Monday, March 28, 2011

When the Navy Walked: A Review

First, a little backstory.  I didn't announce it here but I've been on vacation (hence the lack of posting).  I usually don't share that kind of information because I'm a little paranoid that someone would go rob my house while I was out of town, but I'm back now so the risk has passed.  I went to Florida to take my kids to see my grandparents, and by pure coincidence ended up being in Orlando at the same time as MegaCon 2011.
Side note: if you go, bring an 11 year old boy with you like I did.  That way people won't think of you as a creepy 40-something leering at scantily clad youth but instead figure you are letting your young son try to find that rare Nightcrawler action figure, which was actually the case.
One of the vendors at MegaCon was selling copies of When the Navy Walked, and since this was the only wargaming item I could find there (unless you consider bustiers or anime-themed knit hats wargaming items) I bought a copy.  I have been a fan of Victorian-era wargaming since The Major General Tremorden Rederring actually updated his website regularly, so a new VSF game sounded particularly interesting.
So to start the review, the basics.  $29.95, 68 pages perfect bound, some color photography.  15mm scale (although it is flexible), variable basing (see below), 4' by 4' table recommended.  d6 and d12 die.  Each game lasts 2-4 hours.
Side note 2: why can't reviewers share this information as a general matter of course?  For me, things like scale make or break a game for me.  Anyways...
There are several kinds of units: ground units (infantry and cavalry, of 4-6 stands with 3 infantry or 2 cavalry figures), command units (one stand), artillery units (two stands), "machines" which constitute small mechanized ground vehicles, small flying units, and "capital" vehicles which are your large tanks, etc.  Basing for vehicles is varied and largely left up to the player and the model.
Each unit has a number for its rate of movement, shooting and shooting range, close combat, command, morale, and espionage or sabotage, depending on the type.  WtNW has a point-buy system which allows the player to design whatever kind of unit or vehicle they desire, although they have several sample army lists from the rather typical alt-history VSF timeline, which like so many has the Confederacy gaining their independence during the American Civil War.  It must be to allow for two American-based armies.
Gameplay has each side generating command points from a combination of set numbers and die rolls, from which commands are then written (moving, charging, shooting, etc.)  Each turn then has all units first moving, shooting, charging, melee, sabotaging, and rallying in the order of their command value.  This a change from the IGOUGO model and would take some rethinking for those more familiar with turn-based models.
What do I like about the game?  I love the point-based build system which allows the player to conceive of their own army composition.  I could also see scratchbuilding 15mm VSF vehicles becoming a hobby unto itself, like Tony over at Dampf's Modelling Page used to do with Aeronef.
Side note 3: I miss Tony's Flash Gordon stuff, but he's clearly working the Flintloque end of his hobby right now.
The game system seems pretty straightforward.  Not a lot of ground-breaking material there.  For units, hits remove stands which in turn affect their offensive ability.  Vehicles suffer various breakdowns using a list very similar to Warhammer 40K's rules.
What do I dislike?  In order of nit-pickiness, from greatest to least:
1. Various basing.  Infantry units are 1.5" wide by .75" deep.  Cavalry are 1.5" by 1".  Command are 1.5" square.  Why the variance?  What possible tactical significance could occur with a difference of a quarter of an inch, when the rules don't put much emphasis on base-to-base interaction?  Ground units have the most rules, with the typical column-line-skirmish-square-disordered variability.  For those of us who have to special order bases, this seems to be an unnecessary (and simple to house-rule over) problem.
2. Typos.  The obvious ones occur to me in the sample army lists, I suspect the culprits of cut-and-paste errors.  Some might just be bad math.
3. Photos.  In a word, grainy, which is too bad because I would think that one of the real appeals here would be the cool look of the VSF vehicles.  The drawn illustrations are crisp, so it isn't a printing issue but a photo-quality problem that could also have been easily avoided.
Now, those three items are pretty minor and really have little to do with the rules themselves, which seem well done and look like fun. 15mm is a change from my typical Colonial-era scale, so I would have to start a whole new line, but when did that stop me?
Final word: recommended.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Goblin Shooters

First of all, welcome to this blog's newest follower, Alexander.  Two years of Russian in college finally pays off in my ability to read a guy's name in Cyrillic.

Next, another two units finished for my Goblin Army for Hordes of the Things.
Goblin Archers (Shooters) by Games Workshop
This marks the end of the figures I had painted up over February and March, and puts me at 50 figures for the year.  So three months into my annual goal of 150 miniatures, I'm one-third of the way there.  That's not bad, but not exactly worth resting on my laurels about either.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Goblin Spears

Goblin Spearmen by Games Workshop
Two units of Goblin Spears based for Hordes of the Things.  My basing process is trundling along nicely, but pretty soon I'm going to run out of the stuff that's been painted and I'll to get back on that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dwarf Shooters for Hordes of the Things

Dwarf Thunderers (Shooters) by Games Workshop
I'm cruising right along with the Hordes of the Things dwarf army.  Here are two units of shooters, made using the Thunderer models from the Battle for Skull Pass boxed set by Games Workshop.  Like the dwarf blades, these guys were basecoated, dipped, and mounted on the base after pinning.  Six more points towards the total.

Next up, some goblin units.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dwarf Blades for Hordes of the Things

Dwarf Blades by Games Workshop
Finally, after nearly two months, the bases I ordered from Litko Aerosystems arrived at my FLGS.  I like ordering stuff through the store because I don't end up paying shipping, and the store gets the business.  Anyways, the bases are in and I've begun finalizing the various units of my dwarf and goblin armies for Hordes of the Things.  To recap, I'm using the miniatures from the previous edition box set of Warhammer Fantasy Battles (purchased with a nice discount from the aforementioned FLGS) to kit out two starter armies that can be used for solo play or indoctrinating new players.  The bases also work for Hostile Realms, although you need more of them.

So these guys had been languishing for weeks, having been basecoated and put aside.  Once the bases were in, I could attach them with pins and superglue, given them a coat of wood varnish, texture the bases and then matte spray varnish the whole base, minis and all.  I continue to be amazed at what a $8.00 can of varnish can do to perk up a model.

Viewers familiar with HotT might note the base seems a little large for two units of Blades.  They are 60mm x 30mm, not 20mm as the rules suggest, because the GW minis are a little chunky, and I didn't think anyone would notice.

But being based and finished means I get six painting points on the board, with more in the pipeline!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Finish Sci-fi terrain piece and some other things

I finished painting the sci-fi terrain piece.  It's nothing complicated, but Mega Minis just released Salvage Crew: Star Mogul for free and I thought I would take a look.

From time to time I read bloggers talking about how life has kicked them in the backside in one way or another.  Some are truly horrific, like losing a child.  Others are more picayune, but nonetheless you hate to see it happen to someone.

Well, this week it is my turn in the barrel.  I ended up at work five evenings this week, and on the last of those evenings my wife blew out her Achilles tendon playing futsal, which is sort of a fast-spaced version of indoor soccer.  So Friday she had surgery to reattach the tendon and will now be in a cast for several weeks and really be unable to use the leg for about four months.

The impact this will have on our lives, in the short, is hard to estimate.  For one thing, unless we can someone locate a carpool option, I'll be driving her to work each day (about half an hour one way) and picking her up. She'll be unable to pursue her athletic activities, which stinks for her big time because that's her big stress reliever.  We are already trying to scale back some of the things that we don't have to do, like having the kids buy lunch instead of making it each night.  It'll be a challenge, but the most important thing is getting the leg back to normal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

WIP Sci-fi Terrain

I tend to like to have at least one pic of something I've done in a hobby-ish fashion each week, but lately things have been pretty busy at work.  (Side note: next week will be even worse, including no less than five evenings working.)  I had cast a few sci-fi bricks with the idea of starting the "let's build an entire space station interior" dream before reality kicked in and I realized that to do so would mean that it would practically be the only thing I did all year.  I did seriously consider it, however.  Generally the thinking went like this:

Why don't I do this?  I mean, I don't have anything else going on.  I'm playing in an RPG now, not running one.  I don't have a current wargame.  It could be my magnum opus.  It could literally be the coolest thing I ever made as a hobbyist.

So anyways, I took the bricks I had cast and put together a little terrain piece, a lot like some ones I made a while back.  Nothing fancy.  Still needs paint.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Old Stuff Day

Over at Warhammer 39,999 Rob has proposed that March 2, 2011 be "Old Stuff Day"

The idea is to highlight the greatest posts of your blog, long after they have faded to the obscurity of the archives.  In the spirit of that, I added the sidebar widget of popular posts, only to find that I don't consider some of the most popular ones to be the most interesting IMHO.  So, here's a list of my favorites:

The finished Numidian Army  How often does a person actually complete a stated goal?  It was so great getting all of these guys done.

An Uncomfortable Topic  I broach the sensitive issue of overweight gamers (including yours truly) and pledge to lose weight while rewarding myself with miniatures.  Side note: I lost the weight and kept it off.  I've actually considered relaunching this to whittle off a little bit more.

The Desert Island Where I announce that I'm moving and making some huge changes to my hobby lifestyle.

I can't help but notice that my big three are all having to do with my personal life as much as what I paint.  I did see the previous year's "Year in Review" made the most popular list, which is cool because I like that one as well.  I have noticed that I tend to replow the same field over and over again: namely that I'm not gaming nearly as much as I want.  I'm still working on that.


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