Thursday 26 February 2009

Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures

We finally played Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures (WHAA) last night. February has been a poor month for gaming due to work, so it was good to roll some dice and talk some shite.

We have been planning to play WHAA for a while now. I have played it solo before and have described the events of my solo campaign on my wiki, but I was keen to see how it played head-to-head. I am pleased to report that it went well. The rules are by TwoHourWargames (THW) and use their reaction system to dictate how troops respond to the action in the battle. If you want to know more about this system, a number of free downloads are available from THW on their web-page, including the newly released Chain Reaction 3.0. Download it and try a game. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Returning to WHAA, the rules are a fantasy set for skirmish gaming. Rules are included for larger battles, which resemble grand skirmish rules (units and characters) more than big battle rules; think Warhammer Ancient Battles rather than Field of Glory. At least, that is how they feel to me. The key to the system is the distinction between Stars and Grunts. The Star is your personal figure and has much more freedom to choose its actions, while the Grunts will react according to dice rolls on the reaction tables. This could mean that they refuse to charge home when you order them to, or they might charge when you want them to hold the line. This lack of control is not excessive but certainly enhances the game and creates an air of immediacy that many wargames lack.

In addition to the skirmish and big battle rules, the rulebook includes a campaign and scenario generation system that permits your characters to improve and recruit more members to your force. The scenario generation system bases the forces that oppose you on how large and powerful your own force is. There is no guarantee that a battle will be even, and you will have to learn when to call it a day to preserve your own troops.

As part of the campaign system, the rules include 31 army lists, and encounter tables for the various nations described. These are mainly lists with historical analogues or are fairly standard fantasy races such as dwarves and elves but they make a good starting point for playing a game. You can either play these lists straight or construct your own based on what you have, using these lists as a guide.

Overall, this is a really good package. The rules themselves feel a little untidy in terms of structure, but they are still easy enough to use. There is no requirement to use specific figures and there is plenty of room for working up your own lists if what you want is not present. For example, there is no Viking analogue in these rules, so I worked my own up, which can be found on my wiki.

One thing I have not tried yet is the magic rules. I shall comment on them once I have done so. That covers the rules and so, without further ado, I present the battle report (words by Steve, pictures by me).

The Scenario
The local baker's daughter, Griselda, has been kidnapped by a goblin warband that raided the village of Harbottle on the borders of the Border Kingdoms. Arngrim the Baker is unable to keep up with his workload without his only daughter's help. Brother Cedric is concerned that attendance at the preceptory's afternoon teas will fall off without doughnuts from the bakery to supplement the beverages, but no doughnuts have been baked in days. Therefore, Brother Cedric embarks on a quest to find and rescue Griselda. He is sure that she will not be dead yet, because her doughnut baking skills will make her more valuable alive than dead to the sweet-toothed goblins.

This scenario uses the quest rules from WHAA. Brother Cedric must travel into Goblin territory and search for Griselda. Each campaign turn he dices to see if he has found the object of his quest. If this fails then he must dice to see if he has an ordinary encounter. As it turned out, he did not find her on the first campaign turn, but he did find a goblin village, which he raided. On the second turn, he found her. The dice result called for a pitched battle to fend off the goblins, followed by a raid to recover Griselda. We did not have time to fight out the raid, but we shall do so as soon as possible.

The Search for the Baker’s Daughter
Chapter 1
Brother Cedric reined in his horse, Brothers Konrad and Sigismund drew up either side of him. Ahead over a small bridge lay the Goblin village. He signalled to Hans and Herman his spearmen and Urk and Ogg the archers, to head towards the woods to the right of the village. In the centre of the village four goblins had come out to watch them.

“Maybe we can find information, about the kidnapped Baker’s daughter here,” thought Cedric. It had been a cold trail before they had been informed of the crime.

With a glance to either side Brother Cedric touched the side of his horse with his spurs and charged towards the village with a hymn in his heart. At the sight of the Brethren in full charge heading their way the goblins screamed and ran off into the distance. Meanwhile Urk and Ogg spotted another goblin amongst a patch of trees, both drew arrows and within a moment the goblin slumped to the ground.

The Brother Knights dismounted and headed into the huts to check for more goblins. Nothing was found, but a small box of silver coins. The other four were now heading towards the village, Herman ran ahead to inform Brother Cedric of the other goblin.

He had just reached Cedric when out of the fields a goblin appeared mounted on a ripper beast. Herman froze to the spot, but Sigismund charged to meet the goblin, only to be struck by an arrow and fall to the ground. The goblin continued on to Herman, who put up a brave fight, but he too fell wounded. Another goblin rider appeared and then another. Ogg shot at one, but took and arrow through the heart for his trouble. Brothers Cedric and Konrad with Hans and Ogg eventually killed the remaining goblin riders, but it had been a costly engagement. Brother Sigismund had merely been knocked unconscious; Herman was injured and would have to return to the border fort; Ogg however was dead. They helped Urk bury him and Brother Cedric read a fine sermon over the grave.

Chapter 2
For a month the five travelled into the Goblin Kingdom. They found snippets of information to the Baker's daughter’s location along the way. All seemed to point in direction they now travelled, into the heartland of the Goblin Kingdom. Travelling was becoming more dangerous and several times they had been forced to hide from large Goblin warbands. Up until now they had been lucky to have spotted them in time to hide. Unfortunately for them their luck had just run out and they had been spotted by a Goblin raiding party.

Two Goblin riders headed to meet them and they rode to them. Brother Konrad’s horse shied and the goblin knocked him from his steed and he lay motionless on the ground. Another Goblin rider fired an arrow, which caught Hans and spun him around before he fell to the ground. The Goblin chariot charged in to attack Cedric with another Goblin rider. Urk too fell to an arrow from one of the goblins.

The battle was going badly for the Brethren and there seemed nothing that either Cedric or Sigismund could do. They looked at each other and with grim smiles and a battle hymn on their lips turned to take on the numerous foes. This seemed to unnerve the goblins as within a few moments the tide had turned. Brother Sigismund had slain both his opponents and this had caused the archers creeping up the nearby hill to flee the scene. Brother Cedric despatched the rider he fought against and the two turned on the chariot. Soon the chariot lay destroyed and the goblins were running for cover.

As Cedric and Sigismund returned to the others, Konrad rose gingerly to his feet and rubbed his head. After burying Hans and Urk, the three Brother Knights again mounted their horses and rode off deeper into the Goblin Lands in search of Griselda.

We played two games in under two hours, which fits well with the THW paradigm. Both games were close with the advantage switching between sides as the game progressed. In both cases the Brethren won in the end, but it was by no means an easy feat, especially in the second game where they were outnumbered at the start. This kept our interest going in the games, and neither of us was stuck waiting for the other to finish a large move with nothing to do. This constant engagement in the game is a positive thing and we are both looking forward to finishing this quest.

Overall, I would highly recommend these rules to anyone looking for a fast play fantasy skirmish rules set. The rules themselves work well, and support on the THW Yahoo Group is absolutely first class, should you have any problems.

The only question that remains is, can Brother Cedric rescue Griselda in time? I, for one, can't wait to find out.

Friday 20 February 2009

Black Tree Design Normans

Last month I had intended painting some Normans as a secondary objective. This month I abandoned the idea of defining a secondary objective and opted to let the muse take me where it would. Well, it took me to my Normans.

The figures are from Black Tree Designs, and are, for the most part, nicely animated, though not too much so to appear odd in units. There were casting defects on one of the horses that I received; it only had three legs! The rest of the figures were nicely cast with little flash. They come with cast on bases, but I have stuck them on plastic slottabases to fit in with the rest of my 28mm figures. In terms of size, these figures do not look out of place alongside my Foundry, Artizan and Gripping Beast Vikings, or beside my Crocodile Games Aegyptus figures.

I really quite like these figures with their characterful faces and I think that an army of them would like quite good. However, I ordered these from Black Tree Design on 4th August 2008 and it took three months for the figures to turn up. They were in the sale with 35% off, so the wait, had I been expecting it, would have been acceptable had I known that was how it would go. Also, when the figures turned up, two packs of figures were not available, apparently, and I received a note promising them to me when they became available. It is now February 2009 and I have still not received the remaining figures. BTD have not responded to any of my emails or to the letter I sent them, which means in essence that I have paid full price for the figures I received. Rest assured that Black Tree Design will never see any more of my money. Instead, I shall spend my money with companies that I know and trust, like Gripping Beast and Artizan.

The figures were painted using a simple process of blocking in the main colours and then dipping them, followed by simple highlights. It won't win any prizes but gets the job done to an acceptable wargames standard. I did use oils on the horses because I like the texture, but it is so long since I have used oils that I think I need to work on my technique a bit more. The figures are set out on a masterboard from the WorldWorksGames Villageworks set.

So, on with the show. Here we see the forces of the Lord of Harbottle parading in the village before moving out on patrol. The slingers are formed up to cover the spearmen while the knights ponse around in the background (Remember to click the pictures for larger images):

Sunday 15 February 2009

Martians, Sah, fahsands of 'em!

Well, maybe not thousands, but certainly enough for a game. February is Martians month. I set as my goal this month painting some 15mm Martian infantry for Soldier's Companion, the miniatures rules from Space: 1889. The figures are by Black Hat, and the terrain they are set up on is the Mars Station terrain from WorldWorksGames. I really like both the figures and the terrain.

Well, I have managed to paint them already! The unit in question is the Shastapshian Black regiment. According to the book, this regiment comprises two companies of infantry, one of cavalry and one heavy gun. I do not have the cavalry yet, but may reward myself for completing this set by buying them. Anyway, without further ado, here is the contingent all together (don't forget to click the pictures for a larger image):
Regimental command:
A Company:
B Company:
I have actually enjoyed painting these Martians, although I doubt I shall win any prizes for the paint job, which just involved some quick block painting, a dip in my version of the dip and a little highlighting to round the whole thing off. The next question is what to paint next. I have more Martians to paint, but may focus on something else for a change, possibly the Normans that were a secondary objective from last month.

Thursday 5 February 2009

A Thrifty Gamer at Vapnartak

I dragged my poor, long-suffering wife along to Vapnartak in York on Sunday. I like this show because York racecourse is a good, light and airy venue and there is more space than at many other shows, as well. I forgot to take my camera, so no pictures of the show. Sorry. On the other hand, I was not struck by any of the games particularly. There was a reasonable selection of games on offer with most being 28mm figures. They looked fine as far as they went, but they also looked remarkably samey. Perhaps I have become jaded by wargames shows, but nothing stood out and all the games looked remarkably like a lot of other games that I have seen at other shows. There seemed to be very few participation games available either, not that I could have taken advantage had they been there, what with my wife being there and all that. However, a trend towards fun participation games would be nice to see for future shows.

While at Vapnartak, I did have a long chat with Pete Berry on the Baccus stall, which was both productive and illuminating. I could tell you what we talked about, but then I would have to kill you! Meeting with the traders and socialising is really the main reason why I go to shows these days. The demo games, as mentioned above, more often than not just leave me cold and there are too few participation games for my taste, so that just leaves shopping and socialising, which is not really a bad thing but it does make me feel old and jaded.

My spending at Vapnartak was somewhat constrained by the presence of my wife, which was a blessing really. I am, after all, trying to be thrifty. So, what did I buy? Well, one packet of eight 6mm limbers for my 18th century artillery. We have been playing a lot of that recently and do plan to play more so I felt justified in providing my troops with the means to move their cannon. I also bought half a dozen foam trays from Figures in Comfort. While this is not particularly thrifty, I like the trays and they protect my figures well. With the drive to paint more figures, I believe that I should store them properly to protect their new paint jobs too. Therefore, the expense of the foam trays is justified for that reason and qualifies under the drive to spend my money more wisely.