Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Picts' Young Lads Help Repel Roman Invasion

    We had 8 players for our cold, rainy November Saga Game Day, including this Norman civil war
Drust, son of Drust, looked out over the approaching column of iron-clad men. The heavy stamp of their boots caused leave to fall gently from the trees overhead. "The Romans have cut us off from our currachs," Drust growled to the men nearby. "We must drive them back before we can regain the sea. Prepare the clan - we fight!" The Pictish seaborne raid from Drust's home in the Orkney Islands had gone well at first. The pursuit by the local Roman garrison had been much faster than he'd guessed, though. Drust knew if he lost too many men on this raid, there would be repercussions back home. A big disgrace could even mean he might lose his name to his next younger brother. He liked being "Drust" -- the successor -- to his father, the chieftain of the Orkney Islands. Drust knew he would have to use all his cleverness in the battle, everything his father had taught him, to hold on to what was rightly his!

    Joe charges his troops into Jim's lines in a Norman vs. Norman civil war
Cold winds and rain were blowing on the third Sunday in November, making it a perfect day to stay inside and play Saga at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, OH. This Scottish-style weather would also be a fitting accompaniment to my second outing with the Picts from the recently-released Age of Invasions book. I had played these Pictish figures extensively as "Scots" from the Age of Vikings. Would Drust and his sons match the success of Nechtan Mac Fergus, my Pictish/Scottish warlord? Nechtan's triumphs had kept bards busy in his halls with his 11-1-1 record. The early tidings were as iffy as the weather, as my previous game a couple weeks before against Republican Romans had ended in a tie. 

    Adrian marshals his Baltic Crusaders for a Book of Battles 'Desecration' game against Byzantines
Over the last two weeks, I had re-examined the Pictish battle baord, pondering how to use its hit and run abilities. I decided to do something I'd never done before -- use three points of levy in my 6-point army. I would take one unit of archers and two of javelinmen. My thinking was that levy javelinmen could fit the fast-moving nature of this army. We could toss javelins and either dash off to safety or charge home with our +1 in melee for javelins. 

    The Baltic Crusaders march on Byzantine lands to dispute a point of Christian doctrine and heresy
The advanced Saga ability "Ambush" matches up well with this by granting +4 bonus attack dice in melee if the unit is within Medium of uneven or dangerous terrain. That very efficiently doubles a levy unit's melee combat pool of 4 AD to eight. What's more, three levy shooting units could soften up any target pretty effectively. Another ability encouraging me to try three levy was the excellent "Stalking" ability, which gives 3 bonus shooting dice if the firer is within Short of terrain. After all three units shoot, I could use "Swift as the Wind" on the final javelin unit to charge into melee with no fatigue (assuming we were near terrain). Doing the math, if all three levy units shoot and then the third charges home, the enemy unit would be on the receiving end of 29 attack dice!

   Bob seems confident his Byzantines are on the side of right in this Orthodox vs. Catholic clash
I was a little worried, though, about how many Uncommon dice I would need to move all those levy units and pull this off. If you plan on moving one Levy with the warlord's We Obey, that means you need two to move all three. Luckily, most of the advanced Saga abilities I planned on using could also use Common dice. Unfortunately, one of those that required an Uncommon was Swift as the Wind. That would likely be where my third Uncommon die would have to go if I planned on charging in.

    Caren's Vikings clash in the frozen wastes against Jenny's Pagan Rus
This meant that I would need a fourth Uncommon dice to be able to queue up "Secret Ways." This is a very clever ability on the battle board that allows a Pictish target of shooting or melee teleport to a piece of terrain after suffering the attack. I would end up being able to use it only once during the game, as Swift as the Wind and activating levy units ate up most of my Uncommons. That, and rolling only two rare dice the entire game may have had something to do with it!

As much as Uncommon dice, I would also need terrain to fully utilize the new Pictish battle board. Most of the best abilities on the battle board require the unit to be near terrain to use it to maximum effect. Luckily, my opponent for today, Dave E, out-rolled me for the dubious honor of First Player. That meant there would be at least four pieces of terrain on the board -- five if he moved one of the previously-placed ones. 

    Byzantines defend their loot in a game of Desecration against the Baltic Crusaders
Dave cleverly saw the trap of repositioning a piece, and declined to do so. This left my large woods in the center and another smaller woods on his left where I had placed them. He had placed a marsh in his own deployment area to park his manuballista artillery piece behind. Another marsh was placed on the left edge of the board. Seeing all the terrain, I was certain that this game I'd finally get to use Secret Ways. My strategy was to use Secret Ways to move a large javelin levy unit into the small woods in his deployment area. They could move once, throw javelins once to soften up the ballista, then use Swift as the Wind to charge and hopefully destroy the artillery. Clever plan, I thought. Dave unknowingly foiled my plan by keeping his his reserve units hanging next to the woods. This preventing me from using it, as "teleporting" units must be outside of a Medium of any enemy and within Very Short of the terrain. Foiled again!

    Dave finishes deploying his Roman army against my Picts - both new factions from Age of Invasions

My large wood contained both my archers and one of the Pictish Levy Javelin units, with my warlord close behind. To their right, in the open, was the remaining Levy unit, backed back up in reserve by two units of foot warriors. My third foot warrior unit guarded the gap between the large woods and the marsh on the flank. Opposing that flank, Dave deployed two units of legionary foot (who actually never moved the entire game). In the center behind the marsh was his ballista and his warlord. In the gap between the marsh and woods, Dave deployed another unit of legionaries, backed up by a double-strength hearthguard unit of 8 elite legionaries. On Dave's far left was his unit of four mounted hearthguard cataphracts.

    The Romans advance towards the Pictish lines, while the Pictish levies prepare to hurl their missiles
Dave opened the battle by advancing the legionaries on his left, the cataphracts keeping pace with them. The ballista shot its first volley and my spirits sank. My dice rolling woes appeared to be unending. He would hit my levy in the open on 3+, and scored 5 out of 6 hits. On my five saving rolls (4+), I rolled only one. One levy unit was down to 8 figures already! There was nothing to do but stick to the plan and hope the dice eventually turned in my favor. I queued up my Uncommon dice, put another on Stalking, and fired away at his legionary unit who had advanced towards our lines. We rolled 18 dice (needing 4+), scoring only 7 hits. Dave rolled his saves and got 5 out of 8 (4+). The consistency of his rolling above average and me rolling below average couldn't go on forever, could it?

    The Pictish levy units hurl their missiles, rolling 18 dice & killing only two legionaries - good armor!
Dave shot his ballista again on turn 2 at my weakened unit, giving me hope by scoring only one hit. Of course, I muffed the save, and the javelin men were down to 7 figures. Emboldened, he charged his legionary unit into my depleted levies. I had left queued up on my board both Sacred Tattoos (+4 defense dice in melee) and Ambush, mentioned above. This meant I was rolling 7 attack dice against his 9 -- Dave would play Ardor virtually every turn giving him bonus attack and defense dice. As the rain fell on the battlefield, the Picts took heart and finally began to fight with more spirit. We each scored four hits, but the worm really turned when the saving rolls were made. Even though he was able to re-roll four missed saves, Dave scored only two 5+ rolls. I saved 4 of my 8 -- finally, well above average! The levy javelinmen were driven back, but had survived the legionary charge and killing two more Romans!

Roman legionaries charge in and drive off Pictish levies, but at a cost   

Drust sang his clan's battle paean as he moved through the trees among the younger lads, who'd accompanied the raid as skirmishers. He slapped them on their backs and shook his spear stirring up their ardor. Fully one half of his raiding force was these young, enthusiastic teens. Success in this battle would rest on their shoulders. Drust knew if the lads fought with heart, then their superior numbers would wear down the Romans. If they shrank and ran, his own more experienced warriors would not stand up to the Roman arms and armor.

    A fresh unit of Pictish levy javelinmen charge in and wipe out the remaining legionaries!

Encouraged by the success (of sorts) in melee, I loaded up my board for turn with melee abilities. The other two units shot at the depleted unit of legionaries first. Then, my fresh unit of javelinmen rushed out of the trees, deferring their free javelin shot till later in the turn. This is a new wrinkle in the most recent FAQ. Javelin-armed troops that move get a free shooting activation, but apparently don't have to take it immediately after the move. I decided to save it till after the melee, as the levy followed up their advance with a charge with Swift as the Wind (taking no fatigue for the second activation). I played Ambush, as usual, doubling my dice to 8 attacks (with the +1 bonus for javelins). We wiped out the remaining legionaries, then took our deferred shooting attack against the hearthguard cavalry. Dave used one of our battle-gained fatigues to raise his armor to 6 (cataphracts are a base armor of 5 in both shooting and melee). We were lucky again and scored a hit on the armored horsemen.

    The 3-step levy plan worked! The unit in the woods dashes out and finishes off the legionaries
During the early years of the Roman Republic, the legions had a saying for a long and difficult battle: res ad triarios venit. It means "It came down to the Triarii" -- the veterans who were normally kept in reserve. Having lost his first probing attack, Dave decided the battle required intervention by his elite legionaries (the 8-man unit of foot hearthguard). He moved them forward and followed up with a charge against my victorious unit of levy. My battle board was empty -- I had thrown everything at him the last turn. I had anticipated this happening from time to time with the Picts, though. Levy units are 12 figures, and this often saves them. They will be charged by tough units, but the levy survive because of their numbers. This was the case here, as his elites cut down seven of my 12. The young javelinmen fled back towards the woods.
    My Picts were painted to play THIS army, though I used them about a dozen times as Scots

   The unit had survived, but was badly mauled. Worse, it had dropped below six figures, which is the minimum for a levy unit to generate a command and control Saga die. Now, it was time for revenge on my turn. All available levy units would shoot at the victorious elite legionaries, and hopefully take them down a peg. We rolled our dice and caused six hits on them. Apparently, they formed testudo right before our volley, as Dave rolled all six saves (for those doing the math at home, that is a 1.5% chance of doing that!). I have often discussed my luck (or lack thereof) with dice with my friends. I disagree with them that I have bad luck with dice. I have very streaky luck, I feel -- really bad streaks, then good streaks. I could only hope the tide would turn back again soon.

    Elite legionaries charge in and chase the javelinmen back to the woods, as my warriors advance
Having taken no casualties on my turn, Dave brought his hammer down, again. His elite legionaries chased down the unit they had beaten the previous turn, killing several more. Then, he turned them and charged my javelin levy unit facing off against his cataphracts. My awful luck streak was still running, and he killed all remaining 8 figures with no losses, once again. The Roman battle board has "Ardor" as an ability, that grants both attack defensive dice. These were key in cutting down on his casualties, or eliminating them altogether. I was down two Saga dice at this point, and my shooting capabilities had been cut in half.

    My archers provided supporting fire through most of the game - as long as I had Uncommon dice!

On my turn, I moved my archers through the woods over to the edge facing his elites. I also brought up my warriors, as my levy forces were about spent. Once again, the levies sent missiles raining down on the elite legionaries, once again no casualties resulted. On Dave's turn, he turned the invincible iron men on  my warriors, who were within their charge range. I had loaded up my board with defensive abilities for his half of the turn. The legionaries charged my warriors, and we both threw in all the advanced Saga abilities we could. Pict and Romans clashed in the driving rain. Blood was spilled, and in the end, we had lost four warriors. Three elite legionaries had fallen, though. Woo-hoo! They COULD die!! The clansmen recoiled, but we had cracked their shell, I felt.

    Dave's wrecking ball -- the near-invincible 8-man, foot hearthguard of elite legionaries

Now it was time to try a battle with my melee abilities loaded up for my warriors. In addition to Ambush, we also used Frenzy (+2 attack dice and re-roll misses) and Feint (+1 to roll on defense dice). I brought a full strength unit up and we charged into his elites. Dave closed ranks to minimize the Pictish savagery, but the clansmen drove his elites back, causing more casualties. I felt that if I could eliminate those elites, we could win the battle. You score one point for each slain enemy hearthguard. For Levy, it is one for every three slain, which should work out in my favor. I had also finally queued up Secret Ways for use on his turn, in case the elites weren't a spent force and they counter-attacked. It would allow me to "teleport" the target of his charge after the melee was fought into the safety of the woods.

    Pictish warriors create the first crack in his elite's iron shell, killing three before being driven off
Though pushed back, Dave's elites returned and charged the warriors who'd driven them back. He threw in the kitchen sink and was able to slaughter all but one of the previously victorious warriors. I used Secret Ways to squirrel the survivor away, deep in the woods. Otherwise, his cataphracts would have ridden them down as a follow up charge. The victory proved Pyrrhic for Dave, though. His elite legionaries had been whittled down to two survivors. 

    The victorious survivors of the hard-fought clash between Picts and Romans somewhere in Britain
On my final turn, I loaded up my board for both archery and melee. We started with the archers, and they proved to be all we needed. They slew the final two elites. I tried to figure out some way to get one of my warrior units within range to charge his ballista, which had nicked away at my figures all game. They were simply too far and safe behind their marsh. I decided to trust that we had killed more points worth of them than they had of us. We counted it up, and Dave had killed 12 of my warriors and 21 of my levies, with a bonus point for entirely wiping out one unit (14 points). The Picts had killed 12 of his hearthguard and 8 of his warriors, receiving two bonus points for wiping out two units (18 points). Final score 18-14, a hard-fought and narrow Pictish victory.

Drust watched as the Roman troops marched from the field in perfect order, their feet rising and falling as one. The iron men had proved a tough opponent, as he'd feared. Still, his tribesmen held the field and were victorious. He could recover his wounded, plunder the enemy dead, and bring back trophies to celebrate their triumph. His lads had fought well - their arrows and darts were key to the victory, as he had foreseen. Drust directed his older veterans to help the wounded, and begin stripping the Roman bodies. His name was safe, and his men would boast of this battle in the months ahead.

Interestingly, all four of the battles that were being fought that Sunday at the Dragons Guildhall were relatively historic encounters (or at least between contemporaries). Besides my Pict-Roman clash, Jenny T was trying out a new list and taking Pagan Rus against Caren's Vikings. Joe D and Jim R were fighting a Norman civil war. And Adrian J and Bob B were fighting a battle between Byzantines and Baltic Crusaders.

Here are the results of the day's games:

  • Mike D's Picts defeated Dave's Romans in Clash of Warlords, 18-14
  • Jenny T's Pagan Rus fought to a tie against Caren's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 17-19
  • Jim R's Normans defeated Joe D's Normans in Desecration, 16-10
  • Adrian J's Baltic Crusaders defeated Bob B's Byzantines in Desecration, 16-10

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Blood Brotherhood - repost of some post-Apocalyptic figs

    Painted years ago, the Blood Brotherhood has been patiently waiting for the Apocalypse...
I believe these were my first post-Apocalyptic figures that I painted. I purchased the figs at Cold Wars or Historicon many years ago when Sgt. Major Miniatures were still in business. I always loved perusing their stall. Their selection of unique and characterful figures was inspiring. I think I may have actually used these in a random game on one of our Sunday evening game sessions, but they've essentially been waiting for me to run some games (and paint up a lot more opponents!).

    Purchased when Sgt. Major Miniatures were still in business, these were my first post-Apoc figs

One of the things I liked about these were their weirdness. They look like cultists for a Pulp game, but the gas or face masks make them look acceptable for post-Apocalyptic, as well. I debated back and forth about a color for them. Hoods not being politically correct, I wanted people to NOT think KKK when they saw them. So, I came up with the "blood red" color and a name of the Blood Brotherhood. I also kicked around the Red Sun Order, but I think I'll stick with the brotherhood name. 

    The figures have a cool variety of weapons, as well as subtle differences in clothes

I like the weapon variety, too. I am not sure what the long-barreled gun is above, but it looks like a shotgun or elephant gun or something along those lines. Fun stuff! Little things like that make a line of figures really jump out, even if your chosen rules don't go into the detail of representing every variety of firearm that ever existed...ha, ha!

    Three more members of the Blood Brother prowl the wastelands scavenging for useful finds
I posted these older figs mainly to have a consistent record of this project. I honestly am not sure WHEN I painted them. Anyway, look for more on this project soon as my school and personal schedule has opened up a bit and I have more free time.

Introducing the Wendigo Cabal (and Reign in Hell terrain)


    My Wendigo Cabal, with minis from a variety of sources, showing my front line & 'linebackers'
Although I have posted a few times on here about our games using the Reign in Hell skirmish miniatures rules, I have yet to do a dedicated post featuring my warband, or "cabal" as they are called under these rules. As you may remember, I decided to do a force with a Native American mythological theme. All of the creatures (or demons) are from the stories and tales of various tribes. For example, their name comes from their leader, a Wendigo, which comes from the Ojibwe word for the malevolent, flesh-eating creature roaming the forests. I have to admit that part of the reason I chose this theme was because I could use my already-painted Splintered Light Miniatures anthropomorphic animals as "Skinwalkers." The fewer new figures I have to paint up, the faster I can get my own force onto the tabletop. So, here is my introduction to my Cabal!

    My cabal leader, a Wendigo, from Native American mythology is a 3D print from Thingiverse
First up, is the leader himself - the Wendigo. This figure is huge and imposing, which is what I wanted my "demon lord" to be. It is a 3D print available on Thingverse. My friend Joe printed it up for me. I really like the pose -- especially the gaunt and almost skeletal aspect of the body. I painted its skin up suitably corpse-like, a pasty pale flesh covered in dark tattoos. His black, dead eyes and purple tongue give him a lurid, evil look. Of course, the bleeding hunk of raw flesh he is carrying doesn't hurt his terrifying aspect. In game terms, I use him as a Zealot leader of the Empty faction. Empty cabals are attempting to destroy Hell and return to Earth. I figured that made sense for Native American spirits trapped in the West's view of the spirit world. I tend to use him as a "linebacker" in the game -- rushing in to finish off enemy demons that have been engaged and wounded by his minions.

    My Devout (2nd in command) is a modified djinni I never painted from my old role-playing days
The leader's second in command in the game is called a Devout. I chose to portray mine as a Skadegamutc, which comes from Wabanaki legend. It is the spirit of a dead magician that refuses to stay dead and comes out at night to slay and feed upon the living. For this figure, I dug deep into my unpainted lead drawer and found an old, old Djinni. I modified him by putting deer antlers on his head and using green stuff to create the pelt of the deer on his shoulders and back. The deer head came from an Iron Wind Metals deer. I was really pleased with how the green stuff worked out -- my first time using it! I covered his skin in tattoos and gave him copper jewelry. In game terms, he's my assassin. I use his teleporting ability to have him materialize next to a wounded enemy demon and finish it off. I am sure he's killed more enemy figures in my games of Reign in Hell than most of the other demons combined.

    Skinwalker Bears from Splintered Light Miniatures' anthropomorphic animals form my battle line
My battle line of the Wendigo Cabal begins with my three Skinwalker bears. Skinwalkers are from Navajo legend and are witches who can assume the bodies of animals and walk around in them. There's a line from a Robert Mirabal song that says something to the effect that they appear as coyotes, wolves, etc., but walk around upright like men. That's a perfect description of the Splintered Light Miniatures line. I have painted  up quite a few figures from these lines but they seem to get little use nowadays. So, I jumped at the chance to use them in this game. In game terms, my Skinwalker Bears are Armored Demons. They have great defensive abilities, plus can absorb a lot of damage. Together with the Wolverines below, they are supposed to engage the enemy demons, stop their attacks, inflict some damage, and then let the Wendigo or Skadegamutc finish the enemies off.

    My Wolverine Skinwalkers from Splintered Light Miniatures masquerading as Corpulent Demons
I use my Wolverine Skinwalkers as Corpulent Demons in rules terms. Not that these wolverines are fat, but rather their ferocity and "never-say-die" attitude fits well with their very high Life stat. Corpulent demons can not only take a lot of damage, they regenerate some back every time they activate. I think that fits with the fiery animal's demeanor. And yes, I realize that if Skinwalkers are Navajo spirits, that wolverines don't live in the desert southwest. But hey! They were the next biggest Splintered Light miniatures I had. All of the raccoons, coyotes, etc., were significantly smaller than standard 28mm miniatures. 

    Great Horned Owl skinwalker, a prepainted figure from Hobby Lobby
I went back and forth what to use as a Mephit for my Native American cabal. These are the weakest of the Lesser Demons, and usually are limited to hit and run attacks using their speed and flying ability. They don't hit very hard and can't take much damage. Their best use is to move quickly to seize objectives in scenarios, or to pick off those badly wounded demons with only one or two Life left. My first thought was to use the Kanontsistóntie from Iroquois legends. These are flying heads, ravenous spirit creatures with insatiable hunger. There is an awesome miniature created by Flint and Feather of one of these, but I didn't want to pay the steep price. One of the Kanontsistóntie is in a box of four mythical creates for $49. Then I thought about creating my own, but couldn't find a head that I liked. So, I ended up going to the Skinwalker route and purchased a prepainted Great Horned Owl from Hobby Lobby. It is a bit larger than I wanted it to be (and a bit more expensive), but solved my problems quickly. I based it up on a stone outcropping and was done!

    Uktena, the Horned Serpent of Cherokee legends will make an appearance in my Wendigo cabal
Next up to see the table is Uktena, the great horned serpent of Cherokee legend. It is described as dragon like, which meant that his Jabberwocky miniature that has sat unpainted in my collection for years would be a reasonably good fit. I gave him green scales and then did a dark wash on him to make the scales stand out even more. I will be using Uktena as a Spined Demon if I play him as a Lesser Demon, or a Serpent Knight if I use him as a Greater Demon. He will become linebacker #3 to rush in and take advantage of the chaos created by the skinwalker bears and wolverines. A Spined Demon has an effective charge, so hopefully he will be able to finish off demons wounded by my Armored and Corpulent Demons.

I also have another of the Hobby Lobby prepainteds to use eventually, a giant Sasquatch miniature. I will hold off, though, until the Wendigo Cabal has enough experience that I can buy either a Greater or Superior Demon for him. The figure is too big to be a lesser demon, though I did buy a Yeti miniature at the Guardtower East during our last Saga Game Day. Maybe he'll make an appearance as the one remaining Lesser Demon I haven't fielded, a Slaughter Fiend. Who knows? 

    Six underworld-style terrain pieces for use with Reign in Hell games, each measuring 3"-4" across
I also decided to make up some quick terrain for Reign in Hell because my Saga pieces are too much bigger than the suggested size, in my opinion. They recommend 3-4" across, while most of mine are a minimum of 6". I cut up some styrene into irregular shapes of that size. I then glued down some of the plaster cavern pieces that my friend Tim P had cast up for me 2-3 years back. I thought they looked perfect for underworld type terrain, and glued a couple to each base. I added it some larger tallus stones, and then slopped on a 50/50 mix of brown paint and white glue. I poured fine brown ballast from Woodland Scenics across it. 

    One of the lava streams spilling from the pool at the base of the cavern piece
I decided that I wanted to have glowing streams or pools of lava on the bases. I thought they would add the perfect accent to the terrain pieces and make them even more Hellish. To create the lava streams, I used a thick craft knife to scrape away the glued-down ballast down to the surface of the styrene, in the shape of a winding stream or pool. A couple of the cavern pieces seemed to have pools at their bottom, so I would carve a stream spilling forth from those, too. 

    Red reflections cast by the glowing lava onto the rock faces were my final touch on these pieces
Next, I spray painted each base with Krylon Black matte paint. I let it dry again, then followed up by coating the cavern pieces and tallus with a 50/50 mix of black paint and water. This made sure they were a solid black. The next step was dry brushing. I first dry brushed the cavern pieces a dark gray and then again with lighter gray highlights. I did the lava with a dull red base, followed by a dull orange, then bright orange with yellow spots. I really like the way it came out and especially how it contrasts with the dark gray and black rocks. As a final touch, I painted a dull red reflection on the rocks near the lava. For as little effort as they took, I think they turned out really nice!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Followers of the Dark Prophet & Scout Bots

    The Followers of the Dark Prophet fan out as they advance across the post-Apocalyptic wasteland
I have begun my break from painting Saga figures in earnest. I have been wanting to put on some post-Apocalyptic games for years, and have been kicking around some ideas in my head. I really like the dark future world that the Terminator movies created, with the machines warring against humans. So, I decided to set my games in a version of that, with humanity disunited and broken into warring gangs squabbling over local control over resources. Food, fuel, weapons are their goals, as well as promoting their bizarre ideas of how humanity should begin anew. They know the machines are enemies, but the nuclear holocaust took them down a few pegs, and their bots also are scattered and under intermittent control of local programs and Artificial Intelligence that weren't taken out in the big boom.

    I individualized the head wraps that each figure wore, in fact, only the shirts and hats were uniform
I'd already painted up a couple gangs already, F Troop and the Blood Brotherhood. Both were from figure lines created by Sgt. Major Miniatures, now reissued by Battle Valor Games. I've always liked these figures, especially the way there are multiple poses and variety. Each faction or related figure packs have a unique and recognizable theme. This batch of seven figures I would paint are labeled "Space Terrorists," and were from their Sci-Fi line. They could easily be a gang in my Terminator world, though. After painting them, I dubbed them the Followers of the Dark Prophet to keep with the somewhat Muslim or Middle Eastern look to their clothing. I had painted their shirts and headdresses black, so it all seemed to fit.

    I like how the different pants, boots, and kit colors give the gang a ragged appearance
Black is always a tricky base color, but I was pretty happy with how the understated gray highlights I used turned out. After clear coating them, I had to go back over and brush on Vallejo matte clear to take off the shine that was unfortunately left by the Testors Dullcoate. It seems some batches of my favorite clear coat are less "dull" than others! I gave them a dark red belt or sash as an accent, but used a variety of colors for their pants, pouches, bags, and such. I like how this gives them a common theme, but irregular appearance. For a splash of color and individuality, each got their own unique face wrap. My favorites turned out to be the red and white and black and white checkered wraps.

    Some face wraps were simple, some were fancy, as a way to keep track of who's who on the tabletop
Their boots were done in a range of browns and grays, all heavily dry brushed to give them a well-worn appearance. I used khakis and olive drabs for most of their ammo pouches, haversacks, and other equipment, though I did throw in a few other colors here and there to keep with the slightly irregular look. The weapons were done with a steel color, highlighted with a brighter pewter. With a black wash to tone them down a bit, I think they weapons turned out nicely, too.

    Scout Bots roam the wastelands searching for signs of humans & calling back locations to their AI
Before painting this batch, I also began work on the first of my Bot miniatures. These were 3-D printed from Thingiverse by my friend Joe. I had him print up four different types of Bots for me -- Scout Bots, Patrol Bots, Military Bots, and Assault Bots. I did two of the Scouts first. They were a cool looking wheeled robot with headlights and two weapons. These patrol the wastelands looking for suspicious activity or signs of humans. They then report this information and position back to their local overlord program, which then sends out progressively heavier forces to investigate and neutralize. I decided to go with a colored metallic theme on these. I purchased some craft metallic paints in various colors and made them the main color theme, along with a steel base coat. Yes, I realize the red looks way more pink and is somewhat garish. However, I wanted to see how it turned out and have to say I think both it and the green one look pretty snazzy! The 3-D printed castings aren't necessarily the sharpest miniatures, but they were incredibly cheap and allow me to get a handful of each size painted up for a pittance.

Both the next batch of Bots and the next gang are primed and underway on my desk. So, hopefully, I will have more finished minis to post pictures of soon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Trying out Age of Invasions Picts at Saga Game Day

    Andy S's new Republican Romans saw their first battle against my Picts from Age of Invasions
Age of Invasions has come out since my last blog post and I am definitely intrigued to try out some of the newly retolled armies. First up would be the Picts -- which is actually what my Age of Vikings Scots are painted to depict (no pun intended). I listened to the Northern Tempest Saga Podcast episode, as well as the Saga Thorsday preview, giving a nice rundown on each of the eight armies in the supplement. The Picts interested me the most. Fortunately, the army was already painted, so I decided to try them out at our November Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East, Columbus, OH.
    We had a fantastic 14 players show up at Guardtower East for our November Saga Game Day
My army would be a foot warlord, 1 unit of 8 mounted warriors with javelins, 3 units of 8 warriors (spearmen, essentially), 1 unit of levy bows, and 1 unit of levy javelins. This would be my first warband ever featuring two levy units. Why? Well, the Pict battle board has a "Stalking" ability which gives a bonus 3 attack dice. Plus, I felt the javelinmen could morph into a charging group with all of their melee dice bonuses when around terrain. Twelve javelinmen plus the "Ambush" ability can be 8 attack dice at +1 for charging with javelins. Not an overwhelming attack, but a nice solid punch to finish off a depleted enemy unit. 

    Joe M, left, brought his newly-painted Mutatawi'a onto the field to face Dave W's dangerous Welsh
The mounted javelin could also be sent in to attack a unit like the levy javelinmen, being even more effective due to their Long charge range. What's more, the "Scouts" ability would allow me to withdraw them a Long move with no chance of their move being reduced to Short due to fatigue. Similarly, I could simply gallop them up to take a free shooting attack, as well (and then withdraw them so they don't get shot or counter-charged). There are a number of other Melee attack and defensive abilities on the Pictish battleboard which can buff up either the mounted unit or the foot ones.

    Bob B's Byzantines march across the table to try to engage Jim R's ever-elusive Normans (Bretons)
A key aspect of the Pictish board is the need for terrain (uneven preferably) to maximize their abilities. Five of their 10 abilities require the unit to be near terrain or have terrain ontable to maximize its use. There is one Orders ability (which converts an area of terrain into solid cover for your troops but does not slow their movement in it), three Activation abilities, one nifty Activation/Reaction ability which essentially allows one of your units suffering a shooting or melee attack to teleport to within Very Short of a piece of uneven terrain, one Shooting ability, and four Melee abilities. It seems to me that the Picts will have to use their mobility and nimbleness around terrain to make up for devastating attacks that other boards may have. We shall see, though!

    Andy S's Republican Romans get their first game in, as do my Picts (bottom) - armies at deployment
My first opponent was Saga Ohio founder Andy Swingle, playing his Republican Romans from Age of Hannibal -- also for the very first time! His list featured mostly warrior foot with two units of mercenaries (Thureophoroi and Cretain Archers). Luckily, I was second player so was able to get the fourth piece of terrain on the table. Our Clash of Warlords game featured a large woods on my left, fields in my center, and Andy placed a marsh guarding his left rear and a rocky area his right rear. He deployed the Cretans in the rocky area and the rest of the army between the two pieces of cover. The Theureophoroi led the center, supported by five (all but one 6-man) units of warrior foot Hastati/Princeps legionaries. His warlord was a Tribune, which would give him an extra "We Obey". This allowed him to advance steadily, yet still utilize at least one or two Activation/Reaction abilities to stiffen his legionaries' defensive abilities.

Picts meet the Roman advance on their half of turn 1 with their only effective shooting of the game

I deployed my levy bow in the center, ready to enter the fields. They ended up not needing to do that as Andy's aggressive advance meant they had targets within range from Turn 1. The bows were flanked by one unit of warrior foot on their left and two on the right. The mounted warriors were in reserve, while the levy javelinmen were in the woods, ready to dart out using the Scouts ability when a target presented itself.

    Roman turn 2 - Theurophoroi (in blue) and legionaries (white) lead the Roman advance
As Andy's legion marched forward, I decided to seize that opportunity on the very first turn. His entire formation except for the Cretans advanced steadily forward. The archers fired at the far left hand legionary unit in front of the Cretans. Next, the javelinmen dashed out and took a shot, as well. Our rolls were above average and with 15 attacks we caused five casualties. Little did I know, this would be our high point of the game when it came to rolling. An even more ominous, that was Andy's low point. From that point on, he would continue the tradition that began at Cincyon game two of my opponents rolling spectacularly. Andy was quite disconcerted that one of his legionaries was down to one man already, but he need not worry. We apparently ran out of missiles after that first shot!

    A small unit of Hastati legionaries chase of Pictish levy javelinmen
I also moved up the warrior unit in the gap between the fields and woods to support the javelinmen. Andy responded quickly, shooting with the Cretans at the levy and causing two casualties. The Theureophoroi entered the fields and hurled javelins, killing one warrior spearman. On his left, the main weight of his legion advanced against the two units on my right. During turn 1, I had also maneuvered the horsemen out to that side, thinking to maybe isolate a maniple of his legionaries. 

    We must be out of arrows! 15 attack dice yields only two casualties on advancing legionaries
I decided to load my board up and try an attack on turn 2. Let's see how good these Pictish spearmen are on this new battleboard! I had Ambush ready, to give the warrior unit a bonus 4 attack dice. Should be enough, right? First, I did my shooting, firing twice with my archers at the closest legionary unit advancing against my right. With 15 attack dice, I scored 2 hits -- well below average. With the levy javelinmen, I scored zero hits. Whoa...definitely subpar, and about to get worse. My warrior spear unit charged against the Theurophoroi. We had 12 attack dice, he had 8. My spearmen caused zero casualties against his mercenaries and lost two, dropping down to five figures and falling back.

    Pictish spearmen are repulsed, causing no casualties, despite having a 12-8 attack dice advantage

Andy saw he had the momentum and charged the Theurophoroi against my depleted warrior unit. I had saved "Sacred Tattoos" for the bonus 4 defense dice. I had also played "Feint" to give me a +1, so when I closed ranks it meant I saved on 3-6. Andy couldn't bump his attack dice because they were mercenaries, but as it turned out, it wouldn't be needed. He used my fatigue to lower my armor to 3 and managed to hit with all 8 dice. I rolled 12 defense dice, saving on 3+ and failed utterly, with the entire unit wiped out. Whaaat??? Would this be a repeat of the abysmal dice I suffered in my 1-1-1 performance at CincyCon? It appeared so. On his left, Andy charged with his legionaries. I closed ranks again, but suffered two hits again. Luckily, we scored two hits on them and they fell back. 

    Andy's mercenaries continue their superhuman exertions, wiping out the remaining Pictish spear
On my third turn, I decided to shoot some more, once again ineffectively for the most part. Nine attack dice should score 4-5 hits every turn on warrior targets, but I was way below average. And Andy's saves were sublime. At one point in the game, I hit him six times and he saved every single roll! I moved my horsemen back over to the left, because I thought I would need them. I was hoping my Pictish spear could hold off his legionaries. All in all, it was two completely ineffective turns in a row.

    The horsemen get their revenge, riding down the Thereuphoroi and then withdrawing out of range
Andy's legion continued to pressure my warband. Another legionary unit charged my javelin levy, while the legionaries facing my right switched targets and charged my levy bow. Andy loaded up on his defensive abilities against melee in both my and his turns. He was content to nick away at me, knowing that with his bonus defense dice and my inept rolling he would come out on top, consistently. The javelinmen were driven back into the woods. The archers lost half their number and recoiled away, too. 

    Andy's left of three legionary units begins to grind down the Pictish right wing
It was time for the horsemen, I decided. They galloped forward and charged the Thereophoroi. I had loaded up my battle board abilities, adding Frenzy (2 bonus attack dice, plus rerolling misses) to Ambush. This was finally enough, and we obliterated the mercenaries to a man.

 They continued to be the only unit doing any damage late in the game. On the next turn, they galloped forward again and hurled their missiles at the unit that had chased off my javelinmen. Two hits reduced the unit to three figures. With a little misdirection, the horsemen galloped past their targets and instead charged his single figure legionary from turn one who had been trying to withdraw from battle. I used "Swift as the Wind," which meant I suffered no fatigue on this second activation. I had Ambush queued up and rolled 12 attack dice against the single-figure unit, scoring six hits. He. Saved. Them. All. Nooooooo!!! 

    The Pictish horsemen would take over in the second half of the game as my only effective troops
I could see his eyes light up as he anticipated his Cretans decimating the low-armor mounted warriors with shooting on his turn. Not so fast, Tribune! I played "Scouts," which moves a unit a Long distance and cannot be reduced for fatigue or terrain. I used this to pull the horsemen back out of his range. The only satisfaction I got was a disappointed, "Oh, come on...!" Hey, if you can't fight, at least you better be able to move out of the way!

Andy got his revenge on Turn 5, though. He charged and wiped out my archers, and cut one of the warrior units on my right down to half strength. Of course, the numerous Roman bonus defense dice meant he was taking no casualties in these engagements. My saving rolls continued to be terrible, and my figures (especially the levy bow) died in droves. There wasn't a whole lot I could do about it, though. I launched some game end attacks, getting a second shot at his single-man legionary unit and failing equally as spectacularly. My levy javelin tried to charge his legionaries, but the +1 to my rolls made little difference. On my final turn, I even had the warlord charge one of his legionary units that had been chipped down a couple figures by my horsemen's javelins. 

    You  know I must be frustrated if I am charging in my warlord to get a couple kills late game!
By my calculation, I had lost abysmally. I simply couldn't seem to cause casualties. I know that the Romans' strength is their defensive abilities. However, Andy complimented that with superb saving rolls all game long, barring the first turn. He admitted the dice were in his favor this game as we counted up the points. Shockingly, it ended in a draw. He scored 20 points while I scored 18. Clash of Warlords requires you to beat your opponent by more than 3 points, so somehow my first outing with my Picts ended up in a tie.

I did make a major mistake, I admit. I misread "Secret Ways," thinking that the unit which teleports also needs to begin near terrain. It doesn't. It only had to end up within Very Short of uneven terrain and more than Medium from enemy figures. I should have withdrawn my right flank steadily as he charged it, bouncing it over to the woods on my left. That would have saved a lot of figures, and possibly won me the game. I probably also underestimated the steadiness of the Roman defense. I thought a couple bonus defense dice here and there would make only a minor impact. They contributed to my inability to do much damage to his legion. I look forward to trying out the Picts again -- hopefully soon. 

I probably should have mentioned his higher up in the blog post, but we had 14 players show up for our November game day. Three were brand new players brought by Lee P, and one was playing her second game. Here are the results of all the games (which I believe were all Clash of Warlords):

  • Joe Merz's brand-new Muttatawi'a tied against Dave W's Welsh, 20-18
  • Karen's Vikings defeated Jason's Vikings (no score recorded)
  • Lee P's Milites Christi defeated Stan's Gauls (no score recorded)
  • Jenny T's Vikings defeated Mike's Anglo-Saxons, 20-12
  • Andy S's Republican Romans tied Mike D's Picts, 20-18
  • Jim R's Normans (Breton) tied Bob B's Byzantines, 18-17
  • Adrian J's Britons defeated Dave E's Romans (no score recorded)