Oops– Rackham is gone…

I guess I was a bit off in my post last spring about a new version of AT-43 coming out—looks like after some craziness and confusion Rackham Entertainment has gone into liquidation.  Neither of their websites come up and it looks like all news around the interweb tubes confirms that they’ve gone dark.  I think the lines will likely survive in some form, but holy crap I never expected to see one of the better rivals to Games Workshop’s fantasy and sci-fi dominance hit rock bottom so quickly.  While I really liked the rules to AT-43 when the full version finally came out, I was not impressed with the new version of Confrontation, specifically the prepainted miniatures*, while the same figures as some of the older lines, just looked crappy to me (where the AT-43 pre-paints looked really great on the table).

* not that I’ll ever actually get the time to finish painting my Drune…

Getting in on a good shootin’

I finally got to bust out my Old West miniatures and town over the Xmas break after almost 5 years of on and off painting for everyone’s virgin gun down.  We used Wargame Foundry’s The Rules With No Name to good effect as it’s a great pick up and play set of rules.  I just made up a scenario where a wagon tipped over in the middle of the town, breaking open some luggage that was filled to the brim with gold!  We had three players, and each player had three models (two gunman and one shootist) and won if they could survive or get off the board with the most gold in hand.  Gold was gathered by moving into touch with the wagon and rolling a d6.  I had to make up the action deck for the game before hand, so the players didn’t get a chance to pick their models from my meagre collection, but I did allow them to give them names, a fun way to start off the shootin.

TRWNN has an interesting impluse system for initiative wherein you build a stack of cards made up of all the models in play and add in a joker card (that instigates a reshuffle of the deck when drawn) and one card representing each class of character (Civilian, Gunman, Shootist).  The cards are shuffled and then drawn to determine who’s turn it is to act.  You can’t hold back a model’s turn and you don’t really know when each model will move again, so it makes for an aggressive game without a lot of dilly dallying around.  There is a way to control when your models move if you get a bit lucky.  When a class card is drawn, a player can take that card if one of his character cards is drawn next that is equal or above that class level.  For example, if a Gunman card comes up, the next card drawn is a Shootist or Gunman character, that player of that character can take the class card.  The class cards can be used to interrupt other model’s turns at any point (even in response to being shot at) to give another model an insta-turn.  This system gives a semi-random feel to the order of turns, and my only complaint was that some characters don’t get to move turn after turn if the joker card just happens to come up a lot.

This system of impulse is very much keyed to individual models and wouldn’t work too well if you were trying to simulate fights in big groups unless, like Confrontation, you allowed multiple models to act when a single card was drawn.

All I can say about this particular game was that my dice were the hottest I’ve had in a long time, and I almost felt guilt as my tiny lead men shot the tiny lead men of the others again and again.  One of my gunman killed outright two models in his first two turns of shooting, and I had my shootist out in the open, completely out of position relative to one of the other shootists, only to have one of the other shootist’s shots all go wild– and then said shootist was gunned down instantly with just about the best rolling you can have. See below.

We did not use the morale optional rule and this revealed an oddity about the TRWNN system– models can be wounded over and over and over at point blank range and still have a good chance of staying in the game (a model can be knocked out and come back on a dr of 1 whenever that model’s turn comes up).  One of the models had been shot and wounded 12 times and was still on the table, granted he couldn’t move, reload or turn in place, but he was still there, holding gold.

I would absolutely use the The Rules with No Name again, especially for pick up games like this.  It’s very beer and pretzel’s and though the scale seems to work best with just a few models on the table, the level of detail with the shooting and wounding is such that this isn’t a drawback, but simply what the ruleset is supposed to simulate.   Eventually as I get more models painted (in the next decade or so) I’d love to have a go with the Legends of the Old West rules, but that’s a dog for another day.

Dorking out with the Dark Elves

The new Blood Bowl computer game by Cyanide has given many of us fanatical fans of the game a chance to sandbox with teams we either don’t have miniatures for or wouldn’t normally play.  However, with the arrival of the free patch to the game a few weeks ago, I can eschew all the other teams that I pretend to love and get right down to playing my all-time favorite, the ‘coaches’ team’ as my brother calls them: the insidious Dark Elves.

In reviewing the team in the computer game, I give the developers at Cyanide immediate points on the score board for absolutely NAILING the aesthetic.  Having started back in high school with First Edition Blood Bowl, the crunchy, spiky look of the original illustrations and models by Aly Morrison have stuck with me as the essence of how Blood Bowl teams should look.  While I thoroughly enjoy many of Gary Morley‘s sculpts for third edition (in contrast to 2nd editions more ‘sports-like’ armor), I think a few of his lineman models were phoned in, and this is especially true with the Dark Elves (circa 1994 mind you).

While I’ve played the Dark Elves in many leagues and tournaments, I hadn’t played them with the new Living Rule Book 5.0 set up, and had a bit of a shock as all I remembered was that the number of blitzers increased from two to four.  The major change in the roster is that the throwers have now been replaced by a runner (with a skill that I have never selected for a player in my entire career as a Blood Bowl coach: Dump Off) and the team has a new position: the Assassin with Stab (a new skill) and Shadowing. Unlike many teams, the Dark Elves have no ‘big guy’ to hold the line or push all the smaller players around, yet they are one of the best running teams in the game. How? Agility. Agility increases the Dark Elves mobility on the pitch by a vast amount and while you can pass the ball with them, it’s often short passes or even side/back passes, the real gains are made running through and sometimes over your opponents. That said, you are never going to out-casualty a bruiser team but that’s not what wins games: putting it over the line does and Dark Elves are excel in this region of play.

I’m going to try to shy away from telling you how to play the Dark Elves but I want to review each of the positions and how they synergize with each other.  Inevitably you’re going to see my slant as how I like to play, and that’s always up for discussion, or if needed, a quick game to show my superiority.

Lineman: Dark Elf lineman (and their cousin lineman for the Hight Elves) are the best lineman in the game, hands down.  They have average speed, average armor, average strength and an awesome 4 agility.  You could have a team of only Lineman and still win matches.  What really puts these guys into the win column is the combination of 4 agility, access to Agility skills (i.e. Dodge) and 8 armor.  They are one of only two teams that have lineman with 8 armor and 4 agility consistently across the team.  As much as your opponent will expect to beat up your elves, the 8 armor assures that you will rarely be taken off the pitch without some mighty blow action and as they progress, the Dark Elf Lineman have access to the ideal two-skill mix in the game: Block and Dodge.   Even without the Dodge skill your Dark Elf Linemen are able to dodge away on a whim to get into position for a 2-dice block somewhere else.  The best skills to get as they progress with normal rolls: Block, Dodge, Tackle, Frenzy, Dauntless.  On Doubles get: Guard.  Once you get 3-4 of these naughties with Block and Dodge, your opponents will be sweating it.  Do NOT bother with Dirty Player–it’s been nerfed so bad and these guys are so valuable: it’s a waste of a skill slot.

Runner: I’m still not sure what to think about the runner as he’s just not fast at all, living up to his name not in the least.  He can hold on to the ball with sure hands, but the replacement of Dump Off instead of Pass is quite confusing to me.  Dump off as a 3 agility player is a crap skill; most of the time the ball will simply land right near the opponent’s players in a scrum and you’ll wish you had just let it scatter normally.  With 4 Agility, Dumping off the ball has a much higher percentage of success, but I have really rarely seen this skill work well.   Also, you really don’t have that many issues picking up the ball to justify a slot for a player with Sure Hands; a Blitzer is quite a spot better starting with block to hang onto the ball. Runners are the only players that have access to the Passing skill set however, so if you are going to run a throwing game, you’ve got to pick up at least one (eventually). The best skills with normal rolls? Block, Pass, Nerves of Steel, Side Step.  Doubles: (let’s face it, he’ll be in a scrum or on the line like everyone else) Guard.

Blitzer: Here you have your storehouse of amazing potential for popping out the ball on defense and scoring on offense– and you can get FOUR of these naughty boys.  The 4 agility means they can get in places to lay a block that most other players can only dream of, and while their movement is nothing to masticate over, they’re fast enough.  That said, get Dodge first, then Tackle is a must as well as Strip Ball.  They cannot get strength skills like most other Blitzers, so on doubles, look at the strength skill tree for either Guard or Mighty Blow.   A Blitzer’s essential duty is to run through, over or around the opponents line, sack the ball carrier, pick up the ball and either pass back to a pocket or run it in for a touchdown.  Leap, while still dangerous with 4 agility, is awesome to get as a 3rd or 4th skill.  With four of these guys available, you can tailor two as defensive ends (tackle as second skill) and two as scoring machines (dodge as second skill).

Witch Elf: As tempting as these ladies are to have on your team, they cannot go it alone and need to be fostered and protected during their early, pre-Block career.  The only way to do this is, again, start with all lineman and a blitzer, build up your team and then add in the extra positions once your other players are toughened up.  That said, the Witch Elves are crucial to the later league/season success of the Dark Elves.  You will be praying to Nuffle at each skill roll for a +1Ag or +1 St as it will blast your naughty lady into the top of the scoring roster for your league.  Without stat upgrades they are still fast, dodgy and if you can get them Block and Dauntless, gift their opponent’s players with a trip off the pitch to see the fans more often than not.  Best normal roll skill progression: Block, Dauntless or Catch, Leap.  On doubles– get Juggernaut.  They are not blitzers, so keep them as far away from the opponent’s line as possible and have them run in for a Blitz only outside a big scrum. They are also not catchers, and you don’t need a lot of catch skills with their four agility. What’s more, as filthy as they are, I can’t stop staring at their sweet cans.

Assassin: The Assassin goes against one of my rules for playing a non-crunchy team (which the dark elves certainly are) and that’s to never ever rely on getting the opposition off the pitch.  That’s stuff the dwarves and Chaos teams do– not the elves.  The Assassin appears to be the Dark Elves answer to the ‘Big Guys’ on other teams, which, by the looks of the other big guys, puts him in the ‘maybe if I had a ton of gold lying around I’d get one of them.’  While shadowing is nice, I would love to see the Assassin get tackle and diving tackle– making him a dodging player’s nightmare, but leaving him a stomped corpse against any hardcore rushing teams.  Again, I would say that the Assassin is absolutely extraneous, and if you have one and have a roster of 16 players, he’ll rarely see his feet on the pitch.  I’m going to start a team with two of them as an experiment however, just to make sure (Note: it didn’t go well).

This is your future if Nuffle is with you.

If you are a new coach you may want to run the humans or orcs for awhile to get the hang of it. As noted above, the Dark Elves are IMO the coaches team, they have some glaring weaknesses (they are expensive) and they don’t have a very clear path to victory (i.e.: they aren’t tough, they aren’t fast and they aren’t the best passing team) but are not wussy elves that you will be worried about flying off the pitch with every armor roll.

Getting in on a good shootin'

And the (going insane from having a second kid) western obsession continues unabated.  While I have GW’s Legends of the Old West, I’ve been hunting around for another set of gunslinging rules to check out that had a bit more detail to the stat line.  Having checked out Savage Worlds and found it fairly muddy in the rules department, it was time to look elsewhere.   Many moons back, Wargames Foundry founder Bryan Ansell wrote a set of free rules called the Rules With No Name, but they were in such an ‘alpha’ version that I didn’t bother taking them seriously.  Foundry has revised, completed and put them all into a beautiful hardback book that I just accidentally ordered.  Members of my erstwhile gaming group– prepare yourselves for some miniature mayhem.  With paint being slapped on pewter between changing diapers and cleaning up milksplosions, the entire ERTL cow town 1/64 scale building set coming in the mail, and a new sandy-beige bolt of felt slapped across the 4′ X 4′ gaming table– high noon is coming for all of us.

Upping the nerd level

Having a second kid is not quite the mega-shock as the first one, but it doesn’t leave any time for anything at all.  Given my 2 hours per day during my paternity that I’m not chasing after a 2 year old,  I didn’t have  a lot of time at all to read or do anything but sleep, and basically went insane about 4 days ago, pretty much right according to plan.    That said, I busted out some Foundry Old West miniatures that had been sitting on my painting table for well over a year as a means, in half hour stints, to do something other than housework and child-care.  As frustrating and tedious the hobby of painting small toy soldiers is, it really is a relaxing way to span productive time.  You sit, look out a window for a little while, lay some paint, look at it, mix up some blends, look out the window, etc.  Most of my work life is collaborative work, essentially getting other people to actually talk to each other to collaborate, and so working on a project all alone with a tangible, physical result (not a UT3 level or web page) is a bonus to the relaxation.  Oh, yeah, now with 16 Old West miniatures complete as of today, I might actually be able to rope some people in to playing–that is if I can find some terrain.

Here are some shots of the figs.  For my true 28 and 25mm miniatures, I have been entirely influenced by Kevin Dallimore’s 3-color layering method.  I don’t recommend this on the giant 32mm (Games Workshop/ Rackham) at all, but for 25-28MM it is an awesome and effective approach as well as being forgiving if your eyes are not what they used to be.

The Town Drunk
With every batch of miniatures (I usually work on 3-5 at a time) there is one that I don’t spend much time on– just throw paint on and see what happens.  I thought the town drunk would be the one in this group, but it undoubtably was not– I love this model– the face has oodles of Marx bro’s character to it and the stance is just plain silly.  I made the suit all one color– I wanted him to seem very dirty but with some fine clothes on–turned out fairly well.

The Kid
This one is another great stance and face.  I made the mistake of making his hat and cravat green, and his suspenders red at first–and then I dubbed him the Xmas kid–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the mistake of combining those two colors.  I changed the hat to black and that solved it.

The Apache
This dude is the badass of the set and I spent the most time on him for sure.  Worked on the pearl handle for his pistol and really worked the flesh in the face to get that scar to show.  All and all a great model to paint.

The Whore
This was a fixed up paint job as I fucking DROPPED the model a few years ago and haven’t really painted since. Getting this one to look nice and get the base redone was key.  I think she turned out pretty well.  Proportionally though, 25-28mm scale doesn’t do well with the female form…

My wife mentioned that she would put miniature gamers lower on the nerd scale than even LARP’ers.

Rackham announces "City of Thieves"

Rumors of Rackham’s demise are yet again being proved a gross exaggeration.  City of Thieves looks like it picks up where Caldwallon left off, but as board game.  Even if it’s quite bad like Rackham’s last card game, will still be awesome for the miniatures.  Looks like some sort of multiplayer war game ala Necromunda but with more of a board game structure.  We’ll see where the bear shits in the buckwheat with this one after it’s released at GENCON.

Link with more info from Table Top Gaming News.

AT-43 2nd Edition announced

Looks like around Xmas we’ll be looking down the barrel of an AT-Gauss gun at the next addition of AT-43, Rackham’s excellent futuristic miniatures game that has had a really rocky road so far what with the deluge of cheap miniatures on the market and a hap-hazard release schedule typical of Games Workshop back in their glory days.  Don’t have a link but I’m sure glad I didn’t spend a lot on the rule books/faction books as I assume all of those will get updates we get to pay for.