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Saturday, 28 September 2013

You have got to be kidding me!

I've been at Derby today, playing in the Bolt Action tournament. More on that tomorrow (there's more games to play before it's over), but when I got home I checked out the new Warhammer Dark Elf releases. I have one thing I need to get off my chest.

£35 for 10 plastic Witch Elves? What the hell are they smoking? Who do they think would actually pay that? And I don't even like the posing on the minis (not a fan of including themed scenery on bases as standard).

Even as I write this, I know that plenty of people will actually pay that. And because of that there's a good chance this is going to become the new price for new plastic minis.

Oh well, plenty of alternatives out there to GW.

Anyway, rant over. My next post will be more cheerful.

p.s. Someone should point out to GW that their one-click collection of Witch Elves is actually £9 more expensive than buying the boxes separately. Unless that's the point of course.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Judge Dredd Miniatures - Tournament Report


A couple of weeks ago we ran our first Judge Dredd tournament at the club, and when I say "we" I actually mean "I" since this was my project and my first time ever organising a tournament like this.

This was to be a combination tournament/campaign day, a mini tournament in the morning leading to a big multi-player game in the afternoon that would be directly influenced by the results of the tournament. Somewhat rashly I offered to provide all the additional miniatures required for the big game. This would include a horde of zombies, the Dark Judges themselves and the leading defenders of Mega City One (Dredd, Anderson et al). I later came to regret this promise.

In anticipation of my usual level of organisational skill I booked the week before the tournament off from work, so that I would have the time needed to paint up all the miniatures I had failed to paint in the run-up. With one thing and another this turned out to be most of them, but in the space of a week I managed to paint the following:

84 Zombies (only half of what I'd bought but more than enough for the game)
One Zombie mistress, plus a repaint on an old vampire model to serve the same purpose
One zombie Judge
All 4 Dark Judges and their spirit forms
Judges Anderson, Giant, DeMarco and Dekker
One Judge in holocaust armour
One rookie Judge
Mean Machine Angel

Not a bad little haul really.

When it came to the Dark Judges I had a minor crisis, I'd been waiting for the models from Mongoose to arrive. I'd got these as part of my rewards for supporting their Kickstarter and when I'd first planned to run the event it seemed certain that they'd arrive in plenty of time. Now the day drew closer and there were delays after delays until it seemed like they were finally going to arrive just a few days after the event. So at the last minute I mail ordered a set of the miniatures from Wargames Foundry, they're nice but they never did one for Judge Fear and they didn't do the spirit forms (although I had an idea for an alternative paint job which meant I bought 2 sets). On the Tuesday before the event, both sets of Dark Judges fell through the letterbox in the same post. I went with the Mongoose miniatures in the end, but I guess it shows I was panicking for nothing.

The Dark Judges - we have arrived (in the nick of time)
Anyway, on to the day of the event. We had allowed for up to 14 players based on the level of interest expressed at other events and I got there early to set the hall up accordingly. In the end we only got half that number, mostly club members who were regulars in our campaign, and I wound up playing in order to even up the numbers. With 8 players split into 2 factions it meant that everybody would wind up playing each player from the opposing faction and I was able to ensure that nobody played more than one game on any one table.

With a hastily cobbled together force of Renegade Robots (we figured they'd get on well with Judge Death, both groups want the "fleshy ones" dead) my first game was against Arfon. He'd come down as a guest of Adrian's, one of our regulars, and this was going to be his first ever game of JDMG. So my robots lined up against his borrowed force of Judges, with their mission being to eliminate the highest ranking Judge. Long story short, I failed. I'd love to blame beginner's luck, or bad dice rolls, but the fact of the matter is I made mistakes and just got outplayed by the rookie. However the other Justice Department players all lost their games, which left Arfon in the lead in the tournament and things looking grim for Mega City One.

Game 2 was against Rich and his very colourful Citi-Def, who had travelled up from Welwyn Garden City for the event. This was the Raid scenario, Rich had one model deployed on my side of the table and I had to stop him escaping. Which my combat droid did with style, right at the last minute, with a sniper round to the back of the head. So I had a win, and the bigger picture wasn't looking too good for the Judges as once again only Arfon had managed a win this round.
Rich's Citi-Def - photo stolen from the Mongoose forums
Game 3 was against Andy Miller, one of my regular opponents using Cheif Judge Cal's Personal retinue. I was up against a brainwashed Street Judge, a Klegg and the big man Cal himself. This was the Heist scenario, with Cal and his retinue trying to escape a building in the centre of the table with my robots trying to stop them. My combat droid provided covering fire while my robodogs ran into the building to flush out the defenders. It all degenerated into one big melee in the building and at the end, only the Klegg was left standing. He threw himself out of the window in an attempt to get away from my combat droid and succeeded too, fleeing the table with my droid in hot pursuit.

Game 4 was against another regular club opponent, Mike Whitaker and his Judges on a Lawmaster. You can read his account of the day here. We both took early casualties and the game degenerated into his Judge and my combat droid facing each other and trying to blast east other, suffice it to say that bike-cannon beat sniper rifle in this case.

So one win from 4 games, which left me firmly at the bottom of the table for the bad guys while Adrian went undefeated and finished the day with a perfect score. For the Justice Department Arfon had managed to hold onto the lead by the slimmest of margins (only 4 points separating 1st place from 3rd).

Me awarding Adrian with his trophy, photo courtesy of Mike.
Arfon winning a trophy, first time out.












And so we were onto the big game, a variant on the Zombie Apocalypse scenario. The bad guys each had access to a Zombie Horde force in addition to their regular tournament force, while the defenders got additional reinforcements. Both sides had access to some of the major personalities from Mega City One. The Dark Judges had Judges Death, Fear and Fire, while I had to make do with Mean Machine (a much lower level character as befitted my performance on the day, but also one of my favourite characters from the comic). The Justice Department had Judges Dredd, Anderson and Giant, while Arfon availed himself of the Judge in holocaust armour.

Mega City One in all its glory
We had a 16' table set up, representing the edge of Mega City One leading into the ruins left following the Apocalypse War. I would up facing off against Rich on one flank, supported by Judge Giant and Arfon's Mechanismo Droid. Mean Machine and the robodogs lead the charge, with Mean going up to 4 after he took a couple of hits and pulverizing one of the Citi-Def. He then went on a bit of a rampage, headbutting Judge Giant into the middle of next prog before trying the same on Dredd and coming up a bit short.

Mean Machine leads the charge across the wasteland
while Judge Fear watches on
Meanwhile Judge Cal managed to successfully arrest Judge Fear - he can arrest judges, Fear is a Judge, we actually ran this one past Matt from Mongoose and he didn't see a problem, but I happen to know that this has been reworded in the new edition of the rulebook so we may be the only ones to ever get to see this particular loophole in action. Judge Fire was eliminated by Judge Anderson, with assistance from a healthy dose of bike cannon fire. The holocaust judge was swarmed by zombies and brought down. Things were just shaping up for a showdown between Anderson and Death when we had to end the game due to time constraints. In the end, we ruled it a narrow win for the forces of darkness, but everyone agreed it would have been good to see how it turned out.

On the whole, I'm very pleasantly surprised with how smoothly everything ran. Everyone had fun, every game seemed to be enjoyable and I think it's agreed that we're going to do this again. Though I may try to be a bit more orgainsed for the next one.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Operation Overlord - Bolt Action Tournament Report

August 31st saw the Phoenix Wargames Club in Rushden put on their second Bolt Action tournament this year, entitled Operation Overlord. Although I've been playing Bolt Action since the game first came out, I hadn't ventured near any kind of competative gaming. I think I'd been largely put off the tournament scene by my experiences with competative Warhammer but going along to a few other smaller tournaments, most recently the Judge Dredd events organised by Mongoose, convinced me that not all competative wargamers are complete dicks and I decided to give it a go.

I hadn't used my Russians for a while and due to other commitments the only practice game I was able to get in was a blue-on-blue (red-on-red?) battle against Chris's Russians at the club. That game had started out even enough but turned into a rout in my favour, I'm not sure how much I learned tactically but at least I'd brushed up on the rules.

So, onto the event itself. We'd be playing 3 games using custom scenarios and a different victory point system which awarded points based on the type of unit rather than their value. This meant, among other things, that I wouldn't just be able to throw my free unit of inexperienced infantry/cannon fodder into the fight like I normally do, as they were worth exactly the same as my veteran squad. That could make things interesting.

My first game was against an opponent whose name I have regrettably forgotten (common problem for me) who was using fallschirmjager. Lots of veteran infantry, a Puma recce vehicle and a big anti-tank gun which had me worried for my T-34. The scenario was a pitched battle with a twist, we each had to nominate an enemy unit that would be worth double victory points if destroyed. I picked the smallest of his 3 unit of veteran infantry, he picked my free unit of conscripts so I really couldn't throw them away now.

In the end I needn't have worried. The Puma turned out to be fairly annoying, in the way only recce vehicles can be (stand still and let me kill you, damn it), until I eventually opted to ignore it and concentrate on the rest of the army. I think I got more than my share of luck in this game as everything I set out to do worked almost perfectly. Even my veteran squad fubar'ing and fleeing at exactly the wrong moment was only a blip. When the dust settled all I'd lost was my mortar (to the Puma, after it stopped hiding) while my opponent had lost everything except the Puma and his medic. Final score 20-1 in my favour. But more to the point, a thoroughly enjoyable game against an opponent who took everything in his stride, even when it was all hitting the fan.

Incidentally, my conscripts took a total of 4 casualties, 2 of them inflicted by my own commissar. Nichevo.

Game 2 was against Pete Melvin, one of the event's organisers who was fielding more fallschirmjager. This time there were a couple of flak units on his side of the table, which was a concern as I was using an air force forward observer who'd so far had things all his own way. During setup we each exercised the option to hold a couple of units in reserve, in my case the T-34 and my squad of SMG-armed infantry (if they could outflank the enemy it would get nasty) and in his case 2 squads of veteran infantry. Setup was interesting, as we both chose a refused-flank option. My left flank had my conscripts and commissar facing off against a lone veteran infantry squad, while the rest of our armies were concentrated on the right. Turn 1 saw my veteran infantry take a big hit from a heavy mortar that wiped out two-thirds of the squad, while my AT gun blew up his armoured car (one of the flak units) with its first shot.

On turn two all of our reserves came on. My SMG troops had failed to outflank (different rules to normal for this scenario) and turned up on my own baseline so all I'd effectively done was waste 2 turns of movement, but my T-34 turned up on the right flank and was able to throw some more firepower into what was already looking a little one-sided. Both of Pete's units turned up on my left flank, which left the conscripts doomed but meant that those three veteran infantry squads would take little part in the rest of the battle while I mopped up on the right. Final score 15-5 in my favour, another major victory.

All of this meant that going into the final game I was the highest placed Allied player at the event. Which was mildly unnerving and meant that I had everything to lose in the final game, where we only had 750 points to use. This meant that I would be losing my commissar (not a huge problem, the guy was a bit of a liability) and my T-34 (big problem, it'd had a big influence on the first 2 games), and also playing against the guy who was top of the table for the Axis players.

This turned out to be Brian McGonagle, who was also using fallschirmjager (sensing a pattern here guys). I had the better set-up, with most of my army in cover while Brian's was largely in the open. Then I started rolling dice and it all went down the toilet. I lost my SMGs to a failed morale check (needing 8 or less on 2D6, with a re-roll) then lost my veteran squad exactly the same way. My airstrike didn't turn up until turn 4 by which point Brian had isolated the target unit to minimise the impact, the NCO of the target squad was the sole survivor, passed his morale check and spent three turns taunting my sniper who completely failed to kill him netting me no victory points. I had a couple of chances to pull things back but they didn't materialise and by the end of the game it was a minor win to Brian.

When all the other results were in I finished up in third place for the Allies, which was definitely more than I was expecting going into the event but still a little disappointing given the way things had worked out. Still I had three thoroughly enjoyable games against some excellent opponents, and now I'm off to warlord's first official Bolt Action tournament at Derby next weekend.

Incidentally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the success of the other club members who were at the event. Ryan scored third place among the Axis players with his Japanese, and Tony took the best-painted army award for the Axis (with Ryan in second place). So a good day all round, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

p.s. I didn't take any photos at this event, but you can see Pete's here. Mine are the very basic looking Russians about halfway down. Brian's account of our battle is on the Warlord forums here.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What I Did On My Summer Holidays...

It's been a LONG time since I updated this blog, which is really quite inexcusable even with how much I've had to do from both a gaming and real life viewpoint. However, I seem to have a relatively quiet week ahead of me so I guess I've got time to touch on some of the highlights from the last few months.

Star Wars - The Card Game

July saw me heading down to Exeter for the regional championship for the Star Wars LCG. I'm a huge fan of the game but as with anything CCG/LCG related I really struggle to find opponents locally for either casual gaming or tournaments so I decided to combine catching up with family (my brother lives in Exeter, as does my 18 month old nephew) with another crack at a regional championship (I came 2nd in the event held in Sheffield on May 4th).

The tournament consisted of 4 rounds of swiss, in which I managed to win all 4 (a couple by tiebreaker and a couple by luck) which meant I finished in 2nd place at this stage. We then went to a top 4 knockout stage. My opponent in the semi-final turned out to be the guy I'd just beat in the final round of swiss and our rematch went much the same way which put me into the final. At which point my Sith deck decided it had had enough and didn't want to play any more - I saw none of the cards I needed and was beaten in fairly short order. I managed to win the second game with my Jedi deck (each round consists of 2 games, light side vs dark) but my opponent got the tiebreaker and the win. Second place again. Still, I'm starting to believe I may actually know what I'm doing with this game.

I can thoroughly recommend Clifton Road Games in Exeter, where the tournament was held. Great shop with a wide range and a huge gaming hall out back, the staff and regulars were all very welcoming and I wound up hanging around after the tournament to play Mansions of madness until past midnight. Great start to a holiday.

Judge Dredd Miniatures - Heroes of Mega City One

This was the second ever JDMG tournament held at Mongoose HQ in Swindon, I went to the first one as well and had a blast despite finishing somewhere mid-table. This one was a slightly different format, you had the option to field higher level heroes this time round (up to level 5) which opened up some options, or you could field mobs of minions. This made it hard to predict which way the meta would go and I had to hedge my bets a little, I wound up settling on a squad of 3 Judges, all boosted to level 5 and with a range of talents to take on heroes or mobs as necessary.

Adrian from PWC and I left Peterborough at silly-o-clock in the morning, making it to Swindon just in time for the start. I'll admit that I've not retained a great deal of detail from this event. I remember a battle against a robot force, all armed with sniper rifles and lined up against the back of their deployment zone an a massive table with a nice killing field in front of them; I lost that one. I wound up playing against Ady's renegade robots (naturally, you always wind up playing against the chauffeur) and won that one largely due to the fact that I knew exactly what he was going to be taking and had tweaked my force to take it into account. Otherwise I had a number of games against other Justice Department forces, all of which had more models than me but were lower level so I was able to take them apart bit-by-bit. When the dust settled, I'd wound up in 2nd place overall which was frankly astonishing. Looking forward to the next event Mongoose put on, there's no way I'll be missing it if I get any say in the matter.

Warhammer 40K - Club Campaign

I'll be brutally honest, this campaign has done more to send me into a general wargaming funk than anything else that's happened recently. I'm doing well (6 wins out of 6 games, some more by luck than judgement) and no disrespect meant to Dan (the campaign organiser) or any of my opponents but I'm really getting fed up of the mess that is the current 40K ruleset. Some of the new stuff they've put in there is great, some of it needed a lot more playtesting/rewriting before it was fit for release, and some of it is blatantly just there to sell new models (they're not even trying to hide it any more).

But what's really got my back up (and this may sound petty) is the new Space Marine codex, specifically the Centurions. Can somebody please explain to me what GW were thinking with these? Why bother with veteran company terminators when all the regular companies have access to these which are just better? Just retcon them into the background material and throw most of the existing stuff out at the same time. Plus they just look stupid. Prime example of rules being driven by the need to sell models (they're damned expensive as well). [/rant]

Anyway, the end result is that I've sworn off 40K for a bit. I've dropped out of the campaign, which thankfully is structured to allow people to do this with minimal problems, and won't be playing again for the foreseeable future. Which of course means that my Grey Knights have been put on the back burner indefinitely as well.

Judge Dredd Minatures - Club Campaign

This continues to bumble along, we're all having a lot of fun and eventually somebody's going to win it. In the meantime we all get to play some games and not take much of it too seriously. My Judgement League are now getting to a scarily high level without actually becoming all that competent in game, which makes things interesting to say the least. We haven't yet quite decided what to do about the imminent release of the new edition of the rules.

Bolt Action

I've been playing a lot of this recently, if anything it's taken over and filled the hole that 40K left behind. Great ruleset, much less fiddly than some other WWII rules I could mention and makes a lot more sense in game as well. It's a ruleset where you can just worry about tactics and let the rules pretty much take care of themselves, which is probably why I like it so much.

I went to my first BA tournament at Rushden a couple of weeks ago and will be posting a full tournament report in the next couple of days.

Judge Dredd - Necropolis 2 Tournament/Campaign Day

Somewhat scarily, this was the first time I have ever organised a tournament of any kind. Again, I'll be posting a full report soon but in short it all went surprisingly well. And while I didn't get all of the zombies painted in time, I did get more than enough done.

So anyway, that's what's been occupying my attention over the last few months. I'll try to keep this more up-to-date from now on.