Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Are Two Heads Better Than One?

Here in Australia our initial thought would be that this chap comes from Tasmania, but he doesn't. He came from from a hobby store in Sydney!
I decided to order a bunch of Reaper Bones stuff because we're in lock-down and I wanted something interesting to paint, so I decided to add to my fantasy critters. I'm still working on my big battle fantasy rules so I thought I'd get some more creatures that can enhance the game. Due to unforeseen circumstances my order was split into two deliveries and the next lot is expected next week. 

Anyhow, here are a few of the things that arrived earlier this week:

An Ettin. This is a great model. He's not as large as I'd hoped but he is a decent size and looks pretty intimidating. He's a Black Bones figure and detail is lacking in some areas but his faces are really great. Overall it's a great addition at a reasonable cost.
Another ogre from Reaper Bones. These chaps are always useful. For my game they can be fielded in their own units or they can be attached to other units to give them more punch. This one is pretty plain but he looks the part and will fit in perfectly.
And some bats. In my game I've included swarms (both flying and crawling). I have a bunch of giant bats but I saw these and thought they'd work well. This is two models (front and back) and I have a third one coming in the second wave. I figure a few of these and a couple of giant bats together on a sabot base will create a suitable swarm. I'm about to start building up my undead army for larger battles so these should fit in well.
And that's it for now. I've been looking for a large bunch of cheap GW undead that I bought last year. I put them in a box somewhere and I can't remember where I put the box. I suppose I'll just have to keep looking.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Elven Peltasts ~ What?

This is a little conversion that I've been thinking about for a while. I've read The Silmarillion often and it always makes me think of ancient history and the battles make me think of ancient battles. Not Dark Ages or Medieval - Ancient. Last year I was painting and listening to the Silmarillion audiobook and I heard the words: "Elven phalanx." That really got me thinking...

So sticking with that train of thought I decided to make some Elven Peltasts. It's a unit I've never seen before and I thought I might be interesting. But... How to make them?

I decided to use the Oathmark Light Elf Infantry. I had a few sprues and thought it will keep them thematically in line with the rest of my elf army.
I had some round shields in my bits box and found that the spear arms of the Oathmark Heavy Elf infantry would work too. I just cut the arms off at the edge of the glove. and glued them onto the light infantry arms. I also used some of the short swords on the elf sprues and some swords from the Fireforge Sergeants in my bits box. 

The javelins are the shaft of the heavy elf spears but I cut off the spear blade, shortened the shaft and cut the lance heads off some Warlord Napoleonic French Lancers (you can see them in the background) which I glued onto the spear shaft.
I wasn't sure about a colour scheme. I didn't want them in deep forest greens or standard elfish blues and white. I opted for a stone-green with dark purple trim and a blue-black cloak. The shields are pretty garish and boring but I wanted to get the figures painted and I can always change them later.
So there they are. A new elvish peltast unit already in the line of battle and waiting to take part in the next test game of my rules. (I might even have a second unit by the time that happens.)

P.S. I was going to call them Elevn Theurophoroi and really screw around with peoples' perceptions of how fantasy should be.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Another Fantastic Test Game

 After much more writing and re-writing I played another game of my nascent big battle fantasy rules.

This time I once again pitted the elves against the orcish hoards. Even though this is my third post on the subject this is actually my fourth test game because I replayed the last game after making some amendments. Every game is bringing to light areas that need attention and this last game prompted me to make some major changes that I'll try out soon.
One of the issues that came out of this game was unit activation. I'm using a card mechanic for activating leaders and units. I decided on a card activation from the start because I started this project to create a set of solo rules for myself. I'm keeping with this but I also included a 2 Functions for each unit when activated system. It works but I really needed to define what units can and can't do. I played this last game to the letter of what I'd written and found that much of my reasoning was still in my head an not on the page.
One thing I worked on since the previous game is Fantastic Creatures ~ Both single creatures and units. Units like the Orc Boar Riders is easy. They're just Heavy Cavalry with the Special Ability: Gore. The big spiders needed more thinking. What I came up with is various Creature Profiles. Lesser Creatures, Medium Creatures and Greater Creatures (I need a better word to replace Medium!). Then there are sub-classes of these three categories. So the Spiders are Lesser Creatures ~ Fast. With the special rule: Scuttling.
The Lesser Creatures can be fielded as single models or as companies. As singles they can be mixed with regular units. Medium and Greater Creatures are always single models. The ogres below are Lesser Creatures ~ Brawn with the Special Ability: Strong
I also tested the Magic system a bit more and found that it's pretty damn solid. Which is great. The magic can be powerful but it's not overpowering and to the get big results requires a level of risk because your foe can oppose your Spell Casters with Counter Spells . The elf queen got whacked a bit in the early moves. Each side had multiple spell casters this time around and it was easy to keep track of what was happening with them. A few offensive spells effected the battle and it was the support spells that had the greatest impact.
Another thing that needed testing was the terrain rules. These are pretty basic but they still needed to be tried. The rules worked but needed more definition.
The elves had their own unit of ogres and faerie folk for this game and they certainly added some colour.
The game has a point system and I decided to try it. But what I did was to put out a bunch of stuff that I thought looked equal and then calculated the numbers using the point system. I was pretty happy that both sides came to around 120 points. Both sides were just under so I had to tweak the numbers with a couple of additional special abilities or small upgrades.
Skirmishers work as I want. They cause barely any casualties but they do have the ability to prompt a Test of Valour. To a fresh unit this is pretty much negligible but a bad roll on 2d6 can cause a unit to halt and disrupt an advance. Against a damaged unit an unexpected Test of Valour has the potential cause a retreat. 
I got to put my Granbretanians on the table too. I have more of these troops but I chose a difficult paint scheme and they've been sitting on my paint desk for ages. I need to paint them and get more to build them up. I sculpted these figures for Eureka Miniatures several years back.
The Brass Bull below is an example of a single model Medium Creature. You could also include other creatures in this class like, a manticore, lesser giant, umber hulk, owlbear, gryphon... etc.
One thing that works well with these two armies is that they have very different units. The elves have, what I'm calling: Spear and Bow (sort of bill & bow or sparabara). This is a mixed unit with good ranged power and decent defence but a pretty rigid formation. The orcs, on the other hand are mainly warbands which are more flexible and harder hitting in their charge. 
While I was sitting back and looking at the rules I looked at the table and I was pretty happy with what I saw. It looks just how I want it to look: Lots of troops in solid blocks and lines with plenty of colour and a variety of troops and creatures.
I gave the elves a general on a dragon. I didn't want this creature/unit to be over powerful. I found that I really had to define the rules for flying units. What I had was very sketchy. In the pic below the dragon is about to use a breath weapon on the orc shaman. Spell casters have defensive values based on their level. There are 4 levels: Acolyte, Magician, Wizard and Sorcerer. This guy was a Wizard so he had pretty decent magical defences and managed to survive the fiery blast.
Ogre Battle:"Eh yoo. Yeah. The one with the club. I want a word with ye."
The chariots played a bigger part in this game. They did a bit of shooting and also managed to chase off the enemy skirmishers and a pack of wolves. The chariots charged but the skirmishers and wolf pack both managed to Evade. So it was a bloodless victory for the charioteers.
Not so bloodless on the opposite flank. The efiin cavalry got the worst of it in the first clash but in the second round some lucky dice managed to kill the orc commander and slowly turn the tide.
In the centre: No such luck. A warband with an attached ogre smashed a phalanx in the centre. Phalanx is another of the unit formations and behaves as your expect. Strong to the front and vulnerable to the flanks and rear. This time around the orcs hit hard and the elfin phalanx rolled abysmal dice. 
The elf general/dragon got into the rear and I expected it to be an overpowered move but I played it through to see the result.
The dragon charged into the rear of the warband but, rules as written the warband had a chance to Turn to Face the new threat. This made the dragons' attack pretty worthless but also left the orcs surrounded. This cause a lot of confusion, much note taking and plenty of rewriting. 
Part of the problem is that I had forgotten to write any rules for a unit falling back into enemy units. I know what I thought should happen but I hadn't put it into words. A good learning experience.
The Ogre Battle ended with the Faerie Folk being Worsted (ie: Breaking) and leaving a big gap in the elvish line.
Meanwhile the Granbretanians pinned a unit of Spear and Bow with their brass bull and marched a regiment into the elvish flank.
I left it here because I had plenty to think about but the elfin line was in a bad way and looked on the verge of collapse with in the next turn or two.


It's getting there. Slowly but surely it's getting there. There are still aspects I'm unsure of how to tackle at this stage ~ Undead armies being one of them. I have some ideas but nothing solid as yet. Victory conditions being another.

I made some major changes to the combat system after this game. I had it so that a units' Armour Protection directly cancelled out hits before Casualties were calculated. This had the effect that weaker units could not inflict any casualties at all on stronger units. So, I re-thunk and re-wrote. Now I'm going to replay this game with units' Armour Protection (AP) values slightly boosted all around but making the value a pool of d6's to be rolled to cancel Hits. 

For instance: Heavy Foot had AP-5, meaning that you needed to get 6 hits to inflict 1 Casualty because 5 hits would be automatically cancelled. The system worked but... So now Heavy Foot have AP-6 and they get to roll 6d6 to try and cancel hits.

In case you were not aware, this is a Bucket o' Dice game. I justify this choice thus:

To my way of thinking hundreds of troops charging into the fray and fighting desperately
for their lives is aptly conveyed by a fist full of dice. It may not be perfect and it may not
be accurate but a dozen dice clattering on the table-top and the uncertainty of the result
seems like a viable substitute to the ringing sound of spear on shield as you try to pull
off a desperate victory in the face of almost certain defeat.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

A Pair of Orcish Shamans

 I got these figures last year. They're both Reaper Black Bones figures and they're not some of their better figures. They sort of came up okay but they are really lacking detail and some of what there is isn't well defined. I couldn't make out what some of the details were so I just guessed.

I'm not sure what this one is supposed to be but I decided it's a half orc shaman. It looks okay in these photo and in the flesh but painting it was a challenge because the lack of detail made it uninviting and a bit of a chore. Overall it came out okay but I think a metal figure would have been much nicer.
This one was a disappointment. The images online look great but I'm pretty sure those pics are of the metal figure. Some of the detail is there but some of it is really ill defined and I had trouble trying to figure out what was what.
Overall, I shouldn't complain. They look okay and, for my purposes, they are only wargaming figures after all. 

Monday, 2 August 2021

Fantasy Rules ~ part 2

I spent a week writing, testing, discarding and re-writing and inventing, re-inventing, a set of big battle fantasy rules. Some aspects seem to work well and others don't. Terminology is a killer. Trying to find a one word solution or a short phrase to encapsulate an entire concept is trying. There are only so many words out there and it's often difficult to find words that don't seem to tread on the toes of others.

Anyway, I put concepts into writing in order to try and make better sense of what I'm aiming for. I expanded on my original concepts, adding and discarding various things. Then I put everything together for another game with varying levels of success.
I wanted to try something a bit different this time around and decided to take two historical armies and add a bit of a fantasy element to each. I didn't really work but the main reason for this was to tryout a couple of other unit formations and test other things.

So I dug out my Anglo Saxons and re-dubbed them Wild Men of the North and pitted them against my Imaginations pseudo-13th century Germans. Lots of colour on one side and lots of grey chainmail on the other.
One of  the concepts I tried is having a of a Battle Mage Company instead of single magic user characters. This is a spell casting unit that incorporates offensive and defensive magic elements. It worked well but I'm having trouble with other magical unit ideas which encroach on this idea. 
This is a very basic unit with generic magic users stuck on a skirmish base. However, I envision players being able to use those big, lovely, fancy models that I've seen of magical cauldrons and alters with witches dancing around and what-not, as their Battle Mage Company.
One of the things I wanted to try with this game was heavy cavalry. I wanted to see if if I've over-powered them or left them to weak. So I set up the game with a major central cavalry charge and smaller cavalry actions on either flank.
I also wanted to try out my rules for flying units. The pic below is a single figure but I used it as if it was a company sized unit.
Companies and Regiments. I've tried to incorporate two different sized units a Company (a single row of bases) and a Regiment (double row of bases). Companies can support each other in combat or act independently, such as archers or crossbows. Regiments act as two companies permanently fixed together so they will always have built in combat support and they are more durable with other benefits and restrictions built in. There are several Regiment formations with unique rules.
Last game I used monsters intermingled into units and it worked well. This time I created an independent unit to see if it worked. The unit of ogres did work and were not as hard hitting I thought they might be. That was good. I want such a unit to hit hard but not so that they unbalance the combat mechanics.
The General of the Wild Men of the North looks somewhat familiar with his muscles on top of more muscles and a square-cut black mane and all that. This was a Warband regiment with the Special Ability: Berserker. This ability gives a unit a one-off combat boost. The rest of the North men units were Shieldwall regiments.
I don't have any suitable cavalry so the Northen Men got some orc allies. The wolf pack below is a Fantastic Creature unit. I've created about a dozen generic templates that can be tinkered with to create different types of fantasy creature units. (And... I know wolves are not fantasy creatures but packs of them fighting in armies is a pure fantasy concept.) On the other hand the Orc cavalry are just Heavy Riders with the Special Ability: Gore, added on to account for the armoured-boars they're riding.
I also got to use my new stream terrain pieces that I made a few weeks back.
Skirmishers v's Crossbow companies. Not a very equal match up and the crossbows won out. Skirmishers are not very effective against formed heavy troops. They have little chance of causing casualties especially shooting front on. What they can do, however is cause unit to take a Test of Valour on a dice roll of multiple 6's which can cause units to become Disordered. It won't happen often but there's always the chance disrupting the ranks of the foe.
A barbarian general's eye view of the advancing enemy.
The cavalry lead the advance. One of the reasons for trying out the riders is because I expanded the cavalry to included knights. Originally I had only heavy and light riders but decided to tone down the heavies a notch and create knights/cataphracts for truly heavy cavalry.
After the first move only the riders, skirmishers and crossbows of each side have moved forward (except for the ogres who plunged forward on their own).
The crossbows have the option of using pavaises but they need to spend a Function to set them up. Each unit has two Functions. The crossbows below chose to move with one function and then shoot with the other.
And then the first Charge of the game happened and the crossbows got hit without their pavaises in place.
Instead of having the benefit of shields the stream deducted some dice form the attacking wolf pack enabling the crossbows to hold their ground a push the wolves back.
Pavaises in action... Wow. This is a sight that you tell your grandchildren about in the future.
The knights hit the ogre company and push them back. Both units hurts each other but the ogres came off second best. I wasn't sure about follow up actions after a melee so the riders didn't press the attack. I've since devised simple rules for follow up actions after melee.
The gryphon attacked and failed. It has a special ability: Swoop which gave is some re-rolls but the Warband with a general attached was too strong even thought the warbands' main strength lies in its hard-hitting charge. The rules for the flyer were not solid enough or well thought out. For the majority of the game it sat around getting shot at.
More pavaises in action. Will this excitement ever stop?
I decided to use Skirmish Bases. This was a mistake and I soon removed them because they just proved to get in the way. Skirmishers should be able to flow around formed units and make way for them when needed. Having them on big bases negates this ability.
The big showdown in the centre was about to take place.
Meanwhile, the German infantry have been slow getting off their starting line. All of their fighting has been done by the crossbowmen.
The knights charged and pushed back the warband because the warband, even with plenty of boosts rolled truly awful dice. The ogres also got pushed back in their second combat with the knights.
Both the warband and ogres made their own charge. The warband pushed back the Teutonic knights but the ogres bounced.
A second concerted charge by the knights saw them break the Northern centre.
This fight happened over a two of turns and it ended up that in one turn both sides managed to engage the enemy a couple of times. this made for a bit of push and shove. I don't know yet if this is good or bad. But, as it turned out, when the centre broke it broke hard. 
On the Norther right the heavy riders charged their shieldwall and bounced off. The shieldwall, in turn moved in and bounced back. This went back and forth for several combats with the riders getting slowly pushed back and with each side taking minor casualties.

On the left flank the Orc riders and the wolf pack slowly ground their way forward. The crossbows were thrown back from the stream and the orcs assaulted the troops on top of the hill but fell back. 
A mixed regiment of shieldwall and two-handed axmen (what I'm calling a Zweihander Regiment) was supporting the orc riders but they got held back by a magic spell and failed to get involved with the attack on the high ground.


The rules are making more sense and many things worked as I wanted. Unfortunately there were some things that didn't work out too well. But I've since gone over them and created firmer rules to try and get all my ideas grounded. One of the more difficult aspects is getting various ideas working with each other without compromising each other. In this aspect it's a matter of having to compromise with myself for the sake of balance. (I am a Libran after all!)

Being a wargamer for so long it's very easy to take things for granted. I'm finding that when I go back a read what I've already written I'll often realise I've miss out whole sections that need attention. This is because I know what should be there and, as I said, it's just taken fro granted. 

For instance: "Move your unit forward." I understand that in linear warfare you move straight ahead and formations can't just scoot around. On a re-read I thought... "Hmm... I need to elaborate and spell out exactly what I mean."

The gryphon didn't work at all. I have templates for lesser flying creatures and greater flying creatures. The lesser ones work as Company sized units, the greater ones are individual creatures such as a dragon or a roc. This failure prompted me to create templates for intermediate creatures (flyer and foot) such as the gryphon or a giant wolf or an Umber Hulk! The ogre company is made up of 3 Lesser Creatures. I've divided the Lesser Creatures into types: Brains, Brawn (the ogres), Fast and Flyers. With the Lesser Creatures you can include 1 model in a standard regiment or combine three models into a company. There are also Packs (the wolves) and Multitudes (rats, bats, etc.). There are 10 different templates.

Anyway, it's coming together. There's still plenty to include and plenty of fine tuning. Then there's plenty of play testing that needs to be done and more re-writing and fine tuning. And then more... 

And more...

Thanks for reading.