2011-10-11

Congress of Gamers 2011: DBA

This past Saturday was Congress of Gamers in Rockville, MD (just outside DC). I was afraid I might not make it to the De Bellis Vasingtonium (DBA open) event, because we were going on a long family weekend... to DC.  I'm glad Marla argreed to let me leave them at the zoo for most of Saturday.  Thanks!

The events I didn't participate in included a lot of open board gaming along with some organized board gaming events such as a racing series.  There weren't many miniatures games other than the ones organized by "the DBA crowd." Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in the Wings of War Balloon Busting event either, due to time constraints.

I really enjoyed the format of the "Bring-and-Buy," where you drop off your old board games and hope someone buys them.  I didn't bring any games due to timing, and didn't end up buying anything because the prices were high compared to the size of my wallet and my desire to own the games.  But I think in future years I could sell off some of my games fairly easily since I wouldn't expect to get as much as they were asking for theirs.  I also missed participating in the no-ship math trade.

Hordes of the Things

I arrived too late to play in the Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields event, a Hordes of the Things giant battle scenario set up by David Kuijt and Dave Schlanger.  I did get a few pictures: here's an overview of the whole battle.

This scenario was based on the Battle of Dale.  This battle was left out of the movies, and the main characters weren't there so it was chronicled in less detail in the books as well.  Around Dale in the North of Middle Earth, Dwarves, Elves, and Men faced the forces of Sauron: mostly Easterlings (evil men).

In HOTT terms, each side had 108 points split into 4 commands, good guys vs. bad guys (aren't they always?)  As in the Giant Battle rules, all players on a side played simultaneously.  Although this can slow things down given enough players, I think I prefer the "long line" battles over the more free-for-all format used in the Two Davids Monsterpocalypse themed HOTT games.  I should probably actually play a normal Giant Battle before I settle on that decision...

All the figures were Games Workshop, mostly Lord of the Rings figures (with a few pigeons from the Warhammer elf line.)

De Bellis Vasingtonium

As it turned out, only an "hour" of wolves and shattered shields was a bit optimistic. When everyone finaly cleaned up the Battle of Dale, we started De Bellis Vasingtonium: a 4 round DBA tournament open to all armies.

I couldn't decide whether to take Feudal Spanish (III/35b) or Later Achemenid Persians (II/7), so I brought Hittite Empire instead: I/24b.  I chose the psiloi option, giving me a final composition of: 3xHCh (gen), 1xLCh, 6x3Sp, 2x2Ps.  Except for its lack of bad going troops, this is a fairly solid composition, especially for 1200BC. 

JM's right hand blocks his view of his Greco-Indian general.
I thought I might face another early army, but JM's Greco-Indians were the earliest possibility, so we played each other in the first round.  "I came all this way to play against you?"

I attacked and JM set up basically a pool table, which suited us both just fine.  Early on I denied his elephant flank and concentrated on his other side.  I didn't win this battle, JM lost it 2g-0.  Our battle lines seemed fairly well matched, but after the first few bounds of combat, JM misused a 1-PIP roll and left his General open to being outflanked, so I killed him.

Apparently JM stopped making mistakes early, because this was the only game he lost.  Congratulations on the 3-1 placing, that's excellent!

Before: Doug Austin's Bosporans vs. my Hittites.
In the second round, I faced Doug Austin's Bosporins.  I've faced these guys twice before in BBDBA but never in single DBA.  I was the attacker, and Doug set up symmetrical terrain with two roads and a central wood.  He set up in a tight block with his bad going troops poised to run down the road and take my camp.  My plan was to run as fast as possible towards his knights while expending the minimum force necessary to distract and delay his light troops... who were running twice as fast towards my camp.

After: A big mess of Bosporans and Hittites
In the end, my expectations were met and my plan ended up working, but the timing and some luck went in my favor this time.  His plan was complicated somewhat by a greater need to consider his general's command radius due to the woods, but mine was limited by the speed of my heavy foot.

He moved to within striking range of my camp before pulling back his bowmen to try to kill my general.  In the mean time, my spears and mounted troops finally reached his knights and I started gaining an advantage there.  He was even able to shoot several times with his artillery, which he deployed on his base line.  In the end I took his camp with my LCh, and won 3c-1. 

I decided to use "before" and "after" pictures here, because the contrast is so striking.  After Doug ran down the road and I ran up the open ground, we ended up almost perpendicular to our starting deployments, and Doug had turned my "flank" (my original rear).  Apparently his bowmen thought my wall was too high, because he didn't end up attempting to take my camp.

I won two games in a row? Weird!  Unforutnately things started going down hill from here.

Mike's Medieval Portugese took my camp.
In the third round, I faced Mike Guth and his Medieval Portugese time travellers. This seemed like such an ahistorical matchup that even a bystander asked something like "what are you... why.... what?" In reality, they were just using their time machine to get some practice in before sailing to North America.

I don't have any pictures of the start of this game, but I defended and set up terrain with a small wood on either side of a road.  I deployed with my spears in depth in the center (double ranked with psiloi support) and mounted on the flanks, to defend against a central Knight assault.  In retrospect I think a thinner line would've been more flexible and less intimidating to him.

The Portuguese and Bostporin army compositions are similar, but with more heavy foot in the Portugese.  I don't remember Mike's setup.

He pulled a psiloi rush on the first turn.  He didn't kill my LCh, but did really annoy me for the entire game.  That psiloi required a huge PIP expenditure for me to defend against, and the best I got was a stalemate. Finally, he took my camp with his auxilia and won 2c-1, with about 1 minute before time was called.

It was definitely a good move for him to do the psiloi rush even if he didn't kill me, because I was definitely set up incorrectly to handle it. I put two mounted on that flank, because as soon as I was free of the woods they could move out to their flank and be more useful... the problem being that they were never able to move past the woods.  I may have been able to deal with it better if I had spear and psiloi over there.

I don't have any pictures at all of the final game, which is probably just as well.  I faced David Kuijt's Hussites, and basically beat myself with a bunch of mistakes to go along with my lack of experience with or thought about Hussites (or war wagons in general).  My only consolation is that I learned more than DK did :)

First of all... a gentle hill is not bad going, and you should ask what kind of hill it is before you decide which board edge you prefer.  After deploying incorrectly because the hill was not actually protecting my flank, I failed to correct my mistake and wasted PIPs maneuvering around the hill even though it wasn't bad going.

Hussites have war wagons that are superior to my mounted but inferior to my spears, and blades that are superior to my spears but lose to my knights.  His initial set up let him swap his elements to ensure he had a few hot spots that he could take advantage of and poke holes in my line.  I'm not a very good element dancer, so I didn't see much advantage to trying to swap elements into good matchups as I advanced... but I hadn't considered that the PIP sink of the war wagons would've prevented him from swapping back as easily.

But that wasn't the last of my mistakes.  Without much enemy mounted, my psiloi were wasted in the spear support role I put them in: this is a mental block I need to get over.  They don't die to anything in his army except his light horse, so I should've had them out in front, extending my line or at least preventing flank maneuvers.

I hadn't even considered the effects of massed War Wagon and Artillery firing on my lines.  That's pretty brutal.

In the end, he outflanked my short line with his light horse and general... but his 4-0 victory came from slaughtering my line in head-to-head combat while making me spend all my pips on my flank.

In general, I have a problem with beating myself when playing DK by paying more attention to what he's doing than to what I'm doing... but this time I made some big mistakes that I should not have, and that made it even worse.  Larry wouldn't have admitted to knowing me after seeing that game.

In the end, I finished in the middle of the pack with a 2-2 record, which surpassed my expectations but not my hopes. 

Summary

I had fun at Congress of Gamers, and if there are enough events I'll try to make it down again in future years... but the hotel cost may be too high to make it worth it if we aren't planning a trip down there already.

2011-10-10

Malifaux: More Totems and Spiders

Before I recently finished my DBA Viking army, I painted some more Malifaux figures.  Here are some pictures, now that I have some that are in focus. 

I prepared and primed my Guild totems about a year ago, but didn't get much paint on them until a few weeks ago.  I bought Abuela just after Christmas.  So: Yes!  Some of that old lead does end up painted eventually...
Governor's Proxy
The Governor's Proxy has a basic, serviceable paint job without too much interesting going on.  The basing matches all my Malifaux bases, which will make it harder for me to change my mind later with a new crew.  All of the bases shown here are from Dragon Forge Designs.
Enslaved Nephilim
I decided to go with red skin for my Enslaved Nephilim.  I like the way the grey hair and red skin turned out; it almost has the look of ashes and fire.  His wing stumps, not seen here, are also grey.

Abuela Ortega
Abuela Ortega was a fun figure to paint, but apparently I'm running out of different colors of brown to use for outer layers.  I tried to add some interest to her dress and shirt/apron but not much of them shows.

Overall I seem to be taking more of my 15mm technique onto these larger figures than the other way around, these days.  It works well enough and produces a reasonable result, especially for the B-list figures instead of the big names.

Steampunk Arachnids
Finally, my last stand of Steampunk Arachnids?  Hopefully.  This brings me up to two sets of three Arachnids, and two Arachnid Swarms.  Unfortunately these models are a slippery slope.

I have most of the Hoffman box set crew assembled and primed, as well as a Peacekeeper and a few other M&SU/Guild figures.  I'm not sure when I'll get to those. They're an excellent crossover crew for my Ramos and Perdita crews, because Hoffman is guild and can use Perdita models; Ramos and Hoffman can use each others' steam punk models; and Hoffman is M&SU so he can use my M&SU mercenary cheaply as well.

2011-10-03

DBA Army III/40a: Vikings

Baueda Vikings: DBA III/40a
Here's the army I'll be playing in the Two Davids "Viking Fury" campaign game at Fall-In 2011: III/40a, Vikings.  JM and I bought identical Baueda figure packs for our armies, and I look forward to contrasting JM's paint job with mine.

3x4Bd(gen).  "You're not doing anything, you must be in charge."
The Baueda figures are good: not the best I've ever painted, but also not the worst.  They have an extreme variation of poses, which is good for this kind of army, but they are also reasonably static poses that don't get in the way of fitting the figures on the bases.

3x3Bd.
The army pack usually comes with a viking tent, but I already have one, so I ordered it without the tent directly from Baueda.  Unlike most DBA army packs, which provide only exactly as many figures as you need for the army, Baueda provides enough figures to build either III/40a or III/40b with all options, and you'll end up with spare figures on top of that.  We also received additional free samples from Baueda, with even more Viking scouts.  Between our two army packs and the samples, we're only short a few handfuls of figures to build a third army (not that we want to right now).

2x3Bd, 1x3Wb.
There are a variety of different shields, weapons, armors, and poses, resulting in a wider variety of combinations of those features.  I like the level of detail the figures include: they have belts and a few pouches, but the figures aren't cluttered with a bunch of "what is that, anyway?"

3x3Bd.
The only problems I have with the figures are that they required a bit more cleanup than I'd prefer, and some of the individual figures have poorer sculpting than others.  The quality of faces varies widely across the figures, and some of them have rougher cloth sculpting and a few missing details.

1x3Bd, 1x2Ps.
I had some goals when painting this army.  I wanted a variety of colors and patterns across the army, but I also wanted a coherent look that didn't end up as gaudy and garish as I think my Leidang turned out.  I also wanted to try some new color combinations, since I've been getting stuck on a few standards lately.  Overall, I think I achieved my goals, but only some of the experiments were successful.

I also used a new sand for the bases.  It has a higher contrast between darker and lighter grains mixed in the sand, which is more apparent at this small scale.  Overall it reads a bit lighter than I'd prefer, but it will probably work just fine.

Overall, once again I'm happy with the way this army turned out.  I look forward to trying it out with the special Raider rules that will be in effect during the campaign.

Terraclips: Almost Awesome

Just like everyone else interested in the Wyrd Miniatures/Worldworks Terraclips terrain building sets probably has, I read and heard lots of good reviews about the kits... and then I bought them: one each of the Streets, Sewers, and Buildings kits, and three boxes of clips.  This is definitely a high quality, well designed product.  However, instead of repeating all the glowing praise I read before I bought them, I'll list all my picky problems.  Hopefully this will help someone to decide whether this is the right toy for them.

My overall summary is: I think these would work great for D&D 4E dungeon crawls, but I don't think they'll be very good forMalifaux.

Here's a 3 foot square of Malifaux terrain built using parts of all three kits.  The build took Frank and I 2 hours to complete.  We started with a half-assembled build, and spent some time disassembling it but saved some time reusing a few of the buildings and roofs I built earlier.

And here's the first problem: Terraclips are slow to assemble.  I rarely spend this much time setting up terrain, and that's when I am planning a historical scenario.  I'd rather spend my time crafting individual terrain pieces that can be reused quickly, or playing a game.

Because of the long setup time, you need either a lot of free time, or a place where the completed terrain can sit until you use it.  Unlike large purpose-built terrain boards and smaller area/element terrain pieces, Terraclips can't easily be stored assembled.

Many reviews I've seen gawk at the huge amount of stuff you get in each box.  It's true: you get a lot of stuff.  However, having a lot of stuff doesn't necessarily mean building a large area of terrain. The kits come with the parts needed to do anything, but not to do everything at the same time.  For example, there are enough roof pieces to handle any L-shaped or T-shaped building, but you can build more square one-story buildings than you can add roofs to.  If you build taller buildings, they take up less area on the map, so you require more streets and sewers to take up the slack.

We found that we had a huge number of balcony and railing parts left unused (unpunched, even), but we ran out of roofs and walls without doors.  Another challenge is using the right ratio of 6" and 3" pieces, to ensure that you don't run out of one before the other.

These parts are also quite fiddly to assemble.  Experience would definitely help building things faster and more cleanly, but I don't expect I'd ever be fast enough to roll up a Malifaux scenario and then build terrain for it as the rules recommend. 

The clips all have a bump on one side but not the other (look in the clip's slot, which tends to put a slight angle in the connection, especially when using I clips.  The T and L clips don't join up the cards in the same orientation at the corner, depending on which direction the clip is used, which can leave you with some less than square buildings if you don't align all the clips the same way. All these little errors add up over the course of a large build.  The few instructions available implore you to make sure everything is lined up properly and fully assembled, but it's still fiddly.

The remaining issues I have with Terraclips are related to how they will work with Malifaux.

Malifaux didn't have any comprehensive rules for working with buildings, the last I checked.  All terrain pieces were "area" or "element/item" and had an overall effect; they didn't contain discrete walls, doors, windows, and so on.  In previous games using our scratch built buildings and Mordheim buildings, we adopted the Mordheim rules: any obstruction gives you cover, and line of site is WYSIWYG.

WYSIWYG line of site works great... as long as you are able to use terrain to disrupt and limit that line of site without being able to completely hide.  In this regard, the terraclips don't perform well.  None of the wall sections have open windows, they only have doorways and arches.  These highly enclosed buildings have the effect of breaking the board into small, isolated, easily protected sections. We have yet to see how this plays out in practice.

We also found it difficult to add enough buildings to a flat city street grid, to block the line of site across the board adequately. We were limited by roofs.  We might have been able to build a few more buildings taller, but we couldn't really add more of them.  Actually, this is great for my Perdita crew, so I'll just stop complaining now.

For what they are, the Terraclips do a very good job.  These will be great for doing D&D dungeon crawls and encounters inside buildings, and I could even see building a dungeon crawl on the fly if it's straightforward enough.  They even have 1" squares subtly printed on all surfaces.  But I don't have high hopes for building a wide variety of different terrain boards for a series of Malifaux games.

In the future I'll be sticking to building more individual terrain elements to place on my Terrainguy mat, but I'll save these kits to build dungeon crawls, assuming I can ever fit them back in their boxes.