Monday, December 1, 2014

Rubicon M4A3 Sherman Review and Comparisons with Warlord Games M4 Sherman

I've been playing a lot of Bolt Action lately. I really like the game.

I'm not all that thrilled with Tank War, but that lack of excitement hasn't stopped me from buying and painting lots of 1/56 scale tanks.

One such tank is the Rubicon M4A3 that came out recently. I really liked this kit.

This kit went together really well. It includes options for a 75mm canon, 105mm canon, or a 76mm anti tank canon. The 75mm and 105mm canons share the same turret, with the 76mm canon being on its own turret.

One area that disappointed me is that there are almost enough pieces, I think they only need 2 more bits, to make both turrets. That with some magnets would allow you to field any of the 3 canons and switch out whenever you'd like.

Had they done this and I think this would be the go-to tank.

Without it, I'm happy to have bought Warlord Games' M4 Sherman. That's also a nice kit.

The Rubicon model was harder to put together, or at least took a longer time. The details on it are a little sharper than the Warlord model, and the track assembly avoids any seams.

3 Warlord Shermans with a Rubicon Sherman (3rd from left). All are plastic.

As you can see they scale up well with each other. Because of this I think the way I went worked out best: Warlord for the M4 with 75mm, and Rubicon for anything else. The big advantage to this is that the Warlord Sherman is a few dollars cheaper MSRP, and is easy to get for even cheaper with box sets or through online retailers. Of course you should instead shop at your local FLGS, such as Huzzah Hobbies here in Northern, VA.

Rubicon on left, Warlord on right.

I'm not good at rivet counting and the like. I assume any difference between the two tanks is due to the M4 and M4A3 being slightly different. At the end of the day, however, they scale up very well with each other.

One thing I liked about the Rubicon model was that the 50cal clipped off the sprue easily, the Sherman 50cals were tricky and I accidentally broke when. When clipping those off they bend and put pressure on the barrels, which causes problems.

Overall they're both nice kits. They scale well to each other. You really can't go wrong with either one.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Muslim Warband for Saga Crescent and the Cross

The wait for Crescent and the Cross was long. During it I jumped on one of Black Tree Design's 50% off sale and ordered lots of figures to use for it. Having no idea what the army lists or battleboards would look like for the various Muslim armies, I ended up with a lot of stuff.

It worked out as I have enough to do all 3 armies. Most of the figures seem like they can work between factions, there may be some stylistic or dress difference between Moors and Saracens but it doesn't seem to be extreme enough to worry about.

The first warband I decided to do was the Mutatawwi'a. The big reason for this is that they felt like a foot mounted force, plus they didn't have any levies.

I ended up really liking the Black Tree Design figures. The sculpts feel a little old, some of the poses feel "classic" if that makes any sense, but the figures were nice. I like the faces, they feel like they fight people from that part of the world without being a racist caricature, and they manage to walk a nice line of having enough detail to be interesting without having too much that they become cluttered.

The other big thing I like is that they have a variety of poses. These all came from their Soldiers of the Prophet set and gave a good variety of poses and model types. I still have enough figures from this set to do 2 points of levies (1 with bows and the other with crossbows) and that's pretty great.

I think my favorite thing about these figures is that they had minimal mold lines or flash. They cleaned up really quickly, and that's huge. Most of the Warlord Games or Gripping Beast metals have taken me a long time to clean, but these were nice and quick.

On the whole I really liked these figures. Only thing I wish is for transfers that fit these shields, I'm not thrilled with how my freehand stuff came out. Other than that, though, I dig them.

I tried to make them really colorful, while keeping to a simple pallet. I went with a Purple-Green-Orange set of colors to be a little off and different than the normal Red-Blue-Yellow triad. I think it works, makes them colorful but also a little different and maybe a little more exotic.

I'll be painting up 12 bows and 12 crossbows this week and next. With those I plan to run them as Moors. After that it'll be painting horses for Saracens and other odds and ends.

I'm excited to get some games in with these guys. Saga is probably my favorite game right now, and the new Crescent and the Cross book is really great. Feels like Saga, but is very different and interesting so it isn't just a rehash. I'm pretty amazed that Saga can have as many armies as it does (around 20) and that they all feel different and worthwhile, few seem to do the same thing and they are all different enough to justify existing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

King of Trios 2014 Review

King of Trios 2014 happened this past weekend. I think it deserves a thoughtful and insightful write up. You’ll get my word farts instead.

Instead of running down the matches and talking about each I think it is more useful to give a more impressionistic view. One thing to keep in mind is that my mind is wired in such a way that I find failures, or things I find fault with, more interesting than things that worked. I know this is kind of crummy, but instead of just rattling over all the things I liked (and there is a lot!) I’ll probably focus more on what didn’t quite work for me.

I enjoy Chikara. I don’t think it is perfect, but it has a unique voice and can deliver some really solid wrestling. I think Chikara is at its best when Chikara guys wrestle people outside Chikara, as we saw a lot of in 2012 King of Trios. One of the notable things this year is that Trios felt smaller, it didn’t have that same magic of 2011 or 2012, and that it was very much a big Chikara weekend. I’ve had friends mention that this weekend was a great Chikara show, but it wasn’t a great King of Trios. There were a few matches that were really solid, but few if any that I’ll revisit the same way I revisit most of night 3 of 2011 and 2012.

Trios didn’t start great this year. Night 1 wasn’t very good. The easiest way I can talk about it is to say that it was 8 variations on the same match. Every match had long, much too long, stretches of a face-in-distress. There were also too many false finishes. It just wasn’t great. There were a few interesting storyline bits, but the actual wrestling didn’t really grab me, and the night felt long. Luckily Night 2 and Night 3 got a lot better.

I sometimes feel like Chikara has too many tag matches. They all sort of blend together for me. Babyface gets beat up for a long time. Good guys try to come in and help but the ref stops them. While stopping the good guys the bad guys cheat and beat up the good guy even more. Every match goes this way. I get that tag team, and Trios, wrestling is a little limited in what it can do but it feels like Chikara goes to this well way too often. Sometimes it results in a payoff (2012 Trios where Sendai Girls make Team ROH tap but don’t get the win because of a distraction is paid off later when you think the same is going to happen to the Envoy against ROH in the finals) but it usually doesn’t go anywhere.

The highlight of Night 1 was Team LAX (Hernandez, Chavo, and Homicide) against the Golden Trio. Part of this is that the Throwbacks are great, but LAX was also super fun. Homicide and Hernandez were especially fun and had a good time messing with the crowd and the opposing team. The wrestling was fun as well. It’s easy to be really critical to those guys, but when allowed to show a little bit of personality I think they can be really entertaining. I know a lot of people who were down when that team was announced, but afterwards I imagine most people were on board with them.

Night 2 was very fun. The Trios matches felt more engaging. The Colony v The Flood was especially great and probably my favorite match of the whole weekend. The Battle of the Bow Ties was a little more comedy than I wanted, but still very entertaining. Yoshi Tatus v Smooth Sailing Ashley Remington was as charming and fun as I wanted. Some really good stuff went down and it was fun. I think the first Rey de Voladores qualifier was more fun than the second, but they were both solid.

I do want to touch on some positive things that I think are important. First, the Throwbacks are great. I’ve been big on Mr Touchdown for a while, I think that guy just “gets” wrestling, and Dasher has always been reliably good. Together they’ve managed to become one of my absolute favorite tag teams. Dasher has gone from reliably good, to just great and Mr Touchdown is still just really fun to watch. I can be a little down on Chikara’s wrestling, but the best guys in Chikara (including Hallowicked and Silver Ant here as well) are some of the best you’ll find.

The Flood team was also really fun. Jimmy Jacobs didn’t get to do a whole lot but he had a good presence. Eddie Kingston was more entertaining and engaging than I’ve seen in a long time. Even Volgar got to do some cool stuff, Samoan Drops are the best, and really helped to make that team and their matches feel important and meaningful.

That does lead to a bit of a downer, however. I really liked both of these teams but their match together on Night 3 was a little underwhelming. Not that it was bad, but I wanted more. A lot of matches had too many false finishes and too much drama, but theirs wasn’t allowed enough. I think a few more minutes, some more escalation, and a little bit more drama could have made that the best match of the weekend. It was still really good, but when the finish came it felt abrupt and not very satisfying. I wanted more.

Night 3 felt a little less good than Night 2. The first match was the aforementioned Flood and Golden Trio match. It felt as though that would be the final, having it on first just felt off. It was a very fun match, just not quite the emotional finale I wanted it to be.

The Rey de Voladores finale was really fun. I like Shynron and Senada, and they had a fine match. I wanted more high flying from that match, and from the qualifiers as well, but it was still really fun. I’m happy for Shynron as that guy has gotten better and seems to continue to get better. I always find myself cheering for guys who seem to improve and try new things and get better, at least.

The Tag Gauntlet was a little disappointing. I had to get up and stretch my legs during this match so I missed some of it, but what I saw wasn’t great. I think the Tag Gauntlet is like the Royal Rumble: the actual match isn’t the attraction, the build up of a new and unannounced participant is. 2012 had a fun Devastation Corporation beating up on people, for Warlord and Barbarian to come out, ended by Demolition coming in, and it all worked and had a really fun escalation. 2014 missed that and was much more of a Chikara match, so much so that Los Icecreams were probably the most cheered for team.

The comedy match was also pretty good. I’m not big on the Submission Squad, I don’t find them funny enough to be funny and they’re not good enough at wrestling (except Davey Vega, at least) to get me interested in the wrestling, but their match with the Gentlemen’s Club was really fun. I chalk most of this up to Davey Vega wrestling 90% of the match for the Submission Squad, and because Chuck Taylor, Orange Cassidy, and Drew Gulak are hilarious. Gulak especially seems like a guy who is great at everything and is always fun.

The finale was strong. Devastation Corporation are getting really good, and having them go against the Golden Trio made for a good match. It still felt a little anticlimatic, but I enjoyed it. The Devastation Corporation won (and they should win) and I’m happy for it, because my lizard-brain can’t handle them losing. Dev Corp are these huge jacked dudes who are super strong, but also smart enough and really agile. The characters are good at everything. The primal part of my ape brain has a hard time believing they’re going to lose to any team in Chikara, because Chikara dudes aren’t all that tall. It made sense and was a good match.

I’m still waiting for Icarus to turn heel. I really dislike his James-Franco-From-Your-Highness character, and I don’t buy his whole shtick. Maybe it’s because I don’t bleed Chikara, but it doesn’t work for me. He was really conspicuous this weekend, I felt as though he wrestled much less than the Throwbacks and I kept thinking this would turn into him being a bit of a heel. Something. Anything. I’m not sure.

One problem I have with Chikara, and one that is growing, is that Chikara seems to only want to play to Chikara fans. People who think about Chikara all the time. People wrapped up in Chikara. Diehard fans. I get that, I get that Chikara wants to be different and be its own thing but it starts to get really far into it being Chikara it starts to become impenetrable to anyone but the most diehard, and its stories start to fall on deaf ears.

I’m not overly concerned with Chikara’s existential problems. I’m not overly worried that Jimmy Jacobs is going to shut down Chikara. During their year off I basically quit the promotion until they gave me wrestling, so now that they are I don’t want to be teased with outside ruinous forces that want to destroy Chikara. Again. Wrestling invasion angles are never great, and once Chikara fights off the Flood what are they going to do? Tim Donst being a jerk doesn’t have quite the gravity that Deucalion killing wrestlers does.

There are emotional beats that fall flat to me. Chikara winning (again) against the Flood isn’t that exciting. Eddie Kingston becoming a good guy (again) is great and all, but if he was the difference between the Flood winning and losing what are we going to do for the rest of the season? Trios became part of Chikara’s larger story and instead of Trios being its own story to tell over a weekend (as I think it should be, or at least is most entertaining when it does) it became part of a bigger story. It became a piece. I missed having smaller stories being told, of Sendai Girls getting popular and everyone growing to increasingly hate Team ROH. Of Spectral Envoy winning the big one in a big cathartic moment that one needed only to see Trios to get. Trios got too far into being a big Chikara show this weekend that it felt like it missed a lot of the magic of 2012, and I kind of miss that.

Trios 2014 was still a fun show. I had a blast and will happily go again in 2015. Being around some of my most favorite people all weekend helps, but the show was fun. Chikara builds a good atmosphere and I don’t want the negative feelings I do have cloud the fact that Trios is fun and that you should go if you can. I just wish for the magic I felt in prior years, and feel there are reasons why it wasn’t there this year. A fun and very good show is still a good thing, and maybe it isn’t fair that I compare it so much to something exceptional and great.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bolt Action Review

 Back at Historicon last year my friend Richard and I played a demo of Bolt Action. Now, I'm not one to really be hip to historical games of the modern era for a variety of reasons, but Bolt Action seemed fun. After the demo I ended up taking home a Soviet army and the rulebook and have since collected Japanese, Germans, and have Finns and even more Soviets coming with the Winter War Kickstarter.

I'm going to cut to the chase: I really like Bolt Action. It's simple to play, fairly balanced, and has enough "there" there to be interesting. It's a fun game.

The best way I can describe Bolt Action is to say that it represents a WW2 movie. I'm not a "grognard", and instead I'm far more interested in sociopolitical topics than guns and tanks. I can't tell most tanks apart, don't care about organizational structure, and just don't know or care about a lot of the details people argue about on TMP. I do like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, though, and playing Bolt Action feels like those. Whether or not those are realistic in any meaningful way is a different conversation, and one I'm not interested in, but the game feels "right" from what I understand World War 2 to be like.

I feel like a lot of this explanation of perspective is important. I like my historical games to be based in history, but to also be based in history that has some distance. I like Vikings because Vikings are quasi-mythological at this point. Sure, it's historical but there's enough distance that jokes and laughs can be had about the setting. Even something like the French and Indian Wars can be talked about and gamed with a certain game-y-ness. These events happened, but they're stories and not pertinent to people today. World War 2 isn't like that, at all, so my reluctance to game that period stems from wanting to give it a certain level of seriousness. But, at the end of the day the game is fun and people actually play it, and there aren't a whole lot of games that have both of those components.

Rules Overview
Bolt Action plays fast. The core mechanics play fast, and the game makes a certain amount of sense. I was able to play about 90% of the game using only the 2 page reference sheet after 3 or 4 games.

Turns happen by first each player placing a special d6 into a bag for every unit they have. These dice have 6 different orders you can give a unit, and each turn you take a random die out of the bag and whoever it belongs to assigns it to a unit to carry that order out. You do this until all dice are removed and then repeat. It's fairly basic and shakes up the I-Go-You-Go of many other games, without getting in the way like games with card based activations can sometimes get.

The six orders are: Fire (stand and shoot), Advance (move and shoot), Run (move double), Ambush (Overwatch), Rally (remove pin markers), and Down (do nothing, be harder to hit). Most of these orders are given when the die is drawn, but some (like Down) can be used as a reaction to being shot at and involve taking out an appropriate die and placing that order next to the unit doing that action.

The other big part of the game is that units are given one of three quality ratings: Inexperienced, Regular, and Veteran. This impacts a lot of the game, most importantly their Leadership (which works like Warhammer) and their Toughness value, or target numbered needed to be killed. For instance, a Regular unit will have a Leadership of 9, and will be killed on a 4+. Veterans are 10 and 5+, while Inexperienced are 8 and 3+. These matter a lot as Leadership values receive many penalties, most especially from being "pinned".

Pinning happens when a unit shoots at an enemy unit and scores at least one hit. Each time this happens the target unit receives one pin marker. When that unit tries to do an order it must first pass a Leadership check but with a penalty for each pin marker. A Regular unit, for instance, with 3 pin markers would need to roll a 6 or less on 2 dice to activate. If it succeeds it can remove one pin marker and act as normal, if it fails it instead goes immediately Down.

Vehicles are handled well. So far I find them to be worthwhile without being too good. They're tough to kill, but the game still doesn't require you to build a list designed to kill vehicles. They're generally fairly expensive (with one vehicle being over 650 points, which is a ton in a game designed for 1000 points total) but are fun. Their major advantage is that each gun on a vehicle can fire at a different target, so an IS-2 can (for example) fire its main cannon at a tank, fire its hull mounted medium machine gun at an infantry team in a building, fire its rear facing MMG at another target, and add pin markers to each of these targets should you get at least one hit. Something capable of dishing out that much destruction, and hassle, with a single order die is huge, but it is also a lot of points should it get destroyed by a plucky Anti Tank Rifle Team. They feel balanced, good enough to take but not so good that you have to. There are a few exceptions, I'll talk about those below, but the game works well in incorporating vehicles while still being an infantry game.

That's about 90% of the game. There are rules for things like flamethrowers, mortars, fanatical units, and the like but for the most part the game is very simple and straight forward. As much as I love 40k, and I love it far more than I like it at the moment, I feel that Bolt Action has a lot of that 40k "feel" without having too many special rules and abilities.

Simplicity: The game is fairly simple and straight forward. A Regular guy with a rifle is a Regular guy with a rifle, regardless of what army he comes from. If he's American he can move and shoot without a -1 penalty to hit, and if he's Japanese he has Fanatic, but for the most part there's a certain level of "sameness" across the game that makes keeping up with it simple. Never am I surprised that my opponent's army has a particular special ability and I lose because of it.

Flavor: Despite being simple I feel that the game still has enough flavor to make each nation feel like they should. My Soviets feel like Soviets, my Japanese feel like they are what I think of the Imperial Japanese Army being like. There's enough flavor to keep it interesting without it becoming ridiculous. At the end of the day they're still people with rifles and submachine guns.

People Actually Play It: I would play Warmachine if that was the only game people played. I'm very fortunate that I'm local to Huzzah Hobbies, which has a great group of guys, and that I'm close enough to do Fall-In, Cold Wars, and Historicon which have Bolt Action tournaments.

Relatively Inexpensive: The game doesn't break the bank. Warlord plastics are really solid and it's easy to make an army for under $200. I think my Germans, made of Wargames Factory plastics and Black Tree Design metals, was about $80 from sales they did.

This is still a version 1 of a game. That's a crappy excuse, but there are a few things that don't quite work right that I think can be cleaned up. The game really is 90% of the way there, though, and outside of Saga I can't think of another game that is as fun to play for me right now. Any of these weaknesses need to be viewed in light of Bolt Action being a very good game that is very fun.

Balance: Bolt Action is very well balanced. Germany is clearly the weakest book, but even then it is much closer to the better books than you might think. For comparison, I would say balance between armies is like Power Armor books in 5th Edition 40k. Some are a little better than others, but it isn't that big of a deal. There are no Tyranid or Dark Eldar books in Bolt Action. For what it is worth, I would put Soviets, Japanese, Americans, and British as all being fairly close to one another in terms of power. France and Allies, Italy and Minor Axis, and Germany are all a little bit below that.

When I complain about balance I mostly complain about some of the internal balance in the game. Light Machine Guns aren't very good or really worth taking, for instance, and two five man squads are almost always better than a single ten man squad. Vehicle Flame Throwers are way too good, and too cheap, and that's probably the biggest problem with the game. Even then, most of the rest of the balance issues are fine. I think all the other staples of WW2 such as mortars, snipers, tanks, anti-tank rifles, and the like are all good choices without being too good. They strike the balance of being viable without being so-good-you-have-to-take-them.

Missions: I think this is my biggest problem. I've become very peculiar about missions, and Bolt Actions rub me the wrong way. This could (and should) be its very own post, but right now the missions are my biggest problem. They aren't so bad as to cripple the game, but I think it's the area easiest to fix while also having a huge (and positive) impact on the game. Right now most missions only have one win condition, and as such lend themselves to draws, and force certain builds that make the game feel very game-y. It's not a deal breaker, and a lot of that can be dealt with once you get better at the game, but it is definitely something that I would like to see addressed. But, then again I just got the missions being played at Cold Wars and they are all very good, so I think this is an area that has the most possibility for improvement.

I really like Bolt Action. It has a good feel, plays fast, and just works. There's enough game there to talk about, but not so much that the game is difficult to play. I'm excited to keep painting armies for it and playing it, and expect to play a game or two a week of it for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...