Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Review: Warlord's Blood Red Skies

New boxed game

Some time ago I pitched an idea for a new airgame to Warlord. My theme was that it was time for a new approach to airgames. Warlord politely replied that they agreed.....and, in fact, they had already given a contract to some bloke called Andy Chambers to do just that!

From this you can draw two conclusions: (i) freelancers such as myself have to be always on the make and (ii) timing is everything.

I am a great fan of Andy's work so I was pleased to buy an advanced copy at Salute: here are my initial thoughts.

Let's start with what you get in the box for £40.

Bf 109E

There are twelve soft plastiky-resin 1:200 Battle of Britain models in the box. Detailing is good for soft plastic. The tails on the 109s are slightly bent. I tried the old trick of dipping them in a really hot cup of tea (makes for interesting weathering) and the plastic softened and could be reposed. The material did seem to have a memory and gradually change back overnight to some degree but this is really pretty trivial.

The models are supplied unpainted. I washed them thoroughly as I would any soft plastic or resin model, and the acrylic paint went on without any problem at all.


Close up of detailing

The upper camoflague rather hides the detailing but this shot of a spitfire miniature underside in light grey with black wash shows how good it is.

Achtung Spitfeur

The above photo shows the six Spitfire 1/II models included.

The stands slot in and out of the models to allow the card markers at the base of the stands to be interchangable, X-Wing style. The stands have three position click-hinges - that have nothing to do with banking or climb/dive. More about this later.

Markings on the stands show the aircraft 'front', and four quarters. The colour and number indicate pilot skill, varying from 2-5.

Rulebooks

There are three rule booklets, standard, expanded and scenarios.

The rules are written in a minimalist style so bear careful reading. A single sentence can have a vast impact on play.

Expanded rules are mostly about the various doctrine, theatre and plane ability cards with are played to give special impacts.

'Cheat sheets'

Included are two double-sided summary sheets with all relevant information commonly needed during pay.

Terrain

Flat terrain works well with airgames and the half-doz thick card double sided terrain markers with clouds on one side and balloons on the other are welcome.

Light bombers

Three double sided thick cards represent Do17s and Blenheims.

Markers

And the box is stuffed with markers, player aids, cards and D6 dice inscribed as victory bars - a nice touch.

Luftwaffe over Kent

I played a basic game using just the standard rules with no cards.

Have a look at the planes. The left four are horizontal - No Advantage.

The two right planes are tilted nose up - Advantaged.

The whole game hings on Advantage.

You can only shoot at a plane that has  a lower Advantage level than the shooter. And only a nose down, Disadvantaged plane, can be shot down. So the whole game hinges on forcing a plane into a disadvantaged nose down position and then shooting at it and getting a hit.

You can push a plane down an Advantage level by (i) scoring a hit on it - this doesn't damage the target - or (ii) by making an enemy plane within 9 inches take an agility test. Getting on a planes tail forces it right down.

The nose-up-level-down looks a bit odd but you get used to it. Advantage actually represents height, position and energy abstracted into a three position index.


Der Englander pig-dogs

Aces are best used to close within nine inches of a lower pilot-skill opponent - who can be at any o'clock - and automatically forcing it down a level - so follow up planes can kill it.

I made a bad error by using clouds as cover, forgetting that they would force me into Normal. I then discovered that the Spitfire had a speed advantage over the 109 - they move the same number of inches. This meant that my opponent always went first, so he could keep me down by shooting at me and forcing agility tests.

This game is all about forcing your opponent's aircraft into Disadvantage.

Splash!

It was a bad day for the Luftwaffe. they lost three to the jubilant Spitfire pilots.

The game took about two hours to play.


Conclusions

This game works.
It has very good physical components with everything you need to play 'in the box'.
It looks simple but it is actually highly intricate and requires a great deal of skill.
It is imaginative, novel and beautifully crafted.
It is highly abstracted, noticeably in its handling of height/position/energy.
It felt chess-like in that subtle positioning of your aircraft in a team on an opponent is the key to victory rather than heroics or cut and slash.


So should you buy it?
Well, that depends on whether you are a committed airgamer. Air-tekkies probably won't like the abstraction but people looking for a fun game based on the Battle of Britain should seriously take a look. They might prefer this to Wings of Glory.

One point: If you buy and don't like the game then the wargaming components - the models and the clouds etc. - are easily worth £40 so you haven't lost anything if you throw the game away. WoG fighters now cost about £15 each! There are plenty of air rulebooks out there, including some free on the web.

So: Recommended both for airgamers and casual players.




Saturday, 24 March 2018

Hi Tech Miniatures Inquisitor





I fancied doing something different for an Inquisitor model so selected something from Hi Tech Miniatures, who do a vast range of pseudo-40K stuff.

These models are high quality resin and not cheap but IMHO worth it.

Incidentally, if you only want to buy a single model you may find it cheaper postage-wise in the UK to buy from their eBay offers.


The only change I have made to the model is to remove the rather anaemic storm-bolter and replace it with a Mechanicus gun.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Thousand Sons Patrol

Thousand Sons Patrol

   I am a great fan of playing with small armies in 40K as I think the large models need space and lots of terrain to make manoeuvre tactically important. The background of the Thousand Sons in particular lend themselves to narrative games featuring an intrepid exploration team: and here is my version.

HQ

   An Exalted Sorcerer, or Sorcerer if appropriate, is the leader of the expedition and the only HQ.

Rubric Marine Section

   The 'muscle' of my sorcerer's team is provided by a section of Thousand Sons Rubric Marines, which I class as 'Troops' in a Thousand Son force.


Horrors

   A mixed unit of Horrors make an excellent 'meat-shield' of expendables.


Screamers

   A small unit of Daemon Screamers of Tzeentch are great as a fast attack strike unit or emergency reserve, capable of quickly exploiting a success or plugging a hole.

Mirrorfiend

   And finally the Mirrorfiend, played as a Forgefiend, give the patrol a heavy assault unit.


So there it is, a finished army.

Well, almost finished as I might just add some Tzaangors or cultists.....and maybe some Scarab Terminators as an elite bodyguard, and....................









Thursday, 8 March 2018

Daemon Engine of Tzeentch - Mirrorfiend






"The monstrosity that pushed its way between two warehouses stripped to bare ferrocrete was neither living nor machine but a wyrd-cursed amalgam. Its six many-jointed legs carried a flattened body from which protruded long growths with puckered openings at the top. Metallic plates grew from unnatural flesh, glinting with heretical runework. Warpfire flickered from the body-tubes, leaving trails of multicoloured exhaust fume. Its head was like that of a giant beetle, many-pronged antlers of black and red like a phalanx of spears thrust from the top"
Thorpe, 'Ashes of Prospero'

There are a number of hints across 40K lore of a special daemon engine of Tzeentch that looks like a beetle, sort off. It should have its own rules but can be played as a Forgefiend with ectoplasma cannons and jaws.



This particular model is a Bob Olley sculpt sold by Reaper as a Giant Beetle in metal, and is slightly small for a daemon engine but not outrageously so - given that a mirrorfiend is described elsewhere as 'slightly smaller than a battle tank'.


Mierce Miniatures make a bigger sculpt that would be even more suitable but is inevitably more expensive, around £40.




Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Imperial Navy RE-45 Lander

Side shot showing lateral, fast-exit, troop hatches, heavy thruster baffles, underwing air intakes and the rotatable jet nozzles used for hoverflight and fast lift offs.

It is a largely plastic model built over  a balsa wood chassis.

I made this scratch-build Imperial shuttle some time ago but had no idea what it was. However, the recent novel, 'Watchers of the Throne', cleared the matter up.

It's an Re-45 shuttle!

The RE-45 was a commonplace lander used to put Imperial Guard infantry platoons on-planet in hot drops.

It was phased out as developing Guard strategy required the immediate application of crushing force: the lander was just too small and so was replaced by massive landers capable of carrying entire companies (or even regiments) with heavy weapon support.

Most of the RE-45 landers were demilitarised to be used as civilian shuttles but, the Imperium being what it is, a large number of the original military landers are still found in use by various dodgy organisations like Rogue Traders and The Inquisition.

They are of course a bit beat up but that suits Inquisitors travelling incognito.

Bow shot showing the fixed lascannon and twin bolter turret used for point defence and to shoot up the landing zone prior to touch down.

Most RE-45s have acquired various additional blisters of equipment over the years on the outer hull - causing much teeth-gnashing in the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Stern shot showing the three primary thrusters, heavy blast baffles and vertical fins: note the heavy air brakes (located in front of the baffles) used for controlling steep descents.

Dorsal shot showing various augurs and void-vox ariels, dorsal twin thrusters, tail horizontal and dorsal fins and a pilot's hatch.


RE-45 parked alongside a Fury and Inquisition gun cutter.

Another size comparison shot.


The RE-45 is a much more robust piece of equipment than the Avis shuttle or a rogue trader space hauler. his makes it an Inquisiton favourite for insertion into problematic situations where armour, and a servitor controlled twin heavy bolter turret, are more important than comfort or convenience.





Saturday, 24 February 2018

Seond Hand 40K

I desired to add a Hellbrute to my small Khorne Berserker army but the old bank account has taken a bit of a dive this month due to storm damage from the winter gales on my roof so funds for military expenditure were restricted.

However, eBay is full of second hand models from GW starter kits offered at very reasonable prices. I picked up this model for about one third new price. I chose one that had been painted flat red and black so it could easily be overpainted without another layer of undercoat. I also opened and reglued a joint that had come loose and changed the basing to match my army.

I will probably add trophies to the arm chains when time permits.

All told, this was achieved in a single evenings modelling.

Is it as good as a new bespoke Hellbrute, lovingly painted? Of course not.

Is it a usable model at a budget price and a few hours work? Hell yes!



Monday, 19 February 2018

Otto Rahn, Ahnenerbe SS

Otto Rahn hunting for the Holy Grail under a Cathar Fortress in Languedoc: note the miniaturised zero-point 'bell'.

Otto Rahn was an 'awakened' (i.e. rune-magician) archaeologist/historian who was a member of the Ahnenerbe SS and an expert on the Holy Grail.

Officially he died of an accident in 1939, but research by Kenneth Hite, published by Osprey, suggests he was active until '45.

Otto Rahn

He is believed to be part of the inspiration behind the Indiana Jones movie.

Otto Rahn

This model by Lucid Eye is perfect to represent this fascinating and complex character.

The End of Rahn?

After '44, the trail goes cold but Hite speculates that he may have raised something he couldn't put down.