Saturday, May 3, 2008

Chaos Hordes...

I guess painting Hordes is kind of addictive. Painting my Chaos army, I thought that, in addition to the Chaos knights and blades, there ought to be some of those shambling human (ish!) hordes. After all no self respecting forces of Chaos would be trying to take over the world without enlisting the help of some humans somewhere along the way, even if they were dead before the powers of chaos got there.

So these are my first attempt at some shambling humans, or Hordes. The first photo shows the two bases in front of the Chaos Stronghold: a plastic skull that came with the dragon, actually.. then attached to a suitable looking stone wall (a piece of polystyrene packing coated in sand, then painted).

I liked the barbarian 'tart'.. dressed in Chaos blue (having sold her soul to the forces of Chaos); so strong is her power that you can see the forces of chaos rippling blue in the ground beneath her feet, emanating from her.... wow, wouldn't want to mess with her in a dark alley!!.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A great DBA/HotT day

I recently had the most exceptional 'gaming day: my son and I met up with two good friends to play a series of DBA and HotT games. We managed 5 games in the day - three DBA and two HotT, and the day was fantastic.

I played two HotT games, once against Stan Walker, and the other against Nick Grant. In both games I used my recently completed Chaos army. This is my slant on Chaos, being rather mediaeval in look, with a touch of GW thrown in with the blue colour scheme. The Chaos warriors show no faces etc at all (there are three knights, four blades, and a Hero general); after all they are hardly human. I used the Zvezda 100 Years War English knights for these.

They are supported by two bases of Hordes.. very zombie looking humans. For these I used a box of Esci Barbarian warriors that have been sitting in the games room for a decade or more. They were simply painted in an exaggerated version of my war games paint style to bring out the blackness of the eye sockets etc, using a mix of Citadel Bleached Bone mixed with Tamiya Olive Drab (go figure.. quite a combination) then highlighted with the bleached bone. And I nearly forgot to mention this dragon.. a favourite of mine, bought from a local $2 Shop, for.. you guessed it, $2.

This is followed by a shot of a couple of the blades (Chaos knights on foot) pushing through the centre.. my eventual undoing, I hasten to add, as they were isolated and killed by four Horde bases.. oh the shame!!!. In true Chaos fashion, I was too greedy for world domination.

The final two shots above are of two of the DBA games. In the first my Polybian Romans (well, my son's army, and nicely painted it is, too, but I was commanding them in this game) hold the line against a LOT of Numidian Light Horse commanded by Nick Grant, while in the second my son's Persians are at it against some New Kingdom Egyptians commanded by Stan Walker.

What fantastic 'gaming, in the company of three most excellent fellows who are good 'gamers. A damned fine day was had by all.

'The War of the Worlds': the real thing…

I bought my copy of 'The War of the Worlds' album by Jeff Wayne when it was first released – vinyl of course, and was completely taken with it. When it seemed that vinyl was on the way out, and tapes were the thing, I bought the double album on tape (of course tapes were already on the way out then too.. I was something of a late adopter you know) because it was a real favourite.

My kids grew up loving it, and my daughter in particular used to love listening to the album while poring over the vinyl album artwork.. those tripods, fantastic war machines, the red weed. Perhaps that's where she got her love of things Sci-Fi, and to this day she is (amongst other things) a 'Stargate' nut.

The sad thing is that I had never read H G Wells book 'The War of the Worlds', the real thing that is .. until recently. While away on a brief holiday this week I found a copy of a re-issue of the book selling all too cheaply on the bookshelf of a small local bookseller. I grabbed it, and read it in less than a day, and marvel at this incredible book. Now I still think that the Jeff Wayne musical version of the book was fantastic, but it hardly 'holds a candle' to the book in my opinion.

In the forward to this particular edition, Bruce Brooks wrote:

"However, prediction of technology isn't really what impresses us about old-timers; that's just a pretense. What really impresses us is their understanding of human beings, like us, and the ability of these old writers to command timeless, irresistible humour, or passion, or – in the case of 'The War of the Worlds' – terror.

'The War of the Worlds' is a masterpiece of fright. It is many other things, too – a sly allegory of British colonialism, a treatise on the question of nature vs. artifice, a satire of religiosity – but most of these matters come to mind only after we have finished reading the novel and then, a few weeks later, resumed our normal sleep patterns."

It isn't hard to understand why I might be writing about this book on a war gaming blog: it's the very stuff of the hobby, from the man who almost 'invented' the modern form of the hobby with his book 'Little Wars'. The book has fired my imagination; just as I have been blogging about a Victorian Science Fiction army – this is it. Wells creates visions of Victorian armies, pith helmets, red tunics, blue trousers, combined with giant fighting machines. In his case Wells saw tripods manned by Martians. War gamers today see not only tripods, but steam driven tanks and all manner of fighting machines, modern in outlook, but driven with the arcane technology of the Victorian era.

"Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal."

I reckon that these words, written 110 years ago, are as riveting today as they must have been to Wells' readers in 1898. The words are of course much more for the average war gamer: they are a source of inspiration and excitement. And of course let's not forget that 40 years after they were written, in 1938 (October 30th to be precise), Orson Welles' radio dramatisation of 'The War of the Worlds' was sufficiently believable to have thousands of Americans believing that a Martian invasion of Earth was actually taking place: powerful words indeed.

In the meantime, I must get that box of Esci 1/72nd British Infantry of the Zulu Wars, just the thing for a Victorian Sci-Fi army for HotT (I need some Shooters, and some Blades (British infantry with bayonets), for a start..), all inspired by words written 110 years ago by H G Wells: 'The War of the Worlds', the real thing…

HotT: an easy introduction to fantasy war gaming

I flirted briefly…. with the idea of a Warhammer Fantasy army. Why? The beautiful GW miniatures, and the sniff of a rules set that looked like it might take me back to those good old 70's war gaming values: I still harbour the fondest memories of war gaming the way it used to be (but of course we always do.. it's a shame that the 'good old days' rarely ever are.)

I took advantage of the opportunity to buy some second hand figures for a Tomb Kings' army at a fraction of their new cost, and even picked up a copy of the newest rules set in soft cover form from someone who had bought the latest WFB boxed set. Even now I read those WFB battle reports in White Dwarf, salivating at the appearance of the multitude of GW figures populating a beautifully set up table.

However, at my age I've learned to be realistic. I rarely get to either of our local war games clubs to play games, and that's where I'd need to go to play WFB (because that's where the players are), since my own local war games opponents just don't play WFB. What they do play though is HotT (Hordes of the Things) - the fantasy version of the DBA rules. Now this is also familiar territory for me; I started playing WRG rules back in the days of 3rd edition Ancients, and have grown up/cut my teeth on their rules systems. I did give away the DBM system a number of years ago when I discovered rules sets like Volley and Bayonet and Spearhead that finally allowed me to play periods in a way that I'd only ever dreamed of before.

But in the meantime, I have begun to feed a long dormant desire to play fantasy war games using HotT. I can vividly remember several of my very long time gaming friends playing Lord Of The Rings games way back, using home grown rules, and piles of Airfix plastics converted for the purpose. What’s more, I have this feeling that HotT will allow many other 'gamers to feed their own fantasy war games desires as well.

In 5 weeks I have been able to paint up two complete HotT armies: 'Lost World's, and 'Mediaeval Chaos', and very pleased I am with the results. The armies aren't exactly world beaters in terms of effectiveness, but there's one thing I have learned after reading White Dwarf for 7 years: theme is important. My HotT armies are themed around specific visions (not original I hasten to add, my themes are derived from others' fertile imaginations), and they are an absolute joy to field. The Chaos army uses a White Dwarf inspired painting theme that has come up a little short in the execution department, but still looks great to my eyes. The Lost Worlds army is an eye catcher, begun with a self-set challenge to create an interesting army using cheap plastic toys (hence the dinosaurs, and the gorilla).

But that's another wonderful aspect of the HotT system. While sample army lists are derived from the enormous range of fantasy literature available in bookstores, the system allows the imagination to go wild while governed only by composition guidelines the sole purpose of which is to ensure playable balanced games.

I have discovered that this tool unleashes powerful imagination as I have watched boys develop their own interpretations on the fantasy themes created by writers over the past decades. For my part my third HotT army, a Victorian Sci-Fi army, is already in gestation: 300 years ago claims that I had visions of steam driven behemoths might have lead to my incarceration. Today, my wife just smiles quietly and waits for me to return home with another box of plastic soldiers.

I may well go back to WFB: I still like those old-fashioned rules approaches, and I do still adore the GW figures. But in the meantime I have seen HotT generate enthusiasm and excitement in young minds (and in this not so young one as well!!). It has given me an easy introduction to fantasy war-gaming, that'll do for a start.

Here are two photos of elements from my recently completed Chaos army: a Dragon, and several bases of Chaos knights, seen here in their second action of the day when a few of us recently got together for a day of DBA and HotT games.

Forcing the Uvarova

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