Tuesday, August 27, 2013

70. Arrrrr, Matey!

I finished painting some pirates.  Yar, me.  These are from the Reaper boxed set "Pirates of the Dragonspine Sea."  My box is cardboard, not the plastic one shown on the link, I've had it that long.

These did not really inspire me at all.  I started them right before I received my Bones miniatures, thinking I could knock them out quick-like.  But I stagnated with their uninspired poses and lackluster execution.  It was all I could do to force myself to finish them, but I cannot stand unfinished minis even worse!

I have no plans to use them in any game, although a couple of them could possibly double as fantasy swordsmen/women.  I do have some pirate-game rules, but have never played them.  What's more, I have no intention to.

I added into the mix "Maria Roseblade" from Reaper, since she's a pirate too, and I paint better in large batches.  *She* is an excellent sculpt, and has much fine detail:  fine the in sense of very detailed details, and fine in the sense of she's just a beautiful model.

The funny thing is Sandra Garrity sculpted both Maria Roseblade as well as all of the boxed pirates, including the girl with two swords.  The dates on the back of the metal base of the two-sword girl is 2000, and Maria Roseblade's date is 2002.  So, they were sculpted two years apart; I think you can really tell both the improvement in Ms. Garrity's abilities as well as the casting process Reaper uses.  What's more, in 2000 I wouldn't have thought Ms. Garrity could improve, because she was already just that good.  She is one of the best sculptors in the industry, in my opinion, and I have many, many, many of her miniatures (both painted and unpainted).  The only thing I can think of is that this was just another job for her that day; crank 'em out and get paid.

Anyway, on to the pictures.  Click them and they will enlarge quite a bit.
Left:  #03131 Eric Swiftblade, Swashbuckler; Right:  #03130 Isabella Florentina
I wasn't originally certain whether the one on the left was a guy or a girl.  I finally decided it was a dude, and gave him a three-days' growth of beard.  The girl on the right is a horrible pose; I mean, who stands like that?
A rear view.  Seriously, Ms. Garrity, what were you thinking?
Left:  #03152, Peg Leg Pete, Pirate Cook; Right:  #03144, Captain Wilmont Silver.
If he's a cook, why does he have the treasure map?  And you've heard of Zorro, the Gay Blade?  Meet, Wilmont, the Gay Pirate!
I told you I was uninspired by these.  How else can I explain a yellowy-orangey pirate cloak with matching hair?  I was really just trying to see how bright I could get it.
Left:  #03164, Captain Hook; Right:  #03176, Blackbeard, Pirate.
How many Captains are running around in this crew anyway?  I am just terribly unhappy with the colors of Hook, but oh well.  Blackbeard is one of the better figures in the box, but by the time I got to him I was tired of painting the same coat colors; I could hardly think of new combinations.  Un-in-spiring.
Blackbeard I could probably find a use for.  Not a bad generic looking model; maybe for a leader-type.
Left:  #02645, Maria Roseblade (not included in the box set); Right:  #P10011G, Pirates Monkey Treasure.
The treasure pile is pretty cool, and it's solid metal so it's hefty.  And how can you not like a monkey holding the skeleton key; very characterful.  The treasure monkey was sculpted by Bob Olley.  Maria Roseblade is my favorite.  Did I mention that already?  I think I might have.
A rear view.  It really is a monkey because it has a tail....
Maria is such a nice miniature she gets her own solo picture.  I wanted to do her justice with a nice paint job (as much as I am able) so I worked on her color scheme and details the longest.  (In other words, I actually cared how she turned out, as compared to my feelings for the others.)
Here is an example of what I mean by "fine detail":  look at the backs of her leggings, and her belt.  Lots of hooks, loops and buckles.  Absolutely beautiful.
 Thanks for reading and looking at my pictures!  Until next time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

69. Game Comparison

Recently I was able to play two games solo (which is pretty funny when you consider how my last post began...).  I've had a long-time attraction to the "Song of..." series of games from Ganesha Games.  Yet every time I play one I come away frustrated, and yet I keep going back.

I recently bought "Song of Blades and Heroes," and it's 3 supplements as PDFs during a sale on Wargamevault.com.  I played a very simple 5-figures per side, Robin Hood-like guys vs Sheriff's Men-like guys, with no special rules other than what was built-in to the base figures:  Leader, Shooter (long), etc.

"SoBaH" recommends for 28mm figures a playing surface of 3'x3'.  I set up a 4'x4' table (that's the width of the grass cloth I use) and set the initial points at least six inches in from either edge, so the effective result was a 3'x3' area.  I had the Woodsmen enter from the left and split up into two groups, and the Soldiers enter from the right and similarly split into two groups.  The goal was to occupy the house in the center of the table, and drive the enemy off.

But, because I get bored with plain-Jane straight-up-the-middle battles, I decided to mix things up a little.  About the time I made contact in the center, I had an Ogre enter the table right in the middle, and then had the two former enemy sides join forces to defeat it.  (A fantasy Ogre, not the other kind.  :-)   )

After I played, I then set up the game again in the exact same configuration and played it using Two Hour Wargames' rules, mostly "Warrior Heroes:  Legends" but which I have heavily house-ruled to my personal use and satisfaction (sort of a conglomeration of all 2HW's skirmish rulesets plus some personal tweaks; a sort of Universal 2HW ruleset).  I attempted to have the figures in the same places in the same way as during the first game, then had the Ogre enter at the "same time," and had the two sides join against it again.  The outcome was the same, but it took a very different route getting there.

The two games played very differently.  One of the biggest differences is the range of shooting weapons:  bows and crossbows.  SoBaH abstracts all weapons a great deal more than 2HW does, and the ranges are much shorter (which makes sense if you're playing on 3'x3'; and to be fair 2HW also recommends 3'x3' for a playing area, which I personally think is too small).  In 2HW on a 3'x3' table, the enemy is within range of most weapons after one move; not so in SoBaH.  Also, the Group activation of 2HW compared to the individual activation of SoBaH makes for a different feel, and a much faster game.

Come to think of it, that might be the biggest difference between the two:  the speed of play and how fast things happen.  In SoBaH your movement distance is very short compared to the table size and you can only move one figure at a time.  (NOTE, there are optional rules for moving groups of figures, but I didn't use them, as I was just trying to get a feel for the basic rules; so my final assessment may be colored by that fact.)  In 2HW you can move groups of figures, or single figures, and the distances are greater, so you close into combat more quickly.

Also in SoBaH, depending on how many dice you "spend" to activate a figure you may be able to move and shoot/fight, or only move, or only shoot/fight.  Your opponent gets to react to being attacked in a very basic way, in that he gets to roll when you attack; the deciding factor in determining if the attack is successful or not is the comparison between the two rolls.  In 2HW, every figure can move and shoot/attack every time it is Active, but when it does so it triggers 2HW's claim to fame, the Reaction System.  This means that the opponent figure gets to do something every time, too, ranging from attacking back, to ducking out of sight.

SoBaH ends up playing much more like a traditional IGOUGO style game, as compared to the interactive, back-and-forth feel of 2HW.

Below are some pictures of the games in progress, with pertinent commentary to help understand the tactical situation (that just means, I'll be talking about what you see).  My final thoughts are at the end of this post.

This is SoBaH after two turns.  SoBaH has a provision that if there are no enemies closer than two "long" measures away you can make one normal move without rolling.  So essentially I could have just started here instead.  Originally, each group began in the trees on the sides.  What's more, the turn sequence was the Woodsmen first, then Soldiers second; then back and forth.
The Woodsmen moved into position, and then the Soldiers moved as you see here.  They successfully occupied the house.  I was particularly interested in seeing how melee-armed figures versus bow-armed figures would play out.
The Woodsmen knocked one soldier down but he got up and advanced to the road.  The leader of the Soldiers attacked "Robin" and knocked him down.  And then....
Here comes da Ogre.
I have 22 pictures of this combat.  One for each turn, or when something significant happened.  Mostly the humans piled on, attacking individually, and either knocking down or pushing back the Ogre.  Even with the bonuses of more than one attacker, they couldn't roll dice well enough to put the creature down permanently.
Until, at last, when I began to despair that the game would ever end, and un-named Soldier completed the killing blow.  I'm not sure how many turns it took but it took a long time.
After this, I had no desire to continue the game of Woodsmen vs Soldiers.  Instead I set up the 2HW version, in exactly the same starting positions.  I attempted to get them to the same places as in the SoBaH game for when the Ogre arrived, but as you will see it didn't work out quite the same way.
Here we see the 2HW game several turns in.  "Robin" and the crossbowman both need to reload, as each as fired at the other.  In SoBaH I don't think either side was even in range yet.
So, one of the Soldiers attempted to run, triggering an In Sight test...
...in which one of the Woodsmen successfully targeted him, hit him and sent him Out of the Fight.  (I later learned -- in Q&A with Ed at 2HW -- that I had skipped the Soldier's 'Duck Back' opportunity, denying him the chance to escape, but I played it how it felt right at the time.  C'est la vie, or in this case, C'est la morte.)  This caused his partner to Duck Back out of sight.  This then caused the figures to be out of position with regards to the Ogre entering.
Cue the Ogre.  More of the Woodsmen had Ducked Back earlier.  Charging across open ground is a good way to get dead in 2HW games.  I was afraid if I tried to duplicate the positions any further I wouldn't have anyone left to fight the Ogre.  So 'ere 'e comes!
Coincidentally enough, the Ogre was the only one to Activate.  The green die is for the Woodsmen, the red for the Soldiers and the Black for the Ogre.  Both Leaders were Rep 5, the men were Rep 4, and the Ogre was Rep 5.  Purest chance to roll it that way on the turn he arrived.  Bad luck for the humans...or so I thought.
The Ogre advanced to within charge range of the Ducked-Back archers (Ducked-Back from the sight of the Soldiers, not of the Ogre).  The 'sixes' showing were for their In Sight results at the Ogre appearing, meaning they rolled no successes at all (my own way of showing that).  The Ogre declares his charge into melee.  This is going to be brutal, I thought.  The Soldiers are too far away to help, and these are mere Woodsmen.
Cool action shot.  "Raaarrrggghhh!"
This is after the Charge into Melee table has been rolled on.  One archer has scored 2 successes more than the Ogre, the other only 1 success more.  So they get to fire their arrows at the Ogre (luckily they were not unloaded).  What could possibly go wrong?
Huh.  How about that.  The poor mean Ogre never even made it into combat before being taking Out of the Fight.  Well, that was quick.  Even though he had the Hard as Nails attribute, it apparently doesn't apply to OoF results, only OD results, so OoF he stayed.  I decided to finish playing out the scenario to see which side would win.
Here's an overview of the carnage.  Lots of red OoF markers, and grey OD markers.
A close-up of the main battle area.  I won't go into the details, but "Robin" is Obviously Dead, as is the "Sheriff" and all but one each of their men.  The Reaction System makes it much more difficult to take chronological pictures, because so much happen in one turn; you'd almost need a picture of each Reaction, and this blog posting is far too long already.  It's ironic because the game plays much faster, but the reporting of it is much slower.

Please don't let this one single blog, by a poor, pathetic solo gamer such as myself, deter you from buying and playing Ganesha Games' products.  They are worth the price of admission if for no reason other than the fantastic artwork which graces their pages, most (if not all) of which is drawn by the primary author at GG himself, Andrea Sfiligoi.  Even 2HW rules use some of his artwork.  Plus the writing style is much more in line with modern, well-written rulesets:  clear and easily understood.  This is all the more surprising when you consider that English is not the author's primary language!

And yet, when I play them, they just play so haltingly, so slooowly.  I keep coming back, thinking I must surely be doing something wrong.

I also own numerous rules from 2HW, and have finally nearly almost got my head wrapped around the Reaction System.  Maybe.  It's a love-hate relationship:  I love the way the game plays, but I hate trying to figure it out!

One of my biggest complaints about 2HW rules is that there is no single ruleset you can use to play all of their games (the free "Chain Reaction:  Final Version" is simply the core engine, not a universal set).  Each genre has it's own tweaks to the core rules, sometimes with many and multiple additions and quirks, so that while you might be familiar with one set of rules, when you go to play another you almost have to relearn the whole thing.  The newer sets are not as drastically different as the older sets, compared to each other, but even so there are many subtle changes between "All Things Zombie:  Final Fade Out" and "5150:  New Beginnings."  

That, and the writing style that sometimes leaves much to be desired when it comes to understanding what the rules entail.  I love Ed like an Internet brother, he is fantastic at customer service and delivers a really good product (PDFs are included in the print-version price, how cool is that?).  But sometimes I wish he would let a disinterested third party write his rules for clarity's sake.

So I've house-ruled all the various 2HW sets I own (which is not all of them by any means, and mostly skirmish-oriented ones at that) into my own version of a Universal Reaction System.  It's purely for me and solo play, so that I can jump from fantasy skirmish to dinosaur hunting to sci-fi squad battles, or a mix of the three.  That way I can play without taking too long figuring out the rules.  At least, that is my hope and my goal.  I find that I keep stumbling on situations that I can't easily resolve without a disinterested third party.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

68. Bits and Bobs

Hello, again.  I won't bore you with my usual excuses of how Real Life (©®TM) has totally, completely and very effectively interfered with my gaming and painting life.  It's the same thing as ever:  summer is very busy where I work (and I am very grateful to be working), family events are fast and furiously close together, and there just aren't enough hours in the day.

So with the whining over, I'll move on, shall I?

I don't have much to report.  I've had some Reaper Miniature pirates on my painting table for far too long already that I have not yet finished, and 200+ new Reaper Bones Kickstarter miniatures waiting their turn, plus all the rest from my lead mountain.  They ain't a-gonna paint themselves, you know!

The Reaper pirates are the boxed set "Pirates of the Dragonspine Sea" (although my box is cardboard and not the plastic seen in the link, I've had it that long).  Something about them is both good and boring.  I can't seem to muster the painting courage to finish them off, and yet I really want to be done with them.  Ah well, pictures when I'm finished.

In addition to the Dragonspine Sea pirates I added Maria Roseblade from Reaper.  Her, I really like and want to paint well.  But I'm so tired of the rest of them I might end up simply finishing her without taking the proper time to do her justice (as well as I can).  She is a beautiful sculpt with a lot of fine detail ("fine" in both senses of the word).

* * * * *

I managed to play one game with my friend Tom.  We gamed the Battle of Rorke's Drift from the 1879 Zulu War.  This was a re-game of the same game we normally play when he comes into town to visit, using our hodge-podge rules mostly cobbled together from the generic rules that came with the miniatures when I bought them!  You may recall that I requested a referee's call on the outcome of our last game (here and here), where it was generally decided that the British had squeaked a win.

Well, in this case, we feel that the Zulu squeaked the win, as you can see in the picture below.
Rorke's Drift, a disaster for the British.
Generally speaking, the rules provide a pretty good but random game.  A few poor dice rolls on either side and you're playing catch-up!  Yet it's pretty well equally distributed in terms of randomness, so it all evens out in the wash.  It's fun for those once- or twice-a-year visits.
* * * * *

Here are some pics of my Reaper Kickstarter being opened and spread out on my table.  All the other kids out there have been posting when they received their Bones, so I thought I would too.  I actually went and got mine, living as I do roughly 30 miles from Reaper HQ.  I did have to wait on one extra I ordered, but everything else was ready (and it has since arrived:  the Clockwork Dragon).  I traded in my Sophie for a figure case, and then added three more.  The price was too good to pass up!
This is what my Kickstarter looked like when I got it home.
This is when I opened the box.  Yes, everything was bagged inside of bags.
Here are the bags as they came out of the box, plus some extras I bought for my son (rather, he bought, through me [...er, that is, I think he paid me for them]).
The bags were numbered 1 through 6.
This is what 200+ Bones look like when spread out on my table, in roughly the order they were shown on the Reaper Kickstarter webpage.  Yes, I am the kind of guy who checks every single one.  Hey, I'm sick, I need help.
These are the only two I found that differed at all from what was "advertised."  These two were originally sketches, and I don't really think the final miniature looks like the art; whereas with all of the other sketches they look almost exactly the same.  I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing it out.
This is a size-comparison shot.  On the left, a Bones.  On the right, a D&D pre-paint.
Overall, color me HAPPY with my Bones.

* * * * *

I've also been reading and LOVING learning about the new wave of Old School Renaissance gaming burgeoning on the internet regarding Original Dungeons & Dragons (Oe, 1e, Bx).  I would list all the websites I've visited over the last six months or so, but it's certainly in the double digits and would be incomplete; far too many to remember but I'll do my best with the best ones.

First, go here:  Solonexus.  This place is a solo-gamer's best friend.

That led me here:  a Mythic/Free Universal RPG write-up on rpg.net.  A lot of fun, and it began to open my eyes with what can be done PLAYING RPGs SOLO.  Did you get what I just said?  PLAYING RPGs SOLO.   What?  How?  Who?  Huh?   I had no idea.  I never, ever would have thought you could put the two together.

Now, I had seen Mythic used as an aid to solo-playing a Colonial wargame, and while I own the Game Master Emulator rules, I have to admit their application baffled me.

Eventually I ended up at Tabletop Diversions and his Ever-Expanding Dungeon.  This fellow is a true genius of solo-gaming; there's no two ways about it.  Go.  Read his epic fun.  I have been inspired.

During the course of all this searching and reading, I discovered that there are many, many new D&D re-writes (or "clones" in the vernacular) out there, and have been for several years.

I direct you here, the OSR Resource Center blog to start, as it's an excellent, well, resource.  Many of these OSR games are free, too, and can be found on RPGNOW.com (also known as DriveThruRPG.com, one and the same).  What's more, many of the Original D&D titles are available as PDFs on dndclassics.com (which itself is part of the afore-mentioned sites).

There are so many variations!  Just go to the OSR Resource Center and look at the Rules/Systems tab.  I ended up buying several different sets, just to support the companies, but all the same many of them are totally free with no guilt.  Did you know you can buy the "Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game" on Amazon for $4.62, printed with a color cover?  I mean, how can you beat that?  Granted, some of the other games are not that inexpensive (I'm looking at you, "Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG") but they are still worth a look.

There are interesting differences between them, which I might post if I ever have time.

It's been really fun.  The Internet has been a stand-in for me for actual play:  I substitute my own gaming for reading about everyone else's gaming.  Through the great blogs out there, I live vicariously!  Long live the Inter-web-tubes-net!

Thanks for reading!