Monday, January 30, 2017

Another ASoBH Demo AAR

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to introduce Scott to Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes. Doug was on hand with his Blightkings to preach the word of Papa Nurgle once again - this time, against Scott's Necromancer and his grouchy skeletal minions.

For our last ASoBH demo AAR click here ... especially if you don't like Elves.

the field of Mars

The Blightkings started on the hill at (A). Doug won the roll off for initiative and charged toward Scott's entrenched position at (B) with two Blightkings while the Lord of Plagues commanded the center of the field and ordered the third Blightking to flank from the south.

the live action version

Scott meanwhile moved his Skeletons into position to trap the eager Nurgle worshippers at the neck between the cliff face and rocky hill. For this game, both Scott and Doug had leaders to wrangle their Q4 minions so getting into position was not a problem for either side. Scott had to work with his Skeletons' Slow trait but was probably content to set up defensively anyhow and meet the rotten onslaught with superior, if creaky, numbers.

oh man look at those bonemen go

Battle first commenced at the bottleneck at (i) on the map above. Frustrated by his Skeletons' inability to cleave through the heavily armored Blightkings, Scott sent in his Skeletal Champion. Because of his Weapons Master trait, the Champion could make an attack with every action once engaged. Unlike in the last demo game, the Blightkings were no longer burdened with the Lumbering trait, ensuring that the Skeletons would not just walk away from them without repercussion. Only the Lord of Plagues had the Tough trait this time, however; the others had to make do with Hard Hide.


The Skeletal Champion waded in to great effect, ultimately laying low the dreaded shield-bearing Blightking. The Lord of Plagues, however, took advantage of this distraction to finally join the battle, charging in to threaten the Necromancer. I gave the Necromancer the Standard Bearer trait to help with the morale issue Undead mooks have in ASoBH: namely they crumble to dust if they fail on two or three morale tests. Plus, felling the Necromancer would immediately cause them all to take morale tests.

team work!

The Blightking on the Hill had the Double Strike trait and came down on one of the Skeletons like a ton of bricks - double 5s gave him a result of 12 overall! But Scott ended up with a 7 and then rolled a 6 for Block. As soon as he had initiative again, Scott charged the recoiled Skelly back in and rolled some more 6s, knocking the Blightking prone with one bony minion and then finishing the rotten one off with another. For the second time, Hard Hide was no use to Doug. Had he lost Nurgle's favor? Too many showers the previous week, perhaps?

nap time, I guess

The Champion arrived too late ... to help the Necromancer fell the Blightking with the Huge Weapon. The -1 to C for using that weapon "one-handed" really hurt this guy. The Lord of Plagues meantime found a Skeleton popping up wherever he took a step.

and yet he found a way!

Taking advantage of his comrade's demise, the Lord of Plague finally managed to get into combat with the Necromancer. This was Doug's big chance to pull the ripcord. All he needed to do was cut that frail wizard down ...

swarm him, my pretties

... but instead found himself recoiled by the Necromancer's single spell - Blast - giving the Necromancer enough space to move away and put some bones between them. The wind of Shyish was blowing at gale force now.

drag him down into the mud

The Lord of Plagues quickly found himself surrounded and although he managed to stand back up and fight again and again, the increasingly grouchy skeletons bit and clawed and stabbed and cut and bashed until there was nothing left but the memory of an overripe stench.

Scott rolled his way to victory with 6 after 6 after 6 while Doug struggled to overcome the numerical advantage. He did not take out a single skeleton until the final scrum at point (ii), which lasted for at least five or six turns. By that point, the Necromancer was safely perched on the hill, cackling as his soulless minions tore apart Nurgle's chosen fall guy. Oh that's a pun because he was knocked prone about five times.

We really should have taken the time to come up with a scenario to make the fight more tactical. Even so the Trait make-up of the warbands did give rise to certain tactics which both players immediately understood and took advantage - or tried to take advantage - of. The important thing is, we had yet another game with thrilling moments!

Figures For Rogue Stars

Just a gallery of miniatures I have painted up for use with Rogue Stars, especially my Merchant crew. You can read about their first adventure in this Rogue Stars AAR.

La Capitana and her old pal Rogue

She is from the Urban War militia line - so are most of her crew. Rogue is from Reaper. These guys are the "core members" of the crew and have the best equipment and stats.

Chief and Doc

Both are Urban War sculpts. These are my specialists with Tech 3 and Medic 3 respectively. Chief was the unlikely hero of the first adventure - at least until Rogue went down. Both Chief and Doc took some rough hits in that caper but fortunately came out none the worse.

Grenj Aminbrim and Klaus K

Grenj is also from Reaper. He is just hired muscle but he does tote the crew's most impressive weapon so far ... a lowly SMG. What do you expect from Merchants? Klaus K, another Urban War sculpt and probably my favorite of the bunch, is a psyker.

Chief and her Buddy Bots

I'd love to give Chief a couple of drones and have been dreaming up some houserules for them to act as equipment/pseudo-characters. I am not sure about the name of the product line for these guys. There were part of a Kickstarter that I did not back but I ended up getting all the miniatures via ebay for a song.

attack of the ravagers!

The Ravagers are Reaper's not-Terminators. I would like to use them as an Antagonist Squad or maybe something like hostile terrain (a la Zombie games). Speaking of which ...


Rogue Stars locations need some fauna. These are Angel Minnows from Maelstrom's Edge. I love these little guys - they are so creepy and bizarre. They are probably going to have psychic powers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Road

The concept for a terrain project began to congeal in my mind last week and I started gathering up the necessary elements. I thought the easiest ask would be a 3' straight length of contemporary asphalt road in 28mm. Any number of companies must offer such a product, right?

Well, maybe half right. There are some options out there but none that I found, er, harmonize quality and price. Nor did any of them match the image in my mind. So why not just make some road? After leaving the office last night, I stopped by HobbyLobby ...

a simple plan

I had particularly good luck finding materials already cut to workable dimensions: a 12"x 24" roll of cork and three 12" x 6" x 1/8" sheets of plywood. This meant I could immediately get down to business.

There isn't much to this project - I glued cork roll to the plywood and then trimmed the cork on the long edges to give the road a bit of gradient and character. I learned pretty quickly not to be precious with this process, having decided to go back with some Vallejo basing paste to provide texture wherever I had bare plywood:

mind the pothole

And then on to priming, basing, drybrushing, washing, inscribing the traffic lines, and finally sealing the whole thing with clear matte lacquer.

oh man look at those survivors go

This turned out to be a very satisfying project. It's hard to believe it only took a few hours after work for everything from shopping for the most significant materials to finishing it up. I wish every project went so smoothly!

honk honk

Keep an eye out for this road in upcoming post-apoc AARs!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ronin - Demo Board and Scenario

I actually made this board and wrote/ran the demo scenario in Summer 2015 but am now posting about it here for what I guess one might call "archival purposes." This board was made to demo Ronin at a now-defunct game store and we managed to sell a few copies!

This was my first scenery project and it definitely gave me the "terrain bug."

space orc for scale only

It's just 1-3 layers of 2' x 2' pink insulation foam purchased in that size from Home Depot and cut with a Woodland Scenics hot wire. The "hard candy coating" is playground sand and diluted white glue covered in a dark reddish-brown acrylic paint and then drybrushed up to lighter browns. The bridge is by Plastcraft.

fiat herba

I figured two colors of grass would break it up a little. I used spackle to seal the edge and sanded them down to a smooth finish before painting them with black latex paint.

oh man look at those ronin go

The finished board with the demo scenario in play. The house is from 4ground. The torii is an aquarium ornament borrowed from Mike. I believe the grave stones are from Plastcraft (although made from resin) - designed for the game Kensei, I believe. The bamboo and cherry trees were ordered from some Hong Company via ebay and then based by yours truly.

of course there was a duel on the bridge!

I used Go stones to track attack and defense tokens - just to dial up that Japanese vibe. I originally planned to pour clear resin into the stream bed but had no time. I think it turned out really nicely all the same.

note the repackaged WGF samurai sprues

Here is the demo scenario:

Tokugawa has triumphed. The monks of Mount Hiei seek the shogun's favor by executing an exiled official who has taken refuge at their temple. The official and his double fled with the fearsome monks at their heels. Across the stream, a former soldier (who did not fight for Tokugawa) turned dojo master spots the fleeing old men and decides to help.

The old men start at the base of the bridge on the narrow bank and move down the road to the torii at the beginning of each movement phase by d6 inches (rolled separately). The sohei buntai deploys on the same side of the stream, ten inches away from the old men. The koryu buntai deploy on the hill on the far side of the stream.

The official is worth 5 victory points and the double is worth 1 victory point to the sohei player, for slaying them. The sohei player secretly tells the referee who is who before the game begins. If either old man makes it to under the torii, the koryu player gains as many victory points as that figure is worth but does not find out how many until the end of the scenario. Slaying opposing figures gains victory points equal to the slain figure's rank, per normal.

There are four end conditions: both old men are killed, both old men successfully flee, a combination of those two, or either side is wiped out.

Koryu Buntai (86 points)

Sensei (Leader) - Bunjutsu (Kenjutsu), Commander, Fast, Tough
Senpai - Bunjutsu (Kenjutsu), Commander, Yojimbo
Kohai - Bunjutsu (Kenjutsu)

Sohei Buntai (84 points)

Sohei (Leader) - Fearless, Powerful, Medium Armor
Sohei - Fearless, Intuition, Teppo
Initiate - Fearless
Initiate - Fearless

Monday, January 23, 2017

Demo AAR - Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes ... and Jungle!

I ran a demo game of Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes (hereinafter ASoBH) for my friend Doug this past weekend using some of his gorgeously painted models: Doug took on 3 Blightkings from Games Workshop's Age of Sigmar range against my six elves from GW's Hobbit range - four Mirkwood palace guards and two Mirkwood rangers. It was a fairly straightforward fight, this being a demo game.

now that's a clear cut situation with the promise of comedy - tell your friends!

Ancient trees gone rotten overnight, putrid carcasses of deer littering the seasonal trails, and the nauseating reek of decay hanging heavy amid leaf and branch ... something evil was defiling the forest - something a pack of Elven scouts had little trouble tracking down. The disease-ridden monstrosities made their lair in an old ruin. There were only three: one carrying a ponderous shield, another waving around a hoary axe in one bloated claw and a rusted sword in the other, and the third wielding an enormous scythe. The Elves choked back rage and contempt and prepared to close in ...

oh man look at those knife ears go

I won initiative and began by firing with my rangers in the woods at C on the map above while two teams of shield and spear moved up to B. Doug sent two of his Blightkings to flank the archers and the third, the dual-wielding figure, south to carve up one of the sword/shield teams. Because I gave the Blightkings the Lumbering trait, they couldn't "grab" the Elven rangers - who led them on a merry chase through most of the game. Meanwhile, the dual-wielder almost immediately cut down an Elf spearman. I moved the others in to support the surviving shield Elf, confident that Doug would keep after my rangers with his other two Blightkings.

The Blightkings all had Heavy Armor and Tough. Taking one down was an uphill battle even for three Elves. By the end of the first scrum it was also literally uphill:

new cocktail - pox on the rocks

I gave the Elves Q3 C3 and the Blightkings Q4 C4. We did not use the Leadership trait at all so Doug got a bit frustrated that his Blightkings gave up Initiative so ... willingly? (lazy bastards!) and seemed reluctant at best to take reactions. But they also had the Big trait, meaning I was only breaking even with them when I was fighting them three-to-one! And even when I had them knocked prone, their armor got them out of quite a few tight spots.

The dual-wielding Blightking eventually went down and I moved my surviving Elves up cautiously to intercept the next target. My plan had been to lure one of the remaining Blightkings to the center while "kiting" the other away with my rangers.

gonna need some freaking back up here!

But the rangers' long bows had proven so absurdly ineffective against Nurgle's favored layabouts that Doug was now content to pretty much ignore them. He also closed in with his shield-bearer, who I feared the most - Block combined with the other "survivability" traits I gave the Blightkings would make him the greatest challenge. My elves could not even manage to put a single wound on the scythe-wielder by the time the shield-bearer was in position. Things were looking grim indeed.

But then the clouds parted - I knocked the scythe-wielder prone with one Elf and then tripled Doug's combat roll with a power blow from another Elf! The scythe-wielder lost all of his three wounds in one mighty thwack (swish?) of flashing Elven steel!

get him out of my sight

Oh but wait - we had forgotten his Heavy Armor trait, which saved him from the Gruesome Kill I so desperately needed. Instead, the scythe-wielder simply took the first of three wounds ... truly, Papa Nurgle was pleased with his servants' earlier lethargy! Basking in the sordid favor of his patron, the shield-bearer proceeded to nonchalantly murder my remaining Elf spearman.

blessings of Nurgle upon you, friend

Not to be outdone, the scythe-wielder cranked back his Huge Weapon for a power blow and eviscerated one of the remaining Elven warriors in a hideous shower of gore.

the gruesome killee becomes the gruesome killer

The final warrior failed his Morale test on all three dice - seeing the tide turn so viciously seemed to have broken his mind. He is probably still hiding somewhere in the forest, rocking back and forth while sobbing.

By the way, the two Elven rangers were around the whole time, plinking arrows into the unassailable hides of the Blightkings. One failed her Morale test on two dice and fled off the board. The other only failed on a single die but I could not imagine going on against two of Nurgle's favored warriors with a single bow-toting knife ear and so resigned.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time during the week leading up to our game to draft a cool scenario or even think much about what traits the opposing sides should take. The only thing I knew I wanted to do was see Doug's awesome Blightkings on the table. I wrote up the traits in about ten minutes before we started, while Doug set up the terrain.

This was the first time either of us played ASoBH and I wish I had taken more time beforehand to plan the demo. I know Doug was bored - almost literally to tears at times - controlling three figures that had difficulty activating. From my perspective, there were some truly exciting turns. I thought the Blightkings easily overmatched my Elves but when ... for that brief shining moment ... the scythe-wielder (erroneously) went down, I had just a glimpse of potential victory.

The most important thing that I learned from the demo game was that ASoBH is a good enough rule set to partially overcome my hamfisted scenario-writing and character-building. This is crucial because one of the major features of ASoBH is crafting your own scenarios and characters. I imagine we will have even more fun when we play a scenario with actual thought behind it.

Doug's pledge rewards for the Blood & Plunder Kickstarter also arrived this week so I got to look over all of those awesome toys - in anticipation of receiving my own haul, of course! I was so inspired that I spent the following Sunday night building an entire jungle.

we've got fun and games

The foliage is all from Pegasus Hobbies. I bought a tall stack of these kits some years ago for the sake of playing - you guessed it - a pirate game, Gav Thorpe's Cutlass!, which I have to this day still never played. But at long last the jungle is unleashed! Look for it not only in upcoming games of Blood & Plunder but also future ASoBH scenarios set in the world of Savage Core from Lucid Games.

The bases are MDF from Angry Mojo. I asked them - via Dakka Dakka - to make up some area terrain bases with removable round bases. They complied and I immediately ordered six (and will probably require at least three more). Each base accommodates five 60mm round bases, which can be removed to mix and match your terrain or just to get out of the way of units moving through. I will post pics of the completed stands as/when.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rogue Stars AAR - The Great Escape

I got together with my friend Mike yesterday to finally try out Rogue Stars. For general information on how Rogue Stars works, check out my overview here. The game does not require a referee but our friend Scott was hanging out, too, and cooked up a fantastic scenario for us.

Uncharacteristically for a romantic like Mike, he elected to play - in his own words - a bunch of fascists: a squad of Star Cops mostly comprised of lean, mean crime fightin' machines courtesy of the Syntha from Urban War. I brought a squad of Merchants in way over their heads, also mostly from Urban War (13001: "Militia with Pistols") with a few Reaper models thrown in for more sci fi flavor. The gist was, a lightly armed and armored freighter crew against coldly efficient bully bots.

Scott's scenario revolved around Mike's police force trying to capture a corporate spy before she flees his jurisdiction and hightails it off-world. The spy probably went undercover as a member of my crew, dragging the poor smugglers into a fine mess. I could get 8XP by successfully escorting the spy to her shuttle. Mike could get 8XP for arresting her before she escaped his jurisdiction, or a lesser amount for arresting her beyond his jurisdiction. Putting opposing Characters OOA would yield the usual amount of XP.

Modern Art?

The Star Cops deployed at (1) and my Merchants at (2). In order to call in the shuttle, I needed to get somebody to the Control Station at (3) and make a successful Tech test. The shuttle would arrive d20 actions (not counting reactions) after the successful Tech test; only the referee knew how long it would take. Meanwhile, Mike would try to arrest the spy before she stepped onto (4), which was beyond his jurisdiction - he could pursue her into that territory but of course they wouldn't be able to hold her and it might cause a diplomatic incident!

Here's a picture of the board with (4) in the lower right:

terrain courtesy of our awesome buddy Doug

Note that the Control Station was not yet in place.

Mike started with initiative and led the charge with his MG-toting heavy bot. I seized the initiative pretty quickly and started moving my crew up to the barricades but it was slow going. Here's the extent of my progress after a few turn overs:

oh man look at those Merchants go

Out front, hiding behind that crate, is my ship's engineer. Just below her, standing at the end of the barricade, is the spy - a non-com model from AT-43. The fellow standing further down, with two stress markers on him, is Rogue (so-named in honor of the game and in recognition of his resemblance to a certain 2000AD character) who was laying down cover fire for his crewmates as the big bot loped toward the hapless merchants.


Rogue poured fire into the big bot with both pistols, resulting in the first significant event of our game: the arm with the built-in MG became permanently crippled. This more or less took the big bot out for the rest of the game. Whew! Rogue paid for it with his plasma pistol and therefore lost his ambidextrous edge. A more than fair trade in my estimation!

Mike started moving the rest of his squad toward the center of the board to interdict my path to the control station. The Merchants were making painfully slow progress at this point, frustrating the ship pilot and resident psychic prodigy Klaus. With four actions - critical success on one activation - Klaus teleported directly into the control booth ... and promptly realized he had no idea what he was doing! So much for calling in that shuttle ...

"this is a freakin' Blood Bowl trophy, not a control panel!"

Meanwhile, the engineer crept up with the spy. Obviously, she would have to call in that shuttle herself:

"if you want something done right ..."

Mike's force was now in place, commanding the center of the board, making movement really tough for me.

"sir, are you classified as human?"

With his remaining laser pistol, Rogue snapped off a shot around the corner - two pins, arm disabled, and laser rifle dropped (symbolized by D6)!

"negative, I am a meat popsicle"

The organic police lieutenant promptly chastised Rogue for his criminal proclivities, putting him OOA. The winged copbot shed its pins thanks to Mike's "Cool Under Fire" tactical discipline, picked up its rife, and got back on the beat. Rogue did manage to buy the engineer some time to make it over to the control booth, where she swatted Klaus out of the way and hacked into the comm systems, hailing the shuttle.

"the problem is, it's a Blood Bowl trophy"

Meanwhile, the Ship Captain headed over to carry Rogue out. She doesn't leave crew behind!

"feeling blue, Rogue?"

Rogue aside, things were going a little too smoothly for these plucky ne'er-do-wells. Mike's bots started firing in earnest, closing in on Klaus and the engineer in the control booth. The brave engineer darted out and put the police lieutenant OOA but paid for it immediately, also going OOA. Thankfully, the bots took losing their organic commander worse, allowing me to seize the initiative - but to little effect as Klaus could not manage a single shot at the bots standing ten feet away. Psykers are twitchy after all. Mike roared back, inflicting a wound and two pins on my erstwhile useless ship's doctor. This made it difficult for me to seize and then keep initiative for quite a while and things were looking desperate!

Fortunately, the shuttle finally arrived:

no time travel quips please

Mike was dominating initiative and things were looking especially grim for Klaus. Mike's copbots retrieved the cuffs off of their fallen commander and got into position to block the path to the shuttle. There was nothing left but to go for broke and get the spy moving. My luck changed and I rolled three successes, moving her past the copbots and just a step past their jurisdiction!

"that was a close one - hey why are you still firing at me??"

Mike was determined to make the arrest and snapped off some called shots at the spy's legs, only managing to graze her. I activated her again - I needed to get into contact with the shuttle with an action to spare to embark. There really was no other option. I didn't have the actions to make it in one activation so tried to get some cover. But Mike would not give up so easily, and ordered his copbot past the jurisdictional border. "Is a robot equipped to make that kind of decision?" Mike pondered as he prepared to roll a shot ...

++++ jurisdictional authority exceeded +++

... the result was a weapon malfunction! The jurisdictional conflict must have fuzzed the bot's programming, allowing the spy just enough actions to get into the shuttle and blast off!

We agreed to pick up our wounded and leave the scene peaceably, given there was egg on everybody's faces at that point. Well - except for the spy! She used my crew first as figurative cover and then, when the cops started shooting up the place, as literal cover. But the wily agent managed to get away. I guess we ought to bill her employers.

We really enjoyed the game and especially the story that unfolded as the game progressed. Mike felt the start was a little slow but given that I was basically playing a non-com crew of traders with light armor and armament, and that I needed to traverse a fairly large board, I was glad for the room to maneuver. I think it is really nice that you can play something besides commandos in Rogue Stars.

I don't think a review written after one game played is worth much but I am looking forward to playing Rogue Stars again, and hopefully soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Robot Wreckage

I held out for a long time but finally purchased the Battle for Zycanthus starter set for Maelstrom's Edge. While I don't have any plans to play MEdge itself, many of the Spiral Arms Studios models really caught my imagination. I'm especially fond of the fishbats ... er, Karist Minnows, which will stand in for alien/demonic/mutated wildlife in Rogue Stars, Frostgrave, TNT, etc. But that is a story for another day. Today is all about dem bots!

The ME starter box comes with three kinds of robots: two Hunter-class Warmechs, two Scarecrows, and eight (!) drones, the last of which can be assembled in crawler or flyer mode. Fair warning - the Hunters and Scarecrows are pretty fiddly models; each Scarecrow leg is in three pieces, for example. Spiral Arms explains:
We've broken our models up into lots of parts and given a fair few spare parts so that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone, learn new skills and create some really unique models.
This actually came in handy for my purposes as I decided to use the Hunter-class mechs and Scarecrows to make objective markers. I wanted these bots to look like they had collapsed decades if not centuries before, laying exposed to wind, grit, and sun. Much of that is down to weathering techniques, of course, but starting with a good pose is fundamental. That said, I did not really take full advantage of the various options on the sprue, especially for the Hunter-class bots. These guys have lots of cool parts!

Oh man, look at those bots ... not going ...

As usual, I used a Vallejo basing paste, Dark Earth in this case. I also used a bit of cork on the first Scarecrow's base, to subtly mix up the texture/color ... and provide an armrest.

... it won't be a stylish marriage ...

I primed all the markers reddish brown and transitioned to gray-blues via Russian Uniform Green. The Hunter-class wrecks are a bit darker than the Scarecrow wrecks.

... I can't afford a carriage ...

I washed the models using Vallejo Sepia wash - the 200ml jar, which is the thicker "dipping formula" rather than the stuff in the smaller bottles. After some drybrushing, I settled on picking out a single detail: the red lens of its eye.

goodnight sweet prince

I used TAP Red Tone wash to give the other Scarecrow's flamer tank some color, this time before the drybrushing. Note also the cool double-antennae backpack option.

I've fallen and I can't get up

I wanted the other Hunter-class to look a bit more in-tact, to really show off more of the model's details. If I had a third, I would do one that was buried more deeply. There are also many more weapons configurations for the Hunter-class; I just wanted a more uniform look for this project.

damned lazy robots!

Stay tuned for more raids on the cool sprue from Battle for Zycanthus! We'll get to those fishbats pretty soon ...