Sunday, 26 March 2017

Back From The Dead

Sorry for the absence of posts for the last couple of weeks. A combination of busy times at work, family events at weekends and suddenly playing catch up with a number of TV series has curtailed my painting and playing time recently.

However, normal service should now be resumed; and what better way to get back to business than with a new game- Mantic's Walking Dead: All Out War.

For a variety of reasons, I've been resisting this game for a long time. I resisted the Kickstarter last year because I'd backed the Dropfleet Commander Kickstarter at around the same time and I already had zombie stuff. After Christmas it was, well, after Christmas and I figured I should be able to hold out until my birthday in April.

I was wrong.

Gameplay videos started popping up on YouTube and not only did the miniatures look good and characterful, but the mechanics appealed to me, as did the fact that there are fully functioning solo rules. In an attempt to stave off temptation, I got back into watching the TV series (which I'd stopped midway through series three), but this only made matters worse and a couple of weeks ago, I cracked and bought The Prelude to Woodbury Starter Set.

This isn't the full game, but a solo starter which comes with a single survivor, five walkers and almost everything that you need to get playing.

The survivor in the set is Brian Blake, aka the Governor of Woodbury. As you can see, the character design is based on the comic book rather than the TV series, and he's still got all of his body parts. This is because the three scenarios in the set detail his adventures in the outbreak before becoming the Governor (hence 'Prelude to Woodbury'), and in game, this incarnation is actually fairly average. I'd imagine that when they get to a Woodbury expansion, the Governor will have a few bells and whistles in his rules.

The five walkers in the box (yes, I know there are six in the picture...I'll get to that) are all individually sculpted. In fact, every walker in the game is not only unique (the only exception to this are the ones that come in the Walker Booster pack), but is also based on one that actually appears in the pages of the Walking Dead comic book. Compared to the Wargames Factory (now Warlord) zombies I usually use, these are chunky, but much better sculpted and a damn sight easier to assemble, given that they are all one piece sculpts.

I've stuck to my usual zombie flesh routines and kept the gore fresh with Citadel's ridiculously named Blood for the Blood God paint. I know that logically, the blood wouldn't still be glistening red on walking corpses, but I like it, and anybody trying to use logic and science in a conversation about zombies probably needs to take a long, hard look at themselves. Perhaps the only differences to my usual zombies are the fact that I've gone for a rural, dried earth type base effect (more on that later) rather than urban, and given that the story is set around Atlanta, there is significantly more denim knocking about - a stereotypical view of the South, I'm sure, but it makes sense to me.

Given how much I enjoyed painting the contents of Prelude to Woodbury, I picked up my first expansion booster this weekend. Each of these (with a couple of exceptions) come with three miniatures, which are usually two survivors and a single walker, along with a number of game cards to add to the resources you have available.

The Carol booster includes Carol (unsurprisingly), who is much less of a badass and significantly more unstable in the comics, and her daughter Sophia, who apparently doesn't end up shambling out of a barn either. I also got four equipment cards, to add to the four I got with the Prelude to Woodbury set, and an alternative character card for Derek, a character in the main game box. Until I get the main box, there's no reason why I can't use the Derek card with another suitable miniature from my bits box.

Both of these are really characterful miniatures, and look suitably terrified. One of the issues I have with a lot of zombie miniatures, is that the survivors are mainly armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary types. I've always been more taken with the early stages of an outbreak, and the abject panic, hit-them-with-whatever's-to-hand set up, and this range really suits that aesthetic. Sophia is probably my favourite miniature in the range. Partly because it's a great sculpt with nice details - her hood has cat ears - but also because I've been able to give her a completely impractical bright pink coat.

I'm not sure how effective either of them will be in game, but they were fun to do.

You may also notice that I've been doing something different with the based. To simulated the baked earth of the Deep South I see in the TV show, I've used one of Citadel's textured paints, Agrellan Earth, for the first time. I've done an undercoat of Baneblade Brown (where do they get these names?), then liberally dolloped on the textured paint. After leaving this to dry for a few hours, it naturally cracks. A quick drybrush with Ushabti Bone, and then some static grass in the sections without cracks, and job done.

I'm really happy with this effect, as not only is this really simple to do, but using sand on integral bases always has the effect of making seem like the feet are sinking into the earth.

I'm really enjoying painting the Walking Dead miniatures and you can expect to see more pop up on the blog over the coming weeks. I've run through the solo scenarios from Prelude to Woodbury, which although a bit limited, gave me a good feel for the game, and I also played a two player game against Wes, who's also bought in, and can only report good things about how the game works.

I'm now looking forward to getting creative and making some scenarios of my own in the coming weeks, as well as adding some suitable terrain.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

"I paint the models eclectic..."

Yes. I have just referenced Fame: the Movie in the title of this post. Deal with it.

After a bit of a slow down during February, I've started to get some painting done in an attempt to clear the little bit of a backlog of assembled models that had begun to build up, and so this post is a little bit all over the place in terms of theme.

Also, the weather's rubbish, so you'll have to put up with fairly rubbish photos. Sorry.

First up are three members of the Suicide Squad for the Batman Miniatures Game: Killer Croc, El Diablo and Slipknot.

This version of Killer Croc is significantly smaller than the model I've already painted based on the Arkham console games. However, he's still fairly chunky.

I really enjoyed painting this model as he's relatively simple. He's also a one piece sculpt, so it was nice to put together a Knight Models figure without the usual cavalcade of swearing. My only gripe is that some of the fine detail on the back of his coat disappeared under a single coat of paint. This is increasingly something I'm encountering with Knight Models sculpts, and with my wash-based painting style, shallow detail causes problems.

I found El Diablo really intimidating, mainly due to the face tattoos. This is one moment when I'm quite glad that the photos are a bit dodgy, however, I do feel that I've got the tattoos as good as I'm able to and as long as you don't get too close, I'm relatively happy with him. It's just a shame that his rules are so duff, so I don't expect he'll see a lot of table time.

Slipknot is an uninspiring sculpt of an uninspiring character from the Suicide Squad movie. Again cursed with the shallow details that don't really work for me, a bizarrely separate leg and a pose that makes it look like he's just soiled himself.

He's done. That's about all I can say. Not massively impressed.

Right, that's enough BMG. Now for something different.

Yes. I know he's a superhero. But he's not a Batman character...or a Marvel character.

This is Doc Cosmos, an extremely limited edition miniature I was very kindly given by Leon of the Eclectic Gentleman Gamer and Pulp Citizen blogs. He's specifically been designed for a game Leon is working on called Supers Unlimited, and I'm looking forward to give him a run out in some play-testing for that.

This is a really cleanly cast, single piece model without much in the way of fiddly, extraneous detail - exactly the kind of model I like.

You might also have noticed that the models above have been photographed in front of some new terrain. The subway entrance and recycling bin are from 4Ground and are pre-painted MDF models.They go together really easily (although I did muck up the subway initially, and had to take it apart and start again).

Not only are they pre-painted, but the instructions come with the signs printed on them (and some steps, in the case of the subway), making them a really good choice for quick, attractive terrain.

Finally, some more spaceships.

My Scourge fleet continues to grow with the addition of a Basilisk Battlecruiser and three Nickar Corvettes.

The Basilisk is a Kickstarter exclusive model and uses the standard cruiser sprue, but adds resin pieces for the dorsal crest and side fangs. As with all Hawk Wargames models, the pieces are beautifully cast, fantastically detailed and fit together perfectly with a minimal amount of trimming and cleaning required.

In game, the Basilisk has an array of damaging occulus beams which have the potential to inflict significant amounts of damage. What's more, the Basilisk has the full cloak special rule which means that it can never pick up any spikes, meaning there is no reason not to fire all of its weapons, all of the time.

I'm looking forward to using it.

The Nickar Corvettes are actually scratch built from spare parts I have left over from my frigate sprues. I've done this for a few reasons, firstly there is the issue of cost and I'm always keen on being cheap. Secondly, the sprues have lots of spare parts, so it seems a shame not to use them. Thirdly, I've seen the official models, and I'm not actually that keen on them. Finally, the official models aren't actually available yet, and if I'm going to be able to do anything about Matt's Shaltari Voidgates, I need these guys now.

I'm really pleased with how these models have turned out, and I will almost certainly be making some more. Hopefully, they should help out with my complete inability to attack enemy ships in atmosphere.

It's all been a bit of a mish-mash, but at least I'm getting stuff painted.

More soon, I hope...

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

"They're the world's most fearsome fighting team..."

After a busy January, I've had a quieter February on the painting front, however, I have managed to get a couple of new models done for my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles project done, so that seemed like a decent excuse for a game of 7TV.

The game was played at just 25 ratings, and we used the Battle scenario. The basic outline of the plot is that the Turtles are attacking Baxter Stockman's secret lab, which is guarded by the Purple Dragon gang.

The heroic cast featured the four Turtles (from left to right: Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello) and new addition, April O'Neil. She a Pulp City miniature called June Summers which I was kindly given by Pulp Citizen of the Ecclectic Gentleman Gamer blog (which you should read). I'll talk more about her on my next post.

In terms of the crew, all April really adds is the ability to activate both her and a Turtle at the same time with her Leader ability. However, she is also a bit of a liability, as her Most Wanted trait makes her worth a VP if taken out, despite being an Extra.

The villainous cast was led by the mad scientist Baxter Stockman, in his mutated-fly form. This model was made from one of the Crooked Dice Failed Experiments (which conveniently come with a fly head and claw arm amongst the options) with some wings taken from a Heroclix Queen Bee I picked up for 50p in York. I'm really pleased with this conversion as it really only needed a tiny bit of rough sculpting on his back to achieve. There are some clearer pictures later in the report.

With Baxter were two Scientists (who were there to provide gadget cards) and the Purple Dragon gang (a Minion Squad) featuring a commander, a thug with a flamethrower and five gang members, two with rifles, two with pistols and one with an SMG (well, a shotgun, but it sort of makes sense).

The table was set up with my usual 3'x3' crossroads layout. Baxter and the Dragons were defending the factory and warehouse on the left, whilst the Turtles would attack from the right.

The Purple Dragons take to the streets.

Scientists cower behind the sniper on the roof.

Stockman-Fly buzzes quietly to himself.

Leo and Donnie sneak through the builder's yard.

April follows Mikey up the road to the lab.

Raph immediately grabs a rooftop objective.

Climbing suckers allow Raph to grab a second objective.

Leo and Donnie pick up a third as the cross the street.

And Mikey grabs the third, but leaves himself exposed.

The Purple Dragons fire everything they have at Mikey...

...but he loses only a single wound (by burning through 9 Plot Points).

Stockman-Fly wounds Raph with his acid spit.

As a consolation, the Purple Dragons secure the final objective.

Mikey breaks out his skateboard....

...charges the flamethrower Dragon, takes him out, and...

...nips round the corner to meet up with the guys.

Isolated, Raph heads for cover.

April makes a dash for it and trips...

The Dragons attack...and miss everything!

Dodge editing sees April safe.

Mikey does a 'skate-by' on the Purple Dragons.

Injured; Raph tries to hide from Baxter.

The Turtles continue to clean house. Only a few to go now.

April stays safe in the warehouse.

Sleep spray followed by Acid Spit takes the fight out of Raph.

However, things look bad for the villains.

Also, Baxter is weakened by his exertions.

The last Dragon in the street falls, threatening to axe the villain cast.

Mikey rushes the factory, just to be sure.

With the game up, Baxter drops a gas grenade to cover his escape.

When the victory points were counted, it was 9-5 to the heroes...a scoreline that flattered the villains. Despite losing Raphael, and a single objective, the only points the villains scored were from the nerve-gas gadget Baxter used just before his cast was axed, leaving Leo and Donnie with statuses.

The Turtles proved just too tough for the Purple Dragons to reliably hurt, and Michelangelo's resilience on the first turn was just amazing. The failure of the shooting meant that the game was up fairly early one, as Minions are no match for the Turtles up close and personal.

Baxter Stockman was also in the wrong place, as even though he took out Raphael single handed, he would probably have been more use supporting the Purple Dragons with the other three. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

This was my first proper TMNT game, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The bad guys are currently struggling from a lack of stars and co-stars, however that's due to change soon, as somebody big, mean and spiky is on the way...

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Expanding the Fleet

Since the last time I discussed Dropfleet Commander on the blog I've managed to get in several games. After the narrow loss to Matt's Shaltari in my first game, I handily beat Mike's Scourge (it was his first game...people lose their first games, it seems), forged a decent win against Wes' tough PHR fleet, and received a comprehensive thrashing in my second run in with Matt's Shaltari.

This left just Pete's UCM to play using the starter fleets, but Pete, being Pete, has painted his entire pledge and wanted to up the ante a little to 750 points. This meant adding a battlegroup and painting a few more ships.

The ships I've added are two more Gargoyle Strike Carriers, as they increase my ability to drop troops, which is the actual point of the game, and a Hydra Fleet Carrier, which although lacking guns, does have the ability to dispatch bombers to wreak havoc on enemy ships or deploy fighters to protect my own. This is a nice ability as it give my fleet a little bit more of a ranged threat that I've been 'enjoying' so far.

Rather than messing about with the organisation of the fleet, I decided to simply add the new ships as a new battlegroup, meaning that my fleet for the game was as follows:

Vanguard Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 12
  • Shenlong Heavy Cruiser
  • 2 Gargoyle Strike Carriers

Pathfinder Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 7
  • Ifrit Attack Cruiser
  • 2 Harpy Frigates

Line Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 7

  • Hydra Fleet Carrier
  • 2 Gargoyle Strike Carriers

Line Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 5

  • Wyvern Cruiser

Pete, having more to choose from, decided to experiment with a different set up that relied more heavily on his light frigates:

Vanguard Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 10
  • Moscow Heavy Cruiser

Pathfinder Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 6
  • 4 Toulon Frigates
  • 2 New Orleans Strike Carriers

Line Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 7

  • Seattle Fleet Carrier
  • 2 New Orleans Strike Carriers

Line Battlegroup - Strategy Rating 7

  • Rio Cruiser
  • 2 Taipei Frigates
The game itself was a very even affair. We battled over three clusters, and played the scanning and critical location rules properly for the first time. Apologies for the lack of photos, I forgot to take any during the game.

At the cluster to my right, my Wyvern failed to make an impact on the two strike carriers that Pete dispatched to take it, but it did succeed in drawing the Rio away from the centre.No critical location was found, and although my Gargoyle survived to drop troops all the way through the game Pete grabbed the lion's share of the VP's from this cluster.

In the centre, things went my way. My two Gargoyles powered forward to grab the military sectors early and add their guns to my force. An active scan lit up Pete's Seattle for my Ifrit and Harpies to take out, giving my Hydra 'air' supremacy for the rest of the game, and the Taipei's were also brought down quickly. The Moscow fluffed it's big moment, and failed to make an impact, and was taken out by weight of fire over several turns. By the end of the game, Pete had no ships in the centre of the board and I picked up most of the VP's, of which there were more as I successfully scanned to find a critical location.

On my left, things began poorly. Pete's Toulon swarm blasted my Gargoyle out of the sky, preventing me from contesting the cluster at all. They then went on to almost obliterate my Shenlong in one attack, and then almost did the same to my Hydra. They suffered from attrition though and only the Hydra flew away from the fight (with only 2 hull points remaining), but it was able to find a critical location and at least pull some points away from the cluster.

By the end of the game, we tallied the score to 22-18 to the Scourge, but we think we were playing contesting clusters wrong, so it could easily have been 16-16, however, if we'd know that, we both might have done things differently, so I'm taking that as a win.

Overall, I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the game, but I picked up the following gems of wisdom from this encounter:
  1. Swarms of frigates are powerful, but are fragile and reduce your chance to scan for critical locations.
  2. It's better to send groups of Strike Carriers to fewer clusters, than send a single one to each.
  3. I still don't have the ability to threaten ships in atmosphere.
  4. The Shenlong Heavy Cruiser, just doesn't pull it's weight. It's firepower and special abilities seem to work against each other.
  5. The Hydra Fleet Carrier is a powerful threat in the centre of the board.
  6. The Ifrit and Harpies can combine to take out enemy cruisers in a single round.

Next up is Matt's Shaltari, again. Their combination of range, swarms of Voidgates in atmosphere and Motherships that can sit back away from the fight seem to play to Scourge weaknesses. Therefore, I might need to shake things up a little before the weekend...