Friday, 24 June 2016

Book Review - Adeptus Mechanicus: Tech-Priest

Ok so I'm pretty late with this post. It's been sitting in draft form for a couple of weeks but I've just not found the time to finish it off. On the up-side I have managed to finish painting the Halflings for my Halfling Blood Bowl team which have been sitting in a not-quite-done stage for over a year now. I'll get a picture up of them another time, for now let's talk about books...

Adeptus Mechanicus: Tech-Priest - Rob Saunders
The book is set about half a year after the close of Skitarius and Tech-Priest Omnid Torquora is coordinating the siege of Velchanos Magna. The planet has fallen to the Iron Warriors and the Dark Mechanicum have now sided with the heretic marines. Torquora is fighting the Dark Mechanicum while Idriss Krendl, the Iron Warriors commander, keeps his elite troops in reserve for some unknown reason. Without giving too much of the story away, Torquora has developed a cunning plan to beat the Iron Warriors, but he needs time to put it into action. Of course time is exactly what the Iron Warriors are trying to deny him.

The book was a bit of a slow start with about the first 20% being a long-winded transcript trying to build the scene around Velchanos Magna. It felt like a J.R.R Tolkien dictation where everything was explained in excruciating and excessive detail. Once I got through that however things began to pick up with characters conversing and the story-line progressing. I think Rob did a good job of trying to portray the human nature of the Mechanicus and the balance they strike between the emotional side of humanity and the cold, logical side of the machine. In terms of the characters and the storyline though I really struggled to relate to it. Often it felt a bit like watching professional wrestling where the actors do really stupid things and, instead of questioning their actions, you realise you need to just flow with it in order to try and enjoy the show.

So all up not a Pulitzer prize winner but it was good to wrap up the series. I think there is one more book in this series but after reading this one I think I'm happy to leave the story here. :)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Maelstrom IX - Day two of the 1's and 2's tournament.

Day two is done and with it the tournament closes for another year. I big thanks to Hagen for stepping up to the thankless job of tournament organiser, and a big thanks to all of my opponents for making it an enjoyable weekend.

Despite the title my rolling did improve today which I was most grateful for. I played two interesting armies and both were a big eye opener for me. I'll give a quick recap on those and then I'll run through my impressions of the tournament as a whole.

Game 4 - Dirty, dirty Tau

Mike Price was my opponent for my fourth game. I wasn't quite sure why I was facing him as his army was the one with all the crazy awesome battle suits which I would have thought was pretty competitive. It turns out his first day went about as poorly as mine did with the dice so we were both looking to salvage something of the weekend in terms of placings.

I've not played Tau in a looooong time so I asked Mike to explain what all these fancy new battle suits do. After he'd done this Mike set up as he had won the roll for deployment and first turn. When I saw his deployment I thought I should be able to control the game simply by staying out of range of his Fire Warriors and focusing all my firepower on his big robots. I could use my 'Ignore Cover' orders to help clear out his Stealth Suits and the Deathstrike and Basilisk should be able to clear out the Fire Warriors at range. A cunning plan, surely nothing could go wrong.


Holy shit, that plan went totally wrong! In my defence though, while my rolling had improved from the first day, Mike's came back with a hell of a vengeance. For an army with Ballistic skill 3 I would expect on average for them to hit about 50% of the time. Mike's army figured a 75% hit rate was a much better idea. With all their high strength, ignores cover guns this made for a very unsavoury Tau shooting phase. Worse than that, almost every wound I put on his Stormsurge was ignored. Low AP shots were shrugged off by it's Feel No Pain and anything else was shrugged off with it's armour...until his armour failed...then he shrugged it off with Feel No Pain. This was possibly one of the most painful games I have played in a while but it did at least teach me a couple of lessons about my deployment which I carried over into the next game. I think the final score here was 18-2 in Mike's favour.

Come to me Stormsurge! Come to me!

Damnit Stealthy robot things! F#@k off!

Game 5 - Evil Spez Mureens

After my involuntary sodomy (catcher, not the pitcher) in my previous game I was at the bottom of the table with Chris Parkin playing for the Wooden Spoon. The scenario meant we were deploying at the short ends of the table giving me a lot more room for shooting against an army that was half made up of foot sloggers. Things were looking up it seemed! I deployed my Chimeras much better this turn and kept them in a position to support each other.


Chris sent his Daemon Prince charging out in the front and I managed to knock a couple of wounds off him before he made combat. After wiping out my Vet squad in the building he was open for one round of shooting before he would be running amok in my lines. Thankfully I managed to shoot him down and then after that it was a matter of keeping Chris at arms length while sitting on my objectives. By the end of the game we were drawn on mission objectives but I had managed to chalk up more Maelstrom Victory Points giving me my first win. I think it was 13-7 maybe?

Get off my objective Spez Mureen!

Ok so that's all my games. I've learned some very important things about 40k from this event; I've learned why people complain about Tau - because they're horrible, and why people complain about Chaos - because they're shite. I've learned a lot about Astra Militarum, I think Hagen originally built the list off 5th edition theory and after getting a few games in with it I can definitely see some areas I could improve it for future events. Most of all though I've built up a new enthusiasm for getting back into 40k. So once again a big thanks to Hagen for running the event and a big thanks to my opponents for making it awesome  :)

Ok onto the tourny review. When the player's pack came out for this event I noticed a few questions raised on social media about various aspects of it. So rather than making a judgement from afar, I was curious to go and find out for myself. Some of these questions I discuss below amongst a few other aspects I found intriguing:

Missions

The three tiered scoring approach to the missions (Eternal War, Maelstrom and Secondary Objectives) was a bit confusing on face value to those of us that read the player's pack. After the first games were played on day one it was discovered to be relatively confusing in actuality too. We all got the hang of it by game 3 and it was no longer really an issue, but the question to me is whether or not it added anything extra to the tournament. I loved having some of the old school missions in there such as kill points but I think the tournament as a whole could have benefited from some simplicity here. I personally really enjoy the mix of Eternal War and Maelstrom missions so I would suggest each mission was Eternal War or Maelstrom with the secondary objectives across all 5 games.

Allies Chart

There were some questions around the allies chart limiting who each army could ally with. Questions were specifically raised around why Chaos Space Marines could not ally with Daemons. I personally found the allies chart a really interesting flavour to this event. It was nice not to see Eldar/Knight or Necron/Knight armies and I think it brought a really cool thematic aspect to the event which is often missing in tournaments. As to the Chaos Space Marine/Daemons question; I personally think this should have been allowed. I think it fits well with the theme and lord knows Chaos Space Marines need all the help they can get.

Sports Scores

I will admit that this is a pet hate of mine. The scoring is done in such a way that everyone will get maximum sports scores unless they are being a complete douche, so the principle is simply to stop anyone from being a total ass and make sure there is a modicum of sportsmanlike behaviour across the whole tournament. My opinion is that, if you are not looking to reward excellent sportsmanship, and you are only looking to maintain a level of civility, then why score it at all? Surely this could be managed by simply providing some pointers as to what indicates poor sportsmanship and allowing players to deduct a point or two after the game if they think it was really that bad. I do like that any deductions on points need to be justified to the umpire, I think poor sportsmanship should always be publicly called out and we should never be afraid to do so. I just can't see why we go through a scoring process when everyone at the event ends up with maximum points. It seems pretty redundant.

Comp Scores

Aaaaaaah, the eternal argument over comp. It's like the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was...ok I'll stop now. There were some clear holes pointed out in this comp system such as the maximum points White Scars army, but in all honesty I've never seen a comp system that works. Did it make a difference in the tournament? Well the guy who brought the evil Daemons army with the terrible comp score missed out on a placing because of it and he got top battle points. That being said, among the top three there was a less than cuddly Necron army and an Imperial Knight army.

I'm not sure if there will ever be a definitive answer to a good way to manage army composition. Personally I'm a fan of doing away with it altogether and allowing the local culture to dictate what should be brought. I find reducing the number of prizes on offer for battle points to be a good way of getting people to think about something other than destroying their opponents. So instead of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Best Painted and Best Sports I would go with Best General, Best Painted, Best Sports and then runner up to all three of those. That way everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy the part of the hobby they love the most. There will still be that game where you have to play that guy going for best general and brings that terrible army built to win the tournament, but I've not been to a tournament yet where I haven't had one of those games.

Overall

In my mind it's always the people that make a tournament worthwhile or not and the people I played at this event were great. For that reason alone I'm going to come back next year. Better yet, there's another tournament at the end of October and if I can get enough models painted I'll be going to that. I went to this event with a hope that I could start getting my head around the game again and that I could get myself inspired to get into 40k again. In that sense this event has been a resounding success as, since the weekend, I have been flooded with ideas for new armies and how to improve my army list for the next event. I'm really starting to get a love for the hobby again and I'm looking forward to getting into another tournament. Hopefully it won't be too long.

Ok that's me for another blog. If you've managed to read this far without falling asleep then congratulations! You've earned yourself a rest and to be honest I really need one too after typing this up. I hope you got some insight or have found something interesting about my recap of Maelstrom IX. Or maybe I just pissed you off with my points of view and you're currently wiping the spittle off your phone or computer screen as you rage at my insolence. Either way I'm glad you dropped in to have a read, drop in next week and I should have a book review or two up for reading. They'll at least be much shorter I promise  :)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Maelstrom IX - The tournament of 1's and 2's


Today was my first Maelstrom experience and, as best as I can tell, my first time playing in a 40k tournament since Conquest in 2013! That's close to 3 years! As you can probably tell from the title it was not an exceptionally successful first day for me. My intention going into this event however was to familiarise myself with the 40k ruleset again and in that sense it's been a great success with me learning a number of rules and clarifying a number of things I was unsure about.

Despite my overall failingness in the first day of the event there were some interesting or amusing aspects which I thought I would post up in a quick first day bat-rep.

Firstly I best explain my army. I haven't got my own models painted so Hagen, the tournament organiser, was kind enough to lend me his Astra Militarum army. I had no idea where to start so he drafted me up an army list a few months ago and I've made a couple of changes just to simplify it a little. This is the list I took to Maelstrom IX:


Game 1 - Egyptian Cylons...er...I mean Necrons

My first round was against Jason Isaac. Jason had been out of the game for the best part of 10 years so was as rusty as me and we had a great game of trying to figure out which rules we were using from which edition of 40k. The game was played longways across the board which I initially thought would be great for my army but turned out not to really be of any concern to Jason. This picture is after the first turn.


Unfortunately the game entailed me constantly rolling 1's and 2's for my armour penetration rolls against Jason's vehicles and, despite doing a metric crap tonne of wounds against them, his Wraiths just would not fail a save. I managed to get the Wraiths down to one model by the end of the game but that was the best I could do. Needless to say it was a big win to Jason (16-4 from memory) and I managed to kill only one unit.

Damn you Wraiths!

Game 2 - Flesh Tearers

Game 2 was against Sam Whitt and a very nicely painted Flesh Tearers army. This too was a bizarre dice game (what can I say, I have a gift). In the first turn Sam's terrible armour saves meant that Sam's units were all reduced to half-size. Turns 2 till 4 on the other hand had me rolling amazingly bad for shooting and reserves and Sam's armour rolls were much better. It was a kill points mission and Sam was up 7 to 2 at turn 5. Then in the last turn my dice flipped and I ticked up another 5 kill points in one turn. I had managed to whittle most of Sam's units down to one or two models so it was just a matter of finishing them off, I just hadn't been able to get the dice to do so in the past few turns.


In the end the Mission Victory Points were drawn, but during the mid-game Sam had racked up quite a few Maelstrom Victory Points and so beat me out based on these. Final score I believe was 14-6 to Sam.

The best part about this game was when Gabriel Seth and his Apothecary butchered through two Chimeras, an Infantry squad and my Command squad only to be shot down in the final turn by a single Heavy Bolter. Three hits - Three wounds - Three failed saves (Seth had already lost one wound).

Commander Ernie Nobpuffin - "Just allow yourselves to die men and lure them him into a false sense of security! Trust in the Heavy Bolters!"

Game 3 - Imperial Fists

My last game for the day was against Aaron Twose and his Imperial Fists. It was a hammer of an army with two Termie units, one Drop Podding, the other being delivered from a Land Raider. I can tell you that, from the bottom of my heart, I never again want to have to kill off two squads of Terminators with Autocannons, Flamers and blinky-light guns. What a f#@king nightmare! Admittedly Aaron's saves were above average on these guys, but still, killing off these squads seemed too much like trying to jam up a mulching machine by pouring guardsmen into it.


Eventually I managed to clear out the Termies and Aaron had very few units left to claim objectives with. We were up to turn 5 but with a few average dice rolls I would be able to jump back onto my objectives and clear Aaron off all but one of his. Well it seemed average was a bit too much to ask as the 1's and 2's reared their ugly heads again for my difficult terrain and run rolls. In the end it was a 17-3 win for Aaron but I wasn't too unhappy with this one. If a couple of dice in the last turn had gone the other way it would have been a very different story.

One unit of Terminators down, one unit and a Landraider to go.

All up a pretty good day despite three losses. The opponents I've had have all been great peoples, the armies I've faced have been interesting and varied, and all the games have had little moments of awesome that help to take the sting out of the loss.

The only difficulty I've had is with the scoring system. It's confusing enough to be getting back into the game, but then to have a three tiered score system to get my head around as well has been a bit challenging. It's becoming a lot easier after three games so hopefully my brain runs a bit smoother tomorrow.

Anyway that's it for day one. I'll put up a full review of the tournament tomorrow with a quick recount of the last two games. In the mean time I have snapped some photos of all the armies set up for the painting judging so you can have a wee perv at what turned up on the day.

Check back tomorrow for more pics and probably more whinging about poor dice  :)
















Monday, 6 June 2016

Turns out Age of Sigmar was just a dream.

Well not quite. Age of Sigmar is still very much alive and kicking but thankfully for those of us who love the old Warhammer world, Geedub still seems to be happy enough to license it's IP out for video games based around it. We've recently had a number of titles issued around the old Warhammer world with Mordheim: City of the Damned and Vermintide being released last year and now in the last few weeks...


I have been hanging out for this game for...well actually only about a year or two. But it feels like it's much longer! I even bought a new gaming rig specifically for this game because my old computer wouldn't be able to run it. So now that I've had a couple of weeks to get into it I thought I'd post up a bit of a blurb for anyone who might be interested.

As a quick intro here's some background on the game. If you're wanting some in depth understanding of the game then just check out the website but otherwise I'll give you the one paragraph version:

Archaon has once again decided to vent his 'daddy issues' on the Old World and has set forth from the Northern Wastes to destroy all before him. In the game you take up one of 5 races involved in this apocalypse: Chaos, Empire, Undead, Orcs and Goblins or Dwarfs. Each race plays very differently in terms of how they interact with the world and how they fight with one another, and each is given victory objectives that align with their race which they will need to complete in order to win the game. It plays along the same format as all previous editions of the Total War franchise with turn based map strategy and real time battles. One very notable difference however is the real time battles which now include flyers, magic, monstrous infantry, monstrous cavalry and gigantic creatures.

To highlight all of this in a bit more detail I'll give you a review of the Dwarfs which I have been playing as (no surprises there for those who know me).


First up, after picking your race, you need to pick your Legendary Lord. This defines what specific benefits you receive in-game from their unique abilities. In my case I went with the somewhat unoriginal High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer. I've always found the idea of a grumpy, old, fat Dwarf king being hoisted round on a palanquin kind of amusing.


Once you've selected your Legendary Lord you go through a beautiful cinematic scene before being thrown into your first fight. I got a bit caught up in this and forgot to get screenshots, but once you have won this battle (it's not difficult) you begin the tutorial for the campaign map.


The tutorial shows you the basics of how to manage the various in-game aspects of the race. It explains the infrastructure of the cities and helps you start your progress on the technology tree and diplomacy. It evens tells you how to rename your settlements.

Goodbye Mount Squighorn...

Hello Mount Hairybottom!

There are two main trunks through the technology tree. One upgrades your warriors and equipment so your soldiers perform better in battle, while the other provide upgrades to infrastructure, trade, diplomacy and the like.


In all honesty I've not paid a whole lot of attention to it so far as I'm really not sure what I should be focusing on. In hindsight building on any revenue gathering would have been a good place to start but I've managed to get that mostly under control now.

On the other hand, the Diplomacy screen is one I've been having a lot of fun with.


At the start you are surrounded by other Dwarf kingdoms and the Orcs and Goblins so they are your first contact. Initially I just tried to gain military alliances with the other Dwarfs and then I found you could organise a combined military target if you were at war with the same enemy. This turned out to be extremely useful for sending my allies off to distract the enemy's armies while I focused on capturing their unguarded settlements  :)

Also I've progressed far enough in the game now that I'm able to organise confederacies with the other Dwarf kingdoms allowing me to absorb their kingdom into my own which I've discovered is an incredibly easy and quick way to expand my kingdom!

One aspect of the game unique to Dwarfs is the Great Book of Grudges otherwise know as the 'Dammaz Kron'.


When another kingdom slights your King in some way, usually through raiding, agent effects, defeating you in a battle or sacking a settlement, a mission is then lodged in the Great Book of Grudges and you must go and settle the score with them. It can be annoying at times chasing up on every little, petty insult made against your good Dwarfy self but such things can not be overlooked if you are to retain your sense of honour. Occasionally a grudge will also be issued as a scenario such as this one from the tutorial but they are few and far between from what I've seen.


Once you have settled the grudge, usually from crushing a few skulls, the entry will be struck from the Great Book of Grudges and your number of unsettled grudges will be reduced.


If you leave grudges unsettled for too long it begins to have an adverse effect on your kingdom. Your followers, both your subjects and your nobility, begin to lose faith in you as a leader and the flow on effect contributes to rebellions in your territories. I think it also has an effect on any followers you might have picked up in your retinue, as a handful started leaving my Lord when I left my grudges unchecked for too long.

Additionally there are Quest Objectives issued such as the one below.


These have something to do with victory conditions but I've been having far too much fun killing Orcs and Goblins to pay any attention to them. As such I have no idea what effect they might have on the game, other than the obvious point that they will need to be completed in order to achieve 'victory'.

Anyway enough about all the infrastructure and strategy and campaigning crap. What about the fighting!?! One of the most enjoyable things about the Total War series is the real-time battles. It allows you to take a step away from the strategic aspect of the game and get down and dirty with your troops on the ground. Just like all of the previous editions of the Total War series battles are commenced by moving your armies across the map and into contact with other armies or settlements like so...


Assuming your opponent doesn't run away from you battle will commence!


The pre-battle screen will show you what is in each army and the little yellow and red bar under 'Battle Deployment' indicates who the stronger combatant is. Once you enter the real-time sequence the game will allow you to deploy your forces as below:


The exception to this is where you are ambushed, in which case you get a cool cinematic of your army walking along a road before the camera moves seamlessly to the real-time battle without any chance to deploy. Also, a neat feature available to the Dwarfs is the use of the Underway for travel. This allows the Dwarfs to move through impassable terrain which helps get around their generally slower movement. However, there is always a chance of ambush in the Underway where battles are fought to the death. There is no escape or retreat from the Underway when in battle so if you lose, you lose everything!

Once you have won your battles you gain experience and sometimes rare items for your Lords or agents like this...


However if you lose you can have your equipment taken from you by your opponent. So if you allow your Dwarf Lord to be surrounded by an army of Orcs and Goblins like this then he could end up a little lighter in loot after the battle.


Worse yet this could happen...

I've also found you can receive negative traits though I'm not quite sure how you earn them. I'm assuming I got this one after a battle where I forgot to commit Thorgrim to a fight so I'm assuming it is an outcome of your actions in the battle...maybe?


It's been a lot of fun getting elbow deep in all of this over the past couple of weeks. The Dwarfs are an interesting race to play in that they are very reliable with tough, well armoured infantry. However, they don't have all of the cool toys other races have such as monsters, giants, massive cavalry or magic users. Nonetheless they have a few interesting troops in Slayers, Irondrakes, Gyrocopters and Miners with blasting charges. The last one especially is a lot of fun when your enemy gets close to your battle line.

The game itself I've found to be both very challenging and very rewarding. The sight of an Orc Waagh coming charging into your lands can be daunting, but once you have weathered the storm and the Orc lands are left empty and ripe for conquering you can make good on all of those grudges accrued in the Dammaz Kron. My only real frustration with the game has been with agents assassinating my characters. From what I've read on-line I'm not the only one either. When attacking the Vampire Counts to settle a couple of grudges I found my agents and generals being assassinated with disturbing regularity. The Vamps were killing me off with a 50-60% success rate, while my agents were struggling to do anything. When making the attempt the game would say I had a 25-30% chance of wounding or killing their characters, but in reality it was closer to 5%. It's something I managed to weather (as all good Dwarfs do) and it's no longer an issue as I eventually smashed the Vampire lands to itty, bitty pieces. None-the-less it was a frustrating episode and an issue that appears to be a bit of a bug in the game.

Overall though an awesome, awesome game that I will be playing for many months, or possibly even years, to come. Given my new found hatred for Vampire Counts I will leave you with a couple of screenshots of me killing Mannfred von Carstein. I can't possibly find the words to describe how satisfying these battles were for me.

Next weekend I'm off to Maelstrom IX so I'll try and get a post up in the downtime about how things went. Until then, arrivederci!

Thorgrim laying the smackdown on Mannfred.

My favourite: this is what Mannfred looks like after a cannon ball to the face.