Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mordheim Season 3, the penultimate chapter.

The second to last game of our Mordheim campaign saw everyone making a dash for the entrance to the ruins inhabited by the evil necromancer. All six played were present for this, and it was gong to be a bit of a scrap as we were all trying to get to the same place.  There were some wandering monsters on the board as well.  This consisted of 6 wandering dryad, a couple of animated suits of armour guarding the portal and a wandering tree spirit.  The dryads were going to be fairly tough, as were the suits of armour, but the tree spirit was going to be the toughie, as it had 10 wounds.
Ian won the last game so got to choose his deployment and got a free move before we started, all very welcome to his short legged Dwarf's.  The rest of us were deployed randomly, with my Undead and Dave's Marienburgers coming off worst, being deployed at the far end of the six foot table, with every other warband in between.
Early game saw everyone make a dash for the portal, with very little intention of fighting each other until they really had to.  The dwarfs encountered a dryad, which they finished off with no problems, as did the Skaven and the Protectorate of Sigmar. My Undead also encountered one and I decided that Dire Wolves should be able to handle it. Fetch! shouted the Vampire and off the dogs went. Unfortunately they fluffed it and were both taken out of action for their troubles, leaving the Vampire to go and sort things out. 
Elsewhere on the table the Skaven had finally caught up with the Protectorate of Sigmar and given them a good going over, forcing them to abandon the race for the portal. Everyone else was racing for the portal.
Mid game saw an almighty scrap break out in front of the portal as both the Skaven and the Dwarf's tried to force their way through the defenders, and each other.  Casualties were heavy on all sides.
When the Undead and the Witch hunters broke cover in the middle of the board the Undead decided to take a few pot shots at the witch hunters pet Halfling, annoyed at the sniping that they have had to endure at the hands of the annoying so and so for the last few games.  Miffed by this the Witch Hunters decided to about turn and attack the undead. In the ensuing fight a couple of undead were felled but a larger number of witch hunters went down, forcing them to withdraw.
The undead then decided to let the fight at the portal run its course and went after the Marienburgers as they had also decided that it might be fin to take some shots at the Undead.  The undead managed to see of the Marienburgers but not before suffering another casualty, enough to push them over their break value and forcing tests.
At the portal the fight had finished, with the Skaven fleeing the field after some very heavy casualties and the dwarfs forcing their way through the portal, leaving one of their number to his fate at the hands of the big sentient tree.  This left my undead on the field by themselves and they decided to have a bash at the tree, as it was almost down to its last few wounds. I just needed to get across the table without failing a break test. In typical fashion I had a great run of passed tests, making it to within charge range of the big tree, and just before I got to launch my assault I failed my test, fleeing the field.
So not a bad game, with my undead seeing of two enemy warbands. I lost a dire wolf and the Necromancer in this engagement, probably finished of by the vampire due to his failure to do anything even remotely useful for the whole campaign.  He really has been absolutely useless, failing to cast a single spell since about game 4.
I hired another necromancer, and another zombie to bring my number back up to 15. This time the necromancer has the re-animate spell, which allows him to summon zombies back into the game once they have gone out of action.  Considering the zombies are so slow they hardily ever see any action I don't anticipate getting much more use out of this necromancer either.  The undead spells in Mordheim really are pretty useless.
With the campaign running down I have decided to forgo the option to raid anyone so we can go straight to the final chapter, and currently my money is on the dwarf's to take the final game.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Isen Fords

I haven played any games of GW's excellent Lord of the Rings skirmish game recently, so a few of us got together and played out the first Isen Fords scenario on Monday night.

We actually managed a pretty accurate result, with the Fords holding (just!) but Theodred having his head caved in by a Troll.  The game was a draw, and a lot of fun.   Rohan had some terrible luck though, with their reinforcements arriving very late.
Both sides deployed.

The thin green line.

Death to the straw heads!

Battle is joined.

The fords are holding, just.

The cavalry arrive (mote Theodred has been skulking at the back the whole time, coward).

Isengard nearly force the ford.

Cavalry bolster the defence. Drat!

Theodred meets his end at the hands of the Troll.

Erkenbrand also comes a cropper.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

9th Age, Game 3.

The latest game of 9th Age. 4500 points Dread Elves vs Empire.  Despite the best efforts of my dice I managed to pull of a win, although Andrew was fielding an experimental army that I don't think was as strong as his usual selection.  I removed the Corsairs, except to proxy for other models, and added in a large unit of Executioners. It made a big difference to how the Dread Elves performed. The spearmen are a big improvement over Corsairs, and I don't think the Corsairs will make it back into my list until they do something to make them a bit more interesting.  Also the fist use of my new mat, which enhanced the look of the game a lot. 

The Battlefield

Empire Deployment

Elf Deployment

Witch Elves about to get run over by Steam Tank

End of Game

Final Dice roll, Andy thought he had escaped with a double 6 flee move.  Double 6 pursuit move from me means no more good luck fro the rest of the year!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

9th Age

This Monday saw another attempt at 9th Age, the fan based set of rules based on the now defunct Warhammer fantasy battle 8th Edition.  We played 4500points, with Andy bringing his Empire and myself choosing to field my Dark Dread Elves.

My army consisted of:

21 Witch Elves
21 Corsairs
10 Executioners
20 Crossbows
2 Bolt Throwers
5 Dark Riders
5 Shades
10 Cold One Knights
10 Dancers of Yema

Andy brought:

30 Halberdiers
20 Spearmen
20 Spearmen
10 Knights
4 Griffon Riders
15 Imperial Guard
12 Crossbows
12 Crossbows
10 Archers
1 Wizards Wagon.
1 units of 5 fast cavalry.
Empire Right Flank

Empire Left Flank

The main difference this time was that I opted to give magic another try, so went all in and brought a wizard lord with some nice upgrades, and Andy opted not to bring any artillery.
The game started in the usual way, with Andy opting to deploy his army as quickly as possible to ensure he got the first turn. I was happy for this as there was no artillery to worry about.
Early game saw the Empire advance, while throwing their fast cavalry down the throat of the Dark Elves, hoping to stop their bolt throwers. This worked quite well, with fast cavalry destroying one bolt thrower, which handily caused the nearby unit of Crossbows containing the wizard lord to panic and start to head towards the nearest table edge. 

Run Away!
Thankfully the next turn they rallied, but that was them out of action for a turn.  The dark elves decided to just get stuck in and the Witch Elves and Corsairs both charged into a unit of spearmen each. The Witch Elves managed to inflict a lot of casualties on their opponent and in a total fluke the unit decided to break and flee, with the Witch Elves in hot pursuit. The Corsairs were not so lucky, and fluffed their attacks, with the Spearmen holding as a result.  On the left flank the suicidal executioners had set up in front of the empire knights, in the vain hope that they kill a character or two before they were trampled underfoot. On the right flank the Cold One Knights advanced, trying to set up the charge into the Empire Griffon Riders.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Dark Dread Elves get a kicking
Alas the executioners were trampled underfoot, narrowly missing getting the kill on the Empire Priest hiding in the unit. The Knights then overran into the flank of the beleaguered Corsairs and in the ensuing combat the Corsairs were demolished and then promptly broke. Luckily they managed to outrun their pursuers, who were brought up short by another unit being in their way.  The Witch Elves charged into one unit of Empire Crossbows, wiping them out and overrunning into the flank of the second one.  The Cold One knight finally got the charge into the Griffon Knights, falling one wound short of wiping them out, but instead having to satisfy themselves with watching the remaining one flee from the table.
In the final turns of the game the Empire continued to mop up the Dark Elves, with the Empire Knights finally finishing the job on the Corsairs, including their general.  We pretty much called it there as there was no way my remaining troops would be able to survive against the remaining empire army.
So another disaster for the Dread Elves, but some interesting things learned.

Magic is still highly overrated, with the wizard costing nearly 500 points and achieving nothing.  The 9th age seems to be all about removing the random aspect of the game, apart from with magic which remains hopelessly random and now they also severely lowered the power level of a lot of the spells as well.  Wizards are definitely not worth it and mine shall be remaining in their box until some changes are made for the better.

Shooting also appears to be a bit pointless. The Dread Elf crossbows cost a lot of points and achieved nothing, again. I think the points would have been better spent on a combat unit instead.

If you have a character that can cast bound spells, then you should take as many as possible as they are far better value than wizards. they are more reliable, more likely to succeed in casting more spells and their abilities would appear to be just as effective. Andy had 2 in his army and they almost single handed turned the game in his favour.

Other broad issues with 9th Age include:

The Line of site rules. In this game you can see through Forests, and even other regiments of troops. It is theoretically possible for a cannon to snipe a lone character 6 feet away, through about 6 regiments of troops, which seems ridiculous and counter intuitive to me.

The Parry Rule.  Worried about your super cheap goblins getting beaten up in combat? Don't worry, just buy them a shield and then your opponents high weapon skill elites are reduced to the same weapon skill when attacking you! I understand the need to make Sword and shield more attractive (actually I don't, but that I think is more a symptom of tournament mentality where everything has to be viable) but this is a very clumsy way of doing it.

War machine rules are terrible.  They can see in any direction, which currently only skirmishers can do and the rules for the area effect weapons are awful. In previous editions of Warhammer you would place a template, which would then have a chance to drift of target and could potentially partially hit your target unit, or hit a different enemy unit or even hit one of you own units, that was part of the risk. Now they either hit, doing a potentially massive amount of hits (The empire mortar can potentially hit 36 models in one hit!) or they miss completely. Once again they can see through everything except hill and buildings and there is no modifier to hit for cover, even cover that would obscure you like a wood. Cannons are the same, with a cannon able to hit anything that is not behind a hill or building, and no amount of cover will protect you, but the cannon is magically inclined to only go the exact distance to match the depth of the target unit, be it one rank or five. Apparently cannons do an extra point of damage to fliers now as well, because erm....no idea, and only cannons get a bonus to shoot at big monsters now. Nothing else does, for some reason.

Bows and Long Bows now have volley fire (Short Bows don't appear to exist any more, probably because they weren't viable under tournament conditions). This means that an entire unit can fire, again at any target in range and ignoring modifiers to hit from cover. Fifty goblins can stand in a forest and fire  fifty shots up out of the forest, hitting anything within range with no minuses to hit them.  This has made all the other shooting weapons (crossbows, repeating crossbows, handguns) pretty much redundant.

These changes stink of alterations for tournament balance, rather than any real thought.  9th Age is the only rules I know of that allow you to see through intervening regiments of troops, and allow you to shoot cannons through friendly troops. This smacks of "we need to make war machine more effective" rather than any other sensible reasoning for it, and it is this sort of thinking that is making me struggle with the game.

The Dread Elves book is also pretty sub par, with  a lot of choices that Dark Elves are supposed to excel at actually being pretty bad.  Repeating Crossbows being a prime example of this.

So far I have played three games, and while Andy is an excellent opponent to play against the rules themselves are proving problematic for me. I am trying very hard to like the game, but it is a struggle. I do realise that the game is a work in progress and is due a big update later on this year, so we will need to wait and see what happens then.  It may be the case that the army that I have previously fielded when playing Warhammer is no longer viable which is ironic. My Dark Elf and Orc & Goblin armies have remained largely unchanged through 3 editions of Warhammer, and it is now that we are playing a fan made set of rules that I am finding that some of my units are now redundant, a complaint levelled at Games Workshop many times.  I will play a few more games before I call it quits but at the moment I find myself looking at the simplicity of Kings of War or Dragon Rampant, rather than the complexity of 9th Age which is perhaps a reflection of a change in my gaming tastes as much as anything else.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Running Rampant.

I have tried a few of Daniel Mersey's rules before, namely Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant. Dux Bellorum was ok, but I didn't feel it had legs and the test game of Lion Rampant we tried was a complete disaster.
I have had Dragon Rampant fro a while but have never done anything with it, but lately I have been playing quite a lot of Fantasy type games and have found them to be unsatisfying, largely due to the endless need to bow to the demands of the tournament mindset.  Dragon Rampant is probably as far away from a tournament set of rules that you can get. The game is more of a toolbox, with a series of different profile available to everyone to use, and no strict rules on rules or model range. There is one profile for heavy cavalry, regardless of them being an elf on a horse, Orc on a boar or heavily armoured Knight. The same applies for the Infantry, with an Elf Spearman being the same as an Orc one.  These basic profiles can be altered slightly, with a few options or by adding in some fantastical rules such as venomous of flight.  There is even no strict rules on the number of models you use. If you want to represent a mighty hero then pick a troop type, modify to taste and then make the unit a reduced model count, represented by a single model. This single model will have the same abilities as a regular unit, but as he is only 1 model he will have the appearance of being a mighty champion.  There are also rules for undead and wizards and the book provides a well rounded set of options to create almost any fantasy trope you can think of.
For our game we decided to have a kinstrife, with me using my Dark Elf's and David bringing his recently acquired Wood Elves. 

My force consisted of:

Elite Riders with Fear (the general and his cronies, mounted on Cold Ones)
Light Spearmen
Light Missiles (Crossbows)
Bellicose Foot with Venom (Witch elves with poisoned blades)
Dark Elf Deployment

Dave opted for:
Heavy Riders (his lord)
2 units of Light Missiles with Sharpshooter (the ubiquitous Wood Elf archers)

The table, with Dave still deploying his wood elves.

For our first try we opted for a straight up fight, to get used to the rules.  In Dragon Rampant you must successfully test on 2 dice to activate your groups. The target number you need to equal or better depends on the troop type and whether or not they are suited to that kind of action. Elite Riders, being elite need to score a 5 or more on 2 dice to successfully move, while the Scouts, being a bit reluctant to get into any fights would need to score a 7 or above on two dice to engage in any kind of fisticuffs.  You select each unit in turn, declare its intended action and then roll your dice. If you succeed then the unit has decided to do as it was told and you can complete the action, be it move, shoot or attack.  if you fail to meet the target score your unit fails to activate and your turn ends, handing activation on to your opponent.   This means that no action is ever a sure thing, and we had a few instances in our games where bold tactical moves failed miserably as the troops involved  decided that the plan looked a little but too risky and failed to activate, handing the initiative over to the other player.

I expected the activation mechanic to be the cause of a lot of frustration, as it is similar to Warmaster and I depite my best efforts I struggle to enjoy playing that game.  My dice behaved though, and I managed a fairly seamless first couple of turns, with an almost 100% success rate on my activations. Dave was not so lucky though and had a few stalls when trying to get off his baseline. 

We ended up deployed in opposite corners and basically swung our forces round to face each other. I had to endure a round or two so shooting, with my spear unit taking heavy casualties and deciding that they had enough and running away, before I managed to get a charge in. 
Dark Elves move swiftly.

Dark Elves strike

Combat is fairly simple in Dragon Rampant.  Your units roll either 12 or 6 dice, depending on whether or not it if above half strength or half strength and below.  The target number you need to hit is dictated by your troop type and whether you are attacking or defending.  Light Spearmen, who are defensive in nature need a 4 or better to hit when being attacked, but need a 5 or better when doing the attacking.  Bellicose foot are the opposite, requiring a 3 or better to hit when attacking, and a 6 to hit when defending themselves.  Every troop type has an armour rating, and it requires that many hits to remove a point of strength from the unit. Elite Riders have armour 4, and so require 4 hits to lose a point of strength, while Skirmishers only have armour 1 and so only require 1 hit to remove a point of strength. A unite will start with either 6 or 12 heath points, and they drop in effectiveness when they drop to half points or below.

Morale is also very simple, with a test required every time that you take casualties. Once again it is two dice rolled against a target number, as dictated by your troop type minus any casualties. if you get below the target number then the unit becomes "battered" and will start to flee the field, shedding strength points as you go until you manage to rally them. If the result is zero or less then the unit has just had enough and routs from the filed, coming straight of the table.

The first game resulted in a Dark Elf victory, mainly thanks to me passing a lot of my activation tests. The game did not take long so we decided to have another go. This time Dave changed his army somewhat, swapping out one unit of light missiles for a unite of light spears, while making the other unit of missiles invisible meaning that I was unable to shoot them. 
this time we played a scenario, chosen randomly from the back of the book. We ended up doing a treasure hunt, with 10 gems on the table up for grabs. Whoever had the most when all the gem were grabbed would be the winner, and both sides grabbed the same amount then it would default to last man standing.  In the end we managed to get 5 gems each and ended up having to fight it out. 
Game 2, looking for treasure.

Wood Elves reluctant to advance.

Both sides were a bit cautious, and trying to hug the cover. In the end the stalemate was broken when Dave managed 10 out of 12 hits on the unit of Dark Elf Spears, causing the remaining unit to rout from the field. The wood elves seized this advantage and advanced, while the Dark Elves ran fro cover to avoid the invisible arrows raining down on them.  In the end the Dark Elves decided enough was enough and advanced with the Knights towards the Elven Archers, while ordering the scouts to get in the way and provide cover.  The scouts did this and paid for their bravery with their lives, leaving the Dark Elf knights ready to charge. the Dark Elves promptly failed their Attack Test (probably not convinced that this was where the invisible archers were located), leaving them standing in the open in front of a bunch of Elven Archers. On Dave's turn I expected the worst but he promptly failed his shoot test!  The elves were obviously getting a bit jittery about the knights in front of them. Thankfully the Dark Elves came to a decision and charged in next turn, passing their activation test. That was the end of the Wood Elf Archers, and allowed the Dark Elf knights to start to swing round behind the Wood Elf forces. 

Maintaining Formation

Elsewhere the Dark Elves were trying to stall the remaining wood elves while their cavalry did their business, but eventually they manage to get stuck in, and with overwhelming numbers on their side the Wood Elves were soon overwhelmed.

Scouts out front to create a "distraction"

Spearelves flee in the face of enemy fire (again!).

The final showdown.

So two games of Dragon Rampant in one night, both of which were quite entertaining.  My initial impressions are pretty favourable, with the game having some good options and not being subject to min-maxing.  I look at the book as more of a toolbox, to create some interesting games with and am already wondering about the possibility of using the rules to visit middle earth with.  I was very lucky on both games, with my forces successfully passing more than their fair share of activation tests, while Dave managed to fail more than a few.  Having the best troops in the world wont help you if you can't get them to do anything!  I am definitely going to try and get some more games in, and see if I enjoy it as much when my troops won't budge of their baseline all game!