Category Archives: Games

Warhammer 40k Only War Mission – Read Carefully!

I played the Warhammer 40k Only War Mission but found out that my lack of care when reading the Mission briefing lead to a very skewed gaming experience!

I’m a newbie where Warhammer 40k is concerned, but this weekend I decided to give the rules a spin as a solo game. I played an army of old Space Marines vs Orks. They were mostly old models – beaky marines and metal Space Ork Raiders, and mostly unpainted so I won’t share any photos here. Points were low – about 430 per side, so this was a Combat Patrol game fitting on a small 44″ x 30″ board on the kitchen table (I really like the new recommended table sizes – makes having a game at home feel a lot more doable!).

rogue trader space marines

The Only War mission is the first mission described after the Core Rules in the 40k 9th Edition rulebook. The mission is obviously intended as a “play this first” mission for those new to the game, or as a standard game without too many complications. The main aim of the game is not to destroy the other army – although that may well help. But to capture Objective Markers. You get a Victory Point every turn you hold an Objective Marker – and there are 4 Objective Markers on the table in the mission. The game lasts until one side is destroyed or 5 rounds. So in theory the max Victory Points could be 21 (there’s one Victory Point up for grabs for killing the enemy’s Warlord).

space ork raidersThe Mission is carefully worded. Probably too carefully worded for my little brain. As I was playing solo I perhaps glossed over the details of rolling off to determine who went first and choosing the table side. As a result I looked at the bit about placing objective markers and decided the most logical option for each army was to place the objective markers in their own deployment zone and then to try and capture the enemies once the battle got going. My way of playing solo games is to usually just play each side as logically as possible. Come up with a core strategy perhaps and play each army according to that.

So each army started with two objective markers in their deployment zones and were able to lay claim to them on the first turn and then accrue victory points at a rate of 2 per turn for the rest of the game. Although there was some movement on this later. The Space Marines left their Warlord to hold an objective, while a squad went an captured one from the Orks. The other squad tried the same in the last turn – but failed. So the victory points ended up being even and the game was a draw.

It was fun, but I was left wondering why the Only War Mission was written to encourage such defensive play. I read the briefing again. There was no rule against placing objectives in deployment zones. But then I realised that my solo gamer head had missed something very important in the sequence of placing objectives and choosing deployment zones. Each player took it in turns to place objectives and THEN rolled off for a deployment zone.

So you would have to be very confident in your dice throwing to place any objectives in a deployment zone. As you might well give your enemy an advantage. I am sure there is a clever method of placing objective markers strategically – I don’t know what it is though. But for a newbie like me it’s clear that objectives should be fairly central on the board so that either army has a chance to get them no matter which side of the of the table you deploy.

I felt pretty stupid after reading that and realising my error. I will give the Warhammer 40k Only War Mission another go soon to see how it plays when it’s run properly. But I do wonder if things like this shouldn’t be highlighted a bit more in the Mission briefing? Things can get easily missed or mixed up with so many pre game roll offs!!

Wargaming Operation Epsom – some ideas

I am currently reading Max Hasting’s Overlord book. It’s very well written and has also sparked some ideas for WW2 wargaming – particular micro armour/6mm style games. One of the big set-piece operations of the Normandy campaign was Operation Epsom. It was one of the many attempts to take Caen by outflanking it. The attack failed ultimately, although some ground was gained.

The information that Max Hastings provided about it included the fact that the attack frontage for the three British divisions involved was 4.5 miles. That equates to 7.24 km or 7,240 metres. Now there are WW2 wargames rules where the ground scale is 100m = 1″ on the tabletop (such as Fistful of Tows). That means you could fit the attack onto a standard 6′ wargames table. 7240 metres equals 72.42″ at this scale.

Now most wargames even with 1/300/6mm tanks assume that you’re playing with say a regiment or a brigade – not 3 divisions! I am intrigued to see how a wargame of this size might work on a standard 6′ table. I am going to explore possibilities further and will blog again soon about wargaming Operation Epsom.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set Review

I thought it was about time to write up my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set Review.

I got the starter set for the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay a while ago and gave it a read at the time, but there is nothing like using the materials to actually get a good idea of how good they are and what they contain. Having now run most of the main adventures from the Adventure Book using a mix of pregen and rolled up PCs, and I have also started using the Ubersreik material to plan out a sandbox campaign, so I now have a good enough understanding to provide a reasonable review for others.

What’s in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set?

First let’s see what you actually get! This is from Cubicle7’s site:

With over a hundred pages of adventures, rules, and setting, as well as maps, handouts, custom dice from Q WORKSHOP, Advantage tokens, rules references, ready-made Characters, a simple GM Screen, and more, this boxed set is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in WFRP.

The Adventure Book invites players of all experience levels into the rich, roleplaying playground of Ubersreik. For beginners, the starter adventure, Making the Rounds, introduces the harsh realities of life in the troubled fortress-town and takes you step-by-step through the rules. For more experienced hands, there are 10 scenarios aimed to expand your WFRP games, offering new locations, new characters, and new horrors to uncover. Coming in at 40 pages, The Adventure Book is the ideal launching point for any new campaign, and can keep your WFRP group busy for several months.

The 64-page A Guide to Ubersreik highlights the bloody history and recent invasion of Ubersreik, examines more than 70 locations in the troubled town, details the surrounding fiefdoms, and introduces a wide array of antagonist cults at large in the area. In addition, each entry comes with two adventure hooks, meaning every location, character, and political pitfall the book presents has examples of how to use them on your games of WFRP.

The quality of the materials is great. The dice are very useful and well designed, and the punch out Advantage Tokens are a must for this game. You can also use the box lids as a makeshift GMs screen – they have a map and some basic rules on the inside. Also there are some useful handouts for players: rumours, basic info on how to play, information about the Empire, which is good if players are new to Warhammer, and also a players and GMs map of Ubersreik and the surrounding area.

The Adventure Book

The Adventure Book contains introductory adventures to get your party started if you are new to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or roleplaying in general. The first part of it involves the PCs getting involved in a big fight, which provides a great way to introduce some of the basic combat rules. They are then accused of a crime they did not commit (in true WFRP fashion!) and are press-ganged into joining the Ubersreik Watch. After that a number of adventures are presented that the PCs can get involved in. There’s no particular order to these, but the idea is to start of with some fairly minor events and then gradually increase the complexity and threat. There’s quite a lot of opportunity for GMs to treat this as a sandbox. I was a little disappointed with this as I would have thought that a new GM might want something a bit more structured. I thought that with the intriguing political situation, the PCs would be thrust into a thrilling conflict of intrigue, but it’s not like that. You could though use the information in The Guide to Ubersreik booklet to introduce such a campaign.

The adventures included are OK in my opinion. There’s some interesting NPCs there and situations, but I didn’t feel that any of them really grabbed my attention. Maybe it’s my failing as a GM, but I felt that they could have been a bit better. Some of the extra adventures presented near the end might prove to be more attending – the littlest Waarghh! looks fun for instance.

The Guide to Ubersreik

For me this is the more useful resource in the medium to long term. I doubt I would run the adventures again, but the background material for Ubersreik is very rich and contains loads of plot hooks – perfect in fact for the sandbox campaign that I have planned out and am about to start soon. There is some great detail on the political situation, which hints at what is happening more and prompts some ideas for a GM. To me it feels like this was designed to give GMs ideas for their own campaigns – which has been the result for me at least.

I was a bit disappointed not to see the political situation in Ubersreik developed further in the adventures provided, perhaps a missed opportunity to provide an opening campaign, but I can see why the writers perhaps didn’t want to inhibit a GMs own plans either. I have also heard that there is some link with the wider Enemy Within campaign as well with regards to the Emperor taking over Ubersreik – so maybe that will make things clearer.

A Note on the Pregen Characters

For my group we used two of the pregen characters, while the other player rolled their own. Unfortunately, as released it’s not clear how much starting XP and advances the pregens have. They’re not full character sheets and miss off some skills. This has now been rectified with an update to the PDF. But that update was some time after I had started running the adventure. I did guess though that the pregens were quite overpowered, so allowed the other PC some extra XP.

Upping the level of the pregens feels like a curious decision. I would have expected them to be starting characters, but they’re actually a bit overpowered. The lack of explanation also makes them hard to run if you have the full rules or are thinking of taking the adventure further.

On a positive note the pregens do come with a load of back story and also ways to link them with other members of the party, which I liked. The gatefold character sheets look very good as well. There are even mini-adventures in the Adventure booklet for each of the pregens as well,

Conclusion

For your money the Starter Set is a great resource. Although I think you would need to get the main rulebook pretty soon after if you liked the game. The biggest negative is the lack of detail on XP and advances for the pregens. The main positives are the great background material for Ubersreik and all the plot hooks.

Great value for money in my opinion.

You can get the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter set from Cubicle7, Amazon, and most other RPG retailers.

I hope you enjoyed my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set Review!

Combat HQ 2nd Edition Review

Combat HQ 2nd Edition CoverCombat HQ by Jim Bambra combines a number of interesting game mechanics to produce a satisfying simulation of battalion level WW2 warfare while also providing a lot of fun.

I use 6mm for my games, but it can easily support up to 20mm figures – or maybe even 28mm at a stretch. Each infantry stand or vehicle represents a a platoon and it’s designed for games of battalion sized battlegroups with supporting units. One of the key features are the rules that simulate command – with alternating activations and the possibility of command failure adding to the realism of the game and also providing a challenge to each player on how to use limited command resources. These rules rely on dice chains that can be a bit complicated to get your head around to start with, but are simple enough once you get going and provide an interesting game mechanic.

The other mechanics such as movement and combat also provide a realistic yet easy to understand means to simulate combat. There’s some similarities with dice pool games such as Blitzkrieg Commander – for instance different units or tanks might receive different amounts of d6 to roll – then there’s a target number of hitting on 4+ for example – which is then opposed by the target rolling a dice pool to resist – so very much like Blitzkrieg Commander and other Warmaster style rulesets.

My one criticism is that this book does not come with extensive army lists – but I believe these will be available in a separate volume. You do get stats for the 3 starter missions though for late war UK, US and German forces. The previous edition featured army lists for a wide range of WW2 theatres and armies. The follow on book, Total War includes extensive additional rules and some army lists. However, unlike the 1st edition, only Late War Western European theatre is included – so no Soviets, and no mid or early war stuff, which is a bit disappointing. I am assuming that new supplements will introduce lists for these theatres, but it is a shame that everything isn’t included in one book.

However, despite these gripes Combat HQ is a great system with some innovative rules as well as borrowing some familiar mechanics from other rulesets. For the WW2 wargamer it is well worth getting!

You can order it from Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

The author, Jim Bambra, has a great website called Wargames Design, which is a great resource.

I have a blog post about a scenario using a version of the Combat HQ rules, Armour Battles here.

Death on the Reik PDF Published!

Cubicle 7 have just announced the publication of the PDF for the second instalment of the Enemy Within campaign, Death on the Reik.

Death on the ReikAs well as the normal edition there’s also a funky collector’s edition. See the covers of that one below.

Here’s some more information from the publisher’s site:

Welcome to Death on the Reik, part two of the revised and updated Director’s Cut of the Enemy Within, one of the most highly regarded roleplaying campaigns ever written! Created by legendary WFRP writer, Graeme Davis, one of the original writers of the campaign, the Director’s Cut provides additional material to create an enhanced experience that maintains all the mood and paranoia of the original.

Death on the ReikThe adventure carries on from where Enemy in Shadows left off, taking your unlikely heroes on a grand adventure up and down the remarkable Reik, the largest river in the Old World and trade route to the heart of the Empire.

Death on the ReikDeath in the Reik includes a selection of ‘Grognard Boxes’ that add entirely new ways to play through the adventures, ensuring even those who have played the Enemy Within campaign before will find Death on the Reik new and exciting.

The Enemy Within is the campaign all roleplaying game enthusiasts should play at least once in their lives, making Death on the Reik an essential purchase for all gamers.

Available from Cubicle 7 and from DriveThruRPG.

You might also be interested in my post about the influence of Call of Cthulhu on the original adventure.

Wargaming Mindfulness

What is Wargaming Mindfulness you may ask? Surely new age hippy nonsense like meditation, mindfulness and zen have no place in the wargaming hobby?

Well whatever your inclinations to such things and whatever you call it, I think talking about how we approach the wargaming hobby is relevant. I’m not going to suggest a meditation programme for wargaming, that would be a bit weird. But I do want to write about how to approach this hobby in a way that is positive and doesn’t lead to frustration.

What is Mindfulness?

Firstly it’s a good idea to just say what mindfulness is. Mindfulness in its simplest terms is being present in the moment. You can use meditation to help you be mindful, but it’s not essential. If you’re mindful you appreciate the time and place you are in without constantly dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be beneficial to mental health and help reduce stress and anxiety. And remember mental health doesn’t cover only serious disorders. Everyone goes through times of low moods at some point or another at the very least. Mental health issues are at least as prevalent as physical health issues.

Causes of Wargaming Anxiety

So if mindfulness might help with anxiety and stress, what are the potential causes of those in the Wargaming hobby. Could you be suffering from any of these:

  • Too much lead! The size of your lead or plastic mountain of figures to paint seems never ending. That could be a good thing perhaps, but if it leaves you with despair about ever finishing it then it’s not!
  • Switching between projects. Again that could be good if it helps keep you motivated by bringing variety. But if it’s not intentional then it might mean you’re distracted easily and can’t settle on anything. The result is you get frustrated when you don’t actually finish anything.
  • The new shiny. You see a new product advertised, read an article or listen to a podcast that discusses a certain game or wargaming period  and think “I want to get into that. It sounds great!” So you end up buying it … and then it sits on the shelf for a long time. As well as costing you money it also contributes to the size of the painting mountain never to be finished.

There could well be other causes of wargaming hobby stress – maybe the stress caused by a new Warhammer edition that renders your carefully collected army useless, or concern about what others think about your painting skills. But I guess you probably get the idea.

How to approach the Wargaming Hobby Mindfully

So how might you go about being more mindful in terms of your wargame hobby?

It’s hard to be honest. I often switch between projects – not just because I fancy variety, but because my mental attention gets sparked by something new, and I end up not finishing what I should have been doing. Then several months later I think why didn’t I finish that project, I could be gaming with it by now!

Well actually approaching other parts of your life mindfully can help. I would recommend meditation as a good way of coping with stress.

I think it does help to have a plan as well. Not a plan of how to paint everything you have, but at least a plan of what you are going to paint over the next few months. You can work some variety into that plan as well, so you don’t end up painting 100 of the same figure!

I also keep a Painting Diary to see what I painted each month. When I look back at it I can see what I achieved and perhaps see where I started a project I never finished and then plan to get back on track.

You could avoid news of new products etc to avoid temptation.

But perhaps the main thing is just to take pleasure in the thing you are doing at the moment – don’t be thinking too much about what you want to do after you have finished this project, but enjoy getting done what you are doing. If the hobbying is a bit dull and you start dreaming of a new figure to paint then maybe listen to an audio book at the same time to distract you from planning the next project in your head!

I hope this article has helped. Let me know if you have any other ideas for how to avoid wargaming hobby frustration!

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Combat (WFRP) Made Simple

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) combat rules for 4th edition have got a lot of stick for being overly complicated and crunchy. I think they are to a certain extent. Certainly there’s lots of added complexity if you want to include it. But at their heart the rules are quite simple. I hope that this blog post will make the combat rules a bit easier to understand. I’m going to present the simplest version of the rules – so don’t expect all the ins and outs and options! If you are starting playing WFRP 4e I would recommend not including all the rules as they can slow things down and add complication while you’re learning the system.

Initiative in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Combat

Many Tabletop RPGs use Initiative to determine who goes when during combat. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition is no exception. They give you three choices on how to determine Initiative. To avoid complication Initiative order can be determined by simply ranking in order of Initiative attribute for each PC, NPC or Monster.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Melee Combat

Each participant in combat takes a turn based on their Initiative rank as above.

The heart of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay combat system in 4th Edition is the Opposed Test. For Melee combat you roll against your opponents skill and whoever does better wins and inflicts damage.

All Tests on skill in WFRP 4e are made using a d100 with the aim to roll lower than your skill. You compare the 10s dice against your skill to determine the number of Success Levels. So if your skill is 45 and you roll 21, that’s a Success Level of +2. If you rolled 61 it would be -2, and if you rolled 46 that would be -0 (44 would be +0).

In combat your opponent rolls and you each compare your Success levels. The one with better Success Level wins. Normally you attack using a Melee skill and your opponent defends using a Melee or Dodge skill. There are other possibilities – but they fall out of the scope of this guide.

For example:

Ulric rolls 21 against the Melee skill of 42. That’s a Success Level of +2. The goblin he faces rolls 65 against her Melee skill of 33. A Success Level of -3.

You then add the Success Levels together – so that would be +5 in favour of Ulric. Ulric wins the combat and the damage inflicted is 5 plus Ulric’s Strength Bonus, plus the Weapon’s Damage. You then deduct the goblin’s Toughness Bonus and Armour Points (if any).

So in this case the calculation might be:

+5 (Success Levels)
+4 (Weapon damage)
+3 (Ulric’s Strength Bonus)
-3 (Goblin’s Toughness Bonus)
Total = 9 Wounds of damage!

The goblin would then get to attack (assuming it has lower Initiative and has not attacked already!) There would be another Opposed Test – but this time Ulric gets +10 if using the Advantage rules.

Probably this calculation is the thing that makes things slowest in combat as you’ve got some maths to do here.

Advantage Rules

One of the most controversial aspects of combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th editions is Advantage. I won’t go into all the ins and outs, but in simple terms every time you win a Test you get 1 Advantage that then gives you +10 in your next test. That means your Success Levels will get better, you should win more Tests and do more damage. Advantage is meant to simulate the balance tilting  in one combatants favour. The Advantage system can make things quite swingy, so some gamers have tried to limit it or houserule the effects. I have found it OK as written.

Advantage is lost if you lose a test or take damage – so if someone shoots you with a bow , which you can’t oppose, all that carefully accrued Advantage goes.

Tracking Advantage adds some complication, so to start with you could elect to ignore this rule. But making a note on piece of paper for each combatant or using coins, chits etc is vital to keep track of Advantage.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Ranged Combat

For Ranged Combat things are simpler as you just roll on your skill. It is possible to defend sometimes, but again here’s not the place to go into that.

You add your Success Level in your Ranged skill to your weapons damage and then deduct your opponents Toughness Bonus and Armour Points. They take that many Wounds.

Critical Hits

If you roll a double (e.g. 22) and win the Opposed Test you do a critical. You roll on the Critical Hit tables. If you roll double and fail a  test you fumble instead. If you are defending and roll a double and less than your skill you can inflict a Critical to the attacker as well. There’s also other rules that can influence Critical Hits.

Wounds and Damage

Suffice to say getting to 0 Wounds puts you out of the combat. There’s more complication in various conditions inflicted on you, but for simplicity let’s ignore that for now – the PC or NPC on 0 Wounds is effectively out of play.

Adding Complexity

There’s loads more complexity to add. There are modifiers that can be applied – for instance if outnumbered, or if opponents are bigger or smaller. Many weapons have special rules. There are Conditions to take account of. And also non-combat skills like Intimidate and Leadership can be used instead of Melee or Ranged skills. I would avoid these in your first few sessions. Probably starting off with the Advantage rules is enough for now.

Conclusion

That’s it. There’s loads more on combat you can include. This is really just touching the surface. My plan with this guide was to provide a really simplified version of the rules as written. Check out the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition Rulebook for details of how all the crunch works.

I have some other Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition on this site as well, so have a look at that as well.

Good Habits for Wargamers (and Writers)

Atomic Habits coverI’m writing about good habits for wargamers today. And also related to that good habits in other areas of life as well.

I think of habits as being something that is fairly unconscious – something you don’t have to write down and plan for. You just do them. A bit like brushing your teeth every morning and evening. That type of thing. I came across the book Atomic Habits by James Clear recently (after listening to an episode of Henry Hyde’s excellent podcast. I’m only part way through the book so far, but it’s certainly resonating with me.

Habits not Motivation

James Clear says that if you want to get things done, motivation isn’t enough. You can aspire to write a novel, or paint a wargames army, get fit, lose weight, etc etc. But unless you have good habits you will never get there. You have to be able to do the work even when you don’t feel like it.

I certainly feel like that about writing and wargame hobbying. I am really bad at getting into a habit of writing every day. Having read the book I’ve realised it’s because I have an aspiration to write lots of books and be a “writer”, but in practical terms I’m not sitting down and doing it enough. I don’t currently have a real habit of writing on a daily basis. I’m trying to correct that at the moment by setting aside time in my daily schedule, but it’s still a bit stop start.

My Wargames Hobby Habits

My habits are now pretty ingrained when it comes to working on my wargames hobby, and in particular painting miniatures. I paint for about an hour every morning, before anyone else gets up. What helps I think is that I set-up the environment to make sure its easy to do it. I don’t have a dedicated painting area – instead using the kitchen table. What I do is bring down all my painting stuff the night before, just before going to bed. I leave my painting box and miniatures case on the table (unpacked though), and then I set it up in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil for my tea.

As well as making it easy and having the environment right – nice and quiet, and I can listen to an audiobook or podcast at the same time. I think I’m also putting this habit next to another habit I really like – having a cup of tea in the morning. James Clear in Atomic Habits calls this habit stacking. It works really well.

Now I just have to figure out how to get the same good habit for writing everyday as well …

Cubicle 7 announce free adventure for Soulbound

I’m a big fan of WFRP, but not sure yet if I will dip my toe into the world of Age of Sigmar roleplaying with Soulbound. I enjoy the Age of Sigmar miniatures game and the figures are great, but I’m not sure if I can get into the lore and setting as much as with the Old World of WFRP. However, Cubicle 7 have just put out a free adventure. So I may well take a read of that and then decide!

Download Crash and Burn for free from their webstore here or from DrivethruRPG here.

Following the cataclysmic events of the Necroquake, the newly reclaimed city of Brightspear is in desperate need of supplies and support. A huge Kharadron fleet has been assembled to bring provisions, would-be settlers, and enterprising merchants to the new city. Joining the expedition are a group of unlikely heroes — Soulbound, mortal beings chosen by the gods to defend the Mortal Realms. But even they may be no match for the trials that are to come…

Crash and Burn is an exciting introductory adventure that takes a party of Soulbound on an arduous journey across Aqshy — the Realm of Fire. The party set out from the bustling metropolis of Hammerhal Aqsha as part of a massive fleet of Kharadron airships tasked with delivering vital supplies to the newly reclaimed city of Brightspear. But the forces of Chaos will not let them pass so easily, and the party will have to contend with Tzeentchian horrors and other vile creatures if they hope to reach Brightspear alive.