Sunday, 31 December 2017

Batrep: Robin Hood and the Abbot of Newstead

Introduction

There's time to fit in one more battle report in 2017 - it's the holiday season and Steve (my regular opponent) has given up some of his family time to come and play games with us instead.  This time, it's a Song of Blades and Heroes battle featuring a certain 12th century English folk hero...




The Scenario

I thought long and hard about creating a novel & interesting scenario for this game (in other words, I left it until the night before and then scrambled to come up with any ideas).  In the end, I picked the "Magical Cattle Raid" scenario from the Song of Arthur and Merlin rules.  Of course, Robin Hood wouldn't usually be found chasing magical cattle, so I changed the story a bit.  Here's how it goes:

The Abbot of Newstead is visiting a small shrine near to Sherwood Forest.  This shrine is situated at the spot where Saint Alban performed one of his miracles several hundred years earlier (restoring to life a man who had been cut in half during a fight with his visiting relatives).  In reality it's not a very significant shrine; it is to be found at a river fork in a remote and somewhat inhospitable location.

Both the forest outlaws (led by Robin Hood) and the authorities (led by the Sheriff of Nottingham) have got wind of this expedition.  Both groups would like to lay their hands on the Abbot and his monks, either to rob/ransom them or to petition their support for/against the outlaws' cause.  Or to rob them and petition for their support.

Each monk can be led to "safety" by any of the players' models, though at a reduced speed:
  • There are 4 senior monks/civilians in the party (the Abbot, the abbot's secretary, a lay treasurer...); these are worth 4 victory points apiece (4VP) for the player who controls them at the end of the game.
  • There are also 8 regular monks, worth 2VP each.
Here's the catch: the abbot and his important colleagues have suspected that this form of treachery might occur.  They have (or at least, may have) changed clothes with the lesser monks.  It's up to the two warbands to try to identify the real abbot, secretary &c.  This is implemented by the following scenario rule:
  • A player may use 3 activation successes for any model to switch that model's captive monk with another monk model, as he discovers the "true" identity of the captive.  Of course, there's nothing to stop the same monk being switched again later on by someone else...

The Forces

Authorities

Sheriff of NottinghamSir Walter, Yorik the Jester, 3 crossbowmen, 6 men-at-arms.
Guy of Gisborne, Sir Stanley, the Black Knight, the White Knight, 9 men-at-arms


Forest Outlaws

Little John, Friar Tuck, 7 outlaws

Robin Hood, 7 outlaws


The Game


Predictably, both sides used their first turn to advance.  In most cases, the players moved their main heroes ahead of the pack, mainly to try to close the gap with the bulk of the enemy and thus deny them a free "long range" activation for the bulk of their figures [In Song of Blades and Heroes, a model which is more than a certain distance from any enemy can take a single activation per turn without having to dice for it - this is very useful for marching bodies of the less resolute soldiers towards their objectives].



Seeing that Sir Guy was ahead of his troops, Robin Hood ran forwards and shot an arrow at him [in game terms, Robin rolled 3 dice for activation and achieved 3 successes.  He used one to move and the other two to take an aimed shot at medium range].  The missile was perfectly on target and Guy of Gisborne fell, pierced by an arrow.

As the leader of the bad guys, this was a disaster!  Our best fighter, shot down in turn two without having even engaged an enemy?  Of course, it was very heroic and cinematic for the good guys, if you like that sort of thing...



In response, the White Knight ran forwards to engage Robin Hood.  Various monks were seized by both sides (though mostly by Robin's men) and the Sheriff of Nottingham hid behind a tree.

There was a lot of dawdling and hanging back by Guy's minions...



Guy's knights continued their flanking manoeuvre, though this didn't work quite as hoped.  Sir Stanley found himself engaging an outlaw in the middle of a gorse thicket, whilst the Black Knight ran into a pair of ruffians and was promptly pulled down and knifed!



On the other flank, Little John strode forward with a view to whacking the Sheriff's men with his huge quarterstaff [Hmm.  I think it must be at least a half-staff; it's a lot bigger than a regular quarterstaff].  Before he could engage anyone, a couple of the sheriff's crossbowmen advanced, shooting as they moved [in an act of desperation, I was rolling 3 dice for activation for just about everyone.  Miraculously, this pair both passed with 2 successes].

Little John ignored the first bolt, but the second one was a lot closer.  He dodged it, lost his balance and fell over.



This was the cowardly Sheriff's kind of fight!  He raced forwards from where he had been hiding and stabbed the fallen giant.  Before Little John had struck a blow, he was out of action.



After a prolonged fencing match, the White Knight defeated Robin Hood and knocked him out.  The major characters were dropping like flies!  [As I recall, at this point in the game not even a single unnamed minion had become a casualty - yet the three supposedly best fighters were all gone].



Friar Tuck charged forwards to avenge his friend - straight on to the Sheriff's blade.  The Sheriff didn't even have to move and another outlaw character was down!



On seeing Friar Tuck's gruesome death, some of the outlaws ran back towards the river, full of horror.  Seeing this retreat, one of the sheriff's more enthusiastic spearmen charged forwards to try to save the abbot's treasurer from a brigand who was leading him away.



The White Knight followed up his success against the outlaw leader by running towards the riverbank where several brigands were towing away reluctant monks.

It was about this time that Sir Stanley was killed by a couple of ruffians whilst trying to untangle himself from the middle of a gorse bush...



The outlaws had almost taken one important-looking monk off the table when Yorik (the jester) took a closer look at his own captive.  "Just a moment!" he exclaimed, as he pulled the hood from the "monk's" head.  The man didn't have a tonsure; he wasn't one of the monks after all.  "You're their treasurer, aren't you?"  [Of course, as the models were swapped there was a simultaneous cry of despair from the other end of the table when an outlaw realised that his captive was a simple brother monk and not one of the important inner circle as had been thought!]



Things seemed to be going very well for the Sheriff; his troops were closing in on a leaderless enemy and it looked as if it wouldn't be long before the rebel scum were given their just deserts!  Of course, in Song of Blades and Heroes, little things can cause huge ripple effects.

In this case, the trigger was simple: the remaining outlaws all mobbed the spearman who had run on ahead.  Between them, they scored a gruesome kill.  This would cause all of the Sheriff's men who were within 'L' distance [i.e. Sir Walter and two more spearmen] to take a morale check.



The problem is that the Sheriff has the Evil attribute.  Amongst other things, this means that he will slay any cowardly underling who tries to run away [and is foolish enough to run within the Sheriff's reach whilst doing so].
  • First, the two spearmen ran from the horrible gruesome kill.  The Sheriff knifed them both.
  • Then, Sir Walter broke and fled.  The Sheriff killed him.
  • The two retainers standing nearby saw this.  They turned to flee, but the Sheriff executed them as well.
D*mn it - he's done it again!  Almost every game where I play the Sheriff, he ends up killing most of his own men for cowardice [see the various other "Robin Hood" battle reports on this blog].  The man's a grade I psychopath!  And we were winning, at that...



The final blow of the game was struck on the other side of the river, where the White Knight and his minions slew one of the outlaws.  With that, the rest of the foresters slunk away, taking several monks with them.


Conclusion

The remaining outlaws did briefly consider having a go at the Sheriff, but he retreated before they could organise themselves.  In any case, pretty much all of the forces [apart from Guy's, oddly enough] were now below 50% of their starting costs and therefore didn't have many men to commit - they were too busy escorting monks to "safety".

Instead, we called the game and worked out the result.
  • For the outlaws, they scored 5VP for kills and had control of 5 monks for another 10VP.  Total for the outlaws: 15VP
  • The authorities scored 6VP for kills and had control of 3 monks and 3 important monks [the treasurer slipped away when Yorik ran from the Sheriff's wrath.  The jester was far enough away from his boss to avoid summary execution, though]. 3x2VP + 3x4VP = 18VP for captives.  Total for the authorities: 24VP
Therefore it's a solid win for the Sheriff and his followers!  The outlaws are chased off and the Abbot & his entourage are (mostly) saved.  I'm sure that the Sheriff will be magnanimous in victory and not tax the abbey too heavily...

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Batrep: Santa's Little Helpers

Introduction


It's Christmas Eve and Santa is busy preparing for the night ahead.  Suddenly, in the distance, there is a rhythmic, throbbing sound as battleaxes are beaten against shields.  With a series of loud, whooping battle cries, hordes of rapacious barbarians appear on the skyline.

Alarms sound as Santa's helpers grab weapons and hastily muster outside his house.  Fortunately for the big man in red, some tall, serious forest elves have come to visit their short, jolly cousins (and to check that they're not being exploited too much).  These visitors are few in number, but expert with bow and spear; they'll be most welcome allies!

It's time for us to play my annual, Christmas game of Hordes of the Things, where Santa's army and a random ally stand up for all that's good and cheerful by fighting against the forces of gluttony, pillage and humbug!

Background Information

Santa's army is used just this one time a year; it is described here for anyone who is interested:
Previous battles have mostly been victories for decency, truthfulness and mince pies - but not always:

The Forces

Red, White and Green

  • Santa's army:

    Aerial hero general, shooters, beasts, artillery and hordes of snowmen
  • Forest elf detachment:

    Hero general, shooters and spears.  Note that this small force only came to 16AP instead of the more normal 24AP.  We compensated for this by giving them Superior status.  This isn't part of the Hordes of the Things rules, but comes from the DBM sister rule set.  It gives them +1 to their combat result if they win whilst shooting and +1 if they lose while in melee.

Smelly and Unwashed

  • 1st Barbarian tribe:

     Hero general, 2nd hero, some shooters, lots of warband.
  • 2nd Barbarian tribe:

    Behemoth general and an even mix of warband & panther-riding knights.

The Game


Predictably, the barbarians surged forwards - though they didn't have enough PiPs (command points) to move their king.  He was left behind, caught out by the over-enthusiasm of his tribesmen and women.

First blood went to the defenders as the toy cannon scored an unlikely direct hit with its opening shot.  Scratch one warband!



On the other flank, the barbarian cavalry raced around the forest in a direct line for Santa's cottage!  The ice bears had been attempting to reach the forest, knowing that they were outclassed in the open, but they had to turn at bay when confronted with this threat.

Fortunately for Santa's home, the nimble elves raced forwards and reached the crest of the hill just ahead of the foot barbarians.  Even so, they looked horribly outnumbered...



The first line of barbarian cavalry smacked into the waiting ice bears, who - surprisingly - held [aided considerably by a misinterpretation of the rules].

An over-eager element from the second line of cavalry charged into the elf hero, who showed them very quickly how good a swordsman can be after 1,000 years of practice.

Meanwhile, in a bitter and long-fought contest, the elf archers held the hill against all comers.


The barbarians facing Santa continued to advance, though the weight of missile fire had broken up their lines somewhat.  One warband peeled off to assist the behemoth in front of the wood; with this flank attack the facing ice bear didn't stand a chance.

On the other side, one of the units of elf spearmen turned to attack the first wave of barbarian cavalry in the rear.  This was now caught in a sandwich between the elves and the remaining bears and was destroyed with ease.

Elsewhere, the elf hero was attacked by the second wave of mounted barbarians, whilst the warbands and elf archers continued to wrestle for possession of the hill.



The leading barbarian warbands finally made contact with Santa's line and immediately destroyed the toy cannon.  Santa counter-attacked and wiped out these intruders...



...whilst elsewhere the elf commander and his spearmen wiped out the remaining barbarian panther riders.  [That's a contest which was only ever going to end one way!  The only question was how long it would take the disciplined elf infantry to obliterate the rash cavalry, rather than if it would happen at all.]



It was about this point that we realised that the barbarian's Behemoth General (the wooly rhino) couldn't be pushed back [at least, not by any of the units belonging to the forces of light.  It would take another behemoth, a magician or the like and we didn't have any of those.].  That meant the only way to destroy it would be to double its combat score in a melee - but even if the behemoth was surrounded on all sides this would be a difficult thing to achieve.

OK, new plan: use spearmen [who stood a very good chance of surviving its attacks, even if they couldn't defeat it themselves] to occupy the rhino and kill all the other barbarians in that command until the monster becomes demoralised and therefore no longer a threat!

On the right, a barbarian hero had reached the waiting lines of snowmen and was busy demolishing them.  With the loss of the ice bears and the toy cannon, Santa's army was perilously close to breaking.  On top of this, even if the behemoth had been stopped, there were other barbarians who now had a nearly clear run at Santa's house.  Help!

And still the elven archers and the barbarians jostled, shoved, scratched, stabbed and bit for possession of the hill.  Occasionally an elf element would be pushed back and the barbarians would flood forward, but somehow the elves always managed to restore the line and hold the attackers.



OK, first things first: the newly-victorious elf hero charged into the flank of the engaged warbands on the hill.  His arrival changed the balance of the fight completely and as the tired archers cheered, the general and his bodyguards swept along the line of barbarians dealing death and destruction to all.  That's one barbarian command reduced below half strength and thoroughly demoralised!



Next act: while more elf spearmen rushed to help pin down the behemoth, Santa flew his sleigh towards the most vulnerable-looking of the various scattered warbands and crushed it completely.  He then took to the skies again, thus making himself pretty much immune to counter-attack [or so I thought!].

Simultaneously, more snowmen were formed in front of the house.  At least the barbarians wouldn't be sacking his workshop that easily!



Remember the barbarian king, who had been left behind when his whole tribe surged forwards right at the start of the game?  Well, he was in range to reach Santa (just).  Also, in Hordes of the Things, a Hero can choose to initiate combat with a flyer [presumably they taunt them into accepting a challenge, or trick them into landing, or have physical powers or magic items which enable them to fight in mid air, if only briefly...]

Santa was forced to land and fight, at which point one of the nearby Barbarian warbands charged into his flank as well.  With the odds slightly against him the man in red was defeated and vanished, leaving his sleigh to be ransacked and broken!

Unsurprisingly, this demoralised the remainder of Santa's troops; most of them fled off the board immediately.  Just 2 bases of nervous snowmen were left to defend the house.



With the big man down, it was up to the elves to protect Santa's domain.  The spearmen were still occupied in corralling the behemoth and the archers were a long way off.  The task fell to their hero; he raced across the battlefield before the scattered barbarians could regroup and advance [remember, heroes can move a very long way in HotT!].



The remaining barbarians could almost smell the plunder now.  Their lesser hero raced past the North Pole to engage some of the demoralised snowmen who were the sole remaining defenders.  Astonishingly,  the barbarians slipped on an icy patch and the melee was an inconclusive draw.

In the middle, the barbarian king saw the elf hero approaching.  He wasn't one to shirk a fight; with a mighty bellow, he charged his foe.  This single combat would pretty much decide the outcome of the battle!



It wasn't to be, though.  The elf hero quickly sent his challenger to the halls of his ancestors and with that, the second barbarian tribe became demoralised and the remnants started to flee from the battlefield.  And they had been so close to taking Santa's toyshop!


Conclusion

Well, it's a win for the forces of good, if not for Santa personally.  After this, the visiting elves are going to have to sing laments for the dead at the same time as putting in many hours in the workshop making presents (and a new sleigh) in time for Christmas.  And they were worried about their short, chubby kin being exploited!

No elves were killed in the making of this battle.  The forest elves didn't take a single casualty and Santa's short, round elf shooters ran away rather than wait to be annihilated.  Of course, lots of snowmen, bears, panthers and barbarians perished!

Man of the match: for me, it has to be the elf general.  Although he did have some very easy match-ups for most of the game, his contribution was enormous.  He personally destroyed at least 4 barbarian elements and then finished this off with a successful duel against the enemy king.

I suspect that the dispirited and sullen Barbarian behemoth is still standing near to Santa's house, quietly sulking...

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Bees in 28mm?

Introduction

I have a very slow project to collect a "Wicked Witch of the West" army for Hordes of the Things.  This is of course from the land of Oz which is described in the books of L. Frank Baum and is probably best known to most people from the 1939 MGM film "The Wizard of Oz".

In that film, the witch is shown commanding legions of flying monkeys and has a number of Winkie spearmen as her castle guards.  However, the book also describes her sending crows, bees and wolves to torment and distract Dorothy's party.

OK, so what's the plan?  The army I envisage will have:
  • Witch (with attached crows): already done.  In a previous article, I showed the completed Witch's element (and that was 4 years ago, for goodness sake!).
  • Winkies: Hmm.  There aren't any models which are perfect matches, but it shouldn't be too hard to find/convert something that will do the job.
  • Wolves: There are plenty of 28mm wolf miniatures, I just need to choose some.
  • Winged monkeys: Available from Eureka Miniatures.  I have a few already, but could probably use many more.
  • Bees: How the heck am I going to model bees?
The rest of this article describes how I did indeed model some bees.

Making the "Substrate"

The problem with modelling bees or any other insect swarm is this:
  1. They're very small creatures, but occur in large numbers.
  2. They fly, so the model needs to fill a large volume of space with many gaps between the individual creatures.
This being so, it's simply not practical to make 3D representations of each individual insect, connected by wires or similar.  Instead, they'll need to be painted onto some surface.

I thought about transparent shapes for a while; they need to encompass quite a large volume but be as unobtrusive as possible.  A small dome might work well (repurposed snow globe?), but I didn't have anything like that.



Here's an interesting piece of clear plastic, though.  It's an empty food container; I think it originally held 4 different types of chocolate cake sprinkles.  Maybe it will work for what I intend to build?



Firstly, I cut off the outer parts; I was only really interested in the inner core.  I used a razor saw to make the cuts; note that this was not easy as I was trying very hard not to scratch or otherwise mark the pieces.




Once I had the length of core piece that I wanted, I rounded the top corners and smoothed the edges as much as possible.  My attempts to polish out the scratches were useless, but I did paint some clear varnish over the cut edges and this does seem to have helped to tone down the "whiteness".



How do you paint a Bee?


Indeed - how do you paint a bee?  I needed a simple recipe which could be repeated dozens (hundreds?) of times at very small scale, yet which would represent the insect a bit better than a plain, black dot.



Here's what I came up with:
  1. Firstly, paint a couple of yellow stripes (more ochre than bright yellow - these aren't wasps after all!).  It may seem odd to start with this, but remember that I'm painting on a transparent surface.  These will be the bee's stripes when viewed from the other side.  If I was painting on an opaque sheet then this step would be pointless...
  2. The bee's body is represented with a couple of black dots, one of which (the abdomen) covers up the bars painted in step 1.
  3. A quick black stroke at an angle is used for the insect's legs
  4. Now decorate this side of the abdomen with a couple more yellow/ochre stripes.
  5. Add another blob for the wings in a pale grey.  It doesn't even matter if this is slightly translucent.
  6. Repeat many, many times...


The Result


One I had painted all my bees, it was a trivial matter to create a suitable base and glue the "swarm" to it.



Note that the bees are fairly crude!  I did follow my recipe, but the blobs and lines are not very precise.  Indeed, I kept discovering mistakes - such as bees without wings - and although I think that I've fixed all of these, I cannot be sure.  Still, does it matter; no-one will be looking at the individual insects, will they?


Conclusion

I'm reasonably happy with the result.  This was a very cheap build in terms of materials and didn't even take too much time.  It could just as easily be used to model any other type of flying swarm, of course - locusts, flies, winged ants, wasps or whatever else you fancy.

The only thing that I'm unsure about is the shape of the clear plastic core.  Perhaps a small dome would have worked better after all?

Sunday, 10 December 2017

December Oddments: Finished Models

Introduction

Just over a month ago, I showed the state of my workbench (here ==>).  Since then, I've been trying conscientiously to finish some of the longer-term projects which were contributing to the clutter.  Whilst this task is by no means complete, I have made progress; here are some of the results...

Super Dungeon Explore: Emerald Valley

I've been working my way through one of the Super Dungeon Explore expansions: the "Emerald Valley" warband set.  So far, I've completed the hero that came with this set (the Silver Chevalier) and have moved on to the monsters that inhabit the area.



This is Glimmerwing, the mini-boss who controls Emerald Valley.  She's a 'Fairy Dragon', which seems to mean that her strengths in game terms are in magic use rather than physical power.  Having said this, I'd say that the model looks quite robust enough to chew off some adventurer's head!



Most of this mode is simply painted green and then highlighted with 2 or 3 lighter shades.

The wings were more involved, as only the "veins" were done in green.  The "membrane" between these prominent lines was painted in a pale undercoat and then coloured with several thick washes/thin paints (take your pick).  Water was used on the brush to lessen the intensity of each colour when further away from the focal point, or even to blend a little with an adjacent colour.

Whilst the result isn't perfect, I'm reasonably happy with it.



The Emerald Valley warband itself consists of pigs and mushrooms.  Not scary?  Take a look at these elite Okoshrooms!  Basically, one of these is a very large mushroom man with a rope around its middle, tied to two large mace heads.



There's not a lot of detail on the mushroom bodies, but I have attempted some subtle shading nevertheless.  Fortunately, the rope, face and cap add plenty of colour and texture to draw the eye away from the bland body.

Out of curiosity, why does a mushroom need a fig leaf (or equivalent)?  Modesty seems unlikely, both from a botanical point of view and also because these berserkers don't seem the types to be worried by such a consideration.  Who knows (though it's probably better if you keep your answers to yourself)?


Hordes of the Things: Barbarians

My Barbarian army for Hordes of the Things has been growing steadily.  Last year, it was large enough to provide one part of the force which took on Santa in my annual Christmas Game.  Since then, I've expanded it by adding some panther cavalry, with the ultimate aim of being able to field 48 or 72AP (i.e. 2 or 3 times the normal HotT army size).



I've been looking for a general for the second 24AP "army" and here he is.  As soon as I saw this model, I knew that I had found my barbarian chieftain!  He is, of course, Kovornik, the Barbarian Outcast from the Frostgrave range.  I've classed him as a somewhat-unusual Behemoth General.  In HotT, Behemoths are usually big, dumb things such as trolls or giants, not leaders.  It'll be interesting to see how well or badly this works in practice...



This is a all-resin model and it's incredibly detailed.  For a long time I was too scared to do much with it, but once I knuckled down I found that it wasn't too hard after all.  Still took a while to paint, though...



Finally, here are some more Barbarian warband elements.  The figures are all 28mm castings from Black Tree Design, though this time there are some conversions in amongst them.  Some of these BTD models were spearmen, but I wanted them to represent HotT warband rather than spear bases.

The standard bearer is an obvious and straightforward adaptation; the top of the spear was cut off  and replaced with a banner from an old set of plastic Warhammer goblins.

Two other spearmen had their entire right arms (including the spears) removed at the shoulder.  These were replaced by arms from the same set of Warhammer goblins, one waving a crude sword and the other holding a large, curved horn.  I was very pleased to find that he plastic parts fitted very well and were just the right size and style!


Conclusion

As always, this isn't everything on which I have been working recently, but it is fairly representative.  It's a considerable relief to be completing models again and reducing the clutter on the work bench - especially as Christmas is coming up very soon.  After all, who knows how much new stuff I might be given then?