Salute in Review: So long and Thanks for All the Models…

Salute 2014

Salute 2014, you are done! What a day!

My head is still spinning slightly to be honest. This year Salute was everything I’d hoped for in some ways and something of a missed opportunity in others. Anyone who knows me in real life is well aware of my propensity for taking on way too much stuff (still, it works out occasionally, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, here and wouldn’t that be a pity…) and yet again I managed to overcommit my time for the day. Worst of all it meant that, for the second year running, I missed out on the #warmongers lunch time meetup. Boo me! Boo I say!

Thing is, I distinctly remember my phone alarm going off at 12:45 and then snoozing it, about 14 times or so… Damn… Then I walked out of the hall at about 2pm, rang Phil to find out where everyone was and it was all over. Not even a trace residue (okay, I just made myself feel ill) of #warmonger was to be seen and I trudged disconsolately back into the hall to BUY ALL OF THE THINGS instead. [Mat would be proud. -Ed.]

That’s part of the problem with being on a stall most of the day I suppose (I have a nefarious alter-ego, beware!), but to tell you the truth I really enjoy that aspect as well. It means I get people coming to talk to me (the poor mad fools!) and I get to ask them all about the hobby they’ve been doing, what they’ve seen at the show and what shiney things they have been tempted into buying. It’s a brilliant thing to be able to get so many different views on the hobby with people covering everything from 6mm historical right through to the usual suspects like Games Workshop and the like. The big difference from last year were lots of folks talking about Malifaux, Warmachine, tonnes and tonnes of X-Wing, and a bit more Bolt Action chatter (I think Phil will have more to say on that front in the not too distant future).

It’s obvious that the hobby is in an amazing state at the moment, with almost too much going on to be able to keep track of it all and it’s generating masses of enthusiasm across the community that without doubt followed me home!

The haul ™

It was my most satisfying Salute haul yet I think. I picked up the three main systems I had planned on, didn’t get massively distracted by anything else and found a couple of little bonuses along the way. Here’s a lovely picture of all of my awesome shiny from the day

rob_salute_2014_haul

Besides three new skirmish games: Wild West Exodus, Dark Age and Saga, I also picked up Zombie Dice (which I’m looking forward to being a staple family game) and a lovely dice bag from @TheDiceBagLady. All great stuff. I’ve already been cracking on with the assembly of my Wild West Exodus miniatures clocked my first game (see my article going live tomorrow), watch this space for a lot more on that front as the miniatures are gorgeous! I’ve also had a good peruse of my other figures and I’m very pleased with my choices. I’m loving the character of the Irish war band with the wolf hounds (one of my favourite breeds of dog besides my own of course) and the Core models from Dark Age have a nice alt-feel to them despite the obvious superficial comparison with the Convergence models from Warmachine.

I also got the chance to meet all of The Shell Case team for the first time and they’re all quite normal (yes I said ‘quite’) and a great laugh to mooch around a show and generally enthuse about the hobby with. We made some great contacts and are all really excited about what’s happening with the site over the coming months, stick around, it’s going to be ace!

The Shell Case does Salute – Mat

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s what Mat had to say:

Mat

MAT BUY TOYS! Sorry that was slightly involuntary and besides Rob did warn you [Yes I did, but perhaps not well enough if people are actually reading this. –Rob].

So yes this is my first Salute. It’s not my first event however: I have attended Games Day in bygone years but then I had bugger all disposable income. And it was a pure Games Workshop event and I’m reliably informed that Salute is nothing like. Other than it involves toy soldiers. And as some of you may realise, I’m really hot for other companies’ miniatures and games anyway right now so, bring it:

  1. I will be partly attending this year to perform my duties as an ambassador for The Shell Case and chatting with some awesome peeps, who do know I’m coming. As well as taking photos for The Shell Case. MAT BUY TOYS! Ahem. Sorry.
  2. I will definitely be heading over to see Andy from Heresy Miniatures we’ve been getting a bit of a Necromunda itch here, and he does some brilliant miniatures for a Delaque gang. MAT BUY TOYS! I’m so sorry, I don’t know why that keeps happening.
  3. After reading Ashley’s article about Saga I’m thinking of checking that out, along with Maulifaux which I have developed a warm squishy place for. And Godslayer. And Dreadball. Honestly my list is endless. I don’t know if I’ll part with my cash on these… Yeah, whatever.
  4. I do have a few other bits on my list that I definitely want to purchase…MAT BU- Sorry! Sorry! X-Wing toys for my growing Imperial fleet are a must. Some bits for my Tau force providing I can find a bargain, and I’ll be hitting up Forge World for a tasty Battlesuit. I also want to find some models for my Beastmen Mordheim Warband. I don’t want to have to use the standard models.
  5. #warmongers meet is going to be pretty cool and I’m looking forward to putting some faces to names.
  6. I’m just really looking forward to hanging out with The Shell Case crew and spending a day looking at all the shiny. MAT BUY TOYS! ARRRGH!

[The Shell Case would like to apologise for Mat. Really we would. His mother also got in touch and extends her sincerest apologies also.]

April 5th 2014 – International Tabletop Day

tabletopday2014_600x500

One of the most spectacularly wonderful things about being a geek who games is being part of a wide, vibrant and varied community that organises some brilliant events.

We’ve got Adepticon on right now and Salute in a week or so, and this Saturday, 5th April it is International Tabletop Day.

“What is International Tabletop Day Rob?” I hear you all cry. Well, gather round and I will tell you a tale of valour and intrigue, oh wait, wrong blog post. Sorry about that, where was I? Oh yes, International Tabletop Day. Well in a nutshell it’s a world-wide tabletop gaming extravaganza, where anyone who wants to can organise and register an event through the Tabletop Day website. The site then serves as a really clever discovery tool for anyone wanting to find an event local to them. There’s a great map-driven interface so you can see whereabouts all the events are near and far and find something that will entertain you for the day.

I, for example, happen to be in Munich for the day and a quick search reveals that there will be two events local to me, one organised by the “Toytown fan group” and the other at a place called “Funtainment”. I will be trying my level best to get to one of them just to see what’s going on and join in the gaming fervour. At the very least I’ll be taking a couple of games in my luggage to play with my family; my daughter is hooked on Labyrinth at the moment and I think I’ll be slipping my copy of Boss Monster in there as well.

Phil and Mat will be X-Winging it up all day and they’ve registered their event through the site, so go find them and shout ‘pew-pew’ noises in their general direction, they’ll bloody love it. Mat also said he’s going to try to spread the good word about the hobby a little closer to home by teaching his wife how to play Dreadball. Anything that encourages understanding and appreciation of the hobby (and potentially gives  you more freedom to spend!) is all part of the fun of the day.

Ashley is of course already caught up in the mega-maelstrom that is Adepticon (she laughs at our one-day gaming feebleness!), and will be playing Necromunda, or Saga, or Lord of the Rings. Or all three, though presumably not simultaneously. I assume that Adepticon (it is registered on the site) will be the largest playing group on the day, would be interesting to get the official word from the organisers on that front.

Reece informs me that he’ll be starting out his celebration of all things tabletop by doing unspeakable things to his washing machine. Rock and roll. Sounds like the afternoon will definitely improve the awesomeness quotient of his day with a spot of painting Lizardmen with his wife and then rounding the day out with a bunch of friends playing Zombies and Space Hulk – now that’s more like it!

So far there are over 2,300 events registered world-wide, which is seriously impressive, including well over 250 in the UK. So, if you’re hitting up your FLGS on Saturday, get them registered on the site so that the world knows you exist!

Follow events as they unfold by looking up @TableTopDay and @GeekandSundry on Twitter and lots of folks seem to be using the #TableTopDay hashtag already.

I love stuff like this, it reminds me just how huge our community is, and how wide the range of options is for participation in tabletop gaming. It also shows the world and celebrates what a social and sociable group we are and that we have bags of enthusiasm for welcoming new people into the gaming fold and dragging those who are already playing one lot of games into intriguing and exciting new gaming formats.

Want to find out more? There’s a video for that:

SAGA: Dark Age Skirmishes

Lately, I’ve stepped away from playing big, time-consuming, games and instead have been enjoying lots of skirmish games. My favorite so far has been SAGA, made by Gripping Beast and Studio Tomahawk.

It’s a medium-sized game with 30-40 models per side. You can choose from many different factions including Bretons, Normans, Scots, Anglo-Danes, and of course, Vikings. There are also many others, and more being introduced in a new expansion coming out in May called Crescent and Cross. It will include rules for Saracens, which I’m jazzed about.

Bretons vs. Vikings!
Bretons vs. Vikings!

What makes this game so great? Vikings, obviously. Ok, honestly, it’s not just that you can play Vikings. But really, that’s all I needed to hear in order to try it.

Actually, what intrigued me about the game was the simplicity, the battle boards, and the dice. This game has a truly unique play style, without getting bogged down in overly complex rules that many games suffer from. It’s really quite elegant. Instead of equipping everyone with different weapons, giving them special powers, and carefully tooling your lists within a large points constraint, you get just 6 points.

Your Warlord is free. You then choose to spend your points on Levies, Warriors, and Hearthguard. Levies are the least experienced, and Hearthguard are the most. 1 point gives you 12 Levies, 8 Warriors, or 4 Hearthguard. Now, you don’t have to keep them in units as you’ve purchase them. You could take 8 Warriors and split them into 2 units of 4. Or, you could put 2 points of Hearthguard into a single unit of 8. As long as you have 4-12 models per unit, you’re good to go.

Each army has a unique battle board. The column on the left is for activation, the two on the right are for your actions.

Battle Board

Each faction has their own dice, although a few are shared between different armies.

Breton Dice
These dice work for Normans or Bretons.

These are partly what gives each army their own flavour. Each die has 3 different symbols that match up to ones on the battle board. You get one die per unit, maximum of 6 (Warlord gives you 2, but levies give you 0 because, well, they’re basically peasants). You roll and allocate them to the abilities you want, matching the symbols. Most actions need one die, some need two. Sounds kind of simple, right?

The trick is figuring out how to combine them into some nasty attacks on your enemies. You can also place a die on your board and keep it there until your next turn. One of the symbols is only on your die once, making it rarest, so it can be sometimes advantageous to keep a die or two on your board.

Additionally, each army has their own unique Warlords, called Heroes of the Viking age, that cost 1 point instead of being free. They have some cool abilities that the basic Warlord does not. You could have Ragnar Lothbrok leading your Viking army. What’s not to love about that? [I know what I’m spending some money on at Salute – Ed]

Some armies, such as my Bretons or Normans, are also mainly cavalry based. That makes them faster, but they lose a point of armor against ranged weapons. It provides a good balance, which I find lacking in other games. In fact, no one army is “the” army to have, so you can chose one that appeals to you without concern for competitiveness.

Different armies also have different weapons. Scots have spears, Vikings have swords and axes, Bretons have javelins, and Anglo-Danes have 2-handed axes. All things that lend to their flavour, without making the game overly complex. Everything you need to know about playing the game is in the main rulebook or on your battleboard. Although, each book has additional scenarios as well.

Right now, there is the main rulebook which provides 4 factions and battle boards (Vikings, Normans, Welsh, and Anglo-Danes) and three supplement books: Northern Fury (Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Bretons, Jomsvikinigs), Raven’s Shadow (Irish, Franks, Strathclyde Welsh, and Norse-Gaels), and Varjazi & Basileus (Pagan Rus, Era of Princes Rus, and the Byzantines). The Crescent and the Cross, which I mentioned before, is the latest supplement due out in May.

Gripping Beast also provides some nice and tidy 6-point complete army boxes that cost £50.00-55.00. Not bad for a little box that has all the models you need for an entire army! If that’s a little too much, though, they also have 4-point starter warbands, in the £33.00-64.50 range.

I got the 4 point Bretons starter and some additional blisters to fill out my army. But wait, you thought I was all about the Vikings? I was, I am, but I ended up being the last of my friends to start my army so Vikings (and my second choice Normans) were already taken. No sense in doubling up when I have more SAGA armies to choose from than friends who play it.

They’re fully painted now and I am taking them to Adepticon (in Chicago, IL) for my very first SAGA tournament! I’m very much looking forward to getting in some games with new people and seeing all the different armies, fully painted and in action.

SAGA starter sets and rule books are available from Firestorm Games starting at £10.80

#ODAM 12 – The Structure Show

ODAMRoundel copyThis month’s installment of everyone’s favorite international podcast coalition sees us being unusually structured. With Jason our newly appointed content manager he tries, and fails, to stop the power going to his head. Ashley is preparing for Adepticon, Phil is babbling about some foreign gathering called Salute which is either a gaming convention or a gay nightclub, and we try to understand the latest bit of nonsense to come out of Nottingham. Nate also announces an important life event, which Jason and the boys promptly mock. Par for the course, really.

As always ODAM contains adult humour and language from the start.

Listen to Episode 12 here.

 

SAGA – The Review

Every now and then you come across a game that really makes you stop and pay attention. A game that has such clarity of vision and purity of undertaking that you actually feel like you’re in the presence of genius.

SAGA is one such game.

To fill you in, SAGA is a skirmish game set during the age of the Vikings on our fair isle written by Studio Tomahawk.

Just because I have to cover this; SAGA is a gorgeous little book. Glossy, well laid out, great photography but the artwork is just a little bit lovely and conjurs the same responses in me that Warhammer Fanatsy use to. It’s simply lovely.

But on to the game…

The fact that it’s a skirmish game isn’t what makes SAGA special. Or the fact that it focuses on the wars and events that led up to the Battle of Hastings. It’s the simple fact that the rules are a little bit genius.

For one thing SAGA uses a unique dice set that not only allows you to place special orders that’ll either boost a unit’s performance or make them more resilient to damage but activate your forces too. This rather elegantly represents the fact that your warlord is bellowing orders or strategies and so doesn’t have time to direct all his forces before the arrows start falling or axe heads biting.

The other touch of genius is the simplicity of the combat rules. Attack and defence. Easy. Shit warriors hace to babd together to deliver the same amount of punishment as good ones. Makes complete sense. But through in Fatigue and all of a sudden you’ve got an agonising decision to make as you’re constantly torn between trying to press the advantage but at the risk of tiring your men or using those valuable dice to help your men recover.

And, again, seasoned veterans can fight harder and longer than press ganged farmers and so fatigue doesn’t aflict them as quickly. But there’s fewer of them and being forced to fight a larger unit for longer is costly.

There’s something to be said for elegance in simplicity because it means you can get down to the task of caving in skulls. Which is sort of the point. That’s not to say that SAGA is a simple game. The tactical decisions that are at its heart see to that but where it succeeds where so many other games fail is that it keeps it all very very fun. And something the Games Workshop should remember when they write the next edition of Warhammer.

The rules also contain force lists, special characters from the pages of legends, and scenarios that allows you to plant your game firmly in a narrative which always does it for me.

But the cherry on top of this rather spectacular sundae is that the rules allow for just about any kind of models to be used with relatively little tweaking. So, all of a sudden, those random sci-fi models you bought at Salute now have a purpose which you simply cannot put a price on.

Go and buy this game or I’ll simply have to come to your house and slap you in your face.

It can be purchased from the fine chaps over at Gripping Beasts.