Sunday, 18 February 2018

The search for a fantastic rule set


So, all these 10mm rats and halflings – not to mention the Legion of Super Evil (not yet previewed) – have caused me to start looking for a good fantasy mass battle game for the first time in many years. All of the below is my personal thoughts and I realise that many people may disagree with parts or all that I write.

In the foolishness of youth I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition, but I fell out of love with Games Workshop a good twenty years ago. I have no intention of re-engaging in that department, but even if I did, they don’t even seem to do a mass battle game anymore for their fantasy setting. I might be out of the loop on this one… 😊

I then dabbled with Hordes of the Things, the WRG rules based on the DBX system. I rather enjoy the elegant abstraction of DBX and its successors in historical settings where the relatively restricted number of troop types battle it out against their contemporaries. However, I’m not convinced that there is enough nuance in the troop interactions to give a really flavourful fantasy game. Certainly, my gaming circle here in Ireland doesn’t seem to think so.

So this week we sat down to three games using different rules but the same small selection of figures in each – Halflings verse Dark Elves. I outline my thoughts on each below:

Game 1) Kings of War, 2nd Edition, by Mantic (Halfling victory)
I had played KoW once in the past, and watched a couple of other games. My opponent JB haD played it rather more and helped guide me through. On the plus side, it is fast. But – and it is a pretty large but(t) – I don’t find it a particularly fulfilling game. At all. It lacks any sense of command friction and that really takes away any sense of having to make hard decisions. You can just move whichever units you want at a time that suits you.

Coupled with this, the combat system is a bit silly (understatement). Only the active player rolls dice, and they roll an inconceivably large amount of them lot of them. This means that, especially with regular sized or large games, the opposing player just sits there and takes it in the face without so much as being able to hold up a hand to shield their eyes. Not only is this pretty unrealistic (fantasy setting of not), but it can get both dull and dispiriting to see the other guy dander about destroying your units and you don’t even get to roll a dice.

Speaking of dice… I am not a ‘bucket o’ dice’ kind of guy. I understand within the rules why so many dice are rolled to attack, but it’s just unnecessary. A small tweak to the way units break, and you could reduce the number of dice down to a mere handful. We ran out of dice and I have a bloody big bag of d6s!

Game 2) Mayhem, Expanded Edition, by Bombshell Games (Halfling victory)
This game has some really neat ideas, using different polydice to represent different fighting abilities and equipment, an allowing you to choose to roll dice or accept the average without rolling. Unfortunately, the game felt unfinished to us. Admittedly, this was only after one game, but we ended up with quite a number of questions left unanswered, that we just couldn’t could find answers to in the book.

There is some command friction in the game, which we liked, and the overdrive system of additional actions by units being possible at an exponential cost of command pips is nifty. The concept of a single unit activation four times in a row though, while every other unit on the table sat around and watched felt a bit too farfetched though. I had 10 units on my halfling army and had a command value of d12. Because of the nature of the rules, I was able to roll multiple d12s each turn (one for the general, one for the hero, one for the elite eunit etc etc) and managed to get 12 command pips each turn. This meant that rather than feeling like command friction, I actually had more freedom than in the previous KoW game! If we play again, we might have a gentlemens’ agreement to limit command qualities to d6s, or maybe somehow link the maximum command rating to the number of units in the army.

Neither of us were at all convinced by the rule that says that characters may only attack other characters (including casting aggressive magic), unless they are embedded in a unit. So, a wizard on a flying carpet can’t cast a fireball at a unit of goblins – but if he flies over a joins a friendly unit of swordsmen, he is suddenly somehow able to able cast his fireballs. It just isn’t intuitive. The rules let you embed some heroes in units from the start, but your general may not be created like that.

The game is splendid in allowing players to completely customise their own army lists, even if there are no example lists in the book at all. Once again, there is a counter to that though, in that the points system feels a bit skew-whiff. There are some traits and weapons that seem really imbalanced in the cost to buy, benefits on the battlefield ratio. Also, the characters – the ones that can’t attack units – cost the same to build as units.

Game 3) Kings of War – with a fudge, 2nd Edition, by Mantic (Bloody draw)
For the third game, we returned to KoW, but implemented one simple yet fundamental change. In a melee, both players attacked and could damage their opponent. This meant that there was no more charging in with impunity for those knights who were already badly mauled. If they do charge in, they may very well break, regardless of what damage they do to their opponents. The fudged KoW game still suffered from a lack of command friction and the buckets o’ dice thing, but it was a lot more fun, and even faster than usual.

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Where to go now? Pending anybody else making any splendid suggestions, I might try Hail Caesar, using the historical rules to start with, but with customised armies of course. If it feels ok, then it’s just a matter of adding in magic. But only time will tell I suppose.

It seems that what I am after is a game that keeps both players engaged throughout. I don't want individual figure removal. It needs to have some sort of command friction that forces the player to make hard decisions, and have a well thought out and balanced points system, but not have army lists that are too prescriptive. If it fits within my fantasy world, why shouldn’t I have a halfling sorcerer riding a giant bunny?!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Halflings ho!

Just in time to return to work (strictly speaking I'm still a bit flu-y. but I have stuff that I need to do...), I managed to finish up my halflings. I just have some treefolk to do as some chunky melee supports and I'll have 1000 points for KoW, or 200 crowns of troops for Mayhem

The halfing militia are mostly Eureka halflings, with Magister Militum command pack chaps added for variety - and for the cooking pot. I'm counting the standard bearers as halfling militiamen with pikes.

The halfling yeomanry (and Hugo the Bold) are all Magister Militum, from the pony cavalry pack and the command pack.

This is probably my last post for a while as I am now way behind at work and in life. However, don't quote me on this. There is always room for procrastination... 🙈

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Halflings of Hearthshire

I've had a halfling 'thing' since childhood. From Tolkien's Middle Earth to the Warhammer Old World, there was always something that appealed to me about the unassuming everyman who would stand up against tyranny when the moment came. Last Christmas, my good mate and gaming buddy JB decided to get me a pack of Eureka 10mm halflings to get me started. On my birthday, he them presented me with a couple of Magister Militum packs of halflings to push me further down that particular rabbit hole.

Having been off sick and restricted to the house, I managed to paint up the first couple of units for a halfling army. I'm not sure what rules will be used yet - Kings of War or perhaps Mayhem? I have army lists written up for both. I'm still not sold on KoW, and have yet to actually play Mayhem. Regardless, here is the start of the halfling militia of Hearthshire.

The Squire of Hearthshire is the musician from the Eureka halfling pack. I really liked the sculpt, so he has been promoted to a leadership position.

The rangers are also from the Eureka halfling pack. There were 10 archers and 20 mixed militia chaps in the bag. The militia are coming later, but these lads are the skilled halfling archer units.

This scouting mounted unit is from Magister Militum. They are supposed to be halfling ostrich riders and while I concede the wings do look ostrichy, the rest of the sculpt says 'goose' to me. Geese scouts also fit better with my concept of halflings as agricultural folk.

There are halfling yeomen, halfling militia, and supporting treefolk still to come, but they have not yet even been undercoated...

Thursday, 1 February 2018

6mm Minoan reinforcements

In lucid moments between savage bouts of coughing, I've managed, just, to finish up a few more units of 6mm Minoans for my L'Art de la Guerre Mycenaean/Minoan army. I only have six units left to do before the army is finished, but with each one taking so much time and effort while I'm down with the super-mega-power-flu, I wanted to post a wee work in progress shot so I can feel like I've achieved something... All models are Rapier 6mm Trojans.

My third commander, attached to a unit of heavy chariots. 

Two units of heavy spearmen with missile support and pavises. Given the option of fully kitting out my heavy infantry, I was inspired by the so-called 'Lion Hunt' dagger from Myceneae, to integrate archers (and slingers) among the spearmen rather than in a single rank behind them. I know the dagger shows a hunting scene, but (from memory) Homer describes the same sort of scene - Teukros firing his bow from the shelter of Ajax's shield in the Illiad - so I went with it.





Each base has 10 spearmen, a musician, an officer, and three skirmishers (a couple behind, and one among the spearmen). I will further mix up the positioning of the skirmishers on the other bases.


This shot is just to compare the heavy spearmen (pavises and missile support) on the left, with my medium spearmen (pavises and missile support) on the right. The mediums only get two skirmishers to a base and their spears are much shorter.


My two bases of slingers. It is a shame there is only one sculpt in the pack, but the sculpt is suburb. Who sculpts pecs and abs on 6mm figures!?