Monday, December 28, 2015

Hard Copies, Hunters and Halfbreeds

This last week I got some new toys in.  One thing I've noticed is that most of the internet is posting videos when they want to show something off.  I actually much prefer static pictures - just so I can read at my own pace, or easily refer back to them.
The first item is the new Uncharted Empires book - with 9 new army lists, including 2 completely new armies (while the other 7 are based off of models that Mantic does not currently make).
The first supplement for Kings of War 2nd Edition

I've been excited about this book for some time (when I saw the first Ratkin beta test list, I went out and dug out all my old skaven that I had never finished), especially when the Rules Committee asked me to be part of the secret beta test for the two super secret armies (The Trident Realms of Neritica and The Night Stalkers).   Being a major part of the beta test (because the lists were secret, it was not open to the public, so we had to get in as many games and as much testing as we could).  I believe the lists are balanced (even if I never managed to actually win a game with the Night Stalkers).  Of course it is always very cool to see your name in print - and most of our gaming group is listed as playtesters in the book!
So cool seeing our names in the credits of the book!

One of the things that Mantic has been doing to address the concerns of store owners over their use of kickstarter is to start making "retailer exclusive" item.  These are simple products that are not available through kickstarter.  Uncharted Empires is one of these, and the new Ogre Hunters are another one.

The second edition ogre list saw a lot more variety added to the list.  In addition to the warriors, braves, shooters and chariots, they added Hunters and Siege Breakers.  Hunters add ensnare and pathfinder to the standard ogre profile, while Siege Breakers add big Shield, TC(1) and up their Crushing Strength to (2).  The kickstarter saw them add the Berserker Braves models (and the oh so cool warlock - man I love that model), the Ogres got the new Hunters as a retailer exclusive in November.

Hunters Front

So the hunters are all wearing fur capes.  They have three different bodies and four heads (much like the berserker braves - I posted previous pictures back in September here.  What I really like about these however is that you get 4 left and 4 right arms.  Granted, one pair are both attached to a single large spear - but it ups the opportunity for 'unique' models (by my calculations there are 120 combinations available from this kit).  I like that, like the berserker braves, the arms are all cut on a flat angle just above the elbow - which allows you more than 90 degrees of freedom to position them - which if you are looking to differentiate your models just opens up even more choices.
Hunters Back

Being metal, they are heavy, and I would expect you would want to pin the arms.  Several of them came slightly bent - but metal has the advantage of being able to straighten them out with just your fingers.  While slightly harder to get (since they are retailer exclusive and do not come in any box set) and because they are metal a little more expensive (retail $34.99 for a regiment of 3), they definitely add some interesting options for Ogres (especially if you have played against nature or neriticans) - having ensnare and pathfinder are a great combination.  Stick these guys in the woods and nearly anyone charging them will be -2 to hit, and they get no penalty when charging out.

Then comes the big guy.  The Supreme Ironcaster on Great Winged Halfbreed.  This is based on the Dungeon Saga dragon - and impressive model that fills the 75x75mm base it comes one, and is a whopping 175mm (yes, 7") high to the tips of its wings.  I really want to see how this compares to the Greater Obsidian Golem which is on the same base and is nearly as big, or the Archfiend of the Abyss for the abyssal army (for which we have still only seen the 3D render here) which is also on the biggest base as is supposed to have just as big a wingspan.

Like about half (blacksouls, decimators, the old immortal guard, the Angkor Mortar and Katsuchan Rocket Launcher) the abyssal dwarf range, this is a hybird kit.  That means it requires a bit more work to assemble as it has both plastic and metal components.

You get the dragon body and wings, however they have removed the head already.  I find it interesting that you can actually see the glue where they had to pry the head off the neck.  The dragon actually us molded in 7 pieces (you can see where the legs are glued to the body, and possibly a seam between the bottom and top half of the body, plus the head and wings).  I understand needing them pre-assembled for Dungeon Saga (as it is being sold as a board game), so I guess it would actually raise the price to have some assembled and some not.
Out of the box, the wings are a bit 'duller' than the body - not sure if this is residue of the release agent on the body or what, but I recommend a good wash in warm soapy water before painting, just to be sure.

I've seen a post on facebook where one entire back leg was miscast (no scales) and the poster added their own.  I see no issues with the body at all.
The wings fit on quite well in the unique shaped slots for them.  The head/saddle will require some greenstuff on the back, as it leave a gap between itself and the body through which you can see the head stub.
The wings are a little 'duller' (I also find it interesting how the background color seems to be a different color for some of those shots), and the detail on them is a tiny bit softer (specifically the scales).  This will definitely require a lighter paint job - if you just glob it on you will lose some of the details easily.
bottom of left wing/arm
I was quite impressed with the lack of mold lines and flash on the plastic dragon pieces.  There is a small amount of flash on the tips of the talons on the wings, and some very tiny mold lines on the edges of the wings.  All very easy to remove with a sharp hobby knife.
top of left wing/arm
One of the few mold lines below.
top of right wing
Nice skin detail.  The wings remind me of the restic gargoyles - but cleaner and much easier to work with.
bottom of right wing
Next comes the heavy stuff - the metal parts.  The head has three pieces, the saddle two.  There was actually more flash (and those funky thin little metal 'strings' that are so often seen on metal miniatures.  The saddle actually had a large bit of flash on the top - very easily removed.  The horn each had a bit of a 'lip' on one side.  I find it kind of funny that while heavy, metal is fairly easy to work with.
Saddle, saddle back (bottom left), head and horns
The back side of all the pieces
back of the back.  Yes I make jokes to amuse myself.
I've generally not had a problem with the quality of models from Mantic.  In the first Kings of War kickstarter I received some miscast fleabag riders (the mawbeasts were missing a foot - easily fixed as described here).  Well out of all the Mantic models I've gotten - this is the second one where there is an issue.  I blew up the picture - and you can see that the back of the head is seriously cracked.  It isn't even on the mold line - which can be see on the horn on the left above the crack, which is across the entire back neck and hair.

So what to do?  Some people will immediately call them and ask for a replacement.  If this were missing, or much more horribly mangled then I would do that.  However this miscast should be quite easy to fix with a bit of green stuff.  It is basically on smooth skin and hair - two of the easiest textures to emulate.  So while an error, it is one I can fix and live with.

miscast but fixable
The last bits are for the rider - the Supreme Ironcaster.  It appears to be a variant on the retailer exclusive Iron Caster that came out in July with a bigger body, but at least one of the same heads and right arms (with scepter).  The left hand is different (being open instead of holding a fireball he is ready to throw).  The alternate head has a topknot, and the alternate arm is holding a sword instead.

Looking at these, I decided to initially go with the sword and helmet.  I have a second one coming, so I'll then make one a bit different.  At this point I'm thinking of using it as an Overmaster on Abyssal Dragon (maybe cut off the horns and bend the wings to the ironcaster version to make it a bit different).
Iron Caster
Of course seeing all the pieces and parts isn't nearly as much fun as seeing them put together.  I added a bit of chain glued to the horns for the rider to hold to 'control' the beast, and green stuffed in the gaps.  The rider is just blue-tacked to the seat and holding the chain - I'll paint him separately.
Front view
I also re-based the model.  My abyssal dwarf army is all on volcanic themed bases (for details, check out this blog post), so to make it consistent I had to do the same here, which first mean removing the glued on base.
left side 

Removing the base was not overly difficult, if a little tricky.  I used an ex-acto knife to cut between the foot and the base - the fore leg came off easily, but I has a bit more of a challenge with the two rear legs, as the blade did not reach cleanly all the way.  Thinking back,  I should have gone and gotten the 3" long blade I had in an old ex-acto knife box, it would have made this much easier (always use the right tool for the job boys and girls).
What I did try however is a little bit of super glue remover, assuming that is what they used to attach the model to the base.  This had two benefits - first the foot itself now came right off the base, plus it seemed to soften the plastic up a bit, to make it easier to cut the rest.  Each of the feet has a peg that goes through the base that had to be cut off.
right side
Then I simply cut out a 75mm piece of plasticard, added a bit of sheet magnet to the bottom and a bit of cork to the top with some sand on it.  I primed the base flat black (mainly to lock the sand on the cork), and then pinned the three feet into the base.  With the drying time for the pva glue (for the sand) then the paint (amazing - it was 60 here that night - in the second week of December!) it took a few hours to complete.  I was hoping to try him out the coming weekend, but while I did get to show the model off, I ended up playing demoing Dungeon Saga instead.

Lastly, I thought I would take a quick comparison shot of the dragon vs. the Great Winged Halfbreed. With the bulk of the head and saddle, this actually comes out bigger than the base dragon, especially the dragon neck bends down immediately after it joins the body.
Dragon vs Supreme Ironcaster on Great Winged Halfbreed
So these are my new toys.  I was going to do Ratkin for our new escalation league, but with this now on my desk, the grotesques almost finished and a greater golem (and another of these) coming soon from my wave 2 of the kickstarter (plus I have a box with about a bunch more models) I may just go ahead and build out the additional 1500 points of evil stunties I have (which will basically put me able to field at least the smallest unit of anything in the list).

Update - I originally wrote this up a few weeks ago, but it got pushed back in the queue to post. Since then I have actually finished painting this figure, so without further ado





Because it is all fun and games . . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Going on the Warpath

Since not everyone is on all the kickstarters, I figured I'd post some of the cool updates coming next fall.  The pledge manager just opened (you have until the end of February).  They also released some cool new WIP renders/scuplts.  Not too much to say about these, so I'll let most of the pictures speak for themselves.

First up is the Plague Subject 901.  This is the previously unnamed special character included in the Plague Battlegroup (or as an add-on for $8.00)

Plague Murderbirds are flying carrion eaters infected with the virus.  While I'm not sure what rules or how effective they will be, the sculpts make me want some.  (available as an add on for $15)

The new plague 1st generation aberration promises to be another large model

For the less infection minded, the sculpts for the new hard plastic GCPS troopers are coming along nicely.

How about the Veer-myn?  Lots of cool renders coming for them.  You have the brood mother leading the pack
The special character Hacker Half-tail

Two variants of Night Terrors
Two variants of progenitors

But the veer-myn (like the ratkin in King of War) have cool machinery - two variants on their heavy weapons platform

The tangle
And of course the tunneler.  I really like the way the drill bits fold out to expose the weapon on it

 And you can combine multiple bodies to add more transport potential.

Because it is all fun and games . . .

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ok, but does it blend?

That is the question in your mind after seeing all the components of the new Dungeon Saga : Dwarf Kings Quest game in my earlier post ().

But before we can play, we have to know the rules, and how are those?

First, the game comes with a quick start guide.
Quick Start Guide
The QSG is well written and like it's name, is quick to read.  8 pages, glossy full color paper with pictures through out.  If you follow the instructions (something I often find hard to do, wanting to skip ahead (such as punching out everything before even looking at this book, and seeing the highlighted section saying you only needed the tiles and counters in the red sections to play.  Ok, which ones were those again?).  However it lays out, illustrates and explains everything.

The game has two 'learning' adventures, labeled A & B (as opposed to the 'real' adventures numbered 1-8) that are designed more to teach you the game.  These are not really balanced, in that these are designed for the heroes to win, usually quite easily.

The QSG walks you through the setup of the adventure A, as well as the first round of play.  IT starts with Orlaf moving and fighting, highlighting where to find the necessary information for each of these steps and how to resolve the actions.  It then lets a player actually do take Rordin's turn.  It then spends a full page describing the overlords turn, including command, raising the dead and command cards.  One thing to note - raising the dead is a special type of action only available in Dwarf Kings Quest (and the Return of Valinor expansion).  If you are using other overlords (such as in the Infernal Crypts expansion) then they will have other actions instead, as well as other command cards.

Once you have finished your first game with adventure A, it then has you set up adventure B, which introduces shooting and casting spells, doors, magical wards and breaking away.

The QSG then ends with a quick introduction to Adventure 1, as well as a nice illustrated paragraph on reposing the miniatures when needed.
The cover of the rulebook is a nice picture of the painted miniatures.  Glossy and full color like the QSG, it is a whopping 24 pages, not only full of illustrations a lot of breakouts that show examples for the rules.

The book has a detailed list of all the components in the game along with pictures to exactly identify each of them.  Each phase of the game, from setting up through the turns is detailed in the book.

It is more of a booklet, being fairly short and the covers are barely heavier paper than the interior.  However it really fits a board game.  It is not the huge tome that you get for miniature games with dozens of pages of background, though there is a little in it.  The quickstart rules do say to not even open this up until you have done the first couple of adventures though.

My first read through did not reveal any blaring errors.  Simple (yet not simplistic) and well laid out. It has a table of contents, but no index.  This is actually small enough that I don't think that is needed at all, though some would complain.

The mechanics of the game are such that you won't need much more than the quick reference on the back cover after a game or two.  You move, then take an action.  Fight, shoot, cast spells.  Most sections take about half a page with examples - the base rules are not complex.  This is intended as a first 'serious' game and playable by families including both kids and grandparents.  You do not need any experience to play the game, and that is great.  There does appear to be a bit more tactical depth to it however, so the replay value seems high.  I think it is great that the first expansion is the Adventurer's companion - which has everything to take this from the simple single threaded dungeon quest to larger custom campaigns, using more and more models as they come out.

Quest Book
Beneath the rules is the quest book.  Note the rulebook just says Dungeon Saga - each of the individual campaigns has its own sub-heading - this, of course, is The Dwarf King's Quest.  In later expansions I expect to see a similar campaign book with the title of that expansion.  Same materials and quality as the rulebook.  It has the standard warning seen in so many other products that utilize a game master v. players to not go beyond this page if you are going to play the heroes, because a lot of the fun is NOT knowing what is around that next corner.

Yes, I'm a Star Trek geek as  well.
Each quest give the tile layout and furniture, door and monster placement for the start of the game.  It also specifies the number of overlord cards to use - these no only give the overlord a few more options, but add a timing mechanic - the overlord draws one additional card at the end of his turn.  If there are no more cards left to draw, then the adventurers lose and must retreat to try again.  Each scenario also has the hero victory condition, and any special rules.  As an additional feature, each quest also has a section on tactics. This is useful if the heroes do not win on the first try - it gives them some advice on how to beat the scenario without completely giving it away.  This is intended to only be read to the players after they have failed an adventure, to give them a bit of a boost.

The timing mechanic give the game a nice sense of urgency, you can start to feel the time about to run out when the overlord gets down to the last few cards.  The overlord is kept from being too powerful by randomly shuffling the cards and then dealing out the appropriate number to use per game.

The quest book as 2 'learning quests', and then 8 full adventures.  Each adventure has a slightly different setup for the heroes, to represent them gaining experience and finding useful items as they plunge ever deeper into the depths.  Eventually the heroes are instructed to flip over their player cards to the "Legendary" side, and now they have even more power for the strongest foes.

A major part of the fun is for the players to have to reveal each section of the adventure as they go - they do not know what is beyond the door until they open it.  As such I don't want to go into detail on each adventure.

One thing that Mantic has done is to make beta tests of their games public, so people can play and give feedback before the final product.  They did this with an early version of DS - providing pictures of the layouts for adventures A, B and 1, as well as cards you could print out.  With the aid of some extra dice, bones figures and old D&D tokens, I ran through the beta adventures a few times with my sons.

I thought it might be interesting for people to see what the beta looked like vs. the final product.  The beta did not have any miniatures - so I dug into my box of Reaper bones to find some as well as some very old paper tokens from a D&D starter set (I believe it was for 3rd edition) to use for bone piles.  The cards and maps were printed out and pasted together (for the maps).

So here is adventure A - Journey from the West - beta
red dice are for wounds
and compare it to the final boxed set version
This on ended up being very similar
This scenario changed very little from the beta.  It is fairly straightforward introduction to moving and fighting.

Adventure B, Journey from the East, underwent more changes.  I do recall the heroes losing this one a few times.
going against two archers was a little tough at this point
Final version from the box set.  More movement, more doors, one less skeletal archer.
more doors, and the heroes are now required to move!
In the beta, it was far too easy for the overlord to just keep shooting at the wizard, who never moved as he and the elf started next to the door he had to open (I believe it took 4 attempts).  Since the scenario had the characters pinned down, it was easy enough to take advantage of that.  The released version actually requires the heroes to move a bit, and seems a bit more balanced.

The final adventure 1.  Spoilers - it has what is beyond the doors.
All the heroes started clustered together
This one changed quite a bit.  Be forewarned - the first two 'learning' adventures are mean for the heroes to win.  With this one they will have to actually work at it a bit.
now they enter from different entrances, and have to meet up in the middle to get through the final door.  Plus a chest and table.
The beta had all four heroes starting together, and was fairly easy for them to completely clean out the first room before opening either door.  In the released version the pairs of heroes have to meet up and get through the final room.  I played it this weekend, and it was a lot of fun.  The heroes won on the very last turn with several having taken some wounds.  Tim played the heroes, and he quickly went from thinking this would be a cake walk to realizing just how tactical the game was, and pulling out the win at the last minute.

I also ran Adventure 2 twice as well.  The first time the heroes lost, due to a lucky card draw for the overlord (me), and hitting the very situation which the tactical advice warns about.

Adventure 3 is more difficult for the heroes than it looks - without spoiling it remember that teamwork is a key, and heroes have to protect each other.

The remaining six adventures continue to increase the difficulty, but in turn the heroes are growing more powerful and getting abilities and equipment.  The last two adventures are played with the heroes at the "Heroic" level (by flipping the hero card).

The quest book also has rules for running the game as a campaign as well as experience to allow the heroes to gain a bit more power (much like Dreadball allowing coaches to earn extra 1-time use dice, so experience here can allow the same thing).  The campaign is simple in that the heroes have a total of 15 tries to get through all the adventures in order - so they can fail a few.  If they have not beat the final adventure by the 15th game, then they lose.   It also has some extra goals that can be used to up the difficulty of the game (shortening the time for each game, or setting additional goals).

It is also exciting to know that there are many expansions on the way for this as well.  The Adventurer's Companion has cards and rules for creating your own characters as well as creating your own scenarios.  The "Return of Valinor" expansion continues the story from this set, introducing both the hero Valinor and his daemonic, undead nemesis, Ba'al.  Plus the upcoming "Destiny of Kings" expansion for Kings of War also follows the events here, but allows you to play another campaign where you combat an army of the undead raised by Mortibris (and one of the scenarios there takes the four bosses from this game and has them exploring a dwarven hold being protected by Rordin).  Plus there are three more expansions on the way, including orcs, abyssals and a dragon!

Because it is all fun and games . . .