Wednesday, April 27, 2016

5 year anniversary! Also, an overview on Black Powder: Glory, Hallelujah!

Look at that. It's been five years and a month since my first blog post! Somehow it feels like the past five years have gone by really fast but then I look at my first posts and it feels like my bull run project in the spring of 2011 was ages ago. The human perception of time sure is strange.

Well, since I started out with ACW stuff, might as well write you some today! Warlord Games has released an ACW sourcebook for Black Powder and I got my hands on a copy. It's called Glory, Hallelujah! and it's written by Dr David B James. Note that I won't take pictures of the contents, you can find the pages they've seen fit to publish over here.

First thing I notice is that the book is quite heavy. In fact, it has a page count of 180 pages, the same length as the Black Powder rulebook itself! I definitely expected something lighter. It's a softcover book with all the gloss and colourful pictures you expect from a Warlord Games publication. As you might guess, doing a page count like that on a supplement requires quite a bit of background fluff written into the volume. There is quite a thorough introduction to the various aspects of the American Civil War as a wargaming theatre which makes it a good "first ACW wargame" book for anyone not familiar with the period but for the grognards out there its mostly unnecessary padding. The "fluff" takes about 57 pages.

Yup, that's thick.

The additional/modified rules take about 22 pages of the book. Here's a rundown on what rules are included:

- Rules for terrain, especially different types of woods
- No squares or assault columns allowed
- Cavalry less effective in charges, better handling for dismounted cavalry
- Stat tweaks for artillery, range tweaks for all weapons.
- The role of skirmishers is to screen friendly infantry, not very effective when firing
- Passage of lines is possible but can lead to some units passing through, some not
- Moving fast and firing is not possible for infantry
- Smoothbore muskets have a close range bonus
- Breechloaders and carbines are more effective but may run low on ammo
- Units that break from shooting are "whipped" instead and remain on the table instead of being wiped out
- It is more difficult to order infantry to charge
- Generals may fight on foot and are less prone to getting shot. Generals on horseback are more vulnerable
- Snipers may be attached to regiments and make it easier to drop generals
- a section of rules for forts
- a section of rules for naval units

Nothing dramatic and overall the rules look like good tweaks to the basic rules to make them feel less like Napoleonics and more like ACW without sacrificing playability. It should definitely give players a common framework on which to build ACW games using Black Powder rules.  

Army lists, special units and characters take about 45 pages. Scenarios and battle reports take about 50 pages. The army lists contain rosters and points values to the opposing armies in different years of the war, but the rules on composition are quite light. Also the varying sizes of regiments during the war are passed with a bit of a shrug which was a bit disappointing. One of the things that doesn't "feel right" when gaming ACW with standard Black Powder rules is in how to represent the different sized regiments.

There are ten scenarios which are most welcome. There aren't many ready made Black Powder ACW scenarios around the net and frankly I'm a bit lazy to adapt scenarios from other sources. What I don't like about the scenarios is that like in for example the Hail Caesar rulebook they don't bother telling us the size of the table even though they're careful to specify some range restrictions in inches. I think it would be much clearer to just state "this scenario was originally played on a 6´x5´ table" or whatever so that the players wouldn't need to guess what size the table they playtested these on was.

In summary, it's a good supplement to Black Powder. It's not essential as the base rules work for ACW well enough but enough thought and work has gone into this book to justify its existence. It's a good buy especially to those who are hesitant to make up their own house rules and wish for something "official" to rally around. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Frostgrave: Thaw of the Lich Lord scenarios 4-7

I've been quite lax in updating the blog lately due to life stuff, but I've been getting regular games in anyway as well as some painting done.Today I have for you the summary of no less than four Frostgrave games I've played in the past couple of months!

Scenario 4: Storm of Undeath

The Lich Lord is flexing his powers, raising the dead during a magical storm.
The treasures were in an open space in the middle of the table and four warbands went in to retrieve them. At one point of the match there are plenty of skeletons who are animated by the storm so there are a lot of NPC enemies to handle.

The wizards attempted to grab all they can and retreat before the undead rise, but that didn't go too well for me as I got bogged down fighting another warband. My wizard cast his first successful Summon Demon and rolled 20, summoning a Large Demon!

The demon ended up clearing the center of the table of any skeletons remaining and my warband could retreat with only minor injuries. The demon is a good spell as in addition to getting an additional model to your warband, the demon is completely expendable and can be thrown in any situation.

Scenario 5: Run of the Rangifer

Rangifers are nothing less than WERE-REINDEER! They have natural bonuses versus the undead so naturally the Lich Lord aims to kill them all. 

A tricky scenario where the players attempt to save the rangifers from the minions of the lich lord while trying not to provoke them. That... didn't go too well in our game the wizards pretty much ended up killing all the rangifers themselves..


Scenario 6: The House of Longreach

Rumours of a fabulous treasure in a mansion filled with random teleports lure the wizards to fight each other again.

The wizards must try the teleports for a chance to get to a hidden treasure room, but it was more likely to get zapped by the teleport or to teleport to another door on the table. My warband got zapped A LOT losing a lot of health. My opponent got through better but ended up splitting his warband, making the part that stayed behind on the table easier to defeat. To make things worse, a troop of cultists attacked the treasure chamber and killed his guys over there.

Scenario 7: Lair of the Ghoul King

The wizards are trapped in the underground lair of the Ghoul King and must slay the beast and escape before being overwhelmed by ghouls.

My warband had survived the previous matches really well, taking only negligible losses. This scenario proved different. My opponent drew the ghoul king to attack him and defeated the beast easily, but there were a lot of ghouls spawning all around. I got the upper hand in the fight against my opponent, but bogged down badly while retreating to the exit. 

In the end my warband took out no less than twelve ghouls in this scenario despite the honour of killing the ghoul king going to my opponent. My warband got a lion's share of the treasure and a lot of EXP, but lost four men dead and one missing the next game! I lost a barbarian, a treasure hunter, an apothecary and a thug as well as a couple of magical items, making it nearly a pyrrhic victory! Good thing I've saved some gold to recover from the losses!

Thoughts on Frostgrave after about ten games played

Ok, we've played enough games to get a good idea on how the magic system and the campaign works. The basic game is quite competent although the big swings of luck built in the D20 can frustrate. The magic system is fun to use and there are a lot of different spells, but there are some which are just too good not to take for any Wizard (leap, elemental bolt, fog..). The campaign doesn't offer as much tinkering on your warband as Mordheim does and learning new spells late in the campaign will not do much for you as you'll probably stick to the few spells you have already maxed out.
I think if McGullough gets the opportunity to do a new edition which irons out the problems rules lawyers have thought up and do some balancing on the spells, I think it will be an awesome game. Now it's in the middle between ok and good.