Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review of LOTR in Da Grand Waaagh 2009

Last year, the gaming club I belong to, Da Waaagh Mob, decided to put on an Independent Grand Tournament in Alameda, CA on the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum. Originally, we were planning on running just two systems, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. But a month ago, I was asked to add Lord of the Rings to the tournament. We’d originally thought to add it next year, but we had the space, so what the heck!

With such short notice, I knew we couldn’t get a huge turnout, but I did manage to scare up five players, which made for a very interesting tournament – every player would get to play each other. There was no Swiss system, but instead a pure round robin where the winner would be determined with almost no consideration to pairings or early/late placement. I also knew I’d be playing the ringer, since we had an odd number.

I also wanted to make sure that there was a variety of scenarios, and I wanted them to be different than other scenarios they had played. I took some inspiration from the Legions scenarios, changing them around to account for a time constrained environment and the army favoring characteristics of a few of the scenarios. I also hate random scenarios – I’ve lost games just because of a few bad rolls (the number of times I’ve failed to get a Major Victory in Domination because of that stupid “game ends!” roll…) and I know that just sucks. So I tried to limit the randomness. I’ll detail the scenarios in my battle reports.

One thing about being the ringer is that you’re there to provide a service only – make sure everyone gets to play every round. After all, that’s what the players are there for, to get in a game. The ringer isn’t supposed to be highly competitive, though they’re not supposed to be a pushover, either. I flatter myself in thinking that I’m a pretty good player, so I decided against going with one of my first string armies. After DundraCon last year with the “Oh, so it’s your turn to get beaten on by Gandalf” comment, I knew that the Errand wouldn’t fly, and I thought that even the Shadow list from Vegas would be pretty nasty. Of course, I haven’t painted a full army of anything else, so I used those armies for my basis.

To make things more enjoyable for the players, I decided to come up with multiple armies and let them choose the list they wanted as ringer. I also wanted to try playing with models that I normally wouldn’t consider using in a tournament. My first was pretty simple – I swapped Gandalf for Aragorn on a horse in the Errand, downgrading Ecthelion to a standard captain. The second list I came up with was a variant on the Shadow, where I dropped all of the Morannon Orcs and upgraded the wraith to Khamul the Easterling on an armored horse. I wanted one more option, and decided to go totally goofy. I called it “So Boromir picks a fight with a Balrog…” and took four models; Aragorn, Gandalf the Grey, Legolas, and Gimli. 600 points right there.

I arrived at the tournament in the early afternoon of Friday to set up. After my experience at the Necro, I wanted a really interesting skirmish game with LOTS of terrain, and there was a pretty good stash to raid. Only having three tables to fill made it easier. I set up three tables.

First was a small highland village, surrounded by small, steep hills. I wanted to use several buildings to get in the rules for fighting inside the fortress – doors, defended obstacles, stuff like that. The effect was that the center could be full of choke points if it was actually defended, otherwise it would be fairly easy to move through.

Next up was a pretty typical wooded area, lots of trees and areas of undergrowth with a few hills thrown on. The hills on both this table and the first one were slab sided – no slope at all. I made the call that it was WYSIWIG – lots of jump and climb checks were involved. It made it interesting for cavalry forces, that’s for sure.

The last table was inspired by the fact that several large pieces of fortress and the like were ignored by the other systems for being cumbersome and difficult to fit units onto. No units in this game! I tried to go for a kind of “ruined fortress” look with the four large pieces in the middle surrounded by a few large hills and individual trees.

So with that, I sat back to wait for check ins. As it turned out, we had something like three people actually play a game on the ship Friday night. A few other people checked in early, but apparently some of the ship security people turned some of our players away. That night cost us a lot of money for pretty much nothing. I doubt we’ll do that next year.

The next morning, I was raring to go. The five LOTR players showed up with plenty of time, and I presented the briefing and the options for the ringer army. A couple of people immediately said they didn’t want to see the all heroes army (if they drew that force on a couple of scenarios life would be very, very difficult), and the two people who voiced a preference chose Easterlings, so that was my force – Khamul and crew. The list was as follows:

Khamul the Easterling on armored horse (I think I forgot about paying the extra points for the armored horse during the games…)

Easterling Captain on armored horse with shield

6x Kataphracts
18x Warrior with shield
7x Warrior with shield and spear
12x Warrior with bow

Total Models: 45
Might: 4
Bow Armed Warriors: 12/43

I knew this was a suboptimal force when I took it. I particularly love Nazgul for their spell casting, and Khamul has the hardest time casting spells of any of the wraiths. With a Fell Beast, at least you have the chance of getting Will back to compensate for the extra dice you have to throw at spells. On a horse, the best you’re getting is usually staying at the same level of Will. I also knew there were no nutcrackers – D6 would be a major problem for me.

But hell with it, I wasn’t playing to win anyway! That doesn’t mean I’d try to make it easy for the people I would play…

Saturday, August 1, 2009

That's it for 2009 - now for 2010

Well, I've wrapped up all of the tournaments I can play in for 2009 for Lord of the Rings, now it is time to consider 2010. I've definitely decided to go with Mordor - I've got an absolutely huge stash of Mordor models, so I am hoping to create a "buffet" of options I can pick and choose from and use different forces for each tournament. Some of the models I really want to use:

- The Witch King
- Orc Drummer
- Orc Shaman
- Mordor War Catapult with Troll Loader

I've put together my first list, which I may use for the Gathering, depending upon how it play tests.


The Witch King of Angmar (2/10/0)

Cirith Ungol

Gorbag with shield
Orc Drummer

20 Orcs with shields
8 Orcs with two handed weapons
11 Orcs with bows and spears
Mordor War Catapult with Troll Loader and extra crewman

Points: 600
Models: 47
Might: 5
Bows: 11/44

I'm thinking of this force partly because of the experience at the Gathering last year. There were a lot of horde forces, particularly with high defense. Anthony's Uruks (which have appeared two years in a row, so I think I can count on them being there again) and Sean's Minas Morgul are examples of this. While I can try to go horde as well, I really like playing with models that people don't normally see in tournaments. Yeah, the drummer is becoming de rigour these days, but when was the last time you saw Gorbag, the Witch King, or a Catapult? These guys can definitely be used well, and I can see very bad things being done with all of them.

One other thing that I'm doing is modifying all of my plastic archers. I want to be able to use them as both trackers and spear carrying orcs, so I'm adding small magnets to their quivers, which I'll then use to hold paper clip spears. I've only got about 30 orc archers together, so now I can do both without having to buy any more models, and still be able to field a horde of trackers or spear/archers if I want!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pulled a win in Contest of Champions

I played a warmup game with Wyn today - the Errand vs. a Dwarven horde list with Balin (no axe), a Dwarf Captain with shield, and 46 other dwarves, including a few Iron Guard and a scattering of Khazad Guard. The scenario was Contest of Champions, Gandalf vs. Balin. The board was the old pre-molded Fellowship of the Ring demo board that GW gave to stores carrying the very first game - no cover, but a few rocky patches.

Things started rough - I killed two dwarves with archery, but Wyn in turn gunned down Ecthelion on TURN 1!!! Remember, always put heroes a couple ranks back, always put heroes a couple ranks back... I caught up quickly once Gandalf was within Blast range, racking up two kills with the wizard in short order. As the lines closed, I also managed to kill a couple more dwarves with archery, picking on the D6 archers. I found the numbers starting to equal out, and more of my troops were in the fight than his due to spear support. The turn the lines hit, I decided to use Gandalf to Immobilize Balin - I threw 1 die and got lucky with a 6! Wyn chose not to resist it and Balin took a little break.

The game fell into the lines crashing into each other, with both sides suffering occasional casualties, but nothing amazing. Balin shook off the Immobilize and won a Heroic Fight to kill off one of my Rangers and Gandalf with lots of support was shoved back by a shielding dwarf. We were running out of time, so we decided to just skip everyone else and fight out the champions' combats. Wyn played for the win, with Balin calling a heroic combat with his last point of might against two spear supported rangers and Gandalf blowing his last point of might to bump the die roll of a Blast up to a wound, thus scoring his third kill. Alas, Balin had an attack of the rubber axe syndrome, getting defeated by the rangers, and Galdalf failed to slice up his opponent, so the game ended 3-1 in Gandalf's favor.

Main lesson here: Never, EVER put your hero in the front rank of an advance! Being able to be picked out by bowfire SUCKS. Also: Gandalf is the bomb. Boom.

Highlights on Ecthelion

I finished highlighting Ecthelion, taking a different tack from what I'd done with the Warriors. With the Warriors, I had done some pretty subtle stuff, then washed them, and found that I couldn't actually see the results as much different from a single basecoat and a wash. Too much work for not enough return.

So here was Ecthelion before the new work. I had done a similar technique to the Warriors with the cloak, but you can see the rushed single highlight on the black tabard. This picture was taken using my daylight bulbs.

The first thing I did was go over the top of the cloak's ridges with a straight Blood Red. The cloak was built up from several layers of thinned down Scab Red and Red Gore, then I washed it with a light black wash. The Blood Red highlight really popped out the cloak. The pictures below, taken with my halogen lights, don't show this really well - it has kind of pixelized the paint job.

Next I laid two stark highlights onto the tabard. The first highlight I think was Adeptus Battlegrey, so the second and third highlights were Codex Grey and Fortress Grey respectively. You can see this results in a very stark highlight, almost making the black look striped.

While this did make the model pop, it was TOO over the top to fit in with the rest of my force. So I decided to give the black a heavy wash of Badab Black. When I first put it on, I didn't really see any difference. But when I came back and looked at it this morning, it had dried and smoothed out the stark highlight very nicely. So I think I'm going to stick with this method for the Guards of the Fountain Court's cloaks as well.

The main thing that this experience is showing me is how much I already miss my daylight bulbs. I need to figure out some way to jury rig my lights for the dining room table area I have to use now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All of the warriors cloth highlighted

So there is the cloth of all the warriors highlighted with one more level. This layer really makes the models pop, and brings the number of layers to five. This one is less subtle than the others, but it just works better. Now I can make out fingers, folds in the cloth, and the fact that there IS cloth in some less obvious places.

The lighting is a little different - earlier I had daylight bulbs in two task lamps which attached to my painting table with C-clamps, but now that room is the nursery and the table has been folded up and stored. So now I'm at the kitchen table and back to my halogen desk lamps. They have a different color light, so that's why the pics look different.

Next up: highlighting the cloth of Ecthelion, then I think I'll do the Guards of the Fountain Court. If I've got enough time after doing them, I'll base and prime five more rangers to replace the metals.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bright is beautiful

I keep coming back to the basics that I learned back in the day, and they hold up over time. In this case, don't be afraid of big, bold highlights.

With this army, I really wanted a realistic, subtle look. I wanted the cloth to clearly be black, but highlight it with a tint of blue to match Gandalf. Plus all of that grey and silver would be really boring.

Sadly, I went too subtle, and you couldn't see the highlights outside of highly exposed web photos. So I went back and put a bold highlight that finally accomplished what I wanted.

On the right is a model that I haven't touched since the Gathering. This was one of the ones with the most obvious, bright highlights. Yeah, I'm not sure that either of those terms apply there. The middle one is a model that I've black lined, which did help a little, but didn't make up for the dark highlights. The left is one I just finished highlighting the cloth with Shadow Grey. MUCH better. Don't let the chunkiness of the highlights fool you - when they aren't in the bright light and up close, those highlights really make the model work.

This back picture is a much clearer one of how well the highlights work. Notice the blacklining I put in place around the hair, armor plates, and between the armor and cloth. Combined with the bright highlights, that really works.

And here are all of the warriors of this pose highlighted with the new cloth highlights and blacklining. I currently have the lights off in my work area and am looking at the models with ambient light, and the difference is striking. The unhighlighted models are flat and dark, while the highlighted models, while still kind of dark, are much more dynamic.

Oh, and I figured out why my new camera wasn't taking bright pictures. Since I don't have a manual shutter speed setting, it was taking an overall view of how much light was coming in. With the background being white, that told the camera it needed to have a much faster shutter speed! Now I feel dumb.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let's get cracking - Update paint plan

Time is started to get tight, and I need to get my plan on paper if I'm ever going to get this done. Ur, well, on screen, blog, disk, whatever. I need to write it down.

The two weakest areas are highlighting and details. The basics on all of the models are strong, but that isn't going to get me into the top 5 painters. The weakest models are the rangers, and the slight mix of the two styles isn't helping anything. So here is my general plan:

- Shadow and black line models
- Add two layers of highlights, ending with a 50/50 mix of Snot Green/Dark Angel Green in the green areas, still need to figure out colors in the browns
- Highlight skin, including fingers

- Black line details
- Highlight details (belts, hair, etc)
- Add top cloth highlight in Shadow Grey - if not light enough, add another in 50/50 Shadow/Space Wolf Grey
- Try to highlight obvious parts of face (chin, cheeks)

Guards of the Fountain Court
- Add two levels of highlight to cloth, ending in Fortress Grey, then wash with black
- Highlight details
- Add designs to tabard
- Add trim and design to cloak
- Add gold trim to helmet

- Add two levels of highlight to cloak, ending in Blood Red
- Add two levels of highlight to cloth, ending in Fortress Grey, then wash with black
- Highlight face
- Paint then highlight details like scabbard, belt, horn, helmet

If I get this stuff done before the event, I'll paint up five new plastic rangers to replace the metal ones with the slightly different painting style. I'll see how far I get on the warriors tomorrow - I'd like to have all of this done by next Wednesday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Updating the Errand

I recently got a new digital camera (primarily to take pictures of the baby with!), but I decided to see how it works for photographing minis. Not bad, but I do kind of miss the manual settings I could use on my old one. Of course, I don't miss the old camera's far left hand tripod hole (ALWAYS drooping on the tripod!), and I really like the macro settings on the new one - The pics of Gandalf and Ecthelion were taken from a couple inches away, something I couldn't do with the old camera.

Without the manual shutter settings, it does mean it's harder to make out contrasts and the like. However, I am also noticing that the pics look more like the models do in real life and on the table, where my earlier pics were so bright and clear that they sometimes looked better painted than they really were. So for my purposes today, the new camera works better. Also remember that each picture can be clicked on for a larger view.

So this is the overall army. My general painting style tends to be subtle, and on the whole I think this looks pretty good on the table. The earthier tones holds it all together, and there is a lot of black and brown. The individual groups definitely tie together - green for the rangers, a blue/grey for the warriors, white for the Guards, and red for Ecthelion.

Where this starts to fall apart is in the details. OK, that and I didn't put enough time into painting last time. I'm afraid I'm going to need to step the highlighting up - believe it or not that is three layers and a wash on the cloth, but the low steps in color make it all wash together, resulting in a less highlighted effect. I also need to highlight the details like the belts, hair, and possibly even the armor and hair. Some blacklining of details wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Back shot of the warriors - the cloth is a little clearer, but you can see the unhighlighted belts and hair.

Here are the rangers. There's a little inconsistency here - I painted the metal rangers on the left some four years ago while working for GW. I don't remember the exact colors, and the foundations weren't available yet. But you can see there is better highlighting, the skin is better, and there is a broader range of colors within the palette. The browns all wash together on the newer models instead of having a more noticable line. I was really, really rushed on these guys.

It's a little more obvious how rushed I was on the back. The old models have nice highlighting on the cloaks, while the new ones were just block painted and washed. I also didn't use any highlights on the quivers.

These guys look pretty sharp from the front. That white was a pain, but the blacklining works nicely. I think I'm going to use a Micron pen to add a design on the tabard edge, and possibly put a decorative yellow and black edge on the cloak as well. Some gold details on the helmets might also work nicely.

The cloaks are another story. Single grey highlights that look slapped on. I'm not sure if I should go down from these highlights, adding a midpoint between them and the shadows, or go even higher.

Without question, Gandalf is the best model in the army. I put a lot of time and care into painting him, particularly his hands and folds of the robe. I even highlighted the belt and swordblade.

I do have a little chip on the end of the hat, but I'm a bit afraid of fixing it and causing more damage by not getting the same effect as before.

In contrast to Gandalf, Ecthelion screams "rush job". While I put some time into the cloak, it still comes off too subtle and dark. The rest of him is single, sloppy highlights, drybrushing, unpainted details, and general blah. I've got a lot of work to do here.

So I'm mostly wondering how much I should play up the highlights - I've always gone more subtle with my LOTR models, but I am starting to think I need to really spice it up with brighter highlights. Any thoughts? Tim K, I'd particularly appreciate your insights on this, since you scored this army at the Gathering.

Thanks a ton to everyone who has bothered to read this!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First projects planned

I managed to pare down what I really, really wanted to get done over the next year. I'm having a very hard time making massive cuts in what I have, but I was at least able to decide what I want to work on the most.

First up will be getting the Errand up to a competitive GT standard. I'm budgeting the rest of July (pretty much up until the dice start rolling at the Necro) for this one. Expect pics and such soon for this.

Second, I'm going to get started on my army for next year, which I think will be back to the Evil side for me. In totaling up my models, I have more Mordor models than anything else (possible exception of Empire for Fantasy), yet I don't have a painted army for it. So that is going to change. I'll run a Barad-Dur list with lots and lots of Orcs. More on that later.

I'll probably finish my Trafalgar minis next - I've got one more to build, then a total of five to paint.

After that, I'm going to get some Legends of the Old West done! I tried to start a gaming group up around this system right after I left GW, but some people moved, school started, and I never got terrain built. I'm going to start simple - get my Lawmen finished, then do some Outlaws and Hired Guns. Total models - 22. It will be nice to have something smaller to work on.

Following LotOW, I am going to get really historical. Many, many years ago, I decided to get some Revolutionary War models. This was what actually started me into model painting. Alas, these lovely 15mm models have been sitting in a box since I discovered 40K back in December of 2001. I've got enough models there to do the Battle of Cowpens, and its time they all got some paint on them.

Then it will be back to Lord of the Rings, but in a smaller scale - Battle of Five Armies! I was hired at GW back when Bo5A was released, and I got the special deal of the boxed set plus all of the expansion models for something like $80. It's a beautiful set, and I'd love to get some games in with it.

Somewhere within all of that, I'd like to get some more terrain built and painted, plus paint up Gandalf the White (just to torment people), and Saruman the White. I'll need to plan out how I'm going to do all of this time wise, but I figure that will keep me busy when the baby isn't doing so.

Deciding what to get rid of was tough. I managed to come up with over 200 models to sell (out of 2650 counted so far), including my entire planned Dwarf army for Fantasy. I'll be putting it up on eBay, and probably do some "mystery bag" type stuff for $1 or so. I can't imagine what I'll have to ditch next - it might be my Flames of War stuff, which I've played about three times.

Sigh. Next up is getting my Errand out and photographing it so I can get some feedback on what to improve.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ignornace. It is bliss.

Well, the school year has wrapped up, the Necro is less than a month away, and with the month ending we decided to close our storage account and bring all of my gaming stuff back into the house. In accordance with my earlier plan, I went ahead and inventoried ALL of my uncompleted miniatures so I could set up a priority list of projects and the like.

The horror... the horror...

I decided on a completely rough-stick estimate of 1 hour per model or stand of models, figuring that the drybrush specials will balance the big models and showpieces. I also figured I could reasonably put in about five hours a week with a new baby coming up. Optimistic, I know. So given that, I figured out how many weeks it would take me to work through my stash of models.

10.2 years.

Oh. My. God.

Note that does not include the Minas Tirith models that I need to touch up after my piss-poor painting showing at the Gathering. Oh, or the rest of my Dark Angels company that still needs to be done. My baby will be getting ready to take classes from me in middle school before I'm done!

The scale of this is almost completely overwhelming. I have no idea how to start prioritizing. I need to just cut sling load on a bunch of this stuff, but I don't even know when to begin.

I'm almost depressed. I need to get my brain wrapped around this before I can really proceed. Well, and get cracking on the improved paint jobs for the Necro.

Just don't look at the huge pile of mini boxes...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Disappointments and new doors

I was all excited about getting the new house in time for the new baby, but it seems that something else was in store for me. My wife ended up losing her job, mostly because it just wasn't a good fit for her. This shot the house deal in the head, so we're going to be staying in our condo for a while to come.

On the surface this should be terrible, but I've been at peace with it. This gives my wife the opportunity to find a job for which she is better suited, and frees up all of the money we had slated for the house for more investments. That may end up with us having a much larger down payment available for the summer, so perhaps it is not all for ill on the housing front.

The down side of this is that without knowing that our housing situation will change, we need to get our little condo ready for a baby. This will likely preclude me from bringing all of my gaming stuff back into the condo for the foreseeable future. I'll be getting enough LOTR stuff back into the house for the Necro in July and continuing to work on Trafalgar, but that's going to be it.

Finally, spring break is wrapping up for me, and I'm finally getting over this cold/flu that struck me down last week. Thus the long delay in actually getting something done with Trafalgar despite not moving. Sigh... why did I have to be sick over a holiday?

HMS Guerriere done without rigging

Finally finished working on the Guerriere, with the exception of the rigging. I really should have done some of that before I based it, but I got impatient. I'll try to do that once I've primed the other three ships I've constructed.

The most interesting aspect of all of this was the base. I was kind of torn on this one - the directions in the Trafalgar book give a method that produces a very blue ocean, like what I'd associate with the Pacific or the Mediterranean. I wanted an Atlantic color, though, which would be more grey. So I went with a thinned basecoat of Adeptus Battlegrey over a black primer, followed by an overbrush of Fenris Grey, and finally a light drybrush of Space Wolf Grey over the peaks and around the area the hull would go. I may try white instead of the SW Grey next time, but overall I like the effect much better than the rich blue that the rule book uses.

I also finally got the other three ships built and ready to prime. I'm going to do the US ships with a black primer and the other British ship, along with the sails, in white. I'm trying to leave the masts in the British ship, while putting the other masts into a Starbucks' cup sleeve (putting the masts into the corrugation) for priming.

I also learned an important lesson in construction of these ships - build them one at a time, and don't do it when you're distracted. The masts and sails are just too similar to each other - I ended up putting the wrong sails on masts something like four times while building the USS Essex and my British sloop, and when I finally finished I found I had actually SWAPPED MASTS, and trimmed the mast to fit already. Well, crap. Fortunately, they don't look TOO crazy off, since it is going from a ship-sloop rig to a small frigate rig. But from now on I build one ship at a time, no more.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moving on in several ways

On Thursday my wife and I got the long anticipated news that the house we had put in an offer for had finally cleared the lenders hurdles (it is a short sale - the two banks are probably taking about a $250K loss on the sale). It's exhilarating and a little stressful - we want to close by April 10th so we can move over Spring Break. We've got to budget our time in the next couple of weeks very careful as a result.

One thing that we're doing is "pre-moving", or staging a bunch of stuff that isn't vital to daily operation into a storage unit we've rented. Naturally, this includes almost all of my miniatures stuff. For one thing, I don't trust movers with it, and it also gives us a chance to look at all of the things that we don't regularly use and make the decision as to whether or not we actually want to bring it into our new house.

Stacking up all of the miniatures and related material that I possess is a truly daunting task. I've already moved about half of my stuff (that which is still in the original packaging for one reason or another) and I've still got a pile that blocks the doorway. While I'm fortunate enough to have a room in the new house that will be a dedicated "hobby room", which I'll be using more than my wife, I'm committed to keeping the volume of stuff I have in there under control.

When I left the Army, I went to work for a company that, prior to employment, gave their prospects a personality test. It was a pretty intense test - I take tests fast and it took me about 90 minutes to finish this thing. Later, I had a chance to look at the results. It pegged me pretty much exactly - I look at the big picture, seek to understand how things work and then apply those concepts to the execution of tasks. But I have a focus problem - I tend to get really excited about a particular project and dive into it, but completion is a real problem - sometimes I can get so caught up in my desire to understand the task that I don't actually DO the task. I also have a bit of "ooh, shiny!" syndrome, where if something else catches my attention I will jump onto that, abandoning the earlier project(s). Thus one of my biggest challenges is actually FINISHING what I start.

That is one of the reasons I started this blog. Taking stock of a project, publicly committing to completing it, and feeling a compulsion to post SOME progress is a very good thing. Of course, sometimes life intervenes, and I need to try to keep my motivation going to actually FINISH the projects.

For the time being, I'm going to have to put pretty much all of my projects on hold. The only minis I'll keep out of storage for the next few weeks are the Trafalgar minis, since I only have five of them and they are really easy to move, plus I'm finding that painting them goes really quick - when I actually do it. Everything else goes into storage.

When they come out of storage, I'm going to try a new tactic - giving myself a self-imposed deadline to complete projects. The idea is to encourage myself to finish my projects while eliminating projects that just aren't that important to me. When I pull these models out, I'm going to inventory them. ALL of them. I'm then going to divide them up into projects of about 20 hours each. I'll then prioritize my projects. That's going to be a heck of a project in itself. But once I've done that, I can get started. Each month, I'll try to FINISH one of those projects, from cleaning and building to table ready, including basing. If I do manage to finish a project, great - I move on to the next one.

If I DON'T finish, though, I get rid of the project at the bottom of the list. eBay, Bartertown, give it to a friend, whatever, that project goes. To deal with my problem of taking on additional projects, if I add another project to my list, then the project at the bottom of the list goes. While eventually I'm hoping to be able to avoid that and just add it to my list without dropping others, I know that with the volume of projects I have right now it will be a long time. Maybe once I get down to less than a year of projects.

Another problem is actually being able to PLAY with these projects. So I'll include terrain projects, and if I don't have the terrain I need to play the game, then I can't do any of the minis for that project until I finish the terrain. This way I'll be able to play any of the games for which I'm actually painting.

All in all, this should be a real eye-opener for me. It is way too easy to just shove all of the extra models I have into a closet and forget about them. If I have them all on a spreadsheet with a running total of how long I think it will take to finish them, I think it will help me to keep my hobby sane without turning it into a job. After all, a hobby is supposed to be fun, and if I'm feeling obliged to do it because of the ridiculous quantity of minis that I have on hand, I need to do something about it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ah... report cards behind me

I have finally sent off all of my report cards, so the mass of grading is behind me. That means I can spend more time on my hobby! Well, not really, since I'm juggling trying to buy a new house for my wife and unborn child, buying rehab projects to fund said family and house, and preparing for the move, not to mention other business related things (you mean I need to have bookkeeping?!? And pay taxes?!?!?).

However, I am taking some time out today to help plan a Indy GT for the Bay Area, which we're looking at holding on the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier turned museum in Alameda (that's in the East San Francisco Bay Area). We've got some great ideas, and having experienced the GitD, I have some other insights into GT organization.

Anyway, I've also got some more work done on my Trafalgar fleet, though it's not photo ready yet. Once I've graded my tests that I gave on Friday I'll get some work done there.

Time to fly!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First ship for Trafalgar!

I am really excited! On Thursday, I received my shipment of four 1:1200 Age of Sail ships from Langton Miniatures, and I could hardly wait. Well, school was interfering, and so today I finally got a chance to put one together. Here is a French built 36 gun frigate that will be used to represent HMS Guerriere, the first British frigate that .

I've still got three more ships, incuding the USS Essex, a ship-sloop, and an oceangoing schooner. But I am thinking that I'll paint the Guerriere before I get rolling on other models.

I'm really excited about playing Trafalgar, so I'm going to getting to work on these ASAP.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crazy insane-o list idea

I was really happy to get Gandalf the White as a prize for getting 2nd General (is that like 2nd breakfast?) at the Gathering, and I've been vaguely considering how to actually use him in a list. Well, my wife and I were watching The Two Towers tonight, and I had an idea hit me - what if I were to take all of my pre-existing notions of what makes a good army and just throw them out the window? Go with an entirely themed army with a completely different philosophy - mobile destruction!

So here is a random possibility - "Dawn of the Fifth Day"

Gandalf the White on Shadowfax

Erkenbrand on horse
Captain of Rohan with heavy armor, shield, and horse

4 mounted Rohan Royal Guard (3 w/throwing spears)
9 Riders of Rohan (4 can shoot bows)
1 Rider of Rohan with banner

600 Points
Total models: 17
Total Might: 8
Bows: 4/14 29%

I have absolutely no idea if this list would work in the least, but damn I think it would be fun. Screw all this surrounding your opponent, outnumbering him and outmaneuvering him - this list is all about charge into the teeth of his line, blow the Horn of the Hammerhand, break through with a Heroic Combat and lay waste to his squishy bits! With a horse mounted Gandalf-bazooka! The only thing I'm really tempted to do is put in ANOTHER mounted Captain of Rohan instead of some riders.

This will require some thought...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sigh - so much for Adepticon

I'm sad. I was lining everything up for Adepticon - I had a partner for the Team Tournament, I had a reservation for the hotel, I knew which flights I could buy, and I was planning my list. The one thing that I thought was a sure thing, though, bit me - I couldn't get the time off of work. That is the week of standardized testing, and it was seen as too important to have me miss proctoring one segment of the test out of about fourteen. Well, crap. So no A-Con for me.

I did manage to get everything set for The Necronomicon, though. My hotel is paid for, I've gotten my frequent flyer mile ticket out there (first class! - ironically the cheapest seats available), and I've registered and paid for the con itself, which as always is the cheapest part. I've even sent in my list, which is the same one I used for the Gathering. It served me pretty well there.

So now I need to improve my paint jobs. Some of the highlights - I'll need to get all of the details painted and then highlighted. I'll improve the level of overall highlighting, particularly on the rangers and Guards of the Fountain Court. After all of that, I'll probably do some extra details, like edging on the Guards cloaks and battle damage on the shields.

So now the clock is reset, with the countdown ending on July 24th. I'll get myself a paint plan going in a few weeks, after I've finished my grading.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The year ahead in gaming

I've got some serious thinking to do. First off, with a strong performance at the Gathering, it makes sense for me to get some other LOTR Circuit events in. With some extra time, I can definitely improve my paint scores, the low part of my performance at the Gathering. The bigger question is how I can work in actually attending given some of the challenges I'm facing.

The first challenge is this - my wife and I are expecting our first child this year. Hooray! I'm definitely looking forward to being a daddy, and I know that though my life will forever change, I seriously doubt I'll be getting out of the toy soldier hobby. However, the due date is September 18th. No problem, right? Oh, other than the anticipated date for the Vegas GT being a week ahead of that day... With the accuracy of due dates being in the 5% range, my wife is NOT excited at the prospect of me leaving town that close to birth. Her fear is that I fly out, she goes into labor, and then has no support at the hospital. OK, a small possibility, but a very valid concern. The consequences of hitting those low percentage possibilities is awfully high. OK, it is now clarified - there is no way in hell I am going to Vegas. I don't know if my wife as ever actually kicked me before this... Ah, well.

So this leaves other options. One possibility that I might be able to swing is going to Adepticon. Of course, if I do that, I'll need to find a partner for the team event... Second, I can go to The Necronomicon in Orlando. The cool thing about both of these is I can probably weedle out free hotel stays with my parents' time share through Starwood. So those are relatively inexpensive for me. I may even be able to swing a trip to one of the other official GTs, probably Baltimore. So those are all possibilities.

Birth of child also means we're going to get a house, which we will be moving into in April as well. The really cool thing about this is that I'm going to be able to get enough space for a gaming table. Now I can get some terrain built for the house, and I'll never have to leave home to game again! OK, maybe that's a little extreme, but it does open some options. One of those options is for playing Trafalgar, the new Warhammer Historicals game. The models, Langton Miniatures 1:1200 scale ships, are totally awesome, and with my own gaming table I can make a seascape pretty easily and game in my house.

So those are all things on my mind... I'll need to make some decisions pretty quick about those.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

AAR of Gathering in the Desert 2009

The blood has cooled, the paints are put away, and the results are posted - it's time to reflect on the Gathering that is past. Well, my part in it, anyway.

First off, I can definitely call the tournament a success. Having gotten 4th Overall and 2nd General were both achievements I can be proud of in that field. I understand how the army works pretty well and it showed in my battles. I had a great time playing and did my best to make sure my opponent had a good time as well. I did pretty well in Sportsmanship - if Brent gave me #1 on his opponent ranking (which I think he did) then I earned the equivalent of one #2 and three #3 rankings. My downfall (if you can call it that) was my rushed painting. I only had a higher score than 4 other players, and was well behind 2nd and 3rd Overall. If I got the score I'd earned in Vegas I'd have gotten 3rd Overall and nearly taken Best Overall (since #1 didn't paint his own army).

I had about as good an army design as you can get with a big burly character in the lead. I was light on numbers but still had the survivability to avoid being laid to waste. The Guards of the Fountain Court, as suggested by Brent (I think), were a fantastic addition to the list. Ecthelion, using the King of Men stat line, was a great combat hero, overtaking most opposition with his F5 and two attacks plus spear support. The rangers also earned their place, softening up the opposition before rushing into help out via trapping and spear support. Gandalf definitely made the list what it was, though - all the tricksy stuff I could pull with him was awesome. I really enjoy playing with magical powers, partly because so few people actually have encountered them it leaves a significant imprint on them. I'm not sure how the army would have performed on objective holding missions or mobility missions (like Reconnoiter), but the missions given suited the army well, except for those darn Uruks.

Sportsmanship scores are always something of a quandary for me - I can't deny that I play to win and that I understand the rules very well and will let my opponent know when they are doing something wrong. However, I try to be nice about it and will readily point out when they could do something advantageous or bad to me as a result of a rule they don't understand. The biggest problems come when I encounter someone who thinks they know the rules but really don't, or someone who conveniently forgets rules when it doesn't suit them.

One brief point of conflict in my last game that troubled me was when I trapped a Morgul Stalker between the edge of the long hill we were on and a combat. It was on the Angmar table, and the hill had started against the edge of the table (it was flat along one side, clearly designed to sit along the edge). However, when this combat happened it had gotten bumped, so there was about a 1/2-3/4 inch gap between the actual table edge and the edge of the hill. My opponent brought up that he could retreat down the hill, and I pointed out that it had started against the table. He had been leaning over this hill to move his models in the center, and I'm thinking that was when it got bumped. He gave me this snort, and when I asked if it was a problem, he replied, "Oh, no, it's just one model", with a subtext (to my mind) of "You're an ass for pushing this point, but I'm going to let you have it to keep my sportsmanship score up". He wasn't obnoxious or anything, but I'm pretty sure that because I didn't back down there I got a lower ranking on the final sportsmanship sort. I'm just not sure how to deal with this, as I don't want to be walked all over, but I also don't want to lose a potential advantage that the rules say I have.

Ah, my painting. I knew it wasn't up to snuff, but the full impact of the rating did make me sad. I completely deserved it, though. I was painting on the plane, had minimal highlights on most of my models, and used a lot of quick and dirty methods. I need to significantly step up the detail painting and do another layer or two of highlights all over the models. That could earn me 6 more points on painting without a huge expenditure of effort, and possibly even 8 if I really impress the judges. 6 would have put me less than a point behind Brent and Best Overall, 8 would have given me the tournament. I can see adding some detailing to the cloaks and trim of the Fountain Court, plus maybe some battle damage on the warriors shields to get that Hand Painted Details level.

So I'll definitely put some more time into painting. I'm going to have to skip Adepticon - some day I will definitely have to go there, though. However, I can see doing the Necronomicon and GT Vegas, and might even be able to squeeze in a Games Day or something. Of course, I'm going to have to be very, VERY nice to my wife, and hope our child doesn't decide to be born while I'm playing with toy soldiers...

Thoughts on next army

Boy, I had a great time with the Errand. I'm probably going to improve the painting on that list for a little while, and I might still use it for the rest of this season. However, I am starting to think about my next list.

I do have a problem - I love playing challenging armies, but I also love winning. One force I really like is the Army of the High King, but those guys are just inherently inefficient against everyone but Isengard Uruk-Hai. The main point of the army is making it an Elendil delivery system, and as good as he is he isn't as good as Gandalf, who is worth the same number of points. Oh, Gandalf is such a dirty old man...

Speaking of Gandalf, I was thinking about going with Gandalf the White, which I won at the Gathering. However, the Errand was already pretty thin on the model count, and adding 50 points to the wizard would mean losing Ecthelion in favor of Damrod (wow, that's a bad deal) or seriously dropping my model count. There just aren't any Good horde armies apart from Hobbits, and Gandalf can't fight with them.

So I'm thinking about a Mordor army. I can throw 60+ models into most of the armies I am developing. Each one I came up with had a "gimmick" which I'd like to play with: shamans and a drummer, Shagrat the Warleader, the Witch King, a catapult with a troll, all of them look like fun. Maybe I can also come up with one using a Fell Beast. I know many of these aren't the most efficient in the world, but these are some of the models I've always wanted to play with. I'll think more about it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Last battle report for Gathering

Round 5
Opponent: Sean Ramirez
Table: Angmar
Scenario: The Last Alliance

This scenario was a straight-up kill ‘em scenario with the emphasis on killing valuable people – it was based upon victory points, which is the points value of the stuff you kill. This is, in my opinion, not a very good mechanic for LOTR. The game is specifically designed to be based upon numbers, and while individual models can be very expensive, the most expensive are the ones that affect other models and help their fellow models. Heroes are good on their own, but their real value is in holding other models on the table via Stand Fast and doing Heroic Actions. Some heroes just aren’t that hard to kill (Gandalf not being among them, apparently), but can be very valuable – Gildor Inglorian being perhaps the best example of this. After all, a Half-Troll is way more effective in combat than a Captain of Minas Tirith, but the Captain costs more than twice as much. So I didn’t like that aspect of the scenario. Another fun aspect of the scenario was that it was 12” deployment zones, and if you had any of your own models in your deployment zone at the end of the game the best you could get was a draw.

Sean had the army that I least wanted to play in the tournament. He was running 30 Black Numenoreans backed up with spear supporting orcs, some trackers, and three Morgul Stalkers thrown in for fun. This crew was led by The Dark Marshal and a Black Numenorean Marshal, which meant that all of those terror checks I’d be taking would be at -1 Courage. The Nazgul could also effectively neuter Gandalf, which really irritated me. On top of this, I was outnumbered by 10 models. I knew this would be a rough game.

I lined up in my left corner, hoping to give the rangers a clear bunch of shots as the enemy closed while creating a bottleneck in the center. I hoped I could hold off any support coming from the sides while I demolished anything that came down the middle of the table. Sean’s deployment seemed to support this, with significant contingents taking his flanks and a big group around the heroes in the center.

The first round of shooting was awesome – I killed three orcs, two Numenoreans, and a Morgul Stalker. Sadly, that was the most my shooting did for the rest of the game. I think I got a couple of small kills, but between the short distance between armies and getting stuck into combat, I didn’t have a chance to shoot much more.

The bad things started happening with Gandalf right off the bat. After getting up Terrifying Aura and Blinding Light, the Dark Marshal closed to within range of a Sap Will. The next couple of turns was me trying desperately not to lose any more will, with one big Sorcerous Blast thrown at the Marshal in a high stakes gamble to kill him – I even blew all of my remaining Might to score a wound, but Sean easily made his Fate roll. Finally there wasn’t anything left, and I was limited to Gandalf’s one free Will per turn and the Blinding Terrifying Aura of Light went out.

We got stuck into combat and I started learning just how incredibly annoying Numenoreans were. I was failing a bunch of my Courage tests, so I started moving pieces that could block routes to an inch away from enemy models to channel them or provoke a charge (and I didn’t have to take a Terror test). I also had small blocking contingents holding off a chunk of his army that was trying to turn my flanks. The Fountain Court Guards were a HUGE help here, since they could charge without testing their Courage and could take abuse from S4 hits. I started to whittle down his force, but I’m losing people as well. Ecthelion in particular is doing a great job of killing Numenoreans.

There isn’t a lot to tell after that – we just ground away, though Sean kept using the Nazgul to try to do bad things with spells, usually not succeeding. I did manage to punch a hole in the Numenorean line and run a Fountain Court Guard into the Dark Marshal, getting rid of a point of Will. Finally the turns are drawing close to an end, and it’s obvious we’re tied. My Fountain Court behind his lines is occupied, but I pull one last trick out of Gandalf’s sleeve – I cast Command on the Marshal, who at this point has only one point of Will remaining. This allows me to move him into combat with my Fountain Court Guard. This is awesome! As long as I get to fight, the Nazgul will go pop at the end of the turn.

Sean shoots into combat with all of his trackers, and manages to kill my Guard on the second shot!?! DAMN IT!!! He then proceeds to mow down another 40 points of troops that the trackers also hit. OK, so the first round of archery went to me, the last roud to Sean. We ended up drawing, with Sean ahead by about 50 points, but needing 60 for the win. Interesting thing about the game – I won each and every priority roll. Sean did not have priority the entire time.

I can see now that the way to win this fight would have been to punch a hole in the line of Numenoreans and rush through with my Guards to engage the Nazgul directly. That is what I should have done with my Sorcerous Blasts, not trying to wound the Nazgul. That would also have saved my Might for Heroic Combats and anything else that would have helped clear a path through the Numenoreans. On Sean’s side, I would have put my Black Numenorean Marshal on one of the flanks to assist in crushing opposition there and get into my rear area faster. Other than that, I can’t see any major mistakes beyond forgetting to move Gandalf after several of his casts.

Result: Draw (10 points)

My overall result was a little confusing – if you include the painting points from the guy who didn’t paint his own model, then I was 4th Overall and 2nd Place General. Our tie combined with a victory on Brent’s part gave him Best Overall, and Anthony, who played and beat some of the best players in the country minus Tim Hixon, clearly got Best General. He would have gotten Best Overall if he’d just PAINTED HIS OWN DAMN ARMY! Ah-hem.

Anyway, I’ll do a review of the tournament itself and my own lessons learned tomorrow night.

What a great event - Gathering in the Desert 2009

I’m on my way back home after a fantastic tournament. The Gathering in the Desert 2009 was perhaps the single most enjoyable gaming experience I think I’ve ever had. It was in large part due to the incredible hospitality of Tim Kulinski as well as the great community of players who came together for this event, both local Phoenix area players as well as us “out-of-towners” who came to participate in the first LOTR event of the 2009 Tournament Circuit.

So first off, I really could have been better prepared for this event. I wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent painting my models to a higher standard. I was highlighting Fountain Court Guards on the flight to PHX, painting until midnight the night before the event with Tim, and then even more painting the morning of. I even squeezed in painting the belts of my warriors black after the first round while waiting for lunch to arrive… I really want to get some more layers of highlights onto all of the models, detail out the Fountain Court, and give Ecthelion a serious paint job. Alas, it will be a while before I am able to make that happen, since I have GOT to catch up on my grading – I won’t paint anything until I’ve cleared my backlog of tests.

I was happy to recognize a few of the folks there – Tim Hixon was the only other California resident there, and I recognized Brent Sinclair from the Las Vegas GT. The store where the event was held was co-owned by Kyle Kinghorn, a great hobbyist and manager who I knew from when he managed the LA Battle Bunker for GW. It was great to see him again, and he did play – we also got a chance to catch up on gossip about GW and what he’s been doing with his store, Empire Games. I want to throw this in about Kyle’s operation: Empire Games is probably the best hobby game store I’ve ever been in. The environment is clean and orderly, there is tons of great looking gaming terrain, and it is well stocked. Kyle ran a great store in the LA bunker, and I think he’s outdone even that with his own store. Now if only some of the tables were lower…

Anyway, on to the games.

Round 1
Opponent: Robert Brightwell – Angmar
Table: Emon Euil
Scenario: Bilbo’s Treasure

This was a neat game where you could earn three extra battle points by searching for Bilbo’s treasure but was otherwise a “wipe ‘em out” game where you wanted to reduce the enemy to a quarter of their starting models. There were six markers spread across the table, under each of which was a number. We rolled to determine which number marker it was (turned out to be #6. I deployed my rangers in the middle of my deployment zone with a clear view across the table, then split my warriors on either side of them. I put Ecthelion on my left and Gandalf with the rangers. There was an objective in the crater in front of me, and another one up on a large rock pile in front of Ecthelion’s force.

Robert put his wargs on his right led by the Warg Chieftan, and after some consideration put Burduhr in the middle with a clear path down the center of the table. He spread the rest of his force out across the table with his Shade behind Buhduhr.

I rushed my models forward, getting Blinding Light going with Gandalf and approaching the two rockpiles to my front. I did move half with the rangers, since I figured I’d be able to range Robert’s wargs. Sure enough, the wargs had a couple in range of my archery and I managed to down one of them. I started climbing the rocks in front of me on either side, on to check the objective and the other to provide a defensible position. Robert was sending his wargs to check on one of the objectives to my left, but I saw the main engagement was going to be in the center. Most of Robert’s army was pounding down the table straight at me behind Burduhr. My rangers decided to do something about that. One round of shooting saw Burduhr lose a wound, and a second round saw him dead. The rangers continued to pick off orcs after that.

We had collectively turned over three counters when I managed to find the treasure, which oddly enough was on top of the rock pile on my left. I pulled the chest back and formed up Ecthelion’s crew to go after the wargs and protect the treasure. As the chieftain hit my troops, I brought out Gandalf (who had gotten a Sorcerous Blast off to some effect, but nothing major) to Immobilize the Warg Chieftain, then dogpiled him with Ecthelion and a bunch of other troops. The warg fell under a hail of sword blows.

The fight on the left ended pretty quickly with the wargs being slaughtered, but the center was proving a little harder. The reason? That damn Shade. I hate Shades. I have no idea how to really deal with them other than just take the -1 to all my die rolls. I tried to blast him and move him with Gandalf, but the blasts didn’t work and the Command ended up moving him so he was only 5 inches away from all of the fights instead of 2 inches. Suck.

One redeeming feature for me was that with all of his archers in the backfield, I was outnumbering the orcs, and despite the damn Shade, I was taking them down. After a few turns, I had managed to get the treasure off of my own side, then broke Robert’s force. That was effectively the end of the game, as his troops evaporated. I was pretty stupid, though - I cast Command on the Shade to get him out of the way of the combats, but that left him on the table! I should have just let him fail his Courage 1 test and run away.

This was an enjoyable game, but Robert did play into my hands by charging the center. I expected the wargs to split off to the left, and Ecthelion handled them masterfully. By running into the teeth of my archery, Robert lost the game. With Burduhr down and his numbers thinned by archery and hanging his own archers back I was able to corral him into the center, turn his flanks, and devour him. I would have kept most of the troops to the flanks, particularly Burduhr, who could have gotten around a lot of the rock piles without any problem. This would have reduced the impact of my archery, and possibly allowed him to hit one of my own flanks, reducing my number advantage. But Robert was very easy to get along with and does have a good grasp of the game, so I enjoyed the experience.

Result: Major Victory plus bonus (23 points)

Round 2
Opponent: Anthony Pigati – Legion of the White Hand
Table: Amon Hen
Scenario: Light the Beacons!

This was another kill ‘em scenario which had bonus point for lighting the beacons in a diagonal line down the middle of the table. The catch – if you get a 1-2 while trying to light a beacon, you light yourself on fire!

Anthony was playing a very rough Uruk-Hai list - two captains, five berzerkers, twelve crossbowmen, and the rest in swordmen and pikemen. He outnumbered me by two. I knew in order to get him, I’d have to isolate part of his force and destroy it to even the odds.

I tried to do just that by starting off rushing towards the beacons. Anthony followed my lead by splitting his crossbowmen to go for the corners and sending his mass into the center. He won priority the second turn and did the same. However, now I sent everything I had towards my left. He ended up splitting his force again to send some troops around the Seeing Seat, and I pounced. I put Ecthelion and a few more troops on my right to delay reinforcements and then tried the ole’ “Come hither” with Gandalf – I throw a 2 die Command on the Uruk Captain on Anthony’s right, and get a 6. Oh, he is so dead… What do you mean he rolled a 6 with his one point of Will?!? Crap. I shoot at him, and manage to get a little bit, but nothing that will turn the tide.

The second turn I commit. Gandalf is still failing me, getting only 1” off of a Sorcerous Blast that should have knocked over some 5 models, and then I commit. My troops pour into him, lining up to get 4-on-2s and trapping. I’m turning his flanks – this will only be a matter of time. I kill on berzerker off with a lucky roll against a lone ranger, and then the Uruks go on a killing spree, taking something like a quarter of my force off the table. It’s a devastating blow, and the next round isn’t much better. Now I’m really in touble, and for all of my efforts, I just can’t get anything to happen. I finally manage to isolate the Uruk captain on my left, but with only Gandalf and three other models against him, I’m not able to finish him off – I just don’t have enough models. A few turns after the butchery, I fall below a quarter and the game is over.

This one was really frustrating. I did everything right, Anthony screwed up big time, I capitalized on it, and a tear of 6s not only saved his bacon but turned the tide in his favor. Anthony admitted that he was sweating bullets when he saw what I’d done, and that his dice alone saved him.

Result: Major Loss plus bonus (6.5 points)

Round 3
Opponent: David Bishop – The Serpent Horde
Table: Spring Thaw
Scenario: Look to the East

This was a straightforward kill ‘em scenario with a catch – half of your army starts on the board, and the rest comes on in a random turn from the “east”, your right hand table edge. David’s Harad was a good horde list – a cavalry contingent of raiders and Serpent Guard led by Suladan, several archers with another captain, and some 30 regular warriors with spears. He outnumbered me by almost 50%.

I put Gandalf and all of my rangers on first with a few warriors to back them up, setting them up towards my right behind a hill. The rest of the warriors and Ecthelion are put into reserve. David puts his archers and a chieftain on his left, while putting his cavalry with Suladan near the center behind a hill. His spearmen are all in reserve.

David starts off by riding his cavalry right into the middle of the table. My rangers come out 3” and let fly. I manage to cut down four of his cavalry in a single round. My reserves come on turn two, and I decide to bring them in to support my rangers. David’s reserves also come in, heading along my rear table edge towards the rangers. I position a few troops up on a hill to slow down the spearmen while focusing on the cavalry. Gandalf tries to Immobilize Suladan, but he manages to shake it off with Will. I’ll give this to Suladan – he doesn’t go down easy. Ecthelion and some buddies were desperately trying to take him down and while I knocked a wound off, I couldn’t do better. The next round I did manage to Immobilize Suladan, but could still only put another wound on him. I’m doing better with David’s cavalry, catching them without a charge, trapping them, and killing them. I finally manage to take Suladan out, and he is the last of the mounted models to fall.

In the mean time, I’m throwing blocking detachments out against the archers and the spearmen. David decides to split his spearmen in two, and I see a chance to eat another bite-sized chunk of Haradrim. I go after the part of his spearmen that are going left around the hill, filling them full of arrows with my rangers, then sending Ecthelion and several warriors over to help out from the cavalry fight. I manage to turn his flank and his warriors drop like wheat to the scythe. I’m also tearing apart his archers with Gandalf’s Sorcerous Blast and warriors while holding off the second contingent of spearmen with shielding warriors.

David’s force finally breaks, and this is the last straw. With no hero to hold them, half of his spearmen flee, and a few more kills reduces him to a quarter. We talked about this afterwards, and a few things were clear; 1) David made a big mistake by feeding his cavalry to my entire force. Between the archery and getting picked on by Ecthelion, Gandalf, and all of my warriors his cav didn’t stand a chance. He would have been much better served keeping them behind the hill until I closed with his archers. 2) He probably should have deployed his archers on his right as well to make reinforcing them with his spearmen easier. As it was they had to run across the entire table before getting to the fight, which by that point was almost over. 3) Gandalf is a very, very bad man who needs to keep his hands to himself. 4) My dice karma, which had been swinging in my opponent’s favor against Anthony, was back in my favor this time, particularly with the round of shooting that saw four of his cav killed. David was a heck of a lot of fun to play, kept a good attitude the whole time, and made sure the entire store knew that Gandalf was a dirty old man.

Result: Major Win (20 points)

Round 4
Opponent: Brent Sinclar – Harad
Table: The Shire (home field advantage, Brent!)
Scenario: The Artifact

This is the oh-so-abused scenario Seize the Prize with one itty, bitty alteration: you have to take the artifact off the enemy’s table edge. Let me tell you, this changes the entire game. Brent had a mean, mean list, with lots of Haradrim including cav, supported by a contingent of Mahud from Far Harad, including two Camel Riders and two Half-Trolls. I knew his mobility could create serious problems for me, but I was counting on my archery and Gandalf to negate that little advantage.

I planned on getting the artifact and running up the right flank, so I sent a large continent of warriors over the hobbit hole on my right to prepare the way while keeping my rangers in the right-center with a clear lane of fire and Gandalf to shield them with Blinding Light, and Ecthelion with all of my Fountain Court Guards behind the trees in the center. Brent had a typical cavalry/infantry deployment for Seize the Prize with four raiders in the center surrounded my his troops. His young Suladan with cavalry support, including his Camel Riders, were over in his left corner behind another hobbit hole.

Things started pretty typically – I moved everyone forward, starting up Blinding Light, and then moving the rangers 3” to shoot, while Brent rushed his cavalry toward the objective chased by his infantry. The rangers loosed their arrows, and I was disappointed with getting less than 50% hits. I rolled for wounds (we’d randomize hits if they wounded the D4 models), and scored 4!!! Two raiders were slain and the other two were unhorsed, including one which failed his thrown rider check and face planted. Sweet!

Unfortunately, they were still pretty close to the objective. We both continued to close, and my second round of shooting couldn’t hit the two forward deployed infantry. At this time, Gandalf tried to get Terrifying Aura going, but I rolled a 1. I finally decided to burn the might – I thought I’d need that Aura up and I wouldn’t get another turn where there wasn’t something more pressing to cast.

The next turn Brent won priority and had both models in contact with the objective. While he was finishing his move, I was doing my best to keep a poker face – I saw a golden opportunity. Once he finished, Gandalf threw a three die Command to bring one of the Haradrim out of the forest and towards me. Ecthelion and three Fountain Court jumped him, supported by more Fountain Court. I could almost see Brent blanche when he realized what I was going to do.

But when it got to his turn, Brent did not despair! No, he thought of a way to deal with this problem – volley fire and choose to hit his own guy! He launched his 12 arrows and… only one hit! Which I promptly allocated to an unengaged Fountain Court Guard against whose armor the bolt bounced off harmlessly. One Heroic Combat later, Ecthelion and his buddies were very up close and personal with the lone Harad warrior, who was duly dispatched, and Ecthelion dug up the prize.

Brent then threw his army at Ecthelion. We wasn’t able to get too many guys into combat with Ecthelion, but a Mahud supported by a spear made it. I really, REALLY wanted to get the heir to the Steward out of there, so I did another Command on the spear supporting model, which created a channel through which I could squeeze in a Fountain Court to help out Ecthelion. I blew his last point of Might in another Heroic Combat, which killed the Mahud and allowed me to run him through the channel. Controversial call here – Brent decided against challenging the Heroic Combat with his Mahud Chieftain, which would have resulted in the closure of the channel if it had worked. He felt it was more important to use that Might for later Heroic Moves.

The next turn Brent wins priority, but I call a Heroic Move with Gandalf. I think Brent challenged this one, but I managed to go first and get Ecthelion over to the warriors who had just crossed the hobbit hole and hand the objective off. I then throw Gandalf and the rest of the troops over there into combat to hold Brent’s group in place. Brent starts shifting his archers left to cover the area in the corner. While both forces are getting ground down in the center, the mass of warriors, including the one carrying the artifact, dash for the corner with Ecthelion in hot pursuit. Brent gets there first and goes into a prevent formation, intent on stopping me from carrying the piece off. First turn I succeed a little in breaking through, but not enough.

At the end of this turn, my force is broken. The Mahud and Half-Trolls in the center of the table have been busy killing my troops off and now I need to make courage checks. I get incredibly lucky and Ecthelion’s Stand Fast! keeps most of the Warriors of Minas Tirith in place. I take a careful, careful look, and see that there is a corridor and a courier for the artifact if I can remove some vital control zones. I manage to put just enough of my soldiers in to allow the carrier to run up, hand off the artifact, and for the recipient to thread the needle and carry the artifact off Brent’s table edge. Holy moly, I managed to do it! I didn’t get the major, because I was broken, but I’d take it.

This was about the best, most enjoyable game I’ve every played. It was challenging, thoughtful, funny, and very friendly. Brent is a fantastic player and painter, so our struggle looked really good on the table as well as looking really, really hard to deal with.

We talked about it a lot afterwards, and we agreed that I got lucky knocking down all of those riders in the first turn and that there wasn’t too much Brent could have done about the Command to facilitate the Heroic Combat. On the other hand, Brent’s decision to not challenge my second Heroic Combat cost him, since it meant he had to chase the artifact. He probably also should have brought Young Suladan over to the rear corner with the rest of the prevent defense to call Heroic Moves when he loses priority, which happened all three of the last turns.

Again, this was an incredible game and I’m really looking forward to playing Brent again.

Result: Minor Win (15 points)

I’ll update the last report as well as formatting and pictures tomorrow. Probably.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Packing up for the Gathering

Here it is, Mithrandir's Errand!

I still have some details to get done (skin and eyes for Ecthelion and the Fountain Court, other bits) plus a good deal of highlighting on cloth, but this is a playable army now. I'm going to pack these guys up now and get my stuff ready to go so I can leave directly from work. I will take the opportunity to show off my models to my students, so maybe I'll get a little painting done at my desk this morning...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Main parts of Fountain Court done

I wasn't able to get pics taken yet, but I've gotten all of the basecoating done for the Guards, and now just need to get detail and highlights. They're looking pretty sharp, though I probably could have done a better job with more time. I'll get Ecthelion and a couple of Dunedain with spears primed this morning to see if I can get them knocked out tonight.

I hate painting white...

OK, I just spent a little over an hour to get the white onto these five models. Figure about 22 minutes a model to paint the feathers and the tabards from black to brown to bone to white.

Ugh, what a pain in the rear. There just isn't a lot of options - a white undercoat wouldn't have worked, and from my experience it is harder to get a really good shadowing on white base coated models. It's great for set pieces, but for speed, I prefer black priming.

Of course, then you still have to deal with white.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ecthelion Conversion Done

OK, Ecthelion is done apart from the shield, which I'll put on later. OK, minor conversion, but most LOTR conversions are simple anyway.

I green stuffed the gap in the neck and created longer hair to cover the shelf in the back of the model. All in all, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

"Bro, that ain't cool."

Heh heh heh... Well, now it's time to sand that guy's base and maybe get a little more painting done on the Fountain Court guards.

Bro, I'm gonna rip your head off

OK, it's time to do Ecthelion. I've decided to use the following models of the brothers Boromir and Faramir. This is particularly appropriate since Ecthelion is their grandfather.

I really like the Boromir model, but between not having a shield and the misaligned mold it just didn't justify building. On the other hand, I HATE the Faramir model, since it is about as non-dynamic as it gets. He does have a nice helmet on, though. So I decided to chop off their heads and put Faramir's helmet onto Boromir's body. Here is the implement of decapitation!

Boromir was pretty straight forward, particularly since the model doesn't have much of a neck. I just chopped across the top of the shoulders. With Faramir I went in a V to preserve something of the neck, then wiggled the head loose.

Next I checked the fit of the two pieces and filed them down to they fit, and just glued them together. I did have to trim the hair a little bit to make it look somewhat natural, though I'll still need to use Green Stuff to make it look better.

I'll be readying a Minas Tirith shield that I'll probably slap on after I've painted the model. Well, I'm going to let the glue set and get some dinner.

First Fountain Court done to minimum standard

OK, so my test model for the Guards of the Fountain Court is done. I am pretty happy with it, but I'm going to have to determine how to do it more quickly than the hour and a half or so that it took me to do. Assembly lining it should help, but some parts are just going to take a while.

So I started off with a coat of Khemri Brown, a tan Foundation Paint, covering the areas that will be white. Nexxt I put down some Bleached Bone - I had to put a couple coats down on the flatter areas - keeping light colors smooth is a huge pain. I tried to keep the darker Khemri showing in the low areas.

Following that, I put down Skull White, again in some cases having to put down a second, more watery coat of paint to smooth things out. The feathers on the helmet did take a significant amount of time here.

I then put down Dwarf Bronze on areas that would be metallic gold, including on the edges of the shoulder plates. I then put down Shining Gold. The Bronze is a key element to put on first, because without it the Gold looks thin and streaky. I'm going to have to pare this back - the armor edges were a huge pain in the rear to get right, so I'll probably just stick to the helmet and the tabard. I also had to put some Ogryn Flesh wash on the decoration on the helmet then flat highlight with Shining Gold, since the texture wasn't very deep and the paint was thick. Next time I'll just put down the wash over the Bronze. I also put black paint into the areas along the gold to separate it from the white cloth.

Next came putting black on the shield, including taking the time to put some black between the branches on the shield. This does make the shield look nicer, but I'll only do that on all the models if I'm flush on time. Not bloody likely at this point. I also put a black wash over the chest armor, which brought the tree out nicely - it kind of looks like a Spiderman symbol while painting it...

Finally, I highlighted the black cloth with a mix of black and Shadow Grey. This was the hardest decision for me, since I really wanted to black to look black, but in the end I thought tying the highlights into the rest of the force would work. I then painted the skin inside the helmet with Tanned Flesh, painted the eyes white, dotted the pupils with black, and highlighted the flesh with Dwarf Flesh.

At some point, I want to improve the highlights on the cloak, highlight the metallics, and put a design into the gold trim. Oh, I need to paint the spear shaft brown as well, but that's a must do. I'll probably do that later tonight or tomorrow. I think next up will be converting Ecthelion.

I'm way behind...

Well, the great push I planned over the weekend ended up being a flop. I did get the following done:

So I've got all of my basic troops done to a minimal level and my Fountain Court are getting started, but I still need to convert Ecthelion, and I'd really like to get three more rangers converted with spears. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm contemplating calling in sick Friday... OK, I almost certainly won't do that, but I can see forgoing my sacred sleep to get some more done.