Monday, 24 December 2018

Santa: The Battle of 6 Armies

Introduction

It's that time of the year again!  Just before Christmas, I pull my Santa army from storage and arrange a big battle of Hordes of the Things.  This time, there were 6 armies involved (3 for Good/Jollity and 3 for Evil/Humbug) together with 3 objectives.  To find out what happened, read on...

Doesn't look much like the North Pole, does it?  I blame global warming...

The 6 Armies: forces of Good

1. Elves.  These are my son's figures and he hasn't painted up enough for a "proper" Hordes of the Things army.  To compensate for their inferior numbers, we lifted the "superior" status from DBMM and gave it to all of them.  In past games these elves have proved to be extremely tough...

Santa's army.  This is more fully described ==> here <==.

Kung Fu.  Again, this army is described in detail ==> here <==.





The 6 Armies: forces of Evil

Goblins.  Hordes and more hordes, some wolves, warband general.  Also, they have a troll...

Undead.  This is a difficult army to command as extra PiPs (initiative points) are needed for both the flyers and for the magician.

Barbarians: warband, shooters, panther riders (knights) and heroes.  Much of this army is impetuous...

 The Game


Wolves and a troll surged forwards towards Mrs. Claus' house.  It took the troll a while to work out how to enter, but eventually he (she? it?) did so and claimed the objective for the evil side.  I don't think Mrs Claus will ever get that smell out of the carpets...

The elves advanced to meet this assault; their archers rained arrows upon the wolf riders and destroyed one element.  Firsat blood to the forces of good!

Here's a little extra rule that we used on the day: one of my club mates had brought a large bag of chocolates to the meeting.  I ruled that each time an enemy element was destroyed, the victor could have one.  It certainly gave some real-world consequence to the fights.



On the other flank, the barbarians surged forwards enthusiastically.  In an unexpected turn of events, their hero general was repulsed; this defeat then affected all the other combats down the line and the barbarians didn't win a single fight.



The Kung Fu front line counterattacked and, with a spectacularly bad series of dice rolls, much of the barbarian army just disintegrated.



The barbarian commander fought on alone and even managed to slay one of the Kung Fu heroes, but the odds were heavily against him and he was surrounded.  Even though his attackers sportingly gave him a chance by rolling a '1' (!), the dispirited warrior couldn't fight on any more (he rolled a '1' himself.  Again!).



The centre was an almost totally defensive fight for the undead, as they never had enough PiPs to move more than a handful of troops.  Indeed, the giant bats were never activated during the entire game.

The necromancer general stayed at the back, casting ineffectual spells at Santa's army.  In return, the ice bears charged forwards and fought with zombies and skeletons.  There were losses on both sides, but when Santa joined in as well, the tide turned in favour of the forces of good.



Then, disaster struck the undead!  Firstly, the vampire knights were destroyed in combat with a horde of snowmen.  That's nearly (but not quite) impossible.

Then, Santa saw the necromancer standing alone behind the ranks of skeletal infantry.  A twitch on the reins was all he needed to guide his flying reindeer over the intervening enemies.  The sleigh landed directly on top of the undead general, squashing him into the dirt.

With the loss of their commander, the undead army crumbled to dust (it failed the "panic" roll on the turn after losing the general).  All that was left were a few ghosts (i.e. the sneaker element), drifting about the battlefield looking for something they could haunt.



Over near the cottage, the elf bowmen advanced slowly, slaughtering everything that stood in their way (by this time, the Good players were starting to refuse the chocolates they earned for every 'kill'; it was just too much for them).

The elf spearmen moved past the house in an attempt to engage the troll, but were ambushed from the side by the goblin general and his warband.  For many turns, these embattled elves threw the evil forces back (their 'superior' status helped here!), but the goblins just kept on coming until eventually they overran the first group of elven infantry.



The greater goblins pressed their advantage and pushed the remaining elf spearmen up the hill.  For a brief moment it looked as if the goblin army might be able to inflict some real hurt on the forces of good, but by this time Santa was free from crushing the necromancer.

The sleigh took to the skies once more and came barreling down the hill, into (and through) the troll without even slowing down.  That catastrophic loss was too much to bear and all of the goblin hordes fled the battlefield in terror, leaving just their demoralised general and his bodyguard.  There seemed little point in playing on after this, so we called the game.


Conclusion

That was a rout!  Of the 3 evil sides, only the goblins put up much of a fight. Their opponents (the elves) suffered the heaviest losses of any good army - and even that was only 2 elements.  The barbarians' collapse was unexpected but spectacular; I don't know if I've ever seen so many '1's rolled in a row.  The necromancer's command-heavy army never threw higher than a '3' on a d6 for PiPs (it might have been a '4' on one turn; my memory isn't perfect here) and was consequently paralysed & ineffectual.  It basically stood there and allowed Santa to attack wherever and whenever he desired.

I don't want to take anything away from the good side's victory, though: they played competently and came away with a massive win.  Sometimes what looks like an even fight just isn't.

So, make merry and enjoy yourselves this Christmas, in the knowledge that evil has been roundly defeated once again.  Have another chocolate, if you can face it ­čÖé...

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Miniatures: Taking the Pledge

Introduction

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently.  No excuses; I'm just hoping that at least someone noticed.  Anyway, onwards and upwards...

Here's a problem: I have too many models.  That's a bit broad and not something which I either can or wish to tackle all in one go.  Let's narrow it down a bit: I have too many part-completed models - items that I have started to assemble, but which I haven't completed and packed away.  The number of undercoated or part-painted models has risen to the point where they are clogging up my workbench and making it really difficult to make progress on anything much.

This is my answer: the pledgeI hereby state that I will only permit myself one new model to be taken out of its packaging, assembled &c for every two already-started items which I complete.

Obviously this cannot go on indefinitely as I would eventually run out of already-started models and therefore not allow myself to initiate any further new builds.  Equally, there may come a point where a painting competition, a blog challenge or a special scenario at the games club requires one or more fresh models to be built in a limited time.  My pledge is not to be applied rigidly and may be broken temporarily if such an event should require, but otherwise I do intend to honour it.

I made this commitment about 2 weeks ago.  Since then, I believe that I have completed 19 models and started 1.  By my own rules, I am therefore allowed to start another 8.5 figures whenever I wish.  It's nice to be in credit already!

Here are some of the recently-finished models, just to show that I'm not cheating ­čÖé:

1st Corps flock of sheep and shepherd

4Ground wagon, North Star oxen and scratch-built carrots!

Antediluvian Miniatures adventurers, cavewoman and priestess 

Warlord Games samurai and bandits

Gripping Beast Saracen ghulams

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

7TV: The Mystery of Dutchman's Creek

Introduction

A few weeks ago, we played a game of 7TV at the Helensburgh games club which pitted Mystery Inc (i.e. Scooby Doo and pals) against some aquatic monsters led by an extraterrestrial megalomaniac (see here: The Mystery of Frenchman's Cove).

This game was quite fun and seems to have been well received by readers of my blog, but I couldn't help feeling that we had missed some opportunities.  In particular, our grasp of the rules - and especially the abilities of the two casts - wasn't strong enough to make a really good game.  So we played it again at home, just to see...


The Setup


Much as before, we set up a table that used my new lighthouse modelMystery Inc and Sheriff Stone advanced from one side (I was playing them myself), whilst my friend Steve took the Master, the lighthouse keeper and their undersea allies on the other side.



Sheriff Stone and his men saw some strange-looking people advancing up the beach, carrying what looked like car headlight.  "Hippies, I expect" muttered one of the cops.  "We'd better go and see what they want".

Without warning, the creatures raised their devices and opened fire [literally - they were using heat rays!].  One officer went down, whilst the rest scattered for cover and shot back.  This merry little firefight continued for a while with only a few casualties...



In the meantime, Velma drove the Mystery Machine past the lighthouse - and past the bemused lighthouse keeper, who consoled himself by taking potshots at Fred with his revolver.



Velma wasn't driving into danger recklessly - there was a plan: Shaggy and Scooby, using an Unlikely Disguise, would dismount and retrieve the objective right in front of them.  The disguise should prevent them from being shot down immediately..



Velma ran for a more distant objective, but Shaggy and Scooby found their way blocked by a scary-looking pair of Sea Devils.  Hmm - a conundrum...



Ah, but these aliens were unreliable allies.  That means the opposition can spend plot points to command them, within limits.  "Look over there!  Behind you!" screamed Shaggy at the tall figure in black armour.  Burbling to itself in its own, undersea language, the reptilian creature turned around and strode off to see what might be found in the middle of the creek.

"I don't think that was the brightest fish in the fishtank, Scooby!" exclaimed Shaggy as he watched the monster depart.  "And look, here's Tia!" he added as he solved the objective [what, again?  In our last game the very first objective also turned out to be the missing friend].



Meanwhile, near the door to the lighthouse cottage, Fred was charged by a huge, four-legged, slimy monster!  He quickly took a Scooby Snack [err, shouldn't that have been reserved for Shaggy & Scooby?  Well, never mind - the effect of the generic 7TV Adrenaline Boost gadget is pretty much how I imagine a Scooby Snack would work] and waited for its attack.



The Myrka didn't mess around trying to hit Fred, but instead picked him up bodily and threw him about 10 yards.



Daphne used the cover of the commotion to slip into the lighthouse and climb to the top of the tower.  There was an objective on the balcony; she was the only one who had a chance of reaching it.  However, events overtook her and the game ended before she could find the clue.



Tia drove the Mystery Machine away, across the field, to escape the renewed attentions of the Sea Devils.  They did manage to hit the van once, but this wasn't enough to slow it down.

Seeing their transport vanish, Scooby and Shaggy ran after it, shouting "Stop!  Wait for us!".  Of course, the Master then couldn't resist pursuing them [no, he really couldn't resist.  They have a special Star Power which can force an enemy to chase them - great for drawing someone out of position!].



Not fazed at all by being hurled about, Fred ran back into contact with the Myrka and stunned it with a Sleep Spray gadget.  He then proceeded to thump the creature and weakened it as well [actually, Fred's adrenaline boost, plus the status(s) on the monster, plus the fact that it was knocked down gave him extremely good odds of hitting it].

But here's the thing: the Myrka has 4 health points and Fred hadn't even managed to injure it yet.  If he did nothing else then it would almost certainly just get up, shake itself down and be good as new on its the next turn.



I have a cunning plan: Mystery Inc would Steal the Scene and take two turns in a row.  Each side can opt to do this once per game; the moment seemed appropriate because Fred could hit the monster again.  Because it was already weakened - and because 7TV doesn't allow multiple statuses of the same type - he would then inflict an injury on it instead.  It's not much, but it might be the best we can do.



So, Mystery Inc stole the scene.  In the most fortuitous moment possible, the Countdown Card for the new turn was After the Watershed - which allows a free attack with one model.  Immediately, Fred took this and inflicted one wound on the Myrka.  He was then activated as normal for the turn and hit it again: 2 wounds!



OK, this is good - what else can we do?  Fred grabbed his pen [another gadget] and dug it deep into the creature's skin: 3 wounds!



And still the monster wasn't able to respond: it was stunned, weakened, prone and [importantly!] wasn't able to have a turn for itself.



You know what: there's a cop just on the other side of the lighthouse.  He could charge in and have an attack as well.  Result: 4 wounds - the creature is unmasked and the two people inside the rubber suit are arrested!  "It's Mr Gruber, from the delicatessen!"



The game wasn't over yet, of course, as the evil side still had many other models.  One of the effects on the Large Monster profile is Rubber Suit.  This has the following effect: when the monster is knocked out, 1d6 other models from the same cast are removed from the table.

With an air or resignation, the monster player rolled the die and came up with an inevitable '6'.  By the time he was finished, all the Sea Devils had retreated into the ocean and the lighthouse keeper had slunk off, hoping that no-one recognised his part in the fracas.



Only the Master was left on the Monster cast, but he wasn't about to give up and come quietly.  He advanced a little way and threw down some noxious bomb which left Fred, Shaggy, Scooby and the cop choking and coughing.



The Master followed this up by charging Shaggy and knocking him out; Shaggy didn't do himself any favours with his histrionic over-reactions!



The madman kept going; it became obvious that he was trying to recapture Tia, or maybe to steal the van and make his escape, or both.

The Master didn't make it, though.  In the very last turn of the game [thanks to a Cliffhanger countdown card], Fred activated one of his traps.  The heroic side used all their available plot points [8 of them!] to power up the Capture Bubble gadget.  Although The Master attempted to resist, he just couldn't win against this.



Result: the Master was flung far over the lighthouse and into the sea.  No doubt he'd be fished out by a police boat, or arrested when he returned, bedraggled, to shore.  Either way, this was a massive victory for Mystery Inc!


Conclusion

We did add up victory points for this game, but I can't remember the exact amounts.  Even allowing for knocking out Shaggy, the monster side were soundly beaten.

There were some very lucky moments for Mystery Inc, it has to be said.  Fred's rampage and the final unmasking of the Myrka were only really made possible by the After the Watershed countdown card; without this the monster would probably have survived, shaken off its statuses and started to do some damage.  Of course, losing another 6 models when the Myrka fell was catastrophic for the monster cast and there was not really any way they could recover from this.  Catapulting the Master into the sea was just icing on the cake.  Sorry, Steve...

This game felt much more like a Scooby Doo episode to me.  Not all the star qualities/special effects of each cast were used, but a number were.  More importantly, we were aware of all of them [i.e. we hadn't forgotten any - I think] and therefore could plan in advance how to trick or trap our opponents.  It's not just about shooting!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Halloween: Horrors Stalk the Night!

Introduction

It's Halloween and once again I've arranged a seasonal battle to mark the occasion.  Like last year (see here), this will be a battle between the Witches and the Puritans (Witch Hunters).  This time, each of these forces will be supported by some rather uneasy allies, respectively the Rat Plague and the Five Musketeers.

[On a side note, I believe that this will be the 500th article on my blog.  I had no idea the number had grown so large until I was looking for the links to insert in the previous paragraph...]


The Scenario


Very simple: witches, ghouls and other beasties intend to raid the village of Middle Dorking and carry off at least some of the locals (for use as sacrifices, slaves, playthings, food...  Use your imagination!).  The local authorities would like to stop them.

3 villagers have been placed along the table's centreline.  Each of these can be moved, at a reduced rate, by anyone who has a model in base contact at the start of an action.  Whoever holds the most at the end of the game wins!  Note that in order to foster some unhealthy competition, each side (i.e. good or evil) wins or loses according to the number of objectives they have caught/saved.  Within each side, the force with the larger number of villagers will be declared the major victor and the other force will only be allowed a minor victory.

For example, if the Puritans rescue 2 villagers and the Musketeers none then the Puritans win a major victory and the Musketeers must be content with a minor win.  Even if the Witches have caught the third villager, the evil side still loses completely.  Clear?


The Game


The rat monster is an exceptionally dangerous foe; as well as its very high normal combat score it gains another +2 for its berserk attribute.  It loses this attribute as soon as it throws 3 failures in a single activation roll.  In this game, that happened in its very first turn - so the creature was no longer berserk.  Sighs of relief could be heard from the Puritans and Musketeers; this seemed like a very good omen for them!



Initially, the witches and rat swarms on the right surged forwards, though their bigger monsters on the left were sluggish and didn't make much progress.  For the good side, pretty much the same pattern occurred: the musketeers advanced rapidly on their right, whilst the Puritans on their left were slow to move.



Athos grabbed the nearest villager and tried to drag him to safety - but the shocked young man wasn't easy to pull along and the rat monster was overhauling the pair rapidly!



In the centre, near the unlit pyre, D'Artagnan and Leroux bravely tried to stop the rat priest from taking away the blacksmith.  They did look to be heavily outnumbered, but perhaps French ├ęlan would be enough to carry the day?



Nearer the wood, Aramis stomped on a seemingly endless swarm of rats and killed many of them, whilst Porthos faced off three huge, but distinctly reluctant, hell hounds.



At the other end of the village, Major Fairfax and his soldiers saw a ghoul trying to drag off a small boy.  Whilst one of the troopers led the rescued child away, the rest of them set upon the evil ghoul and butchered it!



So far, the few casualties had all been on the evil side, but that couldn't last forever.  Even as help approached, the beleaguered D'Artagnan was felled by the rat priest and his minions.



Another tragedy occurred when Black Agnes zoomed in and commanded her hell hounds to attack Porthos.  The musketeer could not resist the combined attack of such fierce opponents and he too fell in a bloody mess.



As he came into the open, John Sterne (the witch hunter) bellowed a challenge to Meg (the witch).  He fired both his pistols at her - but missed (despite having a reasonably good chance of killing the crone with a single shot).

Sword drawn, Sergeant Stone then charged forwards - but he was intercepted by a ghoul and thus couldn't prevent the rat priest from dragging away the kicking and screaming blacksmith.  He was promptly struck and transfixed by Meg's baleful glare.



When the ghoul tore apart the disabled Sergeant Stone, Leroux ran for his life.  Meg then cast another evil spell, this time at the witch hunter himself.  With an epic lack of situational awareness, John Sterne didn't see the attack coming and was bound and made helpless by witchcraft!



A long way from the action in the centre, a lone ghoul attempted to recapture the child from the village.  Major Fairfax and his lads fell upon the creature and butchered it; the child will probably have nightmares about the scene for the rest of his life!  [Normally in Song of Blades and Heroes, doubling an enemy's combat result kills it, whilst tripling it results in a gruesome kill.  Combined, these Puritans scored seven times the ghoul's defence.  Result: dead ghoul, though probably not recognisable as such any more...]



The rat monster chased down and finished off Athos, but rather than attempting to capture the nearby villager it turned and ran up the village street towards the Puritans.  Some of them shot at it as it came, but this merely seemed to annoy the creature...

In the open area, the rat priest continued to plod along with his prisoner, the blacksmith.  Aramis fought for his life against two huge hell hounds, but surely it could only be a matter of time before he made a fatal mistake?



The rat monster may not have been berserk any more, but it was still huge and fierce.  It charged down the main street of the village, tossing aside any soldiers who stood in its way.  One corporal attempted to shepherd the village boy away to safety, but he was really moving too slowly.

Eventually, most of the remaining troopers broke and fled, leaving the rat monster free to recapture the boy [and if you think he would have had nightmares about being taken by a ghoul then feel pity for him now!].

This tore the heart out of the good side and left them with very little in the way of forces.  Most of the Musketeers were dead; now the Puritans were also dead or dispersed.



For a brief moment, it looked as if Aramis might salvage the situation all on his own.  He slew one of the hell hounds, shook off the other and charged at Black Agnes.  The witch felt the Frenchman's steel as his rapier passed right through her body and with an unearthly shriek she fell, dead!



It was heroic, but it wasn't enough.  Meg used her black magic once more, paralysing the last Musketeer and making him easy prey for the nearby hell hound.

We did play on for a little while after this, but the outcome was already pretty much decided.  Major Fairfax rallied a couple of soldiers and chased after the slow-moving rat priest.  They nearly stopped it before it left the table - but couldn't quite do so.  After that, these last remnants of the human side chased after Meg - until the hell hound intervened and killed the major.  At that point, we called it...


Conclusion

That was a bitterly-fought game, for certain!  Initially it looked as if the Musketeers would triumph over everything in their path - but there just weren't enough of them and in the end they were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

The rats and the witches concentrated a lot of their force in the centre.  This gave them numbers against some of their enemies, but conceded some easy, early kills to the Puritans.  However, these Puritans seemed hard to motivate; their advance was very slow and a little bit fragmented.  In the end, the charge of the rat monster scattered the bulk of them past recall.

Man/Woman/Creature of the Match: A tough choice:
  • On the one hand, Aramis cut his way through most of the rat swarm, one hell hound and the witches' leader (Black Agnes).
  • On the other hand, Meg was instrumental in killing Sergeant Stone, the witch hunter (John Sterne) and Aramis.
I think I'd probably give it to the witch, because she survived and was on the winning team.  Her actions made a difference!


Biggest disappointment: I think it's a toss up between:
  • The giant rat ceasing to be berserk on turn one
  • The witch hunter failing to kill Meg with his pistols.
Take your pick!


Victory goes to the evil side, very obviously.  The rats held all three villagers at the end of the game, so they are declared the clear winners, with the witches taking the consolation prize.