Friday, December 30, 2011

Trolls and more

The dismounted cavalry remain lost. I have no idea where they are and have turned the place upside down. I wonder if I've managed to dump them in the trash alongside the mess I cleaned from the dollhouse project. If so, it is a sad loss.

It's snowing so I can't undercoat stuff to paint so I decided to try my hand at getting proper photos of those stone trolls I mentioned a while back. I think they turned out ok. I used the largest aperture value available, an exposure time of about half a second and ISO80. White balance was measured against the background. There's also a shot of the fresh Lutheran Seminary and of Skarsnik who would be commanding the trolls if I would ever want to play Warhammer Fantasy again. Let me know if you have hints on how to improve my photos. The scene is lit by two LED lamps with a screen of baking paper taped in front of them to diffuse the light. The pictures are clickable.

Gettysburg day 1 project & last games night.

"Sir, if you want to fight here, this is such lovely ground, it's the best damn ground I've seen all day." "It is that."
So, I'm back into figure painting mode. We'll be playing a good chunk of Gettysburg day 1 on the 7th of January and I've started work on it. The good news is that I have most of what I need already painted and done. I just need a few generals, some confederate artillery and Buford's cavalry division to get by. 50 figures minimum, about 250 at most. With my speed of 100 figures in an evening it shouldn't be difficult if I have the time.

I started out by painting the Lutheran Seminary building I bought off Total Battle Miniatures. It's a great centerpiece for the table and turned out all right. I had considerable trouble painting the brickwork, but it turned out good. The slight variations in the tone of the bricks I did doesn't show in the image.

Terrain-wise, I think I can manage by building a small section of stone wall to put near Oak hill, and by scratchbuilding some buildings for the portion of the Gettysburg town visible on the table. I'll leave out the fighting on Blocher's knoll as I don't have that many figures yet.

A slight problem with the project has arisen. I seem to have misplaced an entire division of dismounted cavalry. They were supposed to be the dismounted versions of Buford's division but I can't seem to find them anywhere. I undercoated them a few weeks ago and then.. nothing. I suppose this is what Lee felt when Stuart went missing! If they're truly lost, the game will lose some visual appeal as I don't have dismounted versions of the very central troops defending against the confederates on the early stages of July 1st. Ah well.

I'll also use the opportunity to log some games form a casual boardgames night with friends a couple of days ago. We played some Wings of War, Lexio, Guillotine and a overly long game of Zombies!!! I had forgotten why I haven't played it in years. Now I remember again. Not much happening and the game takes ages to play. I'm pretty much I'll sell my copy if I find someone willing to buy. Other than that, we had great fun though :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas special

A different project this time. Me and my wife made a dollhouse for our god daughter for Christmas this year. I have lots of experience building miniatures terrain so I thought this wouldn't be that different, but working with wood and doind child-proof work presented it's own challenges. The almost-three-year-old recipient was quite happy with the results though. Have a merry Christmas everyone!

Cutting the components out of plywood in our bathroom. Great acoustics for the saw.

The finished basic structure. My wife did the painting on the piece.

The finished piece with wallpapers and a hinged roof revealing an attic.

I covered the ends of the board with a plastic railing.

The open attic with her name on the inside of the roof.

Testing it out. One of the window boards came loose after about 5 seconds of stress testing.

A positive verdict.

Also, boardgames! This is a co-op boardgame where the players try to pick all the fruit before the crow reaches the end of the "Doom track" and eats the fruit. Sort of like Arkham Horror for two year olds.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First session of Fighting Formations

I just came home from games night at the local boardgames club, Kärmes. On the table for the first time was Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division, a new contender to the tactical WW2 arena. It's a new GMT series with a series rulebook weighing in at 23 pages. Each game in the series is supposed to concentrate on historical battles of a namesake formation, although as a series first is only out at the moment, we'll have to see what the future brings.

Me and Timo only managed to play a few turns, as neither of us had played before and gameplay was slowed down by frequent browsing of the manual. The Germans were attacking a hillside position of the Soviet forces across an open plain. Infantry supported by StuG III's. The soviets had only infantry and machine guns, but they also had lots of trenches, pillboxes, wire and minefields to help. During the turns we played, the German infantry suffered a lot of losses advancing towards to Soviet line over open ground, but the StuG's punched through the Soviet line with impunity. The Soviets found themselves in a position where most of their line was out of command and tried to redeploy, which the Germans exploited by advancing on the vacated trenchline. We stopped playing just before the Soviet armored reinforcements arrived. The Germans had taken the victory locations of the scenario with their nigh invulnerable tanks but the Soviets had gained a lot of casualty victory points from the Germans and would probably have win if they had managed to retake even one of the victory locations by game's end. We managed to play several rules wrong though, so it was more of a practice match anyway.

Fighting Formations is a veritable Smörgåsbord of game mechanics. The actions assignable to troops each turn are determined by randomly placing blocks on the command list. The damage dealt to soldiers is determined by random chit draw from cups. There is a deck of cards for artillery, air strikes and special actions. Modifiers to firing change the dice you roll, so where you normally roll 2D10 against targets in open ground and normal range, you reduce that to 2D8 because of cover or increase it to 2D12 for point blank fire. The list goes on and on.

The Initiative system is what I liked most about the rules. Each time you perform an action, the initiative track shifts towards your opponent, and once it slips to his side, it's his turn to act. The simpler your actions are, the more you can perform them in one go before giving the turn to your opponent. The more complex they are, the easier it is to lose the initiative to your opponent. This gives the game turns an unpredictable and simultaneous nature and is quite brilliant. When you pick a block on your turn, you can perform the action of the slot it is on, or any slot "under" it. This means you can generally do what you want (unlike in combat commander where you are shit out of luck if you don't have a correct card) but you have to pay for it by expending more initiative than the action would normally take. Defensive fire is also performed by expending initiative.

Command and Control is achieved in a simple manner. You place a commander token on the board, and can move it around with the troops, and perform actions like shooting and defensive fire for a lower initiative cost as long as troops are within the command radius of the token. After one turn, the token is flipped and everything costs more initiative within the commander's radius. After on more turn, the token is returned to a pool where it becomes available again after one turn of cooldown. This makes it smart not to spread out your troops too thin, as I noticed. When troops are not in command, you will find yourself having to expend precious initiative to do the simplest of tasks and your opponent will dictate the tempo. 

The last smart thing Fighting Formations does is have separate counters for platoons and squads. Units enter the game as platoons, consisting of three squads, and are treated as one counter in the beginning. They can (and will if they suffer casualties) split into their component squads which can operate individually. This reduces counter clutter a lot and is a smart move.

What about the bad? Well, it's not ASL to be sure. The simpler game mechanics make the dice a bit more dominating and I didn't like how some mechanics play, especially melee. My opponent drove his StuG platoon right through my infantry platoon in a trench and didn't have the odds stacked against him in melee at all. It was quite difficult for an entire platoon of infantry to scratch three tanks driving through a trenchline without support. I found that odd, but I suppose I'll just have to find new tank hunting techniques. Also, the German/Soviet counters have too little contrast between them. It is quite easy to mistake the two under bad lighting. I hope they pay attention to this in future modules.

The simpler mechanics aren't all bad. Our first match was an attack on a trenchline with pillboxes, wire, minefields and machine guns by German infantry and armor supported by Stuka swarms and artillery strikes on both sides. It has taken me dozens of matches of ASL to be so confident with the rules as to play something like that in ASL (although we haven't tried air strikes and artillery yet!). This was our first game of Fighting Formations and already we had all that going on. The barrage system especially was simple yet quite realistic enough.

We'll have to play more of this for my opinion to mature, but at the moment it seems much better than Combat Commander or Conflict of Heroes, becoming my pick for the medium complexity WW2 tactical stuff, but of course, ASL will not be dethroned by this usurper!

PS. Sorry, no pics this time. I have some finished Stone Trolls I'll try to photograph to liven up the blog that has been all dry and hex&countery of late.