Tuesday, 15 December 2015

2015: Year of the Butterfly

You'd be forgiven for assuming that reports of my death are not even slightly exaggerated. 2015 has not been a blog-heavy year!

Of course part of the reason for that was that 2015 wasn't very hobby-heavy either. My focus lay elsewhere: roleplaying games, Elite: Dangerous, and professional sitting (which is like normal sitting, but where you convince yourself you aren't wasting time, or at least, don't think about how much time you're wasting until after you've wasted it).

That said, I do have two minor updates. The first is that I have embarked upon my biggest single model ever. It's a huge project, and will take many more months to complete, but here are some sneak peeks:

The second thing concerns the Beard Bunker's long-running Warhammer campaign. The Old World is still turning here at the Bunker, its inhabitants now certain that the whole End Times/Age of Sigmar thing was just a cheese dream.

In the past, a number of campaign updates have been provided by both short stories and mock-newspapers. Those have been fun but time-consuming, and whilst I may yet do some in the future, they were purely intended as an engaging way to provide our gaming group with updates on campaign events. For their intended job, they weren't actually all that effective, not least of which because those formats preclude concise, broad brush strokes.

To that end, I have created a campaign wiki, thanks entirely to the generosity and technical skill of Tom (known on this blog for his halfling character Cedric Sneakfoot). The wiki has the campaign's current state of affairs on its front page, a chronicle that records all the major events of the story so far, and also of course has the potential for the story's participants to add whatever details they wish about characters or events.

The wiki is still in a somewhat embryonic state, but the major events are all there, including those alluded to in recent narrative posts, so if you're curious to find out what happened to Amelia after she was abducted, click through the link below:

You might also have noted that I've put links to both the Hochland campaign and the Cetus sub-sector in a perma-link on the top right of the page.

That's all for today. Hopefully I'll return soon with further progress to report on said giant project. How was 2015 for anyone still reading this rather neglected blog? How did Age of Sigmar affect your hobby?

Friday, 25 September 2015

Nerd Thunder 5: Warhammer World - Part One

Hi folks, 'tis Jeff. A while ago now, the Beard Bunker performed one of it's regular invasions of that bastion of hobby happy in Nottingham: Warhammer World. We went up to fight a bunch of small games of Warhammer to determine who was to control a Warpstone meteorite but we nearly didn't get to play at all. Because we went into the new Miniatures Halls - note plural - and very nearly didn't leave. It. Is. Magnificent. I wanted to share some of the magnificence with you but... I'd taken about 500 photos, it took a while to whittle down. But here it is at last!

I'm presenting this multi-part series not really in the order they are encountered but in vague themes, first, classic dioramas and warhammer awesomeness, it's going to be a bit of a three/four part picdump, but I think worth it:

Classic Dioramas: Almost as a way of easing you in to the glorious insanity to come, the halls start with some wonderful dioramas which will be immediately familiar to those of my gaming pedigree (read old) from the pages of White Dwarf:

lovely old Bretonnian Jousting scene, one of my favourites

A knight faces off against a dragon, much bigger than you think!

Empire Conquistadors try to rescue their comrades from Lizardman sacrifice
Wood Elves try to drive out Heinrich Kemmler
A diorama so old that it is in my 3rd Ed rulebook. Still looks surprisingly good if dated
The Rock, great diorama mostly for representing something behind the scenes rather than just battle
Classic Space Hulk diorama, lovely.
 Orcs Attack!
 The next thing you see after all that nostalgia is a massive siege. Really, really massive:

Wyvern hunting wizards, also, check out the missed doom diver :)

Dwarf Hold:
And then you get to another siege, but this one a very different tone, one very much to my liking...

Nurgle's Fortress
By this point we were realising that we may have underestimated just how much awesomeness we were going to be exposed to. When the scenery looks like concept art you know you are doing well.

Well, that's it for today, next time, Warhammer 40k stuff... :)

On to Part Two: The Warhammer 40,000 Halls

Friday, 18 September 2015

True Calibre Leman Russ

There's plenty of folks around making 'true-scale' space marines, where you make an astartes look even bigger so he towers over the other wee men on the table. Well I've headed in the opposite direction, in that I've massively reduced the bore on my Russ' battlecannon.

Why would I mess with such an iconic design? Because I find the calibre of the standard tank to be immersion-breaking in its hugeness. It looks like it's designed to shoot beer kegs, not shells.

Kegs away!
[image taken from GW.com for illustrative purposes only]

This preposterous barrel width looks fine on the Baneblade, because the rest of the tank is huge enough that it looks mostly in-proportion, that is, like a battleship cannon on a land vehicle. On a Russ? Not to my tastes. Once I swapped the barrel for one of the four long-barreled autocannons you get with the Hydra/Wyvern kit, I was surprised at how much it changes the look of the tank.

In case you're wondering, yes, there was some conversion work. Here's a pre-paint closeup of the turret following some careful plasticard slicing and green stuffing:

Oh and here the tank is chillin' with members of the 2nd platoon of Echo Company, the 107th Ankran Mechanised Infantry. More of them to come. Mmmmm, basic-ass paint jobs.

Blatantly took this photo before I finished the weathering on the Russ.
Wot a nob.

Finally, since it doesn't really deserve a post all on its own, here's a photo showing almost all of my three thousand point ork fleet what I done finished the other week (there's a few squadrons of escorts not pictured that were in the other photos, but the other photos sucked too hard to use here, which is saying something).


No, they didn't get rusty in space. I imagine most ork ships are cobbled together
from reclaimed metal and built mainly planetside, which means they're rusty before
they've even had their first flight.

p.s. You may have noticed the astonishing rarity of posts these days. All I can say is that the hobby bug comes in unpredictable waves, and those waves can be few and far between when your brain meats en't treating you well. If this wasn't a hobby blog I'd talk about it, but I don't think anyone's come here for some deep insights into how depression makes you less interested in the things you love. If for some bizarre reason you do want to know how my faltering mind and my hobby intersect, or if you wish to share your own experiences, you're very welcome to say/do so below, and I shall respond.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Grimtoof Redux

My house was recently invaded by a trio of Danes keen for shooty-death-kill in space, and so for the first time in literally years, I wheeled out my army of Speed Freaks. The impending game served as ample excuse to paint up the Stormclaw warboss, so as to replace my rather low-rent nob conversion from back in the day.

Young Grimtoof looks a bit diddy next to his older, hencher self.
Older Grimtoof be gert hench.

Normally, I'd have too much pride to leave a model unconverted, particularly since combi-skorchas are clearly superior to combi-rokkitts, but you know what? Life is short, and rokkitts go fasta.

Now this model is still the same character: Grimtoof Boomshanka. He's just older and tougher, as is his ultra-loyal squig Niblit, seen perching atop the bosspole in version 1, and bounding merrily forward in version 2. The squig is actually chained to the warboss in the Stormclaw model, but the chain got snipped off as I liked the idea that Grimtoof finds it more amusing to have a free range squig that just bounces around being a nuisance, sort of like a really irresponsible yet infuriatingly proud dog owner. "E's biting me face off boss!" "I know, bless 'im, 'e loves faces."

If anything I've actually been lazier with the paint job second time around, although I prefer the less saturated green skin tone. I've never managed to get super excited about painting orks; it's very easy to make them look okay, but for some reason I really struggle to make the skin look excellent. Lack of trying, I guess, but I don't mind... for me, the main lure has and will always be kustomizing vehicles.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Warhammer: (r)age (quit) of Sigmar

As every wargamer with a web connection (or, I suppose, the willingness to read White Dwarf) knows, a new version of the Warhammer Fantasy rules has just been released. It's four pages long. And it's free.

It seems only right that the Beard Bunker should join legions of commentators elsewhere and fart our collective opinion all over the intertubes, because the internet has the capacity to be one great big opinionated fart horn and it's nice to be a part of something big.

There are of course several topics to discuss. I'm going to talk about the underlying game design, and I'm going to try and be fair. Jeff is going to be talking about the dissection and discarding of the Old World setting, and he will probably not be as nice. By 'not as nice,' I suspect it's going to read like W:AOS walking innocently into a back alley and spending seven quality minutes getting thoroughly seen to by a burly man wielding an industrial sander, a hoover, a pedicure set, and some shape charges. Finally, Mark will reflect on both these areas following our initial game with WAOS today.

Part one: da roolz (Charlie)

This is hard for me to write. Not because I don't know what to say, but because I know how hard it is to write rules, and I know that the GW studio care a great deal about their work. Anyone who suggests they don't care has never tried to write a ruleset. It's really, really difficult, and I salute the studio for having the bravery to make such dramatic changes.

That said, I'm starting to suspect there is a fundamental difference between what I hold to be the foundation of a good game, and what the GW studio think is the foundation of a good game.

For me, the bedrock of gameplay is making choices. All the stuff where I roll a dice to see what happens is just seeing that choice play out. If the game reduces the player to nothing but a dice-rolling meat-bot, it's not gameplay; it's more like being some sort of weird, celestial secretary observing your wee men move around on a map and recording how well they do. How fascinating.

There is still some tactical decision making in WAOS, in that units have something akin to LoTR's control zones - you can't move within 3" of an enemy model without charging it. This means small, sacrificial units can screen more important ones, and tough shieldwall units can defend vulnerable missile units. Unfortunately, that's it. Since there are no longer any flanks, and no restrictions on movement, it's effectively impossible to outmaneuver people, which seems like a fundamental element of medieval-esque fantasy warfare.

Dude, where's my movement tray?

Now I'm all for streamlining rules. If a game throws plenty of interesting quandaries at a player with only four pages of rules then great. WAOS does an incredible job of streamlining some very complicated cause/effect relationships into four pages by repeatedly asking 8th edition Fantasy questions like "yes I know you have a comparative weapon skill chart, but since everyone just ends up rolling 3+ or 4+ anyway, why bother having the chart at all?"

Good question, that doesn't mean you have to throw out all the tactical nuance as well.

Now of course one of the big elephants in the room - even for a relatively non-competitive gamer like me - is that of game balance. There isn't any. Like, any. I appreciate that overly competitive people are seriously toxic to the hobby, but this feels like an overreaction to the problem that absolutely will not fix it. Yes, players have complete freedom to do whatever they feel like. Will that freedom cheer up lil' Jim because Affluent Timmy's parents bought him so much plastic crack that lil' Jim's ten Empire state troops have no chance against Timmy's twenty-strong mob of greater daemons? No.

Personally I want a fight to be a nail-biting, down-to-the-wire sort of affair, and if you lose game balance, you lose this possibility. WAOS makes this functionally impossible. It's like 40K's intellectually deficient cousin.

Speaking of intellectual deficiency, we come to my final point. Realism. Yes, I know, this is a game with daemons and griffons and so on, but leaving all realism behind makes it less immersive. For example:

Handgun Volley: You can add 1 to hit rolls for an Empire Handgunner when it shoots its missile weapons if its unit includes at least 20 models. 

Casting the grammatical problems with that sentence aside... they get better at aiming their guns because they've got lots of friends? HOW DOES THAT WORK? Hey, at least they're not crossbowmen. Their version of that rule means they get to shoot twice, because time is bendy.

OK that ended up being more rant-acular than I intended. Short version? I genuinely like the attempt to simplify a pretty convoluted game, but the studio overshot the mark to the extent that I'm just going to carry on playing 8th edition.

I'm curious to hear what other people make of the new rules, and will merrily respond/debate with any comments left on this post!

Part two: but it is the ende of the worlde (Jeff)

Thank you for that kind introduction Charlie, I'll try to live up to it:

Whilst Charlie and Mark are the best placed to talk about the underwhelm-ment (totally a word) that is the rules, I wanted to talk about something much more toxic to my interest in this game: The destruction of the Warhammer World. This has been much hyped as being a re-invigorating step, a means of breaking free of the same tired old thing aaaand it does. That is certain. The trouble is, in doing so it has killed, completely, any care I had for their product here.

farewell old friend, we knew you almost too well
Some context may be required. I started playing this game at 10. I was introduced to a magical, dark place where the embattled hosts of humanity fought against monsters and their own twisted kin. Where fantastic beasts aided the mortal and fallen elves duelled their own benighted brothers. It. Was. Awesome.

Fast forward 25 years (yes I am that old, shush you).  And we have a world so rich in background and depth of character that even different city states in the same nation have distinct identities. I knew the geography of that world almost better than I knew my own. No other game has that kind of continuous depth of narrative to draw on. To have inspiring stories and legend to prop it up.

After all, it's not like it inspires whole new narrative campaigns... oh wait.

Then… they blew it up, in a series of events described in the End Times. A narrative series so farcical and nihilistic as to be laughable. By the way, anyone who spent the between £120 and £200-odd quid on those books has to be feeling pretty sore right now. Fork out for that and a few months later they destroy the world those books are based on. But that is another matter.

I had always assumed that the End Times would be the new persistent story world.  GW like their nihilistic “world on the brink of collapse” thing as they think it needs that to justify constant warfare. But no, goodbye rich setting, hello to nine floaty realms (smell the Norse myth in all that) in some sort of vortex. I’ll wait and see if they bother at all to re-home the people that lived on the Warhammer World or whether every sentient creature in creation is now in a soldier.

"Eyup Dieter, how's your Pauline?"
"Dead mate, how's yours?"
"Dead too, makes you wonder why we go on."
This killed it for me. I like a setting where you are fighting for something not just against something. A world where your populace live interesting, colourful lives, where flawed diplomacy can exist (flawed to allow for constant fighting). They’ve said to me: “That series on TV you were enjoying? The 25 year (35 really) long one that got more and more involving and deep? Yeah, we’re rebooting is with the cast of Glee, keep watching though right?”.  I’m afraid I’m done. I’ll continue to live in the world I have done for so long. A world where 2/3 of the landmass remained completely unexplained and unexplored. Endless potential for expansion (I’ll talk about that another time, I’ve got tons of ideas)

If, though, we accept the premise that there was a desperate need for some kind of magic based realms out there… well, here’s the obvious solution. Do it AS WELL AS the world you have. GW slung the bathwater out and failed to notice all the babies paddling in it. Having an alternative game like AoS (all FOUR pages of it) included in Warhammer, used as the starter game even. Neat idea.

Then when people have enough models, they can start playing the big game that apparently has such a big barrier to entry (I challenge that when an assault squad now costs half of what a battalion set did five years ago) and have a different sort of challenge.  They could have EXPANDED the world and their product range… but no.  And so I am done, with regret, I have been captain optimist through every version of the game, but this is not a version of the game. This is the destruction of it. So I am done. Now I shall continue to play 8th and be very, very happy.
My happy place
I have one final thought. GW desperately needs to re-engage with its community.  In fact, I’m going to speak to them directly: Please, please, talk to us. Find out what we want. At the moment you are acting like Apple, “we’ve made a thing, now make the world love it come what may”. That can sort of work when you are selling a device. You don’t sell a device. You sell products that facilitate one of the most collaborative endeavours on earth. It needs the participation of all concerned to work, when you act as though our opinion doesn’t matter it harms you.

Now, I know what you are about to say, the internet is an absolute cesspool of nerdrage and bile. I hate it too, wrote about it too. But you have pulled up the drawbridge way too far. For weeks we’ve been told “ignore the rumours, wait for the truth”, but the truth is here now… and we do not like it, to the extent of ignoring it, we (i.e. the players you don’t talk to not just the bunker) could have warned you of this.

I sincerely hope that this works for you. I do. I hope you get all of the new players and money you are hoping for. I hope it is a stellar success with the percentage of Warhammer players who like the new thing and the people who didn’t like Warhammer. Equally, if you like this thing, play it with my enthusiastic blessing. Because it would be horrible if you had destroyed the world I loved; mutilated the game; and acted as if we were the weird ones for not falling immediately in love with it; if it were not to work commercially. Horrible.

I’m just grateful I have awesome, like minded friends forming a gaming community. I can’t imagine how upset I would be if a club enthusiastically endorsing AoS and ignoring Warhammer – every GW store for example - was my only option.

If anyone wants me I’ll be arranging my little plastic mans in neat little squares and smiling a lot.

Part Three: Kogzhammer (Mark)

I’ll try to keep this short as there is a bit of overlap in what I want to say and what the others have already said. These thoughts are what I think of the game now, having played a single game. I will be fair and play more games to see if its a grower - although I'm not entirely sure who I'll play them with. 

So I might as well come out and say it: I don’t like the Warhammer Age of Sigmar rules.

Growing up with Games Workshop, I always saw Warhammer as the game that the grown-ups played. I think that was because of some of the historical references, a lack of Space Marines and because it was a game that rewarded clever, thoughtful play.

I am a particular fan of Warhammer 8th edition. It seems so beautifully conceived, from the intelligent rules that were written with an eye forward to the coming armies to the massive set piece model making displays in the rulebook. I always got the impression that 8th edition Warhammer (from Island of Blood to the hardback rulebook) was someone’s labour of love.


I have sympathy for the designers of Age of Sigmar. It is obvious that they were trying very hard to streamline the rules so that the game was easier and faster to play. The process of building the rules must have been difficult, and to reference one of Jervis Johnson’s articles, they must have had to have ‘murdered their darlings’ to have got to this place.
There is precedent for what they tried – the design team rewrote Epic in the late 90s and turned it into something much more streamlined, better and easier to play. People complained about the abstraction, but an equal number of people loved that they turned a quagmire of a game into something fast, strategic and relatively simple.

In this case, the same thing hasn’t worked. In removing the complexity from the Warhammer rules, I feel that they have also taken out most of what it was that made Warhammer, well, Warhammer. There is now so much in the game that is either not worth doing (outflanking, ensuring you get the advantage of charging, redirecting units with sacrificial chaff, using terrain) or is so facile and automatic (magic, movement, equipment selection) that the player of the game doesn’t feel engaged with what is going on with their army.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with army selection. Choices that would have been agonised over during 8th edition army selection are now automatic, without drawbacks and completely free: “do I want my Rat-Ogres to have guns? (They’re free and have no disadvantages) Well, I’ll take all of them, and my rat ogres without guns are now obsolete”.
The same is true of musicians, champions, extra ranks, etc, etc.

Guns are so hot right now, why don't we have any?

Not to say that this game is actually all that simple. Whilst the core rules are four pages long, each and every warscroll comes with its own special rules, meaning that the ‘looking things up phase’ is far from over. These special rules are sometimes the equivalent of the old universal special rules, and are sometimes ridiculous (Kurt Helborg’s Moustache for example).

Background (Fluff)

Jeff has gone into the background at length so this will be brief.
The basic themes haven’t changed as much as Games Workshop might have you believe. Whilst they have stripped much of the detail out of the Warhammer world, the basic principles (an empire under siege from Chaos and other animals, humanity united and barely holding on, constant war and the occasional scuffle) have been retained.

Unfortunately, all the ‘human details’ that made the Old World compelling have been surgically removed. Imagine your favourite book rendered down into an encyclopaedia article and then re-scored as ‘My Little Pony’s Adventure in Magic Land’ – That’s what the background now feels like to me.

These changes, combined with the utter tedium of moving large numbers of models individually (up to three times a turn), the massive abstractions of the ruleset, the nonsense logic of the Warscrolls and the lack of worthwhile tactics and you have a pretty unappetising game. I will, like Jeff and Charlie, stick with 8th edition Warhammer.

Age of Sigmar feels like lowest common denominator hammer and in no way does it feel like a subtle, nuanced game for adults. It feels like it’s been put together for the wrong reasons, for a very attention deficient minority of players and without much in the way of thinking about the existing playerbase.

[Jeff: Mark makes a damn good point here, it feels "designed for the younger gamer", well, when I was 10 I didn't want to play with stuff designed for 10 year olds, I wanted what the big kids had...]

I’ve tried not to rant and I think I've succeeded. 

I’m not angry –I’m just disappointed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Amelia's Abduction (part two)

For those of you who read and enjoyed part one of Amelia's abduction, here is the second part. I debated for some time whether or not to go through the details of her torture at the hands of Voltik. Mark did some frankly ingenious things to psychologically break her (never before had I been invited into another man's dimly-lit basement for the purposes of role playing, and was frankly relieved upon finding no PVC accoutrements or restraints).

In the end, I felt there's only so much fun in writing and reading a torture scene. You're just going to have to imagine what three months in Skaven captivity (or two hours in Mark's basement) must be like.

One final note before we get started... some of you may be wondering why the old, old post about sculpting Amelia showed up as "new" a few weeks ago. The short answer is that it's a seemingly irreversible technical fault with blogger; I added a tag to the old post, and it re-created it as a fresh post. Go figure.

Anyway, read on for more olde worlde fiction... part three (of four, I think) will hopefully turn up faster than this did...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Battle Wizards: now with ovaries

Nothing says 'victory' like subliminally stripy trousers.

Not having a wizard in a Warhammer army is a lot like going commando. You can do it, but it just doesn’t feel quite right. That said, I didn’t want another robed man shuffling about at the back of my battle line. Historical precedent justifies the sausage fest that is the state soldiery, but by Jove, there’s no such precedent for wizards! Here was a good opportunity to get a lady in the army.

The only problem was the lack of a suitable model in the Empire and Brettonian ranges. I’d have to make one, and whilst I have built a model entirely from wire and green stuff in the past, I still find the prospect a little daunting, so when the plastic Dark Elf Sorceress was released, I didn’t see an angry pixie. I saw an armature.

Here she is, Blu-tacked together.

I make no claim to being a Mighty Putty Master of Mightyness, so the advice in this post is largely directed at the first-time and intermediate sculptor; sadly I have as much chance of surprising a veteran sculptor as a woman does of attaining a bishop’s mitre. Oooooh, ecclesiastical buuuuuuuurn! ...fear my sass, Church of England. Wait, do C of E bishops actually wear mitres? Whatever, moving on. If you'd like to start making Green Stuff your bitch, hit the jump.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Amelia's Abduction (part one)

It seems strange to start putting this story out now, given how long ago Mark and I began (and resolved) this little plot arc, but it is the first in a series of story-based posts that will, hopefully, catch the blog back up to where we're at in the Bunker's Hochland campaign.

Demonstrating a frankly fundamentalist approach to reader feedback, this post only exists because one anonymous reader asked what happened to Amelia, and what happened at the Siege of Fort Schippel. Well, that's a lot of ground to cover and it can't be done in one entry. Instead? A series of posts. The first arc of posts (maybe three?) will cover Amelia's abduction. After that, the siege.

I'll try and keep each post reasonably short, no more than two or three pages. They will of course be image-lite, but hey, we're a niche blog and this post has been written for a small niche within that niche.

So, Mr Anonymous, and anyone else who fancies a snippet of Olde Worlde fiction, click through the section break to read part one...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Engaging Armour

Hi Guys,

All of my recent hobby has been totally absorbed by my new found enjoyment of Bolt Action. If you keep up with Jeff over at Pirate Viking Painting (and if you don't, you should!) you will have noticed an alarming number of Soviet tanks cropping up. To counter this buildup of Bolshevik armour, I've been getting busy with assembling a German tank force for the glory of the Fatherland.

This is a picture heavy post... but who doesn't like lots of pictures.

First, the imaginatively named SDKFZ 251/1 Ausf D. Also called the Hanomag after one of the factories that supplied these armour carriers. Used by all branches of the German military in all theatres. In this case these will be protectively ferrying my Panzer Grenadiers into combat. I've got two of these beauties running around.

Next we have the SDKFZ 234/2 'PUMA'. This a wheeled scout vehicle that was attached to Panzer Divisions as a recon vehicle for Panzer battalions and for anti-tank support for the grenadiers. These machines where so ahead of their time that the developments pioneered by them are still being copied today (that'll be the sloping bottom hull to deflect mines/grenades etc). I call this one Kittie!


Now the workhorse of the German Armoured forces. The SDKFZ Panzer Pz IV Ausf G. Originally designed as an infantry support tank, it was continuously upgraded throughout the whole war and ended up being equipped with an effective anti-tank gun. This was the most produced German tank (the StuG III takes the most produced AFV biscuit) in the war. Which is why I'm going to have two of them!  

Finally, if all of that isn't enough to deal with those pesky Russian tanks, we can bring out the big guns. The 88mm Flak 36 Dual Purpose AA/AT Gun 'The Eighty-Eight'. This was designed as an heavy anti-aircraft gun, but some clever sausage (Rommel) figured out that, if this gun could fire a shell up to 20,000 feet and blow a heavy bomber out of the sky, that it might be pretty good against tanks. He was right, it goes through most armour like a high velocity, tungsten cored, AT shell through a Fiat Panda. Just ask Jeff what happened to his lovely KV-1.    

That is all for now, I hope you enjoy the pretty. I'm open to any and all questions about the painting of these. Let me know what you want to know!