The Dwarfs are (almost) Here!

Work is very busy at the moment, but I have managed to slip some gaming time in. Our D&D 5e campaign had a half-session this week and the rules continue to work very well, while my secret army had a set back – I completely changed my mind on the colour scheme which meant stopping and re-undercoating from white to black. More on that at a later date.

Meanwhile, I have managed to get something notable accomplished – about a year ago I started a fantasy Dwarf army and, adding bits and pieces here and there it is almost in fighting shape for a 2,000 point game.

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All I am missing now are the big guns – I am going to be going for two Cannon and two Organ Guns. Should be sufficient to keep the nasty Skaven and Undead away!

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When the Dwarf army book came out, I picked it up but really paid it no mind. Then one day (in the bath of all places) I started doing a little thought experiment, paging through the book and building an army in my head. It was there that my eye settled on the Longbeards, the tough, older, veteran units – and I realised they were now Core choices. I could build an army composed almost solely of them. Quite expensive, points-wise, but I would have a small force that was Stubborn, had decent Strength and was immune to psychology. Interesting…

So, the story behind this force is that a bunch of veterans have been stuck in a remote outpost for years, quite forgotten by the rest of Dwarf society. One day, these Longbeards realise they have not heard from their main stronghold for quite some time and leave their outpost to find out why – it has been completely wiped out by enemies unknown (but we can be sure it was either the Skaven or Undead…). So, with a suitable grudge, they go looking for vengeance.

These are down-to-earth Dwarfs who have seen it all before, and they do not like the newfangled inventions like the Gyrocopter. The Organ Gun is about their limit, and they are not too keen on that.

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There are three Longbeard units in this force, with just twenty men in each. One unit (above) is armed with Great Weapons, the other two with Shields. So, between them they can both dish it out and take it.

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I have also painted up the characters leading the force, starting with this Battle Standard Bearer – with all the different runes, you can get some quite interesting effects from this banner, but I have yet to seriously start playing with that.

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This guy is my least favourite. He is not really part of the army and may never actually see action – I really did just paint him up because he was lying around. I think he came from one of the plastic starter sets and, compared to my main leader, is not all that impressive.

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This is another model that is not really part of the force – at least on the battlefield. I am sure with that keg she is popular enough after a fight! This is not a GW model and, for the life of me, I cannot remember the company that made it. It is one of the smaller companies in the UK, and they also do a very nice looking female Troll Slayer.

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This is my Warlord for the force and, of all the models GW has ever done, it is one of my favourites. There is just something about the pose and the all-encasing armour that I like a great deal, and this model alone is one of the reasons I did a Dwarf army in the first place (in fact this is the second time I have painted this model – the first time, in almost exactly the same colours, was 15-20 years ago, for my first Dwarf army).

With runes up to his neck, this Warlord is going to be a tough little sod in the battle line, ready to accept any challenges any enemy leader is silly enough to make!

That is the line up so far. As soon as I get those Big Guns, I’ll post my piccies and let you know how the first battle goes!

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Star Wars-40k: Heavy Weapons Playtesting

Playtesting continues (in fact, it is continuing next door right now)!

One of my big concerns when putting together the Codexes was that the Rebels were distinctly light in the heavy weapons department, and that they would not really come into their own unless mass Jedi enclaves turned up to fight. So, we have been upping our games to 750 points, and it looks like this:

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The AT-STs are advancing as you can see, but they have both already taken a fair amount of damage, courtesy of Rebel Commandos armed with missile launchers (who are in turn protected by cover and Stealth). This battle is currently hanging in the balance, and (off-camera) the Imperial Commander, with his elite Stormtrooper bodyguard) is going to be fending off some outflanking Ewoks!

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Can’t wait until we start upping the points again and AT-ATs, Snowspeeders and Jedi start appearing!

 

Tyranny of Dragons

I was planning to do quite a bit of painting last weekend, but discovered I had run out of a critical colour of paint. Hate it when that happens. New paint duly ordered this week and hopefully next week I will be able to show you all some painted Dwarfs (the 2,000 point army I have been planning just requires four war machines now), more Ancient Greeks and I will also be commencing proper work on a new secret army.

However, I did get some proper gaming in this week, in the form of trying out the new 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.

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We gave 4th edition a miss and have been doing a fair amount of 3.0/3.5 over the years, including a D20 Slaine campaign that we are now in the last phases of.

For 5th edition, I decided to run the recently released Horde of the Dragon Queen, part of the Tyranny of Dragons series. It has dungeons, it has dragons – what is not to like?

Paging through the new Player’s Handbook, I was struck by something of a revelation. Not only have Wizards got this edition ‘right’, this is possibly the best RPG on the market at the moment (a subjective comment, I realise). In terms of presentation, roleplaying hooks integrated into character design, and streamlined mechanics, it ticks all the right boxes and I would happily give this game a 10 out of 10 based on the initial read through.

If you are a player of 3.5, there is much here that you will find familiar. At the same time, however, you have to be careful as even some sacred cows that have been in place since 1st edition AD&D have been tweaked. Fireballs, for example. No longer a base 6D6 damage.

Here’s some other things I really like;

  • Cantrips are effectively use at will. Wizards now can still contribute in a big way when they have run out of spells.
  • You burn spell slots to cast prepared spells, not the spells themselves. Spellcasters are now much more versatile.
  • Rests (long and short) are now properly defined, and you may well be able to get away without dedicated healers in a party (still very useful though).
  • Something interesting happens at every level in every class.
  • The three strikes and out rule for Death Saves is very attractive, and removes the ‘-9 Club’ factor.
  • Weapons, armour and shields are all greatly simplified and there are a lot less of them. No bastard sword, for example. Simply not needed when the longsword has the Versatile rule.

I could go on. There really is much to like in this edition of D&D, and I can see it reclaiming its top spot for RPGs. Certainly got me thinking about how Traveller is approached and presented…

 

Character Creation

Anyway, we started rolling up characters last night and even with everyone trying to get to grips with the new rules, it flowed fairly quickly. We created the following;

Alan: A Human Fighter with the Noble background.

James: A Halfling rogue with the Urchin background.

Ed: An Elven Cleric (of Kelemvor) with the Acolyte background.

Amy: A Half-Orc Barbarian with the Outlander background.

The backgrounds really do work well in fleshing out a character, though my players took a perverse delight in rolling up Flaws, getting more excited about them than anything else. One observation I would make is that a party now can have an awful lot of languages between them. It may be a little too much, or it may simply facilitate ease of play during gameplay.

I also gave each of the players one of the Backgrounds detailed in Horde of the Dragon Queen.

 

Horde of the Dragon Queen

Character creation was done quickly enough that we had enough time to get a few hours of play time in, and we launched into Horde of the Dragon Queen, the first part of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. I have seen some negative reviews of this online but, to be honest, I think they are mostly off-base. Yes, things can always be better, but I found enough ideas and tips in the book to start running the game fairly easily and my biggest complaint is the lack of an easy key for the maps. But, at least the maps accurately describe what is in the text, not always a strength of all RPGs (Dark Heresy, I am looking at you).

The players are on their way to a small town called Greenest, all for reasons laid out in their additional campaign backgrounds, with a big list of choices for the DM in the back of this book. They come across the town and find it under attack, by a big blue dragon, of all things!

Rushing in, they rescue a family from marauding kobolds (the wife of that family turned out to be a spear savant of some kind, as she nailed a fair few kobolds herself!). The players then escorted the family to the keep in the centre of the town, battling kobolds and cultists along the way.

Inside the keep, they meet the castellan (a dwarf called Escobert) and are introduced to the the town’s governor, Nighthill. The governor asks them to see if they can rescue more townsfolk and also if they can keep their eyes out for any potential enemy leaders that can be taken prisoner. They duly agree (being the heroes that they are) and are shown a secret tunnel out of the keep.

In the tunnel, they meet a couple of rat swarms – rat swarms are not as nasty as they were in 3.5, but still deserve respect (as the players discovered) – and then pop out into a stream where they ambush more kobolds and cultists. Wondering what to do next, they see a temple under siege and duly head in, knowing that while the cultists trying to batter down the front door are few in number, there are an awful lot more close by.

The battle goes almost smoothly and they capture the leader, but not before he managed to call for help. Ten kobolds come racing around the corner followed by a couple of Ambush Drakes, nasty draconic lizards. Remember, this is just a first level party, and they quickly realise they have bitten off more than they can chew.

In this fight, the Fighter and Halfling go down, though they are both stabilised and the Elven Cleric gets too close to the lizards for his liking. The day is ultimately saved by the Half-Orc Barbarian who cleaves through the kobolds and finishes off the drake. The session ends with the Elf carrying the unconscious Halfling, and the Half-Orc hefting the Fighter and prisoner over her shoulders (she has Strength 20…).

Next week, they will be thrown back into the embattled town…

The book says that by the end of chapter one, players will hit second level – no kidding, with this much fighting they did it in just this half session, and we are not too much into the first chapter. As 2nd level only requires 300 XP and eight kobolds are worth 200 XP between them, with this much fighting levelling up quickly is pretty much inevitable. It will get harder as more XP are needed to go up levels, but this was very, very quick, much faster than 3.5 (where there is perhaps a 50/50 chance of attaining second level in your first, full session). Something to keep an eye on.

However, for all that, the players greeted the new rules in a very positive manner. They like all the changes and we are looking forward to revisiting Greenest next week!

 

Nemesis Dreadknights

The other thing I managed to complete this last weekend was something I had been promising myself for a while – a brand new Nemesis Dreadknight for my Grey Knights.

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I wanted a ‘cheapie’ one this time, as my first Dreadknight has two ranged weapons and, with the Personal Teleporter, was all but untakeable in the last edition of the codex. It was simply too expensive to risk. The new codex has changed that somewhat, but I still needed a Dreadknight that could do the damage but at a lower cost.

To that end, this one just has the Incinerator – this is a weapon that is simply too good not to take against Dark Eldar (and most other armies, for that matter!), as it can cane an open-topped skimmer just about anywhere on the table in the first turn.

I hummed and harred about that Daemon Hammer. I wanted to not take it and just rely on the Power Fists, but a friend convinced me it was worth the piddly extra points. Still not convinced, but that is one weapon that won’t break the bank.

So, I now have these two among my Grey Knights…

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They are going to form the spearhead of my first turn attack (and Grey Knights can be all about the first turn), teleport shunting (without error- nice) to support the Deepstriking Paladins, Librarian and maybe a Terminator squad. If my Dark Eldar player does what he did in our last game against my Orks, I have a serious chance of tabling him in the first turn – all he had were three Reaver Jetbikes, some Mandrakes, a Cronos and Talos. The latter two are the more difficult proposition with no assault in the first turn, but with the right psychic powers and judicious use of the Gatling Psilencer it could be very doable. The Mandrakes and Reavers are just so much Incinerator bait and between the Dreadknights, Paladins and Terminators, I will be carrying enough of those in.

So, what next for the Grey Knights? Well, I don’t have anything on my painting table at the moment for them so my choices are open.

Now that the Paladin Apothecary has come down in points, it is now viable and will seriously pump up an already hard unit. Could use a banner as well, along with a few Nemesis weapon changes/options, so a Paladin box set could be fun.

A Land Raider would be nice but, to be honest, that would be just out of a sense of completeness and the first Land Raider I get lay my hands on now will be going to the Dark Angels and their Deathwing.

Another Stormraven could be good, but even I might think that overkill. Still, one without Hurricane Bolters could be fun, to provide a ‘cheap’ option when putting army lists together.

I have yet to try out my Purifiers in battle but I suspect they are going to prove worthwhile, meaning bumping them up to a squad of 10. Much the same argument applies to the Interceptors – a unit of 5 is very fragile when AP 3 weaponry is flying about!

And then… Well, I hate to say an army is ever done but I cannot see the Grey Knights getting much larger. I certainly don’t want to get into the trap I have fallen into with my Dark Angels.

 

With regards to the Dark Eldar and their new Codex, we have had a game and they look a bit stronger now.  However, paging through a few other Codexes, I have to say that if there was ever an army that was designed to take Dark Eldar down, it has to be the Tau. All that supporting fire and Interceptor upgrades…

On a completely unrelated note, I have been thinking about starting a new army soon, what with my Grey Knights veering toward ‘complete’. I think, umm, yes, I believe the Tau could be a good choice…

Here Comes the Inquisitor…

This is something I have been meaning to get round to doing for a long, long time – using our Judge Dredd range of miniatures to put together a unique Inquisitor and his retinue for 40k.

First off, the Inquisitor himself. Lots of choices here in the range, but I wanted something suitably evil-looking. The Vatican City Judge proved to be just the ticket, no conversion needed.

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As I fight Dark Eldar a great deal, I figure him for an Ordos Xenos Inquisitor, possibly psychic with a Needle Pistol as standard. Those belt pouches are likely to contain Psychotroke Grenades…

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This one was another easy choice, as I have seen dozens of people pick up this model for 40k – the Zombie Mistress, to be used as a Psyker. I used the muted yellow of her cloak to tie in with the padded armour on the Inquisitor himself, but went for light blue hair to make her ‘otherworldly’ and because, well, girls with blue hair are hot.

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Another model that has been used by 40kers before me, the Orangutan Sniper, to be used as a Jokaero Weaponsmith. I thought the orange a bit bright at first, but it works well with the skin tone which, incidentally, links back to the Psyker’s robe and Inquisitor’s armour. Washed gold makes the weapon look suitably archaic.

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These two (from the Demonic Cabal) I had pegged as Redemptionists for a long time. Just add a Chainsword each and they are ready to go. However, when I finally got round to reading the new Codex: Inquisition (which was an hour or so after I had finished painting these guys), I noticed Redemptionists are no longer part of an Inquisitor’s retinue. I think they will have to be rather fiery Ministorum Priests instead. The red links in with the Inquisitor once more but, overall, these are the models I am least happy with. The angle of one of the Chainswords is a bit wrong, and I could have paid more attention to their faces.

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And this is the band together, ready to fight the deadly alien threat! Before they see action though, I think I will add a few Acolytes (using various Citi-Def and Rogue Trooper Norts & Southers) and maybe a Crusader or two (Riot Judge).

Then they will need something to move around in, as this unit is quite vulnerable to enemy fire when in the open. I will probably have to see what comes my way over the next while, but a Chimera would be interesting, a Land Raider probably overkill (and any ‘spare’ Land Raider I find will likely go to the Deathwing or Grey Knights). That said, I see Valkyries are now dedicated transports too – some fun tactics could be had there.

On the other hand, I could just wait for one of the Judge Dredd Pat Wagons to become available and make it a Rhino, Razorback or Chimera proxy to continue the theme…

 

Star Wars-40k: First Playtest

Okay, got round to actually trying these rules out!

Wanted to keep it simple to begin with and just try the basic troops out – Stormtroopers and Rebel Troopers, with an HQ choice thrown in. Aimed for 350 points, which gave a basic platoon (three squads and leader) and as I put special rules on every Rebel squad, the Imperials had enough left over for a squad of Scouts and a Viper Probe Droid.

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In short, the Rebels lost – I was playing the Imperials, and  I was somewhat aware of what the dynamics would be, and there were some very silly dice rolls supporting the Empire and hammering the Rebels. However, the relative strengths of the armies did shine through which is always nice to see!

Stormtroopers are not subtle. With 4+ Armour, they do not really need cover and at short range their Rapid Firing blasters can really make a mess of anyone.

In contrast, the Rebels have 6+ Armour but also have Stealth. For 5 points per model (that needs looking at) they can also have Shrouded which makes them a sod to root out once they get into cover. The only real option is bombard them with obscene amounts of firepower (Star Wars does not have many flamers in it!) or go in and engage them in close combat – and in Star Wars the only people good at close combat are Jedi and Wookies. For normal troops, it is a bit of an issue.

And I am kinda okay with that. Rebels get cut apart in the open but if they are sneaky, they live. The Empire does not do sneaky (even their Scouts do not get Stealth), but it has mass firepower at its disposal. This could lead to some fairly static games where the Rebels all opt for Shrouded and just sit in bushes but to counter this, there are many more units to go in on both sides and (more importantly) missions tend to require units actually move about. So, the Rebels will be very good at taking and holding objectives but will have issues getting there. The Imperials play like a more standard enemy but lack specialist tools to winkle Rebels out of tight spots.

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Before we started, I had a feeling the Stormtroopers were under-pointed and the Rebels over-pointed. For the Stormtroopers, this is probably right, and I am goingto change them from 8 [points per model to 10 points.

The Rebels are currently 6 points per model, 11 with a Special Rule (they have a choice of Counter-Attack, Fearless, Hit & Run, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover, Scout, Shrouded, Sniper and Tank Hunters – an HQ Officer can be used to effectively give a squad a second rule, allowing for combinations). If I keep the Special Rule upgrade at 5 points per model (adds up quickly!), I think the basic Rebel Trooper should drop to 5 points.

Oh, and I had forgotten to give the Viper Probe Droid Relentless. Still, that is why we playtest!

Star Wars-40k: AT-AT vs. Snowspeeder

There are a lot of epic confrontations in Star Wars, many (if not most) of which need to be accurately replicated on the table. And in The Empire Strikes Back, this has to be the AT-AT against the Snowspeeder, as seen during the Battle of Hoth.

These are two important units. For the Rebels, it is the only real decent vehicle they will be getting (until i start moving outside of the WotC range, at least. For the Empire, the AT-AT is going to be simply the most powerful unit in the game. So, what did I do with them?

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The AT-AT turned out to be quite simple, once you realise it has to be a Lord of War Super-heavy unit.

 

All-Terrain Armoured Transport

 Lord of War slot, 450 points

 

WS BS S F S R I A HP Unit Type Unit Composition
AT-AT 3 3 10 14 14 12 3 1 10 Vehicle (Super-heavy Walker) 1 AT-AT

WARGEAR:

  • Two heavy laser cannons
  • Two blaster cannons

SPECIAL RULES:

  • Fear
  • Hammer of Wrath
  • Invincible Behemoth
  • Move Through Cover
  • Relentless
  • Smash
  • Strikedown

Steady Advance: The AT-AT may only move up to 6” in the Movement phase.

TRANSPORT:

Transport Capacity: Forty models.

Fire Points: None.

Access Points: The AT-AT has one Access Point on each side of the hull.

 

It needed slowing down a tad, to get that methodical stomp-stomp across the table. However, Armour, weapons and transport were all fairly logical, and Hull Points were based on the model’s size.

The Heavy Laser Cannon have the same stats as Lascannon in 40k, while the Medium Blaster Cannon are Range 36″, S7 AP4 (vehicles tend to be underpowered in Star Wars, compared to their 40k equivalents – what you are paying for with the AT-AT is staying power).

 

The Snowspeeder was a bit more tricky, primarily because of that damn tow cable.

 

Snowspeeder

Heavy Support slot, 90 points

 

 

BS F S R HP Unit Type Unit Composition
Snowspeeder 3 11 10 10 2 Vehicle (Flyer, Hover) 1 Snowspeeder

WARGEAR:

  • Two laser cannons
  • Harpoon and tow cable

SPECIAL RULES:

  • Strafing Run

OPTIONS:

  • May include up to two additional Snowspeeders. These function as independent units but only take up one Heavy Support slot                                                                         90 pts/model

 

It is Heavy Support rather than Fast Attack because, for the Rebels, this is heavy weaponry. The armour is fairly logical (shied away from making it 10 on the front, because this is the Rebel’s ‘heavy’ hitter), and the Laser Cannon are S8, Range 36″ – a little lighter than those on the AT-AT. I was going to make them twin-linked, but felt that emasculated the Snowspeeder somewhat (again, it is supposed to be a heavy hitter of sorts). The additional Snowspeeders that can be purchased allow Rebels to load up if they need to and, well, I have quite a few of these models!

Because the Snowspeeder has a dedicated weapons specialist in the back, I was going to make it BS4, but realised Strafing Run handled that far better.

However, that left the Harpoon and Tow Cable, and I hummed and harred about this for a while, before coming up with this;

The harpoon and tow cable may only be used against an AT-AT, and only when the snowspeeder firing it is in Hover mode. If the weapon successfully hits an AT-AT, the snowspeeder must remain within 6” of the AT-AT and in Hover mode during its subsequent turn as it constantly circles the AT-AT, binding the walker’s legs with the tow cable. If the snowspeeder is not destroyed by the end of this turn, the AT-AT is automatically destroyed as it stumbles over the cable and crashes to the ground.

 

Range S AP Type
Harpoon and tow cable 6” One Shot Only

So, it can indeed take down an AT-AT, but it has to hang around for a turn to do so – there will be a high mortality rate for Snowspeeders trying that, but that should encourage Rebel players to think tactically rather than believe they can simply take down any AT-AT that comes near them.

 

I have to make some modifications to the Snowspeeder models to put them on flying bases, but I am looking forward to some playtesting on this!