Wednesday 31 August 2011

Storm of Magic Review

The release of Storm of Magic has been something of a strange thing. In the past when an expansion to Warhammer was released, most of us would have jumped at it and then made our own assessments once we got our hands on it. However, this time it has been different. The expansion has come at a time when most of the community (locally, at least) is bitter and angry at Games Workshop for their heavy-handed attempts to curb the influence of overseas internet sellers, and when the rather botched release of Finecast and the associated price rises have been viewed with scepticism at best. Basically, GW have not made many friends recently.

In addition to this, parts of the community are still making up their minds about Warhammer 8th edition, and whether they like the game or not. To say this has been a drawn-out process is an understatement (the edition could be a quarter of the way through its life-cycle already; how time flies!).

Into this environment of uncertainty comes Storm of Magic, the first “core expansion” (as opposed to an army book) in many years. Its arrival is advertised as introducing more powerful magic and ludicrous monsters, and greater elements of uncertainty to a game that many players are already unsure about for those very reasons. The GW website cries,

“Storm of Magic is everything we've been waiting for - the opportunity to field wizards galore and tear open the world with magical energy, to summon huge (massive, towering, gigantic) monsters that will make your opponents quiver in fear at the sight of them.”

Unfortunately, they may have missed their mark. It would seem most players have in fact not been waiting for these things. It was nearly 2 months since Storm of Magic had been released, and I still had not seen a copy outside of a store yet. In fact, nobody I knew had bought it. Eventually an executive decision was made and the club bought a copy out of its (rather limited, rarely used) coffers. At least then we could make a decision for ourselves. Having read through it, I thought I would share what I have found.

What is it?
Storm of Chaos is not a boxed supplement – it’s just a book. But it’s a very strange book. The back cover wraps around to keep the book closed, and continues all the way until about 1.5 inches from the spine – so it’s almost all of the front cover as well. When you fold out the cover, inside is a plastic spinner that points to any of the Lores of Magic. The 8 Colleges are represented in the main ring, with the race-specific Lores each occurring one or more times within those 8 bands. This wheel is used to determine with Lores of Magic are “ascendant” on any given turn. 
A strange book with a wrap-around cover. Makes it hard to read on the train, but that's not what it's for.
I don’t really like basing part of my game on something like a spin-wheel. It makes me feel like I’m playing a kids’ board game. The book tells you to make sure when you flick it, that it does at least a few full circuits before stopping (so no lame, carefully judged half-taps to get what you want). Even so, I’m not a big fan. You could use a D8 instead of the spinner, but you will still need to refer to it as the adjacent values are relevant due to adjustments in either direction made by the players. GW have steered away from dice other than D6s in recent years, so I guess the use of the spinner is a continuation of that.

What’s in it?

There is a basic Storm of Magic scenario, as well as a couple of twisted variants supplied later in the book. Think of the variants as the equivalent to the stranger scenarios you get in the hardcover rulebook, but not the smaller, compressed volume. They are even more oddball than the “basic” Storm of Magic scenario, which will be more than different enough for most players. One of the variants involves a mad, independent wizard who rides a teleporting Fulcrum around the table, zapping both players. No, I am not kidding…

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Project: Kislev

One of the great joys in the Warhammer hobby is seeing (or participating in) massive games. If Warhammer is a spectacle, then huge games with enormous armies are doubly so. Even though I know they have just been staged, I still find the pictures of huge armies arrayed against each other In White Dwarf and the rulebook rather entrancing. I cant help but count the ranks and files of the units to work out just how massive they really are. Sometimes we might be inclined to even estimate how many points the army might total (often followed shortly by the realisation: “Its illegal!”)…
A recreation of the Slaughter at Volganof from the big rulebook. It is surprisingly hard to find GW's pictures of huge armies online...

Sunday 28 August 2011

New menu bar!

It came to my attention not long ago that it is getting increasingly hard to find content on this blog, as the months roll by and the posts start to get buried. You could still find things if you knew what to look for (using the labels or the month-by-month lists), but finding something when you came in cold was a bit tough.

Enter the navigational menu bar! I've added links to a few new pages under the Hoodling's Hole header, which link to posts grouped by particular topics. Obviously these only cover a fraction of the posts on the blog, but they might give people more of an idea of the stuff on offer. If you think of any other groupings I should be including (there is room for more), let me know.

Imperial Progress XI

(Or, Lessons learned from using Instant Mould)

My enthusiasm for working on my Empire Ogres remains undimmed, and as a result I have sat down several times over the last few days to try to make more progress.

First up, I continued to duplicate sets of legs, given I wanted at least a few of each stance - I need to keep a master version in case I have to re-use the Instant Mould for something else and want to come back to the same legs later, I need any sets of the legs that I plan to use as-is, and I also plan to use these legs as the basis for variants to match other units (state troops, greatswords, etc).
The Ogres go marching 3 by 3... Or their legs do, anyway. The legs on the front right are a variant of the ones next to them. I cut the leg at the thigh, twisted it and sealed it up. It gives me a third pose which I am yet to copy.
Given that I'm actually trying to get a set of 3 Ogres done for my Leopard Company, I then moved onto making a torso. I decided to work it around an actual plastic GW Ogre torso in order to give me a decent chance of getting the scale right. Almost all the Ogres I am planning to make will have a breastplate, so I figured I would make a basic master, copy it, make some variants, and use them to create duplicates. I actually sculpted it attached to a set of legs, separated by a skirt of cling wrap. That worked rather well and peeled straight off when I was done (so much for the "cling").
My prototype Ogre breastplated torso. Deliberately featureless at the moment.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill (Part 5: Preparation)

We’re now up to the fifth segment in our discussion of the skill in Warhammer. This time I’ll focus on stuff that happens before the game, when neither player has even moved a model yet.

OK, maybe this should have been the first part of the series, rather than part 5. But these things kind of evolve as I write them. Apologies to those who are confused by my apparent lack of structure.

Army selection
Much as some people might not like it, a great deal of a player’s success tends to come from army selection. Warhammer army books are designed to give you a wide range of options to choose from when building your army. In some cases it is possible for the same race to construct lists that vary so wildly in appearance and playing style that you might be forgiven for thinking they came from different army books. 

This flexibility also means that in terms of competitiveness, not all armies are created equal. Some armies are the stuff of nightmares, designed to crush the hopes and dreams of opponents, club cut baby seals, and garner the loving attention of all the wrong sorts of admirers. Other armies are utterly toothless – rendered ineffective by weak selections, a lack of synergy and generally just the wrong tools for the job. More often though, an army will be somewhere in between, and often it will perform differently depending upon the opposition.

First up, let me get something straight. It is not possible for a single army to be completely dominant in all important aspects of the game. The armies in Warhammer might not be perfectly balanced, but some standards do exist. The points system used for army selection means that, unless you are playing a very large game, you will not be able to afford everything you want to cover every contingency. A list of the aspects to consider for a given army might look something like this:

Here we are talking about the speed of units (and the army as a whole) in terms of movement. If you are slower than you opponent, you will find yourself having to dislodge him from the defensible location or building, because he got there first. If your forces are too slow, you give your opponent more time to whittle down or annihilate units with shooting or magic before you make combat. Faster units can get into better positions, and can generally charge further – this gives you a better chance of combining charges to overwhelm your opposition. Finally, if your troops are faster than your enemy’s, you have the ability to dictate the terms to your opponent. You will be the one that picks the charge targets, and chooses when to engage. These are all important considerations.

Ranged firepower
This is pretty simple. We’re talking about bows, handguns, crossbows, war machines and the like. The ability to remove or cripple the elements of the enemy army that most threaten your own, without giving them a chance to swing back. Some armies excel at this; others have nothing at all.

Magic offence
An effective magical offence means a combination of the right range of spells, and the ability to ensure that you generate enough power dice to make them work. Magic offence does not necessarily mean killing enemy troops with direct damage spells. It could also mean casting the right augment and hex spells to enable your army to get the job done.

Magic defence
This means being able to negate your opponent’s magic offence, by whatever means. It may mean generating additional dispel dice, stealing your opponent’s power dice, carrying items that automatically stop or ignore spells, or even the ability to kill or cripple enemy wizards before they can do real damage. Against simple damage spells it might be enough to have units that can weather the damage with no soft targets available, however not all spells work this way; it’s best to be able to stop the spells ever being cast.

Hitting power
The ability to do damage in close combat is a fundamental requirement of nearly all Warhammer armies. You need to be able to comprehensively out-fight your enemies, so that they not only lose more models than you – you also need them to break or crumble as a result of the combat. If you can’t do these things, you will find it very hard to win games.

This topic really covers a range of issues. In general terms, it means having units your opponent can’t get rid of. In practical terms however, this means units that can absorb damage, will not break or crumble from combat, and will not panic at the first opportunity. It’s no good having units that can do apocalyptic damage if they don’t survive to see combat, or to swing when it gets to their Initiative.

It is extremely useful to have units you don’t mind losing. These are the Skaven Slaves, Goblin Wolf Riders and Great Eagles of the world. It is often necessary to sacrifice (or at the very least, endanger) a unit in order to position your enemy where you want him. This may be through diverting a charge or by holding up a unit for as long as possible. Either way, you don’t want to be doing this with your best fighters.

Things go wrong in a game of Warhammer (hello, fellow Greenskin players! This one’s for you…). Whether it’s due to a failed psychology test, an unexpected spell or a miserable charge roll, a plan can unravel when a single unit fails in its duty (don’t worry, you can punish it later). Having a redundancy plan (eg a second unit waiting to succeed where the first failed you so miserably) is a great way to ensure your game stays on track.

Other words may come to mind like “versatility” and “flexibility”, however if it is possible for an army to cover all of the items above at once, you probably have all the versatility/flexibility you could need. The point is, it is not possible for a single, standard-sized army (2000-2500pts) to cover all the bases. Some well-built armies might come close, but there is no perfect solution. As such, selecting your army is an exercise in compromise.

There are two ways to go about making compromises in building an army. You can try to cover all the bases, but this will mean you are “Jack of all trades, master of none”. If you are fortunate, you might be able to muster moderate amounts of magic, shooting and combat, with some quick, disposable units. With these tools, you should be able to take a crack at anything, and could end up having a very interesting game against another army that has taken a similar approach.

Little shooting, no infantry: my unbalanced BoG list
The other way to compromise is to focus on some considerations to the exclusion of others. This is an approach you see often; sometimes it is forced upon you by your army book. Chaos and Vampire Counts armies are pretty lousy at shooting, with the exception of perhaps 1 unit per army. Dwarfs are never going to be fast, nor can they field magic. Many players also prefer to focus on certain aspects of the game, or like the way a particular, potentially unbalanced build of the army plays (or even just looks on the table). Unbalanced armies are often some of the most “themed” or characterful forces going around.

Monday 22 August 2011

Imperial Progress X

First up, if you are waiting for the next installment of the Skill in Warhammer series, I apologise. You'll have it as soon as I write it, but I've been doing other things for the last few days.

Anyway, what have I been up to? From a hobby perspective, I have started work on my Imperial Ogre unit filler plans. Now that Book of Grudges is out of the way, I can work on this instead of ensuring I have my army painted for the tournament. In truth, I need to get an army ready for Axemaster, which is on September 24-25. But I have about a month, and this time I am planning to include infantry in my army. As such, any Ogres I manage to get ready will probably get a run in the army. So any Ogre work I do is working towards Axemaster anyway, right?

Well whether you believe that or not, I am pretty keen to combine my mad Ogre plans with the potential of the Instant Mould I purchased over a month ago. I am realistic enough to acknowledge that my planning to include 3 Ogre unit fillers in every infantry regiment in my army was a nearly impossible task, if I was going to convert them all as massively as I had planned (a rough mental tally the other night suggested we were talking 30-40 Ogres). However, with a bit of planning and the cunning use of Instant Mould, I now believe I can do it.
My current moulding press. I love Lego...
So, first up I needed to create a couple of simple sets of legs. I decided to base them on the uniforms of Leopold's Leopard Company. I made two different stances. One firm stance with feet planted a bit apart, and the other walking. The walking legs include greaves (as do some of the Leopard Company), whereas the other legs are just wearing pants.
Ogre legs to go with Leopold's Leopard Company

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill (Part 4: Mentality)

And now we continue with my series on the skill in Warhammer. Hopefully by this point I have started to make some people think about how much really does go into a game of Warhammer, regardless of how seriously you might be taking it.

Today we are going to look at a player’s mentality. Some of these are topics I have never really heard discussed before.

Aggression and a sound defence

I am an aggressive Warhammer player. I tend to field armies that like to get to grips with the enemy, and very rarely will I hold back and make my opponent’s army come to me. Part of this is that I am rather impatient in my games, and like things to start happening. I also seem to lack faith in the ability of whatever shooting I field to seriously damage or cripple the enemy, and prefer to address the problem directly in combat. I think this partially stems from backlash in gaming circles against the “gun line” approach, which is really how far you need to take things if you want your missile troops to do the bulk of the work for you.

My aggression in the game is not isolated to a preference for engaging the enemy in close combat. I am known to take a high-risk, high-reward approach to my play. This might involve me throwing a pile of dice at a spell, in an attempt to force it past my opponent’s defences, despite whatever risk I might be taking in terms of a miscast. Alternately, it might mean a character lunging madly out of a unit, eschewing the protection of his comrades for the opportunity to assassinate an enemy character, or get into a proper position to cast a devastating spell, or whatever else. A great example of this can be found in the seemingly mad behaviour of my Empire General on his Griffon in the Battle of the Eerie Hills report.

To an extent, I had dismissed my behaviour as a symptom of my impatience. By making no effort to bide my time and potentially over-extending myself, the game comes to a head far more quickly than if both players are being cagey and spend the first few turns trying to set something up. Win or lose, my aggressive play will mean that the game speeds up, and “a fast game’s a good game.”

However, it was suggested to me recently that my aggressive play might stem from my earlier years of playing Warhammer. I started off playing early in 4th edition, and my armies of choice were High Elves and Wood Elves. The High Elf book was a truly woeful thing, in terms of competitiveness. They had almost no special rules, they were poorly equipped, and they were expensive. The Wood Elves didn’t even have a book for years, and were getting by on something similar to the Chaos Dwarf list still floating around from Ravening Hordes at the start of 6th edition. On e of my most frequent opponents used Dwarfs, and these match-ups were pretty well-balanced. However, my other regular games were against Undead and Chaos. These armies were far more powerful than my poor Elves, and I found myself fighting a constant up-hill battle.
You can do iiit!!

When you are fighting a superior army, it is generally necessary to take risks. Assuming you can’t simply out-play your opponent, you are left relying upon luck. You can do nothing out of the ordinary and hope that in a standing fight, you roll well enough to deal with superior opposition. This can happen, however you are trying to consistently out-roll your opponent en-masse. It’s unlikely, and should you achieve it, your opponent will probably be justifiably peeved.

Alternately, you can take risks, play aggressively, and try to setup situations where you either need to simply roll adequately to achieve your goals, or roll well, but with a far more rewarding goal in mind. In both cases, failure will doubtless be worse than if you had played conservatively (you have probably exposed yourself in some way, whether it be the likely loss of a single model, or the collapse of an entire flank or the game as a whole). You have taken the risk because the chance of success is greater than sitting back and doing nothing.

Monday 15 August 2011

Book of Grudges: The Aftermath

Right, well I spent a couple of posts talking about the lead-up to Book of Grudges, so it only seems appropriate that I give a bit of a run-down on how the event went.

Apologies to anyone waiting for the next segment in my Skill in Warhammer series. I will get back on that after this post.

First up, I did indeed get my army ready in time. It wasn’t even a big rush. This feels like a break from tradition somehow – there wouldn’t have been many tournaments where I got a decent night’s sleep the night before. Anyway, below is a slightly blurry shot of my army as it appeared on the day. The army list is already on the blog, here.
My Empire cavalry army for Book of Grudges
The final model I painted for the army was the Ice Queen of Kislev, who was standing in as a Wizard Lord using the Lore of Death. The figure is probably older than some of the people who are reading this blog, but I’ve always kind of liked her.

The Ice Queen of Kislev, who is posing as an Amethyst Wizard for the occasion
The tournament itself was a funny affair. Traditionally the first round of a tournament will accommodate players “grudging” each other, in place of their just being included in the random draw. Both players need to agree to the match-up. After that, the Swiss chess system of players meeting others on similar levels of battle points applies. In Book of Grudges, the first 2 rounds were both random draws with players grudging each other. Then in rounds 3, 4 and 5, players who happened to be in a position that was a multiple of 5 (5th, 10th etc) were permitted to issue grudges to others, with no chance of refusal. It opens the possibility for bunny hunting, or for trying to gun down players well above you in order to catch up, and it was really rather amusing.

I figured I would give a brief run-down of each of my games, given I know there are some people who would like to hear it, and the rest of you can ignore me as you see fit. Bear in mind that this is all from memory a few days later, so there may be some slight inaccuracies in terms of army lists and the like.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill (Part 3: Choices)

A slightly shorter post this time. I figured I would try to group it a bit more logically as I went...

Choosing the right targets
Whether it be a lining up a charge or the potential victim of a spell, selecting the right target is a vital part of Warhammer. This is one of those skills that an experienced player will take for granted, and then sit there muttering quietly into his beard when he sees a rookie player get it horribly wrong.

Sometimes the right choice will be obvious. On average, it will take 36 Empire Handgunners to bring down a Troll at long range, and the remaining Trolls are immune to panic. The same amount of firepower could kill 8 Goblin Wolf Riders (or panic several units if you are able to spread your fire). Basic principles like using armour-piercing shots against armoured targets and targeting the immediate threat before the one that’s further away often come into the equation.
You might be afraid of Trolls, but pouring all your fire into them might not be the wisest course of action...

Thursday 11 August 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill? (Part 2: Knowing)

Continuing on from my previous post, we look at some more of the skill involved in the game of Warhammer...

Know the odds
It is very difficult to stack the odds in your favour when you don’t know what the odds are in the first place. You can’t make an informed decision without knowing what is likely to happen.

I saw a post on WargamerAU recently, asking what the odds were that a Warhammer player needed to know. It was an interesting question. The most common response was along the lines of:
  • The average roll on 2D6 is 7
  • The average roll on 3D6 is 10-11
  • The average roll on 4D6 is 14
  • The average roll for 3D6 discarding the lowest is around 9
These numbers (especially the first two) would be well known to most Warhammer players. 2D6 is used a great deal – leadership tests and charge rolls both use 2D6. The odds also become important for casting spells and dispelling. Once you know how many dice it will take to achieve the target (on average), you can decide how brave or conservative you’re feeling. Do you feel lucky, punk?

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Warhammer: Where is the Skill? (Part 1)

A brief note:
This was intended to be a single post, however as I got typing I realised it was going to become overly long. I have decided to break it up into multiple segments. Here is the first... 

Since Warhammer 8th edition was released, I have heard (or read) a lot of people stating that some or all of the skill in the game is gone. Warhammer is now all about huge units rolling a billion dice and everything dying in massive grinding combats, before someone decides the game with a monstrous, broken spell.

I do not deny that 8th edition has seen a dramatic shift in terms of unit sizes and models killed. I also agree that a lot of the knobbing about with fiddly angles and fractions of inches has gone out of the game (and despite what people may tell you about the “art” of using diverters in 7th edition, I think this is a good thing). However, I have to disagree with people who state that the skill has gone out of the game.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Imperial Background: Purple, White and Steel

The traditional colours of the County of Sylvania are purple, black and red. As part of Sylvania, these were the colours originally worn by the garrison at Krakenberg. The standard uniform of a soldier of Krakenberg was half-purple, half-black. This was then accented with the occasional patch or sash of red, largely to the taste of the individual soldier or regimental commander.
Wanting no association with the murderer Vlad von Carstein and his treachery against the Empire, the young baron Heinrich began his household’s self-imposed exile in Middenheim by ordering his house’s colours be changed. The uniforms of the soldiers were gathered up and altered, with the black half being replaced with a stark white. This change was echoed throughout all the household’s possessions, until no trace of the original purple-and-black could be found. The white was said to display the honour of Krakenberg, untarnished by the events that were transpiring.
A halberdier wearing the traditional half-and-half colouring of Krakenberg, and some examples of the variations found in the army

Monday 8 August 2011

Imperial Progress IX

Well Book of Grudges is on Saturday, so I'm running out of time to get my army ready. Amazingly, I feel like things are pretty well under control. Apart from the odd bit of touching up and a couple of movement trays, I have only one model left to paint! I have left the Ice Queen of Kislev (my Wizard Lord using the Lore of Death in this army) until last, because I foresee myself painting her slightly differently from my regular colour schemes. However, the rest of the army is basically done...

Apologies for the poor quality of the shots. I was in a hurry last night when I got my camera out (all the shots I take are just using my phone anyway, but trying to keep a steady hand and avoiding bright white backdrops seem to make a big difference). I will get some better shots once the army is all ready for battle.

The most recent additions to my painted collection. Pegasus, Outriders, and a champion and standard bearer for the Knights of the White Wolf

Thursday 4 August 2011

Imperial Background: The History of Krakenberg

I have never really tried to write a background for any of my armies. This is probably indicative of my focus in that I am, first and foremost, a player. At least, that is how I have always thought of myself. My main focus was on making army lists and playing games, regardless of whether I was intent on winning said game, or just having a laugh.

The theme for my Empire army (or themes, given how easily I seem to be distracted) represents far more thought that I have ever really put into building an army around a particular theme. It is certainly the first time I have ever gone so far as to start heavily modelling things in order to fit the vision I have for the army. I am quite enjoying having more to think about that just the strength of the list I make, and whether everything has some paint on it.

Looking through modelling blogs on WargamerAU, Warhammer Empire and the like, I have seen how much effort some people put into backgrounds for their armies and their characters. I am a little bit inspired, so I figured I would throw something together…

Monday 1 August 2011

We don’t all need howdahs

First up, an apology. I seem to have reverted to my old, foot note-wielding ways. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I’m feeling all retro or something.

With the arrival of the Tomb Kings and Orcs and Goblins army books, there have been developments I find both pleasing and otherwise. The main thing that pleases me is that the armies seem to be relatively balanced, both internally and in comparison with the general strength of the existing armies. The main thing that annoys me is the proliferation of howdah-laden monsters. I will give a bit of a breakdown of my thoughts below.

Imperial Progress VIII

Book of Grudges continues to get closer, and with my list submitted I am working on the models I have committed to painting before the tournament. I've done a few odds and ends, but my main progress thus far has been the Steam Tank.
The (almost) finished product. Apart from some static grass, this is probably how far it will get before BoG