Sunday, 30 March 2014

Old School Villain of the Week: Sagat

“A strong fighter is not one who always wins, but one who stands after defeat.”

No character in Street Fighter is as intimidating as Sagat. There are some hard core characters that will beat the crap out of you. There are characters that use mystical powers, there are monsters, there are insidiously evil men. There are even characters that are bigger than Sagat (I’m looking at you, Zangief). But they aren’t Sagat.

Sagat was originally a boss character. I was ridiculously happy when he became playable, though I ended up swaying towards Vega because he won me more games. I kind of forgot the fact that Sagat was awesome until watching the manga Streetfighter II movie for the first time. That first fight scene, well… just watch it for yourself.
The conflict between Sagat and Ryu is more than physical. Across many Eastern cultures, the tiger and the dragon are considered to be equally powerful, but dualistic. The symbol of my old martial arts club included a tiger and a dragon circling each other. Whilst the dragon (Ryu) is associated with the heavens and spirituality (yang), the tiger (Sagat) is of the Earth and things of substance (yin). Whilst the dragon in martial arts is associated with the internal search for truth and peace, the tiger is external and aggressive. Sagat is the Yin to Ryu’s Yang, and a worthy villain of the week, albeit one I secretly root for in every battle.
Name: Sagat

Background: Sagat held the first World Warrior Tournament to prove that he was the strongest fighter in the world. He managed to pin Ryu in the final round, claiming victory. Ryu became desperate and performed a dragon punch, grievously wounding Sagat and giving him a massive scar. After his defeat, Sagat’s hatred towards Ryu festered. He sought a new opportunity to challenge Ryu and defeat him, recover his title and restore his lost "honour". Depending on which story/game/film you have watched, Sagat wins the rematch against Ryu, but feels empty after the fight. Despite enjoying tournaments, he turns most of his attention towards testing himself against Ryu in honourable combat, whom he now considers "the only man able to defeat him and worthy to be faced in a life or death battle.”
Weapon of choice: Muay Thai. Tiger. Tiger. Tiger. Tiger knee. TIGER UPPERCUT!

Claim to fame: Sagat is a man mountain. The massive scar on his chest is a result of surviving a dragon punch from Ryu in the original Street Fighter. He does not conceal the disfigurement, instead drawing power from the hateful memory it invokes. He delivers lightning fast kicks with devastating power, as well as a punch that mimics Ryu own famed Shoryuken. He was also the only character capable of throwing fireballs at two different heights in the game, which provided some interesting tactical opportunities.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Luthien Campaign Update


Scenario 5: The Battle of Katsura River Valley

Historically, two companies of 2nd Genyosha and a company of 3rd Otomo mechs were sent to strike the rear of the advancing Smoke Jaguar invasion force. They moved along the river bed to avoid detection before engaging the 32nd Jaguar regulars. All of the Kuritan mechs were heavily damaged but they left eight Clan mechs face down in the sand.

To represent this we both took 155 PV of mechs. The Clan force was commanded by an elite mechwarrior in a Timberwolf Primary (Skill 2), and included a veteran mechwarrior in a Warhawk Primary (Skill 3), a Mad Dog Primary, Summoner Primary and a Stormcrow B. The Combine forces included 2 lances of Otomo mechs and a heroic Genyoshan mechwarrior in an Atlas (Skill 1).

We agreed that the mission objective of the Clan force would be to exit the right side of the board. Each mech that achieved this would receive its PV in VP. The VP for IS mechs destroyed was halved to balance this (1x instead of 2x). The Clan force would enter the board from the left side and attempt to cross the river by a randomly determined bridge (from left of pic below: 1-3 left, 4-6 right).
The Timberwolf, Mad Dog and Stormcrow B entered towards the left and made for the closest bridge. During the course of the game I set up 3 turns of great firing in an attempt to thin the defenders, but rolled horrendously. Three sets of snake eyes at 6+ and 8+ to-hit bury your chances pretty quickly in this game! With numerical superiority the Draconis mechs dealt significant damage even at higher to-hit numbers. The Timberwolf was destroyed whilst the Mad Dog and Stormcrow B escaped after 5 turns, having only stripped a Dragon of its armour between them.

The Summoner and Warhawk entered to the right of the board edge and were ambushed by a lance of mechs (Hunchback, Cicada, Jenner and Trebuchet) supported by a Catapult. The Warhawk had a golden chance at 6+ to bury the Jenner but missed. The Warhawk took the brunt of the firing for a few turns and fell. The Summoner went on to destroy the Hunchback and Catapult (trying to claw back some VP here), but succumbed to the Jenner at the bottom of Turn 6, one jump away from escaping.
The game was over in two hours and when we counted the VPs it was obvious that the Combine forces had achieved a major victory. It’s nice to be historically accurate (and I had shocking luck), but we both agreed that the Draconis mechs were under costed. Using a formula posted by iamafan on the Classic Battletech forum, I calculated a 100 point difference between the two forces, which would have made a significant difference. Next game we are going to use this alternate formula for PV and see if it is a more even game. Overall, we decided to give the Draconis force a score of +25 according to our campaign victory conditions.

Scenario 6: The Hounds Teeth

Despite victories against the Smoke Jaguars, The Combine units struggled to contain the Nova Cat advance. With blatant disregard for the Jaguar attack plan, the Nova Cats pushed deep into the Waseda Hills, attempting to reach the Imperial City before the Smoke Jaguars. They pushed towards the Kado-Guchi Valley unsupported. ComStar intelligence had suggested that the area was defended by militia, but the Cats ran into three regiments of Wolf’s Dragoons and Kell Hounds who stopped the clan advance cold.

Wade took a potent but slow Wolf’s Dragoon force, which included a mandatory Catapult armed with an Arrow IV artillery system. Backing it up was a Hunchback armed with the customary AC20 and some pulse lasers. It had dropped a medium laser for a TAG. He also had a Griffin (one of my favourite mechs) armed with an ER PPC and LRM 20.

Knowing I had to get some points or risk falling irrevocably behind in the campaign, I picked some real bruisers for my Nova Cat force. A Mad Dog B (3 Medium Pulse Lasers, 2 Streak SRM 6s for short range and 2 ER Large Lasers and an LRM 20 with Artemis fire control for long range), a Nova A (2 ER PPCs and a Medium Pulse Laser) and two points of elementals. The elementals were worth very little under the victory conditions but could do a lot of damage.
The game started off with some serious long range sniping from both my Mad Dog and the Catapult and Griffin. Even when using the standard Arrow IV rounds, Wade had a knack of sticking the shots, managing to scatter on my Elementals on 3 occasions! The Hunchback waded in and dealt some damage with its AC20, whilst simultaneously tagging my Mad Dog for Arrow IV homing rockets. I returned fire, tearing strips off the Hunchback with my Streak SRMs and Pulse Lasers, until it finally took enough engine hits to go down.

The Griffin successfully evaded fire whilst my remaining Elementals harassed the Hunchback and Catapult. Meanwhile, my Nova was jumping from cover to cover trading ER PPC barrages with the Griffin. Having finished off the Hunchback, my Mad Dog trudged over and managed to box the Griffin in, putting the last nail in the coffin. After running out of Arrow IV ammo, the Catapult withdrew from the field essentially undamaged. Both Clan Mechs were still standing, though the Mad Dog had sustained a massive 136 points of damage. The major victory gave the Clans a reprieve in the campaign standings with -50 VP.

Scenario 7: River Monitor
Armed with dodgy Com Star intelligence, the Clans assigned the capture of the Arisaka Munitions Complex to a Freebirth Cluster. The militia defending the complex were highly motivated and determined, deploying a naval vessel in a concealed position in the reeds of the Shaidan River. The infantry destroyed the bridges across the river using mines, pinning the Clan Mechs in place whilst the Minikuchi River Monitor vessel and attending ground forces pounded them into submission.
I chose to take a Hellhound, Vapour Eagle and Horned Owl for this battle. I figured the jump capability would increase my options if the bridges were destroyed. The multiple large pulse lasers/medium pulse lasers would mitigate the cost in accuracy due to jumping, whist the Hellhound and Vapour Eagle were packing Inferno SRMs to stifle the IS damage output.

Wade had a Warhammer in command, backed up by a Phoenix Hawk and a Wolverine (WVR-7K). He also had three platoons of rifle infantry on the bridges and a 75 ton River Monitor ship armed with two AC 20s and three SRM 2s. Finally, Wade set up three 15 point mines on the bridges. One bridge was set to take a 15 damage hit, with the closest bridge to the attackers rigged for a 30 point hit. My objective for the game was to capture the bridges and the munitions complex, whilst Wade needed to deny me access to the complex by blowing the bridges and taking down as many Mechs as possible. In the pic below you can see the access the ship would have around the complex.

As the game began I engaged in some long range sniping with my large pulse lasers, targeting both the Warhammer and the infantry platoons. I wanted to eliminate them which would prevent Wade from triggering the charges. Unfortunately, I got a little too close to the river and Wade revealed his trump card. The Minikuchi reared its head and pounded my mech with its two AC 20s. The configuration of the map gave the ship complete access to the hexes around the munitions complex, making it very hard to approach.

With the mines finally primed, Wade detonated them dealing heavy damage to the bridges. With his eyes on the prize, the rest of the units in his force began laying down fire to finish off the bridges. Two collapsed in rapid succession. In an attempt to draw fire away from my objectives, I jumped straight into the heart of the complex. The Horned Owl lit up the Wolverine from behind, but it twisted torso and hit back hard with its arm mounted large pulse laser (I can’t believe it out-pulsed me!). I took a few too many engine hits in that exchange.

A mech down, I went all-out against the Warhammer, taking off one of its legs. A follow up kick caved in the other leg and we declared the Warhammer destroyed (by that stage it had no arms either). I also managed to destroy a few infantry platoons whilst staying out of the LOS of the Minikuchi. Unable to capture the complex, I withdrew into the city to draw the remaining Draconis mechs out. I was hoping to destroy them in the cover of the city, beyond the reach of those AC 20s, but we soon agreed to end the game due to time getting away from us. The Draconis ended up with a score of +35 points, a minor victory tarnished by the loss of their commander.
Scenario 8: Black Thunder Extraction
Wade rocked up with six awesome little trucks painted, so we just had to use them for something. There is a mission in the Luthien campaign book that revolves around a unit of DEST stealing a Union class dropship from right under the Smoke Jags noses. This scenario would explore the fate of the extraction vehicles as they try to escape the area after the DEST team escapes in the Dropship. The Draconis forces would consist of a Warhammer and a Lancelot, as well as the 6 trucks (20 armour points and a machine gun). The defenders consisted of a Stormcrow B and a Mad Dog Primary. The Dracs would get points for each escaping truck, surviving mechs and destroyed enemies. The Clanners were simply out for revenge (set up below: responsible quantities of bourbon may have also been enjoyed at this juncture. Thanks Howie!).

Early on the truck convoy split in two, whilst the clan mechs sprinted to flank the guardian Warhammer and Lancelot. The Lancelot copped an awful amount of punishment from the Stormcrow, which got a good Ultra AC 20 shot in through the rear armour, taking it down. The Mad Dog and the Warhammer duked it out, when the Mad Dog wasn’t popping trucks (or just kicking them to pieces). I made the mistake of letting Wade know he only had to hit my Mad Dog one more time and he would probably win, considering the position of the remaining trucks and damage on the Stormcrow. The next round of shooting I scored three critical hits on his Warhammer’s centre torso AND a head hit. The first CT critical hit pay dirt: 200 machine gun rounds. Good night. Warning to all, if I say you will probably win next turn: start reaching for the ejection lever!

Obviously, the Draconis forces suffered a major defeat this game. Very little thought went into planning the mission, so it was nowhere near as balanced as I would usually make it. Still, Battletech is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s good. We decided this scenario would negate the one-sided result of the Alpha Strike game, adding -25 points to the campaign tally.
So, here we are, 8 scenarios in, with an aggregate score of +5 (still a draw). Stay tuned for the next scenario update, which will be shorter now that the back-catalogue is published: In the Dark.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Old School Hero of the Week: Roy Fokker


I can remember the day Roy Fokker died.

Well, I can remember watching the Robotech episode, anyway. I was only a little tyke in those days and I can remember walking up to my mum with tears in my eyes, asking her what had happened. She had to explain to me that sometimes when people get hurt, even the hospital can’t save them, they can go downhill very quickly and still die. This was HUGE for me, a devastating life lesson that has stuck with me and prepared me a few times for the reality of life and death in the real world. 
Before the other characters get a chance to worm their way into your heart, Roy proves himself to be a hero. He is an ace Valkyrie pilot and cool guy in general. Roy Fokker was an exceptional pilot during the Global War (below, from Macross Zero) and first Robotech War against the Zentraedi. No matter which show you watched, the wounds that end up killing Fokker are sustained whilst protecting his friends. He is my first pick for Old School Hero of the Week from the Robotech/Macross universe, even if he isn’t my absolute favourite.

I have added a few YouTube links this week, which I promise I won't do all the time. Try and take a look if you have time.

Name: Roy Fokker (or Focker)

Background: After the death of his father Fokker was taken in by Michael Hunter, Rick’s father, who ran a flying circus. He took up the role as Rick’s big brother, with the two becoming very close. A year prior to the arrival of SDF-1, Fokker answered the call to serve his country and enlisted in the US Navy. He was assigned to the famed Skull Squadron, becoming the fastest pilot in history to be made a double ace. He also lost five wingmen during this time. He lost his sixth wingman taking out an entire squadron singlehandedly, on the exact day SDF-1 crashed to Earth.

In 2005, Fokker returned to the Flying Circus, having resigned his commission in the military. He didn’t stay long though, as he was offered a new role in the United Earth Forces as a test pilot. Fokker was dispatched back to Macross Island where he joined Project Valkyrie. He survived several attempts on his life, including the crash of his prototype Valkyrie while testing the Guardian (known as GERWALK in Macross) configuration. After proving the power of the Valkyrie, he flew against the Zentraedi until finally losing his life. Again, the way this occurs depends on which show you have watched.

Weapon of choice: VF-1S Valkyrie

Claim to fame: First and foremost he is an exceptional Valkyrie pilot. He is a brother figure to Rick and does pretty well with the "bridge bunnies". In Macross, Roy dies in episode 18 ("Pineapple Salad", called ”Farewell Big Brother” in Robotech), from wounds sustained while defending Macross from Milia Fallyna's (Miriya) force of Queadluun-Rau (girly) battle suits. Instead of going to the hospital to treat his wounds, he chooses to play the guitar while waiting for Claudia to finish her pineapple salad. While she's cooking for him, he collapses from internal bleeding and passes away. Epic dying whilst playing a guitar scene with mushy music: below.

In The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? Film, Roy Focker dies aboard an alien Zentradi ship while fighting Quamzin Kravshera. He sacrifices himself to let both Hikaru Ichijyo and Misa Hayase escape (below, 45.20 to 46.40, or do yourself a favour, watch the whole thing!).

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Luthien Campaign Update

For the past couple of months, my mate Wade and I have been playing through a Classic Battletech campaign based loosely on the Luthien scenario book. The games have been incredibly close and hard fought, with many memorable moments to chew over in the aftermath. Most of the games have gone right down to the wire, with decisive moves made in the last turn or the last 10 minutes of the game. Here are the first couple of battle reports to get things started. I know some of my mates have already read these, but for posterity I wanted to have them all in the one place and provide a central location for new reports. Over the next week I should have all of the reports posted, so that I am up-to-date before the next game. It is scheduled to be an Alpha Strike match pitting a Clan Binary vs a DC Company. This is how it started…

Scenario 1: Hunting Cats

In this scenario, Draconis reconnaissance elements attempted to infiltrate the Smoke Jaguar landing sites. The defender was an Ice Ferret armed with an LB-2X AC and 2 ER Medium lasers. The attacking units included a Mercury, a Mongoose and a Rifleman. The Ice Ferret spent several turns evading fire and causing damage with its medium lasers. It was finally crippled, which triggered the arrival of a star mate in a Shadow Cat (Gauss Rifle, 2 ER Mediums). The Draconis Mechs attempted to withdraw with the intelligence they had gathered, including the appearance of a new, unidentifiable Mech. The Rifleman was destroyed with a devastating gauss rifle hit (below), whilst the scout Mechs escaped. The final result was a nail biting draw (-10 VP).

Scenario 2: Sleeping Dogs Lie

This scenario enacted a Draconis raid on a crippled Clan star of Omnimechs, having softened them up with explosive booby traps. The Clan forces included a crippled Dire Wolf (Gauss Rifle, 3 Large Pulse Lasers and 2 Streak SRM 6 variant). It had sustained 80 points of damage, including a 10 point hit to the head which had rendered the pilot unconscious. The other Mechs were a Timberwolf Primary and a Stormcrow (Ultra AC 20, 6 ER Mediums variant). Both had sustained 40 points of damage, but the pilots were conscious. The Draconis forces included an Archer, a Battlemaster, a Warhammer and a Phoenix Hawk. The Dire Wolf pilot regained consciousness on the first turn (7+) and attacked the Warhammer at punch hit with his Gauss Rifle and Large Pulse Lasers. The Timberwolf also engaged the Warhammer, decapitating it with two “lucky” ER Large hits. The Battlemaster pounded the Stormcrow, which failed to make an impression with its Ultra AC 20. The Archer blew off the Dire Wolf’s head with a salvo of LRM’s. The Timberwolf continued to dominate in direct fire combat, eventually taking down the Battlemaster. The Archer rained damage on both Clan Mechs. The Stormcrow was quickly crippled and forced to withdraw, only to be shot to pieces the next turn. The Timberwolf was also forced to withdraw, but lost a leg (a legacy of the damage it started with), so could not leave the board. Stuck without an indirect fire support spotter for the Archer, the Phoenix Hawk jumped out of cover but was mauled immediately. The Archer responded by finishing off the Timberwolf, which crippled it in return before falling for the last time. The final result was another close draw (+10 VP). It was agreed that the Timberwolf mechwarrior had performed valiantly, and would be the subject of a “prisoner exchange”. The Archer mechwarrior reduced his gunnery by 1.

Scenario 3: Fish in a Barrel

In this scenario both sides arrived in waves. The Draconis forces began the game with an aerospace advantage, but were under-gunned compared to the Clan force. They fielded an Archer, a Cyclops and a Stalker in reserve. The Clan force were without aerospace support for 1 hour of game time, but fielded a Warhawk Primary and a Summoner Primary, with a Mad Dog primary in reserve. The game began with the Cyclops running into heavy cover to avoid the Warhawk. The Archer began a barrage of LRM’s, whilst the Summoner hunted the Archer down single-mindedly. The Archer was hit turn after turn until it was left sprawled in the dust, whilst a lucky airstrike forced the Warhawk to withdraw with a gyro hit. It walked backwards whilst unleashing PPC barrages. It managed to finish off the Archer at range, as the Stalker appeared from the Draconis deployment zone to destroy the Summoner over two turns of horrendous close range fire. A lucky Clan airstrike forced the Stalker to leave the battle. The Cyclops mechwarrior made the critical error of breaking for better cover to escape the punishing attacks of the newly arrived Mad Dog, and was drilled through the rear torso armour by the Warhawk at extreme range, touching off an ammo explosion (140 points of damage, no case). The end result was a minor victory for the Clan forces (-20 VP).
Scenario 4: A Murder of Crows

In this scenario a trapped Clan Stormcrow (LB 10X AC, Large Pulse, 2 Medium Pulse variant), attempted to escape the clutches of a Draconis ambush. Facing down a Shadow Hawk, a Thunderbolt and a Kintaro was going to be a tall order. To win, the Clan side needed to destroy at least two mechs and escape, whilst the Draconis forces received points for surviving mechs and taking out the Stormcrow. The Stormcrow and the Kintaro slugged it out for a long time, which bought the other Draconis mechs time to get in closer, all the while launching LRM salvos indirectly using the Kintaro’s firing telemetry and Narc mssile beacon. The Stormcrow finally destroyed the Kintaro in a massive ammunition explosion, but fatefully sought refuge in partial cover. The Stormcrow was messily decapitated by medium lasers on the Thunderbolt. The end result was a minor Draconis victory (+40 VP).

So, four games in the campaign was poised on a knife’s edge, with an aggregate score of +20 (a draw according to our campaign victory conditions), leaning slightly towards the Draconis Combine. Stay posted for the next four games, which will see the Kuritan defenders blow the campaign wide open, only to allow the Invading Clans to claw their way back, albeit excruciatingly painfully.

See you across the table,

Monday, 10 March 2014

Old School Villain of the Week: Darth Vader

Stop. I know what you are thinking.
Star Wars blew my mind when I was a kid. Sci Fi was already deeply ingrained in me, thanks to things like Transformers, Voltron, Ulysses, Star Blazers, Galaxy Rangers and Robotech. Unlike these other shows, Star Wars was REAL (well, live action, but I was young and impressionable…). It had so many awesome things: cool space battles, monsters, a princess, knights with lightsabers who use the force, giant planet destroying space stations, hyperspace, wookies, ewoks, AT-ATs, AT-STs, fricken TIE fighters that make this sound:

…and it had Darth Vader. He was the embodiment of evil. Impenetrable and intractable. Unforgiving and exacting. He was unknowable behind that sinister mask with its soulless eyes. Knowing his real name, Anakin, made you special back in those days.
Vader’s redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi was powerful cinema. I can remember roaring in approval when he threw the Emperor into the Death Star’s core, it was so unexpected and the scene escalated so quickly. Seeing Vader as an old, sad man, who has lost a lifetime with his son and daughter, suddenly puts everything into a new perspective. Vader transcends everything in those films in those few moments. Damnit, it makes you feel something.

So what the hell happened? Somewhere along the line Darth Vader got neutered. The story of his redemption, which is awesome, became a joke. I think, like many things, fans took ownership of Vader. When the story wasn’t told how we imagined it (…and it really wasn’t), and Vader was portrayed as a winey creepy kid, his potency as a villain just evaporated.

A few people have tried to help fans recover from this. The “Hatchet Method” of watching Star Wars ignores Episode I entirely (sadly losing Darth Maul, who HAD THE HIGH GROUND!). It starts with IV and V, letting you get sucked in old school style, then jumps to II and III, showing you how it all started, before finishing with the epic climax of VI. Personally, I turn the sound off when Vader gets his suit for the first time. Imagine if, instead of that whole ridiculous episode, Vader stood up silently and you saw all of the things around him get crushed by the force. He doesn’t react to Padme’s death at all, apart from impassively crushing everything in sight in absolute silence. Powerful cinema.
Another good take on the whole Episode I and II plot can be found here, take a look for yourself:

But that’s all conjecture. Darth Vader, old school Darth Vader, is a well-deserved Old School Villain of the Week.
Name: Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker)

Background: He fought with his friend Obi Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars, as an exceptional pilot. He was “betrayed and murdered” by Vader, falling to the Dark Side and becoming the Emperor’s apprentice.
Weapon of choice: A red, single bladed, lightsaber, which he sometimes wields single-handedly. He also uses the force to throw objects at his enemies and to crush their wind-pipes. Additionally, he pilots a TIE Advanced x1.

Claim to fame: Darth Vader was one of the last potent users of the force of his time, a Sith Lord. He actively hunted other Jedi as well as their rebel sympathisers. He was an exceptional pilot with his own custom TIE fighter, content to mix it in space combat when he was not overseeing the command of the Imperial Fleet. His style of lightsaber fighting was bludgeoning in nature, not the spinning dance we have grown accustomed to. It was a blunt, brutal, unlovely style. He is, perhaps, most famous for three things. He chokes his underlings with the force when they fail, he is Luke Skywalker’s father and the destroyer of the Emperor Palpatine. In death he earns his redemption and a peaceful rest, being made one again with the force.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Problem with 40K

My first experience with 40k was Epic, with a buddy in primary school who was a horrible cheat. He had all the miniatures and knew the rules (wrote all the army lists…). I always played Orks and he always played Imperials and I always lost. The game sucked. I told him so after a couple of games and he let me change sides for once (I wasn’t allowed to use the Imperator Titan, it was HIS). I’m sure the points were skewed against me but I won through superior tactics, no doubt garnered from using dodgy outnumbered (!) Orks for such a long time. I still remember that the hero of the day was a Knight Castellan (below) that pulled off a great ambush and punched way above his weight.

May first crack at 40k proper was during a Christmas holiday in 1995. I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while during a camping trip. They had brought a few sets of Dragon Dice with them as well as the Space Wolves, Eldar and Angels of Death codices. I had brought all of my Battletech stuff with me, so we had something of a cultural gaming exchange. Apart from playing a lot of Dragon Dice, I copied the Angel of Death Codex out by hand and created 2000 points worth of paper fold up miniatures. I still have great memories of that time, such as Ragnar Blackmane howling so hard he ran off the board and shooting Jain Zar in the face with Brother Captain Tycho’s digi-lasers. When I got back home I introduced the game to my mates at school and we started playing, mainly on the weekends. White Dwarf (below) in those days had a narrative that blows the current rag out of the water.
The games back then were carefree and cutthroat. WYSIWYG didn’t exist (neither did Tau: ha!), so painstakingly drawn paper space marines walked next to poorly painted plastic versions. Cheesy spam was everywhere but we had a great time when we weren’t arguing about line-of-sight and army composition. After one particularly gruelling gankfest, I refused to ever play a game against two Bloodthirsters ever again. EVER. 2nd Ed., as we found out, was a beautifully broken beast.

When 3rd Edition 40k rolled in, we were all shattered. I stuck with it though, keeping the dream alive for far longer than I ever imagined possible. It has only been recently that I have looked at the game that has taken up so much of my time/energy and thought “what ever happened to the good old days.” Looking for the first time at my collections with a critical eye, it is easy to see that I have been resisting change since about 4th Ed. The new Tyranid codex was the straw that broke me. I could drop $500 or more to make my collection competitive, or…..what?
So, what is the problem with 40K? There is an awful lot of net-rage about Games Workshop, with a seemingly equal amount of “climate-change deniers”. Their most compelling argument is that people love the edition they started with the most. It attains almost mythical qualities that don’t stand up to close scrutiny.  I can understand what they are saying, but I think there is more to it than that. For many crusty old players, the Edition that drew them in was 2nd Ed. As I have stated before, it was very different to the next and subsequent editions. It definitely had problems and needed an overhaul, but what we got was a completely different game. To draw a familiar analogy, 2nd Ed. was like Classic Battletech, whilst 3rd Ed. was Alpha Strike. 2nd Ed. was complicated and wholesome, whilst 3rd Ed. was like 40K lite, designed for bigger armies with far less intricacies. Some people loved this and many people know nothing different now. The difference is, when we play Battletech we get to choose, Classic or Alpha (arguably, the Classic rule-set stands the test of time far better than 2nd Ed. 40K). What if we had a “Classic 40K’ to go with the 6th Ed. ruleset. A set of rules that delved more deeply into each unit/character (albeit with less of them in each game) and really laid the spotlight on tactics/strategy in an inclusive way.

What do I mean by “inclusive”. Well…at it’s heart, 40K is a prohibitive game. It is far more about what you can’t do, than what you can do. Stop and ask yourself, “How many tactics do I use that work because they deny the opponent something?”. FOC’s, AP3, high initiative instant-deathing no-save weapons, no assault from deep strike, first turn shooting, blast weapons in overwatch/movement, no shooting into close combat, lame grenade rules, flyers in general: I could go on for quite a while. It is restrictive to the point of being constrictive. Battletech is not, so we don’t complain. GW requires you to have the correct Citadel attitudeTM, and we hate them for it.

I propose turning our gaze back to 2nd Ed. 40K, fixing the old problems and adding some new mechanisms. What I want is a skirmish type game that depicts the moment when the nucleus of two massive armies, including their greatest heroes, finally crashes together in decisive combat. I say we throw the gates open and let people do things for once. What is there to lose?

I name this project Warhammer 40K: Cataclysm, and look forward to play testing it with you.

See you across the table,

Monday, 3 March 2014

Old School Hero of the Week: Lone Wolf

For the first Old School Hero of the Week article, I’m going back to where it all started for me. My first taste of role playing was with the Lone Wolf game books by Joe Dever. I was 9 years old and I had just completed reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can vividly remember bumming around the school library trying to find other books of the same calibre (not that I even knew the word calibre…) and finding myself very disheartened. One night I was at David Jones at Macarthur Square with my mum, bored out of my skull, just trolling through the sci-fi/fantasy section looking at books that were way above my literacy capabilities/maturity level. I came upon this:
I opened it up and it was a choose-your-own-adventure style book with incredibly grim and grisly artwork. You got to choose your weapon (what?) and special abilities (WHAT!). You needed a random number table (WUT?!!). This had to be it right? My mum asked me if I wanted to get a book, and my heart kind of sank. There was NO WAY I was going to be allowed to get that book. I showed it to her and she just said “O…K… Are you sure?…”. Thanks mum xoxo

So, 24 years ago a sat in my room and became Lone Wolf for the first time. Entering at book 15, I had a massive burden of history behind me I had no idea about. I tailored my character to be something like Aragorn or Faramir and started playing. Lone Wolf died many times that night, but was also immortalised in my mind. Over the next few years I hunted down the entire back catalogue, lost some books to dodgy friends, re-hunted down some books (no amazon in those days, champs) and eagerly awaited the new releases. I pre-ordered the last three, with book 20 “The Curse of Naar” being an almost religious experience to read and complete. Just recently, I have downloaded the Lone Wolf saga app for android, which is a nostalgia bomb if there ever was one. The only hiccup is that you can’t stick your finger in to mark pages; no respawning!
 So here he is, Lone Wolf: Old School Hero of the Week.

Name: Lone Wolf

Background: Silent Wolf was the only surviving member of the Kai after their monastery was attacked by the forces of Naar. In a Conan-like episode, Silent Wolf is out collecting wood when the monastery in attacked, saving him form the massacre. Renaming himself Lone Wolf, the young Kai Lord heads out into the war-stricken land of Magnamund to protect its people, restore the Kai way and generally kick some heads in.

Weapon of choice: The Sommerswerd, a blade that increases your weapon skill AND fires bolts of energy that smite things every now and then. My second choice was always a bow, because honestly, the amount of times the book asked “if you have a bow and wish to use it turn to page…” In the artwork, Lone Wolf is sometimes depicted with an axe, which looks boss.

Claims to fame: Lone Wolf is the last surviving Kai Lord, bearer of the great Sommerswerd, the Book of the Magnakai, Lore Stones of Nyxator and the Moonstone. He is the slayer of Archlord Zagarana, Vonotar the betrayer of Sommerlund, Vashna, Haakon, Gnaag, Cadak the Archdruid, Warlord Magnaarn, the Deathlord of Ixia, Wolf’s Bane, Kekataag (below, whacking Alyss with his dirty great axe) and the Demoness Shamath. He also sent the Dark God Naar packing: making him an epic old school hero.