Friday, 30 March 2012

Favourite Unit of Mine - No.11

READER HEALTH WARNING!!! - Although I did paint some of the ickle models that you will see in this post I cannot take any credit for the big ones!!

I have been a Tolkien fanboy for a long, long time and I was so pleased with the way the Peter Jackson films turned out, although it's quite scary to think it's now more than 10 years since "The Fellowship of the Ring" was released.

I have also been a fan of the range of models that Games Workshop have released over the years and their rule sets - "The Lord of the Rings - The Strategy Battle Game" ("SBG") and "The War of the Ring" ("WotR").

In the film, "The Return of the King" there is that fantastic moment when during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the Haradrim forces of Sauron, arrive on the battlefield and launch themselves into the attack against Theoden's Rohirrim.

The Trolls are mean, the Nazgul are scary, the Balrog makes you want to run for your life but for my money they all get eclipsed by

The Mighty Mumak!

For quite sometime, the Mumak was the biggest plastic kit that GW produced. I'm not sure if that still applies given the recent big monster releases they have been putting out for Warhammer but still the Mumak is one cracking model.

As you would expect, in both rules sets the Mumak is an incredibly tough beastie. In SBG, he starts off with a basic cost of 275 points but if you kit the Mumak with all his optional extras he weighs in at a massive 445 points. As most SBG games use a force total of about 750 points you can't afford too many Mumakil in your army.

He causes terror (not surprisingly) to all it's enemies, is immune to most types of control spells, can trample it's foes into a pulp and pretty well ignores morale tests. Okay, it has the downside of possibly causing a stampede if it suffers a wound and trample through everything and everyone in it's path if it does goes wild but the Servants of Sauron are plentiful so hey ho The Lidless Eye can afford to lose a few hundred or so every time.

In the original, but now out of print source book - "The Return of the King" for SBG, there is a scenario called "The Charge of the Mumakil". Fortunately GW had the sense to include the scenario in the recently released "The Fallen Realms" source book. That scenario, however, calls for the Evil player to have 2 Mumakil. So.....

Double Trouble.

DaveT of the "Wee Men Under the Bed" blog and I played this scenario at Kirriemuir Wargames Club many, many moons ago, using the old sourcebook.

I didn't tell Dave in advance which scenario was playing, only that he had a shed load of Rohirrim Cavalry to deploy at the start of the scenario to which I deployed in response a thin line of Mordor Orcs. I told him, that I was entitled to have reinforcements turn up if I still had models in play after 3 turns, so like the true impetuous warrior he is Dave rushed the Rohan nags across the table killing the feeble Orcs, but not enough in time  to prevent the reinforcements arriving. 

Dave's face was a picture when I produced not one, but two of the beasties and proceeded to trample the horse warriors into oblivion. Final score Mumakil 42 - Rohan 0.

In WotR, the Mumak weighs in at 250 points and when it suffers a wound it uses the aptly named "Ridiculously Hard to Kill" Table. Again, it has the fun ability of trampling everything in it's way and some but also if it can't quite reach a body of troops with it's trample move, it will use it's "Stamp and Gore" attack.

And of course all the while the Mumak is doing it's thing, the ickle crew in the Howdah strapped to the beastie's back can fire away at the enemy below too.

WotR is designed to played with hordes of figures, it's the Lord of the Rings version of 40k's "Apocalypse". The Battle of Pelennor Fields scenario in the WotR rulebook is massive, the Evil Player having the option of fielding up to 10,000 points of models. One of the pictures in the rulebook of the scenario in play has 9! Mumakil on the table. 9 is pretty excessive even for the most committed Lord of the Rings fanboy, I can only manage

A third of the way there

One day, he shall arise from his box and crush all before him!

My mate, Alan, has also just bought himself a Mumak off EBay and I know of at least 1 other Kirriemuir club member who has another completed model So if there is anybody out there in the Angus and Dundee area of Scotland that has a few Mumakil to spare and fancies playing a Pelennor Fields re fight then let me know!!!

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Feast For Crows

So far I have been playing Saga, by Gripping Beast, as a 2 player game with my mate Alan. However, the rulebook does provide a scenario for a 3 or 4 player encounter - "A Feast For Crows". So as Alan's son, Josef (he of Blood Bowl fame - see my post "As long as I don't roll a 1" ) was keen to have a go (he had played a few practise games with his dad) and as Ruarok said he was up for a game, we decided, a week past Friday, that we would give the scenario a go.

Already, those of you who know gaming progress, will have figured out that the fact it has taken me this long to post the After Action Report, that the following does not make happy reading.........

Most people would probably have had a read through the scenario requirements before setting up the table. I don't fall into the category "Most people" as I had set up my 8ft x4ft board and started to plonk terrain down before Alan pointed out that the scenario was supposed to be played on a 4ft x 4ft board. We decided we would just go with the big board, more room for tactical manoeuvring and, as I was playing with the Welsh warband again, I was the only one who had cavalry - the bigger board was just what I needed - Aye right.

So  the objective of the scenario was to kill as many of the opposing warbands' troops as you could, scoring victory points for each casualty you inflict so, for example, a Warlord would be worth 3 points, whereas 3 levy figures would be only worth 1 point. The warband with the most victory points at the end of 7 turns would be declared "Supreme Warlord of the Toughest Saga Warband in Arbroath" and would have bragging rights for 10 minutes at the end of the game.

As we were playing on a much longer table than the scenario envisaged we decided to place an objective in the centre of the table which would be worth 5 victory points for whichever warband held it at the end of the game.

The mystical totem which, it is claimed, would bestow on whoever claimed it much honour and glory on the battlefield.

Well as I was the only one with cavalry that was bound to be me, wasn't it?

We also decided that we would extend the game length to 9 turns just to give those on foot a remote chance of reaching the objective.

As I've said, I was playing the brave Taffs, the Welsh, Alan once more brought his pastry eating Anglo-Danish cross breeds and Ruarok and Josef each had Vikings. We were playing with 4 point warbands so in addition to the Warlord I had 2 units of mounted Teulu, 1 unit of Priodaur (warriors) and 1 unit of Bonnedig (levy).

So we each took a corner of the board and set up our warbands. There was no die rolling to see who took what corner, it was more a case that we just set up in the corner we just happened to be standing nearest. Such an unscientific method of determining set up clearly put me at a disadvantage.

The brave Boyos, with their agile mounted troops, faced by a wood, an area of rough ground and a steep hill and an area of flat ground about 4 inches wide through which to pass to the objective beyond.

Looking down the board from the opposite corner, the unwashed and ungodly heathens of Josef's Viking warband. The Taffs can be seen away in the distance - oh look, there is another wood at the bottom of the aforementioned steep hill.

A closer look at the steep hill and the second wood. Ploughed field and hedges just adding to the misery.

I quickly realised that I had got myself quite literally boxed in a corner. At my end of the table in the other corner were Alan's pastry munchers and Ruarok's Vikings were in the corner opposite from Josef. Hopefully, the Viking warbands would engage in a bit of Viking Civil War thus leaving me to deal a blow for freedom and valour against Harold Two-Bellies (yes he was back) and his pastries.

At the start of each turn, we would each roll a die for initiative and the highest roller would get the first move for that turn and then play would move round the table to the left. Unfortunately, Alan won the first initiative roll and started rumbling his troops forward to the same gap that I would need to pass through.

In Saga, terrain is classed as either open (no effect on movement), uneven ground ( all movement is reduced to slow "S", that is 4 inches) and impassable. We had no impassable terrain but all the uneven ground would make my mounted Teulu no better than foot sloggers. The Welsh do have a special ability on their Battle Board called "Children of the Land" which means that they can ignore the penalties for travelling through uneven ground, but it only applies to foot troops, so the mounted Teulu get no benefit from the ability. Still it helped my foot guys, so on my turn, I sent the Prioduar off towards the steep hill and ploughed field, the Bonnedig to the wood and rough ground on my right and the Teulu started to make their way towards "The Gap".

Actually, I only sent one unit of Teulu

Alan had double marched one of his Hearthguard units into "The Gap" so using the resulting fatigue marker to my advantage the Teulu charged home and killed 2 of the pastries for the loss of only 1 brave Taff.

The Bonnedig, with the help of their Warlord's "We Obey" ability approach the wood and rough ground area.

"Look Out Lads! Here comes Two-Bellies!!"

Already my dice rolling was starting to hamper me. In the first two turns I rolled 1 "Dragon" on my Saga dice. Two-Bellies then led his warriors into combat with my levy and as my warlord, Daffy Dil, was with the levy, Two-Bellies, sought him out and through some underhand trickery and the fact that I could not use a Levy to take a wound through the Warlord's "Resilience" ability (only Hearthguard and Warriors can be called on for that purpose to take one for the team), slew the hapless Daffy.

Two-Bellies gloating was short lived, however, as the Bonnedig, overcome with grief at the loss of brave Daffy, turned their grief to anger and returned to the melee and avenged their fallen leader by slaying his nemesis

The earth shook as Two-Bellies fell to the ground.

Of course, the fact that I omitted to take a picture of the fallen Welsh Warlord while the demise of Two-Bellies is published here for all to witness was purely an oversight on my part.

On the other side of the table, the Viking warbands of Josef and Ruarok stumbled forward.

Josef's unwashed horde passing gingerly between the two hills

Ruarok's Vikings, cast into shadow by the flock of carrion crows flying overhead, that follow their every movement

Back at the real battle, I withdrew my depleted Teulu unit and brought up the fresh one, ready to sweep all before them

I have to say this for Alan. He's never slow at coming forward. Despite facing the prospect of having his Hearthguard ridden down by the rampaging Teulu, he threw his warriors into the Bonnedig and the Hearthguard came to get the Teulu.

The Hearthguard with their rather unsporting two-handed axes earned themselves a complaint to the Welsh Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by chopping off the legs of 2 of the Teulu mounts, although the complaint could not be proceeded with as the Hearthguard were then trodden into the soil by the hooves of the remaining beasts. The Warriors, however, dispatched the Bonnedig and then using another activation then charged into the 2 Teulu nearest the rough ground. One thing that I keep forgetting to do is to use fatigue to slow down an opponent. We tend to use fatigue only during combat but a fatigue token can be spent to reduce an enemy unit's movement down by one category. If I had remembered this then the warriors would have fallen short of the Teulu. As it was another brave Taff went down.
"Jonesy? Evans? Williams, J.P? Where did you go boyos? Oh heck!"

In the meantime, my warriors had at least got through the ploughed field and were nearing the Sacred Stone. On their flank, though was a bunch of sneaky Anglo-Danish Levy carrying some very, unsporting bows - I mean, what self respecting warrior would carry a weapon that can slay an opponent from twice the range as a noble javelin armed Welshman?

The bows twanged and again an abysmal set of armour saves (actually that's a breach of the Property Misdiscriptions Act as the damned Welsh armour didn't save anybody that night) saw 3 warriors fall. Faced with the choice of staying put and getting shot to bits, or going toe-toe with the pastries, the Taffs roared their famous battle cry "By the Power of Max Boyce's Sacred Jockstrap!" and charged and duly bounced off the Levy
Yes I know the Pastries are carrying Javelins but Alan didn't have enough bow armed figures for everybody so we agreed for the purposes of this game that his javelin armed peasants were actually carrying bows - No "WYSIWYG" in this game!

In a scene straight out of the climatic finale of "300", the Levy instead of charging back into the warriors cowardly stood back and fired their weapons. Their arrows blotted out the sun and the Taffs died under the hailstorm.

No more Taffs

On the other side of the table, the 2 Viking warbands were at long last getting to battle with each other. The respective warbands' Berserkers managed the impressive feat of mutually assured destruction by slaying each other to a man. Ruarok's Warlord then closed in on Josef's Warlord and his dog.

Ruarok was triumphant in that clash of Warlords, but in an uncannily similar fashion to what happened to Two-Bellies, Ruarok's Warlord then fell foul of Josef's Viking levy

I was now down to a total of 2 units, 4 figures in total and only 2 Saga dice to roll each turn.

I had forgotten what the Dragon symbol on the Welsh Saga dice looked like it was so long since I rolled one.

Alan's warriors came out of their skulking place in the forest and charged my lone Teulu.
With a predictable result.

Alan's Hearthguard then charged my remaining Teulu unit. Both scored 2 casualties. Unfortunately, that left me with  just 1 figure.

The lone Welshman charged

He (meaning me) rolled his combat dice

Honestly, I'm not making this up, that's what he rolled.

Alan's Hearthguard swung back in anger
Dead Taff

By now, Josef's warband had managed to reach the Sacred Stone

A furious melee with Alan's Levy then ensued

The Levy were then recoiled

Alan, then performed his "I'll shoot you and you can't hit back tactic". With 3 dice available to him he scored - 3 hits

The Levy then charged in finished off Josef's last warrior (no fatherly love being shown in this game!)

Ruarok, had 1 warrior unit in range of the Sacred Stone but Alan played his "Intimidation" ability and cancelled that unit's activation meaning Ruarok could not reach the stone to contest it before the end of the game.

The Welsh Warband now forming part of Alan's victory point pile.

So the game ended. Alan was a runaway winner, with Josef in second place, followed by Ruarok and me in a distant fourth place. "Fourth" sounds so much better than "last" don't you think?

Ruarok enjoyed his first game of Saga and is keen to play again. Josef showed that he had learnt plenty from his practise games to show that he knew how to handle a warband and Alan enjoyed his 10 minutes of bragging rights.

Me? I'm playing Malifaux on Monday. Now that's a game that doesn't use DICE!!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Plastic Soldier Company Ltd 1/72nd scale M4A1 Sherman

So the latest 1/72nd scale release from The Plastic Soldier Company Ltd arrived at Kingsleypark Manor today - the M4A1 Sherman.

As it states on the front of the box there are enough parts to build 3 models. On the back of the box you get a couple of pictures and a helpful painting colour guide

Unfortunately, the blurb on the back of the box is mis-leading. It states

For those of you optically challenged left click to enlarge the photograph.

It states that there are parts to build the 75mm or 76mm gun variant and also has US and British Commanders. Unfortunately this is incorrect. The sprue only contains parts for the 75mm version and only 1 Commander figure is included, a British Commander. I suspect the blurb has been lifted directly from the text used for the 15mm version of the kit. And of course, the picture of the 76mm version on the box isn't relevant for what is in the box.

Inside the box are 3 of these -

And 1 of these -

As with the rear of the box, the instruction sheet is slightly misleading as it shows firstly, the turret having the narrow 75mm mantlet. No such piece appears on the sprue, it is in fact the wide mantlet variant that is supplied. Secondly, the cast iron arches at the front of the picture (anyone know what the technical term is for these?) do not appear on the sprue.

Building the kit is for the most part pretty painless. The only part that requires a wee bit of care is the track assembly.

You have to make sure that the two parts of the track have the links of the track going in the same direction. They are moulded in such a way that some of the teeth on the track are missing so they go to the back of the track when fitting it together. And the sprocket wheel has a moulded plug that if put in the correct way the teeth of the sprocket are visible as opposed to being hidden by the track.

Finished track assembly for the left hand side of the model.

A couple of dollops of glue and the bottom of the hull and tracks are complete

The upper hull and the front of the tank are added next

As mentioned above the turret provided is the 75mm version with wide mantlet.

As can be seen, I've built the turret with the commander in place. It has to be said that if you want to omit the Commander and have the hatch doors closed they are going to have to be trimmed to fit the ring of the hatch. Certainly from the dry run I had they did not fit flush, so using the Commander is the eastiest option and in any event no self resepcting British Tank Commander would skulk inside his tank just because Jerry was about!

There is a .50cal Browning machine gun and mount that can be fitted to the turret but I have left this off, so it will mean a wee bit of filler will be required to fill in the hole provided for the machine gun mount. There are also optional side skirts provided. Hull mounted machine gun was added and viola, a finished model -

Not counting the time it took to cut the parts of the sprue, I'd say it took about 10 minutes to put together.  There are a couple of extra bits that can be stuck on as spare parts for the tank, for example, there is a some track, a bogie wheel and a jerry can. There are also these -

Any clues as to what they might be?
I thought initially they might be smoke dispensers but they look they wrong shape.

And then there is this piece -

Again, not sure what it is and where it is supposed to go.
Any suggestions as to where I should stick it? (Polite answers only please)

Here is a size comparison with an Armourfast Sherman and an Airfix Sherman -

The Armourfast kit is on the left. The smaller 1/76th scale Airfix model on the right.

Price of the kit direct from The Plastic Soldier Company is £12.95 plus postage of £1.30. Ignoring the postage cost that works out at £4.32 per model. The Armourfast kits retail at £7.99 for 2 models from Wonderland Models who are based in Edinburgh (they charge £3 for postage) so just under £4 per model.  According to the Hannants online store there are numerous different manufacturers of plastic Sherman kits at many different price ranges but none working out as cheap as either the Armourfast or Plastic Soldier version. A resin kit from Under the Bed Enterprises costs £4.95.

Althought the Armourfast model works out slightly cheaper than the Plastic Soldier version and despite the misleading blurb on the box, instruction sheet  and the mystery sprue items I do prefer the Plastic Soldier version. I thought the kit was detailed enough yet simple to put together.

According to the latest news release from The Plastic Soldier Company Ltd there are more 1/72nd scale goodies to come from them over the next months so it is encouraging to see that they are continuing to expand the range, so if 1/72nd scale/ 20mm WW2 is your thing then you should certainly consider checking them out.

I'll get the model painted up over the next few days and post some pictures up in due course.