Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mordheim: Initiative, Climbing and Jumping

In Mordheim, the Initiative stat is used for multiple actions. Spotting enemies that are hiding, who strikes first in close combat, climbing, and jumping. The jumping actions also come into play when initiating a diving charge or when you get knocked down close to an edge on an elevated platform. Today, we are going to focus on climbing and jumping and the issues it brings to Mordheim.

What's the Problem?
The advantages of climbing and jumping are underestimated by a lot of people who play Mordheim. One of the issues we've run into throughout the years are Warbands that have a really low Initiative are at a disadvantage and can get easily out manuevered. More than that though, they can't climb or jump across gaps at all and this could be detrimental depending on the scenery you are using and the scenario you are playing.

How do we fix it?
This is the tough part. Honestly, at this point I'm not so sure. The goal is we want Warbands like Undead and expansion Warbands like Dwarves and Lizardmen to be able to move more freely through the streets (or jungles) of the battlefield. At the same time, we don't want to take away the superior maneuverability of other Warbands and create a shift in power.

The way the rules are now, we run into situations where Skaven and Elves are so good at climbing and jumping that they hardly ever fail and Dwarves and Undead are so poor that they almost never succeed. I know some people are probably thinking, "Yeah, that's the point! Your comparing the most nimble warrior to the clumsiest and that's how it should be."

The problem I have with this approach is that no model should ever be so good that it never succeeds or so poor that it never fails. This kinda came up in my post on fixing parry where someone in the comments suggested we create a chart for parrying. The rational reason being that a warrior with a higher weapon skill should be able to more easily parry an attack from a warrior with a lesser weapon skill.

From a practical standpoint it makes a lot of sense, but when it comes down to feel and how it plays out in a game, it doesn't work because you are creating a gap where the lesser warrior always fails. That type of situation is great when you have the better warrior, but sucks when you don't. Sure, when the lowly warrior gets off a parry against a more skilled opponent or manages to cut him down, we feel great! That's why we play miniature games for moments like that, but Mordheim already has those moments and this isn't the best way to get more of that into the game.

I don't want to go on too much of a tangent, but I had a really long discussion with Jervis Johnson many years ago about Weapon Skill and why you only ever needed a 3, 4, or 5 to hit. In my impetuous youth I told him the system was broken. My reasoning being that a warrior with a Weapon Skill of 10 should be able to hit a warrior with a Weapon Skill of 1 on a 2+. The lowly warrior with a Weapon Skill of 1 would need a 6 to hit him back. Makes more sense right? I don't remember if he told me Warhammer used to be like that (I started with 4th Edition) or if they play tested it like that, but they came to an inevitable conclusion: it was a disaster. The power gap was too great and the game wasn't fun because playing out the battles was boring since you knew who was going to win.

Getting back to Mordheim, I'm all for good positioning and solid tactical gameplay, but when a low initiative Warband like Undead is in a position where they are on street level and Skaven or Elves are raining missiles down from on high, the outcome is a foregone conclusion and they are pretty much dead. Not only are they at a disadvantage to begin with, but attempting to climb or jump to get at their assailants is too much to risk. If they do somehow manage to get closer, they either suffer a diving charge or get knocked off the ledge and suffer failing damage which is going to hurt more than the missile fire!

Proposed Fix
So I'm not settled on a fix yet, but I do have a few ideas. Here they are:
  1. Models succeed on a climb or jump check if they roll a 3+. If they fail, they slip but can attempt to save themselves. To see if you save yourself, make an Initiative check. If the Initiative check is passed, the model succeeds as normal. We've been playtesting this for quite some time. It's okay, but doesn't seem like the long term solution. Pros: Gives lower initiative models a better chance to succeed. The mechanic is similar to what is already in the game and is easy to pick up. Cons: Gives higher Initiative models a better chance to succeed. Requires two rolls to resolve one action.
  2. Steal the climbing and jumping rules from Legends of the Old West. On a roll of 1, the model fails and falls. On a roll of 2–5,  the model is successful and his movement phase ends. On a roll of 6, the model is successful and can continue with any remaining movement. Pros: It's simple and quick to adjudicate. Cons: It might be too simple. It puts everyone on an even playing field which takes away the flavor that Elves are more nimble than Dwarves.
  3. Come up with a new system entirely. This is something I have been working on recently and what I have been leaning toward. The way the system will work is each model will have a climbing/jumping rating. This will be either a 3+, 4+, or 5+ and the model will need to make the roll to succeed. All of the races will be rated on a chart. The preliminary chart will have Elves/Skaven at a 3+, Humans at a 4+, and Dwarves/Undead at a 5+. A model attempting to climb or jump will need to roll that number or higher to succeed. Models wearing heavy armor and carrying a shield will suffer a -1 penalty. Pros: Requires 1 roll to perform the action. Is simple and keeps differences between nimble and clumsy warriors. Cons: Introduces a new mechanic and a chart. :( I don't like charts as they slow down game play. Needs to take into account skills, items, and special rules that use the climbing and jumping rules. Every model in the game would need a climbing/jumping rating including third party Warbands.
Settled on a Fix
I started on this post long before my post on Tweaking the Parry Rules and after letting this sit for a couple weeks in my queue and giving it additional thought, I've decided to go with option 3 above. The additional skills, items, and special rules can continue to work as is. The only issue will be creating the chart which shouldn't be too bad. Again, I don't like going with a chart, but I think this is the best way to go.

Not sure what is on tap for my next Mordheim discussion. I have a few things I have been tossing around as of late. Maybe I'll post a rewrite for one of the Lustria Warbands. The Lizardmen have always lacked in flavor and needed to be taken down a notch, so maybe I'll post the what I've been playtesting recently.

Till next time,
–The Harrower

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Making destroyed wrecked markers for 40K

I recently went went shopping with the family at the local dollar store and like always, I was on the hunt for some cheap stuff for the hobby. They had packages of 3 LED tea lights that I picked up. I've seen people make destroyed wrecked markers out of tea lights before, so I wanted to give it a try. As an aside, when a friend of mine was first starting in the hobby he asked me why I had "skunks" on top of my tanks. Apparently my cotton spritzed with black spray paint didn't look very good. Hopefully with these new glowing markers that won't happen again and it'll save me some embarassment.

This tutorial is straight forward and doesn't take a lot of time. You can easily make a dozen of these in an hour or so and they really look cool on the battlefield. Here is what you need to get started:
  • LED Tea Lights
  • Christmas Snow or Poly-Fil 
  • Glue Gun
  • Aerosol Hair Spray
  • Hair Dryer (If you are impatient like I am)
  • Spray Paint (I used black and red)
  • X-Acto Knife
Before we get started, a word on "smoke"
I have 2 types of materials listed above that you can use to make the smoke. The first (and the one I prefer) is Christmas snow. The kind you want to buy is the snow that you have to pull apart. Resist the urge to buy the cheap stuff at the dollar store. It's a lot thinner and doesn't work as well.

The second material is Poly-Fil. You can buy this at Walmart in the craft section. They use it to make pillows and stuffed animals. The reason I am listing this material is because it is available all year round and does a decent job. If you can, get the Christmas snow. If not, Poly-Fil will do in a pinch (I've seen people use cotton too!). I'll explain the differences in the tutorial below. Let's get started!

Step 1: Use the X-Acto Knife and cut the flame off of the top of the tea light. This makes the "flame" a bit brighter as the light isn't getting dispersed by the soft plastic flame. You want to be careful not to cut too far as you'll cut into the LED and ruin it. Just run the blade around the base of the flame and pop it off.

Step 2: With the glue gun, run a line of glue around the sides of the tea light and glue down your smoke. Don't worry if you use too much glue. More is better in this step as it will help to keep the smoke attached.

Step 3: Once the glue dries, start forming your material so it looks like smoke. You can use the glue gun at this stage to glue the smoke to the top of the tea light around the LED. Also, if you are having trouble and your smoke is too thin, you can use the glue gun to glue pieces together if it isn't cooperating. This is the stage where I prefer the Christmas snow. You can shape it a lot easier as it comes in sheets and is made to be pulled apart. With the Poly-Fil, it breaks apart too easily and takes a bit more time to get it shaped correctly. Again, allow the glue to try before proceeding.


The marker on the left was made with Christmas snow. On the right, I used Poly-Fil.

Step 4: After the glue dries, give it a good shot with the hair spray. Make any final tweaks with the smoke and let it dry. I got tired of waiting at this point and used a hair dryer. You can probably skip this step if you don't have hair spray, but I wanted the flame to be a bit more stiff and with my wife and 2 daughters in the house, we have tons of hair spray. If you are using Poly-Fil, I would definitely use hair spray as this material tends to fall apart.

Step 5: Now that the hair spray has dried we can start painting. I'm still experimenting with coloration, but you want the paint to be thicker at the bottom and lighter as you get to the top. Once the paint dries, you can pull on the smoke again to let more white show through (I wouldn't do this if you used Poly-Fil). I added just a spritz of red for color and I like how it looks. Just keep painting and tweaking until you are satisfied with the look and allow everything to dry.

Step 6: Turn on the tea light and marvel at the burning destruction! Above is a picture of 2 different markers I created. The marker on the left was made with Poly-Fil and the marker on the right was made with Christmas snow. You can see why I like the Christmas snow better as you can give the smoke the illusion of blowing in the wind. All in all, it takes maybe 10 minutes to put one of these together.

Updated 11/23/11: Added some videos so you can see the effect better.

You can get a lot of variation with these markers. Make the smoke bigger or smaller, add more coloration, or use multiple tea lights to create burning terrain that blocks line of sight.

I think it would be cool to use 25mm round bases and make signal grenades with plumes of green or purple colored smoke and use them as objective markers. I always wanted to model a smoke launcher template to cover my tanks and after this I may give that a go in the future. There are also rules for burning buildings in Mordheim so these will work for those as well.

Hope you enjoyed this quick tutorial. I'd love to hear your comments and see the markers you put together. Drop me a line with some photos and tips and I'll feature them in a future blog post.

Till next time,

–The Harrower

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mordheim: Tweaking the Parry Rules

This post may come as a bit of a surprise. Why tweak the Parry rule? It works fine as it is. Well, not exactly.

The first problem with parry is that warriors with a higher Weapon Skill are more likely to have their attacks negated. When you have a higher Weapon Skill than your opponent, you hit on a 3 making it much easier for an opponent with parry to roll a 4, 5, or 6 and parry that attack. This leads to some pretty unrealistic situations and doesn't make a lot of sense. 

Secondly, the rules for parry are really fiddly and it is one of the more complicated rules in the game. Let's look at the original rule from the Mordheim Rulebook:
Bucklers are small shields which offer no increase to the armour saving throw, but allow you to parry attacks. Swords are also used to parry enemy attacks. 
When an opponent scores a hit, warriors equipped with bucklers or swords may try to parry the blow. 
Roll a D6. If the score is higher than the number your opponent rolled to hit, the buckler or sword has parried the strike. Note that it is therefore impossible to parry a blow which scored a 6 on the roll to hit. 
A buckler or sword may only parry one blow per hand-to-hand combat phase. A parried blow is ignored and has no effect. If your opponent scored several hits, you will have to try to beat the highest score (if the highest score is a 6, you automatically lose the chance of parrying that opponent’s attacks). 
If a model is fighting against several opponents, it may only parry the strike from the enemy who makes the first hit(s) (ie, the attacking model with the highest Initiative). In the case of equal Initiative characteristics roll a dice to decide who strikes first. 
If your model is armed with a buckler and a sword, you may re-roll any failed parries once. A model armed with two swords can still only roll once. A model may not parry attacks made with twice (or more) his own basic Strength – they are simply too powerful to be stopped.
Wow. Instead of a simple rule we get one that has conditions built upon conditions and a giant wall of text. One of my other key design goals with Newheim and really any type of design work I do uses the KISS principle: "Keep it simple, Stupid!"

So how do we fix it?
Items which have the parry special rule are good at deflecting an enemy’s attacks. A successful hit against a model with the parry ability can be negated on a roll of 6. The model making the parry attempt can freely choose the hit he is attempting to parry.

When a model is armed with two items which grant parry (such as a sword and buckler), the attempt succeeds on a 5+. A model can only make one parry attempt per close combat turn and may not parry attacks made with double or more its own Strength–they are too powerful to be stopped.

Going from a rule that was 240 words to 103 words is a serious win in my book. Plus, this keeps the game flowing at a quick pace, doesn't penalize warriors with a high Weapon Skill, allows the defender to choose to attempt to parry the more dangerous weapon (as it should be), and fits more inline with the way the mechanics of Mordheim work. One thing that always bugged me about parry is that it used an opposed roll mechanic when the rest of the game uses target numbers.

Try this out in your next game and let me know what you think. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some resistance to this change. My group liked the tension of trying to beat an opponent's attack roll and they weren't thrilled with this at first. They have warmed up to it after a few games though and it has been working really well.

Next time, I'll work on jumping and climbing. This will probably be the most drastic change I intend to make to Newheim and this has been giving me some trouble so we'll try and work through it together.

Till then,
–The Harrower

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Necrons Release Date Confirmed!

Looks like the Necrons will finally be back later this month. Rumor has it that preorders will be up the week of October 22nd with a release date of Necrovember 5th. See what I did there?

I've been looking for a new army that plays differently than the Blood Angels and this just might be it. Besides, how can you not love a Necron/Blood Angels fist bump?

Till next time,
01101001011011100110010100101110 (The Harrower)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blood Angels Painted Models & Avoiding Burnout

I've been all over the place with my hobby the last few weeks. For starters, I have been doing a rebalance on Mordheim called Newheim, painting and assembling my Blood Angels, and planning our first 40K Battle Report featuring something really cool that I don't think anyone in the 40K blogosphere has done before.

There was a great post by Miniature Tim on how to avoid hobby burnout. If I can give any advice, have multiple projects going on at once. When you get bored of one, switch to something else. Also, try to avoid too much hobby crunch time leading up to a tournament or an event. While those deadlines are good to get some serious work done, a lot of times you finish that last model and walk away from the hobby for a few months. Just look at my run up to the Doubles Tournament at Adventure Games. No posts for almost 2 months after and I didn't get close to getting done what I wanted to.

The painting bug has struck me recently and I have been working a lot on my Blood Angels. It all started at our recent Club Day with getting busted on how all my Land Speeders had no pilots so they couldn't move or shoot. I started assembling and magnetizing a new Land Speeder and I couldn't fully assemble it without painting some of the details. So I've been working on that, my converted Librarian, and my Death Company Rhino/Razorback. Here's some pics.

I'm happy with how the Land Speeder is coming together. All of the magnets are in except for the gunner. Don't fret, I'll have a tutorial on how to magnetize a Land Speeder in the future. My recent snag is trying to get transfers on the shoulder pads of the gunner and the pilot. My first experience with Micro Sol and Micro Set didn't end very well. Hopefully my next go will yield decent results.

This is my Death Company Rhino/Razorback. I picked up an airbrush recently and the dust on the bottom half of the tank was done by spraying vermin brown. It still needs more weathering/battle damage and I'm not sold on the dust effect. The back door is a conversion I did. I figure the only way the Death Company would get back in the vehicle after the battle would be at the behest of Sanguinius himself. I'm not happy with the realistic painting of this. I'm going to redo it in aged bronze like I painted the Honoured Imperium. Tutorial and pics here.

I got tired of being schooled by all the Psykers in Farseer Frank's Eldar army and one of my other friends recently joined the hobby and started playing Grey Knights. I figured I needed to do my own Librarian and aside from hating metal miniatures, none of the Librarians available appealed to me. This one is made from a variety of bitz. You'll see Death Company, Sanguinary Guard, Grey Knights, and Dark Angels parts on there. I'm thinking of changing the Warding Staff for the Flaming Sword from the Empire Wizards kit. Do you like it as is or should I change it up?

Not sure what I'll be posting next time as I just bought a bunch of tea lights to make some destroyed vehicle markers and I've been doing a bit more work on Mordheim. Who knows what the future holds?

Till then,
–The Harrower