The Cheap Gamer – Goblin Restoration

It’s tough being a goblin. A goblin is nearly as low as you can get in greenskin hierarchy. Downtrodden scavengers, who clothe and arm themselves with what they can find, forced to live in the abandoned places of the world and if that wasn’t bad enough they’re always at risk of being eaten by squigs. They are the ultimate rejects.

Back in 2006 the little losers got to feature in the main boxed game again in The Battle for Blood Pass, this time facing the Dwarfs. But 11 years have passed since that edition, and many of the goblins from that box have been consigned to attics, cellars and garages.

So it’s for those reasons I feel sorry for the strangely endearing little blighters. To give them a new lease of life and to save money, I’ve started looking for the abandoned ones. It’s worth mentioning something about Ebay now; items ending on Sundays tend to sell for more than those ending on weekdays. So sellers, schedule your items to end on Sunday. Buyers, look out for the ones that end in the middle of the week, frugal tip. I managed to get a batch of 19 for £3.20. And here is where being a Cheap Gamer conflicts a bit with being a Lazy Gamer. Most of the bargains you find will need a bit of time put into their restoration. Now for me that extra time is no problem. I started the goblin project because I really enjoy restoring. I would place it as one of the main elements of the hobby along with painting, converting, fluff and gaming. It does take a bit of time though. A restorer’s best friends are paint strippers (Dettol, methylated spirits or Biostrip), toothbrushes, cotton buds, kitchen roll, paperclips, pin vices and glue.

I won’t say a bad word about the condition they arrived in because everyone paints to their own standard and at the very least someone made the effort to put colour on them. The boxed game is where lots of beginners start the hobby. My own first minis were from the second edition Warhammer 40,000 box, they were daubed with a centimeter layer of Blood Angels Red, splotched with Choas Black and were the best space marines in the galaxy. What I lacked in painting skill I made up for with enthusiasm. And thick layers paint.

Still, I wanted to give the goblins a nicer coat. I’m an average painter and I can neaten them up a bit to get them back on the board again. They remain wonderful sculpts that fit in with the current range. This is how they ended up with a bit of effort.

I find them all characterful, especially this one who looks a bit hungover, reluctantly taking part in the Waaagh, leaning on their spear for support.

I’ll probably move on to older, vintage minis eventually, but for now I’ll carry on fixing up the Night Goblins until they’re at a full army size. That is unless I get distracted; I’ve just received a 2nd edition Gazghull Thraka, the biggest meanest Ork there ever was.

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High Elves!

In one of my “For later” projects, I picked up a bunch of cheap High Elves from eBay.  In need of some TLC (rebasing, new shields and a few fixes), they do offer a fairly solid base for a classic High Elf army.

I have:

13 Swordmasters (with musician and banner bearer – easy to use one as a champion too)

15 Sea Guard (with musician, champion and banner bearer)

20 Spearmen (with musician, champion and banner bearer, in need of shields and rebasing)

20 Spearmen (with musician, champion and banner bearer, in need of shields and rebasing, champion needs replacement sword)

20 Spearmen (with musician, champion and banner bearer, in need of shields and rebasing)

20 Sea Guard (with musician, champion and banner bearer, in need of shields, rebasing, and 4 models reassembled, champion needs replacement sword)

20 White Lions (10 including banner bearer and musician intact, 6 needing reassembly including champion, and 4 missing heads and arms)

5 Dragon Princes (minor fixes like spear point attachment)

5 old school silver helms

7 Ellyrian Reavers (intact)

5 Ellyrian Reavers (missing heads or arms – horses intact)

5 bolt throwers (no crew)

1 mounted hero with lance (needs shield)

20 or so mixed archers, command, spearmen, wood elves and so on (largely useful for parts, or maybe an impromptu sea guard unit)

I also have some more High Elves from my existing stash, with 2 copies of Island of Blood!

2 x 10 seaguard

2 x 10 swordmasters

2 x 5 Ellyrian Reavers

2 x Mages

2 x Champions on Griffons

Further to GW, I have the 3 light elves from the avatars of war range, with the wood elf archer, a mage and a prince.

I’d like to do the High Elves in silver, white and purple (and offset a dark elf army in silver, black and purple), letting a unified feel for an elf alliance come through.

I’d need around 90 shields (I’m looking at scibor elf shields here), and a selection of elf parts for fixes, maybe from adding a unit box or two and using spare, third party bits, or seeing if bitz sellers have any to hand.  Not amazingly cheap, but awesome looking with gorgeous purple shields painted en mass!

Definitely planning square bases, as I see no advantage to round for me.  AoS doesn’t care if they are square or round, and I can still play WFB 8th, Kings of War, Ninth Age, and games like dungeon saga with squares too.

For 1.99 a set, I can pick up mantic elf crew for bolt throwers that would be quite nice to finish them off, and I think I have more Dark Elf bolt thrower crew than bolt throwers.

Would be really nice to add a few cool bits like a dragon too 🙂

[photos to be added]

 

Why Age of Sigmar isn’t for me

In one of my plans for 2016, I mentioned fantasy models, especially for Age of Sigmar, probably weren’t going to get a look-in, and hinted that the subject was worth a blog post in its own right.  Its a very contentious issue, so first, let me spell out a few things.

These are just my opinions.  You may love the game and models, or hate them – thats fine either way!  I’m quite happy whether you play or not!  In addition, I’m not really a fanboy type mentality – you can hate rules, but love the models, or love the game but hate the fluff.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Finally, get over Warhammer Fantasy – I loved that game, but it’s pretty much defunct except for occasional games with mates.  Loving Warhammer Fantasy Battle doesn’t mean you have to love or hate Age of Sigmar – try to see it as a new game.

I see a game as being built from 3 main pillars.  You have the background, or fluff.  You have the rules for the game, and finally, you have the actual quality of the pieces or models.  For a game to work for me, you need to have at least 2 of these (and often one spills over to another).  I’m afraid that from my perspective, Age of Sigmar doesn’t pass that criteria.

First, the background and fluff could have been systematically designed to leave me cold.  I’m a fairly traditional fantasy chap, and love the standard old races – your hobbits, wood elves, high elves and so on.  In addition, I like magic to be something rare and unusual to your average citizen, rather than high magic settings where everyone is infused by power x from god y or artefact z.  Everything in Age of Sigmar is superpowered – from god warriors of sigmar to god warriors of the chaos powers, through star demon lizards and elemental fire infused dwarves.  It just fails to grab me.  I’m fully aware this is a matter of personal taste, and I suspect those who grew up with World of Warcraft rather than Lord of the Rings will absolutely love it.  The silly names, all clearly designed for copyright purposes, don’t really work for me either.

Second, I’ve tried the game more than once, and I really haven’t enjoyed it.  The rules only cover 4 pages, but lack clarity, and lots of rules need specific knowledge of specific “war scrolls” or unit cards.  Its a lot harder to get a feel for the overall game.  The lack of points costs is something I’m a bit ambivalent about, but it doesn’t feel like there are many options apart from some scenarios to replace them.  Its bloody difficult to work out what should be a fun game sometimes unless you’ve a lot of experience playing AoS or use home-brew systems.  And the simplistic combat rules just leave me cold.  Multiple groups of fast elves gang up on some slow dwarves, and just queue up to take turns hitting?  Erk.  I was hoping for a fun, simple skirmish system, and to be honest, it probably is.  But people use it to play army encounters, and that gets sluggish and not really fun for me.  So while I understand that some people enjoy it, and see the simple rules as a great way to introduce people to gaming, it doesn’t work for me.  Its OK, I’d play a game if someone really wanted to, but I’d rather play something else.

And then finally the models.  Age of Sigmar has, in theory, some utterly amazing models.  For me, the problem is that they follow the fluff and all tie into the super-powered theme.  So while I might grab an individual model here or there, I haven’t seen anything that makes me think “I want an army of those”.  To put it in context, I think I can field 750-1000pts minimum of pretty much every 40K force (except the recent admech).  And thousands of points of my favourites.  I’m really their core audience for army buying, and I’m just not excited enough to even pick up the starter set.

So yeah, I fully understand why people love it, and the models are gorgeous in detail and design.  But the underlying theme leaves me cold, and the rules aren’t good enough to counter that.  Honestly, there are a fair few flaws in the 40K ruleset.  But the fluff, theme and models are cracking, and carry my enthusiasm through the few games that get derailed by odd rules issues.  That enthusiasm isn’t there for AoS, so it makes it much harder to get excited.

Of course, when they finally release Aelves, I’ll probably change my tune.  I love pointy ears!

2015 in Wargaming – Kipper’s Thoughts

Its been a very interesting year in terms of hobby!  I think the key word for 2015 has to be “change”.

There are 2 major forces for change, I think.  The first is that some major franchises are pushing into the wargaming space.  Aliens vs Predator and Star Wars Imperial Assault hits the 28mm sci-fi skirmish scene, Star Wars X-Wing and Star Trek Attack Wing hit starship dogfighting, and Star Wars Armada and Halo Fleet battle hit strategic fleet battle simulations.  People who wouldn’t dream of playing Warhammer 40K are playing these and getting sucked into the wider hobby.

The 2nd big change has been the demolition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and its replacement with Age of Sigmar, a much simpler game with a much higher fantasy tone.  Some people love it, others hate it, but it has certainly opened up a lot of eyes to trying new games and systems.  People who never dreamed of buying anything but GW miniatures now happily buy miniatures from all sorts of places to play a wide range of games.  The world of fantasy games in particular is now much more open.

There are other factors as well – Infinity and Malifaux go from strength to strength, and Guildball has been massively popular out of nowhere in the fantasy sports arena.  But people do seem to be really looking at the broader industry to a much greater degree than ever before, and the quality of mixtures and games has skyrocketed.

I know my hobby patterns have been shaken up massively this year.  I’ve got into Malifaux a little, and got into Star Wars X-Wing and Armada a LOT!  The death of Warhammer Fantasy has paradoxically got me very excited about fantasy models again, and  I’ve been enthused for lots of new games, like Kings of War, Frostgrave, Of Gods and Mortals, classic 3rd edition and 6th edition warhammer.   Dark Elves have been resurrected, and Dungeon Saga has opened me up to new model lines – a mantic undead army is tempting in 2016!

40K isn’t getting me excited like it used to.  Some individual models being released are magnificent, but the general trend is leaving me a bit cold.  I’m not sure why – I think its the new scale of battles.  It feels like replicating the old epic stuff in 28mm – I don’t really want to play with loads of fliers and titans (though I may have and Eldar Titan to paint up in 2016!!!) and superheavy tanks.  I really enjoyed 5th edition with infantry on the ground.  I’m still enjoying painting models, like my tyranids, but it’d take some pretty amazing offers or superb models for me to buy much.  Of course, I suspect a cracking novel or a good game or two will change that up entirely! 😀

I’ve also broadened my paint selection quite a lot! I’ve moved from GW only through Army Painter, and now into Vallejo, particularly model air and airbrushing!   I’m now very keen on finding the best paint for the job regardless of brand…. though I do prefer dropper pots!

I’ve seen a big move to gaming online between physical events, with x-wing, armada, malifaux and guildhall all having strong presence and support on Vassal. Infinity relies a little more on 3d and line of sight, but there are infinity modules too.  It helps encourage people to know the rules and play, and really strengthens the community around the games.

 

Although I haven’t been able to game as much as I’d like taking part in events like #WAAC charity raffles have been tremendous fun and very rewarding!  In more ways than one, having won a force of Malifaux Ressurectionists!  I hope I’ll get more games in, and more painting time next year, but most of all I hope its just as much fun!

Age of Sigmar and Kings of War – simplifying fantasy battles.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle is dead!  Long live … Well, what is the heir to WFB’s crown?  2 games really stand out – its replacement, Age of Sigmar, and it’s competition, Kings of War.

Age of Sigmar is the new approach taken by Games Workshop.  It focuses on individual models, to a much greater extent than Warhammer Fantasy Battle ever did.  Indeed, it goes further than 40K does, and that was always more of a skirmish feel than Fantasy ever was.  Individual base shapes and sizes don’t matter at all, allowing individuals to have fantastic bases and poses.

Kings of War is the fantasy battle game produced by Mantic.    It focuses on units, to a much greater extent that Warhammer Fantasy Battle every did.  Each unit is largely governed by the base size.  Individual models don’t really matter, not even being removed as casualties (which allows a unit to have great fixed dioramas and poses).

Both games are designed to run significantly faster with streamlined rules compared to the classic WFB model.  In my test games, Age of Sigmar seems to play better with smaller forces than a traditional WFB game, while KoW scaled up better – the system stayed elegant, while AoS got increasing clumsy.  On the flip side, AoS gets more interesting as forces shrink, while KoW doesn’t scale down well – the use of units as integral models stops being effective with one or two units on a table.

Tactically, the war of manoeuvre that was present in Warhammer Fantasy Battle is much more present in Kings of War.  Flank or rear attack an enemy unit, and you are truly going to cause some damage – facing doesn’t really matter in AoS at all.

On the flip side, the presence of mages and heroes are much more vibrant and present in AoS (to the point where many wonder why its worth taking a unit!)  Spells, powers, there is a real range and uniqueness to the individual characters – in KoW, heroes and mages are pretty limited.  Units and warmachines are kings of the field – much more like historical gaming with Roman or Greek armies.

At the end of the day, I think it really depends on which aspects of WFB you enjoyed most. Mass army tactics?  Kings of War is probably your choice.  Varied models and more fantasy magic and powerful heroes?  Then there’s a lot in Age of Sigmar to enjoy.

Both system offer core rules for free – Kings of War has slightly limited army lists but the points system makes pickup games and tournaments easy to play, while Age of Sigmar seems to rely more on scenarios for balancing games, and you’ll need to invest in books to get these.

I am fascinated by the two opposed approaches to simplifying the game of playing out a fantasy battle.  The model, or the unit?  Magic, or strategy?  I do like the original WFB editions … but I remember how long a game could take.  I think simplifying the core rules is the way forward, and time will tell which approach was correct.

There are lots of other games out there, but few are in direct line to succeed WFB.  Warmachine and Hordes are amazing games, for example, but they are definitely more based around skirmish level encounters, and individual models, and focussed on a tight tournament play style.  They aren’t an obvious replacement to WFB using similar minis.

Dark Elves …. redux! And alternatives!

Well, after over 10 years, I am revisiting my Dark Elves!  I have a battered collection from some time ago (the late 90s, in fact!) consisting of mostly GW models, though there are a few from another range at the time.  Though some of the bigger war machines and creatures are destroyed, there’s still the nice core of an army, and reinforcements from @thee_other_matt of era appropriate elves takes it up to a really nice little force.  I’ll see if I can snap some pics soon.

Given my typical over the top enthusiasm, I am looking at expanding the force, but its difficult to get enthusiastic with some of the current GW prices, and the fact it looks like they are killing WFB – it means the need to have a “pure GW” force for tournaments and stuff is a lot less important!  £35 for 10 Witch Elves is a bit on the high side, though they are gorgeous minis, and their heroes are at the same level and better quality than most alternatives.  I have some early doors alternatives already, too, so having some models to complement them isn’t bad either.  Mind you, some of the GW boxes are great value!  £15.50 for 10 corsairs is great, as is £20 for 10 dark elves you can assemble as swordsmen, crossbowmen, or spearmen.

So with that in mind, I set out to find what is actually available!

Avatars of War

Avatars of War have been my star discovery, especially as I love Witch Elves, and generally powerful female hero types, which tend to be lacking in GW’s range a bit (with the exception of sorceresses!).

Although now out of stock, they do some lovely looking Witch Elves (or Vestals), for around £30 for 20, or £1.50 each.  Compared to £3.50 each for basic troops at GW, that’s quite a saving for some loving looking models!  If you are lucky enough to find the preorder boxes, you get another 10 elves in there for free, and many places also do a 10% online discount, making it simply superb value!

Avatars of War - Vestals.jpg

You can only get male assassins from GW – there are 2 female options from Avatars.

Avatars of War - Assassin 1.pngAvatars of War - Assassin 2.png

There are no female heroes in the GW Dark elves line outside of Sorceresses either, with 2 strong contenders as Dark Elf Princesses in the Avatars of War line.

Avatars of War - Princess 1.pngAvatars of War - Princess 2.png

The GW Sorceresses are all pretty great models anyway, but there are 2 more options here.  Ones a bit too scantily clad for me, but the other one is a really great model.

Avatars of War - Sorcereress 1.pngAvatars of War - Sorcereress 2.png

Finally, there is a male hero in the line (again, with so many great ones in the GW line its a bit redundant though).  He’d make a cracking dreadlord or fleetmaster.

Avatars of War - Prince 1 (Corsair).png

Raging Heroes

Raging Heroes are amazing for strong female miniatures.  They have several lines of futuristic female troops coming out at the moment, and several more (and fantasy ones under development following a kickstarter.  At the moment, they have a small but solid range of Dark Elf types available.

In terms of troops, there are some cracking Blood Vestals or Witch Elves.  At about £15 for 5 basic troops and £16 for the command squad, they aren’t cheap, though they still clock in £4-5 cheaper than the GW equivalent.

Raging Heroes - Vestal Command.jpgRaging Heroes - Vestal Troop.jpg

As a Dreadlord or Sorceress alternative, Asharah is a brilliant option, with arms to allow physical or magical gear.

Raging Heroes - Asharah.jpgRaging Heroes - Asharah 2.jpg

As a Dreadhag or maybe Hellebron alternate, Skaryaa the Blood Mistress looks awesome.

Raging Heroes - Skaryaa.jpg

In the future, this range is going to expand massively!  Its going to be an amazing line of mostly female Dark Elves, so well worth checking back on.

Mantic Games

Mantic games is surprisingly disappointing when it comes to Dark Elves (or Twilight Kin)! Their line is basically the Elf range with metal conversion parts, which means they are much more expensive than most of the Mantic models (generally £18 for 10, so for most troop types you may as well go GW at £20 for 10 anyway – the normal mantic cost for elves is £15 for 20), and the plastic/metal combination is hard to work with.  No witch elf equivalents either!  They have a gorgeous sorceress model, but apart from that, they aren’t worth looking at until the line is refreshed!

Mantic - Sorceress.jpg

Gamezone Miniatures

Gamezone has been my surprise win for Dark Elves, particular spearmen!  At around 25 euros for a unit of 30, and good looking infantry at that, its by far the best value core troops available for Dark Elves.  In contrast, GW’s dark spears are £20 for 10.

Gamezone - DE Infantry.gif

They do a reasonable unit of cavalry for a similar price, but with GW’s dark one riders at 5 for £20, its not really cost effective!

Gamezone - DE Cavalry.gif

They also do “Predators” or Cold Ones.  Far more expensive than GW’s, they also look much better, in my opinion.  Real brutes of dinosaurs!  These could be worth it for heroes!

Gamezone - DE Cold One Hero.jpg

Finally, they do a small but solid range of individual characters and metal crossbowmen and harpies.  The gem is probably the equivalent of Morathi on Pegasus.

Gamezone - DE Sorceress on Pegasus.jpg

Others

Mirliton do an old school range of Dark Elves, but I think they’ll look a bit dated and small, even against late 90s GW metals.

Reaper Miniatures do a wide range of models, but its more aimed at the skirmish scale or D&D collections, with some cool individual models, but not really army forces.  Definitely worth exploring for some cheaper models to bulk out armies, or for variety in your heroes though.