Friday, February 16, 2018

Khorne Campaigns: World Eaters vs More Eldar!

After the last encounter with the eldar one of my main conclusions was that I needed more firepower. I considered havocs and predators and all the usual sources but I wanted to try something different - so I basically upgraded the rhinos to land raiders.

++ Battalion Detachment +3CP (Chaos - Chaos Space Marines) [47 PL, 848pts] ++

+ Flyer [10 PL, 185pts] +

Heldrake [10 PL, 185pts]: Baleflamer [30pts], Heldrake claws [17pts], Mark of Khorne

+ No Force Org Slot +

Legion: World Eaters

+ HQ [10 PL, 165pts] +

Dark Apostle [5 PL, 83pts]: Mark of Khorne, Plasma pistol [7pts], Power maul [4pts], The Black Mace

Exalted Champion [5 PL, 82pts]: Brass Collar of Borghaster, Mark of Khorne, Plasma pistol [7pts], Power axe [5pts]

+ Troops [27 PL, 498pts] +

Khorne Berzerkers [9 PL, 166pts]
. Berzerker Champion [35pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts], Power fist [12pts]
. 5x Chainsword and Chainaxe [85pts]: 5x Chainaxe [5pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]

Khorne Berzerkers [9 PL, 166pts]
. Berzerker Champion [35pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts], Power fist [12pts]
. 5x Chainsword and Chainaxe [85pts]: 5x Chainaxe [5pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]

Khorne Berzerkers [9 PL, 166pts]
. Berzerker Champion [35pts]: Plasma pistol [7pts], Power fist [12pts]
. 5x Chainsword and Chainaxe [85pts]: 5x Chainaxe [5pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]
. Chainsword and plasma pistol [23pts]: Chainsword, Plasma pistol [7pts]

++ Spearhead Detachment +1CP (Chaos - Chaos Space Marines) [62 PL, 1152pts] ++

+ No Force Org Slot +

Legion: World Eaters

+ Heavy Support [57 PL, 1074pts] +

Chaos Land Raider [19 PL, 358pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Mark of Khorne, Twin heavy bolter [17pts], 2x Twin lascannon [100pts]

Chaos Land Raider [19 PL, 358pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Mark of Khorne, Twin heavy bolter [17pts], 2x Twin lascannon [100pts]

Chaos Land Raider [19 PL, 358pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Mark of Khorne, Twin heavy bolter [17pts], 2x Twin lascannon [100pts]

+ HQ [5 PL, 78pts] +

Warpsmith [5 PL, 78pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Flamer [9pts], Mark of Khorne, Meltagun [17pts], Power axe [5pts]

++ Total: [109 PL, 2000pts] ++

So - no juggerlord, no daemon prince, no helbrutes but I do have firepower! I kept the Heldrake around for a second chance too.

Blaster took his usual force which you can see here and we played the same mission as well - "Dominate and Destroy" - involving objective-holding and kill points.

I started with 4 things on the table - 3 land raiders and a heldrake ... if only we were still using that fewest-drops-equals-first-turn rule. I still won first turn. My big tanks rolled up the table and started blasting away, while the heldrake did his usual thing too ...

... and you can see how it goes. He flies up, flame-breaths a guardian unit, then charges it, and the few survivors end up fleeing due to morale - awesome! Except that now he's in range of every gun in the eldar army and he's going to pay.

On the Eldar turn they kill the Heldrake, put some hurt on the big tanks, and drop these guys in behind me. The other thing I was concerned about from my last battle was the lack of objective holders. I knew I was doubling-down on offense with this army list, but it really hurt me here.

This shot above is actually from Turn 2 where I have managed to tear up the wraithguard and some of his other troops but it's not going to be enough.

By turn 3 two of the land raiders are gone, the berzerkers are exposed and my chances of winning are just about gone. Over on that left side I did manage to kill his wraithlord but he had killed enough zerks that it was going to be tough to get through his guardians and his jetbikes and the farseer and the spiritseer that were all sitting on that objective.

Then on turn 4 his Fire Prism and brightlance-armed Wave Serpent and his Dark Reapers managed to kill the third Land Raider and I conceded. The first 2 squads were mostly gone and there was nothing in charge range of the intact but now on foot 3rd squad. I was going to spend Turn 5 eating scatter laser and bright lace fire and there was no need to go through that exercise again.

So why are we failing here?

  • The board configuration is the toughest one for an assault army fighting a shooting army as the traditional setup has a 12" backfield while this one has 24". That means it takes me an extra turn to get to him (at least). That's a killer. With the Land Raider moving 10" instead of the Rhino's 12" I'm trading some speed for firepower and this setup only makes it worse. Advancing means I'm giving up 12 lascannon shots and 18 heavy bolter shots so that doesn't seem like a good idea. 
  • Only 4 maneuver units for probably half the game means I have limited board control. I can't hold objectives until the marines jump out and even that assumes the tanks are still in some kind of fighting shape. Even if things are dying a squad of cultists could have been racking up points in the backfield in those first couple of turns. 
  • The Heldrake is 185 points of one-turn-glory and then it dies, and I don't think it's soaking up enough firepower to really help my tanks (or my Rhinos) survive. The board wasn't helping here either as even with a 30" flying move, an 18" breath weapon, and a 2d6 charge range, there was really only one unit he could get to on Turn 1. If he could hit a Dark Reaper squad he would make a much bigger difference, but on this type of board I think a helbrute would have contributed more.
  • Tactics - I spread out across the whole board and I probably should have concentrated on one side to cut down on the number of units that could shoot at me. Eldar heavy weapons all have a 36" range or more but it might have cut out some of the shuriken weapons and their annoying bladestorm effect at least. 
  • Lack of speed is a problem, aside from everything else. What if I had dropped in a terminator squad somewhere near the Heldrake? Maybe some Obliterators? I need to create some threats on his end of the board, more than just a single unit.

So while I like the Land Raiders taking 3 of them leaves me no real flexibility. One or two of them might work and would free up enough points to add in some deep strikers and some other fire support. 

Logically it would make more sense to take the fire support elements from my Iron Warriors. they're better at shooting, already painted, and this would also open up the option of some psyker support too. There are quite a few places where Warptime would make this army better.

My other inclination is to go Maximum Khorne and get a Lord of Skulls. He's big, he has big guns, and he leaves room for some other things - like juggerlords - as well. 

We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The New Game for 2018

More than a year back I ran through all of the miniature games I was looking into and trying to find time to play. Well, a lot of those candidates fizzled out given our limited time and my reluctance to dive too deeply in unless at least one of the Apprentices was excited about it. As far as that 2016 list goes:

  • Bolt Action - they went to a second edition and my interest cooled because it seemed like everything else was going to new editions too and there's only so much money to spend. I really should have a decent set of WW2 miniatures by now given my interests but it just hasn't happened. Maybe next year.
  • Dropzone Commander - it seemed like a great replacement for Epic but the Apprentices were not super excited and then the creators seemed to get really caught up in their Dropship Commander Kickstarter and development and now they've sold their company off to another company ... call me when you get around to releasing second edition.
  • Frostgrave - we've played a few games of this and we like it so it will likely get played a few times this year too. It's an easy game to have "on the list" without buying a bunch of expensive books and huge armies. 
  • Flames of War - looked at the new edition, decided to skip it since their own fans seem to hate it. 
  • Kings of War - we liked it, played it quite a bit for a while, then once 40K 8th edition came out it's been gathering dust. I think we may be giving it another try soon though.
  • X-Wing - I bought the kids (and myself) a bunch of ships for Xmas 2016 and ... no one wanted to play it. As teenagers I know my friends and I would have killed for a game like this but for whatever reason it's just not anything they really care about. I haven't bought a ship for it since, nor have we played it in more than a year now. 
The latecomer: Armada. I talked about it here and while we haven't played it a ton it's the one Star Wars game that Blaster at least is interested in playing again. I picked up some more ships for it not too long ago and we're trying to find a place to give it the first run of this year.

Lately thought I was feeling a lack of fantasy gaming and I kept hearing good things about Shadespire. 

It's a skirmish sized game where you have a band of 3-5 characters from a particular force that fight it out on a tactical map. The characters are pre-set per band, but you have cards that let you customize everything from gear to objectives. It can be anywhere from 1 on 1 to a 4-way free for all and sounded fairly interesting as it plays really fast too - less than an hour is what I keep hearing. 

The base game comes with Sigmarites (the gold armored posterboys of Age of Sigmar) vs Khorne Blood-somethings - basically barbarians or chaos marauders. There are expansion sets now for orcs and undead. Sounds cool, and you can pick up the whole thing for about $100. 

Then I started looking around. I had picked up the General's Handbook for AoS a while back and was really impressed with what it did for that game. Maybe fantasy is the right answer, but not in the limited-and-somewhat-close-to-an-RPG form that is Shadespire.

I can get the starter set for Age of Sigmar, the big original one, for about the same amount. It has a good chunk of two fantasy armies in it. I'm a lot more friendly to the rules now after playing 40K 8th. Finally, I am busily building up my daemon armies for 40K and they are completely usable in AoS with no changes at all! With our leftover High Elf, Greenskin, and Chaos Warrior armies from Warhammer and Kings of War, plus my daemon forces, plus Apprentice Red's Wood Elves, plus what comes in the box, we could have 6-7-8 armies right now using a similar set of rules to 40K and using terrain we already have! 

So, Shadespire is sitting down for now and somewhat to my surprise we are moving into Age of Sigmar in a big way. I don't expect it to replace 40K but I expect it to jump to the #2 spot pretty quickly.

I know we only have a limited amount of time to play these thigns. I also would rather spend a big chunk of the budget diving deeply into one good game than spending a little on half a dozen games we play once or never play at all, so I try to pick one main game to dive into for the year - especially when it comes to miniatures. This year it's AoS. 

More to come, for sure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

40K Catchup for February

Somewhere along the way 2018 has turned into the year of the new army.

I spent 2016 focused on my Eldar and getting them shaped into a decent, usable force and I was happy with the result.

It seemed like a good approach so I spent 2017 building up my Chaos armies, mainly my Iron Warriors, and I was pretty happy with the results there too even if I was a little less focused than before.

For 2018 I was thinking I would focus on my two "angel marine" armies, the Blood Angels and Dark Angels, especially since they both received a codex in December. Somehow, that has not happened.

For one, I just can't seem to shake the interest in the Chaos armies. I got distracted with World Eaters over the holidays. I played a series of battles with them and got sucked into trying to refine my force into something really nasty. I'm a little better now but I am still spending time on them each week refiguring the force. More on them Friday!

Chaos-wise I also checked back into my Death Guard army which had kind of been shelved for a while now. I took a fresh look at them, realized how much I had for them, put together some new army lists for them and started figuring out how I want to make them different than my other chaos marine forces. I haven't gone on a big acquisitions or painting binge for them just yet but it's close.

I still have Iron Warriors work to do but that's just production stuff at this point - I know what I want them to do, I just need to get them painted.

The first big new army thing that popped up was Chaos Daemons. I had been putting together demon forces all last year when I saw opportunities, but I had not really tried to play them with the index. I had a collection of stuff for each of the four powers but I had decided not to dig in too far until the codex was released. Well it was released in January and I really like what I see. I'm starting with my Khorne nasties and a side order of Nurgle and I'm sure the others will inevitably follow since I am clearly not good at limiting myself in this area. They will probably get their first run against one of the other new armies we've developed. Imperial Guard!

We've been toying with a guard army since 6th edition - Blaster and I - and it looks like this is finally the year we get it together, painted, and on the table. It's possible to do an all-tank army with guard (including HQs!) and that's our goal. We will mix in a few infantry squads here and there just because it's smart to get those Command Points, and psyker power is always nice to have too, but the focus is on tanks tanks tanks. We have around 10-12 right now and I'd like to run that up to around 15-16 plus a super heavy. Because we can. This is a "shared" army that I figure we will take turns playing as the mood strikes us.

Blaster has also been struck by the need for a new army of his own. He's very happy with his Eldar force (and he should be, grumble grumble) but with his Space Wolves still lacking a codex he's feeling a lack of power armor, especially with all the shiny new stuff out there. So he's building a Primaris army. An Ultramarines Primaris army.

He has a pretty good force of them already - beware your kids getting jobs, all of a sudden they don't need you as a gatekeeper on their toy soldiers - and he's ready to use them before he paints them. So, it looks like I'll be fighting Guilleman pretty soon. I'll let y'all know how that goes.

The final new army for me for now is a somewhat unexpected one - Grey Knights. I've known about them since the Rogue Trader metal mini's, but never picked any of those up. When their 5th edition book came out and they got all new plastic miniatures I thought they looked really really good but for whatever reason I did not feel like I needed to own or play them. With the coming of 8th edition I decided to pick up all of the codexes as they were released to keep up with the entire game and not just the armies I do play. So one day I sat down to read the Grey Knights book and the fluff totally grabbed me. It's really good! I mean really really good! And I say that as someone who has read a lot of 40K stuff over the years and isn't always impressed with it.

So I figured "well it's an elite army - I could pick up a few boxes and paint them all myself."

That's not happening.

For whatever reason, the GK's are pretty easily found in a decently painted form all over the place. They also have a pretty standard paint scheme of shiny silver with accents of white and red. So ... when a decently painted unit is available for the same or less (or quite a bit less) than an unbuilt and unpainted box of the same unit ... well it's an easy choice. One factor may be that since they are not perceived as a top competitive tournament army people are letting them go a little easier but I'm not planning to take them to a tournament so it works for me regardless. In fact this may be the first army I field that is entirely unpainted by me,other than some touch-ups here and there. I'll probably end up fighting orks or eldar or primaris marines since I'm the main chaos player here but I am looking forward to it regardless.

I'm also going to use these shiny Paladins of the 40K universe to try and drag in Paladin Steve and his kiddo to join in some of our games. Now if I can just get him to read the fluff ...

The immediate future with the newest codexes:

  • Custodes are out but I'm not jumping onto them - at least not until I finish my Grey Knight buildup!
  • Thousand Sons are cool but I don't think I need another Chaos Marine chapter right now. 
  • Necrons are coming - Red will be pleased!
  • Tau are coming - an army none of us have but one of Blaster's friends plays them. We'll see how that goes.
  • Dark Eldar are coming too. I have a force, I've played it a few times. Who knows, I might be ready to dive into them by the time the book arrives. Or I may still be painting Daemons.

That's about it for now. World Eater talk on Friday!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Four Years of Kingmaker

This month marks the 4-year anniversary of my friend Paladin Steve's Pathfinder game using the Kingmaker AP. The plan was to play once a month and yesterday was Session 39 so we haven't missed too many sessions over that time. I don't post much about it here - since I'm not running it I feel like it's not my story to tell, but since it is the only campaign where I am a player I will share some thoughts.

First, it's the only Pathfinder thing I am doing right now and has been for about a year. With a month between sessions and the occasional missed session the rules do get rusty. In an attempt to help with this I bought the "Pathfinder Rules Reference Flash Cards" and keep them in the bag I take to the game.

These are pretty solid and each one covers a specific topic. I'm playing a cavalier so it's handy to have the "Mounted Combat" rules in front of me, occasionally the Bull Rush or Grappling rules come up too, the Dying condition, etc. One of the issues is "Edition Bleed" - we've migrated from 3.0 to 3.5 to 4E to 5E all over the last decade so sometimes a situation comes up and the default tends to be what was last encountered in play rather than what did we read about it in this particular rulebook. It happens in 40K too, so it's not unique to D&D type RPGs. As an example just yesterday we had one player insisting that constructs were immune to critical hits. I was pretty sure that was not the case in Pathfinder and that he was remembering 3E D&D so we had to make some knowledge checks and eventually look it up. I assume stuff like this would be much less frequent if we played the game more often but then again, the player who brought this up plays in another PF game and even cited that in the discussion and yet he was still confused - so who knows?

Character-wise I'm playing a Human (Taldoran) Cavalier and we're up to 8th level. Progress is slower when you only go once a month but we don't really mind because there's some re-learning of the character when we sit down to play after a month gap anyway! I have a warhorse that is similar to a druid's animal companion in some ways so he gets better as we get better too. If nothing else this means I don't have to go find a new horse every time we get fireballed which is nice. He has his own character sheet and all that so I can pull off some fun horse tricks when needed.

If I'm being honest here the cavalier is a fairly limited class mechanically. You don't get a bunch of unique things to do - the companion horse thing is about it - you mainly get some numerical bonuses when on horseback. So I hit harder on horseback and can move around more when I charge something, but it's mostly a Bigger Numbers thing, not a Cool Things You Can Do kind of class. Then of course when I'm not on the horse the numbers go down a little and I'm pretty much a fighter with fewer feats.  I'm usually OK with this as when I am on the horse and I get a chance to charge and I have a lance and I do hit my target I am the nuclear missile of the campaign doing ridiculous amounts of damage and annihilating all but the toughest targets. Honestly a lot of Pathfinder classes are like this so it's just part of the deal.

Kingmaker is a great place to play a cavalier - lots of cross-country travel and outdoor encounters mean I am on horseback quite a bit. There are some dungeons though and the dismounted cavalier is a competent if slightly less explodey combatant.

As far as the campaign goes I'd say it's a unique experience - even at low levels there's a strategic part of the game where the party is building a kingdom and while it can get a little tedious to work through that sub-system at times it is a thing you do not see in low-level games at all, really, even in the old days. We've had some mass combat too, a system I was already familiar with from my Wrath of the Righteous game. I still like it as it's not all that complex but still feels different than normal combat and at least puts some kind of playable system around it instead of just hand-waving the larger conflict around the PC's. I won't say it's perfect but they're completely playable and both of these sub-systems make you think about the campaign in a different way than just bashing monsters for the greater good.

The traditional part of the campaign is excellent too so far. It's not just "hey there's a ruined keep over there" but it's all built around hexcrawling and exploration. The players choose where they're going and then deal with what they find as they find it. We've found traditional enemies, allies, wandering NPC's, recurring opponents, native populations ranging from kobolds to various faeries, and interesting terrain features too. We've made deals, signed treaties, avenged wrongs, and hung bandits. The fact that you're not working for the local government, you ARE the local government, puts a very different feel on these things.

Overall I'd say it's a great campaign. It is literally a sandbox campaign so you can do what you want with it as both DM and players. There are different things you can emphasize in different amounts as a DM to make it better fit your party. Players will inevitably show more interest in some elements than in others.  Steve works hard to make sure the NPC's are memorable and have their own agendas to a degree and he does a great job. He's also worked in some other Paizo adventures that fit the campaign. I am not seeing the seams so I'd say he's doing a good job there too. I think we're somewhere in the 3rd book out of the six, maybe the 4th, and I don't care because we're not on some heavily plotted timeline - we're building a kingdom, making allies, planning for the future, and dealing with various threats as they arise. Sounds exactly like what I was hoping for when we started this campaign.