I’m in a pod cast!

Not a lot of painting and just a bit of gaming in recent weeks.

However, I have now appeared in a podcast for the first time. Long-time friend Brad hosts LRDG II, a show about gaming in general and often Bolt Action in particular.

First half is a discussion about Games Workshop new one: Armageddon; I’m in the second half speaking with Leigh and Brad about a recent trial run for a Bolt Action tournament with a slight twist.

cheers,
D.

It’s blogging but not as we know it

As I suspected, work and family really got in the way of my hobby mojo this winter. I have been blogging, just not here. During the footy season, and my wife and I have been recording the ups and downs of the Fitzroy Youth Girls. Great fun, but not relevant to gaming.

Fitzroy v Ivanhoe 7 Aug 16 25

I have been getting some gaming and painting done, but I’ve been posting to instagram (using the handle @dave2718). I like instagram, the ease of posting straight from your phone is a very attractive. As a mainly a visual platform I find instagram crosses borders and language more than other social media, so I find myself in a wider and more diverse circle than on other platforms. However, just using the phone often means the photos are a bit dodgy. The phone camera is OK, but shots taken without due care for lighting or a bit of hand-held shake are just not as good in general.

Eureka Bunnies

The many groups on FaceBook can also be engaging but can feel a bit too transient.
Most blog posts are a bit more thought out compared to FB, and I like that.

K47 book

With Bolt Action version 2 on the way and Konflikt ’47 just released and Arcanacon not that far away (by my slow painting pace), there is plenty of hobby in the pipeline.

So, here’s hoping to a bit more blogging, painting and playing in the near future.

 

Distractions

I’ve enjoyed a bit of a hobby renaissance these last few months. Unemployment is not all bad. But the real world has reasserted itself and despite my best efforts, a job found me. Expect posts to slow down a bit, as for the next little while I practice my hobby vicariously by reading your posts instead of creating my own. Keep that great material flowing.

As if that isn’t enough, this arrived on my door step:

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Like many wargamers, I am also a role player, and I enjoy Call of Cthulhu very much.

So many choices.

D.

 

I<3BA

Bolt Action is a cracking little game and I think that is one reason why changes like the format rules (up to season 3 now) have been embraced by many players. It is a game that is almost there, it just feels like it needs a few tweaks to really make it sing, and the community of players are willing to invest the time in creating these changes. Now that edition 2 of the rules themselves are at the printers, if not already in warehouses waiting on H-Hour, any community changes are moot until we see what the authors themselves have in mind.

I’m looking forward to the new rules, although like most I could do without buying another rule book (and leaving the current one redundant). However, even without the format rules or a second edition, I would still happily play Bolt Action. I would love to see more LMG being fielded, and can see the merit of many of the suggested changes. I’ve written on that before. However, just taking LMG still works as a solution, between consenting adults, even if no changes are made.

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Another topic of conversation is tough fighters compared with other options like SMG.
My problem is not with tough fighter per se but with how they are routinely fielded. Tough fighter can be brutal, but I think it comes into play too often because units get a taxi service around the battlefield way to easily.

Units did not stay in trucks under fire. Trucks may have transported units to the battle space, but once there units had to walk (crouch, crawl, run). I think tough fighter would be less extreme if you had to use fire and manoeuvre more frequently to close with your enemy. To this end, I would like to see units receiving fire while embarked penalised even more than they are now. Pins, wounds and the risk of entanglement or cohesion (forced going down) could all come to play. There needs to be a signficant trade-off for arriving in a truck.

heer10

Truck, for the Fallschirmjagers

I like trucks, but they appear too often, I think they are better used in specific scenarios over generic missions. Using a transport to outflank should come with risk of pins to reflect hazard elsewhere on the battlefield, and again to force a trade-off for outflanking in a vehicle. Outflank on foot by all means, your trusty sargeant has led the way.

This allows for the introduction of special rules, either for particular lists (say to represent a dominance of transports, say Normandy US or early Russian campaign Germans) or be mission specific. Flavour as well as crunch. It is also a chance to differentiate armoured personal carriers a bit, where armoured assault and a bit of protection from small arms fire was a thing (Germans put petrol in the Hanomags, they might finally get a run).

As I write this another post topic comes to mind: I don’t actually like army books very much. But boy, I do enjoy the theatre books.

cheers,
D.

MG- you’re doing it wrong

This has been a topic of conversation in Bolt Action circles for a while, and with format season 3 not long released and BA edition two apparently about to be a thing, debate around what to do with LMG continues.

And the debate is around is what should be done to alter the squad support LMG (and to a lesser extent MMG). Remarkably for gamers, there is broad consensus that the rules surrounding these weapons require some tweaks. I tend to agree but won’t weep if no official changes occur. Of course, being gamers, we all have different ideas on what to do.heer03At this point US players just shrug their shoulders and pick up their BAR! The rest of us need to think about this.

Playing Germans, I found the change in the season format rules reducing the points cost from 20 points to 5 points, combined with Hitler’s Buzz-Saw rule, made the decision to include LMG in my squads an easy one. Although, truth be told, it didn’t change my build much as I already took LMG. What did happen is that I had extra points that avoided a decision on medic or kubelwagon. Under season 3 I can take both.

I have also heard some folk argue to not alter the points but instead increase the LMG rate of fire so the cost “makes sense”. The usual calculation is shots fired per regular dude. For 40 points you can have 4 regular guys with rifles: 4 wounds and 4 shots. Under RAW, your 40 points for an LMG  is two guys (wounds) and 3 shots. Two wounds and one shot down. To balance this at least one extra shot seems to be required. There is even some temptation to go to five shots as base, but with the risk of making the Germans too good.

Applying this sort of maths to 5 point LMG sees them now compare much more favourably, with an LMG team getting one more shot over the same two guys armed with rifles. A rate of fire increase not dramatically different to arming one of the dudes with an SMG.

Variations are possible, of course, 10 or 15 points and 4 shots, etc.

So far I have also ignored MMG, which perhaps would need to move to be suitably more dangerous than LMG. Changing rules is not for the faint-hearted.

Perhaps a more profitable way to approach any change is to consider the effect and role of squad based LMG and supporting MMG. They were common in WWII, basic squad structure was often little more than a delivery mechanism for LMG. They were feared. Squad based assault relied on a fire base built around the LMG and an assault group that pushed forward under its cover. Support weapons were also central to defence. I think any set of rules for a WWII game played at squad/platoon level needs to allow this to occur.

To a large extent Bolt Action already does this. A modest tweak may help bring this out.

However, a fundamental complaint would remain: people feel that LMG and MMG should be more common on the table. Clearly the rules writers also feel this, LMG are a near ubiquitous support option and the standard reinforced platoon selector – and nearly all theatre selectors – include an MMG choice. They want, and expect, us to take them.

Just take the LMG. They are historical and integral to the period.

In some ways it is that simple.

Commanders rarely had exactly the equipment they wanted. What they were issued with were LMG. The other stuff is cool. The other stuff may lever the rule set better. Use it by all means. But take the LMG, consider it a history tax.

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Table supplied by Battlefield Accessories

If I get a call from Warlord asking my advice, I’m tempted to say use season three format, but with this added rule: give hits from LMG added pins. Given medium mortars are the smallest weapons to potentially generate additional pins, instead of D2 pins I suggest that LMG cause 2 pins on a 6 (and one otherwise) and MMG 2 pins on a 5+.

What do you think, do machine guns need to change? Do we see them often enough?

 

 

 

Stuff I like II

How freakin’ cool!

About a month ago I made a post of stuff I like with links to two things.

Well, the issue two of The Golden D6 has landed. It is so cool it even has an interview with Andy Chambers. Get on board.

And, the comic I mentioned, Old England Grown New, well Warlord Games reckon it is pretty cool too. They’re right, of course, it is a ripper.

cheers.

D.

Stuff I like

I found this comic being published via blog. I know nothing about Olde England Grown New, except it is a tale of danger and derring do set in the English Civil War. The first episode can be found grouped together here and is worth the read.

Something else that not too far away is edition two of The Golden D6 I’m looking forward to this being published, it looks like a ripper.  Come on Adam, just because you have a day job, a family, …

Cheers,
D.

Good golly, good gaming

There are some great hobby related sites about on the web. One of the things I love is that much of the best content can be found on people’s personal blogs and websites. We all have our favourites. Like many other bloggers, I keep links to some of my favourites on my home page (the list other gaming sites). Here is my current list, along with some comments. There are plenty of others – it is a pretty cool time to be a gamer.

Arkie Gamer tends to the historical, with beautiful minis and tables and often entertaining battle reports.

Azazel’s Bitz Box is a hobby machine, mostly fantasy and sci-fi

Dawn of the Lead is pretty eclectic, but always seems to have an interesting project on the go.

Flying Gorilla is not super active, but Costa a super talented sculpture, mostly for Eureka Miniatures and this blog gives a glimpse of his development process as well as some of his other projects.

Knights of Dice are a local (for me) company who are starting to do some pretty cool stuff with terrain. More active on FaceBook, but still worth keeping an eye on how ever you choose to do it.
(RubbishInRubbishOut is Viv’s YouTube channel, but I’m not sure what he’s doing with it at the moment.)

T’leroth’s easily distracted painting blog is by my friend Ian. Not so active recently – curse you work – but a fine painter.

Sprue Grey Toy Soldiers is the original Melbourne hobby blog. Claims to be the world’s slowest gamer, but I think a few of us could challenge him on for that title.

Adam from Sprue Grey is also the evil genius behind an online game magazine, The Golden D6. Issue one is out, and number two is expected soon. What I like about this magazine is Adam has done some of the hard work in finding the best of recent online bloggers and put them in a single place.

Cheers,
D.

A question of balance

With the arrival of the (so far) points-free Age of Sigmar, game balance is popping up in forums, pod-casts and facebook as well as at clubs and shops. It is the topic du jour.

demon and dude

The demon is blind-folded, so surely that is fair. And the guy has a feather as well as a chain-saw …

The focus of discussion is often on points and lists, which are the by far the most common way to bring balance, but I think these overlook several other ways that people can bring balance to games. Also, as we have all experienced, points don’t necessarily bring balance even if we allow that a consistent scheme is possible.

Points do have advantages. One is about setting expectations on the size of the game, which I think is at the heart of the AoS discussion. Another is that finessing an army list is enjoyed by a lot of people. It is almost a game in itself. Regular readers will know this is not how I approach armies, but I acknowledge many seem to get real enjoyment from this, and list-optimising has the advantage of being an aspect of the hobby that you can do by yourself between games.  Players who like this aspect simply cannot do it with AoS. Nor can they can’t really do it with Black Powder, Hail Caesar, or Force on Force.  There are plenty of systems where points optimising remains: Bolt Action, Flames of War, 40K, etc.
It is a diverse hobby, that is part of the attraction.

Army lists bring several dimensions to a game. Restrictions on building lists are most often used to bring a particular flavour to a game, mostly historical, e.g. restricting the number of units of cavalry for Romans or not giving Parthians access to armoured infantry.  40K does the same with variant lists that highlight various aspects of the background. That this can interact with points may cause angst but it definitely allows players to “forge da narrative”. List restriction that is integral to the rules is another way of achieving balance (and I guess is an almost hidden part of many points systems).

Missions can generate balance.  Too many missions are mirror images. Not just meeting engagements for kill points, but missions where the mission objective is the same for both players. This can be fun, but by changing the mission, different challenges and armies can be tried out.  All the factors of the game can be considered when designing a mission: list restrictions, terrain, deployment and victory conditions. I’m sure there are others.

Terrain is a factor in creating or upsetting balance.  An extreme case is an amphibious assault, where the defender waits in bunkers and the attackers face a stretch of sand to the dubious safety of a sea wall.  Tables do not need to be this extreme to create a challenge but a smaller, dug in defender facing a larger attacking force is more common than most games reflect.

Deployment. Who is on the board?  Who has access to reserves? How safe are your flanks or rear area.  Mix it up, and again it doesn’t have to be symmetric.

Objectives. This is the big one. How do you win?  I like scenarios where there is a clear attacker and defender. This is something that has to be given up at most tournaments, and I’m OK with that. The trade-off is a guaranteed number of games with generally great opponents on often good-looking tables. All wins in my book. But I love it when there is a good story that goes with a game. Ancient enemies facing off in a battle that is plausibly part of a wider engagement.  We don’t play for sheep stations but I like the illusion that we are.

All of this can be fitted into an ordinary game, but does require a bit of planning. I reckon it is well worth it.

In some ways a campaign is the natural habitat for these sort of ideas. But even without that sort of committment there is a lot of dimensions that can be explored.

Saint Celestine's finest moment: purging the heretics with fire and sword

Saint Celestine’s finest moment: purging the heretics with fire and sword

For pick-up games in stores or clubs the simplicity of: “What have you got? How many points? Cool – I’ll leave this unit out or make these dudes veteran, let’s go … ” is attractive and leads to games. This is a good thing. Of course, even without points this conversation can happen and I guess is for those playing AoS.

None of this will necessarily bring balance. One problem that points don’t solve is the dick-factor. I feel that underlying a lot of the passion about balance is not just a desire to have a reasonable chance (in some undefined sense) of winning but having a high probability of having a good game. Feeling competitive is part but not all of this story. Judging a winner is only part of balance.  Wheaton’s Law and its derivatives is an attempt to solve this, but this is changing the topic.

Happy gaming.
D.