Wargaming in the 21st Century

For my 200th post regular readers must cast their minds back to Christmas last year and the post I wrote about the Galaxy Tab I was given by Santa Wife. I prattled on about the practical applications of such a device for the average wargamer.

Well, last night I put it properly to the test whilst playing a 750 point game of Warhammer 40,000 with Jeremy of The Chaps. Jeremy is still relatively new to 40k so it was as much about helping him understand the options available to him in the Codex and how that was reflected in-game as it was getting to grips with the rules.

I also took the opportunity to try an army builder app. Although I have Quartermaster on my iPhone I wanted to try Battlescribe because the basic version is free to download.

Seeing as these apps are supposed to make it easier to write an army list they fall at the first hurdle because, due to copyright laws the developers are not allowed to produce army lists. This means it falls to the community to write them this presents two problems.
1. You’ve got to find the damn things.
2. They’re prone to mistakes. The file I downloaded containing Codex Space Marines stated that Whirlwinds have armour of 22, 22, 20… I can’t be too harsh as this isn’t the fault of the developers but it’s worth keeping in mind especially before you pay for an app.

In truth, building an army list in Battlescribe was very quick. I had a 750 point list together in just a couple of minutes. The interface is reasonably intuitive although a little clunky when wanting to add units of the same type. The other nice thing is that by setting a  points limit you can’t exceed it which puts a stop to all those cheeky gits who go over by 5 points and hope you’ll let them off.

All the weapons and upgrades are evident as are special characters and when you generate the list once everything is added is nicely presented with unit choices at the top complete with additions and special rules. Again, it’s a slightly clunky to generate and each template is quite slow to load.

Stats are all at the bottom in one tidy place. But the one thing it doesn’t have is what the model or unit has as standard which is a bit pointless because you’re then forced, if you don’t know the book fluently, to refer back to the Codex. Obviously, I’m not expecting explanations of what things do, but I did expect to see under my entries the basic equipment – bolter, frag & krak grenades etc.

To be honest, I’m not sold on an army builder app on a tablet unless the rule sets you’re using are also on the tablet as having to go into the tablet each time you want to look something up is a bit of  faff. Not prohibitively so, but flicking through a Codex or Army Book is almost certainly quicker but then you’re in to the realms of why you bothered in a detailed army list in the first place.
I can see the benefits of having army builders on your phone as you’ll never, in theory, be without your army list which saves you time in the long-term, but it’s far more time-consuming than just typing it out or writing it down. But once it’s done it’s done, and, as I say, the convenience of never having to worry about doing a list prior to a game is a real benefit.

But it all boils down to how much you have to refer back to the book after you’ve gone to such lengths with a phone or tablet, and whether or not it’s as clear or easy to use as a nicely typed and printed piece of paper. I’m the kind of person who types out army lists on Word or Excel (other packages are available) and so include all stats, special rules, equipment and a break down of points cost because I like to know exactly what’s what, but equally I like to be transparent with my opponent so they can never doubt I’m being above-board. I’m not yet convinced that Battlescribe matches my Mk1 army lists, but it is trying. It certainly looks nicer than my lists.

There’s clearly work to be done surrounding army builder apps but both Battlescribe and Quartermaster are making reasonable headway. Having used them and see the speed in which I can build an army I’ll probably continue to do so but, if I’m honest, I’ll always make sure I have a reserve list folded up in the middle of my Codex.

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

This is arguably a bit too early but I wanted to write my year in review because it’s been on my mind.

The most significant thing for me was, obviously, the creation of The Shell Case. And what a decision that was. Had I known that setting up this humble little blog would see me writing reviews for all the weird and wonderful games and have them read all over the world I would have done it a long time a go. It’s been an amazing few months.

Its success is down to, in part, certain individuals like @DocBungle, Chris_S79 and a host of others that I could list but it’d make a boring read. You all know who you are so thank you.

I’ve also been hugely lucky to to inteview the incredibly awesome Sarah Cawkwell, writer of The Gildar Rift (my first Black Library eBook purchase), and the visionary Erasmus, creator of the Lord Inquisitor.

Off the back of the blog, the forum was founded and shortly after the Alliance. Both are growing although not as fast as I like, but that’s entirely down to me not having time to do much of anything beyond the blog. This is partly down to the Super Mega Awesome Shell Case Project but mostly because my day job is taking up far too much of my time.

My new year’s resolution really should be to get my Shell Case shit together.

So it has been (half a) year of writing reading, playing, reviewing and meeting some awesome peope both on Twitter and through the various companies I’ve had the very great pleasure of dealing with. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

Next year should be interesting with the Super Mega Awesome Shell Case Project hopefully coming to conclusion, more reviews and hopefully getting my own game off the ground. I hope that the community continues to grow and the #warmongers with it who are all a bunch of awesome chaps.

In the new year we’re introducing a 6th member to The Chaps which is very exciting and will hopefully see the Mordheim campaign grow but new campaigns start too. I’d also really.like to get Ian, Jeremy, Neil and the Freshman into Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars because, well, the game is cool and the models are the tits.

Anyway, I want to wish all of you a very Happy 2012. May it bring happiness, health and many shiny toys.

The Chaps & Mordheim – The Undead

Back in October I did a fair amount of prattling on about Mordheim (which can be read here and here) and one of the things that I thought would be fun would be to get The Chaps to write about their warbands and take you on part of their journey to domination over the Damned City. The first installment is brough to you by Ian, the most senior of all The Chaps.

I’ve known Ian for 13 years now and he is without doubt one of my best friends despite being a certain number of years my senior. He was even a groomsman at my wedding, as was his son and junior Chap; Neil. Ian and I met through, strangely enough, my mum who worked with Ian at the time. During a lunch break she noticed Ian reading a White Dwarf and commented ‘My son plays those games’. And so started an enduring friendship despite me wiping the floor with him all these years. We’ve played countless games and been an invaluable sounding board for Project Awesome.

So without further ado, I give you Ian and his Undead warband…Sigmar help you.

I recently received an email inviting me as senior, OK oldest, member of The Chaps to contribute a piece to The Shell Case explaining how I came to pick my latest Mordheim war band so, for better or worse, here it is.

 Firstly a brief history lesson, or ‘How I came to the wonderful world of wargaming’. I started back in the 1970s with a group of friends from school, a lot of Airfix plastic Napoleonics (mostly unpainted) and a home-grown set of rules based on the works of Donald Featherstone & Terence Wise. A brief flirtation with fantasy gaming followed using SELWGs Lord of the Rings rules, but by then we had left school, the group had broken up so I was left with a couple of armies and no one to play with. The rules and figures got dusted off once Neil, (eldest son and junior Chap), was old enough to play but the rules were so complicated that the games were not very satisfying – and let’s face it why play a game if you don’t enjoy it?

About 17 years ago I discovered Warhammer Quest, Games Workshop, acrylic paints and spray undercoat (no more Humbrol enamels on bare metal!). A series of chance encounters lead to the formation of The Chaps and I now divide my time between historical gaming, (mainly the Sudan campaign of the 1880s & 90s & the English Civil War), and GW games mostly Mordheim and 40k. I’m currently working on an Imperial Guard army inspired by the 1942 German invasion of Russia (TSC: Yeah and they looking freaking awesome).

When we started our last Mordheim campaign I was using my Sisters of Sigmar warband; I found the idea of a bunch of psycho nuns running around a ruined city dealing out death and retribution with hammers rather appealing, which is why the Sisters of Little Mercy came into being. However I found them difficult to use, mainly due to their lack of long-range firepower and my crap dice rolling when in hand to hand combat. The Chaps will attest to my ability to roll dice like a drunken chimp (TSC: I can, indeed, attest to this.)

By the end of the first game my Matriarch, a Sister Superior and a Sister were out of action. Some horrendous rolls during the recovery phase at the end of the game resulted in the Matriarch and the Sister Superior dying so with insufficient gold to replace even one of them I had to the start warband again. As the campaign moved on I was able to upgrade weapons and armour but at last the time came when I wanted to recruit more nuns, it was at this point that I discovered that the Sisters of Sigmar are only available as a boxed set plus a couple of loose figures, (eBay?! – it’s an age thing). I ended up purchasing a Matriarch armed with a steel whip to be a third Sister Superior and a blister pack of Sisters of Battle Repentias which I converted by clipping off their chainswords and replacing them with hammers; the eagle-eyed among you will have realised that between the initial and the later purchase my painting had undergone a radical change mainly due to a switch to black undercoat and a darker pallet of colours.

 

When the new campaign started I decided I needed a change, the sisters no longer look like a coherent group and to be frank I wanted to try something new. I considered pit fighters as I have a warband painted up and unused, but again they are only available as a single boxed set, which makes buying extra figures awkward, and to be honest each member of the band specialises in a single style of fighting, the idea of kitting them out with extra weapons and armour just doesn’t feel right.

During a conversation with Neil the idea of an undead war band was floated (TSC: Who do you think gave Neil the idea?!); ‘why not fight on the side of evil for once?’ I liked the idea of an agent working in the city to further the evil machinations of the Von Carsteins, especially as there are opportunities for him to ‘go native’ and start pursuing his own agenda. At some point we could also indulge in a little father and son alliance against the rest as at the time Neil’s Skaven warband were our token ‘baddies’. Checking the warband out online I realised that the metal zombies that come with it are a Sister of Sigmar (my old warband), a witch hunter (Caito’s warband), a Marienburger (Jeremy’s and Lee’s warband) and a generic ‘posh bloke’, I was sold.

Having got the models in my hot sticky hands the first thing that I decided was that I didn’t like the silly crocodile jaw head on the vampire’s halberd; knowing my ability to roll badly I decided that I would arm him with 2 swords instead – 2 ST 5 attacks are all very well but this way he would get 3 attacks at ST 4, so there will still be modifier to the armour save, and he would gain a parry and re roll. Luckily the hand holding the halberd is separate so it was just a case of lopping off a plastic hand holding a sword and sticking it onto the model. Using parts from Neil’s bit box I managed to build a zombie skaven (TSC: Also my idea via Neil. Dance my puppets dance!) and with a couple of stand in models I was ready to roll. The starting line up consisted of the Vampire armed with 2 swords, a Necromancer, 2 dregs, a couple of dire wolves and 6 zombies. By the end of that first game I realised that I needed a third Igor – as an homage to Terry Pratchett all of my dregs are called Igor – and some ghouls.

The good thing about The Chaps is that none of us are precious about using the ‘correct’ models; as Caito has already explained on this very blog, most of the characters in his Witch Hunters are Freebooter figures and some of Jeremy’s hand gunners started life as Wargames Foundry swashbucklers. When I discovered that the third dreg I was after is in fact a limited edition GW figure that sells for sums in excess of £50 I decided to look elsewhere. (TSC: Funny that…)

While checking out the Freebooter website I spotted a cracking model called Romerto the street assassin, he’s big so how could I justify using him? Once again Neil came to the rescue (TSC: This actually was Neil that time) by pointing out that dregs are the lowest of the low, which would include thieves and murderers, nothing says they have to be hunchbacks, so ‘Big (Dim) Igor’ was born. I wanted a 6th zombie that wasn’t just the least worst painted member of my old undead army; this had to be Freebooter’s Lady Death – yes I know she has a naked skull and is armed with a scythe, but it’s such a cool model. That just left the ghouls – I don’t like the classic GW models and the new plastic ones are fine but I didn’t want to buy a whole box for 2 or 3 models. It was then that I stumbled on the website for Heresy Miniatures, their ghoul models are so full of character that I bought the ghouls crawling set, the models arrived the day after I placed the order, which is pretty good service in my book, and although they are a bit fiddly to put together they really look the business when painted.

I’ve now played 4 games with the warband and I’m enjoying the steep learning curve I’m on. I quickly leaned that trying to use zombies as a screen of living impaired ablative armour doesn’t work – they’re too slow! My Vampire, to be frank, is rubbish; in the first game, due to the night fighting rules of the Blood in the Barrows scenario, he fell flat on his back the first time he declared a charge and got a bloody good kicking. Once in action he managed to knock several opponents down but failed to finish them off (he finally achieved this in game 3) then at the end of game 3 he got his sodding hand cut off. The Chaps, being their usual sporting selves, suggested that rather than suffer a penalty to his stats he instead now has a crossbow pistol grafted onto the stump and cannot be replaced by anything else. That cloak can hide a multitude of things.

To be frank he’s so inept I think that von Carstein is going to cut him adrift. On the other hand my spear armed Igor is brilliant! In the Blood in the Barrows game he was jumped by a werewolf which by any estimate should have torn the poor little dreg limb from pale limb. But, despite being only WS2 and as much use as a chocolate teapot, Igor impaled the werewolf on his spear. The Chaps were so impressed that they all agreed he deserved an extra experience point and awarded him the honorary title of Igor Wolfsbane. Big Igor on the other hand is all but a cripple having sustained an old battle wounds which may cause him to miss some games (I can’t complain though – he had to make 5 rolls on the serious injury chart at the end of his first game).

What makes Mordheim so enjoyable is that the wee metal men start to take on a ‘life’ and character of their own and even if you do badly during the game you can still improve things with your exploration and experience rolls; for instance, Wolf’s Bane is now ST4 but still only WS2, but he’ll get there. When he does I’ll let you know (if Caito will have me back).

Thanks Ian for taking the time to tell us about your shambling little bastards. Passion for the force you’re collecting is, for me, everything and it’s been great fun watching you engage with your Undead warband and your Imperial Guard. In fact, I might have to get you to write another article about the Emperor’s Cannon Fodder.

Coming up on The Shell Case will be posts from Jeremy, Lee & Neil but before then I thought I’d write a ‘story so far’ for the campaign. You have been warned…