Friday, 15 June 2018

A Shameless Plug...

What with there being a period of unseasonable weather (sunshine in June?! The world has gone mad, I tell you!), things have been pretty quiet on the gaming front this last month or so- hence the dearth of Posts here. Though I've still managed to flap my hobby-butterfly wings, and started a Gangs of Rome project- more on that very soon, I promise!

But I digress... Here is the titular Shameless Plug, to let you know that Northstar Figures have just started their 'Nickstarter' pre-order programme for Dracula's America: Forbidden Power- there is money to be saved, and free miniatures (plus some very nice acrylic tokens) to be had if enough people jump aboard! The link is below:

And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming...

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Clouds Burst, Part 2

Well that last Post was a bit long-winded!

So let's move on to Scenario 2- in this, the Free Folk have fallen back towards the lower slopes of Erebor as the armies of Bolg pursue them. This game was played across the table diagonally, with the Gates of Erebor off-table to the Free Folk's left and the lower slopes behind them.

Serried ranks of spearmen- Dwarf, Elf and Man alike- presented a wall of glittering points towards the enemy. Unperturbed, the forces of Evil came on in a great rush- accompanied by a Troll!

Rather predictably, there wasn't too much manoeuver from the Free Folk in the early game as they assumed their Wall of Spears in the centre and on the left, while Mirkwood Archers stood on the right with arrows nocked...
The Goblins charged forwards en masse, with the Troll lumbering up behind them and Wargs once more prowling on the flanks.

*The Free Folk nervously stare down the onrushing horde...

With the distance closing, white-fletched Elven arrows began to fall amongst the packed ranks of Goblins and casualties began to mount- one Unit of cowardly scum even fled in tatters before the deadly rain of Elf-Shot! This had the effect of driving the bulk of the Evil force away from the Elves- straight towards the Dwarves on the left flank...

At that moment, a great cry of horror went up as yet more Goblins suddenly appeared behind the Free Folk, clambering over and down the lower slopes of Erebor to catch the defenders in a deadly pincer move!

*It's a trap!

Denied any targets, the Elven Archers now turned smoothly and let fly at the ambushing Goblins- once again they proved deadly accurate, and countless foul creatures tumbled from their vantage point with despairing cries- the remainder routing in panic. Under cover of this lethal bow-fire, the Elven Spearmen marched up to confront the surviving Goblin ambushers as they descended.

Meanwhile, a few desultory skirmishes were fought on the left- the Goblins and Wargs had the worst of it, but even so many brave Dwarves would never see the Iron Hills again. Repeated waves of attackers battered the Dwarven lines relentlessly, as the forces of Evil played for time and the Troll loomed ever-closer...

*Can the Dwarves kill enough Goblins before the Troll reaches them? Errr...

A great groan of dismay went up from the Free Folk as once again the relentless pressure of Goblin wave attacks bore fruit as the Dwarf Warriors on the left collapsed and were over-run by howling Wargs, which began to rampage through the backline, hoping to link up with the Goblins coming down the mountainside. The spear-armed Dwarves finally managed to destroy the Goblins they were facing but it was too late, as the ominous shadow of the Troll fell across them...

When things seemed to be at their bleakest, another shout rose above the din of battle- this time accompanied by the thunder of falling masonry as Thorin, the King Under the Mountain and his Company sallied forth! Smashing into the Goblin ambushers like a thunderbolt, they trampled the surprised creatures and continued on into the Wargs prowling the rear of the Free Folk lines. Wiping dark blood from their weapons, and mourning the loss of Bombur, Bofur, Bifur, Nori, Dori, and Nori they turned to face the Troll as it enthusiastically tore through the beleaguered Dwarf Spears...

*...And cue the dramatic theme music- Thorin takes charge of the situation!

But the sixth Battle Turn had now ended (and it was getting late!), so it was time to determine the winner of the Scenario- though they had blunted the Goblin attack, the Free Folk had fewer surviving Units in play and so the Shadow was once again triumphant- though only just!

Next week will see us play the final Scenario, as the ragged survivors of the Free Folk confront Bolg and his minions- will Beorn and the Eagles turn up in time? Will we be able to squeak a Pyrrhic Victory by killing the Goblin King? With my dice rolling, who knows!..

The Clouds Burst, Part 1

Last night, I finally got to use my Battle of Five Armies collection in a game- two games, in fact! In a happy coincidence we had five players- Tony and Tom would command the Wargs and Goblins respectively, while myself, John and Andy would take control of the Dwarves, Elves and Humans; with control of Gandalf being shared between us!

As I've mentioned briefly before, I had decided to break the events of the Battle into three Scenarios- each game would represent a smaller 'snapshot' of the larger struggle, and so a little 'Gamer's Licence' has been used! In general though, I hoped to represent the broad storyline of the conflict.

Before going any further, I will admit that I love the Dragon Rampant rules. They are quick to pick up and their unpredictability makes for some nice narrative moments. They allow you to be creative in the Units you field, and it's 'large skirmish' scale means you don't need to paint hundreds of models- for someone who gets easily distracted from one project to another, this is a real plus!
Some will say it's not suited to larger battles, but with a little bit of imagination and flexibility I think they can still serve you well...

Having said that, a few changes were made for these Scenarios-
  • Battle Turns. Because these Scenarios called for certain events to happen at certain times, or to have a set time limit, we split each into 6 Battle Turns. In each Battle Turn, each side would get a Player Turn.

  • Proximity. We prefer a 1" minimum distance between Units as opposed to the usual 3". We also allow friendly Units to pass through one another, as long as neither is Battered.

  • Command Chits. In DR, failing to order a Unit ends your Turn immediately. This can be a little too random for some, so we decided that each side would roll a D6 at the start of every Battle Turn to determine how many Command Chits they would receive:                                   1 = No Chits, 2-5 = one Chit, 6 = two Chits. Each Chit was basically an 'extra life' that allowed you to maintain the initiative following a failed Activation Test.
The Elves, Men and Dwarves face off against each other while Gandalf (Bilbo in tow) strides between the rival forces and tries to defuse the situation! Meanwhile, the forces of Evil pour onto the battlefield, catching the Free Folk unprepared...

*The set-up. Bickering Free Folk on the left and the hordes of Shadow on the right!

Evil went first, and the hordes of Goblins charged across the plain- meanwhile the Wargs held back a little and attempted to outflank the Elves. The Free Folk desperately tried to pull back into a battle-line, but the confusion caused by the sudden arrival of the ravening hordes meant they were slow to do so (all their Activation Tests suffered a -1 penalty in the first Battle Turn!).

The Bowmen of Esgaroth abandoned the rocky hill and fell back towards Gandalf. On their right flank, the Esgaroth Warriors formed up into a Wall of Spears just in time- the first wave of Goblins crashed into them, while the Elven Spearmen behind failed to Activate and stood watching the carnage as the Men repulsed the Goblins at terrible cost; only to be pounced upon by a pack of Wargs! Battered by this experience, the Men fell back with their defensive formation in tatters!

Meanwhile on our left flank, the Dwarf Warriors caught another mob of Goblins as they rounded the hill- great slaughter was inflicted on both sides (mainly because my dice rolling was so bad!), and their long hatred for one another saw both Units wiped out (In actual fact, both Units failed their Courage Tests and Routed, but our explanation is much more heroic)!
Our left flank was now wide open, but thankfully only a few Goblin Archers were now present there and seemed reluctant to exploit the hole in our defences...

As yet more Goblins crested the hill and poured down into the valley, the Elves finally woke up and heroically interposed themselves between the onrushing hordes of Evil and the ragged Men of Esgaroth. Repulsing the Wargs harrying the retreating Men, they assumed a Wall of Spears in time to blunt another Goblin attack- routing the cowardly curs in a flurry of leaf-shaped spear-tips!

*At the height of the fighting- the Free Folk are hard-pressed on all sides!

Nearby, Gandalf raised a hand and lightning flashed across the battlefield! It struck a mob of Goblins and caused terrible casualties, but somehow the fiends continued their rush and caught the Bowmen of Esgaroth. Despite the deaths of many comrades, the Men fell back Battered but unbowed.
Shrieking in fury, the Goblins charged again and this time the Bowmen were cut down where they stood! As another wave of Goblins crested the hill, Gandalf's magic once again struck the Bowmen's killers and routed them- the craven survivors scurrying back to their lairs, now shrieking in terror!

*The Elves and Men stand together as it appears the forces of Evil are faltering...

Meanwhile the Elves and surviving Men formed a wedge of bristling spear-points to meet the fresh Goblins coming down the hill, their grim resolve also keeping the circling Wargs at bay.
At the last moment the Goblins changed direction as if driven by some dark will and started heading towards Gandalf, who looked a little exposed as he stood with Bilbo peering from behind the Wizard's cloak... Taking advantage of the confusion, the Wargs saw their opportunity and pounced on the Men of Esgaroth, having circled around the Mirkwood Spears while their pack-mates kept the Elves occupied to their front. The screams of dying Men were soon silenced by the triumphant howling of wolves!

*Things look grim for the Grey Pilgrim...

With that last combat, the sixth Battle Turn ended and with it the Scenario- incredibly close, but Evil had won a narrow victory as the Free Folk fell back towards Erebor...

Part 2 on it's way!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Gathering of the Clouds, Part 5

Just a quick Post today, to show you my finished Mirkwood Elves contingent!

These are the new, long-awaited Oathmark plastics and they are very nice indeed- understated (for Elves) and practically-attired for battle!
No idea what the runic pectoral disc is about, but to my mind it helps to set the Elves apart as a unique culture with their own, alien aesthetic...

*Mirkwood Spearmen form up for battle.

As I think I mentioned previously, I wasn't too keen on the shields you get with the kit as they were a bit too 'War-Hammery' for this project; the kite shields really do the job though.

Colour-wise I went for the predictable 'Wood Elf' palette of greens and browns, but decided to go for bronze on the helmets and armour trim- I'll save the silver for High Elves (if/when I get around to them)!
Likewise I went for a selection of 'Celtic' hair colours, and used three different tones of green (though they don't really show up that well in the photos) to make them appear less uniform and a little 'Wilder, and less wise'...

*It wouldn't be Elves without archers!

Tonight the Ingleton lads are coming over for a game- this will be more of a play-test of the first Scenario for the Battle of Five Armies, which I am breaking down into three Scenarios to better suit the smaller scale of the Dragon Rampant rules.

*Another blatantly staged photo- Elves ambush Goblins along a forest road. Typical Elf propaganda!

Expect a report on how it went in the next couple of days!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Gathering of the Clouds, Part 4.

The end is in sight!

Last week I managed to finish Thorin's Company and Bilbo Baggins; and over the weekend I got Bolg and his Guard completed as well- all that remains is for my Oathmark Elves to arrive, and that will be the last contingent for my Battle of Five Armies project!

Some of you may have already seen Thorin's lads over on the Lead Adventure Forum, but for everyone else here are a few shots- I went for fully armed and armoured figures to represent them as they might have looked during the Battle, and I also multi-based them as I'm classing them as Elite Foot rules-wise (such units are traditionally 6 models strong, hence six bases!); I have plans for individually based figures in hoods and travelling gear in the future...
You might have noticed that every Dwarf also bears their 'hood colour' somewhere about their person, as noted in the Unexpected Party chapter of The Hobbit!

*Thorin (centre), Fili (L) and Kili (R) (all Oathmark).
*L-R: Dwalin, Balin. Dori and Nori (Oathmark and Conqueror Dark Age Dwarves).
*L-R: Bifur, Ori, Gloin, Oin (again, a mixture of Oathmark and Conqueror Dwarves).
*L-R: Bilbo, Bombur and Bofur (GW, Foundry Norse Dwarf and Oathmark again!).
Opposing our brave Company of Dwarves we have Bolg and his Guard- these are all Oathmark Goblins! Again, these will count as Elite Foot during the game.
*Couldn't resist staging this shot of Bolg's last moments!
"Er, pointing at him won't do us much good, Chief!.."
I'm itching to get on with actually playing a game now- I happen to be off work next week, so hopefully I can rattle through the Elves and have an AAR to share in the next couple of weeks!
Meanwhile, I have a pile of stuff ready and waiting for the next phase of my Middle Earth project- Late Romans/Romano-British to represent the battered defenders of Arnor, GW Warriors of the Dead for various Evil Spirits, and some Ancient Britons as the men of Carn Dum- throw in the Goblins I already have, and that should give me a good cross-section of the Legions of Angmar!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Gathering of the Clouds, Part 3.

I'm back, with another update on my Battle of Five Armies project!

What with the improving weather, much of my spare time lately has been spent tramping the hills and dales around my house- but I've still managed to paint up some new stuff none-the-less...

First off was my Great Eagle- this thing is huge, but since it's a plastic kit it was nice and easy to build. You can actually make two Eagles from the GW boxed set, but for now the other remains on the shelf unpainted. I'm looking forward to seeing it swoop through the ranks of Gundabad very soon!

*The Great Eagle crashes into a mob of Gundabad Orcs, while the Grey Pilgrim  himself looks on.

Speaking of which, I've finally churned through the rest of my Goblins in the form of two Units of Warriors with various hand weapons- once again, these are the Oathmark plastics from Northstar!

*The forces of the Shadow as they stand so far- this little lot should cover all my Goblin requirements for future Middle Earth projects...

Last of all was Gandalf himself- this is a re-paint/re-basing of an old GW model I had lying around, and I'm pretty pleased with how he turned out.

*A closer look at my Great Eagle and good old Gandalf the Grey- probably my favourite Tolkien character!

This week the new plastic Elves for Oathmark went up for order, so I immediately bought a couple of boxes plus the metal character models for my Mirkwood contingent. The only thing I'm not so keen on in the kit are the shields, which look a little too 'Warhammer' for me- so I've ordered some kite shields from Gripping Beast to replace them. These have the benefit of giving that 'Dark Age' feel I'm after; plus they look a little bit like leaves, in keeping with the Elven aesthetic!

In the meantime I have Bolg and his guard plus Thorin's Company (and Bilbo!) assembled and ready for undercoating- after all that is completed I think it will finally be time for some games of Dragon Rampant!

After that? Maybe a quick trip to Sub-Roman Britain via Dux Bellorum before it's back to Middle Earth for the Angmar/Arnor wars...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Gathering of the Clouds, Part 2.

The Middle Earth project is going well so far- I've just finished the basing on my Iron Hills Dwarves and Wargs!

*Dwarf warriors form-up around their Captain (Oathmark miniatures by Northstar) as Wargs (Otherworld Miniatures Wolves) burst from the trees!

*Being quite a militaristic culture, I went for a fairly 'uniform' look to my Iron Hills Dwarves using a palette of red, black and off-white!

I know Tolkien mentions the Dwarves being armed mainly with two-handed mattocks in the battle- however the Oathmark Dwarves don't come with this option so for now I've gone for the good old fashioned spear and shield for one unit and sword/axe/hammer and shield for the other!
After much searching, I came across an excellent range of 'Dark Age Dwarves' by Conqueror Miniatures- I ordered a pack of their Dwarves with two-handed hammers, and these have just arrived today (along with the models I will be using for Dain and his hangers-on), and they look like a great match scale-wise for the Oathmark plastics!

*The Hound of Sauron surveys the battle (Otherworld Dire Wolf).

Right now I have a Great Eagle (the GW plastic kit) to finish off and then it's on to yet more Oathmark Goblins!..

*The forces of the Free Folk so far (Hopefully not long now until the Oathmark Elves are out!)...
*...And the army of the Shadow as it stands- soon to grow in numbers!
As always, cheers for reading! I'll be back with a finished Eagle in the near future, along with some musings on what figure ranges I'll be looking at for future Middle Earth painting!

A Shameless Plug...

What with there being a period of unseasonable weather (sunshine in June ?! The world has gone mad, I tell you!), things have been pretty qu...