Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Go on then, lets do some Hobby Resolutions!

Greetings fellow wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to the cusp of a brave new year! It’s that time again, when we say farewell to the year that is ending, slam home a new powerpack, check our sights, and set the time circuits for 2015. Whatever you do…don’t look back.

It seems that year upon year we hobbyists and gamers make the same kind of wishful and occasionally wildly unachievable New Year’s resolutions that everyone else does, though we of course tend to make two sets of resolutions – the mundane kind, like ‘this year I will drink less’, or ‘this year I will lose weight’ – and then, hobby related, resolutions. For us, I think these are the ones that really matter.

While on the subject of hobby resolutions, I have to wonder whether this is something that is unique to Wargamers, or whether it is something that is undertaken across the whole spectrum of hobbyists, from the Scale Model crowd, to the X-Wing mob, the board gamers and even the card gamers? I’d like to find out a little more about this phenomenon.

So, I guess the point of this post (as I am sure it will be for every other hobbyist’s ‘Resolutions post’ you are likely to read), is to tell you all what kind of promise I plan to make for the coming year. Well I decided some months ago what my plan for the coming months (and years) would be, and I guess that this is a chance to make it official.

My New Year’s Hobby Resolution for 2015 is to paint a minimum of 250 models by the end of the year. I am not sure if this seems like a lot or not. It’s certainly enough models to make up one and a half to two armies, so I guess it is quite a few – given that many people make it their task to complete a single army within the current year.

When I break it down to ‘model count per month’, it only comes out at 20, which I think seems much more manageable – 5 each week every week. I plan to continue whenever possible to spend my one hour lunch break at work each day painting, and Thursday evenings for another hour or more while the wife is out at her class, so it’s perfectly achievable in my opinion, apart from the painting time I invariably lose when assembling new models! So the answer is seemingly to not purchase any more models. Or go on holiday – at least not without my painting kit.

In fact, I also need to consider the amount of time it would take to paint single large models as well, which might take 2 weeks on their own. I guess I need to refine my batch painting techniques so that when I am painting infantry models in bulk, I can whizz through them that much quicker. I already bought myself a can of Halfords ‘Rover Russet Brown’ to use to base coat my Bretonnian Peasants and my Orks, after getting on very well with the Halfords matt black primer. Best try a test model first though!

And why 250 for the year? Well, a couple of months ago I had a bit of a tot up of the approximate number of models I have in my Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 collections, and I determined that at a rate of 250 models per year I could have all of my Warhammer and 40K models painted by the time my son turns 8, which is an age at which I think he will be old enough to really start to understand the games to a degree that will allow us to properly start his ‘wargamer training’.

So, there is my hobby resolution for 2015 (and beyond), and my thinking behind it. I really intend push hard on this, and to keep up the momentum both by listening to gaming podcasts while I paint, and to change it up with every new unit I paint between the various armies I have, just to prevent me from getting bored painting all the models from a single army before moving on to the next army. This does however prevent me from taking part in any of the various ‘army painting challenges’ that people are running, because I’m not planning on spending enough time on any one army to complete it in the year – but you never know I guess.

I’d be interested to know what your hobby resolutions are, whatever kind of gaming you are into, so feel free to drop in a comment.

I wish you all a safe and prosperous New Year, full of hobby goodness. See you on the other side, and for the last time in 2014 - thanks for reading.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Next Generation...

Greetings fellow wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome once more during this festive season.

A few days ago, while listening to the Heelanhammer podcast, Wayne and Dan made a brief comment about planning to introduce their kids to the hobby of miniature wargaming, as I imagine many of us expect to do if we haven't done so already, and it made me realise two things.

Firstly, it brought me to the belief that our hobby - particularly where is concerns Games Workshop games - is now in a place it has never been in before. The second generation of players is coming through. The Old Guard (people like yours truly, and I guess the majority of hobbyists or gamers over 30 years old) are settling down and raising families of our own, and I expect most of us have plans for our own kids to benefit from our years of collecting and gaming experience.

My son is not yet four, but already asks to play with 'daddy's toy soldiers'. This is to be expected I suppose, not only because lots of kids take an interested in what mummy and daddy are doing, but also because it's fairly typical for small boys to want to play with toy soldiers, tanks, knights and dragons at some stage. I'd like to think that little girls could also take just as keen an interest in these things if they lean in that direction. If I had a daughter I would be surprised if she didn't take an interest with all the gaming stuff I have laying around.

So this is all fairly obvious I guess, but it does lead me neatly onto my second point of discussion, which relates to Games Workshop's approach to sales.

The commonly held opinion seems to me to be that Games Workshop's target market, partcularly in their stores, is the 'new gamer', which the usual discussions indicate people believe is the 'young teenager'/pre-teen. A 'hook them while they're young' approach, if you will. Well I can't knock that approach in general I guess, it worked on me.

I have started to wonder now after listening to Dan and Wayne chatting whether that tried and tested approach is inherently flawed. When I think now about those new gamers Games Workshop are targetting, I have to wonder how many of those kids are the offspring of the first generation of gamers?

********Intermission Rant*********

Ok, a quick sentence or two my thoughts about marketing practises that target children, for example adverts for toys during Saturday morning TV time. First off, I have to wonder about the ethical thinking behind bombarding small children with sparkly jingles and pictures of things they all of a sudden want, when they have no understanding of the way they are being manipulated or (more importantly), little understanding of the fact that toys and games are not paid for with fake money from their play shop.

Secondly, I will never understand why any company would target their marketing campaigns towards people WHO HAVE NO MONEY!!!

Typically, small children (in modern countries at any rate) don't have jobs, and at best have some small amount of 'pocket money' which they are paid by their parents in exchange for good behaviour, but even then they can't always spend it on whatever they want. 'Pester Power' should not be a thing! Parents should not be put in a position where they face arguments with the kids or capitulation in the face of screaming children that won't take no for an answer. 
This is not a civilised state of affairs. I can't stand in my bosses office and demand a pay rise otherwise I'll scream and scream and scream until I am sick. It just isn't cricket.

********Rant Over********

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that these days, how many of the 'new gamers' are really wide eyed and new to the world of hobby wargaming, and how many of them have parents with stern faces and Void Shielded wallets?

To paraphrase a line from Cuba Gooding Jnr, we know what it's all about: we've been to the puppet show and we've seen the strings. We also know what things cost, what perhaps is worth spending money on and what isn't and what is good value compared to what is not. We know about third party manufactured models and we know about discount retailers. We know about the second hand trade in miniatures. We know about ebay. Our eyes (for the most part) are wide open.

It's all well and good a company like Games Workshop building a strategy that focusses on new blood, but I have a feeling that a considerable amount of that new blood will become inaccessible unless we, the parents, the veterans, decide that the hobby is still a worthwhile, rewarding and financially justifiable pastime.

If however we become disillusioned and feel disconnected from what Games Workshop are doing with their games and miniatures, then we may well be making the decisions  about whether our kids get into what can easily become a huge investment in time and money, and critically (and very different from what was happening when I was starting out in the hobby), we would be making those decisions based on actual experience and first hand knowledge. Until now I can see a situation having existed where kids have talked their unknowing parents and grand parents into parting with cash based on their kids assurances that it's all very necessary.

In conclusion, I think that Games Workshop (and perhaps companies like them) need to pay just as much attention to what they need to do to keep the veterans engaged and happy with the state of play as they pay to ways of attracting the raw recruits, because the line between the two is only going to become greyer and greyer.

At the moment, but depending very heavily on what we see over the next few months, I think Games Workshop are doing what could be great things with the End Times series, but the long term impact of that and how it fits in with (or doesn't fit in with as the case may be) the 9th edition of Warhammer will put everyone in a very interesting place.

I think that Games Workshop should certainly think about their sales tactics; for example putting together bundles of models and actually giving some kind of discount for buying the bundle. Their quality may be second to none, but sometimes price wins out.

Anyway, these are my thoughts. If Games Workshop wants to be selling miniatures and games to my son in the years to come, they need to make sure I remain engaged in the hobby and supportive of my son's involvement with the company's products and methods.

Something for us all to think about in the years to come I think. Thanks for reading... 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A world of uncertainty...

Greetings fellow wargamers and hobbyists, welcome back (after what seems like an age) to my humble abode. Before I begin waxing lyrical on my thoughts about the recent surprises unleashed upon an unsuspecting populous by Games Workshop, I am pleased announce the upcoming return of the Sprue Cutters Union!

I don't think it will be until the new year, but I expect this will be a full and regular posting revival, so watch this space.

Now, with that out of the way, what has happened in the hobby (for me at least) since my last post back in October? Well that post was about making choices between the shiny new thing that catches your eye, and the things you perhaps should really be dedicating your funds to in order to keep up with the game and give your army the solid foundation it needs to keep you playing with as much competitive edge as everyone else.

The choice I was faced with making was between the amazing new Nagash model, and the (also newly released) Void Raven Bomber for my Dark Eldar, who struggle with anti-flyer weapons at the best of times and entirely lacked any fliers. The Void Raven (and perhaps common sense) won out.

More recently, we have seen a spate of releases in the Warhammer End Times series, which began with Nagash (which I have read - introducing the End Times and the return of the Great Necromancer, not to mention his triumph in the lands of Nekhara), continued in Glottkin (which I have not yet read, but I believe in which the Nurgle-blessed Brothers Glott lead their hordes in an invasion of the Empire), and now forges on with Khaine (also which I have not read, but I am sure is crammed with Elven brofisting and sharing of festive cookie recipes).

There has also been some consternation about a release of red armoured Space Marines and debate over the introduction of a new base size for Space Marine models from Games Workshop, but I won't go into that now. Suffice to say that the important thing about the new base size is that we do not have to re-base our existing collections, so the quantity of fig I am prepared to give is relatively small.

So, major movements in GW's End Times story, and in general seeming to be received very well by the gaming community! You may think at this point that there is a distinct limit to how much I should be talking about the End Times until after I have read the second and third books, and that would be a perfectly reasonable thing to say, but I do not intend to give an in depth run down of everything that has happened so far in the story. I'm not the type for that kind of article, and other blogs and podcasts have already done so probably better than I could.

No. What I want to talk about today briefly is just my thoughts on the whole thing. We know what's in the books: amazing background material and new rules - but what do we, the gamers, actually think about the idea itself and its execution?

One last quick thing I would like to say as an aside before I spill the random and ill considered contents of my brain onto the page is that the other reason I am writing this and that I am also looking forward to the return of the Sprue Cutters Union, is that my chances to get out and play games has taken a major hit the last few months due to a clash with a class my wife is attending (give and take, you know how these things can be), and so my urge to write has become steadily stronger, both for giving some love to my blog, but also for writing some prose. I guess now is the time. So if this post seems a little confused or lacking in direction, that is the reason. Lots of urge perhaps requiring more in the way of moderation. On with the show.

The End Times series so far seems to have done exactly what many of us have wanted for some considerable time: it has introduced a major advance in the story line (comments about the Storm of Chaos aside - the return of Nagash and the family reunion between the Elves makes it much more than a simple re-run of that). What isn't clear is exactly how the series is intended to impact our games. Now this won't cause a moment's consternation for those of us who are used to simply cherry picking what we want from the ever expanding base of rules and source material available, but make things a little trickier for tournament organisers and players.

In my humble opinion it's not so much the new rules themselves, rather the fact that we don't have all of the rules yet that will be part of the extended End Times Release. Of course some of the rules seem unbalanced (because many of them are) when taken in isolation, but it's not until all of the End Times books (and complimentary Errata and FAQ documents) are in our hands that we will really be able to judge whether all the new rules and units are balanced when taken as a whole.

This is no different to when 8th Edition Fantasy landed, and the first few army books written for that edition were released. Things didn't begin to feel more balanced until the majority of armies had books for 8th, and look where we are now. The game as a whole is in a fantastic place, barring just one or two little tweaks. Tournament organisers need to take a breath, perhaps consult with their gamers and decide which elements of the new releases they want to include and which they don't. As new rules come out, the balance will probably change, and all they can do is do their best to maintain the level playing field, which I am sure that they are doing to the best of their ability and under tricky circumstances.

Ok then, why all the uncertainty? Well, at this present juncture there are several things going through my mind that make me hesitate before I do or purchase anything.

I would like to own all of the End Times books, but with them being in and out of stock all over the place at the minute that is easier said than done. And even if I could buy the second and third books, because we had first the hardbacks, now seemingly softback versions, and without knowing for sure how many books there will be, my inclination is to wait and see, and see also whether there will be a single compiled 'End Times mega-tome' at the end of it all.

Until I know what is going to be released and when, I don't feel happy committing funds to any of my armies, because I don't know yet what the long term effects will be. I certainly don't feel confident buying anything towards my Bretonnians over and above the models I bought and built earlier this year, because what is going to happen to the Bretonnians, Skaven and Beastmen is anyone's guess at the moment.

I for one expected to see a new book for each of them before anything major came out. In fact that is only partly true. I expected to see new books for them before 9th edition hits, and one of the questions floating around the ether at the moment is whether the End Times series is some kind of scene setting or table laying for the release of a 9th edition rules set. I did want to run a campaign at my local club, but apart from struggling to make it to games at the moment, The End Times has left everything up in the air.

Simply, we just don't know, and not knowing makes me want to hold off and see what happens. The background material is amazing, the books themselves are amazingly well produced (which is one reason it would be a shame to plump for digital versions), and the background material is amazing. Did I already say amazing? I think I did. Ok, time to expand on that a little I think, and show my age as well...

When I read the Nagash background and realised the scope of the story, I was awestruck. Several well established characters struck down out of the blue (although I had to think in a couple of cases to remind myself who they were, so perhaps not so big a loss), and entire countries and states overrun and decimated by hordes of northmen or over eager rodents. I thought to myself 'nah, this is far more than a simple rehashing of the Storm of Chaos. This is big. If it sticks'.

And I suppose that's one of the big questions weighing heavy on people's minds. Is this some kind of alternate source book style setting for playing games in, is it a fundamental change in the core background, or will it simply vanish when 9th edition arrives and cause riots in the gaming stores? I know which option I would prefer.

Like I said, I am not going to detail a blow by blow account of what I know about the story, because others have been there and done that. What I will do is pick out my three favourite bits of the story, all of which relate to new (or old) characters.

First off, I thought it was really cool to see the return of Dieter Helsnicht to the Warhammer world. He was a key reason I started playing Warhammer in the first place, after reading the battle report in issue 174 of White Dwarf way back in the mid 90's where Gav Thorpe lead the Undead in a battle called 'Revenge of the Doomlord', the Doomlord being Dieter Helsnicht, The Doomlord of Middenheim, and a playable special character who appeared in the 4th edition Undead army book alongside Nagash the last time he had rules. For a couple of years I have toyed with the idea of making my own Dieter Helsnicht model to replace the old metal one I have using the Chaos Lord riding a manticore model, but haven't got round to it yet. Perhaps there will be a new model now he's back - yet another uncertainty?

Next, the frighteningly powerful and somewhat depraved 'Nameless', a character whose identity has been speculated about at length. I think I know who the Nameless really is, so much so that I will be rather disappointed if it turns out to be someone else. My money is on it being The Great Enchanter: Constant Drachenfels. This is for three reasons. First, the Nameless is referred to as a Great Enchanter, and second, his initial location when called by Nagash is given as the Grey Mountains, which happens to be where Castle Drachenfels is, and thirdly, in the (very old) novel by the same name, Drachenfels has the power to control others. I think it's fair to say that also fits the modus operandi of the Nameless.

Third, and most importantly: the return of Vlad von Carstein. I am proud to say that Vlad is my all time favourite character in Warhammer, and to tag an 'in joke' at the moment, the story of Vlad and Isabella is a much better love story than Twilight. It was also done great justice in my opinion by Steven Saville's von Carstein trilogy. I am pleased beyond words that Vlad has returned, and his involvement with the story has shown how important and powerful he is. He may not be the most powerful sorcerer in the world, or the very best with a blade, but his will is iron, and his intellect and long term vision know no bounds.

This of course is all irrelevant, because all he wants in the world is his wife back. I dearly hope he gets his wish. And that at some point he takes some small measure of revenge against the upstart Manfred. That boy needs to be reminded that there are people it simply does not do to cross, and the fact that Nagash brought Vlad back from true death to lead the fight against Chaos in the north speaks volumes about both the Great Necromancer's belief in Vlad's abilities, and his trust that he can be left to act freely without upsetting his plans where Manfred cannot. Yay Vlad.

All we can do now is wait, enjoy each new release as it comes out, enjoy listening to various podcasts talk about them, and let things be the uncertain miasma they are at this moment. What more can we do?

I guess we could play a bit more 40k while the dust settles...

Until next time, thanks for reading.

P.S. I may not have been able to get much gaming done recently, but I have done a bit of painting, though I didn't make it to the end of the recent Hobby Survivors Series 10. I managed to get the first 15 of my Men at Arms painted for my Bretonnians (using Fireforge Games Foot Sergeants), and I also painted a Giant for our club painting competition, which unfortunately didn't work out quite as planned because only two of us finished our models.

Anyway, here are some pics. Next, I'll be working on my Hive Crone/Harpy kit, which I intend to magnetise to allow me to switch between both kit options.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Shiny...

Greetings fellow wargamers.

It's been a little while since my last post, but the slave masters have conspired in recent months to keep me my from writing desk. In other words, work has been exceptionally busy, and has left me with less time than usual for hobby. As the dust slowly begins to settle, I have managed to start painting again, though gaming is on a bit of a break at the moment due to unforeseen circumstances (my wife has taken up a new hobby which clashes with games nights!), but I am getting the itch to sit down and type again, so here I am.

So, what has happened since we last met? Well off the top my my head, a couple of books have dropped for armies I collect (Orks recently and just yesterday the Dark Eldar), and also the End Times: Nagash book for Fantasy, which I am part way through reading and thus far am very excited by. This could well be just the kind of thing Games Workshop needed to put out, and might turn out to be one of those historical benchmarks for the game I think. This book, and what comes next, promises much - fingers crossed.

On to the essence of this post. Forgive me if I ramble more than usual, things may pop into my tired cogitator as I type to add to the list of things that have happened since my last publication. Speaking of which, has anyone else heard rumours about something happening to or with Warhammer Visions?

Today, I would like to talk briefly about expanding your collection of miniatures, and deciding what to buy next between the options you have when a wave of models is released, hence The Good, the Bad and the Shiny.

Since the release of the Nagash book and the accompanying Warhammer Visions picture book, I have spent quite some time ogling the amazing new models. The three Disciples riding their flying constructs (a bit of a 'Marmite' release, but I like them), the fantastic Monstrous Infantry Morghasts and the extremely well designed Spirit Hosts are all spectacular kits, and as a long time Vampire Counts (Veteran Undead player right here folks, circa 1994), they all pique my interest.

We cannot of course forget to mention the incredible Nagash model, and I for one think that Games Workshop have done a real number on this one. The dynamism, motion and scale of the model are combined to give us the Nagash we have dreamed of for twenty years. And herein lies the rub.

Scant weeks after the release of the aforementioned Undead models and Nagash book, the new Codex Dark Eldar has been released, and thanks to Games Workshop doing a much better job of keeping the fine details of their release schedule quiet in the last year or two (or certainly quieter - I don't think many people saw the End Times book coming much in advance of it's unleashing), I found myself in a state of discombobulation.

The Dark Eldar have been my army of choice for playing 40K for my last half dozen or so games, as I have become determined to develop my skills with one particular army rather than my usual approach of flitting from one force to another to make sure I don't neglect any one collection of miniatures - they get grumpy when they don't see their fair share of tabletop action you see.

So in comes the new Codex and some tasty new models to go with it, and I am left having to decide between the Nagash model, and something for my Dark Eldar. My heart says go for the Nagash model, because it is amazing, and I really have been waiting two decades for this guy to get an update that does him justice.


I do love all of my armies, but to be fair some get more love than others (we all have our favourites I am sure), but at some point in my deliberations about which of the new releases to invest in, a thought bubbled to the surface that has manifest previously when I haven't had the funds to act on it.

Many of my armies are fairly old, and I don't have anywhere near the same amount of disposable income to dedicate to the hobby as I would like, because other things must come first, like food and nursery school mortgages - I mean 'fees'. The result of this, and especially when combined with the number of armies I have (six for 40K at last counting), is that when there is a fundamental shift in the way that one of the games works - like the introduction of flyers and anti-flyer measures as a staple of 40K armies - instantly updating all of my armies with all the necessary new tools required to thrive in the new environment is often a slow process.

This can sometimes leave me with a 'resource shortfall' on the table, such as my Dark Eldar going into battle against an Imperial Guard army toting a pair of Valkyrie Dropships and a Vendetta Gunship when I have precisely zero dedicated anti-flyer measures in my army and a proliferation of poisoned weapons which cannot harm vehicles at all, despite the jaw dropping rate of fire.

So a decision had to be made - do I buy the brilliant Nagash model (he is my one true master after all), or do I throw in my lot with Lady Malys (which is another topic altogether now that the special character is gone from the book and I can construct my own from the ground up using the generic Archon rules!) and the Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue? A fine coincidence really that I only just decided a month ago that Poisoned Kabal was the paint scheme I was going to use, then all of a sudden Malys is gone from the book!

In the end sometimes even when your heart tells you one thing, your head must lead the way. I decided to go with a Voidraven Bomber for my Dark Eldar, and intend to convert up some 'Dark Eldar' style Quad-guns for more anti-flyer defence. However much I love the new Nagash model, in the end I considered which would see more use on the table, and which would have the greater long term impact on my gaming. The chances are that I would be buying Nagash more as a display piece to be used in games only on special occasions, whereas the Voidraven will see use in the majority of the games I will play with my Dark Eldar once I get back to gaming, as I make a concerted effort to fill gaps in my armies where flyers and equally importantly anti-flyer capabilities. The Good won out over the often dazzling Shiny.

In closing then, it's always nice to pick up a model because it's the new shiny thing, and might well be cool to use and a terror to your enemies, but armies must be constructed with thought and planning and a degree of balance in order to be consistent and successful on the tabletop. It's like a football team - and that's football for any of my American friends reading this, not American football, though I guess the analogy works as well for both - a team of stars looks great in the publicity photos and on the team sheet, and they sure get some attention, but if they can't play consistently well as a team and cover all the necessities on the pitch, they are less likely to win games. You have to have the basics covered to give you a solid foundation before adding in the glamour-puss star players.

Until next time - hopefully soon! - thanks for reading...

...P.S. Speaking of Dark Eldar, here are my first completed Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue Warriors for anyone that hasn't already seen them splashed all across my Twitter feed.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Book Review: Darkness Rising - Book One

Greetings fellow bookworms. Waaay back when this blog first saw the light of day and I created my 'About' page, I wrote somewhere in the blurb that The Eternal Wargamer blog would primarily be a venting point for my Games Workshop gaming related shenanigans, but may also include the odd post that was about a film or programme I had seen or a book I had read if I felt that they were worth talking about. It's time I made good on that threat...welcome to my library.

This is the first book review I have ever written outside of the confines of the schoolroom, and I am not any kind of 'industry professional', but I do like to read, and I have studied the English language and literature. I am also trying to write a bit myself, and I have found that writing with any kind of real seriousness makes you look at the whole process in a different light. As a review, please don't expect this to follow a recognisable format for such articles; any resemblance to accepted 'book review' standards are purely coincidental. This is just a few words about a book I have enjoyed, and hope you might too.

The book I want to tell you about is the first in what is currently a series of four books, which collectively are called 'Darkness Rising', and written by a chap named Ross M Kitson of the UK. Book one itself is called 'Chained'. Before getting into my thoughts on the book, a smattering of basic facts about the story. It's a Fantasy Fiction tale which takes place in a unique yet familiar setting. In other words, the author has created what I came to realise quite quickly was a pretty detailed environment, but which incorporates many of the fantasy staples we know and love, allowing us to reconstruct the world in our minds without giving us a headache. The reproduction of the setting I created in my own mind is one of magic, monsters and rogues, with enough of our own real world history inspiration thrown in to make it amply believable.

'Darkness Rising' is well written in my humble opinion, and that's coming from someone who has become increasingly critical of other peoples work of late. The style is one that appeals to me, and is full of little details that hint at the amount of work that has gone into the creation of the characters and the various nations and realms in which the action is set. We are presented with a fully fledged world crafted as if by a skilled Games Master and story teller, and by the end of the novel, I was looking forward to seeing the story progress and reveal more of what has thus far only been hinted at.

The story follows a young girl sold into servitude by her parents, Emelia, and who finds herself tied to one of the great houses of the setting. She battles with inner conflicts, each facet of which tells us something about the world in which she lives. Emelia must come to terms with who she is, where she has come from and also where she belongs in a world where everyone seems to be cast as either life-bound servant or rogue beyond the protection of the realms highborn elite. Emelia must also learn to control the power within her, a wild and untethered power which must be mastered. This is a world where the denizens are strictly controlled, and power over magic and military might is jealously guarded by a greedy few. The high and mighty exploit the week for their own gain and position.

With the influence of a range of allies and adversaries, Emelia comes of age, while at the same time being swept along as the story evolves into what promises to be an epic confrontation between good and evil in later books. This first novel in the series is certainly the warm up that all great stories must have to set the scene for what must surely come later, and draws us in with tales of aloof mages, dark sorcery, griffon riding knights and carefree cutpurses. This story is the D & D adventure we all played out as young gamers brought to life as a full blown tale, and includes some interesting takes on some of the old Fantasy archetypes I haven't come across before.

The series is available both in paperback and in digital formats, and is highlighted as a '#1 Best Seller Epic Fantasy'! If you are looking for something to read, then I believe that Darkness Rising could be a refreshing change and certainly worth your time. It has been for me. I for one am ready to dive straight into Book 2, and will be back with a further review a little further down the road.

Until then gracious visitor, thanks for reading.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Tales from the Battlefield... #1

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists and welcome to my Hall of Battles. The walls of this grand old room are hung with tapestries and paintings of the greatest victories of my armies. This new painting shows the Ogre Tyrant Grund Giantbreaker defeating the Lizardmen at the Battle of Mad Moor. Don't touch please; the paint is still wet...

A few weeks ago, after suffering yet another defeat at the hands of my arch nemesis, 'Dave', at our local club, I started a series called 'Where did it all go wrong?', which was meant to be about going over the detail of battles I had lost in an effort to better understand why and how, and hopefully avoid the same results in the future. Well, it worked, because I have played two games since, one each of 40K and one of Fantasy, and won them both...

Now we know of course that this fragile state of affairs can't possibly last, but while it does, I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about the high point of my last game in a new series I have dubbed 'Tales from the Battlefield'. Think of it as an arse covering excercise. Now, whether I win or lose a battle, I have a series to cover it.

So then, this first post in the series I will unofficially dub 'The Unstoppable Force vs The Immovable Object', which in this case is about the moment my Ogre Irongut unit (Including full command group, my Bruiser Battle Standard bearer and Grund Giantbreaker my Ogre Tyrant) move forward into a position to be charged by a block of Saurus Warriors.

First, a little scene setting. This game was 3500 points per side, Ogres and Nurgle Damons allied on one side vs Wood Elves and Lizardmen allied on the other. As this was a fairly large battle, we decided to just keep it simple and play it Pitched, particularly as we had a less experienced Fantasy player commanding the Wood Elves. Seeing as my Ironguts were being shot at by multiple units of Woodies, all with poisoned arrows, and the Guts were too far away to make a charge into the Saurus themselves, I moved them forward as far as I could to force the issue, and make the enemy either charge me or be charged themselves next turn.

At the same time as this showdown was being set up on one side of the field, on the other, a horde of Plague Bearers led by Epidimus was squaring off against a block of Temple Guard including a hero and Battle Standard. The chances were that these two combats would decide the outcome of the battle.

The next turn comes around, and units charge in on both sides of the field. Two decisive combats are initiated. My Ironguts may have been charged but they are big boys and can handle themselves I thought to myself. My only concern was causing enough damage to get through the Lizardmen's Steadfast and Cold Blooded. Then around comes the Magic phase. Our opponents roll well on the winds of magic. They cast Wissens Wildform on the Saurus block my Ironguts are facing. Not what I wanted, but we let it through, conserving our small dispel pool for countering Flesh to Stone, which my team mate was confident would destroy his Plague Bearers chances against the Temple Guard if it got through.

"Not the end of the world" says I, "not with my Tyrant in the fight and no enemy characters."
"Yeah," says my team mate, "You'll be fine. I'd be in real trouble if those Temple Guard got +2 toughness..."

Next they decide to cast Flesh to Stone. Not on the Temple Guard, but on the Saurus block my Ironguts were fighting. Our dispel roll was short. Damn.
Now you can imagine my consternation, and the feeling of guilt on the face of my team mate as I found my Tyrant's unit facing a unit of Saurus Warriors four ranks deep with Strength 5 and Toughness 7. With only the Wildform in play, they were wounding my Ironguts on 3's but being wounded on 3's in return, and I had my Tyrant and far more attacks. Now my models were wounding on 5's, even with Great Weapons, and going last to boot!

After some consideration about whether to activate the Dragonhide Banner this turn, or wait until next turn when Wildform would have ended making the Saurus easier to wound next turn (though it was a waste either way because the banner does far more for your unit the turn they charge, not when they receive a charge!), I decided to go for it. My logic was that I needed to do as much damage as possible in this first round just to make sure I was still there for a second! So the Dragonhide Banner kills 2 Saurus Warriors, but just as importantly, makes them strike last (simultaneous with my Ironguts) for the next two rounds of combat.

This is where I decided that I was very pleased with how I had equipped my Tyrant. Extra hand weapon, Greedy Fist magic item, and Giant Breaker Big Name, giving him six attacks at Strength 7. I would be relying on him to do well. As it turned out, with a few wounds caused on each side and all the bonuses, the fight was a draw. Thank heavens for the single wound caused by a Stomp attack!
Breathing a sigh of relief, but realising that both Wissens Wildform and Flesh to Stone would still be in play in the next round of combat, in our turn my Tyrant knocked back his Potion of Strength, boosting his Strength to a mighty 10! In addition, I managed to get a unit of six Bulls led by my Butcher into the flank of the Saurus block. Things were looking much rosier, but with the boosted Toughness of the Saurus still in play, this was certainly not a done deal.

At this point in the game and after something of a lacklustre start, my dice decided to wake up. Combat continued in our turn (after failing to boost the Strength of my Ironguts with a Maw spell), everybody got to make their attacks, starting (after Strength 5 Impact Hits from the Bulls) with my Tyrant, who smashed something like 4 or 5 Saurus with his Strength 10 attacks (I had been saving the Potion of Strength for the Treeman Ancient, but needs must). By the end of the round, with a worse than average showing from the Lizardmen, my two units had killed all but three models, and without Steadfast, not even being Cold Blooded could save the Toughness 7 Saurus from needing 'snake eyes' to stay in the fight.

The Saurus broke and ran, but with my dice having decided that their work was done, the Ironguts failed to catch them, falling short about 2", though they ran the fleeing unit down next turn and picked up the points (including for the Skink Priest that was in the unit), and for a total loss of about three Ironguts from my unit (of eight I started with).

There you have it. For a while it looked like my prize unit would be undone by a supercharged unit of Saurus Warriors, but they ground it out and Grund Giantbreaker got himself some Lizardskin boots. I should say that the Plague Bearer unit also defeated the (decidedly unenhanced) Temple Guard. You're welcome buddy!

That's it for this post, I hope it at least gave you an entertaining couple of minutes out of your day. Let's hope I lose another game soon so I can write something more constructive...

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

6th Edition 40K - A £40 door stop?

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to my library. Some of these books used to be worth something. Maybe a few still are...

A few weeks ago, while playing what has turned out to be my very last game of Warhammer 40,000 using the 6th edition big rulebook, one of my club mates (who I am guessing prefers the functionality of the compact version of the rules rather than the version that is so thick that even Luis Suarez can't bite through it) joked about what I was going to do with my now worthless door stop of a 6th edition rulebook? This is a question I have heard repeated many times over the last few months, as 7th edition approached out of the ever shifting haze of rumours, and after it finally landed.

Over the last couple of weeks it has got me thinking about all those old rulebooks and what happens to them, about the ones that end up propping up coffee tables, the ones that go on eBay for a hundredth of what we paid for them, and of those that simply end up as landfill. Oh, and of course the ones that end up at the backs of shelves and cupboards and in lofts the world over, bemoaning their all too short time in the limelight. What ever will become of those I wonder...?

Well I am on my 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy and 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000 (why the disparity in the number of editions of each game I wonder?), and I still have most of the rulebooks, Codices and Army Books I have accumulated in that time. Yes, on the face of it, versions of the rules that are a decade or two out of date are not all that useful, but earlier this year I found myself fishing out all the versions of the Warhammer Fantasy rulebooks I could find, because I wanted to gather together as many different scenarios I could to use in campaign games at our club, with suitable tweaks to make them 8th compatible of course.

As I looked through those older publications, I came across more and more things of interest, like a Warhammer 'Tournament Scenario', two or three versions of campaign rules and magic item tables, sections on making your own scenery (which of course we almost never see in Games Workshop publications these days), and even rules for different kinds of in-game weather effects in the old Dark Shadows campaign booklet. That is of course without counting all the maps that came with issues of White Dwarf over the years, and all the great material in publications such as the Storm of Chaos campaign book.

I found it interesting to look at how the the hobby has changed over the years, how different styles of models and paint schemes have come and gone, how incarnations of a well known special character have evolved across the editions, and also which things haven't changed all that much. These days we have maps that depict the length and breadth of the Warhammer World, and the points of origin of the Ogres of the Mountains of Mourn, the Great Wall of Cathay and the domains of the Dragon Emperor, and the locations of all the Temple Cities of Lustria, whereas once we had just maps of the Old World, with just hints of what lay beyond the western oceans and the Worlds Edge Mountains.

Though the rules within any given tome that is no longer the current rules set may have limited worth, that doesn't mean that all those wonderful old rulebooks are entirely devoid of worth. There are some gems to be had if you just take the time to look. How about some easily updated siege rules? Or some skirmish game rules for those dramatic inter-battle encounters? Or even just some inspiration for a one off scenario - it's all there somewhere...

Oh, and an old BRB is pretty good at holding doors open too.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Games Workshop and Organised Play

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to the Hall of Battles. I could spend hours in here reading all the combat honours and action reports...

Today I would like to talk briefly about organised tournament competitive gaming and casual gaming. I have chosen to specify tournament gaming rather than organised play as a whole, because there are other kinds of organised play, like campaigns, which are not competitve in the same manner as tournaments, and tend to work very differently.

One thing I would like to say about it is an indirect response to a comment made by a host on a podcast I listened to recently that covered the same topic. The comment that was made, which I am sure was absolutely true for the speaker and their immediate gaming group, was that most gamers want to play tournaments. I personally have not found this to be the case when speaking to gamers, and in fact I ran a poll not all that long ago on a popular forum site asking gamers the following question:

What kind of games do you play?

1. Club/'garage'/casual gaming only?

2. Organised tournaments/Competitive events only?

3. A mix of both?

The result was about what I expected it to be. Out of over 90 votes cast, slightly more than half did not play any organised competitive or tournament games, about 45% played a mix, and only one voter said they played only organised tournament games. Does this reflect your gaming experiences as well?

So although we might hear an awful lot about tournaments and competitive gaming on podcasts, this taken in isolation might lead us to think that the tournament scene is bigger than it really is, it just happens that most podcasts I listen to are either tournament centric, or at least discuss them on and off. This is all fine and dandy of course, because tournaments are a popular part of the gaming scene, and tournament organisers and gamers both put huge amounts of time and effort into making them successful. Which leads me to my next point of discussion...

First, I will apologise in advance for what may sound like a rant, but listening to the '11th Company' Warhammer 40,000 podcast made me this way.

You wouldn't buy a 1.0 litre engine runaround and then complain that it won't win at Silverstone, no matter how many flame stickers you plaster along its bodywork, so why are a minority of players of Games Workshop games (primarily 40K - so there is a chance this might change as the new edition settles in, but the point stands) complaining that some games don't work in a tournament environment because the game and armies are not balanced?

Fair enough, we can hark back to the old days when Games Workshop did support tournaments in one form or another, but apart from their own local events run at Warhammer World, this is no longer the case. It's clear that the games aren't sufficiently balanced to allow straight forward no-comp tournament play without everyone ending playing one of a very small number of different armies because those armies are currently 'the shiz', yet some people seem to be implying that it's down to Games Workshop to fix this so that people can play what is intended (in its current incarnation) to be a dramatic but ultimately casual form of gaming as some kind of ultra balanced game that ensures that the general wins the battle and not the army. 

It is after all a game with multiple random elements, so the level of control a player has over what occurs in a game will always have its limits.

You cannot make a square peg fit in a round hole, at least not without making some necessary modifications to it first. So who's responsibility is it to make any game suitable for fair and balanced tournament gaming when the game doesn't necessarily play that way 'out of the box'? 

Well the answer to that is simple. Me. You. All of us that play and have a vested interest in getting what we want of a game. If the manufacturer has no interest in making the changes that you want them to make, then you have the freedom (with the proper amount of reasoning and productive debate and analysis) to make those changes yourselves. In fact the 'Big Rule Book' for 40K actually says that you should do this, that the printed rules are a starting point for us to build on in any way we wish to make the game what we want it to be.

I appreciate the amount of risk taken by organisers of large tournaments, of the financial outlay for running a big event and the awful consequences of making a substancial monetary commitment to an event that might fall flat and leave them severely out of pocket if it doesn't work out. 

I am not suggesting for one moment that they should have to just suck it up, but at the end of the day, the guys running an event have control, and have the power to make the changes they feel are necessary to address flaws with a rule, a unit or an army. In fact most tournaments already excersise that power when they think up 'composition' packages and their own considered scenarios for their event, all of which is intended to make the event more balanced, so why would an organiser not go a step further and simply change a rule if the majority of gamers agree that it should be changed?

In an age of instant global communication, where I can converse online with an endless variety of gamers and hobbyists at any time of the day or night, would it really be that difficult to ask the tournament playing community 'hey guys, I'm thinking we should change re-rollable 2+ invulnerable saves to a maximum of 3+ re-rollable, whaddya think?' Go ahead, put your rules pack out there and see what people think of it. If the problems are as pronounced as people seem to think, then surely any form of half decent fix will be welcomed?

Perhaps it would be too difficult and would be too great a risk for an organiser to shoulder, but I think I need to be convinced on that score.

Now although I hear a lot about the tournament scene, in UK, Australia and New Zealand, the US and Canada, I choose not take part in tournaments. They are just not an area of gaming that I am interested in. I play wargames because I love the narrative element, and the progression from one encounter to the next, which is not typically something I would expect to get out of tournament play, and given the stats that came back from the poll I talked about earlier, I am not alone.

Tabletop wargaming is a broad hobby encompassing multiple engaging and equally valid elements, so nevet let anyone tell you what form your enjoyment of the hobby should take. The whole point of this rant is to reinforce the idea that it is our hobby, not the manufacturers. They may take our money, but they'll never take our freedom (!) to make the games we play what we want them to be. For all the time people seem to spend waxing lyrical about how abysmal game designers are at their job, who's to say that we can't just take the advice already given and change what we want to? 

People might say that changing the game is ok within your own gaming group, but not across the entire community. Well why not I say? If enough people agree, it can work, all it takes is communication. We are already a global community aren't we? Why is ok to say a rule doesn't work but not be prepared to go ahead and change it?

Anyhow, that's me done for this post. A game is what we make it, because we are the gaming community. If Games Workshop has decided not to have involvement with with the wider tournament scene, then be bold and make the changes necessary to get what you want out of competitive gaming. There's no point waiting till hell freezes over and Games Workshop to come out with a tournament edition (they're just rumours!) because at least at the moment, it's not their thing.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Next Big Games Workshop Question...

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to my post room. This of course is where all my gaming and modelling purchases arrive from far and wide, and I am pondering whether I am likely to have to knock out a wall and expand 'Goods in' into the walk-in weathering suite next door...

What I am talking about, which is of particular significance to players of Games Workshop games, is the recent release of the 7th Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rules set.

There are two conversations going on at the moment about the release of the new rules: one relating to the rules themselves, whether a change was necessary and whether the new rules set is better or worse than 6th edition, and the second relates to the timing of the release itself. This is because historically each new edition has come around roughly four to five years after the last, with a couple of exceptions; there was only a year between 1st and 2nd edition Warhammer Fantasy, and six years between 6th and 7th, while there was a six year gap between Rogue Trader (Warhammer 40,000 1st edition) and the 2nd edition of Warhammer 40,000.

The fact that 7th edition of 40K has come just two years after 6th has raised questions of some concern to gamers: did 7th edition come out so soon because 6th had a small number of issues that needed to be addressed, and so it was a one-off quick update? Did Games Workshop need a money spinner and so decided to produce a new rules set early? Finally and most significantly - is it because two years between editions will be the new norm? Given the phenomenal and comendable rate at which Games Workshop have been releasing Army and Codex books and supplememts over the last year or so, I am sure no one can doubt that they are capable of doing so.

Personally, I hope it was the first option. Though 6th edition was certainly not a 'bad' edition, there were some things that needed tweaking, and early signs are that 7th edition is a better rules set. However if it turns out that a new edition of the core rules for Games Workshop games will be released every two years for both of their signature games, then I think we may well see the end of that special breed of multi-army players, of which I am one.

I play five armies in Fantasy and six in 40K, and I think that players owning and playing more than just one army is probably pretty common, but with the rate at which Army and Codex books have been coming out, I am sure we can all agree that keeping up has become rather draining on the old bank balance, because it's not just the books, it's the supplements and new models too. While I think that the rapid release schedule is better than the glacial pace of releases were used to have, it has been bordering on too fast, and has probably crossed that line a few times as well. 

For it to even be worth updating a book for an army, there will be changes to rules, units, options and list building possibilities, not to mention new models, and all of this means it can take weeks or even months to really get used to a new Army Book or Codex, without even considering supplements like Escalation and Stronghold Assault. When we factor in a change in the core rules every two years, I feel it can become very difficult to maintain more than a handful of different armies to any real depth of familiarity and knowledge, and so players who own as many armies as I do are more likely to concentrate on a smaller set of armies, and might leave other armies gathering dust on the shelf because they simply don't think they'll get around to using them before the next edition of the game is due out.

My concerns could prove to be unfounded, even if we do end up with a new major rules set every two years. Perhaps I'm just used to only having to spend £50 on a new Rulebook twice or three times a decade instead of double that. I guess only time will tell on that score. Maybe most people only actually have two or three armies and not eleven like me...

So, the Big Question is 'how frequently are we going to see a new edition of a major game from Games Workshop in future?' The answer impacts both how long we have to get used to and actually play an edition, and the practical value of each new rulebook we buy.

What do yo think the answer will be?

Me? Like I said, I hope 7th edition is a blip, and we will be back to 4-5 years between rules sets. I think that Games Workshop would spend their time and effort more productively going back to and reinvigorating their Specilalist Games Range, maybe release some new campaign supplements for all their games, hell, why not a Global Campaign or an entirely new race for 40K or Fantasy? All of these things would be preferable to a new edition of 40K or Fantasy in half the time we have become used to, especially if that also means new army books and codexes in half the the time as well, that really would make multiple armies unmanageable, and result in a reduction in my overall spend with Games Workshop, not an increase.

As always, thanks for reading...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

While You Are Out: Sprue Cutters Union #29

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome. The Sprue Cutters Union is back!

It's been a while for sure, both since my last post and since the last topic provided by the Sprue Cutters Union high command (Jon over at The Combat Workshop), but now things are all in order and ready to roll. There will however be a change to the SCU posts (Sprue Cutters Union), which is that topics will be issued for consumption monthly rather than weekly.

I am happy enough with this myself, and am very pleased that Jon has been able to accommodate the Spruecutters in among his new schedule. Also, this leaves me with more time to post more gaming related topics and get some more painting and modelling done myself! There will be plenty to talk about, as I have recently picked up the new Dwarf Army Book (get ready for some truly classic models appearing in this very blog), and a new edition of Warhammer 40,000 is right around the corner!

With the introduction out of the way, let's move on to this month's topic:

"How do you keep in the hobby when you are away from the workbench?"

Now Jon has asked the Union to talk about the ways in which we stay connected to the hobby when we aren't actively 'cutting sprue', like research or collecting supplies for or inspiration for our next project. Well in order for me to answer this question, I have had to begin by asking myself "what is my hobby?".

The answer to this question has changed a little over the twenty-plus years that I have been involved in miniature collecting and wargaming, with the advent of things like the Internet, and then eventually the ability to take that wealth of information with us wherever we go.

Where one day in the past the hobby consisted of buying, assembling and painting miniature soldiers, and then using them to take part in 'Little Wars' either at home or at my local gaming store or gaming buddy's homes, it has evolved to also include more writing (campaign material, background fluff, army list generation and of course, this humble blog), and trying to be an active part of what has become a thriving internet and social networking community spanning the globe.

I think that I am fortunate that the various elements of my hobby allow me to talk gaming with hardcore tournament stalwarts, but also discuss the finer points of weathering and composition with modellers and painters that focus exclusively on the visual feast of dioramas and display pieces, and finding interest right across the spectrum.

There is it then. With so many aspects to what consititutes 'my hobby', I am able to keep my hand in when I am away from HQ:
I tend to take a fishing tackle box with me to work, so that at lunchtimes I can sit in the canteen and paint or work on assembly and conversion projects. I find a tackle box has enough room for about a dozen models or so, and twice that number of paints, plus brushes and small modelling tools like files.

In addition to this, I have a 7" tablet (the perfect size for keeping with me pretty much anywhere) which has on it all of my pre-selected complete army rosters and lists of different scenarios and missions for games. It also has on it all my digital rule books and campaign stuff, so that I can work on army lists, campaigns, blog posts and even my novel on this one handy gadget. I always have at least one Codex or Army book in my work bag, and usually a campaign note book too. I used to have an issue of White Dwarf in there as well *grumble, grumble, grumble*

Between the practical hobby goodness carried within my trusty tackle box, and the digital awsomeness that resides on my phone and tablet, I can partake of whatever aspect of the hobby takes my fancy at any given moment, and with internet access via my portable wifi, doubly so. This is why I think that being an all round hobbyist is such a boon.

Some hobbyists only paint and model, so background material, list building and campaigns are of lesser interest. Others only game, in which case they need not only a table, rulebooks, scenery and plenty of time, they also need a whole extra person! No matter where I am, I can take part in my hobby. Even driving in the car I get to listen to wargaming podcasts, so whatever happens I'm covered.

So how do you manage to keep in touch with the hobby when you are away from the workshop?

For anyone who hasn't come across the Sprue Cutters Union (#spruecutters) before, it's what we refer to as a 'blog carnival', which is a series of complimentary blogs which tackle the same topic title from the perspectives of their individual writers. 

At the bottom of each SCU post, I will include links to the articles already posted by other Union Members on the topic, and a link to the 'topic hub', which is where members post the links to their articles over at The Combat Workshop - my favourite thing about the Union is getting to read the views of other hobbyists with different interests talking about the same topic - links below!

And finally, if you yourself write any kind of miniature modelling blog, then perhaps you would like to consider joining the Union? All it takes is the dedication to produce one article per month on the topic of the moment, and include links to other members articles at the bottom of your own post as I have done. All you need to do is keep an eye on The Combat Workshop or any of the member blogs for details of the next topic!

As always, thanks for reading.

P.S. I recently felt it in my water that there must be a new Bretonnian Army Book on the horizon, and after being inspired by Wayne Kemp of the Heelan Hammer podcast, I started building my own pair or Trebuchets. Here's the progress:

Friday, 16 May 2014

Where did it all go wrong? #1

Greetings fellow wargamers. Over recent months playing games of Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy & Blood Bowl at my local club, I have been trying to spend a little time post-game analysing where I have failed in games I have lost, be it army selection, deployment, target priority or whatever. I must admit, a big part of this is about trying to convince myself that I am not as bad a player as I might think in the moments after a defeat, because if I can identify where I made mistakes, I can improve my game. 

At least I won't have to talk about Blood Bowl defeats in this series - so far at least!

So, this is part one of what I hope will be a series of posts that are realtively short and to the point, and I hope that both I and other players can learn something from my misfortune. Welcome to the Debriefing Room.


Game: Warhammer Fantasy
Armies: Warriors of Chaos vs Skaven
Points Limit: 2500
Scenario: The Watch Tower

This was my favourite combat of the battle! Double Giant for the win!


I lost when the game ended at the close of turn 5, immediately after the remaining models (13) in my unit of Chaos Warriors was removed by the Curse of the Horned Rat spell, leaving the unoccupied Watch Tower in the hands of the Vermin Lord that had cast the spell.


Ok, assuming the game would finish at the close of turn 5 like it did, there are three mistakes I have identified which could have changed the result of the game.

The first might well have shaken things up, and this relates to the demise of my Daemon Prince on turn 3. Quite simply, I moved him into a position where he could cast Cacophonic Choir and hit the greatest possible number of units, including a Doomwheel on 3 wounds which I expected to die when hit by 2d6 hits wounding on 4's with no armour save, and the Skaven Warlord's unit. I threw six dice at the spell, scored exactly 24 (without Miscasting), and my opponent had already used his Dispel Scroll earlier in the game. He threw seven dice to dispel and scored 24. Nuts.

The Doomwheel charged the Daemon Prince, I rolled a 1 for his Charmed Shield, and the Prince was toast. I hadn't planned at all for what the situation would be if the spell didn't go off, because I had max dice to use and there was no dispel scroll. What I should have done was either charge the Doomwheel in my own turn with the Daemon Prince and try and take off its last three wounds, or safer yet, fly to a position where the Doomwheel would be blocked entirely from charging or zapping the Daemon Prince due to intervening Skaven infantry blocks.

Second mistake. If I had remembered that I had a Dispel Scroll when my Chaos Warriors had first been targetted by  Curse of the Horned Rat (they were wiped out by the second casting of this spell), then the unit would have survived and I would have been holding the Watchtower at the end of the game. As it was, the second casting was cast with Irresistible Force, and that was that.

Third mistake. Even with forgetting to use the Dispel Scroll and losing the Warriors, if I had moved either or both the Battle Standard Bearer and Chaos Sorceror out of the Warrior unit and into the Watchtower in my turn 5 movement phase, I would have been in control of the tower when the battle ended.


From this battle I learned a few things:

When taking an important action like casting a major spell or declaring a critical charge, consider what the consequences of that action not going off might be. What happens if the spell fails, or the charge falls short? If you are lucky, nothing damaging, if you are less fortunate, you could lose a major unit which could start the snowball rolling that dooms your army to defeat.

Always remember the tricks and special rules in your army, like using a Dispel Scroll when you really need to stop that game changing spell (if you can), don't forget your Magic Items effects, and if you have to write yourself a little note or put an elastic band around your wrist to help you remember, do it. Whatever works to stop you forgetting something that later proves signifcant.

Lastly, consider when it might be beneficial to have your characters abandon their bunker units. This might be simply to move them to a position of safety, it could be to threaten an enemy unit that would otherwise be out of your units threat area, or like my game, it could win you the battle by providing more targets than the enemy can eliminate before the last few grains of sand finally run out. Units are often used to provide protection for character models, but sometimes it is safer to have your character leave the unit while the unit provides a suitable diversion.

So, that's it for #1 of "Where did it all go wrong?". I hope it's been an interesting read. I've tried to keep it simple, and avoid getting into a situation where "you had to be there" for it to make any sense, and who knows, the things I have learned might also help you as well the next time you find your battleline in a bit of a fix.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

P.S. For anyone who hasn't seen them, I recently 'finished' my human Blood Bowl team!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

MAD Blood Bowl: Egdenberg Undertakers Special Report #4

Welcome sports fans, to a bumper edition of my spotlight series on Egdenberg Undertakers and their progress in the current MAD Blood Bowl season. I am your host, Bertwold Humpernickle.

Last night saw the Undertakers play their sixth match of the season, which makes three since my last report. Their fourth game was against the Elves of the Lions of the Three Rings, a team which had taken a real beating early on in the season, but by the time they faced the Undertakers were not only able to field a full team without having to draft in drifting mercenary players to make up the numbers, some of their veterans were turning into impressive rising stars.

Match 4

Seventeen thousand revved up Undertakers fans packed the stadium, almost outnumbering the Lions fans two to one for a total gate of twenty six thousand blood thirsty fans. This match was played end to end from the first whistle, Edgenberg Undertakers taking an early lead as Snagir ran in a touchdown mid way through the first half, though his fellow runner, the Ghoul Vishur and the team's top scorer so far, took a bad hit and was dragged off the pitch to the screaming room.

Once the teams were all set for the restart, the ball was kicked high into the air by the Undertakers' kicker, just as a rock thrown from the crowd struck Amron of the Lions in the face, and knocked him out cold! He too was dragged off the pitch by his heels, blood streaming from his broken nose.
Despite some mad scrambling by the Undertakers, they couldn't extend their lead before the end of the half, which ended 0-1 to the visitors.

As the second half kicked off, there had been some speculation about greased shoes, a greased ball and even a greased pitch, as on several occasions so far during the match the flow had turned one way or the other as the ball carrier slipped or tripped unexpectedly, letting the ball lose and handing the initiative to their opponents.

The Lions surged out with a very early second half rush, leaving the Undertakers flat footed and scoring before the visitors knew where they were. There were ensuing yells from the crowd that the Lions had started early, players throwing punches before the kick off. This came to a head just as the High Elves kicked off the restart, as the mass of Undertakers fans flooded onto the pitch to attack the Lions players. The Lions fans retaliated, and by the time order had been restored, one Egdenberg and four Lions players lay stunned face down in the dirt. Not that onlookers noticed much difference in the responsiveness of the dazed Zombie player.

Play swung up and down the pitch for the bulk of the second half, with numerous suspicious slips just as a drive looked like breaking the 1-1 deadlock, heightening concerns about another pitch invasion, but to no avail, and the dramatic game ended a draw, with no overhanging injury concerns for either team in this decidedly casualty light match.

Match 5

The Undertakers' fifth game of the season was a home game against the current generation Skavenblight Scramblers, a team which needs no introduction to anyone who knows anything about Blood Bowl. So far the Scramblers had managed to match the Undertakers unbeaten run, so this match was set to upset the success of one team or the other.

The roar of the stadium was deafening as the almost evenly matched fans tried to out-cheer each other, the home fans outnumbering the away fans by just four thousand in this twenty six thousand attendance match. The shouted one-upmanship over which team was best developed into threats of outright violence, and by the time the teams were lined up ready to kick off, small scuffles were already erupting in the arena. As the ball was kicked high by the Skaven kicker, the fighting spilled onto the pitch, and in the ensuing ruckus, four Scramblers and three Undertakers players were left eating dirt and struggling to get back to their feet.

The Undertakers started their drive up the field, Ghasha the Ghoul runner scooping up the ball as Egdenberg tried to smash a hole in the Skaven line. This saw Setti the Spike deal the Scramblers Rat Ogre blocker, lynchpin of their line of scrimmage, a crushing blow and he was dragged off the pitch with a serious injury which would see him out for the rest of the match. What a start to the Undertakers offence! The Spike's form was set to continue as he asserted his dominance over the unfortunate Skaven left to face off against the Undertakers offensive line and a line-rat was also carted off to the screaming room before the half was up.

Egdenberg were unimpressive with their ball handling skills this game though, their team of runners fouling up a couple of plays, and shortly after Zombie Herman Gerter was knocked out, Vishur fumbled a hand off, gifting the ball to a Scramblers Storm Vermin. The ball was handed off to a Gutter Runner who dashed downfield in a daring running play. The Undertakers had just one chance to prevent the speedy Gutter Runner before he zipped into the Endzone to score. Undertakers Captain Kratorus the Black, just managed to reach the plucky ball carrier, crashing into him with a bone splintering tackle and stopping his rush.

The half ended 0-0, with neither team able to reach the opposing Endzone, but both teams giving as good as they got in the hitting play.

The second half looked to start in the Undertakers' favour, with just eight Skaven fit to take the pitch, and the Undead had set up what looked like a perfect defence. However Egdenberg's atrocious ball handling continued, the Skaven managing to get a hold of the ball early and breaking down the right wing. Vermis Krall however had the ball carrier covered, blitzing him clear into the crowd, and then managing to grab the lose ball!

The Wight was then blitzed in turn and badly hurt, though his unholy constitution and the magic of Rakarth von Kampman saw him shake it off. Moments later however, team captain Kratorus the Black was knocked unconscious, leaving Egdenberg Undertakers with no Blitzers on the field, the Ghouls would have to go it alone!

The remainder of the half saw Egdenberg Undertakers form a cage around the Ghoul Snagir and funeral march the ball up the field. The march was slow, but the Scramblers players couldn't penetrate the procession, bouncing off the Undertakers cage. As they neared the Endzone, the Skavenblight Scramblers managed to strip off the forward advance, Ghasha the Ghoul being floored trying to block a Gutter Runner out of the way of the cage, Zombie Gerter and Skeleton Glickman ending up face down and in a bad way.

In the final moments, with the Skaven having slowed the procession to a crawl, the Undertakers failed to make it to the Endzone, the number of quicker players off the pitch with injuries really taking it's toll on their play options. The match ended an uninspiring 0-0, despite both teams playing hard until the final whistle.

This was the Undertakers' first no score draw of the season, and looked set to cost them as a Line-Zombie, Line-Skeleton and Ghoul would miss the next game while the Undertakers backroom staff hunted for suitable replacement parts.

Match 6

Egdenberg Undertakers most recent match saw them travel to an away match against the Greenskinned Whackers, a vicious Orc team with an equal number of wins and losses so far this season. This team packed a very hard hitting line of scrimmage, including a Troll, three Black Orc Blockers and three Blitzers, which on paper outweighed even the formidable Undertakers line-up.

The number of Undertakers players missing the match however lead the League to offer the Undertakers a number of inducements to entice them to take a risk with their complete lack of reserves for this match. A roaming Ghoul runner accepted a one off match fee, while Count Schwarznacht provided a nubile young Vampire girl to tend dazed players and get them moving again.

Once again, the Undertakers fans turned out in force, swelling the thirteen thousand Orc fans to a roaring thirty three thousand capacity crowd! The supporter advantage was definitely in Egdenberg's favour, but inside sources revealed to this sports reporter that the Undertakers Management were taking a real risk playing against a hard hitting team with only a mercenary Ghoul to call on as a reserve. Egdenberg would have to make a dent in the Whackers team early to even out the numbers game.

The match started well for the visitors, making their move the moment their kicker's foot conected with the ball and attacking the Whackers line, the two Mummie Blockers Cheops and Setti sending a Line-Orc and a Black Orc to the dugout in the first push. The Undertakers managed to batter a hole in the Orc line, through which Snagir managed to slip and, guarded by the two Wights, sprinted all the way to the Endzone for a rushing touchdown midway through the first half.

The Mummies seemed to be able to maintain the momentum on the line of scrimmage, pushing the reduced Orc line back and keeping the greenskins on the back foot, leaving the odd unconcious Orc in their wake and prosecuting the Egdenberg goal of thinning the Orc numbers.

Kicking off again, Egdenberg Undertakers were quick off the mark a second time, positioning themsleves to launch through the Orc defence and grab the lose ball from under their warty noses, but before the Ghouls could reach the ball, one of the two Orc Throwers got to it first, made a short pass to a wide Blitzer who made a bull run down the left wing for the Endzone!

It took everything Kratorus the Black and Hashak the Ghoul had to reach him, bearing him to the ground with a bone crunching tackle. He didn't stay down however, rolling to his iron shod feet, grabbing the fallen ball, and diving across the line for an equalizer, ending the half at 1-1. A Line-Orc however did decide to stick the boot in a little too much, and was sent off by the ref for the remainder of the match.

The second half began with the odds slowly tipping in the Undertakers' favour, as the number of Orcs fit to take the field began to dwindle, which was compounded by the sending off, leaving them one player down as the match re-started. The Vampire girl tending to the Egdenberg dugout however ensured that the Undertakers were able to field a full line and put the Orcs under pressure.

The kick went wide to the left deep in the Whackers half, and the Orc Throwers made a mad dash to retrieve it, the nearest managing to scoop it up and make a long pass downfield towards the Blitzer on their right who was preparing to push through the Undertakers line, but the pass missed it's mark at such long range.

Taking the initiative, Kratorus the Black grabbed the bouncing ball and broke through the players on the Orc flank, rushing through the gap supported by Ghouls, whilst the two lines of scrimmage continued to batter at each other. This half, the Orcs had the Undead on the back foot, but they still needed to maintain a numerical advantage in the thick of the action to keep the Mummies in check.

As Undead players dashed upfield to support Kratorus on the left, the Undead had the Orcs outnumbered on the right, as they managed to shove a Blitzer into the crowd and he was carried away by waves of knuckle dusters and toecapped boots.

Kratorus reached the Endzone, but stopped short of the line, hoping to run down the clock and hurt the Greenskinned Whackers chances of equalizing after the Undertakers Captain put his team ahead. With Vishur ready to run interference on any Orc attempt to reach Kratorus, combined with his own formidable skill, the Egdenberg Captain was not expecting the Orc thrower to power at full stretch past the Ghoul and barrel into him, sending the ball into the cheering crowd.

That corner must have been crammed with home fans, as they sent the ball hurtling across the pitch back towards the Orc left. The crowd had done the Orcs a huge favour, but by the time the ball came to rest, there were no Orc players positioned to capitalise, the Undead wingers having corralled their Orc opposite numbers, and the line of scrimmage having shuffled deeper into the Undertakers half.

Snagir of the Undertakers scooped up the ball and pushed upfield towards the Endzone on the Orc left, the Wight Vermis Kraal and another Ghoul running up to support, even as Kratorus the Black swept in across the Orc back line to meet them, forming a wall between the Orcs and the ball carrier.

Though they made a valiant charge toward the ball carrier and his guards in an effort to repeat the trick the Thrower had pulled on the opposite wing minutes before, the Orcs were outpaced and just couldn't reach the cage before Snagir dashed into the endzone to cement an Undertakers victory with just minutes left on the clock.

The final restart of the game was heralded by cheering from the fans, as Egdenberg brought home a hard fought win.

And that Blood Bowl fans, leaves Egdenberg Undertakers just three league points behind leaders Asgard Wrath, but with two matches in hand over the formidable Norse team. It's in the Undertakers hands now to push for the top spot, though the Skavenblight Scramblers are also within punching distance of the lead place, so every point counts. Who knows what lies in store for the rest of the season? Rumour has it that Count Schwarznacht is in talks with Luther Drakenborg about playing a match for the Undertakers, and a player of that calibre could make all the difference come the end of season play-offs.

Until next time sports fans, I'm Bertwold Humpernickle, and this has been an Egdenberg Undertakers Special Report. Good night.