Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Battle at the Farm (Darkestorme skirmish)

I managed to fit in a game of Darkestorme recently and was able to take a few pictures so I thought I'd write up a quick report. 

In this scenario, Skaven have overrun a small farm in the wilds of the Empire. A Warrior Priest and his retinue have been dispatched to reclaim it!

On one side were two units of Skaven. One was of Clanrats led by an Assasin and the other was of Stormvermin led by a Champion. 

Facing them were the Warrior Priest, his second in command and a mix of handgunners and spearmen. Darkestorme doesn't actually have rules for black powder weapons, but it was easy to come up with something. 

Here is the Skaven set up:

The Clanrats are occupying a defensive position in the farm:

Meanwhile, the Stormvermin plan on outflanking the Empire troops:

The Empire unit advances cautiously towards the farm:

The Stormvermin split into two. One advances round the other side of the forest in the top left of the picture. The other part attempts to attack the handgunners before they do too much damage. Meanwhile the other Skaven wait behind the farm wall: 

Once the handgunners were engaged, the other Skaven launched an attack. At this point the Empire force was also fighting an action to their rear against the Stormvermin who had circled the forest. The Clanrats only advanced because they felt they now outnumbered their opponents enough!:

Here's a picture of the outflanking action. The Empire was hard pushed to withstand it:

Finally more Imperial troops were able to respond to the Stormvermin attack, which left the Warrior Priest free to seek out the Skaven Heroes:

A 'thin red line' holds back the first wave of Skaven:

The Empire Champion gets stuck in and Skaven fall all around:

Meanwhile, the Warrior Priest is locked in combat with the Stormvermin:

The fighting gets desperate at the field as the second wave of Skaven join the fray! At this point there are a lot of dead rats compared to humans, but it didn't stop it from feeling a bit overwhelming!:

The rats try and break through, but the Empire stands firm!:

Finally, the assassin who had been biding his time leaps into combat against the Warrior Priest:

A view from the Skaven lines. At this point the outflanking party had all been killed, leaving the Imperial troops to join the main battle. Lots of casualties on both sides at this point!:

The heroes are still locked in battle, but the Warrior Priest is wounded by the Assassin:

A second wound causes him to fall to the ground! Things do not look good for the Empire:

And in the same turn, the Empire Champion is also killed by a lucky blow from a Clanrat! With no more leaders, the Imperial troops are forced to withdraw...:

Victory for the Skaven! It was a fun and brutal game! The Darkstorme rules worked well for this kind of skirmish, with very little need to refer to the rules during play. I look forward to fighting more battles in the future (and maybe finding out if the Empire can retake that farm!

Do you play Darkestorme or other skirmish games with Warhammer figures? I'd like this hear about your experiences. Comments are welcome as always!

A look at: Darkestorme

Darkestorme is the name of Alternative Armies' high fantasy skirmish game (although it is also supported by their sister company The back of the A5 book promises a pretty comprehensive ruleset for 60 pages and says it is for those who like a more traditional high fantasy feel in their miniature gaming. So does it deliver?

Whats in the book?

The book starts off with a contents page and a decent map of Valon. This is the nominal setting of the game, but not one enforced by the rules as such. Players are free to use whatever figures they want and in fact the figure ranges by AA and are pretty generic high fantasy (and certainly worth a look if you are in to old-school type games).

Let's take a look at the various sections in the book before moving on to how the game plays.

The History of Valon in the Darke Age
The title sums up the contents of the first section! As with other AA products, this is a detailed background and interesting to read. For anyone who plays Slaughterloo or Flintloque, it is worth a read to find out about Valon before the advent of black powder weapons. In fact much of it is more 'serious' in tone than those other games, with much less of the tongue in cheek place names and such. Worth a read even for those who normally skip the fluff!

Darkestorme: The Rules of Warfayre
This section presents the bulk of the rules. Here is information on the basics of combat,  terrain, weather, monsters and so forth. Terrain generation consists of rolls on two tables, one for the general terrain type and then one for terrain features. A roll for a more wild general terrain will give more rolls on the second table. The third table is the most interesting, however. Not technically terrain set up, it involves rolling for each unit to determine when they make contact with the enemy. This can range from being caught in a trap to spotting the enemy from a distance. In practice this means your opponent may be able to set up your unit, or you might be able to choose an initial placement, but your enemy can move your figures a certain number of inches. This is an interesting method and could yield some chaotic set ups!

After set up, a roll for weather is made, with the usual range of effects (plus the chance of a magic storm making wizards more powerful!). Finally a check can be made for special terrain. This brings to mind early (and I think one of the more recent) versions of Warhammer where not all terrain is your standard forest or scrub. Some of the 'terrain' is truly special and can include magic creature which attack players, or a giant poisonous mushroom! It certainly is good inspiration if players want to expand on this and make up their own special terrain as well.

The rest of this section covers the turn structure and combat, which I shall return to in a bit.

Other things in Warfayre
After the main bulk of the rules, there is an additional section covering cavalry, artillery and chariots, should players wish to include these in their games. A generous list of spells is also located here, divided across 10 levels of power, most of which contain around 7 or 8 spells. This gives lots of variation for people who like their wizards!

Creating Characters and Units
This covers the creation of warbands and heroes (or villains!) and includes lists of weapons, armour, magic items and skills.

Scenarios and Campaigns
Possibly the weakest section in the book. This is a simple introduction to creating your own scenarios and a list of how experience points and money is gained. The implication seems to be that an Umpire would be governing how a campaign is run, so there is no real detail on this, which is a shame.

The Races and Bestiary
The final section in the book gives a decent list of stats for the different races in Valon, but also a comprehensive points system allowing you to create game information for any figures in your collection. There are also special rules for larger monsters, such as Trolls, Giants and Dragons.

How does the game play?

Characters in the game have scores they need to achieve on 2d6 in order to cause a wound, resist a wound caused to them and resist magic powers. In addition to this they have a move and run rate in inches. So a basic human might walk 6 inches, run 9 inches, cause a wound on 9+, resist a wound on 8+ and resist magic on a 5+.

Characters are grouped into Units and lead by a Leader and a Sub-Leader. If the leader falls, the Sub-Leader can take command. It is usually worth having both as a Unit with no leaders will flee the battle!

Initiative is an opposed 2d6 roll, with the winner deciding the order in which Units will activate. When a Unit activates, its members can act in turn taking up to two actions to move, attack etc. If you are within the 'Reach' score of your weapon you can make an attack. Ranged attacks also roll against the 'Cause Wound' score but have an additional range modifier (-1 per 6" distance) and usually require an action to reload. Mages usually cast magic successfully (with a small chance of failure or a backfire), but the target gets a chance to resist. Armour gives the wearer a save roll and may break in the process, and the same is true of shields. There are also a handful of special rules and abilities which can be used to spice up your heroes and leaders.

All in all it is a pretty simple game, or perhaps I should call it straightforward as too many people seem to take 'simple' as being a negative thing. It is similar to games like G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. in that the mechanics are straightforward and give a relatively quick, fun game.

I'll have to say straight up that I quite enjoy these rules! They fill a certain gap for me in that they have a real 'old-school' feel to them and I can plonk a handful of figures on my table and play a game in an hour or so without having to think too hard about the rules. This is ideal for the times when I don't want to fight a large battle or play a game that is highly detailed or complex.

In the interest of fairness, I have to say that they are not without flaws (which rules aren't?!). Most oddly, the points calculation seems to result in characters costing more if they are less able to resist magic! There a few ways to correct this, but I opt for changing Resist Magic rolls so they need to score equal or lower, rather than equal or higher.

I also prefer to ignore the chance of armour breaking. Take, for example, 'Acceptable' armour with a rating of 2. This means you can prevent a wound on a roll of 1 or 2. But all armour breaks if you roll equal to the armour rating. So while it has a 1 in 3 chance of stopping a wound, it also has a 50% chance of breaking when it does so! I'd have a right go at the blacksmith for calling that 'acceptable'! If I was using the rules for armour breaking, I'd probably just have it break on a 6, or require a separate roll to see if it broke.

But neither of the above are major things that stop me enjoying the rules. For a mere £8 I consider them to be well worth the money and they are now my fantasy skirmish rules of choice. You can buy them from Alternative Armies here and AA also provide free PDF documents in support of the system if you drop them an email.

Check out these rules if you want an old-school style fantasy skirmish game that is easy to expand with your own special rules and adapt to your own collection of figures. 


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My thoughts on Hordes of the Things

Today I was asked on Twitter whether Hordes of the Things was any good or worth getting into. Needless to say, Twitter's limit on characters means I can't give a full reply there (unless you count 'Yes' as a full reply, so I thought I'd write a brief blog post on the subject!

For me, HotT fulfils a specific niche in my collection. I'll outline and explain the reasons for this below:

Simple yet effective rules

Although sometimes not written in the clearest way, the rules are really quite simple. However, they do lead to some tough decision making during games. Drawing an analogy with chess would be unfair to both games, but it gives you an idea of how these rules are very much simple to learn but hard to master. 

The combat system is a d6 roll off with modifiers for the troop type and terrain etc. The winning side will usually push back the other on a higher score, but the enemy is destroyed if their score is doubled. Variations on this reflect the effectiveness of certain elements against others. 

Doesn't cost the Earth to get into

The cost of a typical army for HotT is less than that of a regiment for most other games. The system follows a fairly normal basing convention of 2-4 figures per base (on a 40mm frontage for 15mm figures). Each base represents several  hundred troops. 

Flexible army lists

The army lists in the rule book are suggestions of how the system can cover different types of fantasy armies. From traditional fantasy, to mythic fantasy, to the settings of various authors. There are no hard and fast rules though. Typically you field a 24 point army, with most bases costing 2 points. When you get over the fact that there are no fixed lists to 'have fun with' you suddenly realise how liberating it is to choose any army you want! This invariably leads down the route of wanting 'just one more army', usually after reading a book or watching a film! It's great for wargamers who want to try something different and not min/max a force for tournament play!

Quick to play

Games of HotT don't usually last more than an hour and it is possible to play a best of three or five in one sitting. The game is addictive in that way and I often find myself wanting 'just one more'. There are rules for playing with multiple armies on each side and a simple campaign system. Both of these add to the length of a game, but even a campaign can be played in a whole afternoon. 

Why might I not like it?

This is as important as the reasons I've listed above. A guess in a nutshell it is as far from games like Warhammer as you can get. There are no buckets of dice, no multitude of special rules and no amazing magic powers or spells (in fact magic is basically powerful artillery). I play the occasional game of Warhammer hammer when I want a zany, anything goes fantasy experience. The rest of the time I play HotT as it is more suited to battles you might get in Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones or even Narnia: any kind of more 'grounded' fantasy setting. 

I'd probably say to you, do a Google search for the rules and take a look at the vast range of armies people play using these rules. If any of them look like fun to you, then HotT is probably a game you'd like. 

Big HotT game

Utilising the impetus I gained during my last two Hordes of the Things games, I decided to go all out and try a big game with almost everything I have painted hitting the table! I'm not following the rules in the book precisely for this, just having  fun and seeing what happens. 

Here's the initial set up. At the top of the table are two evil armies, at the bottom to three human ones. 

Clockwise from top left these are:

Ratmen: mostly Warband with some Shooters and a smattering of Beasts, Riders and Heros. 

The rats are allied with a mixed force. Chaos Dwarfs, Chaos and Undead knights, a wizard, a skeleton giant and some wolves, led by a wraith on a winged mount. 

Facing this tide of evil are (from right to left): 

A band of human archers and riders led by a mounted hero (These are from my Wallachian army for DBA):

Human Riders and Knights, along with a cannon and peasant rabble. These are most of a Ottoman Turk army for DBA: 

And a selection of Blade and Spear elements, a Northman contingient. And yes, you guessed it, they are incomplete Viking and Saxon DBA armies!:

After a few turns, the battle proper is starting. On the right, the evil army is holding the hill while the wolves try to flank the horsemen:

In the centre (on the right of the pic below), evil knights have moved round the other side of the woods the wolves are in to exploit a gap. The human knights are moving to meet them. On the left the Ratmen are moving slowly forward, as are the Northmen:

Unfortunately an error was made which lead to some human cavalry being pushed back into their allies by bow fire and destroyed! First blood to the evil army! 

Battle is joined in ernest in the centre as the knights on both sides charge in. The result was indecisive, but the evil side were pushed back, with the humans following up. 

Casualties start to mount on both sides:

On the left flank the humans reform against the rats while knights from both sides remain locked in battle:

Cavalry try to outflank the Ratman archers:

As the last of the wolves is defeated, the Ratman hero joins the fray:

Ratman archers are eliminated as the human cavalry continue to harass the flank and face the hero:

An element of human knights falls:

The humans try to reform their line as casualties mount on both sides:

Ratmen wolf riders were slain, shortly followed by two elements of warband as the humans cheer:

The level of casualties mean it is now hard for either side to maintain an effective battle line:

Human spearmen fall to the rats:

At this point the battle was almost over on the left. Both sides had taken enough casualties for their forces to be demoralised, but all of them clung on until the bitter end. 

The right flank was not as exciting. Human forces advanced against the Evil army's line while wolves lurked in the woods, ready to pounce. 

The wolves were eventually beaten offbu the human riders and hero, while the Chaos Dwarf bowmen were slowly ground down. Soon it reached a bit of a stalemate between the hero and the bone giant, with neither able to achieve a decisive advantage. 

Final casualties (% of points fielded):

Northmen: 88%
'Turks': 72%
'Wallachians': 38%
TOTAL: 66%

Evil Armies:
Ratmen: 69%
Generic evil: 47%
TOTAL: 60%

So it was a very close run battle. I think out of the remaining forces, the Wallachians were best placed to regroup and continue. I'm not sure the unbroken evil army would have lasted long against them. So I am declaring this a marginal human victory, and a very fun game!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Xmas HotT: 2nd Game

After the victory against the Ratmen, it was time for a more challenging foe. The next battle for the Xmas army would be against an amalgamation of half finished forces, chaos dwarves, chaos and undead. This army is more heavy on elements that either quick kill or get higher combat modifiers against beasts or mounted, which is half the Xmas army!

The full list is:

Chaos Knights (Gen Kn): 2pts
Chaos Dwarf hero (Hero): 4pts
2x Chaos Knights (Knights): 4pts
3x Chaos Dwarf Xbows (Shooter): 6pts
2x Ratmen (Warband): 4pts
Skeleton Giant (Behemoth): 4pts

The armies lined up and ready. Seeing all the enemy elements that are good at killing Beasts is a bit daunting: 

Battle is joined in the centre:

Given that Beasts, Warband, and Knights all follow up after winning melee, it was never going to be a static battle line!: 

The Wraith moves over from the left flank to prevent the Knights from breaking through. The rightmost pair of Warband use the hight advantage from the hill to force the other Knights back:

A change in the enemy's plan. The general withdraws and the crossbows start to pick off the Christmas trees:

The Wraith follows up the enemy general. The Chaos Dwarf hero on the left holds off the snowmen and the crossbows on the right advance to maximise their shooting against the trees:

Things are looking desperate now. The bone giant and Ratmen have advanced off the hill and the crossbows have done their worst. The hero and general are holding the enemy's centre against all my efforts:

The bitter end. Although my final element of Trees destroyed an element of crossbows, my Warband were defeated by the enemy general and the Christmas army lost:

With gaps appearing in the line, the Wraith and Warband were hard pressed to stop the enemy taking advantage of the opportunities this presented. It didn't help that they were badly matched. The enemy were defending so there was very little bad going terrain for my army to take advantage of. That was a huge factor against the Knights. Also, needing to double up Warband elements to get their bonus and having a hero worth 3 times a normal unit meant the Xmas army is reliant on beasts to form the main width of their battle line. This is not a good proposition against an army like the one they faced. 

So the Christmas Wraith returns to the Winterlands to lick his wounds and see what next Christmas will bring his growing army. I'm looking forward to developing this army with the next release from No idea what it will be at the moment, but some kind of mounted troops or missile armed ones would be nice!