Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Deadzone at Tabletop Day

Teraton plus backup prepares to sour someones day...
A few of us who pledged on the Deadzone kickstarter decided that enough was enough and set a deadline for playing and a punishment for those who didn't bring painted minis. It was going to be me, Anders, Claes and Kosta and the idea was that we would be able to run two games simultaneously. I was going to use Enforcers, but changed my mind to Rebs, Anders had his Plague painted and Claes had his Marauders. Kosta is still waiting for his Asterians that will come in the second shipment so I would lend him my Enforcers.

Unfortunately the plan didn't quite work out as we had hoped as Kosta couldn't make it until later in the afternoon while Claes had to leave early and Anders had comitments during the day, which meant that he only saw the start and end of the day. So yeah... not entirely successful. We need to reschedule and make sure we really have an entire day to play. Still, here's a quick rundown of events.

First turn of the first game. Plague have moved and now Marauders are activating.
I did manage to play (almost) two complete games and start a third. Anders had to leave the first turn into his game against Claes so I took over as Plague and did my best to keep the Marauders at bay. Or rather, they tried to keep the Plague at bay. This is harde than you think though, and once I managed to get a Generation 2 monster into close combat it was pretty much all over for the orx. Claes was a bit disheartened by this as he only managed to take out a single dog in return, but I think it all comes down to us not being used to the system and the play format.

Second turn of the game. As you can see in upper right, a Gen 2 has rampaged through the Marauder lines
killing a Mawbeast and a Commando and is making a beeline for the Commander.
After that me and Claes started a second game with me using my Rebs against his Marauders but we only made it a couple of turns before he had to leave. It consisted mostly of me bombarding his troops with a bunch of Blast weapoins, throwing them around and pinning them but not doing much damage. Except for my Reb Leader who sniped the Rainmaker Ripper Suit from the other end of the board which was kind of cool. Then again, it didn't help Claes feeling of defeat. 

With two Marauder Commandos barreling down on her, the Rebs leader kept her calm and sniped the Ripper Suit right between the eyes! Then the Sorak fired his blast weapon on the two Commandos, scattering them.
Then there was a bit of a break as I was left to my own devices in the apartment. I did find both my Infinity rulebook and the Lightning Strike rulebook that I had lent to Anders ages ago. And I spent some time cleaning up Anders computer that was riddled with bloat and malware. So silver lining and all that. Hehe! 

When Anders got back we played another game with him commanding the Plague and me the Rebs. This was really the only proper game played during the day and it also ended in a crushing victory for the Plague. We both had (secret) missions where we needed to kill the opponents models. Anders needed to kill expensive models and specisalists/leaders while I needed to survive and simply kill as many enemies as possible. 

Unfortunately it seems like I didn't learn anything from playing with the plague in the game earlier during the game so for some unexplicable reason I advanced a couple of spaces with a few of my troops which ended in disaster. Anders managed to use a combination of Battle Cards and the Command special order to move his Generation 1 super monster (who is normally very slow!) into combat with one of my Kraaw and the turn after the same combination plus the Winged mutation allowed his Generation 2 monster to move four spaces and into combat with a human.

It started well enough, with the Kraaw blasting some pesky plague Hounds. If only I'd stayed back and fired away.
Although my Kraaw did survive one turn the game was basically over for me at this point as I didn't have much that could actually kill these things in my arsenal. My plan was to rely on suppression fire to keep them at bay, but when they're among your troops in turn two it's not much you can do. My second Kraaw did make a valiant attack on the Gen 2 and wounded it which allowed my sniper leader to dispatch it, but she was then eaten by a mutant hound in return, leaving only a Kraaw and a Survey Drone alive on my side of the table as the game ended. He killed eight of mine while I killed two of his ending the game 14-4 to the Plague. 

Although we did make a couple of rules mistakes, like forgetting that Ammo gives you two extra dice instead of one, and granting infinite free actions (meaning the Gen1/2 could simply keep going into the next enemy and fight again if he won his combat) my fate was sealed as soon as one of the big beasties managed to get to one of my troops. The game area is very tight indeed, so the urge to move forward, which is usually what you do in other miniature games, is something you need to unlearn when playing Deadzone. Or when playing against the Plague anyway. 

You can see a couple of my mistakes here. One was to deploy a lot of my troops behind solid cover, meaning they'd have to fire to move. And one (more serious one) being the Kraaw in upper left who advanced WAY too long.
My mission was to survive as long as possible (one point at the end of every turn I had 50%+ left of my force) and then simply kill enemies (1 point for everey model killed, regardless of cost). What I should have done was probably bunch my guys up one one flank where I had the best view and then used Blaze Aways (DZ speak for suppression fire) and Blast attacks to keep the Gen 1/2s pinned while my leader and humans tried to kill the squishier Generation 3s. That could actually have worked. Moving forward, not so much. So, some good lessons there.

The Plague big man! I'm not really sure he's worth the investment to have in your force,
but he sure makes for an impressive sight!
We also tried to play this as a small campaign, with maybe three battles each and then call it quits. However, since I first read the campaign rules for Deadzone I've been a little sceptical of the whole idea. Jake Thornton decided to go down the route of quick played and "balanced" which I can respect, but it does make for a much less... colourful campaign than Necromunda. Or those are my first impressions anyway. Basically you buy a "stable" of troops for 140 points, and when you go to battle you bring 70 points from this stable with you. 

You might wonder why you need the stable to begin with and the answer is two-fold: first you need it because all battles are at 70 points and because of this always "balanced", so you need to have subsitutes for when your guys get killed. Which brings me to the second part of the answer, Deadzone is very lethal - if a model gets taken out during a game it's automatically dead unless you spend three Reputation Points to keep it alive, and even then there's a large chance it'll get a stat decrease and it will miss the next game unless you pay another point of Rep. And Rep=Victory Points that you earn during games. The most you can possibly achieve during a game is 14, so four points is a lot. Especially since you need to replace all the casualties that will keep mounting up (not to mention you might want to buy some new troop types that you unlock as you play!).

Compare this to Necromunda where a models usually just went 'down' rather than were taken out of the game altogether, and even then you alway rolled a die for it to see if it survived (chance was one in three I seem to recall). Basically, a model actually dying was somewhat rare. What this means is that Deadzone feels much less like Necromunda and more like... a small 40k campaign with resource management. Or something. Which is, after all, more adherant to the setting as these combatants aren't gangs but military forces on a mission. Still, this makes the campaign loose quite a bit of the charm that you found in a Necromunda campaign. I think this can be fun as well, but in a completely different way. I think it comes down to this: your team of models probably won't become a team of personalities, because in the end they're simply cannon fodder.

Plague advancing. I checked my BGG play logs and it turns out that the Plague is yet undefeated around these parts, regadless of who plays with or against them. We need to re-think our tactics!
Now bear in mind that these are simply my first impressions and we still haven't actually played through a proper campaign. And I want to stress that I don't think the campaign mode is bad, it's just different from what I had hoped for; that being something that could pick up where Necromunda left off.

I've talked a lot about the campaign but what about the rules system itself? I need to play a lot more, but I think there's a solid core that has some quirks and a few grey areas that need sorting out. The dice pool mechanic still feels rather unfamiliar to me and I find it hard to gauge my chances. Initially I thought it would be fast playing, but there are some areas that are very detailed which, while fun, makes it take longer than expected. For example, if I fire a Blast weapon at an area with three models it will take a minimum of five rolls to resolve it and as many as nine rolls if all of them are thrown out of the area (high probability) or even 11 rolls if they get thrown off a ledge or into a wall. And each of these rolls, except for scatter, is made with ~2-5 D8s. This kind of detail is pretty cool, but when you have a force with three or four blast weapons you'll spend a lot of time doing this and only this.

Still, at this point I quite like the system as it's tactical and rewards smart play. Tactically it kind of reminds me of Infinity as a single mistake will often see you loose the game. Punishing in other words, but interesting. I'll try and get another game or two in during the week so I can try out the Enforcers as well.

Oh, and I managed to paint a bunch of Rebs! They're not done, but decent enough to play with. They'll get a separate post later on.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

March Releases for Infinity!

Another month, another buch of beautiful minis from Corvus Belli! Let's have a look...

Brigadier Jacques Bruant of Ariadna is a Metros officer and has a kind of anti-hero vibe going for him being "the kind of man you want beside you in combat, but not one you'd want to introduce to your children". Sculpting wise I think it's a solid although not spectacular model with quite a bit of characer to it - I really like the beanie and sunglasses, and he does look pretty badass with that Molotok. I'm imagining Bruant being played by Jean Renó in an Infinity film. In game he's a pretty nifty light infantry that who can provide a decent firebase with the Molotok and X-visor. He also comes with Limited Camouglage and can be the lieutenant if you want. Oh, and he has D-charges as well so not a bad choice for tournament play.

Following the December realease of the new Morat starter here we get a new Daturazi Witch-Soldiers box for the Combined Army. Again a great step up in model quality compared to the original sculpts! The only problem I can see is that they are so much larger and more massive than humans but their stats are almost the same - makes for a slight disconnect. Still, really nice and ferocious looking! They come as an Impetuous warband with Mimetism, Martial Arts L4 and armed with a collection of chain rifles, combi rifles, smoke grenades and shock close combat weapons. Anything but a chain rifle makes them slightly pricey, but if you manage to get them close to the enemy they should be able to wreck some face.

I didn't expect to see the ALEPH Nagas as a release but with such a nice mini it's certainly a welcome surprise. I like how similar it is to the original Nagas Hacker sculpt - basically it's only been improved upon from a technical standpoint. And the result is a miniature with a very snapshot-of-life feel to it! I can see this guy covering a corner just as he puts down a Monofilament mine. Although, I always think of the MX robots from the tv series Almost Human. Something about the face and headwear. In game the Nagas fill the role of "standard camo infiltrator" that most Infinity armies have, except this is ALEPH so he has slightly better stats and is Dogged. Oh, and you can get the aforementioned Monofilament mines which is pretty cool in itself.

We got the marksman variant of him last year, and here comes the heavy infantry Sun Tze of Yu Jing! What we have here is what looks like the man himself in Shàng Jí armour, minus the helmet but with his trademark coat (although shorter than the sniper version). Which makes sense seeing as the Shàng Jí is the StateEmpires new top of the line combat armour (although he's still only Move 4-2). I'm all over this as the original Shàng Jí is one of the models that got me into Infinity in the first place! Sun Tze is looking his heroic self with the famous (infamous?) one foot on a rock pose that CB really digs and gazing out over the battlefield, probably commanding his troops through his implants. Very nice and crisply sculpted and definitely a mini I'll pick up! There were some raised eyebrows at the Boarding Shotgun he carries, but his statline has now been upgraded to include it as an alternative to the MULTI Rifle. This brings him down from 73 points to 65, so still expensive. I'm hoping this is a hint of things to come considering the rumours of the next Yu Jing sectorial being centred around the Shàng Jí, which would of course be absolutely awesome!

Finally we have a repack with additional new models of the Nomad Tomcats. The engineer and the D.E.P. are old while the Doctor and Zondcat are new. I've always liked the Tomcat models and this repack shows how well the older models hold up. I do think CB should have re-done the combirifles though as they look a little out of place next to the newer and sleaker versions we have today. The Doctor looks cool and the Zondcat looks like something out of Inspector Gadget which would have been horrible, except this is Nomads and is just what they do. Hehe! I quite like the little airdrop pack it has on its back, although that will make it hard to hide for sure. A very nice pack and certainly something fledgling Nomad players should put high on their list.

Oh, and if you wonder why there are only five releases this month, it's because the Tomcat Doctor+Zondcat also are released as a separate blister for a limited time. So if you already have the two other Tomcats, hop to it and get the blister!

A solid month of releases, even though none of the models really jump out at me as being above and beyond the ordinary. Then again, I still have yet to recover from the awesomeness of the Geckos from last month! Sun Tze looks really nice though, and if I played vanilla ALEPH I'd be all over that Naga. Now, let's keep on trying to figure out what the "huge news" Corvus Belli has in store for us during April might be...

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Couple of Upcoming Reviews...

The other day I found a nice little surprise in my mailbox; a trio of scenery products from Systema Gaming that Primož sent to me for review purposes. What we have here is a Base-0 Container, Communications Unit and a Habitat-2 Unit, all in nice, thick MDF!

I first came across Systema Gaming last year and was intrigued by the solid designs, high customization options and good price (including free shipping!) so I'm quite eager to get to work on these things! I'll start out with the container and should have the first review up sometime during next week.

In other news, we have our first proper Deadzone gaming day coming up on Saturday so expect a report from that event as well. I'm also glad to see that the MERCS: Recon kickstarter have started to pick up some momentum again after the inevitable mid-valley lull. I'm currently in at the OPFOR level and financing it by offloading some old third edition Tyranids.

Oh, and speaking of Tyranids! I found my old copy of Tyranid Attack and I don't think I'll be able to resist doing a bit of a retro playthrough of it. From my memories of it it's very random and should be played with the right mindset, kind of like Battlecars or DungeonQuest. I'll try and remember to take pictures of the frenetic action... with space marine scouts attacking dermal sphincters, being killed by brain eating larvae and so on. Hehe!


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

MERCS: Recon

I wasn't going to fall for any more Kickstarters - or at least, I'd only go for cheap ones - but MERCS: Recon simply looks waaaay too cool to pass up on!

It's a cooperative board game by Megacon Games who created the original Mercs skirmish game and ran the very successfull kickstarter for Myth last year (which is hitting the streets next month). I did give Myth a skip, partly because the uninspiring gameplay videos but also because I felt that I had three dungeon crawlers already (Descent 2.0, Gears of War and Claustrophobia). Of course Myth is entirely coop which might have been interesting since I sold my copy of Gears of War but still... ce'st la vie. Myth does look like a very cool game though!

Anyway, I'm definitely a much bigger sci-fi than fantasy fan anyway so the MERCS: Recon kickstarter immediately drew my interest. I had of course seen the Mercs skirmish game before and had even considered investing in it, but never really felt the need for it since Infinity fills that particular niche so well. However, the miniatures are generally good (going from decent to excellent) and the hard sci-fi setting Megacon has created seems pretty neat!

As I started reading about it I realized that it's basically Syndicate the board game! I'll let that sink in for a bit before moving on. And let's have a look at that nice reboot trailer as well:

I used to play loads of the original Syndicate back in the day, and I spent quite some time with the severely underrated reboot by Starbreeze as well. Also having grown up reading William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy and exploring the world of Cyberpunk 2020 I'm certainly not a stranger to corporate warfare.

In MERCS: Recon you play as a team of up to five mercs (or always five, I'm not sure) whose mission is to infiltrate the office complex of a rival Megacorp in search for the very important Mcguffin! It might be that you need to hack and wipe some servers, assassinate a particular scientist or perhaps a good old fashioned locate and extract. Each merc in the team has different abilities and armament with a leader, demolitions, breacher, incinerator and gunner (these roles probably vary between different merc factions).
This is the player board with the all the stats for your particular merc.
As you move into the office there will be a number of different coloured "agents" in the area (essentially three different kinds of blips, a la Space Hulk). These move around the board according to card draws and if one or more enters line of sight to a merc you draw a card to see what kind of opposing force (OPFOR) it actually is and how it reacts to the mercs. Of course, you will run into tougher resistance as the Security Level goes up. Regular employees will generally cower or try to run to the nearest elevator or stairwell while security forces will try to fight back. Security forces come in four different varieties, becoming gradually better armed and equipped as you go.

When it's your turn to act with your merc you do so by way of command points, similar to Space Hulk, but with a lot more detail. You start the game with six points available, but you only get four back at the end of the turn, unless you take a special Initiative action which can't be combined with running or attacking. Connected to your command points is the Priority Track which works both as initiative, showing which merc acts first, but also as attack priority for the OPFOR models! So the more command points you spend during your turn the higher you will go on the priority track, meaning that the enemy will target you over the other mercs. Things like killing employees or using "excessive force" (attacking more than once in a round) raise your Priority further. Depending on your actions the Security Level is affected as well and even though you might be able to sneak around a little at first, it won't be long until OPFOR reinforcements start to arrive. This is a pretty clever little system that I haven't seen in board games before.

The movement and event cards used for agent movement and OPFOR reveal.
It also allows you neat combined actions where two mercs get to act simultaneously, one shooting and one moving for example or Duck & Cover where one merc can raise his Priority one step to allow another to lower hers. It gives a sense of a well oiled strike team working together, kind of like the move together card from Gears of War but more varied. There is also a combined action called Breach & Clear that the merc will have to use when they get to their objective (primary or secondary). This is basically a little mini-game within the game and a separate small board is used where OPFOR models are positioned behind overturned desks etc and the mercs storm through the door, guns blazing! It sounds really cool but I'm not yet convinced about the gameplay aspects of it. You mainly seem to do dice manipulation via the different abilities of the mercs to try and outdamage the opponents while attempting not to destroy the objective in the process. Need some gameplay vids of this in action to see how it really plays out.

The terrain tiles look ok, but could do with a bit detailing.
Oh, which reminds me of the collateral damage you are likely to inflict as you move through the area. There are three different attack dice: heavy, light and collateral damage dice. The CD dice have the lowest damage potential but hits every model in the target area as well as the area itself! If enough damage is done you place a special collateral damage disc on the area that changes the layout of the game and provides different modifiers. Oh, and you can ziptie and interrogate employees who might give you information as to the whereabouts of your objective. Oh, and now and then you will actually have to reload your weapon. Oh, and you can of course use overwatch, but be carful as you might fire at an employee by mistake (raising your priority and maybe security!). Oh, and as you get injured you loose command points and when incapacitated you need help to get up by your team mates. Oh, and OPFOR models act in different ways depending on if they are wounded or not. Oh, and there are more things, but it's late and I need to go to bed! :D

The factions in the two base game boxes.
All in all this seems like a pretty cool game! First and foremost I'm a sucker for the theme, but reading through the rules I get all kinds of good vibes as it really feels like something between the minimalistic tactical exercise of Space Hulk and the complex, rpg-esque sprawl of Earth Reborn. Two games that I love dearly, but that I can also feel are very far toward their respective ends of the spectrum. To have something in the middle would make for a nice trinity. Plus, full coop is a nice change!

I'm currently at the $120 Agent level, which gives you two different versions of the base game (featuring different mercs, OPFOR models, terrain tiles and missions) as well as every stretch goal. But I might find myself raising it to the $200 OPFOR level as that also includes the new second edition rulebook for the Mercs skirmish game plus all the cards needed to play it (as well as a totally separate dice game set in the same world). We're currently at 58 miniatures, but that seems to be rising to about 75 by the end of the week as another merc faction is added to the mix. Of course, it's not all about the number of miniatures. In fact, I think I would be happy with just one version of the base game, but at that level no stretch goals are included. Aww...

So... yeah... just thought I'd let you know. Because it seems pretty cool. :)


Friday, 7 March 2014

EDF Infantry

"Those damn, dirty rebels went that-a way!"
So I painted up the rest of the first squad of NSL infantry from GZG (or Earth Defence Force as I'll call them) - two riflemen, one SAW gunner and one missile launcher operator. As I mentioned earlier these new sculpts are really nice! Clear details and chunky enough to give the armour some weight, but still well proportioned. The rifles are big and blocky and brings a lot of the character to the models. The light machine gun might be my favourite though (if not the box shaped laser sniper rifle!).

I played around a bit with the visors, that I wasn't entirely happy with in my last post, and after considering some sharply contrasting colour I instead opted to go with my initial idea of orange, but make it a bit more vibrant. The problem with my first attempt was the gem effect that didn't really "read" on the small visor. So instead I made it easy for myself by simply using some Vallejo gloss varnish. Hehe!

Looking at them like this I think some extra attention on the tan parts might be warranted.
These are fun to work on and the relatively light colour scheme is a nice departure from my usual dark/drab schemes. I have quite a few of these guys laying around now and I don't know when they'll all actually get painted. However, I'll be doing a few squads for sure, at least one of every sculpt. But then I think it might be more wise to get my Mars terrain done.

Oh, and since there was a request for something to judge the powerloader size by, here's a picture of them together. Of course this crude mech is not anything the EDF will be using...

"Did you guys hear something?"


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

15mm Powerloader

"Get away from her, you bitch!"
Hello there fellow humans! I think I've failed to mention it on the blog (bad etiquette!) but a couple of weeks ago Dropship Horizon ran a 15mm sci-fi painting competition called Titanium Dropship which I entered. I was a little late in getting organized and ordered the stuff I wanted to paint from Jon at GZG just over a week before the deadline. The famous GZG wormhole was luckily working fine so I got the stuff in time, however life got in the way and in the end I only managed to finish my vehicle entry in time.

There were no rules for entering models you'd painted earlier, but I felt that was against the spirit of the competition so didn't want to do that. However, I did get my GZG powerloader mecha done to a decent standard and that's what I sent to the judges! I was happy to see how many great entries there were in the competition, especially as 15mm has traditionally not been a scale known for its great painters. The competition was tough though and I ended up a very close fourth position, just after Dave Pauwel's Heavy Gravtank.

However, Jon had said that he would give out a special prize or two to his favourite entries using models from his range and I, together with Cameron from Cameron's Tiny Little Men, were lucky enough to snag that prize! So not one of the top three winners, but a winner nonetheless. Now I'm eager to see what Jon has in store for me. :)

Gundam transfers to the rescue! Got a sheet last time I visited Japan for use with my Infinity minis.
I'm quite happy with how the mecha turned out, although I would have liked to add some more detailing. An aerial or two, some more detailing on the base etc. Still, I think it will make for a nice centerpiece on the table and something for the Mars rebels to use. In fact, I had this idea for a scenario where the EarthSec forces are raiding a rebel hideout/shanty town and the reb player has to try and get a pilot to the mech before the superior EarthSec forces wipes them out.

The model was a little fiddly to put together (I didn't do this because of the time constraint, but you really should pin basically all of it!) but is a very nice sculpt! As is often the case it looks a lot better in the flesh than on the GZG webstore. Really like the civilian vehicles in the 15mm range and I want to get a bunch more to populate my Mars table - I think stuff like the colonial rover, colonial ranger, powerquad transport and the Bulldog will look great as really worn and dusty everyday workhorses!

My other entry would have been some of the new NSL from GZG painted in the style of the EDF forces from Red Faction Guerilla. I didn't manage to finish them in time, but you should see them here soon enough. Very nice models!

EDIT: Finished a quick proof of concept paint job of one of the NSL infantrymen:

I quite like the tan and terracotta combo as it at least gives him an inkling of camouflage. The EDF troopers I used as a model do have the orange visor like this, but I might change it to something with a bit more contrast. Let me know what you think in the comments!