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!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Mordheim Season 3, Surrounded!

The Mordheim campaign is getting close to the end now, with only a couple of games left.  This weeks games was a witch hunt in the forest, with everyone trying to stop a bunch of witches from escaping off the board.  All the usual suspects were here for the game, which was a mostly wooded board.
Deployment was random and I ended up deployed right next to Andy and his Witch Hunters, with Ian next to him. Rory and Dave were next to each other and the Skaven were opposite me, nice and far away.

The Bad Guys

Witch Hunters



Protectorate of Sigmar

Early game and everyone advanced cautiously, except for the Skaven as, safe in the knowledge that they were faster than anyone else, and deployed closes to the objective they made a bee line straight for the bad guys.  Everyone else advance cautiously, watching the other players. 
My undead advanced, towards the bad guys, with the Witch Hunters sneaking up behind me, and the Dwarves to my left.  I was starting to feel a little bit squeezed, as there were opponents on all sides. 

In the end I had to split my forces.  I sent the ghouls and Dire wolves ahead to try and clear some of the baddies out of the way, left the slow moving zombie at the back to try and distract the witch hunters and then formed a firing line with me heroes to try and pick off some of the Witch Hunters before engaging in the inevitable melee. I thought this was a sound plan given the circumstances but in the end it didn't quite work out that way.  My ghouls and dire wolves failed to inflict any damage on the bad guys, despite having 13 attacks between them, and my shooting was also very disappointing, with only a single Witch Hunter falling to a couple of round of shooting.
Elsewhere the Skaven were making short work of the remaining witches, mobbing them with their huge warband.  the dwarves continued to advance up the board and the Marienburgers and Protectorate of Sigmar started to fight each other.  The Witch Hunters had a couple of rotten turns trying to get rid of my zombie, before losing patience and mobbing him with a large chunk of his warband.
I eventually managed to clear out the two Wargs I was fighting and managed to charge a couple of witches, taking them out of action, but the Dwarves and Witch Hunters were by now breathing down my neck, and the Skaven were mopping up the last of the bad guys, giving them a clear run at my warband.
Andy duly did this, charging in with a rat Ogre and another Skaven, with the rest failing their fear tests. that was until Rory reminded Andy that an item he had picked up negated the fear causing effects of Undead for the bearer and everyone within 2", while also giving the wielder +1 to hit undead. The one weakness the Skaven had to the undead was the fear tests and low leadership the Skaven had and that was now effectively negated.   Predictable the Skaven rat Ogre made a mess of my warband and I decided that I did not fancy fighting three warband at once with only 6 models left and called it a night.  
By this time the Protectorate of Sigmar and Marienburgers had also given up leaving just the dwarves and witch hunters to fight the Skaven.  The Witch Hunters had a good go at the Skaven, and despite high casualties managed to force them to make a break test, which being Skaven they duly failed. This left the Protectorate of Sigmar and Dwarves on the table. The Dwarves were fresh, having basically spent the entire game moving up the board and not much else, so the witch hunters decided to call it a day, leaving the dwarves the winner by default.
So another miserable performance from my Undead, although I feel they were really up against it. Thankfully no casualties this time and with all six heroes surviving a good tally of loot was found as well.   As usual the Skaven ran ahead of everyone else, hovered up everything and then failed their break test as soon as they reached the limit, while everyone fought amongst themselves until it was only one warband against the Dwarves, whom everyone avoided for the whole game due to their slow speed.  That is pretty much the pattern for this Mordheim campaign now, and I don't think that it is likely to change now, with only two games remaining.  I think I will spend the last two games just picking fights with other warbands, and not bothering with the missions as every time I try and complete the game objective it ends badly.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Aliens VS Predator

We managed to have a game of the Aliens Vs Predator boardgame this week, using the v2 ruleset.

I selected Mission 5, as every player then had a set of objectives, rather than one player just trying kill as many models as possible while the other had to move around the board.  This time:

  • The Marine had to place explosive charges at 3 of a possible four locations.
  • The Aliens had to collect three out of four eggs on the board and deliver them to the engine room
  • The Predators had to carry their infected colleague to the medical bay and extract the infant alien before it could hatch.

This changed the dynamic of the game a lot, with all three players all focusing on their mission objectives and trying to avoid getting into a fight.  Even the Predator's. usually a powerhouse in this game were trying to keep a low profile.    The Aliens were the only ones being aggressive, but I think this was mainly due to that fact that they were quite spread out and had numbers to bear.  The Aliens even managed to kill a Predator in combat, which is the first time that has happened.   Casualties were light in this game, with only one marine being killed, about half the Aliens and one Predator but it was still a very close game.  Despite the efforts of the Aliens to slow everyone down we ended up in the odd position where at the start of the final turn everyone was one activation away from winning the game, so whoever rolled for initiative would win the game.  In the end the Marines rolled the highest and won the game, but it was a close run thing.

This was probably our closest game yet and one of the most entertaining, with everyone focused on their objectives. The Predators didn't have it al heir own way either, and actually failed a few armour saves. 

I am still waiting to received the rest of my kickstarter for this from Prodos, but things seem to be moving again, with the impending release of the 2nd edition of the boardgame, plus the wargame rules so I am hopeful that I will be able to get the rest of my pledge later on this year.