Thursday, 29 September 2011

Victims of the cycle

The latest rumours doing the rounds of the internet are suggesting that the next 3 Warhammer army books to be re-released will be Empire, Vampire Counts and Dwarfs. I saw this at Fields of Blood, where it came from Tronhammer, where it came from Warseer. What a wonderful tangled web these things weave…

Anyway, these are a bit of a change from what I had heard previously, and its caught me by surprise. For starters, let me say straight out that Im glad the Vampires are in the list. I have stated previously that the list needed help, as of all the lists (apart perhaps from the Tomb Kings, which have already rectified), the Vampire Counts suffered with the introduction of 8th edition. They need a breath of fresh air, so the suggestion that they are on the horizon is welcome.

I am less certain about the Empire and Dwarfs. They are two of the oldest army books (the only older books are Bretonnians and Wood Elves), and they are two of the most popular in terms of collectors and the core imagery of the game. However, both army books work quite well as they currently stand. They are also both armies that I own, so I have more of a vested interest in them. Im not entirely sure that Im ready for a new book for either.

When your army book is obviously weak or unbalanced and you are consequently dissatisfied with it, it is easy to look forward to the army being re-released. You stand to lose very little, and who knows what sort of goodies will be included in the new book? As a general rule you know GW will not release a much weaker book than those around it (there have been exceptions, most notably the previous Ogre Kingdoms book), so you are almost certainly going to find the new book an improvement in terms of your armys competitiveness. 

In the past, the general rule of thumb was that each new book would be more powerful than all the ones that came before it. This “power creep” was a generally accepted phenomenon one that left players of older books frustrated and a little sad. Its possible that games designers enjoyed the fun of making a list packed with more tricks and toys than all those that came before it, however the driving force behind the pattern was most likely sales. Even with a shiny new model range, it would be difficult to push sales of the revised army if the book made it uncompetitive. On the other hand, if the army is the biggest, baddest thing on the scene, that alone will appeal to some players and will generate sales in its own right.

Thus far in 8th edition we have seen the power creep phenomenon largely arrested. Three armies have been released at the time of my writing this article, with Orcs and Goblins, Tomb Kings and Ogre Kingdoms all receiving shiny new hardback books, all of which seem to be about on a par in terms of strength. This is far preferable to the arms race we used to be faced with, and Warhammer will be the better for it if we see it continue. The fact that the new books saw a relatively minor change to Orcs and Goblins, but a huge revision for Ogres is indicative of how varied the previous lists had been.

If the current pattern we have seen so far in 8th edition continues, where each army book seems to be on a relatively even keel, it will be interesting to see what happens when we get to the stronger army books from the previous edition. If GW truly have arrested power creep, armies like Daemons potentially stand to lose out when their book gets revised. The community as a whole would love the power levels of all armies to be roughly level, however I am not so certain that the owners of these armies would be delighted to find that their new army was not as potent as the one it replaced.

Along with the new army book, each army sees a swathe of new models accompanying the release. This is normally an exciting thing for most players, as the quality of models in the game generally improves. Occasionally it can prove problematic for someone who has not yet completed his unit of older models, however with certain exceptions, the older range tends to go on sale and appear far cheaper in the second-hand markets, so its normally a win-win situation. Many of us are guilty of purchasing the new model for something we already had covered with the older range, so even players with extensive collections are not immune to the Shiny New Model Syndrome…

A new army book generally presents the player with a whole new experience using his old army. It is rare for the dynamic of the army to remain completely unchanged between books, and even rarer to see the power balance between units within the list remaining exactly as-is. Spells and magic items change, new units are added, and existing units that were considered unworthy in the previous list tend to get a boost (or a price drop) to make them tempting once more. It can almost be like collecting an entire new army, without the financial outlay and painting that that involves. A new book is a breath of fresh air, and given some books can take 5 or more years to be re-released, players are often well and truly ready when the revision arrives.
Army books come and go..

Sketchbook Adventures

I realise that most people who do serious amounts of modelling tend to sketch up their plans first. It seems to be inevitable that people who model well are also able to draw. I doubt this is a universal truth, but it seems a common thing. Anyway, I have often seen concept sketches from modellers and sculptors, both professional and otherwise. It is not something I have ever really tried, however - even as I have started to branch out and become more adventurous with my modelling and converting.

I have decided to change this. My decision is partly due to the fact that I am stuck at work for 40 hours per week, often with not a lot of work on my hands (seems to be the case at the moment, anyway). This feels like time terribly wasted when I want to be at home modelling, but that can't really be helped. Some of my wasted gaming energy has been going into this blog, which makes me feel slightly better about things. However, I recently decided that getting a sketch book and pencil might help me to plan my conversion work a little better, and therefore help me save time when I actually get to sit down at home and get to work.

It has been a really long time since I drew anything. I liked drawing when I was a boy, however I have really only picked up a pencil a handful of times since then. Since getting the sketchbook last week my efforts have been relatively limited, however I can already feel that this approach will be useful to me. Especially given my plans to use Instant Mold and basic master versions of things in order to produce a variety of parts for my Ogre unit fillers. Planning here is a worthwhile thing.
The first page in my sketchbook, which has plans for building Ogres to match the Leopard Company and Ricco's Republican Guard

Monday, 26 September 2011

Axemaster 2011 Report

As discussed in my post yesterday, Axemaster is over for another year. This means it’s time for another tournament report. Here we go…

The Tournament
Axemaster is a 2500pt tournament, making it the largest regular event in the Melbourne calendar. 2400 seems to be the new tournament standard though, so it’s not terribly different in the scheme of things. The tournament runs without restrictions on army lists, however it uses panel comp. We also played with all the rules as written in the rulebook (no tampering) – something I am a massive supporter of. I believe 8th edition works (especially with comp thrown in to prevent deliberate manipulation of perceived flaws) and I am not afraid to say so. We also tried something we had not seen done before, and declared we would be rolling for the scenario at the start of each round (again something as per the rulebook, and previously recommended by GW for tournaments). The TO retained the right to overrule the result in case something silly happened (such as if we got the same scenario 3 times in a row).

Shortly after we announced the details of the tournament this year, it became apparent to us that we had not made comp worth enough of the total marks at 30 out of 200 (or 15%). Players were talking about the filth they were going to bring, and things were clearly heading in the wrong direction. We took emergency action and doubled the value of comp up to 60 out of 230 (or 26%). This was clearly communicated and we received no complaints (it was still early days), and it appeared to have the desired effect on the armies players were fielding. To allow for the huge comp scores that were going to be added, we opted for the “comp-battle” approach, where a sixth of the player’s comp score was added each round. This was the correct decision as it meant players knew where they stood (rather than being shocked at the end) and prevented the situation where a player with moderate battle results and huge comp leapt the whole field and claimed the title (a result most would find undesirable).

My Army
I was originally going to shift away from the all-cavalry Empire army I used at Book of Grudges, however I got distracted by assembling knights in the lead-up to when we had to submit our armies. I decided I should use this energy and included said knights in my list, rather than stomping on my enthusiasm and forcing myself to work on infantry instead. The extra 250pts I had at my disposal compared to Book of Grudges and a bit of reshuffling meant I was able to add a third block of knights, this one Inner Circle with lances. They got a bonus bare-bones Captain with a great weapon to give them some more long-term grinding power. I lost my unit of Outriders, a couple of knights off each White Wolf unit, and the Standard of Discipline (which I felt slightly rude about using anyway).

I’ve posted both my list and a picture of the army before, however to save you going looking, here they are again:

Arch Lector of Sigmar Ulric @ 244.0 Pts
     General; Barding; Prayers of Sigmar; Shield; Warhorse
     The Mace of Helstrum [60.0]
     Dawn Armour [35.0]

Wizard Lord of the Amethyst Order @ 270.0 Pts
     Magic Level 4; Lore of Death; Warhorse
     Talisman of Preservation [45.0]

Captain @ 132.0 Pts
     Barding; Full Plate Armor; Battle Standard; Warhorse
     Charmed Shield [5.0]
     Talisman of Endurance [30.0]

Warrior Priest of
Sigmar Ulric@ 129.0 Pts
     Prayers of Sigmar; Great Weapon; Warhorse
     Armour of Meteoric Iron [25.0]

Captain @ 159.0 Pts
     Lance; Full Plate Armor; Shield; Pegasus
     Dragonhelm [10.0]
     Crown of Command [35.0]

Captain @ 76.0 Pts
     Barding; Great Weapon; Full Plate Armor; Warhorse

12 Knightly Orders @ 339.0 Pts
     Barding; Full Plate Armor; Great Weapons; Standard; Musician, Preceptor; Warhorse

12 Knightly Orders @ 349.0 Pts
     Barding; Full Plate Armor; Great Weapons; Standard; Musician, Preceptor; Warhorse
     Banner of the Eternal Flame [10.0]

13 Knights of the Inner Circle @ 404.0 Pts
     Barding; Lance; Full Plate Armor; Shield; Standard; Musician, Preceptor; Warhorse

Steam Tank @ 300.0 Pts

5 Pistoliers @ 97.0 Pts
     Brace of Pistols; Light Armour; Musician; Warhorse

In all but the last game, I deployed my BSB and Warrior Priest in the unit with the flaming banner, the Arch Lector and Wizard Lord in the other White Wolf unit, and the great weapon hero in the Inner Circle unit. This changed in the last game when the BSB and Warrior Priest had to join the hero in the Inner Circle knights because their regular entourage decided not to show up for the start of the game. Otherwise I was consistent in my approach.

And now we get to the games. Bear in mind that these lists are basically from memory, so may not be perfect.

Imperial Progress XIV

As promised in the previous post, here we have a few shots of the "finished" Knights Snow Leopard. In truth, they are not finished. They don't have any leopard markings on their cloaks and I have not put any freehand detailing on the banner. Both of these things looked like they would be time-consuming, and by 11pm on the night before the tournament, I decided to call it quits.
The Knights Snow Leopard, basically completed

Another Aftermath

Well, Axemaster is done and dusted for 2011. It's the last full-blown (2-day, 2000pt or more) tournament in Melbourne for the year, which means it presents the last chance for players to grab serious rankings points before the "tournament season" winds down.
The tournament in full swing
Axemaster is hosted each year by our club (Hampton Games Club) at our usual venue at the community centre. This means it was a weekend of setting up and packing up after the event, as well as playing. In the end we had 35 players, which is slightly down from last year, but still a decent field, and probably at least as strong as Book of Grudges, which boasted closer to 50.
The hall from the other end
Drew McLean was running the tournament this year, and managed to keep things ticking smoothly. We tend to rotate TO responsibilities, and Drew is one of the club stalwarts and has run a number of events in the past. In the end, the results were as follows:
Axemaster 2011 Results

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The pre-tournament push

Works in progress: Knights Snow Leopard
Axemaster is in 2 days now, so the pressure is on to make sure everything is ready. As usual, I decided to use the tournament as motivation to get something painted. It remains the single most effective way for me to paint, as it provides a sense of urgency (thus getting me to paint far more frequently than I normally do). It also gives a deadline, so I (and my wife) know that the push is for a finite period and won't go on forever...

Monday, 19 September 2011

Bretonnian Kislevites!

Over the weekend I took delivery of the converted Kislevites that Owen was working on. In the end he got them all done in a week, which was a pretty fair effort. I am more than happy with the results, and I'm looking forward to putting paint to these guys given they will form a couple of unique units with real character of their own.

Owen didn't take any more pictures of them before he handed them over, so it falls to me and my poor phone (which seems to do more work as a camera than as a phone these days)...

The first unit of converted Kislevite Kossars.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Lores of Magic: High Magic

I promised a while ago that I would go back and review the Lores of Magic contained in the various army books, as an accompaniment to the reviews Ive already done for the Lores in the rulebook. The main reason this is worthwhile is that often a mage has a choice between a race-specific Lore, or the generic ones on offer in the main rules. Over time I will cover every Lore in the game to give the reader an idea of how they stack up, and which Lore is best suited to a particular purpose.

Lores of Magic: High Magic
High Magic is used exclusively by High Elves. The Lore is contained within the High Elf army book, which was released under 7th edition, in November 2007. This makes it the 5th oldest book currently being used, so you can imagine that it wont be around forever. Regardless, the Lore is still active and thus we shall review it…

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Project: Kislev II

So, just in case you thought I had forgotten my mad ambitions to recreate the Battle at the Gates of Kislev, I figured I would show how preparations are going. It's still early days, but that doesn't mean we've been sitting idle...

In case you missed the link in my last post, Owen from Terrain for Hippos has been working on converting a couple of units of Kislevites for me, from (of all things) Bretonnian Men-at-Arms and Bowmen. The first picture below is of the prototypes, instructions for which you can see here. The rest are images he shot me over email, along with the blurb below them...
The first completed Kislevites, converted from Bretonnian peasants.
The full project, in various stages of completion.
The fully converted regiment.
The work in progress regiment, including some brutal lobotomies...
(From  Owen's email):
I have arrayed the Kislevites in two units; one featuring the first command group and all the green-stuffed troops, the other featuring the second command group and non green-stuffed troops. The concept model also makes an appearance, as do the untouched bodies.
You will note that I've managed to get a single pose old school bowman to hold an axe (two of them actually!) but it only works on one body. I've also given a guy a complete fur cloak rather than just lining. He's not very visible here. There are a few Bret shields which have proved impossible to remove, but they're on command group models, so I'm sure you can just make them part of their finery. Also found out that bowmen have plenty of shields on them, and men at arms have none, apart from the command sprue figures!
As you can see, they're coming along nicely. Much (if not all) of this has been done in the last few days, and he'd probably be close to done if it hadn't run out of crucial components (I shall rectify this on the weekend). Once completed, these guys will be manning the walls of Kislev alongside their Dwarf allies, preparing to sally forth when the cavalry arrives.

I have also been working, although my focus has been slightly tempered by my involvement in Axemaster in just over a week. I need 14 knights and a hero painted by then, and the guys below will cover that. They've got paint on their bases and their steel is done, so they're well on their way...
18 Knights Snow Leopard, along with the Grand Master who will be the Captain in their midst at Axemaster.
Another shot of the Grand Master. I put him on a rock to help him stand out a little from his comrades.
Once these guys are done, I will probably make a point of going back and adding cloaks to/painting the other 21 of them. Then I can get back to my Ogres. After all, I am going to want some Kislevite Ogres to pad out those Kossars...

Below we have the current proposed table layout for the game itself, as well as some of the game details. Obviously it's all in the planning stage right now. Click on the map for a larger version you can actually read.
The Battlefield
The Battle at the Gates of Kislev takes place on a cross-shaped table. The centre of the cross is a 6x4 foot table, with the long edges facing North and South. Each side of the cross is then extended by 2 feet, giving you a table 10 feet wide (East-West) and 8 feet long (North-South), with the corners missing.

A castle wall (representing the wall of the city of Kislev) is placed on the North arm of the table, with the front of the wall 12” from the join with the centre of the cross. A gatehouse (preferably a large, impressive one) should be placed as close to the centre of the wall as possible.

The battlefield is fought out on a plain in front of the city gates. The only hill on the battlefield is the Hill of Heroes, placed on the South arm of the table. The hill should not be so large that it enters the centre of the cross. You may place some forests if you wish, most likely in the corners of the East, West and South arms of the table.

Deployment is as follows:
1. The Kislev Defenders are deployed on and behind the walls of the city, on the North arm of the table.
2. The Chaos armies are deployed anywhere on the centre of the cross, at least 12” from each of the enemy deployment zones as shown in the diagram below.
3. The Empire Infantry and Dwarfs are deployed on the South and West arms of the cross respectively, at least 12” away from the Chaos deployment zone.

Note that the Empire Cavalry do not begin the battle on the table.

First Turn
The Forces of Good have the first turn.

And finally, we have a number of the personalities involved in the battle. Note that these are all rules I have made up. The points values will be irrelevant (they're mainly for my reference to ensure some level of balance), and these characters are not meant to be balanced for general play. Some are based on existing special characters. Others are completely made up...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Imperial Progress XIII

Well Axemaster is less than 2 weeks away now, so I have had to submit my army list. Originally I was intending to try to get a large regiment of Halberdiers ready and shift away from the all-cavalry plan I used at Book of Grudges. However, my progress on my Ogre unit fillers was slightly slower than planned, and I got distracted by assembling knights after talking about my scheming for the Battle at the Gates of Kislev. So I took the easy way out and decided I would use another all-cavalry list, incorporating some of the knights I was putting together.

In keeping with the white furry theme of the Knights of the White Wolf, I had already decided that this regiment of knights would be Knights Snow Leopard (white Knights Panther). As such, I want a furry cloak on every model. This presents a logistical problem, as you only get 2 panther cloaks per box of 8 knights, and I have already poached some for my White Wolves. Even if I did have enough, 40 identical cloaks would get a bit samey.

As discussed previously, I decided to make my own cloaks. I sculpted the majority of the cloak myself, although I cheated the head from an old metal Knight Panther. It didn't come out perfectly, but I'm satisfied anyway.
The master cloak, and one of the moulds I made from it.
How my version compares to the one and only plastic version.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill (Part 6: Wrapping it up)

There are a number of topics I thought I should cover in this series, but which I am yet to get to. This is partly because I started grouping the items together, and these are the things that got left behind. I figured that rather than leaving these things out, I would lump them all together at the end in order to wrap things up.

I have mentioned on the new navigation page for this series of articles that I may revisit this subject, in order to address specific topics in more detail rather than covering the entirety of the game with a broad brush (as I have done thus far).

Magical management
It is well documented that 8th edition has seen the introduction (or in many cases, the reintroduction) of some extremely dangerous spells. Spells like Purple Sun of Xereus offer the potential to cripple units that are vulnerable due to certain low characteristics. There are spells that pose a significant threat to characters, sometimes in addition to knocking a sizeable chunk out of their bodyguard unit (The Dwellers Below being the most obvious example). The addition of these “game over” spells has arguably made the management of magic more important than ever before.

I should point out at this point that it has always been possible for a well-timed spell to decide a game. In recent times, the game-winning spells went about their business more subtly than the current range of “super spells”. Dwellers is a blunt instrument that will often remove half a unit, hopefully throwing a key character or two into the bargain. Anyone who has read the spell can see the danger (although this obviously doesn’t guarantee protection against it). In the past, the main offenders were more commonly a Vanhel’s Danse Macabre or an Incantation of Urgency, which enabled an otherwise impossible flank charge and thus decided the game. The spell might not be as dramatic, but the outcome was probably more certain. Spells like Infernal Gateway and Curse of the Horned Rat were also present in 7th edition, but given these are race-specific spells, they are admittedly not as prevalent as those that come from the common Lores of Magic.

Regardless of whether you believe that magic is more powerful than it was previously, the truth of the matter is that management of the magic phase has always been a critical element of the game. This is true whether you have a powerful wizard with earth-shattering spells, or an army with no magical ability whatsoever. How you handle your opponent’s magic is just as important as what you do with your own.

The Magic Phase is unique in the game of Warhammer, in that it is the one time when you have the option of directly interfering with the actions of your opponent. When he aims a cannon at you, all you can do is hope it doesn’t hurt. However, when he lines you up with a fireball, you can take the same approach, or you can attempt to stop the spell from happening. This is part of what makes magic the most fickle of mistresses in the game, and why basing an army around a plan involving magic can be fraught with risk.

There is something of an art form to properly controlling the magic phase, and there are considerations to make for both the attacker and the defender.

For the attacking player, the Magic Phase is a balancing act of trying to drain an opponent’s dispel pool, sliding relatively innocuous spells through unopposed, and using brute force to get the really powerful stuff through his defences. The attacker needs to prioritise his spells and decide on the best way to get each one through before rolling the dice.

In the previous edition of Warhammer, a player could largely plan out his magic phase in advance. You knew exactly how many power dice you would have at your disposal, and how many dispel dice your opponent would be holding. This meant that, all things being equal, you might potentially approach every magic phase of the game in the exact same way.

8th edition Warhammer is different. You don’t know how many power dice you will have until you have rolled the 2D6 for the Winds of Magic. The potential for results anywhere between 2 and 12 will mean any two Magic Phases can pan out very differently. In the same way, you don’t know exactly how many dispel dice your opponent is going to be holding. In essence, unless you have a bundle of items guaranteed to add power dice to your pool, you don’t know how dominant a position you will be in until the dice have been rolled.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Imperial Progress XII

I have continued to be somewhat distracted from my Ogres recently. To be honest, these knights have really caught my attention for some reason.
The Knights Soon To Be Panther (or Snow Leopard, in this case)
Anyway, as you can see they are nearing completion (assembly-wise). All that they need now are cloaks. I feel they should all have cloaks, as it helps to unify them and will add some much-needed white to tie them in with the rest of my army. Unfortunately, the cloaks are likely to slow me down a bit. I don't have 36 spare Knight Panther cloaks (the other 4 are old metal models with their own cloaks). In fact, I only have maybe a dozen. And when I look at them, I don't really like them that much anyway. So I have decided to improvise.
My first attempt at a master Panther cloak. We shall see how it pans out.
The plan is to create a flat master that I am happy with, then create a mould for it. I will use green stuff rather than Magic Sculp for the copies, because I intend to pull them out before the putty hardens, drape them over the knights, and adjust as I see fit. No doubt there are plenty of things that can go wrong with this plan (like me handling the unset putty like the simpleton oaf that I am, and thus obscuring all the detail). Still, I need a plan of some sort, so this is what I'm going with.

I have copied one of the old metal panther heads, which I will attach to the master cloak. I want it sitting over the knight's shoulder. I will let it all harden before I try to attach it.

There is lots that can go wrong with this plan and I should really have done it before attaching the shields to the knights, however I'm still hopeful at this point...

On another note, Happy 20th Birthday to the humble Empire armoured horse. Still going strong despite being older than a lot of the gamers that use it. Please GW, give us some new Knight models. With new horses.
The Empire Armoured Horse. 20 years young...