Monday, April 19, 2010

Divisio Investigatus - Evening the Superheavy / Gargantuan gap

To start with this is to adress the disparity of survivability between Gargantuan Creatures (GCs) and Super Heavy Vehicles (SHs). This is most noticable when firing StrD weaponry - GCs only take one wound with no drop in combat performance. Superheavies can be totally destroyed.

Compare a Hierophant at 1250pts to a Reaver at 1450pts. The Hierophant has 10 wounds, an invulnerable save and can regenerate wounds. The Reaver has 4 void shields, 6 structure points, and must spend a turn doing nothing to self-repair. Also it can be immobilised or simply lose all its weaponry.

Structure points / the damage table are in no way as good as wounds - where a GC can keep its combat output consistant regardless of its health a SH can be rendered effectively useless in 1 turn.

How do I propose to fix this disparity without making SHs untouchable?

Option 1 - Primary weapons cannot be destroyed / shaken

A simple one, it means that a Baneblade never looses its main gun, and Stompas can alway skrump things good.

It does mean they need to be destroyed to be put out of action, but that's really the same as a GC.

Option 2 - Allow Damage Control every turn

Another simple idea, because at the moment damage control sucks. If you're in a situation where you need to use damage control, you really don't want to spend a turn doing nothing for a 5+ chance of fixing something per structure point (which you've probably lost some anyways). Also when you've only got four or five turns per game you don't want to spend a quater of the game doing nothing with the big toys.

I'd allow any Superheavy to use damage control at the start of that player's turn, and it applies immediately. Any successful Damage Control rolls can be used to cancel a Drive Damaged, Weapon Destroyed or Gun Crew Shaken result.
It doesn't restore structure points, but does mean that there is more big guns staying in the game.

Option 3 - Strength D does D3 wounds vs Gargantuan Creatures

Pretty obvious really, but I wouldn't combine it with option 1 as that would swing the balance too fat the other way.

Option 4 - Allow Super Heavies to 'withdraw' from assaults

If a SH is assaulted by a GC or another SH in place of striking any blows it can elect to kick it into reverse and pull back D6" (2D6" for walkers) directly away from the GC. Any units (friend or foe) the SH moves over are tank shocked as normal. If the SH cannot move the full distance back due to impassible terrain or other SH/GC units it stops 1" away.

However, any attacks made by the attacking SG/SH hit automatically.

A tactically interesting choice as you could end up getting wrecked worse than normal due to auto-hits, but if you survive you'll not be locked in combat and have a bit of breathing room to fire.

Option 5 - Improve Running

Currently SHs and GCs run D6", a pathetic amount considering the size of most superheavies. I'd up running for GCs and SHs to 6" automatically, and any Fleet units can run and shoot.

So there're my ideas, personally I think 2, 3 and 5 together would keep it fair as there's a bit for both. 4 could be too powerful, but I think the auto-hits and the possability of tank shocking your own guys and falling off the board balances it. Option 1 is a bit too much unless both sides have a number of SHs I think.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gunhildr of Utherby & some thoughts on colour composition

So I took a break from 40k for a bit and decided to paint some vikings, namely the new mini by Red Box Games, Gunhildr of Utherby. Much like her 'sister' Vilhanna she was a great pleasure to paint, full of character and such.

But while I was painting her I was thinking about one of the more important aspects of painting that many people often forget about - colour composition. Sandwyrm at The Back 40k has already covered chosing the right shade of colour indepth, so I shan't go over it again. However I will ramble for a bit about how to put those colours on your mini.

Here's Gunhildr in her base colours. By virtue of her being a barbarian she is in rough and ready clothes, with a variety of strappy bits and fur, and obviously has a large area of exposed skin.

Looking at the mini I could see there would be a large area of exposed skin (light), so to contrast this I chose a dark colour for her clothes (I use the term loosely). However using a pallette of browns exclusively meant I had to retain contrast internally, or the details would blur together and be essentially unrecognisable.

I also had a limited number of colours so there was balance in the shades - the colour of her boots is repeated in her knife's sheath and left bracer. Similarly the ties on her left leg are the same as the hilt of her knife and the leather around her right wrist.

By using a light wood colour for the axe haft I stop her from being too contrasting between her top and bottom halves as it is similar in tone to her skin.

So how does this relate to 40k? Well for a tabletop army it means using a high contrast scheme looks better from a distance as it is easy to pick out what's what. For example think of the 2nd ed Ultras with their bright red bolters and yellow trim. Even in the tiny pictures in the rulebooks you could easily pick out their shape and the details.
If you go to coolmini and browse by the gallery looking at the thumbnails you may notice that many of the highest ranking minis look like pastel coloured smudges. This is due to their amazing level of blending so, much like a real person, from a distance they're kindof a blur.

But is this a bad thing?

I think yes and no, personally - yes in that pastels are never a good idea, and I like high contrast 'comicbook' type minis. I think they look better on display as they catch the eye (my eye) more than more realisticly painted minis (perhaps why I never got into historical minis).

No from the sense that the people who can paint like that are always coming up with the hard work to figure out new techniques for the rest of us to simplify ;)

This guy is a perfect blend of the two styels I think. He has the masterful blending and shading but the red of his cloak is dramatically different to his armour and skin. Also his base is a counterpoint to the mini as a whole. Being larger scale helps, but regardless the colour scheme could easily be shrunk down.

So there're my thoughts on the matter, and a finished mini to boot.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playing Dungeons and Dragons is good for your 40k

To quote some internet pundits:

"Why do Jervis and Co. think they get a pass on balancing their game? I mean, where else does that mentality fly? What precedent exists that makes their apathy acceptable?"

"1st Ed. [background] I'm not too good on. And the only person I know who has a clue about it is [Gotthammer]. And [Gotthammer] supports female Marines...So... :p"

Seeing these two posts got me thinking more about something gorepants and I have frequently discussed - that 40k was basically created by a bunch of roleplaying nerds and is prettymuch still run by them.
Many of you will be familiar with Games Workshop's origin as a UK based publishing house producing the then very very niche D&D books, and those who weren't now are. So the original creators of the company were obviously into D&D. That influence is plain as day when you look at Rogue Trader - a bare bones point system, story based missions, millions of options, and of course a Games Master (GM) to arbitrate the whole thing and run any monsters and keep track of hidden units etc. Basically RT was a game where two people created small forces, often of peasant militia or similar to achieve an objective. The GM might throw in some land mines, wandering TV crews, telepotring crocodiles or make the entire board out of bouncy rubber moss.

Another way to play was having a single 'player' agianst the GM's forces - pit your elite team of assassins against the Vampire controlled Governor's palace guard, steal your ship back from Abdul Goldberg etc.

How does this relate to 40k? Well back then if one side was beating the other too badly it was simple enough for the GM to go "suddenly a bunch of Croatalids teleport in right ontop of your dreadnought!" and balance was restored (kinda).
This is the same in D&D - while there are levels and encounter guidlines, they are all at the GM's discretion to further the story at hand. While a random encounter should be a fair challenge for the party it should be balanced, or even easy.

However the main 'meat' of the game, the battle against the dark lord's Dread Knights, facing down the Theive's Guild, delving into the great Wyrm Gralcathang's lair, will likely not be balanced - they will be tough gruelling struggles of which an epic song will be sung. Or you'll die a horrible firey death and many jokes will be told of your pathetic demise by your comrades (or they may stuff your corpse into your own backpack for later rezzing).

But which will be remembered?

Random encounter #3412 or the time Elshora died keeping the dragonkin pennined in their volcano lair to ensure their deaths and save the rest of the party?

The second part of this is not being afraid to throw the rules out the window when it makes for a better story and more enjoyable game for all involved. If you were to tell any RPG player they couldn't change what was in the background of a sourcebook they'd likely hit you over the head with it.

So why do people insist of 40k being by the book, balanced, consistent and things which go against its origins as an RPG?

The boarding of the hulk "Expurgaration of Plegmnostisitis" went better than most other actions of its type. Though the Genestealers did hog the hot tub.

My instant reaction to the first post I quoted was "roleplaying games" - I've been up against a literally unkillable invincible being who will kill us in less than five seconds flat, and won. The GM was dumbfounded (and somewhat annoyed) at how I pulled off slaying who was meant to be the major antagonist for the next many adventures the first time we met. It was not balanced, the encounter was designed so that it was impossible for us to win.
It was a very satisfying victory. If I'd died I would have been saddened at my character dying, but they would have gone out fighting and in character.

Isn't it in character for the Eldar to launch a strike against a massively outnumbering force to kill the leader? Marines to drop into a tyranid infested world and come out victorious? Le Soldat Marbo to kill an entire Waaagh with nothing but his knife and bad attitude?

Most other wargames have little concept of balance in the way many 40k players want it - Stargrunt II explicitly has no points values or force orgs, just some sample platoon organisations that aren't balanced against each other. It seems to be a thing with the fantasy / sci-fi genre and the newer systems.
My thought is that it is a (somewhat sensible from that perspective) marketing move - it is so much easier to get people into a game when they know they have an 'equal' chance at winning so long as each army has the same points total. Play a scenario titled "you guys are screwed, the enemy has unlimited forces and you have no ammo" doesn't exactly encourage new players when they get curb stomped by TFG.

But that is the 'price' of having a relatively obscure hobby going more and more mainstream - that certain aspects of it get watered down: less overt violence in the book's art - plenty of skulls but not many severed heads, removing the medical slavery aspect of geneseed creation, not mentioning the marine cannibalism ability much, less overt political satire, less humour, less ripping off Dune.

This isn't a bad thing per se, it gets people who would otherwise pass the hobby over involved in it, and with things like Battle Missions (Kill Team in particular), the various home brew projects and such the art of the thematic mission won't die. It shouldn't, as that's how 40k is designed to be played!
I remember a battle report from not too long ago where it mentions a Battlewagon being allowed to jump an 'impassible' waterway to ram an opponent - they specifically mentioned it wasn't in the rules but it was cool so they allowed it.

I'm a big fan of that sort of thinking as it makes the game into more than a RST or Chess on steroids - it really makes it a 'recreation' of a battle in the 40k universe. Many people like to quote "fluff =/= rules", usually to point out why certain things don't work some way (why don't marines have chainswords is one I was recently), but forget that if they want they can change the rules.
Opponents of this argue that getting used to your own houserules can be confusing when you play a new opponent as they will be expecting a 'by the book' match. That's fine, every adventuring party needs the odd random encounter to grind some experience, but the real fun is when it gets crazy and the rules go out the window.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sculpting Tools

Colonel Corbane mentioned recently he can't get metal sculpting tools to work for him, so I thought I'd give a brief rundown on the tools I use.

I'm using five metal tools and three rubber ones, along with various other bits and pieces. Four of the metal tools are double ended, as shown below:

The leftmost tool is the GW tool, and it is the thickest of the lot. It's too bulky to be much good for all but the bulkiest of work, and even then the other tools really do it better.
The other three are of various thicknesses (all thinner than the GW one), but more importantly there is a variety of shapes to be had. The rightmost 'speartip' is very useful for poking a very specific point, but has more body than a simple pick so wont be just gouging a single spot.

Here are the other ends, the GW one is useful for smoothign small areas flat, while the centre two have subtly different curves to them for shaping edges. The rightmost one is similar to the GW one, but very thin and quite sharp. This has come in useful on many occasions for reaching into gaps, such as the fingers on Sgt Stoker's power fist, where a blade would be too unwieldy to reach.

The other tools in my sculpting arsenal include a dental pick and three latex tipped 'paint shapers'. The pick is good as it is not only pointed (for doing small holes etc) but a thin round object for defining small gaps.

The shapers are mounted in handles of the same thickness as a GW small drybrush, and are the smallest generally available to my knowledge. From left to right:

-A square chisel tip, it has a faint curve on the inside, good for smoothing out foreheads, legs or other rounded areas. The reveres side has a sharper cut to it, so the tip is quite pointed.

- A 45 degree diagonal cut through a cylindrical shape, it has a flat face and a curved vertical surface. I don't really use this one much honestly.

- A point. I use this one a lot for 'nudging' details and gently shaping areas (like cheekbones).

The shapers are very easy to use, being paintbrushes essentially and, unlike their metal counterparts, have some give in them so don't cut into the putty but rather 'smoosh' it. I use them much more than the metal tools for 'organic' shapes - by that I mean anything like body parts, clothes etc - things that don't need hard edges.

In addition to these I use my craft knife, wire, and anything with an appropriate shape to make impressions.