About Me

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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

GameCraft comes out with Felt Roads for 6mm

Well, time moves along and I find yet another product looking to lighten my wallet just a bit. This time, however, the actual amount won't be too much, which is nice.

GameCraft Miniatures have introduced a simple laser-cut felt road system, both in "paved" (black) and "dirt" (brown) varieties. The laser cutting actually prevents fraying, which is a reasons to buy this product instead of just making your own. I dont feel that felt usually lies down flat and trouble free, but this might be an exception. Regardless, its worth a look. Speaking of looks, here is GameCraft doing a short video presentation on it!

The items can be found here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strike Legion: TSE1 & 2 with a new partner

A month back or so, I finally managed to put Strike Legion through its first paces. I enjoy perusing rulesets of all kinds, but must admit that I typically cannot put my final thoughts down on paper until I actually give it a run for its money.

Today I was able to play it again with my friend Aron, and we got through the first two scenarios in the main rulebook. This time, I managed to snap a few pics of the action, and I'll have some of our thoughts at the end. Apologies for the bluriness. I hate this above all else, but using my phone just isnt cutting it these days, I guess :(

TSE1, or Tactical Simulator Exercises, is called Parity, and pits two equal forces against each other. The Computer player, shown in the foreground above, is the aggressor, and has 4 turns to capture the Urban area near the Trainee's deployment zone.  Note that all Eldar and Space Marine models represent the same tracked vehicle, each side with 3 platoons of 4 vehicles.

This shows me, the Trainee, lurking behind cover as the game starts, ready for whatever the Computer has to throw at me. My opponent doesnt know this, but Ive played this scenario before. Last time I went mostly offensive and got my butt kicked, so this game my strategy was to put most of my EW into Defense and stay out of LOS where possible. The Computer is coming to me, and I was setting up to receive the charge.

Turn 1 saw some maneuvering but little else. This is my left flank, with 2 platoons of the enemy queuing up behind the hill.

My right flank after Turn 1 shows the enemy with one platoon with two of my own protecting its advance.

Turn 2 saw a little action, and first blood was drawn by my forces. This was actually long ranged Gauss fire from my right flank, firing at Extreme range. Smoke marks the spot...

Things started heating up somewhere between Turns 2 and 3. This is the scrum beginning in earnest, as the Computer player begins pushing for the goal.

The stage is set for Turn 3 and the big show down...

At this point let me say that firing at tanks has a pretty satisfying crunch to it. The math involved doesnt slow things down too much, even if it is more involved than a lot of other games, but man, things can Brew Up quite nicely, and you can really get a feel for how the flow of the game went by looking at the carcasses that are left in the wake.

In the end, the Computer player threw most of his intact forces at the Urban Area, and the Trainee forces had to make a brutal stand or suffer defeat. Alas, the onslaught was too much, and once again the Trainee loses to the Computer.

Here is the end of Turn 4:

For the record, the orangish markers are Damaged, and the black smoke marker is an Immobilized. I really do like seeing tank wrecks everywhere...

TSE2 is called Breakthrough, and here, 5 platoons of Computer controlled Scimitar medium tanks (the same units used in TSE1) must rush and pass by 3 platoons of tougher Xatis medium hovertanks. Aron and I swapped roles and I took the Computer units and he prepared his defenses.

Here is TSE2 Deployment:

Here, my Computer forces had 5 turns to race across the battlefield, engaging the enemy and getting what units past him that I could. The Exit zone was the lower left of the pics, above.

Turn 1 saw me using a lot of my EW in a defensive manner, knowing that I was facing units with higher EW than myself, and their AT Gauss cannon was larger than mine. Still, I took heavy losses, and at least one platoon was already nearly wiped out:

Turn 2 went about as well as T1. I sent one platoon down the center, performing a beautiful drive by on his right-most unit, but even so, more tanks of mine were smoking, and not enough of his were:

Turn 3 was the last turn needed, and since the scenario was written for 5 turns, this shows my lack of planning. Hoping for a quick score, I had committed most of my forces forward with high EW scores, but we learned an important lesson in Strike Legion today: 2 points of EW is HUGE! His EW score of 8, compared to my 6, was massive.  You can see, in the pic below, all 3 of my tanks that managed to exit. What you dont see is the pile in my corner showing that between the dead and the Brewed Up, Aron had smoked 17 of my 20 tanks. Yea, I'd call that an effective last stand.

Final score of TSE2 was 51-15. 2 for 2, Aron, congrats!

I had a lot of fun. I always do, when I have a great opponent to play against, but I am starting to feel a little more comfortable with this game. It still is a tad clunky, and we havent even TOUCHED any of the fiddly parts yet, but we're about ready to try our own hand at force composition.

Our thoughts? A lot of these come from the first timer's reactions, but we've tested a fair number of games together, so I agree with a lot of them. These are for the author, in hopes that if and when he redoes these rules, we hope he takes these to heart.

We really wish the author would write his numbers as a numeric value, instead of as text. It is so much easier to scan for a "3" in a paragraph than a "three".

Modifiers would be so much better if they were listed in bullet point, chart or table. Written into the text as they are, they tend to be harder to find (and its one thing to read the numbers while relaxing in the evening, and quite another thing trying to digest rules on the fly while in a firefight. They just need to be set apart and/or stand out better than they do.

We both agree that a 2 column format would condense the paragraphs nicely, saving space and making the rules easier to read as a result.

An Index and/or Glossary is really needed. At the very least an Index, as this game has a TON of special cases and finding all the references is tricky (for example, Air units are discussed on pages 14-15, and AA guns are first mentioned on p.23 while describing the types of Missiles available (ATM vs AAM), but it isnt until p. 32 when it is mentioned that AT weapons cannot attack flying Air units (common sense, I know, but wargames need to spell these things out clearly). But this entry is under Weapon Classifications, which isnt where I'd think to look for rules on Air units coming under fire from non-AA weapons.

The follow up to this is the game uses a LOT of abbreviations. Too many, we think. For example, Artillery is referred to as ART once it has been introduced...and Orbital Artillery is ORT...but read this from p.32 under "Overrun Attacks (OVR)": "CDS may not be used during an OVR." You know, it says what it needs to say...but with a book full of abbreviations, it gets a bit much. And what is STOVL, and why use it instead of VTOL? :)

We also found that rolling the Attack dice along with the weapon damage dice all at once really worked smoothly, so for our games, each attack typically involved 3d6 and a d4, with one d6 a different color than the other 2. If the 3rd d6, the Gauss weapon, was higher than the target's armor, we'd mark a hit and move on, finishing the attack rolls before going back and actually resolving the damage rolls. This led to a problem, however. Rolling a 1 on a d10 results in Immobilized, which only counts if you hit the HULL. If you hit the Turret and then roll a 1, no damage results...but did you hit the Turret or the Hull with that shot? Oh man, we had already picked up the dice!

The answer is, of course, to add 1 or 2 d10's to the dice rolled for every attack, just in case...but more importantly, we feel that the Turret and Hull damage locations need to be differentiated a bit. Oi...this might make more work, but this 10% difference bit just doesnt work for us. Something needs to change, we think, but not quite sure what.


So that's our take on the game...again. We still both feel that the game handles Company-sized engagements well, but larger games than what we played today might bog down. This is a shame, since the game has rules for so many units you can find in a Regimental game like Epic: Armageddon, and who knows - we really just need to try it to find out. Im a bit nervous at adding so many new things at once (ART, Unconventional Attacks, Infantry, Air, weapons other than Gauss and Lasers that check versus other defenses....).

The game has HUGE promise, and really needs a rewrite to put in the countless FAQ-style answers that are on both Tactical Command and the Yahoo Group. I am also desperate for the chap writing the Unit Builder over on TacCom to finish it...and really hope the author puts some work into cleaning this system up because it REALLY deserves it. I can see myself preaching this game to the masses with just a bit of work on the author's part. Regardless, check it out. Its a good game.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review of Outrider Hobbies Battletech carry bag

Early this Spring, I caught wind of a transport carry case being designed specifically for Battletech miniatures, and since I love Battletech and I love carry cases, well, it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.  After reviewing the options put up by Outrider Hobbies on their website, I placed an order for the Overlord in US Army ACU colors. The bill came to $175 with shipping and the order was placed on April 3, 2012.

As the months passed on, the initial deadline that the bag was promised by slipped away, and it seemed that the further past that we got, the more heat Outrider was getting from Catalyst Games to get this "official" product delivered. Finally, my bag arrived the final week of September.  I wanted to provide a comprehensive review of the bag, and so documented my initial run at filling it with my stuff.

Let me preface this review by explaining my current Battletech situation. My good friend, the Headless Horseman, has an amazing Battletech website over at The Irish Dragoons, and over the last year he has donated many mechs to my cause. As I counted them today, 116 of these beasties were available for me to fill my new bag. The unique part of this is, many of the pieces were either damaged in shipping, or were sent to me in pieces, so keep this in mind as I display the forces about to march into storage...

The bags are gorgeous. The material used on them appears as solid as anything Ive seen. The black square on the front is a velcro attachment for House-specific patches that are currently backordered. Mine will be, of course, House Davion.

The bag has a number of deep pockets around it. This is a 3" foam tray stuck in the side...and that's pretty impressive.

Please, sir, can I have some more?  Why don't more manufacturers do this? The bag unzips completely, allowing amazing access from top OR side. The only bag Ive ever found to do this as nicely is my long-out-of-print bag from Steve Sack Designs, which was cleverly designed to use Army Transport foam. I have the bag but long for more.

Here is the selection of foam that the bag came with. You can see on hexagon sticking up out of the tray in the back - these are all laser cut, I believe, and slide right out. No sticking, no mess, and so fast.  However, as I pulled the foam out, I admit that I was a little curious and puzzled by the configurations I was seeing. This bag claims to be custom designed for Battletech, but if you look on the site, most of the foam trays included are not from the Battletech section.

Details on the Overlord Bag

This very grainy picture is showing some of the puzzling trays included. A Hatchetman is standing in the shallow 1" hex tray (a 1" Hexes 2 tray that is actually only 7/8" deep). A quick note on foam measuring - for those of you not familiar with trays such as Sabol's Army Transport foam, the depth of a tray is from the bottom of the cell to the top of it. In the picture above, you might be able to see a denser liner on the bottom of the tray. This is not measured in the calculations, so a 2" tray will be more like 2 1/8" in actuality because of this bottom supporting structure.

The other two trays are their Artillery 12-slot and 21 Large trays. I'll show you how I used them in a bit.

And the troops go marching in. This is my collection of 116 Mechs in various states of disrepair, but this will be fixed soon.

As I started planning what to put where, I realized that the highest Mech I had was 2.75" tall, including his base and a tiny antenna that was just an accessory add-on. The average mechs are 2" high or less, with the majority of those being 1.75". The fact that I received 2x 2.5" trays and 2x 3" trays was starting to show what a waste I was going to experience as I filled them.

In Outrider Hobbies' defense, they took the Combined Arms nature into mind as they created their 1" hex trays (which, as I mentioned above, are actually closer to 7/8" high). This isn't a really bad thing, but since I don't have any infantry or vehicles, these trays are next to worthless for me. Because of my unique situation with parts of mechs, I was able to use a few of the 1" hexes, but really, this is wasted space. I couldnt even get some of the smaller mechs to lie down in them.

So I started filling trays. I had a good thing going, taking my "whole" mechs and getting them into the deep hexed trays first, but as I got father along, and less and less whole mechs to use, I had to get creative with what went where.

This pic, above, is the 21 Large tray. It actually should be pretty darn useful, except that why wouldnt I want to use regular pluck foam instead of this? Battlemechs, specifically, tend to have a large base and then get narrower up top. This unique configuration means that there is a lot of wasted space here, and if I actually want to use these trays as is, I will need to get the remnants of pluck foam trays from the past and help tighten up some of these spaces.

This is the 2.5" Hexes 2 tray and as you can see, there is a lot of wasted space above the mechs. Yes, this is a useful size to have, but I'd only ever need 1 of this height, I think.

This is the 3" of the same tray, the Hexes 2. Again, a useful size but only really ever for 1 tray needed, and there is, again, much wasted space above the mechs in most cases. Still, a manufacturer has to account for an awful lot when making premade trays, so this isnt a bad thing. I just really, REALLY wish he hadn't gone overboard on the next two :(

 This is the 3" deep "Hexes 1" 2" hex tray. Again, the height is bigger than normally needed, but since I have two of these and not just one, this is basically 3" of totally wasted space in my carry case. Yes, some of the mechs I have a broad shouldered (the lower right is a Stone Rhino/Behemoth, and there is a Marauder II in there) but mostly I used this because I ran out of space in the other, smaller 1.5"-wide Hexes 2 trays.  I mentioned that I got two of these. You'll see the other in a second.

This is the 12-slot Artillery tray, mentioned above. Let me stress this: I will never, NEVER use this tray as-is. I put 2 mechs per in most cases, with a few wildly articulated models being the exception, but I would need to put foam in between each mech for me to want to walk around with this bag on my shoulder and these mechs inside. You think I have broken mechs now? Man...these would get smashed. Maybe someone, somewhere, has terrain or something that might fit in these, but since this is "customized for Battletech", I can't see how.

Again, some smashed mechs hanging out in the 1" tray until they get assembled.

These are my unused trays as of right now. The top, thinner tray is actually kind of neat. It is designed for the hardboard terrain packs that Catalyst Games makes, and I think to include this is kind of cool. I do own the Introductory Boxed Set and may make use of this, but more likely I'll pack them inside one of the side pouches. Thus, the tray sits unused.

The two smaller trays, to the left, are actually a followup on the last paragraph. If you want to pack in the maps that come with the new Boxed Set, you can put them in the bag and then fill up the other space with thee half-sized trays. Problem here? Yea, they're more of the 1" foam. Maybe this wouldnt be bad if you had SOME infantry...and would let you replace the full-sized 1" tray? I dont know.

The last one there is, of course, another Hexes 1 tray. I dont need that many massive slots that my mechs will rattle around in!  However, this was funny...after I packed everything up, I realized that unused Hexes 1 tray was 2.5" tall, and I had used the 3" instead and just complained of the wasted space. Oh well. Either way, its a giant tray that I will probably never use.

So let's look at some pros and cons of the bag:

The bag is beautiful and looks ruggedly put together.
The pockets are deep and substantial.
The foam is high quality and the laser cutting is precise.
The case unzips on top AND down the back.

At $175, which supposedly included a Pre-order discount, this is one expensive package. Im not sure which bag this should be compared to over at Sabol Designs, but I think the Armored Company is close. That bag is sold empty, so the pricing would probably be comparable. However, you might actually get a choice in the foam you get with the Sabol case, but then you'd be stuck with those horrible soft sides and lack of opening options.

The case comes with some pretty silly choices for foam. Since this is for Battletech, I would have stuffed it FULL of 2" high Hexes 2 trays, given you maybe 1x of the 2.5" Hexes 1, 1x 2.5" Hexes 2 and MAYBE 1x 3" Hexes 2. The other trays? Make an option for the customer to request vehicle- or infantry-based trays. Now I have about 7" of trays I cannot use.

The manufacturer is new, and I'm not sure how his product flow will be. If you order, be prepared for delays. This is conjecture based on emails I receive from him as he sends people's products out months late. He may get better as time goes along.


So...would I buy this again? Hard to say. I think it is a qualified yes. The quality and beauty is there, for sure, but the tray selection is really disappointing and will now make me spend well over the $200 mark to get the other trays I want/need, plus shipping.  Will I make this fix? No, not right away. Times are tough, we're entering into the Holiday season, and while I splurged a bit to get a fun toy, this toy has cost me more than enough as it is. I will hold off for a bit, hope the manufacturer is still around when my belt loosens up a bit, and maybe make some changes at the point.

I hope this review was thorough enough and helped. I don't want to be totally down on what I perceive as a really good product, but I wanted people to know what they were going to get before they order theirs. Sure, his info is listed on the site, so buyer beware, I do better with things in my hands (that's what she said!) and now I know.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Adventures in Applied Kinesiology, Part II

My wife asked me to write a follow up to the October rant I put up last year. Has it really been only 11 months since I saw my wife's kinesiologist? Well, that's a fair amount of time to wait for an update.

In  the past year I have lost a total of 40 pounds, and have averaged out to weighing 25 pounds less than my average was last year.  And I think in all fairness, most of it was a result of my trip to my wife's specialist.

Now, I still think this particular lady was a bit of a kook. I absolutely refuse to go back to see her, BUT...getting off the specific foods she told me to get off has done wonders. Going from an average of 215 lbs (high of 225) to an average of 190 (low of 184) and losing 3-4 inches off the waistline has been nice. We have made new friends as a result of our new eating style (its really been a lifestyle change: joining CSA's, really watching what we buy at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, almost never shopping at Safeway any more, and learning about what our favorite restaurants cook with), and learned a lot of our health in general.

I preach this where I can: most people are sensitive to foods they have no idea they shouldnt be eating - as evidenced by belly paunches (ESPECIALLY if the rest of you isnt fat!), bags under your eyes, lack of energy...you know, all that mumbo jumbo, but not everyone is allergic to gluten. This isnt something I can walk around to people and say, "You know, you'll be a lot healthier if you stop eating wheat."  It might be true, but we are all truly different.

That being said, eating healthy is a commitment, but it isnt as hard as I envisioned: I am dairy free, peanut free, wheat and corn free, gluten free (basically the same thing as no wheat), and soy free. I prefer foods with fewer, not more, ingredients. I drink sake, wine and brandy (E&J XO, my favorite ever, is made from grapes, who knew!) instead of beer (Bud Light is almost gluten free, at 20 parts per million, but it still takes like, well, you know...). I eat UDI's Whole Grain bread now from Whole Foods, and I admit, I miss the heck out of french bread, but UDI's rocks (we toast all our bread for sandwhiches now, and use butter instead of mayonnaise). Quinoa (pronounced "Keen-wah") is an amazing and tasty alternative to pasta - thank goodness Willow Street Pizza, our favorite place to eat, uses it so much.  I can do egg whites but not egg yolks, so I still have to eat carefully.  We accept that I basically have Celiac disease and eat accordingly.

All in all, if you can find someone who tests for food sensitivities in your area, that you look into it. Some of the techniques they use are a little odd, but let's face it: food isnt processed the same as it was, let alone even grown the same!  But health is life, and having been over 200 pounds since before I was married, to be under 190 again at the age of (almost) 40 is amazing. And it is all from my diet change - ZERO exercise, people. Zero. So while I still maintain that the experience I had 11 months ago was bizarre, the aftermath has been amazing. Thanks to my wife for her dedicated work, but Ive become a proponent of alternative medicine in my own little way.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Solar Empire Marines by C-in-C

Every now and again I stumble upon something not new, not neccessarily reveolutionary, but really, really piques my interest.

Solar Empire Marines by C-in-C is my latest inspiration. I have discovered that I like the concept of things better than actually building and making them, but for amazing 6mm infantry, these certainly qualify!

Here is a quick sneak peak:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Strike Legion: first dice thrown in anger

I've owned Strike Legion from Legionnaire Games for some time now, and have always been impressed with how it looked. As a 6mm player, I am constantly looking for new games that play easily like Epic: Armageddon does, has the build-your-own ability ingrained in the game, and has option after option...all without slowing the game down. The potential of Strike Legion seemed unlimited, really, but there are always questions when reading through a ruleset as complicated (or rather, potentially complicated) as this one.  Let me explain:

The core mechanics themselves are really not difficult, and felt a little like Battletech to me. You activate Platoons, small groups of vehicles or infantry, and play alternates between players. Your options during an activation are (Ive summed up the actions here, not using their formal names):

Move and Fire
Move 1.5x your printed speed with no firing (cannot be done two turns in a row)
Stand and fire with a bonus to hit
Go on Overwatch

Really, what more can you ask for? The neat thing about Move and Fire is that you can fire at any point during your movement, so moving out of cover, firing, then falling back out of LOS is quite valid, or dashing from cover to cover without limiting your ability to engage the enemy.

The game uses an integrated form of Electronic Warfare, in that, at the beginning of each turn, you assign Offensive and Defensive stats to your forces, on a platoon-level. This is made easy by the simply rule that all vehicles in a platoon (usually no more than 4) have the same EW stat. Offensive EW helps you hit the enemy, and obviously Defensive EW helps defend against incoming fire.

Rolling to hit wasnt really difficult, but it was handled in a method similar to Gruntz: each vehicle rolls 2d6 for their attack and attacks are allocated vehicle-to-vehicle. In Epic, my unit of Leman Russ tanks might fire at your unit of Wave Serpents, so I calculate all the attacks I have and throw a handful of dice. You take as many saves as you need to, then remove the unsaved hits, front to back, no questions asked. In Strike Legion, you dont throw the bucket of dice and calculate hits - instead, you assign Tank A to shoot at something, Tank B shoots at something, Tank C...and so on. These targets can be the same, can be different, or can even be in different enemy platoons.  Bottom line is, it isnt as streamlined as, say, Epic, but it really wasnt very hard to remember.

We only played the Basic Game, using the introductory scenario called "Parity". Each of us had three platoons of 4 tanks - a very basic tank with two weapons, and since we were using the identical forces, it made remembering stats quite easy!

We quickly learned that tank combat is LETHAL! Which is good, right? We were pulling tanks off left and right. Granted, we were both using a highly Offensive strategy, but the aggressor, playing the Computer forces in the scenario, really cleaned my clock. Which is good...because he brought the wine, so we had to reward him somehow, right?

After the game, we both decided that we really liked how it played, but had slight concerns about it handling a game of similar model count to an average Epic: Armageddon game.

We also came up with some play aides that we feel would really help speed up the game, or at least help our failing memories:

When shots are fired, if the To-Hit roll was successful and was an odd number, the hit is taken against your Hull armor. If the roll was even, it hit your Turret. More than once, we had multiple tanks in a platoon firing at the same target, so my tank might end up taking two or more hits. But since you fire all your declared shots before resolving damage, once the firing was done, it wasnt enough to say, "OK, roll damage twice on this tank." We had to make note of which armor values were to be used.

We think colored chits with "Hull" or "Turret" would suffice. Mini poker chips like the ones from Kaplow Games, or even Sorting chips in a more opaque version would work. My idea is to get two colors (because it is certainly not uncommon for any given tank to have at least 2 weapons, and sometimes both hit!), mark "Odd: Hull" on 10 or so of each color, write "Even: Turret" on the others, and then drop them next to each target as they are hit.

It may be unnecessary, but we thought this could also help in complicated firing situations: drop a colored marker next to a firing tank, and drop a same-colored token next to its target. Once all declarations have been decided, just find the color combinations and let the dice fly.

Are we making it harder than we need to? Likely!  However, we have committed to playing larger battles, so we want whatever we can find to help the flow.  The mechanics seemed good, which was refreshing: you never really can tell until the first dice are thrown in anger (and no, I dont mean hurled against the wall in a temper tantrum - if you still do that, you dont belong at my gaming table). And now, for me to plan my revenge!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Warmaster: An Introduction to 10mm Fantasy

With my move coming this next week, Ive had a lot of time to think about gaming and not an awful lot of time to actually do any. I have a few 6mm Epic armies to assemble and paint, but Ive been lured to the concept of massed fantasy battles in smaller model scales for awhile.

I had an opportunity to play Warmaster from Games Workshop last night. Its been one of the rulesets on my short list of fantasy games to try, so even though my friend Aron is moving like I am, and all his terrain is packed away, he was able to bring out a few armies and we had a go at it.

We are playing 1000 points on a glass table, thus the odd reflections. In the center is a small "village" that the Orcs (top) have been menacing, and the Elves (below, me) are moving to stop.

I've owned Future War Commander for a few years now, and studying it prepared me a bit for Warmaster, as the command system is similar. That being said, its the one main reason I never really wanted to put FWC on the tabletop when compared to Epic: Armageddon. In FWC/Warmaster, if a unit fails to receive its order, it cannot move. In Epic, if a unit fails its Activation roll, it can still do something, called the Hold action, but they arent sitting helpless in some useless corner or sitting in front of impending doom.

We built 1000 point armies. Composition isnt really important, but I only took one General and one Wizard as my commanders. I could have used more, especially since ranged combat didnt affect much (my ballista never moved or had a target anywhere near being in range), but Im sure thats game-situational.

In the pics above (same time frame, different levels of zoom), the Orcs had been harboring some spellcasters in the center village, and my spearmen swept in and displaced them (you can see them with the wolf riders just up and left from the yellow square in the pic). My chariots and outriders are engaging a Giant in melee on the far right, my archers are attempting unsuccessfully to establish a firing line on my left, and most of the Orc army is squabbling in the background. In fact, Aron went first, and he failed to activate a single unit with his Commanders before his turn ended.

[A comparison here: Mighty Armies is a game I am looking at heavily as a contender for my money. In it, you get 2d6-worth of activation points, which must be spent to move your units. At first, when I read this, I balked, since I'm not normally a fan of games that dont let me move as I feel I need, but seeing how Warmaster works, consider this: If Aron had only rolled a 2 on his MA activation points, he could have at least advanced two smaller or one larger unit forward (units of up to 4 stands cost 1 point, 5 or 6 stands cost 2), whereas here he basically rolled a Zero and moved nothing. Poor rolling, yes (thats what you get for a game that relies on rolling LOW on dice!  LOL), and so mostly an anomaly, but a key issue I have with the game.]

The chariots and Reaver outriders hit the Giant...HARD.

The neat thing about the game, combat wise, is it really feels like GW's Warhammer game. Each stand has a base number of attacks, and actions on the battlefield affect that. Here, my units each had 3 attacks per stand. Charging grants +1, being a chariot on the charge grants +1, and fighting a Fear-inspiring monster gives a -1 (so my chariots had 4 attacks each, and the Reavers were a straight 3 dice per, giving me 18 dice as the furthest stand of Reavers wasnt in base contact). Hitting on 4's, the Giant fell in one round. I liked the combat mechanic, and throwing a satisfactory number of dice was a good thing.

I had difficulty wrapping my mind around movement, I'll admit. This is a silly thing to admit, because it is a lot more straight forward than, say, Warhammer, but it was flexible enough that I was having internal struggles with past paradigms while watching movement unfold (but dont tell Aron this!). Aron, however, had some ease-of-play tricks obviously borne of much play, and they helped.

We had a few really good brawls. We started late in the evening, and only got through half a game, but here my spearmen are receiving a charge on their left flank from trolls, and to their front from boar chariots. The two stands in contact with the enemy got wiped out, but the next turn I got some good counter charges in and the blood started flowing. At one point I had his trolls completely boxed in, and they were swinging away for all they were worth. It was a grand sight at this scale.

I really love how fluid the game is. Ranged combat can force the target back a few centimeters, and there is much shuffling back and forth in melee as well. It felt right to me, and at one point my spearmen were nearly forced from the village, and I thought, how cool! There werent any routs or big disasters, but the battle lines shifted as the fight raged on, and it felt right.

Going back to the lack of activations in the game: as he began, so he continued: Aron's forces largely sat at the back of his deployment zone, as did my two units of heavy cavalry. Aron pointed out that the byproduct of this was both of us having a useful reserve, and this was true, for when my cavalry suddenly responded to the orders being sent their way, they surged in beautiful formation right through the center of the field and really lined themselves up for a killer charge the next turn (Aron warned me that the large brigade of Orcs staring back at them might get their charge off first, so my narrow column of knights might not be in the best position to receive the charge, but this was Aron rolling...with my dice...so I knew the odds of that were slim and left them as they were. LOL sorry Aron!).

All in all, this game has some meat to it!  I liked what I saw, magic looked good but wasnt overly powerful. It isnt the "Build-your-own" system I have been really wanting to play, but wow, IMHO there is zero reason to play 28mm Warhammer any more (I have a large Orc army for sale or trade!). But because of that meat, this game is a long one, and even at 1000 points, I doubt we could have gotten out of there in less than 2 hours even if we were both experts at it - it felt more like a 3 hour game. Not a bad thing, in and of itself, but Im hoping for something a tad quicker to play. A lot of my game time is spent setting up impressive looking terrain, and then getting to put it all away again, so faster gameplay is key with this in mind.

Thanks to Aron for having beautifully painted armies and the willingness to host and teach me the game on short notice and at such a late hour. We have decided to give Mighty Armies a try soon as a comparison (there is nothing like throwing dice in anger to see how a game actually plays - you can only theoryhammer so long...pardon the pun).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Im alive...promise!

I have been out of the loop for two months now, so I wanted to put the proverbial pencil to paper and remind myself what's been going on recently.

I manage a motel in an amazing town, and the property has never done justice to the setting in which it sits. All that is changing now, however, as the owners have finally begun a massive renovation that will make it fit in, thankfully.  How does this affect me? I live onsite, and my apartment is slated to become office space, so I will be moving offsite shortly (within a few months, it looks). So I am in this horrible limbo and have been since Christmas, because the house shopping being done could have come to fruition at any time.

Now it looks ready to be settled - a small townhome (more like an apartment) across the street is opening on July 1, and the owners have all but closed on it. Let the packing begin!

This also means that I havent had the craft space to do what I want, and my game room has become a repository for all the household crap that is also in limbo, so just getting the game table and terrain out has been a huge task in and of itself. Thus, no tabletop gaming for the past few months, and maybe not till after the move. Bummer.

I do, however, have some games I am really looking forward to playing, once the move is done. Strike Legion is on the top of my list, as are more games of Epic: Armageddon. 6mm is still my first love. In the 15mm realm, Strike Legion just published Platoon Leader, and I helped edit and playtest it a bit, I received a complimentary copy. Super cool, and I want to get it on the table. Brent over at Bombshell Games, the maker of OP4S, is also working on a new version of a game called The Battlefield and I hope to put some editing work to that as well.

Why havent I done more 15mm? After all, Im pretty sure thats what I opened my blog with!  Well, Tomorrow's War just wasnt what I was wanting, as it didnt have the Army Builder aspect to it, and it fried my brain while playing. Gruntz was fun, but a friend of mine didnt dig it...but now Robin is working on his Army Builder program, so I'll likely give it another shot once that comes out.

I started work on an Excel sheet for building units in KJ's Strike Legion game, but the formulas were complicated enough to give me pause. I found a volunteer to help from the TMP forums, so we'll see if he is able to deliver.

What have I been doing recently? A whole lot of no wargaming, but Ive been idle!

I bought a metric ton of World of Warcraft TCG cards around Christmas (I LOVE CCGs) and have been sorting and cataloging them. Ive played some Battletech, been kicking around with Mechwarrior 4 in anticipation of Mechwarrior Online coming online this summer (I even bought a Logitech G940 Flight System in preparation of this, on crazy sale!), and even have started up Tera Online, my first MMO in years since World of Warcraft. I love MMO's also, but tend to get addicted to them, so Ive eased up over the past few years. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on my PS3 has been getting a lot of play time as well.  In short, Ive dabbled in most every medium except miniatures. I even got a big shipment from England of Exodus Wars 6mm stuff, so I can finish my Death Korp of Krieg and start a Harakoni Warhawks army for Epic...but alas, it'll likely wait till after the move to get finished.

Of course that's not all I've done. Ive been in a weekly D&D 3.5 campaign, and I've even begun working on a fantasy setting for my own Champions/HERO game (combining L5R, WoW, and a lot of other fantasy genres into something fun), but am highly annoyed that most of the basic books I need for HERO arent available right now. /frustrated!!

So fear not - more work will be done on this blog coming this summer. I'll get more terrain done, post painting updates on my Krieg list, and try to get some Epic and Strike Legion batreps posted. Hang in there. Im not done yet!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another 6mm building by JR Miniatures

This is JRM's #13802, Destroyed Red October Factory. I painted it to match a burnt down brick factory, and think I succeeded really well.

The ink here is GW's Devlan Mud. I hadnt thought to use the Badab Black here, but I think it still turned out nicely.

You may notice a slight sheen to the building, which is a little bothersome, but it has been coated with Krylon Matte Varnish that I got at the local Ace Hardware. I am testing out Tester's Dullcoat on my other JRM piece I just finished, in the hopes that I can compare the two...but Dullcoat is expensive and hard to find here in San Jose, CA, at least as far as I can tell.

Making these pieces helps me feel like I have unique terrain, even if they are just store-bought, and spending so much time on them makes it that much more rewarding. Hope you like it.

Im not alone when it comes to not wanting to paint rank after rank...

Ive been surfing over at Tabletop Gaming News today as I often do, and came across this article reviewing Warpath, the to-be-40k-competitor by the guys over at Mantic Games. You can read it here:


But what caught my eye was the comment at the end:

"The reality is that I'm not quite as enamoured with the idea of mass battle games like I once was. It no longer fits with how, or indeed where I want my hobby to go. I've done that for roughly the past 15 years or so and in the end I didn't find it a very enjoyable all round hobby experience. I guess it's because deep down I love painting and being forced to have to paint row after row of identikit miniatures fills me with dread now, no matter how I approach it. Painting them to as high a standard as I can achieve, which is what I'd normally choose to do, scares the hell out of me. Especially when I think of the time commitment I'd have to make to such a joyless task. Yet speed painting them, and just doing the basics isn't what I like doing either and I find it a bit soul destroying. Big games take a big commitment and I guess my life isn't quite in that same 'hobby zone' right now that it used to be."
You've just nailed my attitude exactly. I can't tell you whether it's a general trend or just a few of us, but I'm over the whole fill-the-table-with-28mm models thing. It's an excess I can no longer afford either time-wise or cash-wise.

I love painting, which might be evident in the terrain I have done lately, but I think this is because the pieces themselves are so individualistic that it is almost like a skirmish game with terrain :)

I have a new JR Miniatures building to show, maybe tonight, but I wanted to get this out there. It echoes how I feel a lot too...and is one of the reasons that 6mm is such a joy to me right now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

JR Miniatures 6mm ruins

I love painting, but I dont tend to find it therapeutic as many do simply because I often cannot sit for long periods without feeling some pretty major discomfort in my back and neck as I work away, all hunched over and whatnot (I know, I know, posture is everything...).

But I still really enjoy. I love making the terrain and I love making it look nice. Sometimes, however, a ready-made piece just looks so good that you cannot help but love it. I feel this way about JR Miniature's stuff.

Here is the JRM #1351 City Block Ruin #2:

Im pretty happy with how the weathering turned out. I observed how the game developers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 textured their buildings on Dome, and I wanted to replicate the building from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's "Vacant", which had a seafoam green-ish color that I loved.

I used GW's Badab Black wash first, then went back over it with Devlan Mud. I kept my strokes vertical and think it really did the job.

I'll put more up as I finish them.

More discussion at: http://www.tacticalwargames.net/taccmd/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=22691

Monday, February 20, 2012

6mm Terrain makes a comeback

Ive been searching for the "next" game for some time now, and every time I do, I end up back where I started...

So, in preparation for a game this week, I decided to finish some pieces of terrain that I had started a while back but hadnt completed (in other words, status quo).  I am a good painter but I take a miserably long time because I am foolishly fixated on detail. Oh well. I like the results.

First up, a village:

I try to have things look as good as I can get them without sacrificing playability. That is a HARD combination to juggle...but I achieve it mainly by putting my trees on washers and placing small round magnetic sheet-cut circles where they are to go. The trees are then removable and can look good and be moved at the same time.

I like color on my battlefields as well. Too many games have unfinished models and terrain (my own included!) or cityscapes painted in blacks and greys, so I try to splash in what I can. In reality, I mix fall and summer colors, but hey, maybe on some alien world thats what it really looks like! I have Woodland Scenics flowers sprinkled about, and the trees are using WS turf. The trees' color is bigger and grainier, but I realized as I was adding it that the flower mixture would be perfect! Mixing the colors with some green flock would be awesome for 6mm ground cover. I love discovering.

Its my wife's favorite color of the houses, and Im super proud of the fence, so hey, a close up is in order.

Notice also that the yards have a greener color than the roundabout. I tried to replicate the color of lawn, so I got the "Green Grass" flocking from WS....twice. Yea...I forgot that I had thought about this before, so Friday when I ran down to get some, I opened the new jar ($10 USD) before checking my flocking selection. Oh well. I have grass for days now :)

The Church is designed to go near the village, maybe on some soon-to-be-built (LOL who am I kidding...) road system.

Its a little hard to tell from these angles, but the church is slightly elevated, and the path winds up to it from the front. The gravemarkers were obnoxious to do, and superglue isnt the best method of gluing things to MDF board.  Its ok...the glue from the sand and flocking should keep them in.

The Devlan Mud wash on all the buildings turned out great, but I am especially pleased with the church.

So thats it for now. One of these days I'll start assembling my Death Korp of Krieg list that I mostly own, and maybe work more on my city scape (combinations of 4"x4" 2mm squares of plasticard to make a city grid).  I have also to play Strike Legion, but for now, its on to Epic Armageddon!

NOTE: I had a request for the manufacturer of the buildings. I dont know...but they might be  Hovels and Principles (I have no link but got a lead a few years ago, unconfirmed).

As for scale:

Rhino and a stand of Exodus Wars infantry and autocannon:

Whirlwind and a stand of Sisters of Battle Seraphim proxies I got from a blue werewolf's brother...

And NO, the bases on the vehicles arent done, so no comments mentioning them :P