Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Empire General - First Look

As the year draws to a close and parental responsibilities are on the up, hobby time is at a premium. I'd like to finish 2011 with a flourish, though, and in a manner that I'd like to continue into 2012, by finishing a highly detailed centrepiece model in about two weeks. 

This mini project will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will provide me with the perfect opportunity to 'go to town' with all the techniques that I've been dabbling with over the past few months. In this spirit, it will give me something truly aspirational to look back on and push me forwards with all the projects that I've got planned for next year. Secondly, it will be a unique Christmas present - lovely for the person set to receive it, but also providing a good deadline for me!

The model I've chosen is the mounted Empire general. I've done a small amount of kit-bashing, adding the banner from the state troopers set, in order to lend the piece a great appearance for the display cabinet. The planned recipient isn't a gamer, so this will need to standout from the shelf and never have to worry about gracing the tabletop. The next step will be to decide on a colour scheme. No plans as of yet, but it will be something different to the Marienburg colours I'm using for my own army - Middenland possibly?  

Also, I know that the photo quality here isn't that great, so I'm going to use this small project as an opportunity to generally improve my skills at miniature photography.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I Tried Growing Up, But That Didn't Work Out So Well, So I Decided To Just Be A Kid

This is my new mantra / catch phrase / reply to anyone who questions the time I spend on my hobby.

There's a post over at Known World, Old World that sums this up rather neatly, including a cracking quote from C.S. Lewis on the importance of remaining fearlessly childish. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Escape from Suderberg - WFRP Episode One

Our plucky band of PCs have begun their adventure. Here's how they got on in the first episode...
Episode One

Ulrike, Albert and Mordrin were arguing in the cell they were sharing in Suderberg watch house. With all of their possessions confiscated at the time of their arrest for smuggling Kislevian furs, they were feeling quite vulnerable and annoyed - particularly Mordrin, who had been wrongly taken into custody. 

While Ulrike and Albert tried to convince the watchman Gustav to let them out (Albert even offered to cook them all breakfast), Mordrin struck up a conversation with the dishevelled old man in the adjoining cell. This scruffy character introduced himself as Otto and explained that he had once been a farmer in Kislev. Otto told of his homeland having been ravaged by something he kept referring to as the winds of chaos - he'd seen his people meet some kind of awful fate and was clearly driven half mad by the experience.  

As the conversations continued, Gustav noticed that the town bell hadn't rung to announce the morning market and that his colleagues in the watch hadn't arrived for the next shift. The other PCs also noticed the growing sense of unease; something made all the worse by Otto's resigned laughter. Gustav looked out through the iron grill on the watch house door and saw shambling figures through the early morning mist - he recognised some of them as townspeople, but they were somehow physically distorted and twisted... and they were heading for the watch house.

Gustav made the decision to release the other PCs, reasoning that the extra manpower was his most pressing requirement in the face of what he judged to be an impending 'situation'. As he was releasing them from the cell, an ethereal fog seeped through the high bar windows of the watch house - it was diffused somewhat by the sturdy solid stone foundations of the building, yet it still managed to touch each of them - Albert sensed a cup of milk on the table in front of his curdle, while Gustav passed out as the fog lanced up his nostrils. Only Otto, though, felt the full effect of the chaos magic, rapidly undergoing a succession of horrific mutations until his eyes grew six inch fangs that spat acid and began to corrode the bars [all PCs gained an insanity point]. 

As the PCs gathered all their belongings and the few weapons that the watch kept in its simple armoury, Ulrike revealed that she had a boat moored at nearby Blacksmith's Quay. The group decided to take the horses from the watch stables and make their way to the boat as swiftly as possible. A quick dash down the stone steps and a few strides across a courtyard later they found the horses being devoured by a group of horribly disfigured mutants.

Mordrin took off at a run down the road only to find he could not judge the erratic lurching movements of the monstrous creatures that were emerging from every building and side street. Ulrike and Gustav cut away in the opposite direction, into the woods and downhill towards the quay. Albert ducked into the shadows and had to dodge the attacks of four mutants before following Ulrike and Gustav. Mordrin doubled back and down through the woods. All the PCs emerged unscathed on a dirt track running along side the river - about 50 yards from where Ulrike's boat was moored. 

Their way, however, was blocked by three extremely ugly (and certainly malevolent) mutated townspeople. As they moved a safe distance from the tree line, Mordrin loosed a succession of quarrels from his crossbow - but they all missed their targets. The mutants lurched towards the PCs, who decided to take the initiative and charge (all except Albert, who snuck away to ready to boat). Through three rounds of combat their three advisories were neatly dispatched - Gustav even managed to slice one clean in half - although Ulrike suffered a handful of wounds. They soon made it to the boat and out onto the waters of the river, through the clearing mist...

The GM's perspective 

Overall a very pleasing introductory session. The PCs had some time to explore their characters and negotiate the beginnings of their adventuring relationships with each other, while also gaining a real sense of impending mortal danger. There was a mixture of narrative and combat time, and we were able to get to grips with the 2nd edition system for melees. Hopefully this has established the 'end of days' atmosphere that I'm aiming for, which will help us all construct this adventure as being quite different to our other ongoing campaign (the classic Enemy Within in 1st edition, where I'm a PC). 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Under Siege

My plans to expand into gaming systems other than WFB might be a little delayed given the news that a further set of expansion rules is on the way. In another 'leak' from a Spanish edition of WD we're offered the cover of 'Blood in the Badlands', which will apparently include an up-date for the siege rules.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mangler Squigs... Wow!

These. Look. Amazing.

It Came From The Forest...!

I've got a real soft spot for monsters. I'm often tempted to just collect and paint them rather than a 'real' army. So I was pleased to see that GW are getting round to releasing the official models for the beastmen army. They're doing the rounds on a few sites - I saw them here.

If I'm tempted into a purchase, it'll probably be so that I can have one of these...

The new Ghorgon

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Secret Art of Cleaning Paint Brushes

R. Mutt's 'masterpiece'
I like to think that miniature painting is art. Perhaps this sounds a little deluded, but if Duchamp could put a urinal on a gallery wall then a well painted model can be called a work of art. That's not to say that all painted miniatures are art, or even artistic, or for that matter, actually very good at all. What is true though, is that painting is an artistic craft, even though it can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog.

Following this line of reasoning (and as part of a *secret christmas project*- all very hush, hush...) I've been reading up on artistic techniques and tips that go beyond what you might usually expect to find in miniatures painting guides. Probably the most instructive so far has been a check list of how to clean paint brushes. I suspect it's fair to say that most people use the 'twiddle it around in some water and give it a bit of a wipe' technique. In contrast, what follows is a digested version of general advice given to artists (you know, the proper ones with paper and canvas and porcelain and such)...

1. Wipe off any excess paint using a cloth or soft tissue. Gently squeezing the bristles from the ferrule edge outwards with your fingers, or with a cloth, will help remove paint from the brush. But be careful to avoid pulling on the bristles.

Not R. Mutt's 'masterpiece' 
2. Rinse the brush in lukewarm water. Never use hot water as it can expand the ferrule, causing the hairs to fall out.

3. Wipe it on the cloth again to remove the last of the excess paint.

4. Wash gently using a little bit of mild soap (or a gentle dishwashing liquid). Dab the brush gently onto the piece of soap, then work up a lather in a small container or the palm of your hand.

5. Rinse and repeat until there's no trace of any color coming out. Over time a brush may become stained, but don't stop rinsing until you're sure there's no paint left.

6. Rinse once more in clean, lukewarm water to remove any traces of soap. Shake off the water.

7. Use your fingers to gently shape the brush head into its correct shape.

8. If necessary, wrap the bristles in a piece of tissue or toilet paper while the brush is still wet. When the paper dries it'll contract, pulling the bristles into shape.

9. Leave the brush to dry at room temperature. 

10. Don't let acrylic paint dry on a brush as its water-resistant when dry. But also never leave a brush standing in water.

11. Never use excess pressure to force paint out of a brush. Be patient and rinse it several times.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Citadel Small and Medium Dry Brushes - Review

Drybrushing is seldom a good idea on a miniature but it does work wonders for weathering buildings and terrain. I picked these two brushes up a few months ago and they've served very well at their intended purpose (unlike the other Citadel brushes, which are pretty rubbish).

I've also discovered a few other unexpected uses for them. Because drybrushing is tough job for a brush - life expectancy is rather short - I don't really mind what these get used for. 

As a result I started using them to hook paint out of the pots and onto my pallet. They're really useful for this as they'll take a reasonable load without clogging up the ferrule, which can be a sod to clean. Both are also useful for applying thinned base coats, delivering the paint very quickly and effectively on a batch job, like my Blood Bowl Orcs. As with all the Citadel brushes it's hard to recommend these, although they have come in rather handy. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dogs of War Redux?

Good batch of rumours doing the rounds over at BoLS lounge about some incoming 'contingent' rules for WFB. Some silly things like fishmen and insectoids (really?) are included alongside some fan favourites such as Estalia, Araby, Kislev and Pirates. Sounds like a DoW redux of sorts, which would be no bad thing.

From Suderberg to Eternity - Prelude to a WFRP Adventure

As my wife shows no signs of going into labour just yet I've decided to plan the beginnings of my epic-to-be WFRP 2nd edition adventure. I'll be running this on regular Thursday evenings with the rest of my enthusiastic gaming group as the PCs. I'll use posts here to record session episodes and chart a few out-of-session goings on so that the PCs have plenty of opportunity to develop along interesting career paths at a reasonable rate. 

Rather than run an 'adventure in a box' I'm going to be designing everything as we go along. I have a general narrative in my mind, including where I'd like the PCs to end up once all the adventuring is done (assuming they're not dead), but I want the structure to be reasonably loose. This began with my percolating the beginnings of the adventure from the narrative morsels that could be picked from the bones of the freshly rolled-up characters. 

In this prelude-to-the-adventure post I'll introduce these characters, explain where they can be found, and situate the whole business within the history of the Old World. My PCs will be free to read and use the information here 'in game' with their own discretion - this will form part of their 'common knowledge'.

The Empire
The PCs

Albert Wick
A halfling originally from the Moot, Albert hasn't had the easiest life. At the age of 34 he finds himself with the inauspicious career of Tomb Robber. His diminutive size make him perfect for this role though, and he has the tunnel rat skills you might expect of someone in this line of 'work'. He's also an accomplished cook - not unusual for a halfling! - and with the additional language of Khazalid it's clear that he's spent plenty of time either catering for or detained by the lawbringers of the dwarves. Albert yearns for adventure  - especially in search of the hidden knowledge and lore buried within the Old World's many tombs - and even though he is consistently lucky when dodging traps during sorties around barrows and the like, he's never been fortunate enough to find a group of adventurers as keen on his talent at theft as they are for his pies. 

Ulrike Esk
Like Albert, Ulrike has found herself making a living on the wrong side of the law. A 23 year old hailing from Ostland she navigates the waterways of the Empire as a Smuggler. Despite her youth and slight build she really knows how to take care of herself in a fight and she's got the pronounced broken nose to prove it. She has adopted the styling and manner of the river folk, usually opting to wear a mixture of silks and hard worn leather, alongside a penchant for showy golden hooped earrings. An only child, Ulrike is fond of looking out for 'number one' and is very likely to be a 'friend' to anyone if she feels she might lighten their purse significantly by the time the night is through. Fond of the oft-repeated maxim that smugglers are the 'champions of the oppressed', she is also keenly aware that a careless smuggler can expect to either spend a long time in gaol, or a short time alive.

Mordrin Tok
Mordrin is a 35 year old dwarf - a mere beardling by dwarf standards - who was born in Fortenhaf in Ostermark on the North-eastern tip of the Empire. Unlike the majority of his mountain dwelling cousins, Mordrin is fast: really fast. Consequently he's made a good living as a Runebearer and dreams of setting the new record for the Kislev to Estalia run. His favourite weapon is the crossbow and his rapid reloading skills make him a deadly adversary, although he will seldom stop for a fight when he has a message to deliver. He is currently returning from Marienburg where delivered a message to an important merchant guild regarding the payment for a shipment of rare ores from the Worlds Edge Mountains.  

Gustav Dietershafen
A tough no-nonsense Nordlander, Gustav is a hard-as-old-boots Watchman currently in the employ of the small Suderberg town watch. A copper with (fittingly) copper coloured hair, he's not entirely pleased to be working in such a sleepy backwater but he needs to send a regular wage home to his four younger siblings who are scratching out a hard living on a farm on the coast of the Sea of Claws. He plans to find better work in Middenheim once the harshest of the winter has passed and eventually make his way back to his family. Gustav's physical training under the tutelage of the priests of Sigmar has been extensive; he's an experienced and coolheaded fighter who, at 30, is the veteran of several campaigns. Although he can dispense justice as he sees fit - he's highly knowledgable in the laws of the land - he will leave the judgment of more serious crimes to the travelling judges or those from the Cult of Verena.

The State of Middenland
The Setting

We begin in the sleepy riverside town of Suderberg at the edge of the Howling Hills in South East Middenland. In terms of the history of the Empire and the Old World more generally, this is just at the beginning of the Storm of Chaos. The major events of the Storm will be the backdrop for our adventurers. However, as they are obviously far too weak to stand up to anything truly Chaotic they'll be spending most of their time (if they have any sense!) running away from the heart of the action as fast and as far as possible. That's not to say, of course, that they won't have the opportunity to rise to fame or infamy - it's just that theirs will be a life of adventuring on the margins of 'big events'. And I like to think that it's in these margins that the truly bizarre and challenging opportunities await our plucky PCs... Although we begin in the back end of beyond, this rag-tag group will have the opportunity to live on through songs of their deeds. Or they might just get horribly murdered, we'll have to wait and see.

The Set Up

Autumn is turning to winter and the harsh winds are rattling the small town of Suderberg. Three unlikely cell mates are huddled together on a flea infested straw mattress. Ulrike and Albert have just worked together bringing in a large haul of furs from Kislev; a fact they failed to declare to the local tax authorities. Ulrike had planned to get Albert drunk and slip away with his share of the rewards, but the halfling proved to be just too hard to drink under the table. They had been joined in the tavern by Mordrin, who, over a few jars of ale, had unwittingly shared some useful information about the mercantile guilds of Marienburg with the ambitious smuggler.

It could have turned into a profitable night for Ulrike if the watch hadn't been tipped off. Suderberg was in the middle of nowhere, but enough of the black uniformed bastards had turned up to catch them unready and outnumbered. They'd dragged Mordrin to the gaol too, despite his protests. Now only a single watchman called Gustav remains on guard as the cold morning stretches through the cracks in the watch house door. He's dozing quietly in his chair, seemingly oblivious to the loud snoring of the ragged old man sprawled out alone in the adjacent cell. Ulrike curses her luck. But a bad night was about to turn a great deal worse...  

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Completed Garden of Morr base plus extra custom terrain

The buildings from the Garden of Morr now have a finished base to sit on, which can also be used as a separate piece of terrain - I like the idea of doubling up and maximising usage. Using the same techniques of card, paper, wood filler and bits of junk I found scattered around the house, I've also taken the time to knock up some additional terrain pieces. First, two bases of ruins, and secondly a 'modular' barrow hill.

The buildings in place - finishing these is the next job

A small bit of added detail

Two bases of ruins - always useful terrain pieces

Some detail from the ruins

The 'modular' hill - I decided to make this in the style of a barrow, with
the suggestion of a ruined entrance at one end

The top section removed for ease of placing troops

A detail from the hillside - perhaps the doorway to an ancient barrow is
hidden beneath the ruins and foliage?  
I'm rather pleased to have got all this finished this weekend, especially as I spent most of my time painting something completely different...

My latest masterpiece in high-shine gloss ;-)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Foundry Fantasy

Fans of the fantastic Foundry fantasy range of miniatures are in for a treat. I've just discovered that Foundry now have these all gathered together on a new website - and there's currently a sale on. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flames of War - but which army to choose?

A simple question today: which army should I collect for Flames of War? I'm thinking of going for Germany so that I have a large selection of troops and, importantly, tanks and other vehicles, which is really the big selling point for this game. Two of my regular gaming opponents seem likely to go for the USSR and the UK, so this choice would also make sense from that perspective. Any general advice for getting started with FoW is also welcome! 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Garden of Morr - Custom Base

With the aim of maximising the usage of all the parts in the Garden of Morr I've been working on a custom base for the buildings. These are too good to use covering up the graves and the graves are too good to be covered up! With the buildings, walls and fences, and the graveyard, this is certainly the best value terrain kit that GW produce. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Napoleon Rises!

A batch of approximately 300 soldiers - one of several
rediscovered goodie bags 
A few months ago I had a rummage through some bags and boxes that I had stored in my parents' attic room. In the process I chanced on a box brimming with historical figures that I used to collect back in the 80s. Some of these are English Civil War, a few are American Civil War, but the vast majority are from the Napoleonic era. Over the weekend I began to sort through these properly and started to think about using them on the table top again.

As you can see from the photo, the models are within the 1:72 scale range. I'm not sure about the manufacturer but a search around the web seems to suggest that they were from the now defunct Esci, which I believe was taken over by Italeri. All they need is to be based and painted and I'll have a whole new game to play with very little expense (my wife will like this aspect!).

When I was 12 my friends and I used to spend the day setting up a battle scene - usually Waterloo - and then use a very basic set of rules (of our own devising) for movement and combat. I'm not sure these will suffice today though (!) so I've been exploring some of the many different kinds of rule sets that are available for this era. (I found a very useful guide on the site Napoleon Guide).

What's immediately obvious is that this kind of game is far more 'serious' and tactical than fantasy of science fiction systems (nothing you didn't know already). Historical war games have always exuded a more mature tone because historic representativeness is key to their design and spirit. As someone who likes to mess around with house rules they'd always seemed a tad restrictive to me. 

But looking through three of the different sets of rules on offer I'm actually quite looking forward to playing within the tactical parameters of a 'realistic' historic setting. In essence, gaming in this era and at this scale is somewhere between open table top warfare (e.g. WFB) on one end of the spectrum, and more 'board-orientated' games (e.g. Dust Tactics) towards the other. Because my interest is gaming - rather than some kind of serious recreation - I'm actually really excited at the prospect of using a new and tactically-rich system.

I've begun by looking at 'General de Brigade', 'Grande Armee', and 'Elan', although there are several other systems that I mean to explore. What's useful is that there is no standard way of basing figures. This means that you don't have to settle for one system at the loss or exclusion of the others. One down side though, is that I actually feel rather lost at the most basic level of the game because I'm not being instructed on how to base my models! Individual infantry figures represent between 20 and 50 men, while in the case of Grande Armee it's the size of the base or movement try that matters, so there is an unfamiliar level of abstraction here. This has taken a bit of getting used to because the entire scale of the game is very different from what I'm used to.

Whichever system I decide to use I think I'm really going to enjoy the challenges that historical gaming at this scale brings. Luckily I have all the miniatures I need for several armies and a willing opponent in the shape of my brother. Occasional up-dates will follow... although maybe not until next year. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Garden of Morr WIP

With my daughter due to 'drop' next Tuesday I've not had as much time for painting in the last week as I would've liked. Saturday night is always a good one for a long painting session though (oh, the exciting life of the parents of young children!) and I managed to get started on the Garden of Morr. Something that I'm trying to do with my Warhammer scenery is inject a good dose of colour. The box pictures of this set show a rather drab cluster of buildings - rather fitting for a graveyard one might think - but not the look I'm going for at all. After priming everything in Skeletal Bone (better than dull old black) I decided to start with the statue, as this is straightforward in design and model terms. 

As you can see I'm working with a range of greys, greens, and good old rotten flesh for the paving and stones. The statue itself is fun to work on because it's one place where dry brushing is effective and appropriate - it's nice to use this looser method with greys, whites and greens, alongside washes with Devlan Mud and various greens in order to achieve a weathered look.

For the buildings I'm adding the colour with the roofing. Greens come into play again, but so does the amazingly vibrant Warlock Purple, which is quickly becoming my favourite Citadel colour. I'm looking forward to working on the roses this week: these are the neatest design touch in this particular kit. Hopefully all these bright elements will detract from all those skulls...

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Hobbit: Peter Jackson's Fourth Video Blog from the Set

Peter Jackson returns with another video blog from the set of the Hobbit movies. Another great look at how the production is taking shape - have we really got to wait until next year before we see the first one of these?! 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Improbable Business Model (The Quiet Rules Revolution: Part 3)

How do you know what to expect when you face a new army on the table top? Very few of us will own all the current army books for WFB or 40k codexes. The basic stat lines for each troop type are included at the back of the main rulebook for WFB, but these do not include one vital piece of information: the points value. One reason this is important is because understanding relative points values is key to comprehending how different armies can be fielded. Points values, as we all know, are a closely guarded piece of company 'property' and if I was to provide even a partial list of them on this blog I would probably receive a cease and desist letter from GW's solicitors within days or weeks.

To have a comprehensive understanding of all the rules for WFB would cost you a whopping £360 at the current price of the books as listed on the GW website. This really annoys me. WFB is the main table top war game that I play and I'm denied a good working knowledge of the full range of rules. There are other ways to find out about how different armies play, through joining a large gaming group or by reading about them on the internet, but that's hardly a sufficient substitute. *Let me apply a quick undercoat to the elephant in the room... I know people can get copies of these books for free from the web... I couldn't possibly endorse that kind of behaviour here*

The alternative approach that I suggest below will never happen in reality because it is highly unlikely that GW will ever change their current business model in favour of one that would actually benefit gamers - I'll briefly outline it anyway and even put forward a business case.

The Improbable Business Model

Aspect 1: GW release a comprehensive rulebook containing all game rules plus the full lists for all armies in the game, points values etc. included. This provides the basis for all kinds of play from competitive tournaments to 'oldhammer' campaigns. The best games have, at their core, simple design concepts. Fluff is at a minimum and can be found elsewhere.

Aspect 2: A range of source books is released. These contain a wealth of background information, campaign rules and scenarios, optional rules, tables for generating unique characters and units, and so on. These would help reinstate the roleplay aspect that I think is so lacking in the structure of the GW profit-orientated approach today. Some of this could even be released for free (shock horror) on the web. 

The Bottom line argument: With access to the full range of basic rules, players will get a flavour for all the different forces in the game and many will start collecting a wider range of armies. A good range of source books allows those who are so inclined to opt-in to playing in a 'deeper style', while maintaining a steady feed of new products into the range.

Given that this plan very quickly hits the brick wall of reality there's not much point in arguing the case any further. It's a pipe dream; a pure exercise in wishful thinking. So what was the point of all this? The important thing, as I see it, is to find an alternative is the disenfranchisement brought about by the likelihood that huge swathes of the rules for WFB are kept at arms length from the majority of players. In line with my other posts this week I'd say that it's important to act as if the fundamentals of this improbable business model were actually true.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Fluffy Rules Are Better Than Balance Rules (The Quiet Rules Revolution: Part 2)

Over the weekend I had a good read of some of the unofficial player-produced army books for WFB. In the past I'd given these a cursory glance and nothing more, but as I've had rules on my mind I thought I'd give them a closer look. And what I found was a veritable goldmine.

Take the Dogs of War book for example. This contains rules for pikemen - a unit type that isn't currently catered for in 8th edition. The rules are outlined as follows:

This would be an excellent and characterful addition to an Empire army, particularly my Marienburg army, which is mostly comprised of mercenaries. Pikemen gain a real advantage in terms of extra ranks and always striking first, but they are still just basic level humans, so making the most of that advantage would still require good tactics and some luck. Their basic points value is listed as 6 pts, which seems fair, although the additional single point increase for each model to equip them with heavy armour looks under costed to me. But then, if these are the mainstay for the DoW army and the only ones to have heavy armour available, then that's fine. For another example, here are the rules for crossbowmen:

The inclusion of the Pavise is a great touch. It adds a little protection from missile fire, a good bit of borrowed historical detail, and makes for some good modelling opportunities - I have some WotR Perry mercenaries that look fantastic with them either on their backs or wedged in the ground in front of them. One final example, this time from a character:

All these additional rules have one thing in common: they are all unit or character specific, rather than stemming from some common formula. If there's one thing that really lets the recent editions of WFB down it's the way that balance is built into army lists through the sharing out of roughly positive and equal enhancements. They may be characterful in name, but the mechanic is one that is shared across various races. What I like about the above examples is that they might be game changing either in your favour or in favour of the 'enemy'. More than this, I like the idea that the characterful attributes/weapons/items of a unit or hero could turn out to be either a blessing or a curse, depending on strategy, circumstance and accident.

The Dogs of War book, along with the other (as they say) strictly unendorsed and unofficial army books, provides a wealth of ideas. They are not perfect by any means; Lorenzo has a magical sword that negates all armour saves. But they do show, I would argue, that fluffy rules are better than balance rules in making table top war games that are enjoyable and challenging to play. They illustrate how to take the basics that are provided by GW - the human stat line for example - and then enhance them, not to give a player an advantage, but to stretch their tactical nous and present them with a varied and unpredictable gaming experience.

Ultimately games like WFB and 40k should be played for fun, character, and as forms of fantasy roleplay. They are not competitive in the way chess could be simply because they belong to a different family of games. They can be played in the spirit of competition but that should never be the main aim. Some kind of balance achieved through a points system is a helpful mechanic, as this will stop games regularly ending too soon simply due to an overwhelming force on one side or the other. Of course, sometimes a scenario might call for this and that's just fine... as long as everyone involved is enjoying their evening.

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