The Nameless Von

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I owe Planescape Torment an apology. Whatever was going through my head the day I rejected it out of hand was a BadWrongThought of the lowest order. While there is a certain amount of grey/brown everything-is-shit going on so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed tooling around the Hive punching thugs in the face and looking for minor deeds to do while I make some sense out of it all.

I have deliberately chosen to avoid the Wiki and the strategy guide this time out. My obsessive double-checking in ref. Baldur’s Gate has, together with my familiarity with the game’s plot after (so many) aborted runs, robbed the exercise of much enjoyment, so I’m going in blind. I’m only using references when I flat out can’t find things (because the pathways to them are well hidden behind the game’s fixed perspective) or have totally forgotten where a quest-giver was (only happened once).

In the absence of any clue what’s going on, my Nameless One is a genteel but hard-headed bruiser (CON18, WIS16 with levelling bonuses, CHA14, everything else at 10), living up to his True Neutral alignment thus far and with a drive to establish what the fuck is going on, with the minimum of fuss and nonsense, and then die quietly. He also seems to be pulling a bit of a Night Haunter, insofar as he is trailing dead street thugs across the Hive and is quick to react to clear injustice, even if he drinks baatezu whiskey on his downtime.

Sigil seems pretty compelling so far, more out-and-out Fantastic than the faux-medievalisms I’m used to. The soundtrack is excellent and the variety of strange beasts and other sentients on the streets feels closer to Star Wars than the D&D norm. I also like the collection of characters and sketches present within the GOG.com download, and will probably find a way to use them for something. I begin to see the appeal in this Sword and Planet stuff. I am however slightly perplexed at the priorities of the locals: there are a dozen harlots on any street but a man cannot purchase a shirt, let alone armour, anywhere. Shambling around in a skully codpiece with a +1 battleaxe may be the stuff of barbarian heroism but I like to think I’m a bit more civilised than that. Perhaps trousers will be forthcoming later in the affair. For now, I intend to sort out this weird display bug where an uncentred camera pursues the void in the top left of the screen and a centred one doesn’t always move the view around with my characters. It’s making the adventure quite awkward.

I shall doubtless return to this post for liveblogging purposes as the adventure continues. Stay tuned.

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Direct from Limbo-Land

Well, that’s put the cat among the pigeons and no mistake – Privateer Press have announced third editions of Warmachine and Hordes. Apparently:

  • the points system is being un-gimped. Over the years it’s gone from being too granular to not granular enough, in my mind, so hopefully 100 points as standard game size will allow some breathing room and appropriate pricing of things which are just like that thing except they have a gun that’s slightly better than this other gun on the same chassis.
  • theme forces are being reined in, by some means or another. A tricky one: some people have bought two or three of a given piece purely because of a theme force and pissing on their chips after the fact of purchase is a dick move, but some of those theme forces are out of control and make a joke of the balance which should be ensured by Field Allowance and the internal disadvantages of some pieces.
  • pre-measuring is now a thing, a proper thing rather than a series of “well, I can measure my control area at any time, and I know that scenario zone is this big and that far from the edges and blah blah blah” calculations. I am all in favour. I liked the “measure your control zone at any time” mechanic – that was fun and thematically appropriate for warcasters and warlocks with varying degrees of arcane perception – but I like flow and reduction of cognitive load more. Once we know that something is out of range we are able to make tactical decisions in a suitably pacy and forward-looking manner instead of hanging around either doing sums in our heads or umming and ahhing because we’re no good at sums. The modern wargame rejects such hesitance and stickiness and the Privateer lads are doing well to move with the times.

Fold in the last five years of errata documents, address some of the issues around legacy pieces (*coughGreylordTernioncough*) and put some decent scenarios in the core book at last (it’s 2016, we need to accept that Mangled Metal/Tooth and Claw does not belong on a random scenario chart and that Steamroller, for all its faults, has the right idea about objective markers and deployment zones), and I’ll be happy. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to see all the regular forum topics have been considered and addressed.

It does mean the three posts I’ve been sitting on for months (waiting for some painted models with which to illustrate them) are a bit pointless now, though. Bit daft giving advice on pieces and list building when rules for pieces might be changing and list building certainly is. I shall doubtless play the odd game under Mark II rules while they’re still valid, but acquisitions and content creation are on hold until I’ve seen the colour of the new black, as it were.

In the meantime, I shall finally be completing some of those single player computer games I’ve bought over the years. It’s insulting that I have never finished the original Baldur’s Gate or touched its sequel beyond a desultory clickabout. I bought Undertale, hearing that it was both new and hot, and have yet to touch it. I have also, at the indirect behest of my friend and comrade the Prince of Nothing, acquired Planescape Torment in the cause of giving it another go and seeing if my brain (addled and poxed by the sculpted, guided MMO experience) can handle emergent gameplay where investigation and initiative are the order of the day. I doubt it, but then I’m the sort of thickie who thinks Warmachine benefits from pre-measuring.

On that note, I’ve just finished Dawn of War II, though I have yet to assault it on any serious difficulty setting (I know myself: I am here to see the content and will ramp up the challenge if I want to rather than as a matter of course). For what it’s worth: original campaign = enjoyable but overlong and burdened with boring defence missions; Chaos Rising = solid, replayable, morality system with more than two endings and noticeable impact on gameplay; Retribution = actually a bit disappointing, faceroll on Normal difficulty and let down by a generic has-to-work-with-seven-different-factions core plot.

Blame this and the works of Aaron Dembski-Bowden for a brief resurgent interest in the Grim Darkness of the Forty-First Millennium. It hasn’t made me want to advance the cause of my Oldhammer Orks at all, but to be honest the thrill was in the chase rather than the capture there. Once I had them they were more miniatures demanding paint and paint is the most obligatory and tedious part of the process for me. The problem I have is that Chaos projects snowball into grand undertakings and Ork projects, while controllable, involve so many models that they are a grand undertaking in terms of labour and costs. Between that and the mounting cost of osteopathy (my crooked leg requires fortnightly straightenings at present, although new drugs have the arthritis in remission, praise Nurgle and hide the silverware) I might have to let the lead pile go.

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[WM/H] Lyoss Is Burning

Had a cracking game of Warmachine vs. Hordes last night.

Player: Kapt. Von
Faction: The Master Race Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Lord Arbiter Hexeris (*6pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Titan Sentry (9pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker (2pts)

Player: The Laird Holmes
Faction: Elf Qaeda Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Adeptis Rahn Shyeel (*6pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Stormfall Archers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (5pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
House Shyeel Magister (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

Scenario: Mosh Pit
Nice symmetrical terrain layout: the Pit was ringed by a forest, hill and patch of broken ground on each side at 4″ intervals, and contained a couple of obstructions (big rocks) about 60mm in base area, for interest’s sake. Didn’t matter too much apart from giving the Stormfall Archers elevation and encouraging me to split my forces around the obstruction on my side of the board (with Hexeris hiding behind one for a couple of turns, because I don’t have a pair).

Didn’t take pictures. I had a new caster, new measuring tools and a mogul biryani to manage, and the game took a good couple of hours anyway ’cause the Laird Holmes and I are both… shall we say that we both like to think things over? What with one thing and another I didn’t want to slow affairs down any further.

The lists were gentlemanly, with no FA: C doom pieces besides a bit of caster support, no turn two win buttons – and the play focused on piece trading and Getting Shit Done rather than camping arbitrary areas of the table for abstract points. Doesn’t mean we weren’t playing to win, but we were also playing to make a game of it. When travelling to a venue and paying club fees and so on costs you a good £20 a time before the curry is factored in, you don’t want to spend more time setting up and tearing down than you do actually playing the damn game. When I approach a wargame with this in mind, all the Internet babble fades away and I remember why we’re here.

Once again, some poor Retribution player brought Rahn and then had him clipped by an Incendus shot, spending the rest of the game on fire. Titan Sentries are well hard and Lord Arbiter Hexeris is also a bit fierce – although a list with him at the helm is notably slow after one’s had the luxury of the Supreme Archdomina. I missed my Tyrant Commander and would consider trading two Arcuarii out to put him back in. People who say he’s just Black Spot on a stick aren’t trying hard enough – I have a post prepared on this topic but I want to finish painting the model first. I find it amusing that my supposedly backfield, spellslinging, not-getting-involved warlock ended up making a melee caster kill on his first day out, while my allegedly front-line sword-swinging warlock has yet to draw a blade in anger. Doin It Rong, as ever.

This was also the first game where my Praetorians didn’t make a suicidal run across the table, but settled for edging sideways, fanning out and baiting. They still died – well, half of them died, Marketh was running on a full soul count for turns two, three and four – but they mulched some Dawnguard and chewed up a Banshee a bit. On a related note, his Lairdship deserves a brownie point for being the first person to remove one of my Cataphracts, let alone three.

I am also experimenting with spod sticks for the first time. Thus far they are good for getting right in next to the model, but they break the game’s flow while I count and recount inches and screw/unscrew the measuring tools. There are two sets in different colours, so I’m thinking that it might be a decent idea to prepare an odd numbers stick and an even numbers stick to improve flow.

Profitable evening out. Here’s a photo of some semi-painted Skorne. With a relatively clear week of work ahead I might even try and have everything basecoated (i.e. inked over white primer) by Saturday’s mini-tournament down Firestorm way.

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Hark says they look like they were made by Cadbury’s. I am tempted to stick an eggcup on a 50mm base and present a Creme Egg as my objective marker for Steamroller scenarios. Destroy the objective, and you get the egg. Might do it for the Hydra event next week at least. It’s not like I can think of any other way to represent a Stockpile that isn’t “boring generic crates”.

Event report next weekend, probably. Probably some roleplaying in April.