Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 8 Reasons the Necromancer is Best

All you need to become immortal is meditation and fresh air.
Inspirobot can get you started in your career as a lich.
Earlier this month I mentioned that one emergent quality of the mystical realms is that there's always someone playing with dead bodies in a way that is really distasteful.  In each realm, it's a varying amount of work to make a meat-marionette, but the effect is generally similar.  Skeletons and Zombies, Vampires and Liches.

I can't imagine how a person gets drawn down the path of this particularly vile magic.  I'll assume it's down to dark spirits whispering vile things in the night.  I'm sure there are more...indelicate...motivations, but in either case I find the general practice of motivating dead flesh to be rather distasteful.  Serendipitous, as most of the Iron Seer's battle magic generally leaves very little to motivate anyway.

In Frostgrave, Necromancers will have a lot of options.  Death Mages of all ilk have Witch, Chronomancer and Summoner as aligned schools.  Thaumaturge is the opposed school, but with some levels sunk into some of the more useful spells there's no reason our necromancers can't use healing magic proficiently.

Top 8 Reasons the Necromancer is Best!
  1. Bone Dart
    • Good shooting attack (+5), but doesn't count as magical.
  2. Bones of the Earth
    • A line-of-sight control spell that targets a single model, holding fast until the target successfully fights it off.  The hands have Fight +0, but that could still hold you up for more than one turn - and it can do damage.
  3. Control Undead
    • A utility spell for commandeering undead you meet, whether from the scenario or a rival warband.  You may only have one undead creature 'controlled'.
  4. Raise Zombie
    • A staple for Death Mages.  Adds a Zombie to your warband, and is quite versatile.  It can be cast both in and out of the game, and does not count against your warband limit.  However, you can only have one 'raised' zombie at a time - however, it doesn't count as 'controlled'.
  5. Reveal Death
    • This spell stuns a target by showing him a 'vision' of his 'own death', causing him to miss his activation.  The casting number is 12, and the spell is contested by the target's Will.  It's only one activation, but at a crucial time a high roll could stop the enemy's plans in their tracks.
  6. Spell Eater
    • If successfully cast, you take one point of damage and cancel any one spell in play.  Not as good as a hard 'dispel' with the drawback but the casting number is only 12.  Recommended only to use when your back is to the wall, otherwise the damage might start to add up faster than you'd like.
  7. Steal Health
    • With a casting number of 10, it seems easy enough.  However, the enemy saves against the casting roll, or loses 3 life.  The caster gains 3 life, but it can't take him above starting.  Powerful sauce, especially as a sustained attack by both spellcasters in you warband.  This should be in any Necromancers repertoire.
  8. Strike Dead
    • One of the most powerful spells in the game!  Literally - it requires an 18 just to cast and the target must save vs. the casting roll or be reduced to zero Health.  However, it probably won't be most Necromancers' go-to in most situations.  You lose 1 life every time you attempt it, and you'll most likely want to empower this casting - in fact everyone will.  Powerful, but not ubiquitous.
For the villainous and deviant Necromancer, I'd pick Bone Dart and Bones of the Earth to start.  You get a good ranged attack, and can create little monsters to interfere with the enemy warband.  That leaves one slot for Raise Zombie, which is the quintessential Death Magic spell.  Pile in some other combat support spells for your minions and you're golden.

Speaking of minions, Necromancers aren't usually considered the least dangerous of magical practitioners.  The range of acceptable minions runs the gamut of choice, as the basic abilities of the Necromancer actually serves to make them fairly well rounded.  For myself, I just want to make some bad guy models to go with our resident Death Mage.  To that end, I know we'll have a few sinister looking Infantrymen, a Crow Master and an Assassin.  We'll see how the first games go before we animate any more...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Rogue Stars

Rogue Stars by Osprey Publishing
Image: Osprey Publishing / Amazon
So, if you don't already know, I'm a huge fan of Osprey Wargames.  The rulesets that have come out since they launched the series are all superb.  There are some warts, but by and large they are very solid games.  The best part is that there are a lot of rulesets, and none of them require specific model ranges.  If you're playing Ronin, for instance, the samurai you use can be from any manufacturer.  By the virtue of being rulesets first and foremost, rather than glorified marketing campaigns, they have nearly all secured a place in my molten iron heart.

Rogue Stars is a game set in a vaguely presented sci-fi world, and this kind of thing I like a lot.  It fires the imagination in a lot of ways.  When I read rulesets like this, I find myself dreaming up a lot of cool new scenarios and excuses to pick up yet another set of toy soldiers.  However, I like to switch it up a lot, so I also think about how I can use the rules with the models I already own.  Rogue Stars is one of those rulesets that could see use in almost any sci-fi milieu.

Yet this is not a review of Rogue Stars.  It was released at the end of 2016, so there are plenty of those you can read.  Must Contain Minis and Blood and Spectacles have excellent pieces.  The rules could be challenging, if you aren't familiar with the conventions.  You can watch a battle report from Guerrilla Gaming here.

The reviewers and reporters there touched on some things that are neat about this game, and they are totally right.  I'm not rehashing all that here.  Instead this is about how I want to use this ruleset, and others like it.  You see, I've pretty much gotten to the point that all the miniatures and rules are pretty well interchangeable - and you can have a totally different experience with said ruleset simply by changing the models and narrative around it.

Unlike more public venues, you're going to see a lot of 'non-affiliated' rulesets pop up in Iron Seer campaigns.  I've talked about this at length, in-person and on other blogs, but with the size, length and scope in the new campaign era here I think there's never really been a better time to introduce this.  Rogue Stars will be the first such 'non-affiliated' ruleset to 'go-live' in a campaign as we add it to our ongoing Star Wars campaign.

I call it 'non-affiliated' because although it is not an official "BRAND X" product, the game itself fits it perfectly.  We happen to be playing a "BRAND X" campaign, and I've got this ruleset.  Foolish not to give it a go, out where everyone can take a stab at it and we can put the rules through the ringer.  For this game (and many like it) the setting simply doesn't matter, it's the ruleset that is the prize here.

Rogue Stars itself doesn't really have much of a setting anyway - and that's a good thing.  The absence of any truly specified setting actually seems to make it easier for certain kinds of gamers to "accept" the ruleset in a different milieu.  It's a strange phenomenon, to be sure, but we saw it a few years ago when the club began using Frostgrave as a ruleset for resolving Dungeons & Dragons conflicts in the Forgotten Realms.  However, gamers tend to be more insular than they'd like us to think they are and have a hard time accepting new things.  Osprey's book cost and generally low buy-in on these rulesets have gone a long way to soften that.

In my opinion, we as gamers need to start looking at rulesets outside of the brands we like that we can use in the milieu as we desire.  Diversify your ruleset collection, and play with it.  Most importantly, be open to the experience.  It's a game, and a hobby.  Nothing need be straightjacketed (except WYSIWYG).  In this way, you won't feel divorced from your favorite game / setting when they puke up yet another corporately mandated edition and you decide to retire to the Collector's Bin.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Frontline Gaming Snow-Covered Tundra

I got my first mat from Frontline Gaming this week.  It looks pretty cool.  It's the first mat I've purchased that is made of the mousepad material, so I was pretty excited to check it out.  We're spoiled for choice these days, and to be honest I think I've been more excited about getting some of the cool mats out there than getting models of late.

Front Line Gaming Delivery Bag
The packaging was both heavy duty and easy to get into - once I took a razor to it.  Take care at this step, kids.
I got this particular mat for Frostgrave, and have been waiting on it so I can get started flocking and finishing up that terrain set.  A lot of folks have opted for doing what you might call the 'metropolitan' area of the frozen city, but I thought it would be cooler to take it the outskirts...the frozen, snow-covered tundra.

Frontline Gaming Snow-Covered Tundra
I'm going to be using this mat for the Sword Coast as well.  Icewind Dale?  SURE THANG BRO...
In fact, I've got several pieces drying right now.  The blending on the mat is awesome, and I think I've done a pretty good job getting the basing on the Frostgrave ruins to match up well - but I think I'm going to give them a few inks before I let the snow fall and finish it up.  We'll be seeing those on the table and here on the blog pretty quick!

FLG Mat is flexible!
I assure you sir, this mat is very floppy.  Floppy indeed.
The material itself is very supple, more so than any other mat I've gotten so far except the latex Zuzzy mat.  At first, it was challenging to roll it up tightly, but I figured it out - it's not going to be tight.  Likewise, it's still floppy in all directions while it's in tube form...meaning it's not really simple to just pick up.  The flexibility of the material isn't really a problem, though as long as it's stored correctly.  It falls down on the table quite nice.

FLG Gaming Mat Tag
FLG also provided a heavy-duty tag for their mat, so I can tell which one is which at a glance.  It's a good thing, as it's quick to find in my darkened lair.
As far as storage goes, the mat has it's own case similar to my camera's tripod case.  Once it's rolled up, it can be stored vertically if hung - but I won't be setting it next to my other mat tubes.  It also doubles as a very convenient carrying case.  I'll probably just hollow out a space in the closet where I can hang these, because I'm sure I'll be picking up more Frontline Gaming mats as time wears me down.  I've already been scoping out several...

FLG Gaming Mat Carrying / Storage Case
Tiny hand and pretzel for scale only.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top 8 Reasons the Thaumaturge is Best

Don't be demonic.
Inspirobot wants what is best for you.
As every good spellcaster knows, where ever it is possible to wield magic there will always be goons trying to summon demons and make zombies.  It's just a thing that happens.  It's an emergent quality of the mystical realms, like Rule #34.  There's always some pervert trying to sell his soul or playing with dead bodies in musty old crypt.

As it is a rule that there is always a creep, there is also the anti-creep.  It must be Rule #35.  Cleric, Holy Knight, Animist, Questor...etc.  Call it what you want, it's the same thing.  Healer, Protector, Banisher, Exorcist or Abjurer.  In Frostgrave, they are most often called Thaumaturge.

In Frostgrave, the wizards can pick up spells that are offensive, defensive and utility without compromising (except on higher casting numbers).  The Thaumaturge actually packs one of the most useful spell lists in the game.  Almost every spellcaster will want a piece of it, no matter what their specialty school.  The aligned schools for the Thaumaturge are Soothsayer, Sigilist and Illusionist.  The opposed school is Necromancer, rather than Summoner.

Yeah, boy.  You can still get your summonations on pretty easily.  Just make sure whatever you summon is kosher with whatever deity you worship or it could get pretty awkward...

Top 8 Reasons the Thaumaturge is Best!
  1. Banish
    • If your opponent is a Summoner, this can ruin his day.  ALL demons.  Remember that banishes your own demons...whether they be angels, demons, cthulhus or djinni. 
  2. Blinding Light
    • A surprisingly effective combat spell, this reduces your Fight score to +0 and your Move to 1.  Use on high Fight models to secure the edge for your warband.  Consider Empowering the spell with some Health to get a higher spellcasting score to make it harder for your opponent to shake it off in subsequent turns.
  3. Circle of Protection
    • Again, anti-demon spell makes it where they won't be engaging your spellcaster in hand to hand combat.  Situational, but absolute.
  4. Dispel
    • Essential to any spellcaster, it can cancel the effects of ONE spell.  Not summons, but anything else is fair game.  Use it to pull the rug out from under your opponent at the last minute.
  5. Heal
    • Essential, just like Dispel, to any spellcaster in the game.  Five points of health restored a pop, and with a basic cast number of 8 it's not even beyond Necromancers.
  6. Miraculous Cure
    • Regrow your fingers and your toes.  Helpful if you're prone to grievous and lasting injury.
  7. Restore Life
    • Casting number 20!  You only get one chance, and it has to be cast by your wizard.  Great spell, but we won't be seeing it a lot until someone has sunk 10 levels into it.
  8. Shield
    • Great armor builder.  2 points of Armor for the rest of the game, so fun for the whole warband!  Throw these out in the early game and get the advantage from the very beginning.
Unlike some of the others, starting a Thaumaturge seems pretty obvious to me.  Blinding Light, Dispel and Heal.  That gives you pretty much the best set of tools at the beginning of the game you could ask for, as you are able to really affect the outcome of any battle on the board by changing up scores and dispelling buff spells.

You'll probably want some heavy hitters like Infantrymen and Templars to really sock it to the enemy while you've got them Blinded and stripped of magic enhancements.  Missile troops could also come in handy, just remember your Heal spell is 'touch' range.  Really, in my opinion the Thaumaturge is one of the best spellcasters in the game.  Any high quality soldier is going to have a secure home in the warband, but I think I'm going to start with the high damage fellows.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Star Wars Miniatures

In the late 80's and 90's, West End Games had a very successful game called the Star Wars Roleplaying Game.  Grenadier produced a line of miniatures for it, and West End eventually produced rulebooks for Star Wars Miniature Battles in 1991.  Here's an article you can read on, because we're not talking about that today.

Back in 2004, the first set of Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Miniatures game dropped, and I almost didn't notice at all.  I really wasn't very happy with prepaints at the time, as I've expressed before.  The game would run several years, with many releases.  You can peruse these and a great many other miniature sets at the Pre-Painted Plastic Minis Gallery.

Rebel Tech-Saboteurs
"Quickly, look like you're doing something!"
I'm a relative newcomer to Star Wars minis.  I've explained how in the last few years my view on prepaints has changed from nearly a decade and a half ago, and I'm surprised this line is still readily available.  After the Star Wars hype of 2015, X-Wing and Star Wars RPG ruled the game I started hunting these down to integrate into my existing figure collection.  A few years later and I've grown to love these ugly little critters.

Star Wars Imperial Hunter Troops
"We will now fire wildly in all directions!"
Imperial Assault from Fantasy Flight Games has revitalized the Star Wars miniatures "collection game" for me.  The new miniatures are very high quality, as FFG has already received praise for.  I haven't quite gotten around to painting mine, but I wanted to show they work quite nicely alongside their predecessors from Wizards of the Coast.

WotC vs FFG Mini Comparison
Wookiees and Imperial Royal Guard.  FFG (unpainted) vs. Wizards of the Coast (Pre-painted).
Unfortunately, the old Grenadier models for West End are closer to 25mm...maybe even smaller a bit.  I had a handful of the Grenadier Stormtroopers but they don't look very nice next to the newer models.  I looked for them, but they seem lost forever in the vault.

WotC vs FFG Mini Comparison
Bothan Commandos and Imperial Stormtroopers, (WotC vs FFG).
Now, what concerns me is Legion.  The next Star Wars game from FFG will be a proper miniatures battle game.  Fine right?  In fact that sounds great!

However, FFG has decided to use 32mm scale for the game.  While that might not sound like such a big deal (because it's not in most cases), we've actually seen what the new miniatures look like right next to FFG's other Star Wars line, Imperial Assault.

Star Wars Legion vs Imperial Assault Miniatures Scale Comparison
Picture by TallTonyB on the FFG Community Forum.
The discussion has been rolling on this for a while, and you can read about it on the FFG Community Forum where I found that picture.  I do not like this at all.  It's not that I don't like the miniatures, but the fact it will look jarring on the table to use any of the stuff I already have...which is a light investment. 

Part of the appeal of Imperial Assault was the fact it came with 28mm miniatures.  I understand FFG's drive to do this, to discourage use of WotC's old line with their new game...but that's a business decision.  Business decisions like that ruin games by chopping off momentum.

With the amount of other rulesets that are available to me, such as Rogue Stars, Rogue Planet, Tomorrow's War, etc...I don't feel compelled to buy into another Fantasy Flight excursion...and I was really looking forward to it until I saw this comparison shot.  I haven't counted Legion out yet...but I'm also not really as jazzed about it.

I've already got an investment in Star Wars miniatures - and there's more than enough to fill out my universe.  Changing the established scale on us is like asking us to change all our bases from 25mm round to 30mm rounds and all squares to equivalent rounds.  Especially considering FFG already sold me 28mm Stormtroopers, Darth Vader and whatnot.

Now, that's not to knock people looking forward to this - I understand.  Great for the newcomers.  However,  space is always a premium and Legion would have to take up space I could use for something else.  28mm to 32mm is not ENOUGH of a scale change to warrant investment, for me personally. 

Now, FFG - there's your challenge from the Iron Seer!  Give us a 6mm, 10mm or 15mm land battle game set in the Star Wars universe.  I'll be the first guy to buy a whole army of droid battle tanks.