Godslayer Troglodytes – A Review

GodslayerIt’s been a wee while since I last looked at the awesome game that is Godslayer from Megalith Games. As I wander ever further down the path of damnation with A Tale of Two Armies I thought I’d take time out to look at my other favourite fantasy game.

This time round I’m taking a look at the Shadow Element menace of the Troglodytes. The Troglodytes, for the uninitiated, are the servants of the fifth element of Shadow. Turns out that hot ginger chick wasn’t the fifth element after all. Shame. Shadow is the great cosmic balancer and the Troglodytes are the instrument with which this is achieved. They are also the doom of all mankind. Born from the loins of the greatest of the five elements, and created with the sole purpose to wage war, the peoples Calydorn are rather stuffed.

StarterBox_Troglodytes (1)

They’re big buggers too. Massive in fact. Something that doesn’t come across in the photography as they’re all in scale with each other. Only when you see them with another model from the Godslayer range do you appreciate the kind of beasties you have on your hands. It also explains why there’s only 5 models in the box for £33. To be fair £33 is quite expensive for the 8 models you get in the other boxes but consider as well you get a raft of cards as well as quick start rules in each one. Also consider that the likes of Games Workshop charge £31.50 for three models, and Megalith’s are metal.

But back to the Troglodytes and their massiveness. They are proper big and do an excellent job, through that simple fact alone, of feeling out-of-place with the rest of the range. And as they should for they are magical beasties of killy stabbiness. Compounded with the fact that the models ooze menace and you’ve got yourself quite possibly the most interesting faction in the game. Whereas the other forces in Godslayer are a specific people or peoples and have a clear look and feel, the various elements of the Troglodytes means that it doesn’t quite line up. Which is a good thing. They’re hardly a disciplined army like the Mortans or a bunch of tree hugging hippies like the Wyldfok.

This said the Duskborn and the Ironhide Brutes do tick all the design boxes of the hall of fame of historical ass holes. There are elements of the Mongols and Babylonians in there to name but two. The point that Megalith, I think, were trying to get across is that the Troglodytes are a powerful, brutal, invading force and their equipment is designed for long grinding battles. And they do the job very very well. It’s all spiky helmets, long armour scale skirts and heavy shields. There is no virtuousness in these creatures, only a self-righteous zeal and belief that the world should burn. Which is kinda cool.

The Feral Hammerfist, on the other hand is different again. It’s also even bigger than the other models. And its metal. So it’s very heavy. Which is a good thing. As mentioned before it doesn’t really feel like it quite marries up with the rest of the force but belongs there for that very same reason. It’s big it’s imposing and it has punch daggers the size of a large water melon. It’s style of war is one of pummelling everything within its reach then moving on to the next group of enemies and repeating. It is the Hulk of the Godslayer Universe. My one complaint, if I had any is that the head is a little flat. It’s meant to be mind, it wasn’t a miscast, but because the ears are wide as well it just gives the impression a little bit that something large stamped on its face. I also hate the spike on its head. That’s coming right off. Other than that it’s a good model with some nice detailing so it won’t be miserable to paint.

In the game Troglodytes, specifically these ones less I give too much away, are nasty. Their Melee is high and Defence monstrously so. Hurting them is very difficult and would require mob tactics to take even an Ironhide Brute down. Throw in the sub-faction special rule that allows them to regenerate and suddenly what we find ourselves with is kinda what the Lord of the Rings game never quite – for me – quite managed, which is towering creatures of ethereal power wading through hordes of mortals that wastes dozens of lives to bring them down. Which is all rather cool. But more importantly it makes for an interesting game.

Plus there are lots of other bits and pieces that will make your opponents groan. Like Ironhide Brutes ignore shields. Throw in stuff like Carnage and Rage for the Duskborn which is all geared around making life very unpleasant for those that get into combat with him.

What you end up with is a super elite force that you have to play with very tactically but equally one that’ll be very hard to manage if you’re on the other side of the board. And this highlights what I’ve always felt about Godslayer – which is the variety woven into the fabric of the game. No two units are similar. No two factions even vaguely follow the same path as the other. Even the sizes of the basic troops varies hugely. And that’s why it’s such a good game.

The Troglodyte starter set is available from Firestorm Games priced £33.08.

Dystopian Wars Russian Coalition – A Review

rc-naval-battle-group-gallery

As it’s been a while since I looked at something from Spartan I thought I’d take a look at the Russian Coalition starter set because, well, I think they look ace. And ace they are. Weirdly, for me, the tiny flyers are a stand out favourite. They’re just a very cool looking plane. Equally the rest of the ships  ooze that perfect balance of steampunk technology and the bludgeoning, relentless design aesthetic we’ve come to expect from anything Russian. So the hulls are very sleek and sharp but with ablative armour welded all over the place and the crudity of heavy industry evident along its flanks guns, bridge and engine room with dirty great smoke stacks, ugly piping, corrugated steel roofs and boilers on the outside. It’s a fantastic contrast which is carried through to the gun turrets which are much the same.

You’ll also notice that the frigates are round. Based on the poorly designed and ill-fated Popovkas the design is amusingly similar which rather suggests it would have the same catastrophic tendency to catch fire, spin itself around when firing its guns or otherwise just be a bloody nightmare to move or keep afloat. They’re very much a Marmite model and if I’m honest, I kind of like it. Unlike the bombers which look like, if I’m brutally honest, a steampunk fleshlight. And I suppose Sputnik. You can add your own jokes there.

Like other Spartan models the detail is very good and cast well, although not quite to their usual standards as I had a couple of tiny flyers that were miscast. Still usable but still. The larger ships had a bit of flash here and there but it was nothing to worry about and those models that require assembly all go together seamlessly. Which is nice.

As with all the non-core fleets, the starter set comes with a booklet containing a bit of background and the fleet list. I’ve always been a bit sceptical about Spartan’s ability to write fluff. It’s always felt a bit all over the placed and cobbled together because their focus has always been the models. The Russian background however was rather well done. It set the scene well, and read much like a Codex or Army Book. High praise indeed. Well almost. Just as it was getting good they decided to spoon feed us why Russia was at war with certain nations which thoroughly ruined the flow and feel of the background. But as it was at the end it could have been much worse.

But what of the ships themselves? Well, at first glance they look horrid. They’re not not horrid mind, but they’re not the unstoppable vessels of slaughter one might assume. Their guns throw out a lot of dice but only in range bands 1 & 2 but the sheer weight of fire will mean that if anything is unlucky enough to get caught will be tin foil and match wood before you can say ‘by Jove!’. The obvious response would be to soften them up at range or hammer them with torpedoes or rockets. Well no. Because the other thing the Russians have is special rules and generators ups the arse. Pages of the blessed things. It rather highlights the limitation of the mechanic if this many special rules are needed to make the faction different.

The Russians get generators to inhibit missile attacks, generators to inhibit torpedo attacks and, just to be cheeky, a generator that allows you to mimic the effects of another generator nearby. Oh and they have a glacier generator just coz. Throw in ablative armour that raises its damage rating to be the same as its critical rating until it sustains that first level of damage and Russian ships are unpleasantly tough nuts to crack using the obvious tactics of keep your distance and chip away at them, because it just won’t work. Which is rather bad news for the FSA.

They are, however, slow and not quite as tough would first appear. They have lower than average critical ratings and utterly shite ack and concussion charges. Againt, the obvious tactic of chipping away with rockets and torpedoes would have rather limited success considering the generators but they’d get absolutely battered by a strong air force. I can also see fleets like the Covenant and French making life unpleasant for them with particle cannons and thermal lances, providing they can get close enough, but their respective generators should give them a degree of protection and the redoubtable special rule for the French would help further still.

Equally their chunky broadsides and fairly decent fire arcs means that outflanking isn’t so straight forward either. However, if a Prussian flotilla were to bide its time and draw the Russians in they could easily get behind them and be able to harass them with impunity. And that’s where the Russians are vulnerable if they don’t keep their formations. The gung-ho, all guns blazing, approach won’t work despite their incredibly short-range.

The Russians are a nasty fleet, especially for the points. They’re hard to hurt and hard to handle when they close to range. They do, however, have easily exploitable weaknesses if your opponent knows their fleet and compared to other fleets they are horribly under armed. Only the weight of shots they can chuck out evens it up, although the ablative armour is perhaps over egging the pudding somewhat. But equally there are ways round that too.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how the Russians play. I honestly expected them to be a crude, cheap, and explosively violent fleet but actually it’s very considered that attempts to provoke its enemies. Then it becomes explosively violent. Interestingly I can see the Russians being good for beginners because they are, essentially, straight forward to use, but an experienced gamer would also enjoy the challenge they represent, particularly when it comes to all the rules.

The Russian Coalition starter fleet is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

Warmachine – A Review Part 2

Warmachine-LogoMuch much later than I had planned – mainly because I kept putting off reading the rules – part 2 of my Warmachine starter set review covers the background and core rules. Part 1 can be read here.

Just to clarify, the starter set only contains a mini rulebook so the fluff has been left out but, as I had a full version handy, I thought it better to cover the background too.

Now I’ve spoken about my frustrations with the Warmachine background before and, to be brutally honest, they haven’t gone anywhere. It just feels woolly and incomplete. There’s some very good ideas in there but the incoherent vagueness of the world war that’s about to start (because it’s not that clear) bugs the shit out of me. The game just can’t seem to decide what scale of warfare is or has broken out as it doesn’t match up with the size of game it seems to want you to play.

I’ve been informed by Adam of War More Radio (and fellow ODAM panellist), who is far more learned on Warmachine than I, that the army books flesh things out and explain the conflicts in greater detail. This annoys me for two reasons. 1. Gamers should have a solid understanding of the world they’re being asked to invest in from just reading the core rules. It’s a problem I’m finding more and more common in games. The rules are solid but the fluff just isn’t tight enough. 2. The army books are more expensive than the rule book. I know the company is called Privateer but they’re taking it a tad too literally methinks…

That rather large grumble aside, the background and factions are diverse in look and ethos. Strangely I found myself being far more interested in Khador the Cryx as the others seem a bit Mary Sue by comparison. Being the evil doers in the story means they have a bit more grit to them than the blue armoured, big goggled, ginger haired smugness of the Cygnar. They deserve Khador’s boot up their ass if you ask me…

But moving on.

Having attempted to read the rules before I side stepped the profoundly irritating ‘Page 5’, and just focussed on the nitty-gritty. One of the first things that hits you is the sheer volume of icons denoting special rules or special effects. There are dozens of the bloody things, each of them similar enough to be slightly overwhelming. Granted you don’t need to know them all at once but it begs the question; why the feck are they right at the start of the rules to scare off the novice gamer. It also suffers from that time-honoured writing blunder of listing the basic rules without actually explaining them.

In many ways the Warmachine rulebook is like the Lord of the Rings. If you can muddle through the waffle you get to the good bit because the rules actually aren’t bad. Granted they are blatantly overwhelmingly geared towards Warjacks with pages of rules that only apply to them. This isn’t a bad thing per se, as it’s clearly the Privateer’s wet dream that gave birth to Warmachine as a game, and the care and consideration in those rules does mean you can have a lot of fun.

For example, if your Warjack has a free hand you can grab an enemy Warjacks weapon or head. If you fancy you can pick up some poor bastard and lob them across the board or, if you’re feeling cheeky you can slam you Warjacks into someone and smear them across a wall. Which is nice. Stuff like this is good. The damage mechanic is a tad fussy though, geared around keeping the big metal bastards alive for as long as possible and requires colouring in which personally I think needs be consigned to primary school but that’s very much a preference thing.

The biggest issue I have with Warmachine is the Warcasters. Not that they’re overpowered monsters that can bust shit up left right and centre. I’m all for that. It’s the fact that their demise knocks out your Warjacks as well. A lucky shot can completely bugger your chances of winning the game. In the same way that Warjacks is the main features of the game, Warcasters is rusty old linchpin holding the whole thing together. Other games are guilty of what I like to call a Snap-fast mechanic. In that there is one almighty blaring flaw that buggers the game that the developer either plays down how bad it is or just ignores it. DzC is guilty of it too.

However, it’s a preference thing and so people clearly do enjoy the whole ‘do or die’ scenario Warcasters represent. Plus, rather cleverly, the Warcaster you choose dictates the type of force you can take which not only means that one Menoth force could be dramatically different to another it also gives context for forces within the same faction to have a scrap. It does also mean you’ll end up buying lots of models so you can field variations within your force.

That said, Warmachine works well enough. Game play is turn based but works by completing movements and actions unit by unit rather than movement and action phases. It allows for a fairly free-flowing tactical game as players can re-prioritise and re-task their units as the flow of combat dictates. It’s a smashing together of turn based and alternate activations essentially.

The stats and the bulk of the rules are pretty standard stuff and easy enough to grasp. The rules for all the stuff the Warjacks can do is where it excels. The turn system works fine and the apparent small size of games compared to other 28/30mm scale games out there means games move quickly. I’m just not convinced by the sheer volume of special rules. It feels like every unit has something to make them special in some way. A gun isn’t just a gun, it’s a gun that shoots lightning and orgasms or some such. The problem is that it detracts from the units that actually are special and because the faction lists are just full of bloody stupid icons rather than paragraphs explaining the rule, there’ll be no shortage of rule flicking.

Warmachine as a set of rules isn’t bad. Pretty good in fact. The predisposition of the writers to make the Warjacks mad as bat shit means that the game is at its best when it’s just them running about the place. And the starter sets available rather backs that thinking up. It runs the risk of being a bit of a one trick pony however, but the sheer volume of equally mad constructs available keeps things interesting. Not to mention the recent addition of Colossals. For me, though, it’s let down by fluff that isn’t quite strong enough which is a big deal for me.

If, however, what you want is a game that allows you to field bonkers units and bonkers constructs then Warmachine is your game. The way in which Warcasters are used from both a force formation perspective as well as interesting, even if it does mean putting all your eggs in one basket. In fairness the volume of boosters, special rules and the aforementioned attention to detail with some of the rules means it does have a slight RPG twist to it.

I’ve been very unkind towards Warmachine over the last 18 months or so. And as most of my gripes are geared around the fluff I’m not really taking any of it back, but the rules are solid albeit tailored for a particular type of game and gamer. And with the sheer volume of force combinations available it’s very easy to see why it’s such a popular tournament game.

The Warmachine 2 player starter box is available from Firestorm Games priced £62.96

Dark Vengeance Reveal Trailer

Games Workshop have posted a Dark Vengeance reveal trailer showing all the models painted and close. If nothing else the close-ups of plastic soldiers with the dramatic backing soundtrack will make you giggle.