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]

 

Bloodbowl! Dark Elves!

Well, with the announcement of a re-release of Bloodbowl from Games Workshop in 2017, there’s a lot of excitement about the game!  It’s worth noting, though, that there has been lots of activity in the Bloodbowl area for years, even without GW support, so here’s a look at some of the cracking teams and options that are out there.  Rather than breaking it down my manufacturer, I thought I’d break it down by race!  First up, Dark Elves!

NB – As I come across more bits and pieces, I’ll hopefully keep this up to date with new options and models.

Complete Teams

Tanatos Dark Elf Team (MK1881)

http://www.comixininos.com/blood-bowl-teams/elfos-oscuros/complete-teams/dark-elves-dark-elf-team-of-16-players-mk1881.html

This is probably my favourite looking Dark Elf team at the moment.  Its a vicious looking greek style armour, with all the positions you’d want for a Dark Elf team, and the slightly unusual theme really makes it distinctive (with a solid nod to the original 2nd edition GW team).

Honos Dark Elf Team (MK1881)

http://www.comixininos.com/blood-bowl-teams/elfos-oscuros/complete-teams/pro-elves-pro-elf-team-of-16-players-mk1881.html

This team is quite neat with some very dynamic poses.  To me, though, it feels a little bland with the slightly generic elf but spiky look.

Dark Elf Team (Uscarl Miniatures)

http://www.comixininos.com/miniaturas-por-fabricante/uscarl/dark-elves-team-of-15-players-uscarl-miniatures.html

The sculpts aren’t up to the standard of some of the more modern style teams here, but there is lots of character in there with a decent range of positions and poses.

Wicked Elves (Shadowforge Miniatures)

https://www.tritex-games.co.uk/product/shadowforge-female-wicked-elf-team-x-11-players-2802/

This team has been on the market since before GW stopped selling BB!  Its a cracking set of sculpts, if a trifle cheesecake!  Still nice to be able to field a female team on the pitch though!  I must confess, I have a full set of these 🙂  And if you do a lot of the skin areas as lycra, they actually look pretty fun.

One useful note – there are a wide range of extra models for the team beyond the core – both extra poses for the various positions, but also for the various support roles, such as cheerleaders, mages, coaches, security and so on.

Black Widows (Impact Miniatures)

http://www.impactminiatures.com/index.php?option=widows_profile&id=BW_TM3

I’m not terribly enamoured by these, as there isn’t enough different sculpts, and the clothing choices are … odd.  Mind you, paint the exposed skin area as spandex and it’d actually look pretty good.

Dark Elves (Neomics)

http://www.gaspez-arts.com/dark-elves/neomics-team-dark-elves.html

Elfe Delle Tenbre (Gaspez Arts)

http://www.gaspez-arts.com/elfi-delle-tenebre/team-elfi-delle-tenebre.html

Night Talons (Esair)

http://www.esair.baueda.com/shoptalons.html

I really like the look of this team.  Its pretty unique, like an armoured madonna team 🙂

Star Players

Hubris Rakarth Alternatives

http://willyminiatures.com/product/dark-elf-star-player/

Roxana Darknail Alternatives

http://willyminiatures.com/product/witch-elf-star-player/

 

http://www.gaspez-arts.com/team-captain/witch-sarah-darksoul-special-edition-2nd-ttc.html

 

Eldred Sidewinder Alternatives

http://willyminiatures.com/product/hypnotic-eyes-elf-star-player/

 

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.

2014 – A Quick Review of Major Gaming Changes

Well, it’s been a major year of developments for the wargaming hobby, with lots of new systems or updates that have shaken things up a lot.

Warhammer 40K

Warhammer 40K has seen lots of revisions over the last 12 months.  The latest 7th edition was released in May this year as part of an absolutely frenetic release schedule.  Almost every codex has been updated by at least an eBook release, and a new format of “campaign” box sets, aimed at experienced gamers, has tied in to campaign books and novels.  White Dwarf has gone weekly, while the monthly magazine is now just a simple model showcase.

Its generally a really brilliant time to enjoy the 40K hobby, though the pace of change is currently hard to keep up with.  If you are challenged for time, maintaining awareness of the releases can be exhausting.  In addition, the incorporation of major tanks and war machines into the standard game as “lords of war”, especially after the 6th edition  aircraft changes, has been off putting for those who really enjoy a more tactical combined arms approach.  There is an element here where those who can afford the newer releases are more likely to win.

Fabulous models and a cracking universe keep it the champion sci-fi war-game on the market!

Warhammer Fantasy Battle

While no new version has been released directly, the series of “End Times” books with awesome combined armies (I’ve been tempted to get out my Dark Eldar and add some High and Wood Elves!) have really shaken up the game, and made it much more appealing.  Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts?  That’s how it rolls!

Its a huge gamble, with major characters being killed and areas of the world being destroyed, but seems to be paying off – the general enthusiasm for the game is higher than I’ve seen for years!

Infinity

I’ll hopefully be doing a complete review of the new N3 rules for @docbungle, but the new book is gorgeous, and the upgrades to the rules fantastic.  The biggest change is that the rules and universe are much more accessible – much more care and attention has gone into  the language.  Its going to really gain popularity, especially with the starter set – Operation Ice Storm, and the continuing high quality of the minis.

Malifaux

Although hardcore fans will disagree, I’m sure, Malifaux has stayed reasonably static this year, after a major update in Oct 2013.  That’s no bad thing – lots of new mini releases have come out matching the 2e rules, and its been a tremendous year for playing – there just haven’t been the huge shakeups we’ve seen elsewhere.

X-Wing

The new Scum and Villainy faction announced in August really opens up X-Wing to a very different approach, with lots of unique ships and the prospect of more complex multiplayer battles!  Having the option to play rogues and pirates, rather than just Rebels and Imps is great.  Continuing releases have been fascinating, though for me TIE fighters, X-Wings and Y-wings are where its at!

Open Combat

A new skirmish game released this year, Open Combat is great fun.  The rules are mini independent, so you can roll up those historical models with your mordheim gangs for some mixed up fun!  A great game, and my surprise hit of the year. Check it out at Second Thunder!

Warhammer Visions – what I don’t see!

Well, the change to White Dwarf has happened!  White Dwarf has become a weekly pamphlet – I don’t think 30 pages qualifies for anything else.

Warhammer Visions is the big one.  It replaces the monthly White Dwarf, and is supposed to be the inspirational magazine, with almost double the page count (although at a hefty jump in price).  It also replaces the iPad subscription if that’s what you’ve got.

Its also, unfortunately, a really badly implemented move.  Although the page count has doubled, the size of the pages has roughly halved, so if anything, you are getting less for your money.   The print quality seems significantly worse in my copy than the previous White Dwarfs, which have been gorgeously printed whether you liked the content or not.

In terms of the content … well, the phrase damp squib truly springs to mind.  It is purely images of models … from Golden Demons, a show case of tyranids, Blanchitsu, and a “battle report”.  All of the minimal labels on the images are in three languages to maximise international sales.  Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing, of course – some people will find the images inspirational.  I don’t, at this point.  Why?

Well, Blanchitsu, while once my favourite article, now just seems to be pictures of his mates’ models, rather than anything actually from John Blanche, and there’s certainly no text saying why he likes them or what is special about the art.

The “Battle Report”  is a atrocious – a few snaps aren’t a battle report.  The setup, the army lists, the full board level illustrations highlighting the armies moves – these are pretty much vital to get a feel for an actual game.  Some photos?  Well, I see that on twitter as mates play with more information than here.

There isn’t any return of Heavy Metal – it still uses paint splatter and fairly simple colour guides to illustrate a few of the themed models (tyranids in this month’s case).

The photos themselves are reasonably well taken (if viewed on the iPad edition), but a lot have been seen elsewhere.  It doesn’t feel fresh.

I didn’t think it’d be a big deal for me, but I hate the multiple language labels.  It feels like we’re losing out on actual information about the models and paint choices for basic labels that work in three languages … its a sales move, and it shows.

I feel its a real shame, because I like the core concept behind Visions.  If we had a monthly magazine focussing on the cinematic and aspirational side of the hobby, that could be good!  What would need to change to keep me subscribing?

Well, some actual artwork, and short stories, would help too!  When I visualise the various worlds, I don’t just think of the models – I want to see the universe.  I want to paint an army of Crimson Fists because of the Rogue Trader cover, not because of someone else’s models.   With a bold title like visions, I wanted to see a new view of the fantasy and 40K worlds.

I’d scrap paint splatter in the monthly, and go back to the really advanced heavy metal guides.  Could I use them all?  Probably not now – but the techniques show that with practise I can get there.  Paint splatter is for the battlefield if I lack any inspiration – heavy metal is for dreamers.

I’m not sure visions is the right field for battle reports at all, but imagine if you used a short story from the heresy with shots of the battle deployed with models?  That might get me excited to get me playing.

At the moment, I’m afraid its a damp, expensive squib, rather than a visionary firework.  The best thing GW did was deliver it on a saturday, when their lines were closed so I couldn’t cancel right away.

Warhammer 40K – Is it fun, competitive, or both?

Someone on twitter (The Eternal Wargamer) asked a fantastic question:

Here's a question: why do some players want to try and play 40K & Fantasy competitively when even GW say they're not designed that way?

Well, I’m not a particularly competitive player – still no flyers in any army, for example (though thats more down do smallbabyitis interfering with hobby time!), but it did make me think quite seriously  about the hobby.  I haven’t played fantasy in over a decade, so this really refers to 40K!

40K is, in many ways, a broken game.  I find it fun and entertaining, absolutely love the models, and really enjoy playing it if I get the chance with friends or at the Overlords gaming club.  It’s still pretty flawed though!  It relies on a point system to match up armies as standard, and the point system is a nonsense, really.  If I pick 1500pts of close combat Tyranids, and my opponent picks three flying heldrakes with flame weaponry for anti-infantry work in their army, the two lists are not equivalent.  I can’t hurt some of his troops at all!  1500pts will not give an equal match against 1500pts, unless both lists are pretty much identical.  Some armies, particularly marines, end up with identical units costing different amounts.  There’s an argument that the synergies within an army are taken into account when costing individual units to explain this, but a large part of this is down to the lists simply favouring newer models so GW can sell more!  Its solid business practise, even if it doesn’t help the game in the longer term.

Now, for a friendly game down the club (or in my case, with Leonidas or Saint Aidan), thats not a problem.  You can take that into account and work out good match ups, or build custom scenarios that are supposed to be unbalanced (like a small force of marines holding a pass against a Nid horde, which was fun after watching 300!).  But competitively, that can’t work particularly well.  If someones out to win, they won’t give up an advantage to make it a more fun game.  One problem is that all it takes is one person in a group being a little more competitive, buying the latest models for advantage rather than just liking them, and you end up with anyone who plays him losing … unless they buy the latest models and work out a competitive list too!

Its not even as cut and dried as that – as an example, Saint Aidan loves heldrakes.  Not for advantage – he loves the model, loves assembling them, loves it soaring over the battlefield.  I don’t have flyers – so I’m playing at a bit of a disadvantage.  Asking him not to use his favourite models is taking the fun out of the game for him!

Some people start to get a bit confused here, talking about fluffy lists, and competitive lists, and how you can have fluffy competitive lists.  A fluffy list, to me, is simply one that follows the rich background that surrounds 40K.  Its a list where an Imperial Fist force is geared towards a siege assault, or an Iyanden force is largely made of ghost warriors, or a Farsight Enclave force that doesn’t include ethereals and limited tanks.   Of course that can be competitive – it often isn’t.     I don’t really care about the fluff in this analysis (I love the fluff in 40K, don’t get me wrong – its the main reason I read so much Black Library and stick with the game!) – I’m just looking at the difference between those who have to create competitive lists, optimising their armies effectiveness, and those who play for fun, with models they particularly like or lists based purely on the background rather than worrying about effectiveness.

Essentially, unless we’re willing to rewrite chunks of the game through custom scenarios, house rules, or are pretty relaxed about losing regularly, the very game system forces us toward newer models and a competitive nature – and most people hate to lose ALL the time.

If the question means why do we play GW at a tournament level, well, I don’t, really!  But I understand why people would – if you are competitive, it gives you an opportunity to show how good you are.  If you aren’t, its an opportunity to meet other gamers, show off your models and painting, and have a fun, hobby based day out.  Either way, you probably don’t want to spend the entire day being thrashed, so a reasonably competitive list is pretty much going to be needed.

Is a little competition bad?  Not if it forces us to excel.  I’m lucky that I can just enjoy my gaming with the models I have .  I don’t think I’d like to play with someone who feels that the real fun is the win, not the game.  Still, without fixing a very broken points system for match ups – Warhammer is never going to be a good vehicle for genuine fair competition.  Fun, yes, but all a competition will show is an element of guessing from rock, paper, scissors style armies (and unit types), and a fair chunk of money to field the latest models, with some tactical skill to use them.  It won’t show the better general.