Sunday, January 31, 2010

Organizing the Apocalypse

Apocalypse is one of my favorite 40K variants. Big models, large strategies and hordes of miniatures on the table is a real inspiration to come up with a story behind it all. It's even better that it's the sort of game type that begs to be played with more than just two people. The days around the table throwing dice with a good group of friends are the days that I fondly remember.

Setting up a game of Apocalypse can take work, though. It's not difficult, but it does involve a bit more than just agreeing with you and another buddy on whether or not to carpool. I've put a few of these together and I have a little checklist that I like to run through. Most of the stuff on the list is just little reminders to people to have things ready before getting to the table. That way everyone can start playing as soon as possible.

Things each player needs to bring:
  • Army - No shock here. Bring your minis. Also make sure you have your army list and also make sure everything is WYSIWYG. There's a lot of stuff happening on an apocalypse table and nobody wants to need to remember that gretchin over there is actually Gazhgull.
  • Tape Measure & Dice - Everyone needs to have their own so that everyone can be moving and shooting simultaneously. This includes the scatter dice.
  • Codex & DataSheets - Everyone should have their own copy of their army rules and the rules of any special apoc formations they are using.
  • Cash - This is optional, but if you think you're going to want to buy a snack from the game store or nearby grocery make sure you have a way to pay for it on your own. Don't be a mooch.
  • Templates - Just like the tape measure. Bring your copy of the templates and make sure yours are marked somehow so that at the end of the day you know which templates to take home. Also, if you have a weapon or asset that uses one of the special apocalypse sized templates then make sure you've got that template with you.
This each team needs to bring:
  • Deployment time bid - Each team should have pointed up their armies and discussed their strategy beforehand so they should know how much time they are going to bid for deployment. Knowing this beforehand saves time and gets everyone into the game faster.
  • Apocalypse Assets - Again, since armies and general strategies should already be known everyone should have also picked their strategic assets. Remember that you can only have one of each asset per side so discuss with your teammates what you are going to take. Also bring anything that you need for your asset. If you're going to bring BUNKERS or OBSTACLES then you should make sure you have bunker and obstacle models.
  • Team Leader - Someone should be appointed team leader. This is the "final answer" guy. They're in charge of writing down the deployment bid, final placement of objectives and giving the final OK for ending a turn or phase. This isn't as much a position of power as it is a method to avoid having to rewind time because someone wasn't paying attention and forgot to move their dreadnought.
Finally, as the organizer, there are a few things that you should do and bring to the game.
  • Email Notice - Send out a group email. This email should be to all interested parties and contain who's on what team, what the points limit for each side is going to be, where the game is going to take place, what time it's going to start, if/when you'll be breaking for food and what time the game ends. This last one is important, because whatever time you want the game to end, make sure you specify a half hour to an hour before that time to announce that the current turn is the last turn. Your email should also have any special rules or restrictions spelled out. Only one formation per person? Using night fighting rules on turn 1? It's a real buzz-kill to have a special rule sprung on you right before the game starts that you feel makes the strategy and army list you worked on for a week useless. Make sure everyone knows what's going on so that no one feels cheated.
  • Read the Book - At least read the section detailing the pre-game steps. The apocalypse book lays things out really well and if you just go down the list of things to do you'll be rolling dice in no time.
  • Supplies - Camera for taking pictures. String and masking tape for setting up no-man's land. If you're going to time turns then bring along a timer. It's also a good idea to bring along an extra tape measure and set of templates to help move things along.
I've had a lot of fun in my Apocalypse games. I've played them with as many as six people and as few as just me and a buddy bashing our titans and marines against each other. Remember that the most important rule is to have fun and that a little bit of organization can make for a bit less chaos and a lot more fun.

Monday, January 25, 2010

WIP: Space Marine Razorback

I've been itching to start up a proper space marine army even before the new codex came out. My ideal marine army would support being fielded using any of the alternate codices as well. Depending on my mood I'd like to be able to field Ravenwing, Space Wolves, Salamanders, or Blood Angels. I figure the best way to do this is to have a strong set of core units and models converted and painted up as a chapter of my own design. A couple special models from each codex will make whatever rules I'm using at the time recognizable to my opponent. To that end I've put together a razorback that has been lying around in pieces.

One of my goals is to make my army look different from standard space marines. For the razorback this means a bunch of little conversions like the whip antenna on the side and open side doors with arches. I also built up a custom assault cannon sponson using the ravenwing accessory sprue. I'm pretty happy with the results.

All the weapon ports and exhaust pipes have been drilled out. The dozer blade and hunter killer missile are magnetized to make the model more or less expensive pointswise, depending on the mission. I'm pretty happy with the little arches. I used posterboard to make them and I think that they would have come out better if I had gone the extra mile and used plasticard. For the dozer blade I did end up having to add support for a third magnet to keep the blade from drooping and dragging on the ground.

At this point the model has been primed and base coated, but we'll leave pics of that for another post

40K Real Fast

I've always been a pretty fast player. I plan what I'm going to do while my opponent is taking their turn and once I start moving models I'm focused and try to get through my turn as quickly as possible. In our weekly pickup games my games are almost always over before others and in tournaments I think I've only once not finished the game in the time allowed. There's a lot to be said for moving with purpose, but most importantly, by playing quickly you get to play more.

A while back, Games Workshop published a set of rules for 40K in 40 minutes in White Dwarf. These rules can be found with variations throughout the internet (the original rules are apparently here). I usually have a 400 point army ready to play each week so that when the larger games finish up I can get a quick half hour game in with someone while I'm waiting for the next round. The modified force organization chart makes for a nice change of pace in army building, and the small force size means I can play lots of these games in one night. It also means that I can try out units I wouldn't normally use. I can even bring along a small army from a different codex other than the one I'm using for the larger battles. And If I'm building an army up from scratch I can start using it a lot sooner with these rules than with the army rules from the main book.

So here are the rules that I use for a fast game of 40K in fifth edition:
  • Army size is limited to 400 points.
  • You must have at least 1 troop choice, and may have more than 1.
  • You can have up to 1 HQ choice, but no more than 1.
  • Except for swarms, nothing in the army may have more than 2 wounds.
  • Nothing with a 2+ armor save is allowed.
  • No vehicles with total armor greater than 33 (add front, side and rear armor values).
  • No weapons that use large blast templates may be fielded.
  • Game is played on a 4'x4' table (Small army size means a standard 6'x4' table is much too large, but your mileage may vary).
  • Use the standard missions and deployments found in the main rulebook.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dread Not the Dreadnought

The poor Tyranids are barely out of their spore sacs when they get trumped by the next big thing. Blood Angels are set to hit in just four short months and it looks like it's going to be great. Lots of jump packs and lots of dreadnoughts makes for an exciting few months of dreaming about army lists. The rumor that we'll be able to field up to eight dreads is really exciting. I know a buddy of mine who's already planning which eight he wants.

I love the towering monstrosities. They're good at shooting, hardy in close combat, and explode at the drop of a hat. I also love the fluff behind them. These guys are ancient space marines that all but died. Their wisdom is considered so valuable that rather than just harvesting their gene seed, they get entombed in a giant walking coffin that lets them continue fighting. One of my favorite dreadnought moments is the intro cinematic for Dawn of War II where a dreadnought kool-aid man's it through a wall and roasts a pair of howling banshees. Good stuff.

What tickles me most about them is the ancient warrior aspect. Some of these guys have been around since the founding of their chapter, something that's unheard of outside of the Chaos Marine codex. I rather think that these guys aren't shown their due being only elite choice for most armies. In my imagination these guys are using their millennia of experience to lead troops into battle. Maybe they were a great commander leading a crusade before they fell, and interment in their metal sarcophagus was the only way to allow them to finish their task.

This week's scenario has it's own force organization chart, separate from the one in the main rulebook. It's probably best played at a lower point level, say around 750 to 1000.

At long last, the mighty warrior's journey is over. Through countless battlefields and wounds grievous enough to relegate him to a metal sarcophagus, finally the end of the journey is in sight. As the tech-priests perform their final checks the ancient marine pushes aside irrelevant thoughts of the past and begins his review of the battle plans.

Force Organization Chart:
  • 1 HQ or Dreadnought as an HQ (This can be any dreadnought in the codex. For the purposes of this mission it will count as an HQ choice).
  • 2 to 6 Troops Choices
  • 0 to 1 Elite
  • 0 to 1 Fast Attack
Setup: Place terrain using a method agreeable to all players. Place a single objective marker in the center of the table.

Deployment: Both players roll a die. The highest score chooses a long table edge and whether to go first or second. Each player marks an area twelve inches in from the edge. The winner of the roll-off places his models first. Each player may place up to two troops choices and must place their HQ choice. All other models remain off the table and anything not kept in reserve may move on from the owner's table edge at the start of their movement phase on turn 1. Once both players have placed their models the second player may attempt to seize the initiative.

Special Rules:
  • Night Fighting rules are in effect on the first turn of the game.
  • Ancient Warrior: Any dreadnought chosen as an HQ counts as scoring and may hold objectives.
  • Too Precious to Lose: Any time an HQ is destroyed place a new objective marker at the spot where it died.
Victory Conditions: End the game and score objectives exactly as you would for a Capture and Control mission, keeping in mind that any dreadnoughts taken as HQ choices count as scoring. Additionally, if a player managed to kill an opponent's HQ they count as having scored one more objective.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Temple of Doom

A little while ago I sat down with some friends to play some Chaos in the Old World. If you've ever played a game by Fantasy Flight then you know what a good job they do with their board games and with the warhammer license. One of the things that I think they do really well in all of their games is provide multiple paths to victory.

Without going into too much detail (we'll save detail for a later post) this means that each player can choose how they want to succeed at the game. This choice is influenced by which of the four chaos gods they are playing. Some gods are better suited than others for certain goals.

Many simple children's games like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders follow a race motif. Each player is simply trying to get to the finish line before the other players. Previous turns have no real effect on subsequent turns. Even some adult games, like cribbage, follow this pattern. Strategy is either non-existent, as in Candyland, or is only important in the timeframe of a single turn or "trick," as in cribbage.

More compilcated games, such as Monopoly and Risk, and two of the standard 40K missions, Seize Ground and Capture and Control, can be thought of in terms of tug-of-war. There is a finite resource on the board and each player is attempting to have control of more of that resources than their opponent at the end of the game. The overarching strategies in these games is also usually fairly simple. Get the most and hold on to it until the end.

By providing multiple paths to victory players are allowed a greater degree of choice in determining how they will go about winning. It doesn't really get us away from the race/tug-of-war model, but if we provide a couple of racetracks and a few ropes to pull on all then maybe things will get more interesting.

Deep within the Leonid sector lies a forgotten moon. Hundreds of years ago a great warp storm engulfed the moon, trapping it in space and time, removing it from orbit around it's planet. As the warp storm raged demons poured across the land, overrunning the primitive civilization that called the moon home. Now all that remains is rocks and swirling dust.

The demons are long since gone but something on the moon still exerts a strange influence. Many times ships have emerged from the warp orbiting the moon, light years from their intended destination. Scans of the moon surface reveal little except a region at the south pole that emits a faint energy signature.

Vessels that linger rarely find themselves alone for long. Within a few hours the planet will have drawn in someone else. The newcomers are often alien and always hostile, as if the moon was drawing them in for the express purpose of witnessing combat.

Setup: A strange tableau awaits visitors to the moon's south pole. Scattered amongst the ruins of an ancient battlefield stand five stone pillars.
Arrange the board and terrain in a method agreeable to both players. The winner of a roll-off places an objective somewhere on the table. Players then take turns until 5 objectives have been placed. Objectives may not be placed within 12" of each other or the table edge.

Deployment: Dawn of War

Victory Conditions

Give Me the Idol: Set into each pillar is an idol carved from bone and inlaid with inscriptions. The writings are difficult to decipher but seem to hint that the bearer of the idols will hold sway over great power.
At the beginning of each player's turn, if that player has a model with WS (i.e. anything but a non-walker vehicle) in base to base contact with an unmarked objective then place a token next to that objective showing which player has marked it. When the last objective is marked the game is over and whoever has marked the most objectives wins.

Give You the Whip: In truth the pillars and idols are the remains of a last ditch effort by the moon's previous inhabitants to bind the daemonic power that was destroying their world. They failed to save their world and instead created a nexus of chaotic energy below the south pole that is easily awakened by the combat raging above.
Every time a model is killed in close combat set it to the side and keep track of which player killed it. At the end of every close combat phase, if more than 30 models have been killed in this way the game is over and the player that killed the most models wins. Ties are broken by whoever has marked the most objectives as above.

Who Dares: Given enough time any battle is going to attract the attention of the chaos powers still lingering on the moon. The only hope of survival is for the combatants to be in a position to direct that power against their enemies long enough to make good their escape.
At the beginning of turn 6, whichever player's turn it is rolls a die. On a 4+ the game will end once both players have finished their sixth turn. Otherwise the game will be over at the end of turn 7. Regardless of which turn the game ends on the night fighting rule is in effect on the last turn of the game.

When the last turn is over the winner is whichever player controls more objectives as determined by the capture and control standard mission type (rulebook pg.91).

Monday, January 4, 2010

You Are Standing in a Ten by Ten Stone Corridor

Stone corridors have long been the starting points and building blocks of a successful adventure. They stretch ahead of you into darkness, widen into vast arenas, and stop abruptly at seemingly blank walls. Sometimes you can hear voices in the distance, other times it's quiet as a tomb. Whatever corridor you find yourself in, you can be sure of what awaits you: danger and glory.

From Dungeon and Dragons to Warhammer (Fantasy and 40K) to boardgames, we'll bring you a new adventure, scenario or campaign every week. Along the way we'll also showcase some personal projects, give you some hobby how-to guides, and review interesting games and products.

Our path lies before us, begin the adventure.