Saturday, May 7, 2011

Army List Review

So I've been off the hobby train for almost a month now.  Between visiting great friends and general family stuff, I just haven't had the motivation or alot of time to do any painting.  I've made up for it by staying consistent on the blogs and building.  Lots and lots of building of stuff.  (I sense another blog article coming on already...)

Last week, I went to my LGS and dropped some High Elf bitz in a couple of guys' hands.  I have a bazillion points of High Elves and they were looking for a couple of small things.  It felt good.  It also presented an opportunity for me- they were playing a game of Warhammer and I could watch a tiny bit of it.  It was nice to see a game again. 

Now I still don't wanna go to the game store and play every night, mostly because everyone is in a paid league and I HATE the concept of 'pay-to-play'.  It's nothing against the shop and I used to be a part of this very same league long before I got my black carapace.  But these days, especially considering how poor I currently am, that's just not a concept I can get behind anymore.

So what do I do instead?  In between monthly visits, I hobby at home.  And right now, I'm in an 'era of building'.  And seeing that Fantasy game got me ready to go.  Now y'all may remember the Warriors of Chaos army I put up awhile back, but I'm just so... meh about Chaos.  It's a small army, I LOVE the models (that's why I have an army to start with), but they're so boring.  One entire phase of the game is actually ignored!  To play High Elves, I would need to build 400 points more in core (I'm woefully under-equipped thanks to the last edition and this army's special rule).  Remembering how little time I want to spend on anything, I opted for Empire. 

Wierd, right?

For some strange reason, building the old 2-piece Empire models by the dozens seemed so much easier than building a few more elves.  And, as it turned out, I was much happier doing it.  I had a couple of basic principles in mind, which were quickly discarded, and I opted for the 'civil war' style army again.  I can't help it.  I love cannons.  I love tanks because they have cannons (though I did NOT include a steam tank in this list).  I love battleships because they have LOTS of cannons.  Overall, cannons pretty much rule.  And I went that way with my army as well. 

Without further rambling, here's the army from the front:

Here's a better view of the army from above:

And here's the army list:

  • General, Dawn Armor, shield, Sword of Sigismund  163 pts
  • Archmage, lvl 4, Seal of Destruction (Lore of Fire)  255pts
  • Captain, full plate armor, BSB, Griffon Standard  138 pts
  • Engineer, Hochland Long Rifle  85 pts
  • Battle Mage, Dispel Scroll (Lore of Heavens)  90 pts
  • Warrior Priest, heavy armor, second warhammer, Shroud of Magnus  148 pts
  • 40 Spearmen, full command  260 pts
    • Detachment:  20 Free Company  100 pts
  • 10 Handgunners, marksman, Repeater Rifle  100 pts
  • 12 Handgunners, marksman, Repeater Rifle  100 pts
  • 10 Handgunners  80 pts
  • 18 Handgunners  144 pts
  • 30 Greatswords, full command, Standard of Arcane Warding  360 pts
  • Mortar  75 pts
  • Mortar  75 pts
  • Cannon  100 pts
  • Cannon  100 pts
  • Helblaster Volley Gun 110 pts

Total:  2499 pts

So that's it.  Please let me know what you guys think.  I'm actually kinda proud of this force right now, not having used it. 

Now for some gratuitous pictures:

This is my favorite Empire model in the entire line.  I actually replaced my original captain AND gave up any hope of a Griffon Lord because of how awesome this model looks.  That just proves that bigger is not always better...
 And here's the models I painted for this army some 7 years ago.  That was way back when I was in Philly and Kislev was getting some love, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  But only for a short time, then the goldfish took over as it does...

Obviously, these guys are gonna get some updated love, but this is generally what I'm going for.  This is my chosen color scheme for the 'Neat Army of the West, Originating from Bissendorf'.  (Empire always loves to make names long...)
Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

DnD, How I love thee!

It was a clear, sunny day in Texas.  It was 1987.  I had a babysitter, named Dino, who would be responsible for this fateful day.  As he had very little actual babysitting to do (I was a great big brother and a big-time nerd), he invited some friends over and started up a game.  He pulled out a few giant books, a notebook, and set up a giant gridmap.  I watched with the fascination of a kid seeing glory for the first time.  Little did I know...

Obviously, I forced my way into the group and started playing with them that day.  After all, I could read many levels above my age, I could pretend with the best of them, and I was practicing college-level math back then (I was still in Elementary School.  Yes, at one point, I was actually that smart).  Put those things together and you have the makings of a perfect gamer.  Dino taught me everything I needed to know and even bought my first Player's Handbook for me.  For the next few years, he ran me through a huge number of quests and I devoured every bit of experience I could.  I thought I was part of a secret club.  I thought I was special for being a part of this really cool game.  Little did I know...

In Middle School, I made friends all around the neighborhood.  As it turned out, this game was actually quite popular.  When I described this 'role-playing' game to people, they knew exactly what I was talking about.  There was even a cartoon based on this game!  Apparently, it wasn't a secret club.  I wasn't special.  I was just another player in a game called:

In High School, I made all kinds of new friends, joined some clubs, found sports/girls/substances to abuse, etc.  Despite all that, however, I still played the monthly game with my friends.  My 'gift of gab' and love of storytelling moved me into 'DMing' long ago and I'd seen nearly everything.  That super-intellect of mine had been turned to memorizing everything about everything.  (Did you know that the Saving Throw chart was found on the right side of pg 97-98 in the PHB 2nd edition with the mounted ranger on the front, but it was moved to page 101 in the new Black PHB 2.5 book?  Yeah, I was that freakin' scary.  Want to know what the light radius of a small candle is?  Yeppers.  Nerd.)

To me, for a long time (long after Dino had moved on and I'd recycled my RPG group four times), TSR was the greatest game company in the world.  Before I had a job (at the ripe old age of 14) I lugged a lawnmower, weedeater, 100 foot of cord, and 3 gallons of gas all around my neighborhood and cut people's lawns.  The small charge of $20 a yard (remember, that's alot of money- Reagan was still president!) was able to sustain my weekly purchases of new handbooks and rulebooks.  It seemed that TSR understood that I was a book junkie and invented a game that would squeeze every single dollar out of me if they could.  I even went so far as to purchase the 'Encyclopedia Magica' set- knowing that I owned every book already!  For some reason I felt I just needed to have every spell and magical item ever invented all pulled into four overly-expensive books.  And then TSR went under.

It was a hot, sunny Texas day (most of them are) when I read the news that TSR was being purchased by Wizards of the Coast.  My experience with them had been with the second edition of Magic: the Gathering.  That game was broken, it was all about collecting random cards, and people took the game way too seriously.  But whatever.  As long as DnD was still around, I'd be happy.  Then I read Wizard's press release clearly stating that they're going to release three core books and support the rest of the game through community-driven articles in the magazines.  Wait!  So, I wouldn't have to buy a hundred more books?  I looked over at my bookshelf, ALL of which was dedicated to my DnD book collection.  I was very happy with that news. 

I ran out and bought the three core books for the new 3rd edition.  The first two editions were just 'cleanups' and 'expansions' so I was expecting to see THAC0 and all the other familiar things in the books.  The PHB, DMG, and MM were all beautiful, full color, and nicely rendered.  But the rules were different.  Waaaaaaaaay different.  And they required miniatures to play now.  Hmmmm.  Well, whatever.  I can adapt.  I formed up my old group and went to start my store-group (I always had two groups-  I like to play, too!), making the 'call-me' card and going into my LGS.  As I walked to the community board, what did I see from the corner of my eye?  The new 3rd edition Psionics Handbook?!  Wait!  I thought they weren't gonna put out any more books!  I ran home and checked the saved press release and yeppers, there it was- they lied to me!  They, just like TSR, only wanted my money.  I quit.

Many years later, I moved to Cherry Hill, NJ.  My boss took me to the local WotC store, one mall over from my own game shop.  I walked in ready to give the new '3.5' a second shot.  I had the cash in my pocket and ready to go.  The staff member there, bless his wretched soul, couldn't tell me anything about the game.  He played Magic: TG, not DnD....

IN MY SHOP, IF MY STAFF WERE ASKED A QUESTION ABOUT ANY GAME WE SOLD AND THEY COULDN'T ANSWER WITH A LEVEL OF COMPETENCE, THEY LOST THEIR JOB INSTANTLY!  That's kind of the point of customer service.  If a customer is willing to come to you for help, you better be able to give it to him.  Sorry, back to the story:

I walked out.  The 3rd edition of this great game ruined almost two decades of commitment for me.  Twice.  WotC, you suck!  You completely lost me and any number of hardcore DnD players for all time!  How do I know this?  Well, simple really- I asked people!  I ran game shops for a long time.  I asked my gamers how they felt.  I found that us old-school hippy folk that used to play when the monsters were still pencil drawings in a book with a unicorn on the cover had left the DnD world.  We missed THAC0, we missed saving throws, we even missed proficiencies!  But the younger folk- the high schoolers when Bush the second was elected- were all completely enamored by the 3.5th edition of DnD.  They all discovered that feats and skills could make 'killer' characters and the game made PCs super powerful!  Trust me, the difference in generations was quickly noticed and only served to sour me to DnD3 more than ever.

I hired a guy who would become my brother.  He followed me across the country and provided that sense of wisdom that a good buddy does when you're bat-shit crazy (and I am, make no mistake about that).  His name is Hoff.  That's right, Hoff.  He was young.  He was part of the new generation of gamers.  But he was smart.  He drank my koolaid and followed my system and even tossed in a switch-play himself once in a while.  One of those was making me play DnD 3.5.  Nobody would ever be able to change my mind.  Except Hoff. 

I played.  Not DMed, actually played (that felt good, too- I'm always a DM, but I want to play too, dammit!)  I went off the script and threw out an Irda Artifact Hunter and then a Sean Connery-style Paladin.  I ruined Hoff's stories quite often but I got to experience non-hack-n-slash playing.  DnD3.5 is NOT an RPG, it's a hack-n-slash system (focussed on combat) and Hoff made it fun to actually role-play in.  That was it.  I fell for 3.5.  Wizards of the Coast regained a loyal customer even if it wasn't their doing (and it wasn't).

Then 4E got released.  DnD started to be called 'DnD' again, not "Dungeons & Dragons x edition".  The new books are fantastic but the rules are even more radical than the 3rd edition changes.  Miniatures were still required but I'm a Warhammer player- miniatures are not a problem.  Being able to make completely unique characters is the most controversial part of the new edition.  Here's my take:

The characters now look like video game characters.  You choose a race, a class, and some basic equipment, and then you gain access to skills.  These skills increase your character's effectiveness in the game (usually combat, again) and go on to unlock better skills at higher levels.  Most people think this is totally dumb, and the idea that wizards' spells are now 'skills' really gets to some.  Not me. 

Here's what I used to hate about DMing:  "Hey fighter, what weapon are you gonna use?  Grab a d20 and be ready.  Hey wizard, what spell are you gonna use?  Okay, calculate casting cost and wait till I say go.  Rogue, are you gonna open that chest while everyone is distracted?  Okay, when I say go, roll your percentile.  You'll have a -20 modifier with all the noise around you.  Priest, have you started praying yet?  Make that Wisdom check as soon as you can, I gotta see what my monsters are doing...." 
With the new rules, I look at all the players and say, "Choose your ability and grab your d20, it's on!"  See?  Quick, simple, allows me more time to tell the story rather than administrate the game. 

I've played some with the new rules.  I loved 1st edition, married 2nd edition, brushed off 3rd, tolerated 3.5, and now I'm crushing on 4th edition.  Wizards has still released a gazillion books, but I'm not buying them.  I've collected the big three, plus PHB2 and MM2, and I feel good.  With my maps, terrain, Citadel miniatures, and nearly three decades of experience, I feel that 4E is it.  Thank you, Hoff.  Screw you Wizards.  Man, I love me some DnD!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of men and men

Many of you know that I'm not the biggest Warhammer fan in the world.  I was raised on DnD and 40k, both of which will always have a place in my heart. 

However, I was forced to play Warhammer for nearly a decade (and didn't hate it most of the time) and then I no longer had to.  In that time, I've collected many armies, starting with the old and terrible Wood Elves (from Ravening Hordes.  Seriously, bad.) and blowing through Empire, High Elves, Vampire Counts, Orcs and Goblins, and finally Warriors of Chaos.  I've gotten rid of the Wood Elves, Orcs, and VCs, leaving me with three massive armies.  I've played with my High Elves the most (where I've won alot and lost as often), the Warriors most recently, and my Empire were reserved for special occasions.  There's a story there (isn't there always?).

Many years ago, I was managing a game shop in Syracuse, NY.  There was a customer there, named Jeremy, who beat me in a fun game.  He came in to play but there were no opponents, so I pulled the display Empire army out of the figure case and gave him a battle.  His Dark Elves crushed the Empire.  Jeremy then, unwisely, spent a week and a half telling everyone in the shop that he beat the manager and that my advise was inferior to his because I "didn't have any idea how to play Warhammer."  Needless to say, that could not be allowed to go on. 

I challenged Jeremy to a battle in only two days.  I would have to build a whole new army and I needed a little time to do so.  Obviously, it would have to be Empire, as that's what he beat.  So I frantically assembled a 'Civil War' style army and set it out for customers to view all day before the challenge.  Jeremy strolled into the shop ready to be 'that guy' some more, took one look at my bare-plastic and metal army, and started whining.  The rest of the community held him to the bet, and he was forced to deal with it.

The battle started with him going first.  He moved his entire army up, which consisted of two units of City Guard, a unit of Witch Elves, a unit of Corsairs with an Assassin (he thought I didn't know, but I did.  I sold him the army and taught him how to play, something he conveniently forgot this whole time) and some other minor things.  He cast some magic and let loose with his Bolt Throwers, wiping out my huntsmen and panicking a unit of handgunners.  Darn.  Then came my turn.  I dropped two perfectly-aimed Mortar shells onto his warriors, shot the crap outta the corsairs, and even unleashed a misfiring Helblaster into stuff!  It was glorious.  He had a half unit of Corsairs and a unit of Witch Elves left as the rest of the army was obliterated or panicked.  He moved foward, trying in vain to do some damage.  His spells and shooting accounted for another unit of handunners.  Then I fired my artillery, leaving only three Dark Elves alive across the whole table.  Before I had the chance to fire my remaining units of Handgunners, Jeremy conceded.  He cried and cried and cried. 

That would not be the first or last time I had to pull out the proverbial 'gaming penis.'  And it always feels good.

In any case, the goldfish has struck again and now makes me want to run with the weak-ass humans again.  My Warriors of Chaos are awesome, my High Elves are downright broken, so I figured the 'ol humans would give me a bit of a challenge. 

For my newest version of the Empire, I've chosen Ostermark as the province.  For those of you that don't know, the human realm known as the Empire is actually a unified group of 12 provinces, city-states, and regions.  Each is responsible for maintaining its own army and fights for themselves and the Emperor.  Each of the provinces is famous for their own cultures and specialties, but are united by their loyalty to the crown (usually, anyway) and their worship of Sigmar (except the Cult of Ulric, which is still the main god in Middenheim).  Some of these provinces are known for their elite warriors or effective war machines (Talabheim and Nuln, respectively), while others are known for their natural ferocity and constant warfare (Ostland and Middenheim).  My particular province, Ostermark, is a rustic area with strong ties the human Kindgom of Kislev. 

Ostermark regiments fight alongside Count Von Rauken's Ostland armies and the Ice Queen's Kislevite hordes often.  This has led to a toughness not often common in other Empire provinces.  Although their color scheme is well-known, the actual story of Ostermark is not. 

Ostermark is currently ruled by Elector Count Hertwig.  He rules from the new capital city of Bechafen, found along Kislevs southern border.  His armies often display the dragon's profile as their heraldry, although I'm not sure if this has any real reason.  The uniform scheme of the province is a purple and yellow panalopy, usually halved or quartered.  The purple is rarely the same as in other regiments, as it's the most expensive die in the Empire.  The yellow is often replaced with white.  The province maintains an army of just over 1200 men, of which most are often in the north aiding Kislev to fight off the northern tribesmen.  Ostermark is a very dangerous province to live, with Orcs and more dangerous creatures often descending from the Mountains to the east while Beastmen attack from the woods to the north and the south.  The Eerie downs, a region that stretches south and east of Bechafen, is known to be haunted by undead and patrolled by chaos creatures.  The cursed city of Mordheim, originally the capital of Ostermark, is destroyed and lies along the River Stir and the province's southern border with Stirland.  This attracts many kinds of mercenaries and less-desirable characters and the far-worse Skaven.  Altogether, the people of Ostermark don't live the comfortable lives of Talabheim or Nuln's residents, but they're tougher for it.

My army breaks from the rustic tradition of the region.  I want to field an army from the western area of the province, specifically from the town of Bissendorf.  Bordering with Talabecland, the richest province in the Empire, I figure that the town would have enough money to purchase all kinds of guns and cannons, as well as fancy uniforms.  I'm mostly using the old Empire models because they have 'floofy' uniforms and look somewhat simpler to paint than the new ones.  All in all, it's just a reason for me to use up all my old models and use the more common Empire theme of 'shoot em, shoot em, and then run away.' 

So why am I talking about my Empire, suddenly?  Yes, I know it's because I'm a goldfish and I can't stay focussed on anything for longer than a minute.  But also because I've been thinking alot about Warhammer lately.  I've been thinking about the idea that the Elves are the most skilled, Chaos and Dwarfs the toughest, Undead the most unkillable, and the other races with their 'being better.'  Empire really has nothing on anyone else.

So why choose Empire if everyone is better?  Well, because I just happen to be a human.  I rather enjoy being the superior species on this or any other planet.  And to think that anything other than me should be so lucky, well that just doesn't sit right with me.  I love me some humans, and I gotta give them their love once in a while.  After all, they have the courage to face everything and be worse at it.  If my little toy soldiers can do, so can I.  Go humans!