Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday Night Boardgame: GMT's Talon (at the Cottage)

Madame Padre and I are on holiday this week, in the part of Ontario known as the Muskokas, or cottage country, near fabled Algonquin Park.  It’s sweater weather, but the days are mostly sunny and the leaves are turning, it’s magical.

Madame Padre is out with her camera when we’re not in the canoe.

While I didn’t bring any figures to paint, I did bring a game:   GMT’s 2015 space battles game, Talon.  

Talon is designed by Jim Krohn - I was pleased to find that he is a pastor as well as a game designer.   Krohn is best known for his 2011 GMT title, Space Empires 4X (the 4X meaning eXplore, expand, eXploit and eXterminate).   Whereas Space Empires is a big game of building empires, Talon is game of individual ships clashing in space.  Talon is designed to be bolted on to Space Empires if one wanted to fight the SE battles tactically, though that seems like a lot of work.   With Talon as it is, you can fight battles following the supplied scenarios, or using a points system.  
There are a lot of reviews of Talon out there, including this one, which says much more, more preceptively, than I can say here.  Like the review, I had a strong first impression of the game.   It’s a little challenging to figure out from the rule book at first, but by following the tutorial scenario it started to come together.
The first decision you have to make with Talon is to trust the recommendation to do the bookkeeping on the laminated counters, using the supplied dry-erase makers, rather than the printed ship roster sheets which are also supplied.   I resisted for a bit, but then unwrapped the dry erase makers and found it quite easy to use.   Here you can see a Terran heavy cruiser in blue and the alien (Talon) heavy cruiser in red.  The most important data are the lines of numbers, 3-3-2 for the Terran and 3-3-1 for the Talon ship.  These numbers are the Power Curves.  The first number is the AP (Available Power) generated by the ship’s plant, and the second is the speed (the higher the number, the faster).   The third number is the turn radius: the lower the number, the more nimble the ship.  

A game turn lasts six impulses.  During each impulse, ships can do different things depending on their Power Curve settings.  Power is useful for many reasons; it can reinforce shields as long as they are still up, it can be used to defend or to try and steal the initiative (very useful when one could shot can kill a weakened ship), or ti temporarily decrease a ship's turn radius when trying to attack or evade.  Most importantly, it can be used to recharge weapons.  The Power Curve can be adjusted up or down after every six impulses, during the Power Phase.

On these two counters, you can see that both ships have marks to indicate that their front shields (the green boxes) are knocked down and out of action.   Once a shield is down, hits go to the hull (the red boxes below the Power Curve number).  As hull boxes get marked off, critical hits can occur and the amount of available power decreases until the ship blows up.
In the two games I’ve played thus far, I’ve found that after an initial exchange of fire, which usually knocks down the front shields, ships tend to manoeuvre around each other, recharging their weapons while trying to keep their intact shields facing the enemy.  Small actions thus have the feel of frigates from the age of sail, looking for a moment of advantage while trying to keep out of the enemy’s broadside.  Because the weapons ranges are between 1 and 3 hexes, you need to be careful about losing the initiative and having an enemy ship turn and fire on a weak or missing shield This can happen when the enemy steals the initiative, or when a ship moves out of initiative (the Terrans and Talon both have special tech that allows them to do this on a limited basis).
In the first scenario, two Terran and two Talon heavy cruisers mix it up.  After the first exchange, the Napoleon has lost its front shields, the Unity has lost its port shield, and the Justice has lost most of its front shield.  The yellow and red bars represent weapons and their charges.  Ships start a scenario with charged weapons, indicated by marking black on the laminated counters.   Once the weapon is fired, the black line is erased, and must slowly be charged up again.   Here, of all the four ships, only the Justice still has a charged weapon - the starboard disruptors.  The Justice also has a Defend counter on it, indicating that the Talon ship is using its Available Power this impulse to protect the initiative.  At the end of an impulse, if one side has spent more Power to take the initiative than the other side has spent Power defending it, the initiative passes to the other side.  As the game goes on, with multiple ships, there are a lot of decisions about how to use Power as it comes available - recharge the weapons, or try to gain/defend the initiative.

As I said, trusting the design intention and using the dry-erase markers on the laminated counters is a bit of a leap of faith.   The system does work, though I found that after two games, one of the two markers wasn’t working that well.   Hopefully I can find more markers this size at the local office supply store.   One thing I didn’t have was the Q-tips that are recommended for erasing the counters.  Otherwise, using a bit of wadded up tissue as I was, it’s easy to remove the wrong information from a counter.

Some of the complaints about Talon that I’ve read online are that players spend a lot of time dancing around one another, recharging weapons while trying to stay out of harm’s way.  This may be true of the small scale battles I’ve fought so far, while other reviewers mention that the game really shines with large fleets on each side.  These comments also mention that Talon as a game is much more forgiving to players than earlier games such as Star Fleet Battles, which was legendary in its complexity.    There are more advanced rules in Talon that I haven’t tried yet, including missiles, fighter wings, carriers, super-heavy battleships and exotic weapons.   I’m looking forward to trying these rules in future games.
Some might find that the universe of Talon is a little unimaginative.  You have the Terrans, and then a fairly faceless enemy, the Talon, who are sort of a generic, warlike race that comes along to make Terra’s life miserable.  Are they like Klingons?  Romulans?  Does anyone really care?   In defence of Krohn, he has written a player’s guide which is considerably longer than the rule book, full of fluff and backstory to explain the conflict, but all from the Terran point of view.  Another possible objection is the symmetry between the two sides.  While there are minor differences between the Terran and Talon ships, they both have the same ship classes: Scouts, Destroyers, Light and Heavy Cruisers, etc.   Does this make sense?  Can one imagine an alien race that only has one or two types of ships?  I can imagine an SF writer like Brian Aldiss thinking out of the box about an alien culture and its technology. However, in a game that includes a point system for building battles, perhaps one needs symmetry.
Finally, one could ask how a game like this is different from, say, a WW2 or modern naval war-game.   Perhaps a space game is just a naval game by another name, in that you have hulls, ranged weapons, speed and armour (shields by another name).  I would say the difference is the novel impulse mechanic and the inherent logic of the Power Curve system which Krohn as thought up, plus the copious amounts of chrome layered onto the game.
So, my first impressions of Talon are very favourable.  The first small battles I fought took about 90 minutes to resolve, the second game going much faster after I figured out the mechanics.   In fact, I like it so much, I’ve put my name in for GMT’s P500 club for the Talon expansion that is planned.
Blessings to your space ships!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Elf Queen Summons the Forest Spirit - Some Figures For Dragon Rampant

Just had time to get some quick snaps of these figures before Madame Padre and I head to cottage country in the Muskokas for a spot of leave.    These fantasy figures will be part of my wood elf host that will augment some of the scantily clad nymphs shown here recently.

I wanted an elven mage, a top-level magic user in Dragon Rampant terms,  with an appropriate retinue on the base to show that she means business.   My friend James kindly gave me the casting of the lady with her arm   I raised.   I have no idea who made this sculpt, but  I felt that she deserved some special treatment, and I started looking out for some figures to accompany her on a single over-sized base.   I also gave her a tree, because she’s an elf princess, and they like to have trees in their close protection detail.

“Go and rouse your tree-sisters, the orcs are coming!”   The other figure is a Forest Spirit from Bombshell Miniatures.  I liked this figure because it complements the matriarchal theme of my elven host, which draws mostly on Wargames Foundry figures, though I will be offsetting it with some male LOTR GW figures.  The Forest Spirit is a lovely figure, rather unimaginatively painted, I fear.  It’s a pity her face isn’t well lit in these photos, as it is full of character.  She will also count as a single-base model in Dragon Rampant terms, though I am not sure what troop type she should be.  Thoughts?

The little nymph is one of the extras included in a Wargames Foundry blister.  She has purple butterfly wings, which you can’t really see well.  Good thing, as they clash with her gown.   The lovely little boar is a Bombshell mini, from their Sidekicks line of figures.   Wow betide any orc that gets too close to his lady.

The little ram is another Bombshell mini.  He was fun to paint as well.  Pricey figures, but Bombshell makes some great accent figures.

I am hopeful that these figures will see action when James and I get together for another DR game in early October.  

Many thanks for looking and blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 61; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Italieri Country House Finished

While I had my light box out recently, I thought I would grab some shots of some work completed earlier this year but never shown here during the blogging doldrums.

This is the ever-popular 1/72nd scale Italieri Country House (Product # 6074), a mainstay of many wargames tables.  Made of sturdy plastic, with an easily removed roof and second floor, it’s a gamer’s delight, and easy to assemble, though I confess that I bungled the upper floor on this model by putting two of the supports in the wrong places and not noticing until the glue was dry.  Not that you can tell, from this view, and the floor still works, but it is the annoying sort of mistake that comes from being overconfident.

I am not sure if this model is still in production, as it doesn’t show on the Italieri website.


I painted it more or less to match its cousin, the Italieri Country House with Porch, which I assembled and showed here in 2014.  I think this one came out a little better than the first.  The vines on the walls are a laser cut painted paper product from a model railroad store, supposed to be Virginia Creeper, I believe.   I thought it halped the rustic vibe.  As with the first model, the walls were copiously washed with Army Painter Light Tone from a tin, then sprayed with Dullcote to get rid of the shine that product leaves.


 I have seen photos on the inter webs of some of these models lovingly and effectively based, but I think for now it just goes in the box with the 20mm scenery items.   It may be useful in 28mm games as well if you don’t look too closely.


My Italieri village thus far.  That’s Luigi, the Fell Catbeast of Mordor, in the background.  

Italieri also makes a church in this scale, which like the country house models could pass for anywhere in Southern Europe.  Would be nice to have, and I see today there is also a ruined house and a stone house model in their range, so maybe one day.   As I finished this model I sometimes wondered why I do WW2 in this scale when I do it in 15mm and 28mm.   That seems like a rationalization to kick down the road for another day.

Thanks for looking and blessings to your buildings!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 56; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meanwhile, in Isengard - 2

Here are three more “waaag riders”, as the late Sir Christoper Lee so wonderfully puts it, for my Isengard army.  The two chaps on the right are metal castings, from the now OOP Games Workshop Warg Attack boxed set.  The archer on the left is a plastic figure.

The mounted archers give this army a skirmish cavalry capability to go against the Riders of Rohan.  In Dux Brittanorum/Rohirrim or Dragon Rampant, I can rate them as skirmish cavalry with the evade option.


Desperate and smelly hard riding fellows.

Pretty tough troops, but they aren’t able to go everywhere (poster in NYW by street artist William Puck).


These fellows got used in a recent monster game of Dragon Rampant .   Stephen hosted with his big gaming table, allowing us to put five armies a side.   My Isengard force went to another player who narrowly drove off a samurai war band.   I fielded a Rohan-based force at the other end of the table.  At 24 points per war band, I spent most of them on two 6 figure units of Elite Riders, one of them with bows.   I took three foot units, a  12 figure Light Archer unit and two 6 figure units of Scouts, using my elven warrior nymphs in an unlikely role as allies of humans.    Scouts are basically Bidowers in Lion Rampant.  At full strength they shoot with 12 dice, they can flit through woods and bad terrain, and they can Skirmish/Evade.   God help them if they get caught in melee, but they can do a lot damage before the enemy can come to grips.


Towards the end of the battle things got pretty funky.  In the centre of the last photo you can see an actual dragon, trying to catch the nymphs in the woods with his flaming breath.  The chaps with green dots on their heads are hapless orcs, who walked into a wall of arrow fire and got badly shredded.   A bone-lich rides a boney steed centre left and tries to keep the dragon alive.   This sort of scene shows the range and kookiness of fantasy battles with DR.  Of the eight fellows in the game, only two had played Dragon Rampant before, and everyone felt it was an easy game to learn and a fun game to play. 



These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 56; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Die Autos

I wanted to title this post Das Auto and see how many visitors I got thinking that it was about Volkswagens, but I think Die Autos is grammatically correct, since there was more than one.

Got to the wargames club last night hoping for a good scrap.   It was racing cars instead.   Len had ordered a German game, Das Motorosportspiel, via ebay and as far as I could tell he got a map in a tube and six quite nice little racing cars.  The rules were in German and there was a translation which left us scratching our heads a bit.

but as far as we could tell, each player gets to role three dice.  Two of the dice are normal d6 and 1 is a D6 that only goes from 1 to 3.   Players can decide how many dice they will roll ahead of time, and they can adjust each die by flipping it over.   You can’t go through a turn with a die whose number is higher than the number printed on the map beside each turn, or bad things happen.

We played the game collectively, working together to decide the best use of the dice.  However, the game comes with a sand timer that gives each player only 30 seconds to adjust their dice and plot their move before making it.  That would be fun, I suppose.  We got through the game without making zoom zoom noises.
I know there are other car boardgames out there, such as GMT’s Thunder Alley.   I am a little meh about race cars, and get enough driving on my commute to work each day, but es war amusing, ich dense.  If it was more of a Europgame, each driver would have had to collect sets of tires, motor oils and carparts and sponsorships in order to develop their garages. It would also have been better if the cars each mounted a machine gun.
Blessings to your driving!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why My Big Brother Is Still My Hero

That’s my big brother, the Mad Colonel, in the green shirt, looking like he’s not really enjoying the fact that he’s riding in an EFFING T34/85 TANK, FOR GOD’S SAKES!

My brother volunteers at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, and took part in their Tank Weekend last weekend, which I sadly missed.  As you can well understand, I am sure, he is still my hero.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Two Weird War Scientists (Mad Or Otherwise)

These two 28mm figures are part of my slowly expanding but yet to be used Weird War Two collection.  The Nazi chap is a Pulp Figures mini from Bob Murch, and the carrot-top civvie is by Artizan.

The sinister fellow in the lab coat is Herr Dokktor Bruno Jaegermeister, head of research for the sinister, occult dominated portion of the SS that specializes in sinister, occult matters.   Perhaps he helps the SS Vampyrs to animate corpses, or he works with the Wulffentruppen on breeding better monsters - he'll be useful in either capacity.   Almost certainly he had a dodgy academic transcript but then denounced his supervisor as a cosmopolitan Jew, stole his research notes, and then made a name for himself promoting the superiority of Aryan genes.   In other words, a total cad.   He will be a high value target for S Commando.

The fellow in the nice cardigan is Dr. Hamish Montfort McGonnigle, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Science and Professor of Science at the University of Edinburgh, who is now the head of research for Project Alice, Britain's secret line of defence against the darkest forces stirring in the Reich.   He's smart, cantankerous, and a hardheaded believer in good science, empiricism and skepticism.   He may find himself forced to accept the existence of some strange things before it's all over.

Dr. Jagermeister has a bit of a secret base starting to come together.   I've assembled one of the two MDF quonset huts I got from Sarissa.  I am thinking of painting it in Germany yellow (dunkelgelb) with a camo pattern, as presumably a secret base needs to be hidden from the air.  To the right is a Sarissa MDF searchlight and generator, which could also be used as a death ray projector, I suppose.   Behind that are some resin crates from 6 Squared, since a secret base needs some sinister shipments to secretly stockpile (see what I did there?).

I have some 1/48 scale vehicles for the Nazi secret base thanks to my chum James, and some more Sarissa scenery to add to it.  A backkburner project, but it's slowly coming together.

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:
28mm:  Foot Figures: 56; Mounted Figures: 5; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

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