Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review: Ikea Gingerbread House

Something unusual for Christmas! While browsing Ikea a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a massive pile of gingerbread house kits, reasonably priced and looking very much like they might be in scale with Flintloque figures! I quickly snapped one up, but it is only today that I got to assemble it.

As with most Ikea products, the house is flat-pack, coming with nothing more than the required components and a small instruction leaflet to guide you in assembling it!

Laying out the pieces, you can see it is quite minimalist. 4 wall sections, two roof pieces and 4 small bits for a chimney. They are all quite thin and fragile looking, but I didn't find that caused any problems during assembly.

Unfolding the instruction sheet, it was clear that it was 'written' in the same style as all their products, with simple pictures to guide you like a Lego set. The back, however, helpfully includes instructions about making suitable icing for 'gluing' the building together.

I put my workspace in order, like any good wargamer, and collected together  the required elements of the 'glue'. Icing sugar, an egg (white only) and a dash of lemon juice.

Not being much of a chef myself, I was slightly concerned at the massive amount of icing sugar relative to the quantity of liquid from a single egg white and 5ml of lemon juice, but I needn't have worried. The mixture came together nicely to form a shiny, thick, sticky mass in the bowl!

Not having anything for piping, I started off by using a sandwich bag with the corner cut off. Unfortunately I cut it a bit too large, so the actual gluing step turned into a hideous mess! After the structure was completed, I transferred the rest to a cone made from baking paper, and this was much better for decorating the roof. I had also bought four coloured tubes of pre-made icing and used these to dot the roof for some extra colour.

As you can see below, the final house works well with the figures I painted in my last post. It will form the center piece for my Christmas game. However, I probably won't get a chance to play until after Christmas. I hope I don't eat the house before that happens!

So all in all I recommend this item to whimsical wargamers everywhere, although you may need to wait until next November before Ikea has them in stock again.

Finally, I'd like to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you all had a successful 2013 and that 2014 will hold much in the way of fun and games for you!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: Flintloque Gingerbread men!

In between various Christmas preparations, I managed to pull out a blister pack from my pile of Flintoque figures. It was no coincidence that I ended up with the (vaguely) festive Gingerbread Set.

Unopened pack

As with other Limited Edition packs from Alternative Armies, this set comes in an individually numbered blister, in this case pretty crammed full of lead. Luckily, the packaging can be pulled open without the need for scissors, a minor yet gratifying point I think!

Pack contents
The pack contains three gingerbead men, two dwarf assistants and an undead baker, equipped with magic spoon! As with other AA offerings, wooden bases are included. I wasn't too sure about these at first, being used to using either plastic bases or coins, but in practice they are just as good as anything else!

The figures were simple to prepare, with no worse than the smallest amount of flash to be removed. The Flintloque range generally consists of figures which are easy and fun to paint and these proved to be no exception.

The bakers!

The product!

The whole set.
This set can easily be painted in a day in a simple paint scheme. Note the different button colour combinations on the Gingerbread men for easy identification!

This is a great set of figures. I suppose the only question is how much use they are, but even if they don't form a core unit in your army, they certainly have function in festive scenarios, or perhaps a mini campaign. Until recently, a scenario was available online, but I believe you can still request it by email from Alternative Armies.

So I'm very happy with these figures. In fact my next post will be about the (real) gingerbread house I bought to go with them for a Christmas game, so you will see more of these fellows!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Solo Hordes of the Things

It is a little known fact that the Ottoman Empire was frequently under attack from the ratmen armies which poured forth from the more mountainous regions of its domain.

It is a more well known fact that Hordes of the Things is a great set of fantasy rules for playing out such battles in a small space.

So just as well I had the figures painted! The sad fact is that our study is still crammed to the gills, making it impossible to play anything larger at the moment. I optimistically thought clearing the table would help with this, but the table is useless if I still need to struggle to get boxes of terrain and figures out. Hordes of the Things to the rescue!

Ottoman light cavalry clash with ratmen archers, while their main force comes under assault from packs of wolves.
It also got me thinking about how to play solo games of HotT. Putting pencil to paper, I quickly drafted a few rules about how to deploy the enemy and what actions they would take. Unfortunately this soon bogged down with a lot of 'if-then' type statements, which would drastically slow down the game. Inspiration struck when I realised that a lot of these statements came from me thinking how to best attack the enemy, i.e. not being in column, trying for overlap bonuses, staying away from rough terrain etc. As a result, it was great relief that I found I could replace a lot of these with the simple statement "Make the best offensive move". Job done!

As for the core mechanic, I have borrowed from Two Hour Wargames: When activated, an element rolls 2d6 (the actual number of dice modified by factors such as being outnumbered by nearby enemy, having the general in the group etc etc). Each die which equals or is less than the combat value of the element counts as passed. They then take different action if they pass 2d6 (usually offensive), 1d6 (usually defensive) or 0d6 (usually remaining stationary). This replaces rolling for command points, so you never can be sure how many (or which) of the enemy will activate. Of course, sometimes the enemy might activate more than possible under the usual rules, but hey, the non-player army has to have something to compensate for the lack of brain.

For example, a Warband element with a combat factor of 3 needs to roll 3 or less on each d6. If it does so on 2d6 it makes 'the best offensive move'. If it passes 1d6 it moves defensively, trying to form up in ranks for the support bonus or moving to rough terrain. If it passes 0d6 then it does not activate.

I'm aiming for something simple enough not to blog down the game, but with just enough to it to reduce the amount of 'thinking for the enemy' I have to do.

If it works out okay, I'll post more on the blog for those who are interested.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

GW Ponderings

Things have been a bit sparse on the old gaming front since we had a bit of a tidy up and a lot of stuff got placed in the study. A bit of a pain, but it has allowed me to consider my painting priorities, which at the moment I'm thinking are Flintloque, military and police for ATZ and various bits for Hordes of the Things.

I've been pondering other things, one of which is the frequent GW rants that appear on TMP. Usually I browse them out of interest and then just skip to reading something more interesting, which (as a forewarning) some of you might want to with this blog post. But then I got an email from GW this morning about a new campaign book they have launched. I do rather hypocritically get emails from GW as I often find their offerings either interesting (this campaign) or ludicrously entertaining (like the offer of buying a complete Space Marine chapter for a mere £7,000!!!).

Anyway, my eye was drawn to the Sigmar's Blood campaign because one of my favourite aspects of the Warhammer setting is the gothic Late-Medieval/Renaissance styling of the Empire. Add to this that they are frequently pitted in battle against Skaven, Chaos or Undead and you've got a winning combo in my book.  And in GW's book, apparently, as the campaign is Empire versus Undead.

Warhammer: Sigmar's Blood. 
The image on the GW site conveniently comes with a present symbol to show it is a good gift. As does most of the other stuff on their site at the moment...

There is lots in its favour, including the usual stunning presentation, lots of detail and a focus on the 'narrative' of the campaign rather than strictly competitive play. The email also included links to 'one-click' collections with all the units the sides used in the campaign and a terrain set. This got me thinking, what if I wanted to take up the current edition of Warhammer and start with this awesome looking campaign. I am happy with 3rd and 4th edition (you see, I'm not a full on hater!), but this is just a what if, exercise.

I like to do things properly, so I'd want both the armies:
Sigmar’s Blood – Mannfred von Carstein’s Undead Horde
Whatever else they are, GW figures are stunning to look at.

Sigmar’s Blood – The Army of Volkmar The Grim
I wonder what it would cost to do this in 15mm.....?

Also the terrain collection, as they seem to be pieces which feature heavily in the campaign.

Sigmar's Blood Scenery Collection
The towers I'm indifferent about, but I genuinely think the graveyard looks beautiful.

The page for the campaign book politely reminds me that I'd need the rulebook and the relevant army books, so I'd better get them too. I'll assume I've got enough terrain, paints etc that I won't need anything else. The final decision is if I want the lovely looking limited edition campaign book set, which is limited to 1000 copies and comes with copy of the novella in a similar format, both books fitting into an attractive slipcase. Gosh! How could I not?!

Sigmar's Blood Limited Edition
Production quality is excellent. But when does a wargame supplement become over-produced?

Credit card at the ready, I place the items in my basket...

  • Warhammer Rule Book: £45
  • Empire Army Book: £27.50
  • Vampire Counts Army Book: £27.50
  • Sigmar's Blood (Limited Edition): £50.00
  • Sigmar's Blood scenery collection: £70.00
  • Undead campaign army: £304.00
  • Empire campaign army: £261.50
Great, I think that's it! So what does it all come to?


As a comparison, if I just wanted to buy the items promoted by the email, it would come to £685.50.

Obviously there is a subjective element to what something is worth, and there is no denying that this is not a usual way to get into 'The Hobby' (that would be a 'mere' £61.50 for the Island of Blood box set). Also, starting any substantial campaign in any new period or setting would result in a large outlay. In addition I won't find the cheapest 'alternative' and demonstrate how much cheaper it is to 'do this some other way' as ultimately you either want to play the current version of Warhammer, or you don't.

But, you know, these emails from GW always make me laugh.

For me the sad part is that the campaign itself sounds quite interesting and I wouldn't mind getting the basic version of the book and importing it's ideas into other rules or older editions of Warhammer.  But even that would be £25 for a 64 page book.

On the plus side, I now want to add my Warhamer figures to my 'must paint' list. It's nice and cheap buying them second hand from eBay...

Merry Christmas everyone!