Thursday, 28 May 2015

Far over the misty mountains cold

This project was a New Year's resolution. I'm coming to it by the end of May, so cool, kinda as scheduled :S

Well, sarcasm apart, I was really looking forward to this. After the Hobbit movies I had a lot of mixed feelings. I'm not going back to the dispute about a trilogy, the narrative rythm or how much the movies go far away from the book. Many people have already written about that and I cannot bring anything new to the subject.

What I'm going to do is just about the concepts surrounding the characters. I'm aware that building up thirteen different characters and giving each one of them a distinctive appearance is quite an endeavour, specially if they all are dwarves (of course it's 'dwarves', not 'dwarfs'!). Once again, I'm not going into the movie thing about if that one deserved more attention or if you ended three movies without being able to recognise which character was each one. I'm tempted to do so, but I'm already disgressing...
The movies perform a major effort to make dwarves believable. You have to strip them out of the fantasy/cartoon appearance and make some actual humans fit in costumes and prosthetics. And they have to look like the real deal. They succeed in that, I think. But I'm afraid I don't like some of the designs. Not at all. I have maximum respect for concept artists; there are lots and lots of hours and creativity behind any scenery, any character or any piece of gear. But I think that some of the decisions which finally made their way into the movies don't work as well as others. Sorry, but dwarves without beards or trying to recover Erebor with a slingshot is more than I can peacefully bear.

That takes me to the minis! Finally! I got the Escape from Goblin Town box last year (there was a nice offer and I took it). I got it with a clear idea in mind: trying to make the dwarves a little bit closer to the book than how they are depicted in the movie. I will respect most of the work, as the minis are nicely sculpted and detailed, but I'll try to, at least, make every dwarf have a beard and a hood!

Grumpy grown guys with beards and hoodies... Hmmm... that scaringly fits my own description!

Let's begin with Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, king under the Mountain.

The conversion here is going to be quite simple. Sir Peter Jackson stated that he wanted a young leading character for cinematic purposes. Hence the choice of actor and characterization. But in the book, Thorin Oakenshield is quite a venerable dwarf lord, mature (if I recall it correctly, on the edge of the two hundred years), I really thought he deserved another appearance.

With his new beard he looks like Gandalf
In the book Thorin wears a sky-blue hood with a long silver tassel. So let's try a mighty, old, imposing warrior in sky-blue...

Still looking like Gandalf :D
The hood and the tassel
As I've begun with Thorin, let me show his nephews next. Fili and Kili. Kili, the dwarf with no beard; a detail included solely for romantic purposes. Apparently you can't write a romance story if there is a bearded guy involved. Well, Sir Peter, if you had to choose, maybe (just maybe) you should have kept the beard and forget about the lame love story.

A dwarf has a beard. Just by definition
We know that they both wore "blue hoods, silver belts and yellow beards; and each of them carried a bag of tools and a spade".

I find Fili's pose a little bit forced. Should have corrected that. Hm.
Fili's bag has a runic 'F'. All greenstuff and sticks. Also removed Kili's bow
Well, this is it for today. Now you know more or less what to expect from this project. I have already finished the conversion work on all of them and I'm painting the dwarves by batches, I'll be showing them as I finish the groups. I hope you like this approach, all thoughts are welcome!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Playing 'Heroes of Normandie'

It seems that weekends are lately becoming quite productive in terms of gaming :)

This time we've tried 'Heroes of Normandie':

Quite self-explanatory, I guess
Nothing like FoW, Bolt Action or whatever. This is more likely a board game using tokens and with a kinda cartoony style and some humour (I mean, for example, one of the scenarios is 'Saving Private Rex' and it's all about rescuing the General's dog, :P). So expect a lot of tributes to movies, nonsense and stuff.

Today I'll show you just the introductory scenario. Two small forces clash as they both try to get the important secret files that are being dropped by parachute on the field. This time I'll play the Americans and my pal will play the Germans.

The field and the deployment
As you can see, some tiles have special profiles. They represent trees or bushes and make it difficult for infantry to go through (and impossible for vehicles), but it gives them some cover instead. That is represented by modifiers on cover or assault.

What about the troops? At the beginning of the battle you have some points to spend, depending on the scenario. You have a core troops formation and then you can add more troops or equipment until you get the max points. Troops have their own profile, as depicted on their tokens:


Each token tells you how many tiles you can move, your basic cover roll and any modifiers you can apply when attacking infantry (yellow), medium vehices (purple) or heavy vehicles (grey). The knife up right means they can perform close assault. What's that skull down right? Well, when your unit gets hit once, it doesn't get immediately killed, you just flip the token and...


...Ooops, new profile for the decimated unit. Well, as you can see it's this simple. Every unit has these two profiles and the token has all the info required to play.

The turn sequence is nice. Each turn the initiative is for one side. Both players set their command tokens on their units, but the enemy doesn't know who is gonna be activated first, second, etc. Once the turn begins, the activation is alternative, i.e., one player activates his first unit, then the other player does so, etc

Battle!
In a small game such as this one it doesn't add too much pressure; but just imagine a board three times the size of this and the ability to give ten commands to different units. Then your tactical options are something to think about!
The activation phase consists of moving the unit and giving them a command (shoot, charge or whatever you can do).

End of turn 1
 Prior to the battle, you have to choose some special cards, giving you particular actions or abilities that can be played during the game to achieve some useful performances.

Germans scrambled my comms! They forced me to take back the order token for my tank
The parachute with the fies landed just in the center of the field, both platoons forced the march to get to it. The first close combats took place!

Americans got the papers and Germans push hard to get'em
But they are forced to fall back
The Recon Team hits the tank with grenades
Their dice roll is spectacular! Wooo!
For the third turn, Germans got the initiative, but Americans played their cards well (I mean literally) and made the Support Squad flee with the files

Fly, you fools!
They also tried to make an extra move:

Ride like the wind, Bullseye!
But Germans prevented them from that!

Nein!!
So the rest of the guys engaged the enemy, inflicting (and receiving) casualties:

Add cinematic action here
Grenade!!
At the beginning of turn four, both sides got reenforcements. Germans received a SKDF and Americans a halftrack.

The Sherman is not a new unit; as its path on the left flank was blocked, I made it go back to give support on the road
Initiative was for the Americans. So the Support Team with the files would most certainly get out of reach...

...Unless Germans cunningly used their cards to avoid them receive any order!
(This was my never performed plan; this card would have made them flee the board and make me win!)
OK, battle still went on then...

All the effort put on covering the team with the files
This is how it all looked like
Germans made a last effort...
...but the Support Team gets out of the board!
So victory for the Americans! In this case Germans had little thing to do since the point when the Americans got the documents. From that point on, I played with the initiative and tried to make it sure for the Support Team to get out ASAP.

Cards play a huge role in this game, and I like the system a lot. It brings in a tactical aspect which is quite fresh to me. The fact of not drawing random cards from a deck, but actually building your own deck prior to battle (and then selecting just a few cards for each turn) makes you develop some kind of strategic sense wich I have found terribly fun.

We made it all in less than an hour, which once again makes perfect sense for me, and we laughed and kept the tension with the situations that were appearing. Cannot ask for more. Now I wanna play a full battle and see what happens!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Unsuspicious building

Back with my Besenval buildings again :). I still have a couple of kits by LaserCutCard, here it goes the first of them. Sooo, another good time with card and glueeee...

From 2D to 3D. Trying not to sniff to much glue in the process
I did quite a stupid thing. I thought of painting the locks first and the rest of the building later. But as soon as I did that and ended glueing all the stuff I realized that was nonsense, I'd just paint the whole thing with a primer spray, that would be the quicker way. D'oh.

Anyway, here it is. Blame my lack of planification
These are the two bodies of the building
And now you get an idea of how it's gonna look
OK. Grey primer spray. Once I was high on glue, it was time to get high on paint. You noticed the pink elephant over there? Cooool, duuude...

So I had to paint the locks again. Sigh...
 This wouldn't belong to my port district if it was going to look so good, would it? Right, time to get dirty!

Looks more like my project now...
Of course, some signs were needed. Keeping it the way I used for The Sparklin' Pulsar, I made these, both in English and Chinese (according to Google Translator; please any Chinese speaking reader over there correct my mistakes). What name could I choose for this obscure, gloomy, suspicious and most probably illegal business running inside?

This is reverse psychology. No cop would fall for that obvious sign... :D
 This is how the full kit looks like when finished:

Totally inconspicuous
Stuff added for dramatic purposes
Hm. Nice neighbourhood
Just as I'm posting these pics I realize I haven't added the a/c unit that is supposed to be on top, oooops. I'll have to take care of that, but for the moment I'm good with the result.
If I liked the card shipping crates, I'm totally delighted with this building. Seriously, pretty nice stuff, I totally recommend the kit.
I still have another one... wink wink ;)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Playing 'Commands & Colours. Ancients'

Another board game weekend :D

My mate brought over another Rome vs. Carthage game, 'Commands & Colors. Ancients' (well, you should have guessed that by the title!) and we played the battle of Zama:

He's the Roman, I'm the Carthaginian
First thing you notice is that there are no minis nor cards, just wooden tokens with stickers. The reference rules are just in a tiny booklet. Believe me, this game is easy to play.

Roman movies music just to make this a little bit more atmospherical :D (Had to improvise!)
The game follows the 'order cards' system (I've already talk about this in games such as Memoir '44 or Battles of Westeros, for example). You have a number of cards that allow you to command a number of units. You may give order to flanks or the center of the field, and to different kinds of units (light/medium/heavy infantry or medium/heavy cavalry). Depending on your cards, your advances or charges will be more witty or powerful. That's up to the cards you get and how you play them!

Romans advance and Carthaginians try to repel their attack
The battle itself also follows the same procedure, you roll the dice (determined by the type of unit) and that determines the kind of unit you can harm. Green is for light units, blue for medium, red for heavy units and purple for commanders:

Carthaginian infantry throw javelins and kill a Roman light cavalry unit (the green die)
Romans gave a general advance command to their army:

Impressive, yikes!
Carthaginians counter attack on the other flank
And they inflict some casualties
But the elephants got disbanded!
Elephants are tricky. They are incredibly powerful weapons, but you have to be careful, as they may get real scared! If that's the case, you better don't have too many allied units with them, as they may get stomped in the stampede!! Ouch!

Romans put some pressure on the flank...
...and they break the line!
General overview

Carthaginians try to take the initiative back...
...and force General Publius Aelius to fall back to other position
 As it tends to happen in these games, the cards you get mean almost everything. The rest is how you play them! If you happen to get a fair number of units to the enemy's flank, you got the initiative for the battle and will force your opponent to fight desperately to retaliate and focu in repelling you rather than being busy leading a charge to your own positions!

Romans made a forceful advance while Carthaginians just struggled to hold the line
Here it comes a tasty fight...
Romans got disbanded this time!
You'll see what I told about cards. Some of them are just as epic as devastating! Romans got this one:

You know, we'll fight in the shade, blah blah.
F*&%ing nonsense, they massacred my elephants
And then f*&%ing Scipio moved all his people onwards
Somehow the Romans managed to make the elephants fall back... smashing some of other poor fellas in the stampede until they died too. This was the appaling result:

Ouch!
Battle looked pretty much decided, but we decided to keep on fighting anyway, just for the show :D

Carthaginians focused on recovering the centre of the field
We could say they focused hard on keeping at least their deployement zone. Part of it
So all the fight was about the very extinction of the Carthaginian army
Epic moment! Hannibal faces Scipio!
You see, two out of my four cards are 'order three units right'. Yeah, move three units from my right flank.The one without units.
 At some point we simply had to stop. The Roman victory was more than incontestable. Nothing else to say, nothing but Carthago delenda est!

The casualties. I foresee quite fat vultures in the area...
That was it, a very simple game. Ten minutes top to deploy & learn the core rules, and then it's all about using your cards wisely. In this game the Romans had quite interesting cards and my mate clearly used them quite well. It was really dynamic and quick, a forth and back series of encounters that really added a lot of flavour to the greater battle. Once again, the kind of game I need for a nice evening with a couple of beers with friends. Not particularly difficult to replace the tokens with minis if that's what you are thinking (of course that's what I always think of when I see tokens!), as the units are quite distinctive and you only have to look for proper bases. Maybe one day...