Battle for the Dorwinion Valley

I got the beer and pretzels and the boys came over for some lead pushing and die rolling. In order to save time, Steve volunteered to serve as Aruman, the Multi-Coulored (Head of the Istari Council). In this fantastic scenario, he has found himself leading Easterlings and Southrons. Historically, perhaps the Evil (a.k.a. the horribly misunderstood) Horde should have been led by a Blue Wizard, but I don’t have one of those in my collection. Apparently the very particular Prof. Tolkien would be rolling in his grave if he knew a Saruman like wizard were leading Easterlings.  But I don’t feel so bad about including giant badgers in the Dwarven Order of Battle since the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit included Radagahst’s giant rabbits.
http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Wizards

Aruman the Muti-Coloured prepares a fire ball 2

Aruman, the Multi-Coloured prepares a fire ball

Steve was good enough to select the deployment of the baddies in advance of the game, using an area map I provided him, thus saving a lot of time and allowing the Dwarven players to deploy their lead without having to worry about setting up a visual block, to avoid leaking vital tactical intelligence to the enemy. The double blind deployment resulted in just what I might have expected, Aruman set most of his powerful troops around squares A5 and A6, so he could immediately capture the town in front of square A6, and contest the town in the middle of the ping pong table, in front of square A4.

Deployment
The New Dwarven Army set their most powerful troops (Swamp and Mountain Giants) in Square E1, since these units were not impacted by the wet fields in front of that town, and with their great size and power, could easily capture that town unless heavily attacked by the enemy, in which case the battle would be on no less than equal terms. The stout and heavily armored Dwarven Heavy Infantry were deployed between the two towns on the Dwarves right and center (columns #1 and #4) so that they could capture the town on the right w/the help of the Giants, and maybe capture the one in the center depending on how the initiative rolls worked out. The Dwarven army’s left flank was protected by a the fearsome Badger Heavy and Light Cavalry, no doubt with the intention of at least slowing the advance of Aruman’s forces until the center and right towns could be captured and fortified.

Arumans Right Flank Cavalry holding up the Dwarves left

Aruman’s right flank and the badger cavalry blocking his advance
With the strengths of the two armies on opposite corners of the ping pong table, it looked like there was a good chance that eventually the two weaker flanks could both be turned. Intriguing!
In this scenario, I added the following victory conditions after play testing the scenario (see previous blog):
• Points are awarded based on the unit point values of all eliminated enemy units.
• Eliminated leaders are worth 10 points each;
• Magic Users are worth 20 Points.
• Each captured town is worth 25 points.
So capturing the towns are very significant objectives, not only because of the victory points awarded at the end of the game, but also due to their excellent defensive bonus awarded to those troops defending within (1 pip higher armor save, which statistically speaking can make Heavy Dwarven Infantry defending in towns nearly impossible nuts to crack). Aruman has some troops with excellent armor as well, but not nearly as many as the crafty Dwarves who as we all know don the finest Mithril Armor (whatever that is, my theory is that Mithril is actually a Titanium alloy, although it could be an iron with just the right amount/type of impurities properly quenched, Dwarven HY-100).
The armies were each worth about 350 points.

New Dwarven Army Order of Battle:

Number of Units

Type

Special Type

Nomenclature

Total Value

11

Heavy Inf Hvy Dwarven Inf

158.40

1

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Dwarven Cav

10.50

3

Light LtCav Lt Dwarven Cav

12.00

3

Light Art Dwarven Battlefield Art

9.00

1

Heavy Giant Mountain Giant

72.00

1

Heavy Giant Swamp Giants

36.00

3

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Badger Cav

39.38

3

Light LtCav Lt Badger Cav

18.00

26.00

355.28

 Aruman’s Horribly Misunderstood Army Order of Battle:

Number of Units

Type

Special Type

Nomenclature

Total Value

3

Heavy Giant Hvy Mumakil

121.50

2

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Harad Cav Lance

17.50

2

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Easterling Cav Axe

14.00

2

Light LtCav Lt Harad Cav Bow & Spear

6.00

2

Light LtCav Lt Easterling Cav Spear

3.00

1

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Harad Cav Sword

7.00

2

Heavy Inf Hvy Harad Inf

21.33

2

Heavy Inf Hvy Easterling Inf 2-handed

16.00

2

Light Inf Lt Harad Inf

6.00

2

Heavy Inf Hvy Easterling Inf 1-handed

24.00

5

Light Inf Lt Orc Archers

18.00

4

Light LtCav Lt Warg Riders

18.00

3

Heavy HvyCav Hvy Warg Riders

15.75

2

Heavy Large Variag Trolls

60.00

34.00

348.08

I did not include all the unit statistics in these tables, but as can be inferred
by the unit point values and types of units on each side, the Aruman’s Army has
the following advantages:

1)      More units.  This may allow for more tricksy flanking maneuvers.

2)      About ½ of their army’s value stems from 5 of the 34 units, the Giant Oliphant Heavy Cavalry and Large Variag Trolls.  So if these can be successfully deployed and utilized, they have the ability to steam roll through otherwise good opposition.   Giant troops subtract 2 pips from an opponent’s armor save and Large troops subtract 1.

3) A good number of light troops.  Although these troops have no order, they are excellent at chipping away at heavy troops if they have ground to give after they hit and run.  In the Ares Exultant game system, light troops can be paired with heavies to good effect, but they will eventually end up suffering losses to other lights, and retreating off the board (being eliminated) if they run out of space to maneuver when being pushed by heavies.

The New Dwarven Army has the following advantages:

1)      That crazy good mithril armor and toughness.  They save 2/3rds of their potential casualties due to their excellent armor (against human sized opposition) and crafty Dwarven fighting skills.  And they have outstanding morale.

2)      They do have excellent Badger Cavalry to provide some light cavalry protection, and some light cavalry of their own, of good quality.  The punch of the Badger heavy cavalry and the quality of their heavy troops are hard to match.

3)      The new Dwarven Ballistae.  The Dwarven War College is still trying to figure out how to effectively employ these units in a field battle, but they look COOL, have extended range and can shoot in the first round of a melee.  The problem is they have to be set in a defensive position in order to fire.  In hindsight, the Dwarven players trash talked them, but that is because it took them the whole game to get them into a good position.

In general, the dwarves could have mixed and matched their heavy & light troops better.  However their lights were all cavalry and ballistae, the latter useful when defending in place only.  Cavalry is no good in towns, and if they stick w/infantry they lose their extra move so the deployment made sense.

Action Report Day 1:

The New Model Dwarven army advances on both flanks and the center.  On their right flank, they will march right for the town with their scary Swamp Giants and Mountain Giant.  In the center, they advance with heavy infantry.  The foppishly attired Highlander Badger Cavalry challenge Aruman’s right flank.

Arumans left threatened

The Giants have taken the town and now move to flank the Mouth of Aruman’s left

Overview from Arumans Side Situation in middle town

Situation at the end of the first night’s play; Dwarves have taken Middle Towne

Aruman advances his legions on all fronts as well.  On turn 2, he misses a critical initiative roll, which lets the Dwarven scum (Aruman’s words, not mine) take Middle Town before his own troops reach the walls.  The Dwarvies also take the town on Aruman’s left, which was anticipated.  This leaves the town on Aruman’s right to his light troops, who capture the town without a fight as the remaining town’s people flee in terror.  In the center town, 2 units of town folk actually rally to the Gray Wizard’s side as the Dwarves advance, helping to man the town walls to hold off Aruman’s host.  The Giants fighting for the Dwarves, however, encounter stiff resistance from the townies in the Column #1.  Although they are in a hopeless position, against all odds (they rolled a “6” reaction roll when the Giants stomped into town) they set against the Giants with a furious although short lived defense, inflicting significant damage to the Giants before running for the hills.

The only real action the first day came when the terrifying Highlander Mounted Badgers charged against the heavily armored Haradrim.  The badgers routed two units of Harad’s finest, in a brilliant display of poor tactical die rolling by Steve.  Aruman also attempted to throw one of his famous fire balls, but it did absolutely nothing when countered by a shielding spell from the Gray Wizard.

So at the close of battle day 1, as 2100 hrs arrived and players need to get home for work the next day, things looked pretty grim for Aruman.  The Dwarvies owned 2 towns to Aruman’s one, and although there were no units eliminated on either side, there was one spent Dwarvish Heavy Cavalry unit vs. 2 heavily damaged and routed Haradrim for the Multi-Coloured One.  The victory point total stood at 25 for Aruman and 50 for the Gray Wanderer and his hearty band of Dwarves, et. al.

Action Report Day 2:

A major change of command was in store for the leadership of EVIL.  Steve, Andy and Allen all were either out of town or sick, leaving the ranks of the horribly misunderstood lacking any commanders.  This left the baddies to be played by myself and Rick (who was unavailable for Day 1).  I usually don’t like to play in games I’m running just in case there are any rules interpretations necessary, plus it leaves me free fetch provisions and choose the soothing battle music and videos, but with too much lead and too few players, I became Aruman and Rick served as my Number 1, A.K.A the Mouth of Aruman, leading the evil troops left of the A5 stream.  The base rules were not written my me in any case.

97 Dwarf Right Flank CO plots strategems 101 Siege of Middle Towne Day 2

Tim moves to beset the Mouth of Aruman’s light troops on the Dwarven right, and the EVIL attack into Middle Towne

As Commander in Chief, I ordered the Mouth to beset the runty Dwarves in the center and hold off the giants stomping our way from the town in Column 1.  I took over the remaining troops, and proceeded to advance as quickly as possible to outflank and destroy the Badger Cavalry.

The Dwarves moved their heavy infantry to reinforce Middle Town as quickly as they could, while the badgers engaged the Oliphants and other heavy and light support troops.  Although Aruman had an advantage in numbers in most of these battles on his right flank, my skill in die rolling, paired with John’s grim luck proved devastating to his plan to hold the Dwarven left.  His Badgers were smashed and routed, and exploitation attacks left them all DOA at the badger field hospital, or otherwise AWOL.  The Badger Commandant was slain with his mammalian kin, and YES – there will be songs written about his bravery.

102 Dwarf Left Flank depleted 103 Not Looking Good for these guys

The grim field of battle after the brave badger cavalry were eliminated, leaving a single heavy Dwarf infantry unit to hold the left flank of Middle Towne

The Mouth, however, was facing desperate odds with Dwarvies and Giants bearing down on his outmanned forces.  I transferred troops to his flank and he administered a brave and partially successful attack on Middle Town, even though the Dwarves had the advantage of fighting behind walls and are tough to kill in any circumstance.  On Aruman’s far left, one of our brave Easterling Light Cavalry Brigades was forced to retreat off the edge of the table, and was never heard from again.

Dwarven Rough Rider Light Cav Dwarven Spear engage the Trolls

Dwarf Light Cavalry harass the Mouth of Aruman while formations of Dwarf Spear battle Variag Trolls 

So at the close of Day 2, due to the great success against the Badgers, the heavy Dwarven infantry that was defending the Gray Wizard’s left were mostly decimated, but the large majority of Dwarven Heavy Infantry remain in excellent fighting condition.  With all the dead Badgers, the victory point total now stood at 103 for Aruman to 53 for the Gray Wonderer.

Valhala after 2nd day Light Cav hiding from giants

Valhalla at the end of the second night’s play indicate a 7:1 casualty ratio.  Light Cav hide in the forest waiting for the final night of battle.

Action Report Day 3: The Final Stage of the Battle

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Rick and Tim were back in action controlling the New Model Dwarven Army, while Steve and Allen had operational command of the horribly misunderstood ones

Aruman’s troops continued their offensive on their right flank, pressing their advantage after having eliminated the Badger cavalry.  But they were challenged on their right, as the Dwarvie Giant creatures (of the Swamp and Mountain variety) rolled up the left, with a few stout dwarven infantry and light cavalry adding to the advantage.

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Aruman’s Southrons advance around Middletown, cutting off any hope of retreat for the Dwarves. 

The battle for Middletown dragged on, with Aruman not giving up on the prize.  However, the dwarvies were too well armored and entrenched in the town to be easily evicted.  They held firm even when facing a mixed force with missile troops without coming close to routing, or losing too many casualties to stand before nightfall and the end of hostilities.

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Although the Haradrim had managed to defeat the dwarves on their right and advanced around Middletown, they were forced to fall back from their original attack to defensive positions behind the twisty creek and leave the heavy work to the Murmakil.  The town was effectively relieved by the end of the scenario.    

blog photo

The largest melee of the battle happened in the fields in front or Middletown, with the Dwarven heavy infantry, light cavalry and giants taking on Variags, Easterling and goblin warg riders.  The Dwarves got the better of their foe, which forced Aruman’s strategic withdrawal.

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Largest melee of the scenario.  It was glorious!

The Final Talley

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The New Dwarven Army casualties are on the left and center of the Valhalla tray, Aruman’s are on the right.  The Dwarves fought valiantly and nearly turned things around with respect to victory points, but Aruman managed a narrow victory.

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The final score was 98 VPs for the Gray Wizard/Dwarves against 135 for Auman/Southrons.  This was a very close game, as the Variag Trolls (2 stands) were nearly eliminated, and one the two units likely SHOULD have been, but I erroneously allowed too many dice in one battle for the excess units present, which caused a route that probably saved the unit from elimination on the very next turn. Had it been eliminated, there would have been a 7 point difference in the game.

Lessons Learned 

This game system was not originally meant for fantasy troop types, and is usually not played with so much terrain.  We solidified the rules for how the town defenses and movement should work, and how the Ballistae should function within the excellent Ares Exultant system.  I think I also went a little overboard with terrain effects, which I thought would add extra amusement to the fantasy game, but proved annoying to the players.  These elements will be addressed & written into the scenario rules before I play this or a similar fantasy game in the future.   Lots of classic miniatures were painted that otherwise would still be uncoated, and it kept the gaming group busy for 3 weeks of play, so I call it a success!

 

 

 

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Play testing a scenario with the new Dwarven Army

 

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This was the deployment of the Dwarves and Men of the South and East for the Play Test.

Play testing a miniatures scenario can be a pain.  It’s not all that much fun to work out problems with a game system or scenario on your own, without at least one other interested person to bounce issues and ideas off of.  Plus it’s virtually impossible to think just like somebody else, but that is what you have to try and do when designing a game, i.e., consider all of the possibilities and potential strategic decisions (and annoyances) that other players may have in playing your game. 

Also, if you are having a bunch of friends come over, you don’t want to have critical flaws in your game system, or scenario specific rules, ruin their time.  So, given the crappy weather and 3 day weekend, I decided to run a game using my newly painted Dwarven Army and some other newly painted figures, and see if there were any fatal flaws or improvements I could make in my scenario specific rules, before the guys would come over for the actual game.  I am glad I did!

The first challenge I faced was making an even scenario, where both sides would have a roughly even chance of winning.  In order to do this with the various units I was interested in using, most importantly my new Model Dwarven Army (see previous blog), I needed a points system.  The game system we are playing is a very fast and simple 4 page rules system, and there was no point system included in it.  So I made up a points system, that I believe accurately accounts for a unit’s statistics in obtaining a point total, measuring each side’s combat effectiveness.  But as any miniatures war gamer knows; based on the particulars of any given scenario, that point system may not lead to a fair game.  My points system assumes that other variables, such as the balance between light and heavy infantry and cavalry units is somewhat equal as are the units’ morale values.  If these are out of whack, or if there is a particular terrain layout that favors one side or the other, the game can be very one sided even if the points are roughly equal.

For this system, I used the following to approximate even sides (and had some fun with Excel):

 (1+ORDER/6) * ATTACK * (6/(6-ARMOR) * (HEALTH/6)

I incorporated these Logical Modifiers into the above:

–          IF Heavy Units have a MORALE of 4 or more, their value is increase by an additional 20%

–          Heavy Cav and Artillery are further increased by an additional 50%

–          Light Cav is further increased in value by 100%

–          Giant Creature Units are further increased by an additional 50%

–          Large Creature Units are further increased by an additional 25%

Giant and Large Creatures are extra powerful because they not only have lots of hit points and generally very good armor, but because they are so strong that they reduce the effectiveness of their opponents armor protection.

Image  In the case of cavalry and artillery, they get special movement rules and shooting rules that other units don’t have, so I took a guess at increasing their point values based on the mechanics of this particular game system (Ares Exultant).  But again, that advantage could be lost if they are operating in poor terrain for that type of unit. 

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I was able to get through 5 turns playing solitaire, which is a pretty good effort and enough of a play test to come up with the necessary improvements in my mind.  What follows is a picture or two of each turn, and a description of events…

 

Turn 1: the Evil Southrons and their Easterling allies immediately take the village on their right.  This was an obvious move.  Units in towns have significantly improved defense, but the order of heavy troops is reduced,  that is not a bad trade off and well worth it, even though with my initial rules, there were no victory points awarded for taking a town.  I moved some heavy infantry in, even with the loss of order.  All the other units just advanced as well.

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Turn 2: The Southron force continues to advance on their left, but held fast on their right after taking the town.  They did not want to lose that all important defensive bonus of being in a walled town, which I thought would outweigh any advantage in performing an advance across the entire line.  Plus the loss of order would be maintained until the unit could reform outside of the town, and when facing Dwarven artillery and enemy cavalry it did not seem prudent to push on the right.  The Dwarves and their Badger allies also decided to stay put and see what would happen on the opposite flank.   

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Turn 3: The Southrons continue to attack on their left flank, with their warg riders headed for the weak Dwarven right flank and their heavy infantry and Mumakil advancing just to the Warg’s center.  And with this advance come the first chance for Aruman to release fiery death on the opposing Dwarven Heavy Infantry.  He hits with maximum effect and the Dwarves fail to save any order or lives in the hellish blast.  The usually stalwart Dwarves are forced to retreat with their ballista in tow.   This would open up the battlefield for an effective attack, if it weren’t for the Gray Wizards equally effective use of a Web of Despair, to entrap the Mumakil unit in front of the Dwarven line.  The Mumakil is trapped  for 2 maneuver phases which, when coupled with some weaker units in that same area could spell doom for the Haradrim’s battle plan.

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Turn 4: With one giant Mumakil trapped for a couple turns, the remaining troops continue the charge into the Dwarven lines, however, the Dwarves are not stupid, and advance the very powerful (Asgard miniatures) Swamp Giants, who were obviously bought off by a promise of Dwarven Gold, one normally does not come by in the swamp.  The Dwarven artillery decides to stick around and shoot at the Haradrim light infantry, and gets the best of it.  All down the line, the Dwarves kick butt and the evil dudes are not having a good day, after that initial luck with the fire ball.

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Turn 5: I had pretty much learned my lessons from this play test after only 5 turns.  Looking at the master plan of the Southrons, it involved flanking out the Dwarves using their speedy Warg Riders on their left flank, however, the woods and stream protecting that flank meant that a single unit of heavy Dwarven Infantry could take on a whole group of enemy heavies due to the increased armor protection afforded by the river,  Even with the Variag trolls, which would reduce the armor effectiveness by a pip due to their great strength, the defensive terrain would get the Dwarves that pip back, and with a swamp to their rear, there was no effective way to flank the Dwarves.  And since they were kicking Aruman’s ass in the middle, it was time to head south.  The Badgers smelled blood and advanced on the Dwarven left.  I would have to rethink this or the bad dudes would face yet another humiliating loss (the baddies always seem to lose in my games and I am trying my best not to bias these scenarios).

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Lessons Learned –   Based on my play testing, I learned a few things and made a few changes to my initial scenario:

1)      Don’t just line your guys up and attack the enemy, it’s much more interesting to have varied victory conditions.  Maybe that’s an obvious statement, but I thought both sides would just slug it out without any special victory conditions.  I imagine they would if both sides were all comprised of fierce Barbarian types…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo9buo9Mtos

So instead of just awarding victory points for enemies KIA or routed based on their point values, if you add in terrain objectives that make logical sense in your scenario, that helps to get things going and adds more strategic thinking and complexity.  In my case, I added points for slaying enemy leaders, as well as for killing enemy units and holding the towns at the end of the game.

2)      Initial set up is really important.  Just as in a DBx game, it’s not easy to maneuver around the battlefield in this system, so for the actual game, I am instituting a double blind set up with both sides having access to the table layout, but no idea of how their opponents will set up.  Neither side has enough good units to plan on taking all three towns, so there is a lot of strategy and guess work in how an objective will be taken while making sure your army is not outflanked and destroyed.

This is revised map layout and deployment that I came up with based on the play test.  This is much more even than what I had, in so far as the Dwarves do not have an automatically protected flank and there are 3 towns to go for, although neither side has adequate troops to go for all three and hold them, the Haradrim and Easterlings have more units and this should make for an interesting dilemma for the Dwarven side, trapped in the horns of a strategic dilemma.

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This is a revised map and potential set up.  In this example, the Dwarves have pretty much given up on taking the town on their left, but should capture the one on their right and can battle for the one in the center without getting their army outflanked and surrounded (maybe).  In any case, I think its a much more even set up.

3)      Morale ratings are more important than I thought in this system, since there are significant casualties dealt out automatically on routing units.  Therefore, I increased the morale of some of the lesser values troops so they have at least some decent chance of not running at first contact and getting destroyed all at once by initial melee casualties and then by the automatic casualties caused by opposing (more mobile) troops attacking you in a route.  Morale is a very difficult characteristic to put an accurate point value on, because what you suffer by having a low morale differs greatly based on what type of troops you are facing and how much room you have to retreat.

4)      “Magic” can be very effective in my scenario.  Like a lot of players, I did not want to go crazy on the magic rules and have a lucky or well-placed spell change the outcome of the game.  But I did find out that the players had better be prepared to use it effectively and to counter its impacts, because they don’t, a lucky spell CAN really change the outcome of a critical melee.  And the outcome of a critical melee can then change the outcome of the whole game.  Even so, I decided to stay with the rules I play tested.  We’ll see how adept the players are at using these pretty effective magic rules to their advantage.  Both sides have the same ability of magic using leader, with the same spells so at least it’s fair for both sides, even if some will think that my magic rules have too much of a

game  impact.Image

5)      Keep it simple.  Since Area Exultant were written primarily for Ancients, and were meant to be a very simple and fast moving game, I really did not want to ruin it with a lot of extraneous rules.  However, I did want this version to have a fantasy feel, and that meant the addition of more rules, unfortunately.  So I added rules for Personal Combat, Magic, Giant and Large Creatures, and a random table for encounters when entering a town.  You have to liven things up when playing with Dwarves, Giants, Trolls and Mumakil.  Even so, make your scenario rules fit to the existing rules as much as possible.

Now I just need some beer and pretzels…    

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New Model Dwarven Army

It’s been a long time since I did any miniatures work, but the figures were calling me this long holiday use-or-lose season.  And with 2 weeks at home, the time was ripe for completing a Dwarven army.  Long an after thought, I never really had enough figures to field a reasonable dwarven 25 mm army, but I have always been a big dwarf (oxymoron?) fan.  So I gathered all of the various bits of lead from the old days and went to work refurbishing and modifying.  The army would consist primarily of figures from the late 1970’s and 1980’s, but it had to look good and lead to a balanced force for game play.  After my fried Rick gave me his old fantasy collection, which included 16 vintage Ral Partha dwarf spearmen, I knew that after refurbishing these well used figures, and with some old junk painted up along a few new purchases, I could get a good sized force for the gaming table.

The army is comprised of the following figures:  The aforementioned Ral Partha figures (Dwarven spearmen with some old swordsmen and axe men of the same line I had from high school), 16 old Minifig Dwarves of various poses I had collected along the way, 36 Heritage LotR (elan merch) figures (my personal favorites),  a few newly purchased Mithril dwarves (that are somewhat out of scale from the old 25 mm lines but useful in the right places), and some converted old human 20 mm? cavalry.  Not sure where all of the cavalry came from, but the Heavy Cav was stamped “England” on the bottom of the base, and some figures were old Ral Partha Scythian composite bow horse archers stamped 1984.

In order to give the Dwarves a fighting chance on the battlefield, I assembled some plastic ballistae I bought several years ago in the excellent Zvezda Fantasy Fortress set (See my previous blog on using their dragons as mounts for ring wraith types).  These give them some missile weapons that can be used on the battlefield, because as we all know Dwarves are not the best archers in middle earth (which begs the question why did I paint up and convert the Light Cavalry when they are primarily armed with composite bows, but I can easily fabricate a back story to explain that, which is one major advantage of FANTASY MINIATURES).  The Mithril figures are used give the infantry element missile capability.  I used the Mithril Travelers set as crewmen for the ballistae.  The final assembled models with magnetic bases and unit stats are in the picture…

Image                                                                                                                                    Zvevda Ballistae with manned by Mithril Dwarf Crew.  I gave one guy a flag for a little variety

Next I needed to give the dwarves some sort of cavalry.  Since they are not shaped optimally for horse riding, they can ride ponies. We know that from the last Peter Jackson Hobbit movie when Thorin and the gang ride Bjorn’s ponies all the way to Mirkwood.  And at a good clip, too, with goblins on their tail.  In order to give my Dwarves a cavalry element of sorts, I used some old out-of-scale human cavalry as Dwarf stand ins.  Although they are too skinny to be real dwarf like, from a distance its not all that critical IMO.  I did give them big bushy beards, high saddle backs, a cloak (green stuff RULES for making cloaks), and a few helmet and horn combinations to convert what were apparently Norman Cavalry (with Rohirrim painted shields intact since Rick did a great job hand painting them) into dwarf substitutes; these figures were previously converted into Riders of Rohan but just don’t blend in at all with my Heritage Elan Merch Rohirrim Cavalry.

The main advantage here is the use of scale creep against the evil miniature manufacturers.  As we all know, true 25 mm fantasy figures were killed off long ago primarily by Games Workshop in order to make kids buy their new “epic scale” product.  But these cavalry figures were so old, as to be totally out of scale even when used with most vintage 25 mm miniatures, let alone today’s figures.  So converting from humans on horses to dwarves on ponies was a great way to use otherwise useless figures that were well painted and otherwise pretty much ready for the game table.  If I were to do this over, I might have removed horse from rider and formed a Dwarven Beer Belly for these riders, but that was out of scope for this conversion.  I did have 6 other unpainted Scythian horse cavalry that Rick included in his generous bequest that eventually got the Dwarf Belly Treatment  (not recommended for humans with high cholesterol/blood pressure).

Image                                                                                                                                                      Modified Norman and Scythian Cavalry – were riders of Rohan, now Dwarven pony riders

It comes to mind that Dwarven pony riders should not get that much of a charge bonus, although I did use the Green Stuff to give the Heavy Cavalry high backed saddles that look pretty good, so maybe they wont fall out of their saddles and should hit on a pip higher when formed for the charge?  But if you still don’t want your Dwarves to charge, take away their credit cards (sorry, it had to be said).  Here are a couple of shots of the new (not converted figures).  One unit with Green Stuff cloaks and one without.  All the newly modeled figures were given the long beards and this time big Dwarf Bellies!

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Here is the final army (for now, and without the new cavalry).  Its shown with unit statistic markers for the excellent new Ares Exultant gaming system (coming to hobby store/internet soon I hope).  I have given the Dwarves a Mountain Giant (they needed at least one very powerful ally).  If they need to face a larger foe on the game table, I have decided that they could always bribe the giant Badger Cavalry (outstanding old figures from Off The Wall Armies) to fight on their side for a share of their gold.

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Even the stupidest goblin commander knows not to mess with Dwarves defending along a linear obstacle, especially when they have artillery and a mountain giant on their side.

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With Badgers riding giant pecking birds protecting their flank, they are a fell host indeed!

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Goblin! For Miniatures (first night’s action)

Tim overlooks the battle with nonchalant confidence

My gaming group got together to play test another classic hex and counter game I converted for play with 25 mm miniatures.  This time, Howard Barasch’s Goblin!  A Dwarfstar game, which I guess was a division of Heritage USA (or they purchased or sold the rights at some time).  Here it is on Gameboard Geek:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3108/goblin 

It is now a free downloadable game: http://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_goblin.html

I have always wanted to design a quick and dirty goblin raiding game, and this hex and counter version gave me an excellent head start in the design.  I was able to maintain the combat and morale system and I think it works great.  Major tweeks were necessary in order to convert it to a double blind area movement game.  By adding scouts, supply trains, and random events, I think it has the perfect mix of luck, skill, and intuition.  The double blind feature makes up for the comparatively small number of areas you can move to vs. the large number of hexes on the original map.  Combat is now within the areas, which is always a complication when the original version had combat from hex to hex.

In order to maximize the chaos, the Goblin Chief has a battle board with magnetic unit counters, in addition to his allotment of miniatures.   He also has “task force” type magnetic markers so all he needs on the battle board are units for his own scouts, wagon trains, and leaders (the leader’s units are on each task force plate) 

 

The Goblin King's Battle Board

Of course, this could just as easily been done using a computer screen or tablet, but I am old school and have no tablet.  So I’d take the Goblin’s magnetic map with his units stuck on them into the 25 mm game room to check out what the Goblin scouts would see and how the hidden movement was working out.  This is how we kept the game secret, and kept it safe.   

With the players’ aids I made, we were able to maintain the double blind feature by isolating only the Goblin King (Steve) in another room.  His chief minion (Andy) ran the tactical battles for him, and reported back only what we he was allowed to know (what their troops could actually see and not the entire game board).

 

The 25 mm gameboard (Goblin King was not allowed in the room)

The human generals were randomly started in 3 of the 5 towns and 1 general started in the keep.  The Goblin generals entered the game from one of the caves or the great goblin gate. The Goblin King could choose to either start on board, or he could get double moves offboard (strategic movement, assuming Goblins use strategy).  If he were to start offboard, he could not be detected by enemy scouts until he entered the playing area, but once he were to do that, he could not use strategic movement again.

In this minis version, you win by victory point accumulation, which is accomplished by taking towns, raising them, stealing resources (which are generated throughout) or by killing enemy units or leaders.  The hex and counter version did not have the resources.

And now to the action…

A large Goblin warband moved straight away to assault the Swamptown.  They did this without the benefit of a scouting report; somewhat dangerous, but these were good Goblin troops with a good leader, and the downside would be more of a tactical setback than a major loss.  In this game, you don’t tend to lose many high quality troops unless you are very unlucky; they tend to retreat instead.

The first battle of Swamptowne was a draw as one of the Baron’s Generals had a significant force encamped within, so the Goblins were unable to take the town.  The Goblins were forced to retreat but were undaunted.  Of course the Human scouts knew where these troops were, and quickly sent for reinforcements from the Keep, where the permanent valley garrison were deployed.

First Battle of Swamptowne

 

The Humans won the initiative on the next turn and the Garrison of Swamptowne along with the Baron’s Legions from the Keep were able to conduct a pincer movement on the hapless Goblins trapped in the middle.  Although they lost the advantage from the Swamptown river since they were flanked, they did manage to beat a hasty retreat without loss.  Another victory for the humans, but not the decisive victory they were hoping for.  Still, as long as they hold the Goblins at bay, one could assume that they are busy packing off the season’s harvest to the Human lands to the East.

 

Swamptowne Regulars and Troops from the Keep charge into the fray!

Turn 5 was to see the Goblins win the initiative, and that, along with a lucky random event allowed them to send in a vast force to attempt the capture of  Swamptowne again.  It was really quite a one sided battle, as the human Regulars had left the town for their pincer movement the preceding turn.  The Goblins may have even been disappointed that there were not a couple of regular fighting units in the town which was ripe for the taking, instead it was only defended by the local militia (townspeople who never leave) since the Baron’s forces had just left.  The humans rolled as well as they could in their missile phase, actually causing a Goblin unit to route.  That unit disintegrated, becoming the only loss in the first 5 turns.  The Goblins then rolled as poorly as they could have, and because the militia was in a town, they actually lost the battle and were unable to capture it.  I can tell you many a ballad and poem would be written about the heroic defense of the townspeople in this Second Battle of Swamptowne (or Swamptowne Creek, as the Goblins would call it).  This amazing turn of events led the Goblin’s tactical commander to rant and rave about the rules so much that his defeat was greatly relished by the Gamemaster as well as the lucky Humans.

 

Goblins would break like waves on the stoney walls of Swamptowne!

But throughout this whole first phase of the game, the Goblin King himself was nowhere to be found.  What happed to their Glorious Leader?  Until a scout or troop contacts the Evil King, the Baron and his personal household troops will not enter the Valley.  Tricksy.  Very Tricksy indeed, my precious. 

John is happy to have held Swamptowne after two terrible battles

More to follow…

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A miniatures project – Ring Wraiths on flying mounts

I was having some trouble getting back into painting, so I took the advice some gave on The Miniatures Page – begin with a project that was fun and would not take forever to accomplish.

The models when finished – mounted on dowels in their flying position

A couple  years back, I created a Pelennor Fields scenario.  At the time, I only had one mounted Nazgul figure, so I used it as the Lord of the Nazgul and did not bother to simulate the rest.  After all, I only had a ping pong table sized playing field, and one flying Nazgul was enough.  Still, I wished that I had more figures so that each Sauron (evil side) player could have one.  In order to create this battle, I had purchased 3 sets of Zvezda’s fantasy fortress play set.  This was an outstanding bargain at the time; it was on sale for ~ $25 a set, with each set having enough parts to make a small 25 mm castle.  I used all 3 sets to make the outer two walls of Minas Tirith.  The extra bonus was all the spare parts that came in the set.  Just the walls, gates and towers alone were an incredible bargain.  The extra siege equipment was VERY useful as well.   I built several of the catapults, cauldrons, & ladders.  The set also came with lots of figures you could glue together to make plastic minis.  These are very small, however, and come in a zillion pieces.  Way too much work for me, especially when I still have tons of classic lead to still paint.  The Dragons that came with the set were another story, however.  I thought these had a lot of potential, and one of the first things I did was to build one and paint it as a Nazgul’s flying mount.

I did not have any good mounted wraith figures except for the Heritage Elan Merch figures, one of which, the Lord of the Nazgul, was separate from his horse.  Since I had never even painted this figure up, I decided to paint one Zevezda dragon as the Lord’s flying mount.  This was fun and worked well for the scenario.  But I still had 2 dragons, and was never able to find anything on ebay to use as the other riders.

lord of Nazgul in the light

Witch King of Angmar – Lord of the Nazguls on his flying mount (Heritage Elan Merch wraith figure, originally was sitting on a horse)

Two weeks ago, I went to the NOVAG winter game day at the Game Parlour in Chantilly VA (a really nice store with a great selection of games and minis), and found what I thought could work – a RAFM mounted ghost figure and a Harlequin standing ghost figure.  I had a couple of non-descript human armored rider figures I picked up on the cheap from a Historicon a few years back, and the Harlequin figure looked to be right in scale.  So I took a risk and bought these two figures.  I chopped off the legs of the Harlequin slotta based ghost, glued on the legs of one of these human riders, and used Green Stuff to continue the ghost’s robes as a cloak on his back.   I also cut the hand and sword from the same human rider figure, and replaced the weaponless hand of the harlequin ghost figure.   I like my wraiths to always have a weapon in hand!

wraith #2 in the light

Modified Harlequin staning ghost figure – now in a mounted position with a flowing robe and cape, and a sword in hand

I had never before purchased Green Stuff before, and it was amazingly easy to work with, dried just the way I had set it, and it created a nice paining surface.  I really like the way you can mold it around a figures’ existing robes to get just the look of flowing clothes you want.

The RAFM Ghost, had a very long and distorted face, like in the artwork “The Scream.”  It also had no cloak or hood.  So again I used the Green Stuff to create the hooded cloak.  This gave the Ghost a real wraith like look, to match the other 2 figures I was using.

wraith #3 in the light

The RAFM wraith figure – came with a horse and a long face, added the hooded cloak

One huge advantage of the plastic dragons is that they are so light, they can be mounted on thin dowels so they look to be in a flying position, even with a pewter rider. I drilled holes into the belly of all three of these models, so they can be mounted on a stick or stand on the table top.  The Zvezda dragons have two tail positions, and you can glue their wings on at any angle you choose, so the mounts all look different as well as the Nazgul.

Nazgul models in ground combat mode

Since the dragons (now flying beasts) were “free” to me, that is, included in sets that I would have bought in any case, the whole project cost me nine bucks,
discounting the few extra bits I was not using anyway.  I also really like the way each of the 3 has its own look.  There is no reason that these former Kings of Men
(wraiths) should all look the same except their Lord.  I also like the way each of my models is totally unique.

Here are the parts not used – The RAFM ghost’s mount, the Harlequin figure’s legs and right hand

Finally, its worth noting that the excellent new GW LotR wraiths that just came out cost 58 bucks a pop, plus tax (or shipping).  So I figure these unique models saved me about $180 opportunity cost, if you will.

GW figure is cool but PRICEY… Also he needs a longer stand and it looks as if he needs different parts to be on the ground

So as to not be a GW basher, I will state for the record that I used GW Green Stuff and base flock on my models, and I was very impressed with the quality of these products.  I had previously picked up a can of the GW dull coat spray, and found  it to be defective – it sort of ruined a few of my figures.  But I returned it without any problem to the GW store I purchased it at.  When I re-sprayed the figures with a can of Testors, most of the solid junk that was stuck to my freshly painted minis melted away, so it was not that bad.

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The snow falls hard and don’t you know, the winds of Thor are blowing cold

Wanted to update this with a comparison with a couple Snowmageddon Jan 2016 shots…  This was the results of Winter Storm Jonas.  I lined up the NOAA Snow meter and Gastby once again for a comparison.  That last giant snow certainly didn’t seem like it was 6 years ago!  This time I show close to 30″ on the back door.  Gatsby got a little heftier as well (but its all mussel if you ask him).

Snowmageddon 2016 (worse than 10)

The “Blizzard” of 2010 will long be remembered as one royal pain in the ass.  Coming only a little more than a month after the Dec 09 massive snowfall, I can say for certain this one was even worse!  I’ve lived in this area for 25 years, only missing 3 winters in the FLA and CA.  Winters around here are usually very mild, but this must be what its like living in Buffalo.  The theory as to the harsh conditions this winter, is that an “El Nino” event in the equatorial Pacific has moved the Jet Stream south, channeling in cold and wet weather for the mid-Atlantic states and flooding in Peru among other anomalies.  I am not a big fan of these El Nino, and wish “the baby” would shut up. 

  

The dogs of doom are howling more 

I got out to begin the drive clearing as the heaviest snow was still coming down.  This proved to be a good strategy; when I got tired of dealing with the ginormous mountains of virgin snowfall, I could go back and take a breather while pushing through the fresh accumulation since the last time I attacked the awful snow pack.  I could hear the distant roar of gas-powered snow blowers from my neighbors, including next door.  I felt a little like John Henry battling the steam shovel.  I don’t need one of those cheaters’ machines that pollute my air with their 2-stroke gasoline powered engines.  Even so, I was starting to fade… 

 

My back aches…

Here is a similar shot from Jonas (2016), no  doubt it was more snow.  I figure I moved about 6 short tons worth based on the amount time I spent shoveling…

Gatsby on The Wall

Just when I started to think that this snow whipped me, and that I’d have to come out on Sunday to finish the job,  my PMP randomly selected Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” from a total of 2 gigs of music, and with that,  I could not get the imagery of the final scene from “Platoon” out of my mind.  I wanted to beat my shovel against my chest in a final salute to those who had fallen clearing their massive driveways.  Only there was no one to salute, so I had to keep that imagery to myself.  Then another coincidence: the very next selection from the tune-O-matic randomizer algorithm programmed into my Panasonic Spark ($40 on Buy.Com) was “This is the End” from the Doors.  And now the Vietnam imagery really kicked in, only this time from “Apocalypse Now”.  This gave me a second wind, maybe because Vietnam is tropical, and shoveling snow can’t be much of an issue if you live there. 

 

Next I started to daydream since shoveling snow really is not that interesting.  I was pondering the usual winter catastrophes; Napoleon’s retreat from Russia (1812), Shackleton’s escape from Antarctica (1916), and the surrender of Marshal Von Paulus (1943) in Stallengrad.  One has to think if men can cope with those horrendous situations, I can finish shoveling the driveway.

 

While I was shoveling, a couple 4 wheel drive vehicles got stuck in the snow.  Just because you own a 4-wheel drive, does not mean that you can fly over snowdrifts that are higher than the ground clearance of your vehicle.  One of these was a GMC SUV coming from outside our subdivision, and I thought – what an idoit, now she will block the plow and will likely try and enlist my help when I’m really not in the mood.  As it turned out, she was on an errand of mercy, delivering a nurse to a stranded homeowner, or so I heard.  She got her own crew to arrive on scene and somehow pull her out.  The “nurse” took off on foot. 

 

On Sunday (today), we have a sunny day but its very cold.  I tried to take the Yorkies out for a walk with their winter jackets on, but the snow was too powdery on top so they sunk right in, and that made for a very short walk.  Our Yorkies are also trained to go on Pee Pads, which we always stock up on, along with TP, Soy Milk and Trader Joe’s Cerial so we will be OK until either the plow finally arrives (or the spring thaw comes).

 

MICHIGAN was getting pounded by Wisconsin, so I decided to shovel the deck & watch through the window (at this point it was 40-24, pesky badgers)

One strange new development this time around is that is the these bands of roving men traveling in a big SUV looking to shovel out driveways are about.  You would not think that they could keep up with the traditional plow equipped pick up trucks.  But due to the high demand the the plows, these teams of men seem to be getting a lot of business along our street.  Even from our neighbor who has a snow blower.  According to the OPM web site, the federal govt is open today, but  I cant imagine that will be true come Monday AM.  At this point, the only way I’m getting to work is to trudge through the 20 inches snow to metro.  I think Uncle Sam should consider moving the seat of government to a more hospitable clime.  San Diego would be nice.  We have another 4 to 6 inches predicted for Tuesday. 

 

Men for hire, just like in the Great Depression

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The BLIZZARD of 09….

Not much of a blizzard really, but we did get around 20” of snow.  That is a load of snow for around here, where we often don’t get any appreciable snow in Dec (and sometimes Jan as well). 

 

Gail and I got a head start in shoveling; we stared on Sat so we only had a couple more inches to take care of on Sunday.  The snow seemed very heavy and dense yesterday, but it was not as bad today, until I got to the part that was compressed by the plow.  The plow illuminati finally decided to do our street today (yeah) so “Normal” cars had a chance to make it to the Parkway – and onto freedom.

 

The top of our deck table resembled a humongous Angle Food Bundt Cake              

 

There was a cute old couple across the street.  They started shoveling today, but were making very slow progress.  The man must have been around 70 years old.  And although he was SLOW as all heck, we was making some progress.  His wife who looked a bit younger was trying to help my filling up a bucket of snow with a hand trowel and painstakingly dumping it one bucket by bucket. 

 

Although my back was a little sore after doing our long driveway yesterday and finishing it up todayt, I thought I’d do the neighborly thing and lend a hand.  Here is what irks me about this situation.  First off, many of our neighbors are equipped with snow blowers.  I half expected them to ask Gail and I if we needed a machine aided assist.  That never happened, but it did not bother me really.  REAL men (who are not too senior, that is) SHOVEL their driveway.  No need for a snow blower in these parts if you are at all fit. Well I did expect one of these blower-equipped neighbors to offer assistance to the elderly couple across the street and it NEVER HAPPENED.  So I finally broke down and started shoveling his snow.  I believe if I had not lent this poor man a hand, he would have been out there another 3 hours (assuming no ambulance was called) at the rate he was shoveling, even with the bucket brigade assist from his wife.

 

Gail thought that the snow might overstress the deck. I tried to explain the difference between a

uniform pressure loading and a high patch load, but she did not want to hear it.

 

The lovely Gaileena eventually saw me out there and came to join in on the “fun.”  The second thing that irritated me was that after I came in for the assist (and when I say assist, I mean I was doing 90% of the snow removal), the guy moved back towards his garage to keep working and gave up after 5 minutes to disappear inside.  That just pissed me off, but I assumed that he was not feeling well.  After the job was almost complete, he did come back out to retrieve Gail’s hat, which she had temporarily abandoned as she got hotter with the shoveling.  This was not really of any use, as she had placed it in the snow intentionally, to be picked up after we were done. 

 

His wife told Gail that he had Alzheimer’s Disease,  so that made me feel much better (not that he had that awful condition, but it explained his rude behavior.  It also may have explained why he had lots of snot running down his nose and it didn’t seem to phase him.  His wife was from Vietnam, so we did get some valuable intelligence on her favorite Vietnamese restaurants in the area (it turns out that we had been to her favorite already).

 

This lovely image greeted us when we opened our back door on the main level, we have not even

tried to access our stairwell to the basement yet to clear the drain… that is a job for tomorrow

 

So there you have it, another lost weekend.  We never made it onto the open road, after working so hard to clear a path for our automobiles.  I did get to sneer at the H2’s and Lexus SUV’s driving down the street on Saturday in their $60,000 whips.  Show off bastards… They add to green house gasses in their humungous SUVs (when they do not appear to have any kids to haul around), paying for all that gas so that just in case they get in an accident with a poor fool like me in a compact car, they can live so that I will die.  OR for the one day of the year where they can drive around while people with normal vehicles are stranded.  Great.  Good for them.

 

Yorkies are close cousins to the Arctic Wolf!

 

The only good things to happen as a result of this storm are A) The Gov’t is shut down on Monday… Hurray!!!  And B) the Yorkies got to go outside and play in the snow without a leash.  It was so high, piled around the driveway that until I broke out into the street, they were trapped, in what was for them, a Giant Glacier of Ice and Snow!                 

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