod
  • 5-man scout squad set for assault
  • 9-man tac squad in a drop pod
  • 5-man Assault Squad featuring Veteran Sergeant Nameless from the first battle
  • 3-man Bike Squad (2 grav guns and a combi-grav - see, I'm learning)
  • 5-man Devastator Squad with 4 missile launchers 
Starting out I did not accomplish enough on turn 1 and he proceeded to wipe out my devastator squad, my scout squad, and my tac squad and the captain. That meant that 20 out of the 30 figures I had in the force were gone by the end of Turn 2. I was not in a great position, had done very little damage to his force, comparatively, and it was already 3-0 in victory points.

I called it at the end of Turn 2.

Things I did learn though, even with a short, lopsided defeat:
  • Captains are not that useful. Other HQ's add Feel No Pain or Psychic ability to your force, but the captain is just a melee boost. He added very little to my force yet took up an HQ slot and cost at least as many points as the other choices. Despite having a nicely painted Captain and options for more, he will not be seeing much table time.
  • Grav guns on bikes are every bit as good as the internet says they are. 103 points to put 2 + a combi on a fast, relentless platform is a strength for this army.
  • Despite being a codex army in most ways I am not convinced that Devastator Squads are something the BA's really need. Sitting back and shooting is not really what this army is about. I'm still going to build some for the force for the long term but right now I feel like that 130 points is better spent elsewhere. 
  • Furioso's in a pod are just too much fun: DROP! Stomp Stomp Stomp! BLAM! BLAM! WHOOSH! That's more than most units can take. If they do, well AV13 is pretty tough and he's more than ready for a scrap if you want one.
  • This is where I started to realize that the Baal Strike Force is the One True Way for the BA's for me right now. 
    • First up making all of your marines S5 I5 on the charge is the key to beating other marine units. Now the wolves mostly having two CC weapons and having counter-charge dulled this a bit but I was still going first and that matters a lot. It's a reason to downgrade power fists and axes and go for more swords to make sure you take some opponents down before they get to swing. 
    • Secondly from a force org point of view the Elite choices are where the real core of this army lives. Dreads, Death Company, Sanguinary Guard, Sternguard - having that fourth choice from Elites makes a big difference. It also means that to afford them you are probably going to need to go light on Troops choices. 
So while it was one of my less effective games in a quite a while, it heavily colored my take on how to play these guys - and that's why we were playing these games.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

40K Thursday: This Year's New Army

In between all of the other army work I've been doing - and 40K has been a huge focus for me this last month - I got to talking to Blaster about what else we want to do this year. We usually try to build or acquire some new terrain too. We've done hills, trees, and snow terrain in the past. our biggest lack right now is ruins or more sci-fi specific terrain like storage tanks, factory parts, etc. That may become a goal for the year - build a set of terrain for a "ruined city" or "ruined factory" table.

Besides that talk though he mentioned he had thought an Imperial Guard tank army would be fun and I agreed. That's something we could build together and use with our imperial armies as an allied force. We will start with a few and maybe add a piece each month - a tank, a flyer, something like that. By the end of the year we should have a good-sized tank force. I'm not worried about tournament play here, just another army option to have around the house.

The current IG codex, or "Astra Militarum" codex has a Tank Commander as an HQ option. He's an upgrade to a Leman Russ (any type) and has to have at least one other tank attached to him forming a 2-3 tank squadron.  Right now we're probably looking at a Vanquisher for the commander, and an Exterminator as his sidekick. He has orders he can issue (with a decent roll) to let them fire at separate targets so the squadron limitations shouldn't be much of a problem.

For an allied detachment you need one troop choice, and for a full CAD you need two. We're going with the always-popular Veteran squads to answer this need. That gives us some troops on the ground but keeps it at a minimum. We will probably go with plasma guns, maybe melta, for them. We're still discussing transport options but for now they will be on foot for a few games at least. I'd like to get them some Chimeras and even moreso some Valkyries, but that will have to come later.

 That gets us the minimum requirements to field the group: Two tanks, one infantry squad. We won't stop there of course.

For HQ's that don't take up a slot I have my old Rogue Trader Adeptus Mechanics and his three servitors. They've been in a box for decades and now they finally have a reason to hit the table for a real fight. Gotta keep those tanks alive!

I also have a pair of RT psykers in all of their late-80's painted glory and I will be taking them too. This will probably be their first action since ... 2nd edition? Yowch.

I have some commissars of a similar vintage too. I'd say there's a good chance they join in as well - why not? Two vet squads each with a commissar and a psyker are notably more dangerous than basic infantry alone.

Our other immediate acquisition is a pair of standard Leman Russ tanks. It is a tank army after all. There's our heavy support choice.

For Fast Attack our first choice is a Hellhound but it will be a while for that one. We both want some more Leman Russ hulls before we pick the flamer tank up. Valkyries will probably come first here too.

Elites are trickier as we might go with some cheap ratling snipers. We've also talked about some ogryn to guard the rear but those are pretty low on the priority list.

That's enough to get us started. once we have some of this put together I will share pictures. Expect regualr updates on this one through the year.