Saturday, December 28, 2013

Operation: Mousetrip Begins

About the time this post goes up we will be hitting the road and taking the kids to Disneyworld as a big Christmas present. They found out Friday afternoon and we leave Saturday morning.

The whole blended family thing can be challenging at times with schedules and all of those complications (that lead to things like doing the family Xmas on the 27th instead of the 25th) on top of the usual school and time off issues and the teenage-specific weather of jobs, school projects, girlfriends/boyfriends, and general unpredictability of moods. We started planning this a year ago, after the kids all took off for the "other half" of that Christmas and it was just Lady Blacksteel and myself, and it has finally all worked out. The whole Disney thing still has enough magic to make all of the teenagers walk around with a big grin, overcoming all of those other potential obstacles. It was a surprise to them, a good one, and they didn't even complain about the short notice. The prospect of their first trip to WDW, including new year's eve at the park, seems to have shaved about 10 years off of all of their ages - for today at least.

As you might guess posting will be sparse this week. Beyond the Disney thing it was a 40K Christmas here when it comes to gaming as there's really nothing new in the RPG rotation of 4E/Pathfinder/Next that they needed. They were pretty excited about their new 40K stuff but the trip means it won't be hitting the table for a week or more  and we're all OK with that.

Anyway, Happy New Year! Posting resumes in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

40K Friday: A Short Guide to Used Mini's

About as pro-painted as you can get - from the GW site
New miniatures, especially Games Workshop miniatures, are expensive. Fortunately there are many channels out there to buy used miniatures which can be far less expensive to acquire. I've been doing that for quite a while and I thought I would share my experiences.

In most ways the best avenue is buying them in-person from another gamer or store - you can see what you're getting up close and from all angles which should cut down on the unpleasant surprises. There's also usually some haggling involved too. This might not even be a financial transaction - I've traded units and armies for other units and other armies with no cash changing hands. It can be a lot of fun.

The most common channel though is online. The three main ones I know of are specialized miniatures trading sites, craigslist, and ebay. Most of my experience has been with ebay so I will focus on that in particular.

The biggest danger when trading online is paying for something you didn't actually want. Pictures are key here - I would not buy any used miniature without seeing a picture first, preferably several of them from different angles.

All that said here is my handy dandy guide to descriptions of miniatures online:

"NIB" - new in box/new in blister pack - this is pretty easy to see and it's pretty much a yes/no as there are really no degrees of "new". For a current game these are usually discounted as you can otherwise just go buy them at a store. For an old out of print game they can be more expensive, as it's the only way to get pristine copies to work your own magic upon.

"Primed" - this usually means one spray coat of black, gray, or white. Hopefully a lighter coat rather than a heavier coat. People are pretty honest about this one.

"Basecoated" - well for space marines this usually means "sprayed in a chapter color" and not much else. For other armies it's pretty much the identifier for "primer + one color". As long as it's the right color it's not bad.

"Painted" - usually a true statement, though one with a thousand degrees of sub-classification. The basic statement itself here though is pretty much another binary thing - either there is paint on the mini or there is not. This is not nearly as useful or complete as NIB though - see below.

Old 2E Tyranid Warriors - to me that's at least a "tabletop Quality" job! 

"Hand-Painted" - well yes, there aren't really any machines or trained gerbils doing this sort of thing yet so this is a red herring in many ways - it sounds better to the uninitiated and means nothing. It seems to mostly be used by people selling something they don't understand or deal with regularly.
"Well-Painted" - ah, here we have our first truly subjective rating. My "well painted" may be your "tabletop quality" or worse. This is an instant "look at the picture" for me (most of these descriptions are, truly) and again tells you almost nothing. I've seen many a figure described as "well painted" that makes me want to know what kind of curve they were grading on.

"Pro-Painted" - now theoretically a pro is a professional, someone who gets paid to paint miniatures. This does not guarantee any level of quality at all, but from the way it is used you'd think it did. I will say that it's far more rare to see a bad "pro-painted" mini than it is most others, so there is that. But I've seen painted mini's for $30 that are far more intricately painted than some I've seen for $130, so the actual quality and cost varies wildly. Then there are the various painting services that do have a track record and lots of pictures to browse, versus the one man operation that doesn't even have a web site beyond ebay. It doesn't mean they don't do good work, it's just harder to see samples. Of course a lot of times "pro-painted" means "painted by someone other than the person selling the figure" and they have no idea who did paint it. Again, all you really have to go by are the pictures.

Perfectly tabletop-ready. I'd do a little more with the bases but those are fine otherwise.
"Tabletop Quality Paint Job" - This is another description that varies wildly - again my "tabletop" may be very different from yours. That's not a snobbery thing, that's covering a range form "dipped in melted crayon then clear-coated for good measure" to  "better than most pro-painted stuff". It also may cover everything from "bases not painted" to "custom bases with detailed paint jobs" so there's a lot of variance. In general I find these aren't too bad, but you do want to look the pictures over carefully.

"Badly Painted" - well you don't see it a lot but I have seen it a few times and none of them were wrong. Should be used a lot more than it is. When you let the 8-year old try painting for the first time, then he decides he doesn't like the game so you decide to sell the stuff on ebay to make some of the money back here's a hint: this is where those figures belong, not in "painted", not in "hand painted", and not in tabletop painted either. Right.Here.

More Nid Warriors from 2E and these are not so good
One other consideration:  Bases. If you're adding to an existing army, don't forget to check the bases and see how much work it's going to be to blend them in with the rest of your army. If you're buying a whole army this is not really a problem, but if you're adding figures or units to a pile of stuff you already have it can be. Note: Spaceships usually do not have this problem!

One Final Consideration: Is it a paintjob you can match?  Sure, those neon purple and green Nurgle Terminators look awesome, but there are only 3 of them. What if you want to add a few more? What if you want to swap out a weapon? Can you match it yourself? Can you find other painted figures that will fit into the unit?  Even known paint schemes (marine chapters in 40k for example) have some variation in shading and unit insignia. They are easier to manage though. Pretty much any Space Wolf squad or vehicle will at least look like it's in the same neighborhood as another Space Wolf unit. At the opposite extreme, with some armies it barely matters - chaos daemon armies probably shouldn't look alike, and orks are a ramshackle enough bunch that it's OK there too. Heck, bringing in units painted by someone else can help diversify the look of your army, making it even more characterful in these cases.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

40K Friday - Holiday Wishes

This is the last day of school for the kids before the holiday break. We haven't had a chance to play this week - somehow being off for a while means a bunch of extra work to prepare for being off for a while, and of course the schools have to cram in every possible activity too so the evenings are packed as well - but they have asked for some 40K stuff for Christmas and I thought I would talk a little bit about that.

Blaster wants some more terminators for his Space Wolves. He's interested in trying out a "Loganwing" army in the aftermath of yet another Deathwing beatdown. The kid has a pretty solid Wolf army already so now he's getting into that next level of play - adding a unit or two that will let you totally change up your approach. I'm just glad that they haven't been totally forgotten in his rush to the Eldar.

Regarding Eldar he has been playing them most of the time lately and asked for more Dire Avengers. All the cool exotic stuff in that book and he wants ... troop choices. I admit he's doing it right - make sure you have solid troop choices then build up to the fancy stuff. I'm pretty sure a wraith knight is going to be on his birthday list in a few months so maybe we'll deal with that then. He's still refining his army, playing a lot of "bring what you have" as his army is still fairly new. I say new, but he's pushing towards 2000 points of stuff so it's not exactly small. Now to get it all painted ...

Red is looking to add to both his armies. For his Necrons he's decided to build the world's first Necron Waaagh by taking something like 80 warriors in 4-5 groups with lords of some kind in each plus his wraiths and some other weird necron stuff I don't worry about until I need to shoot it. It's not a conventional strategy and it's not a cheap one, though it is cheaper than some as warriors are not terribly expensive second-hand. He's only about halfway to his goal so we'll have to see how that turns out.

For his Orks Red needs more shoota boyz, a sensible choice in this edition. I also pointed him in the direction of nob bikers since he is building his orks as Evil Sunz and we will see where that goes too. He does like Ghazghkull and his battlewagons full of boyz and nobz so the bikes may not be a priority for a while. He did ask for some Kans too and that might be an interesting option with his already vehicle-heavy army. He and I are both waiting for the new Ork codex to really crank things up.

Apprentice Who has finally shown some real interest in 40K as well. He is younger, so I haven't really pushed him on - we have plenty of superhero stuff to talk about so we don't really need to force the Grim Darkness on him until he's ready for it - but he's been hanging around and asking questions during games and announced he's interested in playing something with "big monsters". The Helbrute from the Dark Vengeance set keeps catching his eye. In light of that I let him look at old and new codexes and battle reports for the Chaos Marines, Chaos Daemons, and Tyranids. He seems to like the new marine stuff like the mauler fiends and forge fiends, and the daemon princes are pretty slick looking too.

This of course leads to the potentially awkward scenario on Christmas:

"Hey grandson what did you get for Christmas?"

"Hey grandma I got a Bloodthirster of Khorne! He fights for the blood god!"

This kind of thing comes with the territory of being the dad who's into this kind of stuff but it's a fair step from action figures and Pokemon to shouts of "blood for the blood god" on Xmas morning. The family has mostly learned to deal with it but it's still a little uncomfortable at times when it comes up around the uninitiated. As long as the kid's happy though it's worth it.

As for me I picked up a few deals on things to try and whip my Blood Angels army into shape. I know they aren't in great shape mechanics-wise right now but they're cool, I have mini's I can use for them, and they will be getting a new codex one of these days. Phase 1 of my plan is to get the infantry part settled out. This is mainly assault squads, terminator squads, HQ's, and the death company. Phase 2 will be the vehicles - a Rhino or two, Baal Predators, Vindicators, Dreadnoughts, and Storm Ravens. That part won't be cheap, so I want the core grunt force figured out first. Phase 1 is now mostly handled, Phase 2 will happen next year.

My other more recent add-on is building an Iyanden wraith army. I've seen a lot of Eldar armies with the new book but I haven't seen many old-style ghost armies. I've liked the idea since the Craftworld codex brought it in as an option back in 3rd edition, but I never tried to build one. Now I am going to. Going this route also keeps me from stepping on Blaster's toes as he's going for more of an "everything" build with a tendency towards footdar.

One other consideration is that so many of my armies contain older models - and I like them plenty - but it would be nice to have an all-new army: no legacy models that I have to identify to kids younger than they are, no old paintjobs from the 80's-90's, just shiny clean new models with new paintjobs that match. Every army I have includes mini's going back to the Rogue Trader days - only my Imperial Fists Deathwing army does not but I didn't really build or paint that one, though admittedly that was kind of the point. This one will be built ground-up by me and while I might be open to a few pre-painted units I want the bulk of that work to be mine as well.

So in lieu of a battle report there's a different kind of report - Happy Holidays!

New D&D Officially "Next Summer"

Other good things about summer
There's a nice broad range for you. I'm guessing Gen Con or right before Gen Con.

Press release, En World comments etc. here.

Notable line:

Players will be immersed in rich storytelling experiences across multiple gaming platforms as they face off against the most fearsome monster of all time.

Say what? Vecna? Tharizdun? The Tarrasque? Typos? Overly corporate cross-platform-marketing-schemes?

The Winter Fantasy con is in February and I expect we'll see some actual dates announced there.

My take is ... I don't know ... there were things I liked in Next and things I didn't it's difficult to tell from all the versions of the rules we saw, plus their weekly Q&A, plus various interviews, what we're really going to get when the dust settles.   I'm having a hard time getting excited about it. Just not that amped-up at the prospect of buying the PHB-DMG-MM all over again, not to mention the inevitable fighter book, wizard book, Forgotten Realms book, Eberron book, special combat rules book, and all the rest. The editions may change, but the marketing plan does not.

Between the 4th Edition stuff I still have to finish, the Pathfinder stuff I am running, and the occasional foray into Labyrinth Lord I'm going to need more than "Hey it's new D&D" to get energized about this one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trek Tuesday - Decipher Trek

Getting back to the big glossy editions of Trek RPG's, it's time to talk about the Decipher years. The genesis of this one is a little strange. Last Unicorn had been publishing their edition of the game for a couple of years when in 2000 the announcement came out that they had been purchased by WOTC. Within a few months WOTC/LUG lost the Trek license, supposedly because there was a clause against the same company having both the Star Trek and Star Wars licenses which WOTC now had.

Regardless of the details a new Trek game appeared in 2002 (roughly a one-year gap) from Decipher of all companies. Decipher had been known only for card games up to this point, so it was a surprise. Considering they already had the Trek license for card games, it did make some sense. One interesting thing was that quite a bit of the design team from Last Unicorn made the jump to the new edition - take a look at the credit pages below:

Last Unicorn credits page
Decipher credits page
There is a lot of overlap there. So you might think "lots of continuity there" right? Well, not so much. Despite having invented a whole new system and written multiple books on Trek just within the last 5 years, the design appears to have looked more at a different system that was popular at the time.

The stats shift to six familiar-looking basic attributes plus some others. Task resolution also looks familiar (and I don;t mean Traveller) being 2d6 + modifiers (lots and lots of modifiers) to beat a target number set by the difficulty of the task. It's shifted down about 5 points from the d20 difficulty numbers but it looks very familiar. This was during the height of the d20 boom and the system for stats, skills, and task resolution is very similar to d20.

Characters have a Species which modifies attributes and grants some special abilities. They also choose a Profession which designates some skills as professional skills and grants some special abilities. There are also Elite Professions which can be taken after meeting certain criteria.

Action Rounds are 6 seconds long and characters can take movement actions, combat actions, free actions, and full-round actions - not really trying to hide it at this point were they?

There is a some chrome here. There are Traits which are like Advantages/Disadvantages, there is a hero point mechanic and a reputation mechanic, combat uses a damage track as well as simple hit point type damage to introduce some damage effects,  and of course there is star ship combat as well.

So it's very much a d20-styled Trek game. You might think that would have taken off bigtime in that particular time. Well it didn't. They produced very nice full-color hardback books, six of them and a narrator's screen from 2002-2003 and then it got quiet. Considering the ready availability of these books in bargain bins and overstock deals circa 2005 I think it's safe to say this did not do well. It's not hard to see why:

  • First, despite having the same design team this is a very different game, mechanically, and having spent significant money to acquire the previous rules, there was not a huge incentive to turn around and spend money all over again a few years later.
  • Second, I don't think fans of LUG Trek felt that the system had run its course and so there was no great outcry for a revision or new mechanics and Decipher's version didn't cover any new ground that the prior version had not.
  • Thirdly, while it was like d20 it was not actually d20. This closed it off from the exploding ecosystem of d20 games that were cross-compatible to a degree, and from gamers who were extremely d20-focused.
  • Finally, there is timing - when this was released Voyager had just ended, Enterprise had just started, and Nemesis released and was not particularly well received. Trek was petering out in a lot of ways. I suspect that among casual players and fans there was not a lot of interest in starting up a new game and the die-hard fans already had FASA or LUG Trek (or one of the many, many homebrews) and were not terribly interested in something new. Contrast this with Star Wars which was in the middle of the new trilogy after a long gap and was all over the place.
Looking back I think if the design team had taken this as a chance to refine the ICON system, or if they had gone full-on d20 system, then it probably would have sold better as at least there would have been some built-in audience for the new game. Given the timing of its release I'm not sure it would have mattered but I can't help but think it would have helped in some way.

Personally I've never run a game of it. I tried - twice. We never got past character generation in either one. I tried selling it to my group once many years ago and it never took off. I tried it a bit later online and that never got off the ground either. I don't blame the system for those but that is the extent of my experience with it. Hey, I tried ...

If I was going to start up a campaign now I suspect Decipher's game would be several notches down the list even though I have the complete pile of stuff. It's fine and has plenty of material in the books to support a campaign, but so do most other Trek RPG's (official and unofficial). I see stuff in the other versions that I like better. I don't see much support for it online and I suspect it's just not as popular even now as the other options.

That's about all I have to say on Decipher Trek. Next week we will see what else is out there.

Friday, December 13, 2013

40K Friday: Return of the Deathwing

We spent the weekend iced in here and Apprentice Red wanted to play some 40K with his Ork army. At one point he wanted to orks vs. orks but that didn't seem all that exciting to me at the time. I ended up going with my Big Yellow Hammer - an Imperial Fists Deathwing army. I had added some tanks to them since their last outing and wanted to see how that would work. We went with 1750 points, made up our lists, and we were ready.

My army list:

1 Belial (HQ) @ 190 Pts
     Deathwing Assault; Independent Character; Inner Circle; Marked for      Retribution; Tactical Precision; Vengeful Strike; Warlord Trait: The Hunt; Terminator Armour; #Iron Halo; #Teleport Homer; Thunder Hm. & Storm Sh.; Warlord

5 Deathwing Terminator Squad (Troops) @ 270 Pts
     Deathwing Assault; Inner Circle; Split Fire; Vengeful Strike; Terminator Armour; Thunder Hm. & Storm Sh. (x5); Cyclone Missile Ln.; Deathwing Terminator Sergeant (character)

5 Deathwing Terminator Squad (Troops) @ 270 Pts
     Deathwing Assault; Inner Circle; Split Fire; Vengeful Strike; Terminator Armour; Thunder Hm. & Storm Sh. (x5); Cyclone Missile Ln.; Deathwing Terminator Sergeant (character)

5 Deathwing Terminator Squad (Troops) @ 250 Pts
     Deathwing Assault; Inner Circle; Split Fire; Vengeful Strike; Terminator Armour; Storm B. & Power F. (x4); Thunder Hm. & Storm Sh. (x1); Cyclone Missile Ln.; Deathwing Terminator Sergeant (character)

5 Deathwing Terminator Squad (Troops) @ 245 Pts
     Deathwing Assault; Inner Circle; Split Fire; Vengeful Strike; Terminator Armour; Storm B. & Chainfst. (x1); Storm B. & Power F. (x2); Storm B. & Power W.; Asslt. Can. & Power F.; Deathwing Terminator Sergeant (character)

1 Vindicator (Heavy Support) @ 135 Pts
     Vehicle (Tank); #Searchlight; #Smoke Launchers; Siege Shield; Demolisher Cannon; Storm Bolter

1 Vindicator (Heavy Support) @ 135 Pts
     Vehicle (Tank); #Searchlight; #Smoke Launchers; Siege Shield; Demolisher Cannon; Storm Bolter

1 Land Raider (Heavy Support) @ 250 Pts
     Vehicle (Tank, Transport); Fire Points: 0; Access Points: 3; Assault Vehicle; #Searchlight; #Smoke Launchers; #Power of the Machine Spirit;Capacity: 10; TL Lascannon (x2); TL Heavy Bolters

Models in Army: 24
Total Army Cost: 1745

Thinking: I ran through several lists trying to fit a command squad, a terminator librarian and/or a bike squad into this with all the tanks but the only way to do it was to drop the land raider at least and I wanted to try it out. The command squad not being a scoring unit made it an easy scratch. I decided that I wanted at least 4 squads to have enough scoring units to take some objectives, and I wanted to use all 3 tanks so that pretty much set my list to what you see above. Considering the previous battle's Ork army had 77 models in army, this was going to take a different mindset.

Strategy: If it's an objective mission one of the shooting terminator squads could sit on a home objective, play backfield defense, and still contribute with shooting. The two assault termie squads will deep strike in while the other shooty squad rides in the land raider. That was the theory at least.

Red brought Gahzgul and a unit of nobz in a battlewagon, a unit of burna boyz in another wagon, a unit of slugga boyz in a trukk, a 25-strong unit of foot-slogging slugga boyz, some lootas with a Big Mek with a Shokk Attack Gun, a ork fighter, and an burna-bommer.

1 is in the woods, 2 is in the ruins in the middle, 3 is in the middle of that storage area on the left, and 4 is back behind the wall top right.

You can see the table setup above. We chose to go side to side (no more diagonal madness for now) and ended up with "Crusade" (mission 1) with 4 objectives.  Belial's warlord trait is set at "The Hunt" where he ge. ts an extra VP if he or his unit kills the enemy warlord. Red rolled a "2" on the rulebook table and took 1st turn night fighting which we forgot to use, even after I mentioned that had happened to me in the previous weekend's battle with Blaster's Eldar. Red won the roll and chose to setup first/go first. I didn't even try to steal as I wanted to go second.

My thinking here changed a bit - I put the termie squad with the cyclone and stormbolters on the home objective(#4) figuring that the missile launcher would still be able to reach much of the battlefield. Belial's deviation-free teleport and the shooting squads's twin-link-on-deep-strike rule meant that the boss went with them into the Deathwing Assault holding area, ready for turn two, along with one of the thunderhammer squads. That meant the other THSS squad went into the land raider, riding in style.

Red dropped 25 boyz on his backfield objective (#1) - probably won't be contesting that one anytime soon! His lootas and big mek went into a conveniently placed ruin at the back. His trukk was way out to his left (headed for #3) while the nobz and burnas set up right in the middle (aiming for #2).

The view from my side of the table
Ork Turn 1 - The boyz and the lootas sat while the trukk and wagons shot forward. The lootas shot at the terminators on objective 4 and one wagon took a shot at the Vindicator sitting in the ruins but missed, as did the Shokk Attack Gun. All in all pretty quiet, and I was happy that nothing died.

Deathwing Turn 1 - I didn't really have anything to move... except for one Vindicator who crept up juuuust far enough. Shooting: the Vindicator in the ruins blows up Ghazgkul's battlewagon - his ego was bruised, and the Deathwing now have First Blood. Then the Vindicator in the woods blew away 9 of the 10 nobz that tumbled out of it - Red was shocked at the devastation wreaked in my first two shots of the game. Ghazzy also took a wound from the exploding wagon, a nice little bonus. The land raider tried to do the same to the other battlewagon but was not as lucky. The Terminators' cyclone launcher blew away a few lootas though - I was determined to erase them, cover save or not!

End of Turn 1 - Gahzgul exposed
Ork Turn 2 - The ork flyers enter, Ghaz and friend run for the ruins, and the Trukk moves into Soda Can Square, nicely protected from most long range fire.The remaining battlewagon manages to stun the Vindi in the woods (he had the proper level of fear now). The SAG managed to land a potentially nasty hit on 2 of the termies on Objective 4 but they both made their invulnerable saves. they also took fire from the lootas and the flyers and suffered exactly zero casualties. So far, so good.

End of Ork Turn 2
Deathwing Turn 2 -  Belial drops in with his squad directly in front of the loota/Mek hideout and in the subsequent shooting phase wipes out all but 1 of the lootaz. The land raider then snipes him,  leaving the Mek all alone in the ruin. The THSS termies disembark from their ride and blow up the remaining battlewagon though they do lose one of their number to burna overwatch and then one more to the explosion, but only 4 of the boyz survive. The deep striking THSS squad drops in near Soda Can Square, deviating a small distance but not badly.

End of Deathwing Turn 2

Ork Turn 3 - The Burna Bomma flies over the Vindicator in the ruins but the bomb bounces off of his armor. The boyz in the trukk unload on Objective 3 (Soda Can Square) and the trukk moves up to block the entrance near the remains of the burna boyz. The Shokk attack gun holds his position, targets Belial's squad, and manages to kill a single terminator!

The most interesting development happens when Ghaz breaks off from the lone remaining nob and charges Belial's squad! When he does I choose practicality over narrative and refuse the challenge. He then banishes Belial from the fight and engages the 4 remaining terminators.

Mechanically I did this because Belial has 3 attacks, the rest of his squad has 8 combined. with only 4 men left he won't get a cheering section bonus so I decide to go with the greater number of attacks over personal bravery.

Narrative-wise I played this as arrogance on the part of my warlord - as the monster ork closes in Belial tells his men "take him" and steps back, arms crossed, as he watches the fight, assessing his opponent.

It goes badly for the Fists - The sergeant goes first and watches his power sword skitter off of Ghaz's armor. Then we have the big initiative 1 beatfest where the rest of the squad manages to land a wound on Ghaz and he kills 3 of the 4 marines opposing him. Great. Ghaz wins, but we are fearless so this dance party will continue.

End of Ork Turn 3

Deathwing Turn 3 - Not much maneuvering. The THSS squad near the land raider charges and wipes out the last of the burna boyz. The Vindicator in the woods, recovered from last turn, blasts the trukk into scrap, clearing a path. Everything else shoots, scores lots of hits, then I roll a ridiculous number of 1's to wound. The Lone Nob survives krak missiles, a Vindicator shot, and storm bolter fire, going to ground and hanging on for dear life.

In the epic confrontation between warlords, Ghaz issues another challenge and this time Belial accepts! Everyone goes at Initiative 1, Thunder Hammer against Power Klaw. Both score 2 hits and 2 wounds, but Belial's Storm Shield blocks both of Ghaz's hits while his blessed hammer strikes home, crushing Ghaz to the ground! Slay the Warlord - ding! The Hunt - ding! The plan worked perfectly, as after the wagon explosion and last turn's minion sacrifice, the big ork was down to only 2 wounds! Praise the Emperor!

End of Deathwing Turn 3
Ork Turn 4 - Shaken by the loss of their leader the Orks carry on. The Burna Bomma gets  a side shot on the woods Vindicator and kills it thru cumulative hull point loss. The turkk boyz prepare to face terminators up close

Deathwing Turn 4 - The land raider avenges the Vindicator by shooting down the Burna Bomma - twin linked is handy for rolling sixes. The Lone Nob survives fire from everything, including the surviving assault cannon (3 1's to wound!) and then Belial fails to charge him in assault! The other THSS squad finally moves in and assaults the trukk boyz in Soda Can Square. The nob and the sergeant kill each other in a challenge (Hammer vs. Klaw Round Two!) but the other 4 terminators absolutely crush the remaining orks, wiping the unit out and taking the objective.

End of Turn 4
We paused here and talked it over and Red conceded. I had two objectives, he had two objectives. One of his though was held by the lone nob with his one remaining wound with my warlord bearing down on him. I had 3 more VP's from First Blood, Slay the Warlord, and The Hunt. As it stood it was 9-6 in my favor. If everything went his way he might be able to make it 9-7 with a theoretical Linebreaker from his flyer. Most likely it was going to be 12-3 after I slew his Nob and he only had the one scoring unit of boyz left besides that.

Objective 3 - CLEAR!

It was a good game and went fairly quickly. I need to stop switching armies or play more often with all of them as there is always a ramp-up re-familiarization period that slows things down in the early part of the game.


For Red his his hindsight take-away was that he should have run the big mob of boyz towards Soda Can Square and parked the trukk boyz in the backfield woods objective and that might have worked out better for him. Orks have a hard time with an all-terminator army in some ways when it comes to shooting as they just do not have much AP2. Volume of fire is all they have and he just didn't have enough.

  • Losing his battlewagon and nobz turn 1 took a lot of the fight out of his force but that's just how it goes sometimes. 
  • I do agree that parking 25 slugga boyz in the back was a mistake and I reminded him that 5 out of 6 games are about objectives and only having three scoring units in a 1750 point force, especially with orks, is a very risky strategy. 
  • The SAG did almost nothing the whole game and I think 25 boyz marching forward with a KFF Mek or a weirdboy would have done more.
  • His flyers impressed me with the volume of fire they put out, but most of it is AP4 and so does little against Terminator armor. 

For myself I thought it went pretty well. I actually used a terminator squad to hold an objective the entire game and it worked just fine. Belial coming down with a shooting squad worked out, and I had enough scoring units to handle this one. I think 1750 is the beginning of the sweet spot for a Deathwing army.

  • I took THSS Belial mostly because that's how the mini I have for a warlord is set up. I am always tempted to take his sword option, but I like the mini to match and the shield has saved his bacon many times, just like it did in this battle.
  • The land raider was purely an indulgence on my part - I've had it for a while and I've never fielded it and I thought it was time. I enjoyed it and it did shoot down a bomma, but I don't know that it's really worth the points. 
  • Vindicators! I knew they were good and they have continued to perform well. Given the points they will always be a part of this army going forward.
  • I wasn't sure about using that second shooting terminator squad with the THSS sergeant and the cyclone launcher. My instincts were to go with another assault squad but I wanted to try more shooting since they are twin-linked on the deep strike turn. As it turned out I started them on the ground but their shooting helped Red decide not to charge that direction and I think they are useful enough in general to keep in the list. 
If I was playing again how would I tweak the list? The land raider is really the variable here. I could take another squad and drop it in some where, giving me more options. I could take a librarian and a bike + attack bike squad if I wanted to get some mobile melta on the board along with some psychic power and another character. I could also take a command squad, forgoing the scoring ability to bring in a banner and possibly a medic to keep Belial alive for tough challenges. 

The Lone nob is hiding next to that d6 - and Belial is coming for him...
A good time and some good stories are what I look for when I play 40K. The epic confrontation between warlords was a lot of fun, as was his lone survivor nob. Overall we had a good time for a few hours and walked away smiling which is all you can ask for. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Well it was long enough in coming, I might as well look it over. Honestly I haven't been running much ICONS lately so it wasn't a huge priority. The short version: it's pretty good, verging on to "better than I expected". It's about 100 pages long, full color, and has the same look and style as the original ICONS rule book.

The contents:

  • There is a big section up front that is basically an FAQ. It's good and does clarify a lot of things, many of them related to the DM-never-makes-a-roll concept and the qualities and challenges . A lot of them seemed fairly obvious to me but I have seen a lot of them online so maybe the concepts aren't as intuitive as they seemed to me. There is also the usual power-detail questions you get with any superhero RPG and that's not a surprise.
  • The second section is a whole bunch of variant rules mostly centered around alternate game mechanics. It's a lot like the Mastermind's Manual for M&M 2E. The Pyramid tests get a workout in this section too. It's useful and reads like practical advice based on actually running some games, not just theoretical options.
  • Third is a short section on battlesuits (using a battlesuit as one's origin and tying all powers to it) and military vehicles (stats for tanks, fighter jets, submarines, etc). It's fine.
  • There are a few pages of rules on adventuring in special environments - underwater, space, etc. The underground one had some interesting ideas which is kind of surprising considering how much of my RPG time has been spent underground. I think this kind of stuff is something most GM's would improvise and be fine but if you were planning a multi-session run or arc that dealt with being in space or underwater it can't hurt to have some more detailed guidelines in place. Plus it makes it easier to explain the challenges to your players (if they think to ask) what they are facing.
  • Sidekicks! A far more thorough treatment of the concept and mechanics than I have ever needed for any superhero game I have played or run. Clearly one of the authors likes the idea, but I have not run across anyone burning to play with a sidekick.
  • Super vehicles - this is a sort of mini-great power discussion of how the various super powers would apply to a vehicle. If you want the mechanics for vehicles themselves then you need Great Power - this is really just a discussion of the powers. It reads like the outcome of a group of experienced GM's talking through how to use the powers in the book as something built into a vehicle. Most of them are a sentence or two and are blindingly obvious if you think about the topic for ten seconds. Think I'm kidding? Example:

Wow, so this power works on vehciles in exactly the same way as it's described in the book! It's not a strong chapter at all. The best thing in it is a note on running an intelligent vehicle (think Knight Rider) using the sidekick rules presented earlier - I think that's an excellent idea and the most likely way those rules would come up in my game.

  • Next up is a chapter on bases and it's far more useful than the vehicle section. Instead of getting into a laundry list of powers it uses examples of how powers might be applied to a base. It also spends some time talking about using qualities and challenges on a base and gives more examples of those. Hey, about about some of that same discussion applied to vehicles?
  • The last section of real content in the book is by far the best - "Universe Style Play" - more about it below.
  • The book wraps up with an index that covers all 4 "core" ICONS books. Nice to have and it looks fairly complete to me.
So all of the stuff discussed in detail above is nice to have but not essential. If you're actually running a sustained campaign then I think it has quite a bit of value in solving problems and helping a GM adjust the game to the tastes of him and his group. Even if you're planning a mini-campaign I think it could add some chrome to the basic game. That said the most interesting part to me was in the Universe Style Play chapter.

One of the basic concepts is running a troupe-style game where every player has several heroes of different levels - Premier/A-Lister, Champion, Back-Up in their language. I think Superheroes is one of the best kinds of games for this kind of setup as it is completely true to the genre.This is not just a fluff discussion - there are numbers for how many of each level a player should generate, and some random charts for generating features and ties between characters. the whole chapter is a process on how to design a universe and it looks pretty solid to me. Lots of superhero games have essays on world building, very few have mechanics tied to it and this one does!

Beyond the setup this chapter also discusses the advantages of doing it this way, the "why". A lot of it revolves around being resilient in the face of player unavailability and being flexible enough to have multiple GM's taking turns running games.

There is also a discussion on setting up not to fail - things to discuss with players about assumptions and expectations of this particular campaign since supers is such a wide field. This is something you see in other super games but it's still good and focuses on practical things like niche protection too.

There is also a multi-page discussion on plotting, story arcs, pacing and it's also good stuff. 

I don't know which of the authors contributed to this section but it is the most practical advice on running a superhero campaign I have seen in a long time, maybe ever. 

I am not saying that lightly - I was prepared to hate this book given the mess surrounding it's long-delayed publication, and ICONS is not necessarily my #1 Supers RPG at this time, but this is great material.

One further note: this chapter is not ICONS-specific. There is some structure and a random chart or two but you could use this concept and process with any system. It's about building a comic-book world and running a comic-book style game, not advice on game mechanics.

It's 20 pages of great, useful stuff that actually walks you through building a world, planning out a campaign, and deciding what goes into your first session and how to follow up on them.

If someone was thinking about running a superhero campaign and asked me what one book's GMing advice should they read it would be this one, period. That's as high a praise as I can give. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Trek Tuesday - Where No Man Has Gone Before

In contrast to the big glossy production I revisited last week, there are other approaches that are worthy as well. Where No Man Has Gone Before looks to me to be an ICONS type take on a Trek RPG - not in mechanics but in staying light and loose. Here's the introductory quote from the game:

This is a game about a five year mission, a world where
special effects never progressed beyond painted
Styrofoam blocks and cheap double-exposures. The 70's
were still The Future and Klingons had smooth
foreheads. The idea of a Star Trek movie was a
laughable proposition and nobody thought twice about
planets full of Nazis and space hippies.

I'm thinking you either read that and think it sounds cool or you laugh and close the browser.

Assuming you're still reading the game can be found here. It uses the Microlite d20 system so it is broadly compatible with d20 stuff that is already out there. Significant differences:

  • You only have 4 stats: Strength, Dex, Int, and Charisma
  • There are only 3 classes: Blue Shirt, Red Shirt, and Yellow Shirt Classes are mainly a silo for Talents. There is a set of general Talents and then a list for each class. 
  • There are only 6 skills: Communication, Engineering, Knowledge, Medicine, Physical, and Subterfuge. Each character is trained in one skill.
  • Task resolution is the same as any d20 game - stat bonus + skill bonus + 1d20 vs. a DC
The Talents are great and capture the spirit of the original show perfectly and are thematically appropriate to each class. There are chapters for personal combat and starship combat that look like they would work well. There is an equipment chapter as well. Some stock NPC's and aliens, common ship designs, and lots and lots of random charts to help a DM run things on the fly. 

Notable fun-ness: The "God" section in the Enemies and Allies chapter: 
  • God, Almighty
  • God, Irritant
  • God, Metal
  • God, Petty
Plus a list of godly powers.

There is also an appendix on figuring the ratings for your series which can lead to unexpected complications like the dreaded "Monkey Sidekick". 

All of this is packed into just 45 pages! It's certainly enough to run a few one-off sessions and likely enough to run a mini-campaign. I think the limited list of enemies and ships might become restrictive over a long campaign but there is an expansion, "Controlled Implosion" which adds more goodness - and more random charts - in another 18 pages. There are also paper mini's (shown above), multiple character sheets, and a lifepath generator. It's an amazing little package.

All in all it's a very different approach to Trek than the Last Unicorn version. Where LUG Trek takes it straight and serious this is completely tongue in cheek but does have some ways to reward good setting-appropriate roleplay with Action Points and the expansion has more advice on running it straight as well. If you're at all interested it is definitely worth a look.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Motivational Monday

Wrapping up the villainous archetypes and my little CoH revisit as a whole is by far my favorite redside character type and one of my favorites in the whole game. "Controlled Chaos" was best exemplified in the game by the rare but awesome all-mastermind team where you might easily have 30+ figures running around all tied to the same team. Doctor Cerberus and his demons, Baron Metalstorm and his robots and quite a few others were always a blast. I came to them late and really really wish I had been able to enjoy more time with them. Truly I wish we'd had more time with the whole game, period.

Friday, December 6, 2013

40K Friday - Dusting off the Goffs

I run them as battlewagons because the forgeworld rules for squiggoths and giant squiggoths are just a mess,

So after all the time spent looking through, rearranging, and plotting upgrades for my space marines, both loyalist and traitor, when Blaster and I had a chance to play a game last weekend what did I take? Blood Angels? Ravenwing? Nope, I ended up running Orks.

Why would I do this? Well I did make up a list for some of the marine armies but my Dark angels are still largely in pieces as they are easier to paint that way. Same thing with my Blood Angels - bodies on bases but no arms or guns right now. I did make a decent Crimson Fists list and we may play another game this weekend (though the ice storm has probably taken care of that) but I was looking at the china cabinet/miniatures storage and realized I've barely played my Orks at all for 6th edition and I really wanted to give them a run.

Blaster has been wanting to play his Eldar lately and had a game against Red's Orks the day before and discussing the outcome of that game had me wanting to give it a try myself. So Blaster kept almost the same 1500 point list as he had used for that game while I wrote up an all-mechanized ork army. This was not particularly optimized, I just wanted to get all 4 of my "battlewagons" on the table:

1500 Pts  -   Orks Army

1 Warboss (HQ) @ 455 Pts
     'Eavy Armour; Cybork Body; Power Klaw; Shoota / Skorcha; Stikkbombz;Warlord

     9 Nobz (Troops) @ [350] Pts
          'Eavy Armour (x8); Choppa (x9); Slugga (x9)

          1 Battlewagon @ [130] Pts
               Grot Riggers; Wreckin' Ball; Big Shoota (x2); Zzap Gun

1 Big Mek (HQ) @ 125 Pts
     'Eavy Armour; #Mek's Tools; Cybork Body; Power Klaw; Kustom Force Field;Stikkbombz

19 Ork Boyz (Troops) @ 155 Pts
     Slugga (x19); Choppa (x19)

     1 Nob @ [41] Pts
          Power Klaw; Slugga

19 Ork Boyz (Troops) @ 155 Pts
     Slugga (x19); Choppa (x19)

     1 Nob @ [41] Pts
          Power Klaw; Slugga

19 Shoota Boyz (Ork Boyz) @ 114 Pts
     Shoota (x19)

1 Warbuggy (Fast Attack) @ 105 Pts
     Twin-linked Rokkit Launcha (x1); Vehicle Squadron

     1 Warbuggy #1 @ [35] Pts
          Twin-linked Rokkit Launcha (x1)

     1 Warbuggy #2 @ [35] Pts
          Twin-linked Rokkit Launcha (x1)

1 Battlewagon (Heavy Support) @ 130 Pts
     Grot Riggers; Wreckin' Ball; Big Shoota (x2); Zzap Gun

1 Battlewagon (Heavy Support) @ 130 Pts
     Grot Riggers; Wreckin' Ball; Big Shoota (x2); Zzap Gun

1 Battlewagon (Heavy Support) @ 130 Pts
     Grot Riggers; Wreckin' Ball; Big Shoota (x2); Zzap Gun

Models in Army: 77
Total Army Cost: 1499

So it's a pretty melee-heavy force. I went with the warlord + nobz because I haven't tried them in 6E before. Two mobs of sluggas because they're finished and complete. I'm experimenting with Nob loadouts but I stayed with the Klaw for now and skipped the armor. The unit of 19 shoota boyz went with the Mek. The rokkit buggies are there because they're cheap, fast, and usually pretty effective at shooting up tanks.

Blaster went with a "footdar" list which is a little weird because he has plenty of vehicles to go mobile if he chooses. he went with Asurmen and a Farseer as his HQ, 2 units of Guardians and a unit of Dire Avengers as troops, a unit of Harlequins as elites, a unit of Dark Reapers and a Wraithlord as his heavy support.

The white discs on stands are the objective markers. There are two in the ruins on the left, 2 in the woods in the center, and 2 in the open on the right.
We ended up with that still-annoying diagonal setup and the mission with 6 objectives. We did the full random setup for once and it was ... ok, if a little tedious. We prefer the  "one guy sets up, the other guy picks which side to take" approach. I ended up with setup first and move first. Warlord traits are iffy for Orks, I'm hoping their eventual new codex gives them some interesting choices. I took the "Turn 1 is nightfighting" result figuring it might protect my wagons for the opening turn. Asurmen gains 3 warlord rolls and Blaster took the incredibly annoying "re-roll saves of 1" for his special character with the 2+ armor save. Yeah, it really sucks to be on the wrong end of that, especially with Ork ballistic skill.

My goal was to grab two 3-4 point objectives and push the space elfs off of the nearest one to those to ensure a win for the greenside. I lined up and headed for the circular ruins with the 4-point objective, figured I would hold one of the wooded objectives, and kick him out of the other ruins. So I lined up like a football team on my diagonal starting line, ready to go.

Blaster's harlies and one guardian squad went for the same round-ruins objective I was eyeballing, his dark reapers and the other guardian squad went into the other ruined building - alright that just got a little tougher. His wave serpent (hauling Asurmen, the farseer, and the dire avengers) and the wraithlord went after the objective at the other end of the woods.

End of turn 1
Pushing forward, the first mob of slugga boyz ran into a harlequin buzzsaw and were wiped out in two rounds. Shooting broke the combat clowns and sent them running. The sluggas and the nobz battlewagons were both blown up (reapers, guardian platforms, the wave serpent, and the wraithlord all had some good turns here) earning first blood for the Eldar, while the big mek managed to immobilize his wagon in the woods, so he and the shootas jumped out too. They managed to blow away half of the other guardian squad when they left the safety of the red ruined building.

The impromptu Eldar death star moved into the woods to hold that objective. It didn;t stop them from shooting at things.

I think this is turn 3
The nobz and the shoota boyz went after the ruins - with the harelquins out of the way there was just a guardian squad holding them. The other unit of slugga boys went over to keep the "deathstar" busy, assisted by the buggies who were targeting the wraithlord.

Turn 4
The nobz move in and clear out the guardians, taking the big 4-point objective. The shoota boyz though are blown all over (despite the presence of the KFF) by reapers, the wave serpent, and the guardian platform in the red ruins. Blaster likes his missile launchers and they did well in this game. I lost the Mek and was down to 3 boyz by the end of this.

Over in the woods over the course of turns 3 & 4 the slugga boyz get wiped out by the combination of Asurmen and the wraithlord. They do manage to eliminate the dire avengers, so there will be no objective taken here. The wraithlord then blows up the battlewagon for good measure. Let's call it a draw...

Turn 5
On the potential last turn of the game the warboss and his few remaining nobz go to ground in the ruins to try and weather the ferocious storm of missiles from the dark reapers, especially once the Farseer starts putting "Doom" on me and "Guide" on his Reapers. The harlequins finally recover from their earlier morale failure and realize that the shoota boy remnants have moved into position to claim linebraker ...

The confrontation ...
The shootas wipe out 2 of the 3 remaining harlies. On the Eldar turn the lone battle-joker charges and ... is killed by overwatch fire from the boyz!

At the end of the turn the roll to continue is high, meaning we will go to turn 6.

As turn 6 begins the Orks stand at 4 VP's for the objective plus 1 more for linebreaker. The Eldar have 3 VP's for their objective, plus 1 for first blood. If I can just hold ...

The wave serpent jumps across the table for linebreaker. Great - we're tied.

Then a final volley of missiles from the reapers blasts into the ruins and ... finishes off my warboss. Shoot.

Eldar win 6-5 in a very bloody confrontation. At the end I have one battlewagon, 3 nobz, 3 shoota boyz, and 2 rokkit buggies left. He has Asurmen, the Farseer, a wounded wraithlord, the wave serpent, about 5 guardians, and 5 dark reapers left.

Post-Game thoughts: 

  • I immobilized the one wagon on Turn 2 when he tried to move out of the woods. I then forgot to use his grot riggers for the next 3 turns and I ended up just turning him to have better protection from the wraithlord's missile shots. He did stay alive for the whole game though.
  • Wrecking balls are useless - 2" range is just not enough to be useful. If I was going to run up and "melee" my vehicles I would use deffrollas. Zap guns did nothing the whole game. I like having some AP2 guns in the army but they just were not effective.  Next time I'm taking more big shootas, maybe one with all rokkits. 
  • Shoota boyz are great and I need more of them. I used my old 2E Kommandos for them in this game and completely forgot about their big shootas the entire game because they aren't modeled that way. I can fix that.
  • The shredding of the slugga boyz and then the shoota boyz meant that I wasn't able to go after the reapers and guardians in the red ruins. If either one of those units survives then I have a chance to take it to that firebase. 
  • The decline of the Kustom Force Field from a 4+ save to a 5+ save is significant and I'm wondering if it's truly needed anymore.
  • Doomed Nobz being fired on by Guided Dark Reapers are easy meat. I need to look into Mega nobz for next time. Or I just need to send the nobz after the reapers directly.
  • Despite mistakes and some poor decisions it all came down to the last phase of the last turn of the game which is a pretty close fight and one we were both happy to have.

    Units I already have that moved up the to-do list after this: Shoota Boyz

    Units I do not have that I think would make a difference: Nob Bikers

    It was a fun game and we're going to make it a priority again to get in more games as everyone's interest levels are back up again. Now if I could just get them to paint more...