Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gen Con 2015 pt. 1

If any of you are interested at all you can follow my Gen Con exploits via Twitter (as you can with a million other people who are more interesting than I).

I'm @carminlive

+++End Transmission+++

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Oldhammer Evening

Just a quick post before I jet off to Gen Con.

I've been running a D&D5 campaign for a bit, and I decided to have it culminate in a titanic battle. The fate of the north of our campaign world hung in the balance. The big question became: what system would we use to play this out?

-Would I use the Unearthed Arcana Battlesystem rules that Wizards put out? Needs more playtesting.
-Would I use the D&D Miniatures Handbook from 3rd edition? Maybe, but then I'd have to learn a new system and teach it to everyone.
-Would I use Warhammer? Sure! I mean, my entire game group is a bunch of Warhammer players, that would work wonderfully.

But which edition?

The answer, of course, was 3rd edition. I mean, it's got all the role-play trappings of the era, but built to be a miniatures war game. It was fun converting all my group's D&D characters, and their adversaries into Warhammer stats. I'd read everything for 3rd edition, but I'd never actually played it before. It would be both new and familiar to everyone.

I enlisted the help of two of my friends who weren't in the campaign to be the "ringers" and play the evil forces of hobgoblins and traitorous northmen. While the player characters (PCs) took on the roles of their characters and those they recruited to help preserve peace in the north. I'm pleased to say that the PCs won (despite being outnumbered by ~1000pts.). Though the wizard of the party did make a shady pact with the enemy to preserve his own skin.

I let the players add some role-play elements to the game, and I acted as game master which was a lot more fun that I thought. I'd never played an '80s wargame before, and I worried that the job of game master would be dull, but it was pretty great. Anyway, here are some pictures:

The prep.

Depoloyment (the pink cards in the center are traps, and decoys).

The clash in the center.
The frost giant pictured there was determined to be drunk at the
beginning of the game. Out of the two giants in the game he was
the only one to survive.

The dwarves held their own, that's for sure.

The LotR figures are "Empire soldiers," and the Mantic ghouls
are summoned lesser daemons.

The dwarves pursue the hobgoblins (represented by savage orcs)
through the forest.

The ogres were led by the cyclops warlord Kronar. He defeated
the fighter Corvinus (king of the north), but ultimately lost the war.

The real casualties of the battle. The beer was drunk by myself
and two others, while the bottles of cider were quaffed by the
gnome player.

Anyway, while Warhammer 3 had some weird and clunky rules (Vortex of Chaos is over-powered), it was filled with character, and we all had a great time! A perfect end to the campaign.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Of Kings and War 2: The Kingining

It's been almost two weeks since the release of Age of Sigmar (AoS) and the Warhammer world's still dead; just giving you guys an update.

So a lot of people are running around confused as to what to do now that their little square-based soldiers aren't supported by new Games Workshop releases (at least in the way they're used to). It's totally cool to not be satisfied with AoS, either. It's so vastly different that the very thing that attracted you to Warhammer: the Game of Fantasy Battles (WFB), may not exist at all in AoS. I think a lot of this confusion will dissipate as the months go on, and as various gaming groups and/or tournament organizers coalesce into one game or another.

I've said last post that I'm immensely satisfied with AoS, but I may not have stated my reasons clearly enough: I'm a very story-driven gamer, and AoS fits that bill nicely. I love tournaments too! I love the planning and play-testing that goes into them. I love staying up late the night before putting the finishing touches on my army in preparation for the event the next day. I love getting up early—wishing I hadn't put off my painting for so long—and triple-checking to make sure I have all my dice and templates and so on. I love milling around at the venue, and checking the time and wondering what could possibly be stalling its start. I love that it can be stressful, and that I can spend the day hanging out and rolling dice with my friends from the local gaming scene, and maybe meet some new opponents as well.

All that being said, tournaments are a place I like to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

I have friends who are hardcore tournament gamers. They go to as many as they can (afford), and they love the challenge of two players evenly matched (ostensibly) save their cunning and strategy. Never mind them, I have friends that don't do a ton of tournaments but rely on the structure that AoS doesn't emphasize to play pick-up games. I understand their dissatisfaction.

Luckily, it's never been a better time to be a fantasy gamer.

I'm a gaming mercenary. I like certain games better than others, of course, but I've never been one to sit on one game and one game only. Some people online (and in my circle of friends) are in the midst of an identity crisis, torn between staying with WFB 8th edition or moving to Warmachine and Hordes, or even Kings of War. For me, there's never been any movement; only expansion. I've played Warmachine happily since the softcover, black-and-white, Prime book alongside the many editions of WFB. They scratch different itches, and I like that. I don't ever want to just play one game.

So what the hell does this have to do with Kings of War (KoW)? Well, if you read my first KoW post you'll know that I gave it an okay review. I liked it, but thought it was a little too bare-bones when compared to WFB. Well, they've released a second edition and you can download it now; I did. While a lot of my initial thoughts still stand, I do see that they've added more spells, and more unique things to the army lists. I said in my original review that it won't replace WFB for me, but WFB's kinda been replaced for me.

Now I understand the irony of me espousing the idea that no game is truly dead so long as people still play it (there are still dudes playing Kriegsspiel), and saying that WFB has been replaced, but really I'm at the mercy of the gamers around me. I have some opponents who will never turn down a game of 8th edition, but if I roll up to a game club and no one has any red hardcover army books, I'll be pretty lonely with my scatter and artillery dice.

I have opponents willing to play KoW, and really I should embrace that. I mean, I have a million fantasy warriors on square bases. They'll need a home somewhere. Not to mention that the models are interchangeable. Anything I paint or build for WFB is automatically a KoW model as well, and vice-versa.

This all came about before any of us knew what AoS was going to be. I had my High Elves all ready to go, but stalled when I heard a new edition of WFB was going to be released. I didn't want to jump into a new project if the army was going to be changed or new figures came out that demanded my attention. Now that the Bloodbound models are occupying my paint table, my thoughts turned to packing up my High Elves for an uncertain future. But here comes KoW. Maybe now my High Elves have a future, and should KoW never catch on I have a High Elf force for WFB that I wanted to do anyway.

I can't wait to try out the new KoW rules. Now that my favorite regimental fantasy game is in limbo, and my attentions are turned to its round-based reincarnation, I feel that in my twisted gamer mind a space has been vacated that KoW could find a home in.

I have no idea where the gaming scene here in Vancouver will go. I have some suspicions, but I don't know for sure. I love gaming with the people in this city, and would like to take part in any tournaments or club days that go on, whether that's Warmachine, KoW, WFB, or (hopefully) AoS. All I know is that right now, you really can't go wrong painting anything with platemail and a sword.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Age of Sigmar and You... And Me... And Warhammer

I love Age of Sigmar.

Let's get that out of the way. Let's also get this out of the way: I've been playing Warhammer for almost twenty years (to be precise: 18 years, 6 months, 11 days). In that time I've collected and read every edition of Warhammer, as well as played every spin-off game (except FFG's Warhammer Diskwars). Yes, I've even played WarCry.

As you've already read in this post—or not, maybe you don't read every goddamn thing I type—my first RPG foray was AD&D, but it was really the Hogshead edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WFRP) that became my first RPG campaign. I took my high school friends through the entirety of the Enemy Within campaign, even having to hunt down the fifth book because Hogshead gave up the ghost before they could re-publish it. High schoolers playing through an entire five-book campaign, and meeting every week is some feat. I like to think that it was not only my amazing game-mastering skills, but the engaging world of Warhammer that kept us meeting every week.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the Warhammer World was a place that I've lived in since I was ten. the crucial years in a young boy's life were half-spent unfurling the plots of corrupt Imperial nobility, helping Eltharion repel the invasions of Grom the Paunch, and being the occasional third party member to the adventures of Gotrek and Felix. I exaggerate of course, but I truly can name all the provinces in Ulthuan. 

Now it's all blown-up, and we have something new. Why am I not devastated?

Because WFRP (Green Ronin's marvelous revision) still sits on my shelf, and I still plan to run the Enemy Within again. Because eight editions of Warhammer are arranged in a resplendent row beneath WFRP, and because I'm still reading through the End Times novels. My High Elves, my Dwarfs, my Orcs, Goblins, Chaos, and Wood Elves are still going to stay on square bases, and most importantly because the Age of Sigmar is good.

I haven't read any of the fiction yet, but I'm excited to do so. I'll miss the rat-catchers, and the clandestine plotting of Slaaneshi cultists, or ventures into the Border Princes to claim Ghal-Maraz, but as much as we are sometimes confused by Games Workshop's motives, they're not stupid. There's still creativity in the studio and I'm sure they'll make it work.

If you haven't played Age of Sigmar (AoS) yet, the do it. It's free. Get together with a friend, spend thirty-seconds talking about what forces you should bring, and start rolling dice. See that it's not just a dumb beer & pretzels game, but something more. Then come back and read on 'cause I have some things to say.

Warhammer has always been about playing games with your absurd miniatures collection. Rick Priestley was tasked with writing a game that Citadel customers could fart around with after having bought their tenth box of Ruglud's Armoured Orcs (don't write me telling me that box came out later). Points values weren't a priority because most people didn't play with them. You just got together with friends and threw your lead skeletons on a field and played-out a weird parody of Shakespeare

Sure our models aren't on big squares anymore; I'll miss that too, but the game's not terrible because of it. Sure those new models look a lot like Space Marines, but time will tell how popular they become. Let's not mince words, I always though the Tau, and Tomb Kings were silly, but could you imagine 40k and WHFB without them? Those are both armies that came out well into my wargaming career. I rolled my eyes then, as I'm sure many of you roll your eyes at the so-called "Sigmarines."

Two blog posts I read recently solidified why I like AoS. The first one is by a friend of mine, and he succinctly states what was going on with my feelings towards Warhammer were for a while, that I was bored with it.

I haven't been to the local gaming club in over a year, and the last time I went was to play Malifaux. They're primarily a Warhammer club, and I just couldn't bear to lug my dwarves out month after month to line up 24" apart from a Warriors of Chaos army, and play for six turns. I had tried to paint a new army to keep things fresh, but every time I got distracted.

AoS has me excited again. I've played two games so far, and demoed one, and I'm so stoked it's unreal. I already have scenario ideas in mind (the game is definitely scenario-driven), and I'm even determined to create some kind of casual tournament format (again, probably scenario-driven). Most importantly the new boxed set has me wanting to play a Khorne army.

Me: a Khorne army. Me: a disciple of Slaanesh. Me: a guy who rolls his eyes every time Khorne—the bro-iest Chaos god—gets another must-have unit. I am excited to play the new Bloodbound. Unheard of.

The second blog post I read, reinforced my belief that the spirit of Warhammer is still there. If you were to peruse either of the Realm of Chaos volumes as a player who started Warhammer in fourth edition or later, you'd be saying the same thing as people are saying about AoS now: "how do you build an army?" Warhammer, in editions past, had a Gamemaster; AoS just requires that you and your opponent moderate your own games. 

Anyway, both blog entries are great—and much shorter than this one—so give them a read, it's worth it.

I hope I made my points clear. I guess I'm not going to change anyone's mind necessarily—if it's already made up—but I do want to reiterate that though this edition is radically different in mechanics, it's still perfectly in line with Warhammer's spirit. 

It also doesn't invalidate anything that came before it. Bögenhafen will always be destroyed and saved in equal measure; armies of Chaos Dwarves will always march against Undead, or Vampire Counts, or Ogre Kingdoms, or anything else you may have on your shelf. You can still dole out Winds of Magic cards in the Magic Phase, or roll on the Intrigue at Court table in the High Elf book; whatever edition (or mix) of Warhammer you choose to play is still good, and even though Sigmar now holds court in the realm of Azyr, he could just as easily still be lost in the east, beyond the World's Edge Mountains, waiting to one day return and rescue the Empire from itself.