Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Another New Army - Easy Company!

Well, I cracked and ended up ordering a couple blister packs of US paratroopers from Battlefront.  Looking at the Parachute Rifle Company list from Nuts, you can build a reasonable 1200 point Flames of War force with about five blister packs, so I figured "what the hell" and, as I'm on holiday for a week, I'd get straight to work.

So while I was doing the prep work on the first platoon, this turned up from the postman:

Nice, a week earlier than expected.  I suggest you have a look at the Flames of War page for an idea what's in the pack.  As I plan to use a Toccoa Sergeant in each platoon, I cracked open the pack and picked out my favourite guy from Band of Brothers, Denver "Bull" Randleman, ably portrayed by Michael Cudlitz.  How good a sculptor do you need to be to get a likeness in 15mm?

I decided to try and save a bit of time by basing all the figures before priming them.  Normally I like to glue them to wooden sticks in order to paint figures individually and then carefully base them afterwards.  It's a fairly laborious process, but it appeals to the obsessive-compulsive in me to get each figure painted properly.  However, with only four figures per base, that shouldn't be as much of an issue.  And, to be honest, I could do with worrying less about painting each individual detail, than actually finishing units.

Using the snow basing tutorial in the Nuts book should also shave off valuable hours texturing and flocking all the bases, so I'm anticipating fairly rapid progress (at least, rapid for me...)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Death Angel Expansions and Relationship Advise

So I had to spend a bit of time today in town after work, shopping for the Mrs birthday present.  Didn't find much, so I'm stuck tonight on t'internet trawling through websites, credit card at the ready!

And a quick aside for some relationship advice.  NEVER get yourself a reputation for giving good presents.  Not only will you have to do all the shopping for her relatives as well as yours, having that rep each year piles pressure on you to keep up your run.  Not sure what's wrong this year, but I just can't find what I'm looking for this year.  If anyone knows where I could get one of those big DNA/Molecule models (as seen on the Big Bang Theory) in the UK with 24 hour delivery, let me know.

On the way home I nipped in past the local comic-book-with-small-gaming-section store for a browse.  I don't spend too much cash there because, as I've mentioned in the past, it isn't that friendly a place.  Still, it's the only place we have in town and I like to support them when I can.

Today, I spied a bit of a bargain, two expansions for the Space Hulk: Death Angel card game.  For those unfamiliar with the game (you can read my review here) it is a card game recreation of the classic Games Workshop, Space Hulk.  It's a very tight, very taxing co-op card game that I find very rewarding to play.  How taxing?  I've probably beaten the game only on a handful of occasions, despite playing it at least fifty times!

The first two expansion packs released were in Fantasy Flight's Print-On-Demand range.  Essentially they were a small number of cards that complemented the base game (one was extra characters, the other new mission cards) without changing any fundamentals.  The following two expansions, those I bought today, are still Print-On-Demand, but are much larger and change how the game is played.

The Tyranid Enemy Pack adds a variety of enemies, replacing the original Genestealers, to the game.  As a fan of the Tyranid background material, I'm really happy with the range of cards and in particular the artwork on them.  Some of the enemy abilities are pretty mean however.  The Deathwing Space Marine Pack replaces the original twelve Blood Angel Terminators with Terminators from the Dark Angels chapter.  On offer are a whole new range of abilities, some look immense although I can't see the point of one particular ability.

I've wanted these for a while, but never got round to ordering them (actually I did, from Maelstrom....)  The clincher for buying them today was the fact that the store had gotten the price wrong on these two packs; they had them for £4.99 each, while the RRP if £11.99 each!  Sweeet!  Can't resist a bargain.  I managed a couple quick games this evening with the Deathwing, but I want another couple games before posting my thoughts.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Liebster Award

Now this is the kind of post that you'll either read or completely ignore.  Scipio over at Palladian Guard was kind enough to put Too Much Free Time as one of his five recommended blogs for a Liebster Blog award.  Now these kind of viral posts crop up on the blogosphere every now and then, sometimes not even as obvious viral posts (here or here) and if you keep in mind that they're just a bit of fun, no one needs to get too stressed about them appearing everywhere the last couple days (unlike this guy.)

The rules that turn up in all these posts are as follows:

  • Copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it you.
  • Pass the award to your top 5 favorite blogs with less than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of there posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog.
  • Sit back and bask in the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you have made someone's day!
  • There is no obligation to pass this onto someone else but its nice if you take the time to do so.

So, without further ado, I'll get onto my five picks.  Although, to be fair, I don't think I follow any bad blogs, so anything on the blog list on the right should give an entertaining read.

Martin over at Fire Broadside.  Lots of sci-fi and whatnot, a nice mixed bag of content regularly updated.

Hendybadger at Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher.  Again a sci-fi/pulp site I've been following for a fair while (back to the PP days.)

Too Much Lead by AKI (I think.)  The first individual i.e. not corporate blog I properly read, he has a great range of historical armies and posts some great battle reports.

Ben, Coops and DrCox who write Breakthrough Assault.  A great mainly Flames of War blog that is not at all like the many fanboy sites out there.  Also, Ben was suckered into the Normandy terrain deal too...

Lastly, and not just because he nominated me, Scipio of the Palladian Guard.  WW2 and 40K mainly, and you have to admire the commitment to background material (fluff to you 40Kers out there.)

Thanks Scipio, glad to know there are some out there reading my ramblings.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

More Shieldwall WIP

More progress on my first Shieldwall base today.  Managed to get the main colours on and apply some shading.  They're not yet looking quiet how I imagined them, but hopefully they'll even out as the rest of the figures come together.  I'm trying to picture them with their shields on and decide what to do with them, either a bold primary colour or, maybe, a decal or two. Apologies again for the poor pictures, lighting in our room isn't exactly the greatest for taking pics.

I also tagged along to our rematch Saxons and Romano British Dux Bellorum rematch.  Four of use playing with the same sides as last week.  The game went better for the Saxons this week, sneaking a solid win thanks to Ian's phenomenally fluky dice taking out the British warlord.  A win at last!!!

Not a tree or hill in sight.  Or a rulebook for that matter

Considering there were four experienced gamers playing, we managed to collectively turn up without either a rulebook or any terrain whatsoever!  So our battle was fought on the famous sandy plains of, errr, England and between the four of us, we cobbled together a rough summary of the rules.  Still, very enjoyable and we still found time for a pint and discussed what changes to the rules we'd like to make.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Romano-British Shieldwall WIP

Surprisingly for a Monday off, I found plenty of time to get some modelling and painting in. My West Wind Romano-Brits arrived on Saturday and I've managed to prep most of them. The first six have been undercoated, while there are another twelve waiting to get sprayed. Unusually for me, I've done a couple wee conversions with the help of GW's Liquid Green Stuff, a handy little tub.

I've only previously used West Wind's Secrets of the Third Reich range, which suffered from some rather poor quality control.  These guys are to a much higher standard; lots of nice crisp sculpting and a decent range of poses; the only issues I've had are with the shield hands, but as these will be obscured by the shield itself, I'm not to bothered about this. Separate spears are needed, so that bring these up to a reasonable £1 a figure with 20 figures in a pack.

So far I've painted the hands and faces, always the first job on a mini as I hate doing it.  I've also given the chainmail a series of drybrushes with some metallic paints, something I've not used in quite a while.  Next step is to get some proper colour on there, I'm thinking a mix of yellows and greens, and then the detail work.

Any historical project comes with the familiar headache of what basing system to use.  I'm not a fan of individual bases these days, so I've opted for 60x40mm bases with six figures.  If things go according to plan, I'd like to get some games in with both Dux rulesets, so some adjustments may be needed for Dux Britannarium.  We'll see what happens when the painting is finished, I may change my mind before then.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Battlefront Dunkirk House

Hot on the heels of my Bastogne Church post comes the latest of Battlefront's Normandy range, The Dunkirk house.  Much earlier than expected as it's not in the stores for at least another week.

This is the fourth house in the range and the first since the pause in the releases due, apparently, to the massive uptake of subscription offers.  It was probably a bit of an extravagance getting the sub deal, considering they've only been used on the table once, but I'm really happy with the quality of releases.

I'd say the Dunkirk house is the best quality of the four releases so far, there aren't any dubious colours there and the painting is both neat and effective.  Although, don't take this as a guarantee of universal quality, there are some notable bloggers who have had a fair few issues with the range.  Oddly, the house I've been sent isn't the same as that on the FoW homepage even though it is correct name.  I assume it's a typo on the site rather than the wrong product

At some point in the near future, I plan to spend a day or two pimping the houses out a bit. I've some ideas for ivy on the walls or window boxes etc, along with evening out the paint jobs on a couple houses.

Needless to say, I'll have to get a proper Flames of War game in with these.  My new Fallschirmjager is slowly goosestepping towards completion (man, German camo takes an age to paint,) but I'm quite tempted by a US force.  I would have thought that with the Band of Brothers/Nuts book that at least someone around here would have done the Easy Company army, no one has so far, so I might have to take up the challenge.  Although. . . that would be five new projects in the space of three months.  We'll see what Santa brings!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Battlefront Bastogne Church - Tiny Nerdgasm!

Although it's apparently been there for a few weeks, I've just seen that Battlefront have their Bastogne Church up in their online store.  It's been heavily featured in the last couple Wargames Illustrated issues and, presumably, in Nuts as well.

Got to say that it looks absolutely lush.  Price is a little on the high side, but I have the same thoughts on this as I do on their house deal; namely that I wouldn't buy it bare and paint it myself, but am happy to pay a little extra to get it pre-painted (even if it needs a little work out of the box.)  Who am I kidding, I'm certainly going to buy this.

Flames of War has taken a little bit of a back set lately, too much "new shiny!" syndrome around here, but FoW is a slow burner, I always drift back to it.  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dux Bellorum - A Saxon Day Out

Back to the club this week, originally for a bit of a blether (there's a new project brewing,) but I was pleasantly surprised with the offer of a game of Dux Bellorum.  I've had the rules for a few months, but haven't gotten around to getting a game in.  After reading the similarly titled Dux Britannarium, I ordered some Romano-British figures from West Wind; not with any real agenda or plan, but after this weeks battle I think I've finally caught the Dark Age bug!

The battle saw a Romano-British force confronting an invading Saxon army.  Our umpire, Hugh, set up a fairly neutral table with a couple hills in the centre and some woods and a village to one side.  The Saxons, commanded by Ian (ably assisted by yours truly,) consisted of one huge line of warriors backed up by their Noble and his mounted companions.  The centre of the line held the best quality troops while the flanks consisted of the ordinary warriors.

Opposing them, to our left, was the Brit shieldwall and some foot and mounted skirmishers controlled by Sholto.  The shieldwall was less numerous than the Saxon line and this was due to the Adam's cavalry to our right; the Brit Nobles and two units of ordinary cavalry. Hmmmm.

The first couple turns saw, unsurprisingly, a general advance.  Movement in Dux Bellorum is handled by a simple command test on each unit's bravery stat, pass and you move, fail you don't.  Interestingly, if you group your units together, as both sides did, you use the highest bravery stat in there, representing the veterans (or lunatics) goading their companions on.

The Saxon cavalry crunch satisfyingly into the British skirmishers. 

Combat was initiated by the Saxon cavalry charging into the skirmishers on our right.  This caused a fair old amount of discussion as it involved a charge right across the front of the Brit cavalry, who were unable to block or countercharge them.  It certainly didn't look quite right, but no one was able to point out what was wrong.  Nevertheless, the British Nobles moved in to join the ensuing (lengthy) combat.

On the hill in the middle, the British cavalry moved surprisingly quickly to the crest, discouraging my warriors from charging them.  Attacking uphill is suitably difficult in DuxBel and the Warrior troop type has to test not to charge.  On our left, the big Saxon line steadily ploughed forward towards the opposing shieldwall.

So we arrived at the first combat of the game, the Saxon cavalry against some skirmishers and the British cavalry.  The combat mechanism in DuxBel is really quick and straightforward; both sides attack simultaneously  trying to match the enemies protection value.  That's it, no to-hit, to-wound, saves, cover etc!

What adds depth to combat is the leadership points.  Essentially, each force has a limited number of points to allocate out to units each turn, each leadership point can then be spent in a number of ways, moving before your opponent, rolling extra attack dice or ignoring hits in combat being three examples.  In our first combat, the Saxons wiped out the skirmishers, but took a hit in return from the cavalry.

The two armies, just before the crash of shields and spears!

Over the next couple turns, the two lines of infantry finally made contact.  The differences between the two types of infantry, Shieldwall and Warriors, became very apparent here.  The shieldwall don't really pack much of a punch in combat, but are extremely difficult to wear down.  Warriors, on the other hand, have much more offensive potential, but are a bit easier to damage.  Consequently, we saw the Saxon warriors inflicting gradual damage on the shieldwall, but being themselves were regularly pushed back suffering similar damage.  After each move backwards, the Saxons would then automatically charge back into combat.  This felt really appropriate to Dark Age combat, warriors repeatedly charging a solid wall or spears and shields!

Everyone around the table thought that the shieldwall would buckle, but they kept hanging on, a couple units down to a single cohesion point (think wounds or stamina, no cohesion, unit disappears.)  Still, the Saxons were suffering almost as much damage, to the point that both commanders were using their Leadership Points defensively to ensure their units didn't collapse.  Much the same was happening in the ongoing cavalry battle, both units essentially matched each other's damage point for point, down to two apiece at the end of the game.

The Saxons fail to control themselves and charge uphill at the British cavalry.  Because, yeah, that's a good idea!

In the centre, the Saxons, almost inevitably, failed to control themselves and charged the cavalry facing them.  Although they didn't do too badly initially, they were gradually pushed back until both units were on the brink of collapse.

The main battleline, who's going to crack first?

However, the collapse first struck somewhere else, namely the main Saxon battleline.  One turn there were five units there, the next there were two!  It's easy to imagine a powerful Saxon warrior suddenly falling, shattering the morale of the whole line and sending the remnants running from the field.  At this point, down to half it's starting number of units, the surviving Saxon units had to individually pass morale checks.  Although everyone stuck around the first turn, everyone except the Saxon Cavalry disappeared the next turn.  The Saxon Warlord surely cursing his luck and pledging to avenge himself on the cowardly British!

Despite the defeat (I think I'm on a five game losing run at the club) I had a blast trying a new ruleset.  Dux Bellorum certainly has the core of a great game with a lot of mechanics I enjoy (test to move/manoeuvre, straightforward combat mechanism with lots of choices.)  It even felt like a Dark Age combat, lots of noise and action, the melees getting more and more tense until the point when one army snaps!  Even the hooky charge movements seem easy enough to houserule and correct.  Rumour has it there's a rematch next week, so we'll see if I can't wangle my way onto the winning team.

So finally a thanks to Hugh, Ian, Sholto and Adam for a great evenings gaming. For now, fugite in malam crucem!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Halo 4 - Two Minute Review

This weeks free time has been dominated, of course, by Halo 4.  Unfortunately, our landline broadband hasn't been installed yet, so I haven't been able to devote hours to the online game.  As a result, I've probably spent longer on the campaign section.

After a couple uninspiring efforts (neither ODST or Reach were really authentic Halo games,) Halo 4 sees the return of Master Chief to centre stage, up against both the Covenant and the newly revealed Forerunner forces.  343 have managed to provide a proper Halo experience - the game feels like a Halo game.  The level design, enemies and weapons are all have that authentic and the difficulty is scaled almost perfectly.

Sadly, the plot and pacing of the game are well below what was expected.  The campaign starts off well enough, with a number of engaging set pieces and cut scenes.  The big reveal a third of the way through is well handled and the framework is there for a great experience. Instead, the game trails off to a rather numb conclusion.  No grand set piece, no panic, oddly, there isn't even much of a challenge.

Now I understand that the story in Halo 4 is revolves around the relationship and 
dependency between the Chief and Cortana, the conflict simply being the setting, but the sheer sense of anticlimax Halo 4 leaves you with is overwhelming.  Think back five years ago to the first time you finished Halo 3; the soundtrack, the effects, the drama, the immense Warthog drive across the collapsing landscape.  Halo 4 gives you the exact opposite experience.  In a generic sci-fi shooter, I would have said the story was average.  In a Halo game, extremely disappointing.

And another thing.  The Warthog noise is all kinds of wrong.  Reminds me of my first car - and that's not a good thing!

Still, the campaign is only part of the game.  I've heard the online modes are classic Halo action, so I'm looking forward to that.  In the interim, I may go back to the Halo 3 campaign for a more satisfying single player experience.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

BenchVent Competition.

A quick post to highlight BenchVent's competition for a fume booth.  All you've to do is get them a pic of your painting area.  Check out their website.

It also gives me an excellent excuse to post this picture:

Although it's been tidied a bit since then.

Monday, 5 November 2012

RIP Maelstrom Games? Thanks for a final bargain though!

Many of you gamers in the UK will have been watching the saga of Maelstrom Games' very slow and painful death.  Over the last few months, a steady stream of rumours and some rather odd decisions crept out of Mansfield; notably their website wasn't getting updated, the vast majority of items were out of stock, the Bane-whatever range was transferred to another company, a suspiciously similair website cropped up, as well as announcements from Wyrd and North Star about the debts Maelstrom held them.

There were also a series of heavy discounts on their remaining items, culminating in last weeks 50-70% sale on everything they had left in stock.  Now that their website "is currently offline due to maintenance" it appears the saga is over.

I've used Maelstrom for the last 3-4 years almost exclusively for my nerd purchases, so I'm sorry  to see them go if they do.  They always seemed to have lots of events on and run plenty tournaments.  However, my view is probably coloured by the fact that I never had any order or service problems with them, quite the opposite.  I know plenty of other gamers who have had far different experiences from me.

I did put in a tiny order for a couple items they had left in stock; a set of their generic (Everblight) spray templates for Hordes and Warmachine, their generic double smoke templates for Flames of War and a set of SS Artillery crew again for Flames of War.  All items I want to and will use, but the total coming to less than a tenner, so no biggie if Maelstrom shut up shop before they arrived.  So a pleasant surprise this morning to see that all three items were dispatched; not only that, but the order was doubled, with a duplicate of each in the box.  Nice.

As a quick aside, I feel the need to highlight that over the last few years, our industry seems to have coped remarkably well (with obvious exceptions,) even to the point that we've seen plenty new entrants and existing companies expanding their range.  I guess we just love our plastic crack!

So I guess my business is up for grabs (hint hint any online retailers reading this!)  Despite the fact I live in a city, the nearest non-GW wargame store is over seventy miles away, so I rely almost exclusively on t'internet for my shopping.  I've ordered from IGUK recently without any problems, but I for some reason I really hate paying for postage.  I guess Amazon and Maelstrom have accustomed me to getting it for free.

Btw, as the duplicate items I ordered are fairly redundant (you really only need one set of templates and the crew are for some loose guns I have lying around,) feel free to drop me an email if you want them.  Not looking for a profit, just the cost or an swap job if anyone fancies it.  If not, they'll get shoved up on eBay sometime.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Not another list - Are You A Proper Wargamer?

At the risk of spreading more viral nerd nonsense, I feel obliged to compare myself to Phil's "Are Your A Proper Wargamer?" list:

* Spent at least £500 on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent
Oh yeah, easy.  Gaming on and off for 20+ years.  I wonder how inflation affects my classic Chaos Dwarf army?
* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times
Yup, not just pikes.  Swords, bayonetted, alien claws, you name it.
* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again
Tried plenty of rule sets over the years, but only a handful I'd never play again (DBA stands out.  Can't stand it!)
Sold an army on EBay
Easy, just sold some WW2 Germans recently, probably retired a dozen or so armies over the years.
* Bought an army off EBay
Although, oddly, I'm a bit of a snob about buying other people's painted minis online.
* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once
Can't say I've fallen for this.  Yet.
* tried several different periods and genres
All over the place here.  Historical/Sci-fi/fantasy.  Tiny, tiny ships all the way up to 54mm skirmish.
* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height
Nope, far too careful for that!
* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice
Plenty of times.  Usually Flames of War or something similar and failing the company morale check.
* made at least one enemy for life
Proper enemy?  Nah, but quite a few regular opponents.
* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table
Obviously over 40K back in my teens, although, in my defence, I was right.
* thrown a dice across a room
In frustration or enthusiasm.  Either way, done both.
* rebased an army for a different rule set
Hmmmm, something I've never done.  Usually I just adjust the rules to fit the figures we use.* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent
Plenty, notably this years Dystopian Wars tourney. Been on the receiving end a few times too though.
* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision
Errr, a couple weeks ago.  Lost a game of X-Wing due to not being able to tell my left and right when my ships were facing me.
* joined a wargamers club
Joined the Aberdeen Wargames Club last year.  Played more games than I have done in years, even if there are a few grumpy goats there.
* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted
Psssshhh.  Not even answering that.
* been to a wargamers show
Went to my first one this year, Falkirk.  Highlight was the tiny Epic 40K tables.  Lowlight?  The gamer funk at the 7TV/Malifaux room.
* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them
How many dice is too much?  There are probably a few hundred dice in the house and definitely rolled most of them!
* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates
Nah, that's what t'internet is for, isn't it?

So that's only fourteen out of twenty?  I guess I'm not a proper wargamer then?  Still, I play more than just wargames, so the omissions here are surely forgiveable  Great list by Phil btw, make sure you check out the original post here.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Thank Dux that's finished OR Dux me, that was boring.

I've spent the last couple of days thoroughly miserable, stuck, as I was, on an interminable course for work.  Sixteen hours or touchey-feeley nonsense "Lets discuss what kind of things a motivated team will say to each other" lead by a completely awful trainer "I know I talk too much, but that's why we're all here, to TALK!"  News flash sweetheart!  If you're always told you talk too much, why not try holding your tongue once in a while you gobby tart.

The journey home was hampered still by missing our planned train, leaving me stuck in wet Glasgow for a further ninety minutes.  I took the chance to head to one of city's wargame shops (name not mentioned due to the staff being god awful) for a wander.  Arriving, I asked if they were still open, only to get a grunt and a "you've got three minutes mate" reply.  Feeling guilty about buying any more miniatures, I headed to the rulebook/RPG isle.

Ten minutes later (I decided to wander around until they asked me to go,) I bought up a copy of Dux Britannarium by Two Fat Lardies.  I've fancied doing some dark age gaming for a wee while, playing a few games of Saga and I enjoyed watching games of both Dux games at the club.  Although I got to flick through the book on the train home, but have yet to get to grips with the mechanics themselves. The campaign rules look excellent though.  I think I'll try and chum up an intro game at the club over the next couple weeks, there are a few Romano-Brit and Pict armies kicking about.