Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The World of Twilight...

The World of Twlight: Chronicles of Anyaral is a fantasy skirmish-scale miniatures game designed by Michael Thorp. It uses a range of interesting mechanisms, but perhaps the biggest draw card for me is the wonderful aesthetic, and the look and feel of the world.

I have been looking for a while for a game my kids and I can collect and play, and with the lad being a huge fan of dinosaurs, this seemed like an obvious choice.

The rules book is high quality, well bound, clearly laid out and compiling several previously released smaller books. In it are all the rules and stats required to play, as well as copious amounts of fluff text detailing the absolutely charming world of Anyaral.

Also scattered throughout are wonderful little line drawings that give personality and loving rendition to this characterful setting.

The metal and resin miniatures do justice to the illustrations. They are high quality, well cast, easy to assemble and full of detail and character. These have to be some of my favourite fantasy miniatures, the aesthetic is fantastic and the quality high. They feel like they are around a 28mm scale, and look great on the table. I really want to get paint on them.

Devanu Outcasts

Clan Orel

All models that came with the 'Large Starter Set' assembled and based. I'll go through and take some better close ups another time.

The rules themselves are interesting and dynamic. Counters are drawn from a bag, and may match either player or be a 'Combat Counter'. When a player's Counter is drawn from the bag, they may select a model to activate, if this model has some form of leadership ability, they in turn may activate other models. Once the chain of activated models has been selected, they play may move them, and use any pertinent abilities. Making sure models are positioned well, in order to ensure they are activated in a coordinated fashion, and can make best use of their abilities, is key to success.

Yellow and green Initiative Counters (6 of each), and two orange Combat Counters. After the second Combat Counter is drawn in any turn and resolved, the Turn Ends.

The early stages of the Chance Encounter Scenario.

If a Combat Counter is drawn, any models in base-to-base combat may engage in melee. This is not the only time melee occurs, as some abilities may allow for out of sequence attacks (like 'Charge'), but is one of the key moments in which combat is resolved.

The Devanu advance on the militia...

Players take turns in initiative order selecting a model to attack with, and combat is dynamic and interesting. Each player has twelve combat stones, 6 'Erac' (offensive), and 6 'Oran' (defensive). Each one of these stones is essentially a D2, like a coin, with a symbol on one side and a blank on the other. As well as the two models involved directly in a melee, other adjacent models may also offer 'support'. Support, abilities and a model's 'Combat' stat dictates how many stones a player may throw, and a player may select what mix of Erac and Oran will comprise this amount.

I did a quick paint job on my Combat Stones - no doubt they'll chip through use. But they are easier to read now than blank metal!

So, a model may attack another model, and will gather up a number of stones equal to the attacker's Combat stat, relevant abilities, and any support it gains. That player may choose to use stones that are Erac or Oran (or a mix), in order to make their combat action more offensive or defensive. Any Erac thrown are countered by an opponent's Oran, and vice-versa. For every 'hit' landed, the hit model rolls a D6, if it is equal to or higher than their Toughness, they live, if not, the model is removed. It is possible for both sides to inflict damage on the other at the same time.

Stat Cards came with the 'Large Starter' and are well worth it. They are good quality, tidy and capture all the information required in play. 

Combat may sound convoluted and messy, but in practice it is straightforward. Tactically interesting choices abound in model positioning, and using abilities to stack the odds against the opponent. The blind bluff of whether you are going to be more attacking or defensive with your combat stones is also a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the first simple games I played, and am looking forward to playing with more miniatures on the table.

Militia face off against the advancing Devanu.

The Jenta Hunter and Militia Captain faced off, both inflicting mortal wounds on the other...

World of Twilight: Chronicles of Anyaral is a great game. With a multitude of scenarios to play through, and an inventive, unique and thoroughly charming aesthetic, it's a game I am glad I bought into. The rules are fun and interesting, allowing for quick game-play and tactical thinking. I am looking forward to playing a lot more!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Writing about writing

The last two to three weeks have been a huge challenge for me. For a few years I have been working as a freelance writer for Spartan Games and Modiphius Entertainment. It's something I enjoy doing a lot, but it can be draining, especially when writing is not my main job. This last month was one of those occasions where everything just happens to land at once.

Freelance writing, at least in my experience, is a funny gig. Both the companies I have worked for produce licensed products I have worked on, Halo with Spartan, and Infinity with Modiphius. A typical job runs through multiple stages, first the offer of doing it (of course). The outline, which then is approved/improved by both the company you work for and the license holder. Then the draft, which is then approved/improved by both the company you work for and the license holder. Then the drafts following...

This process can be quick, and it can be lengthy. I have been writing for the Infinity: The Role Playing Game line, published by Modiphius and licensed from Corvus Belli, since the latter part of 2015. This year that work has taken a sharp upturn in speed and quantity, and this last month has been one of those wonderful occasions where everything seems to land at once.

The last two or three weeks have been a real challenge for me. At the start of September I was twiddling my thumbs, enjoying Netflix, blogging and putting together a bunch of miniatures for Kings of War. About a week and a half in, everything landed. Outlines had been approved and dates for draft submissions set. New jobs offered and dates set. All of it landed quickly.

In the last two weeks I have managed, just, to pen some 30,000 words (that's around 60-70 typed pages). It has been a real challenge. I realise that for full-time writers this amount may not be very much, but it is the most I have written in such a demanding time-frame, and has been tough. No Netflix, no miniature assembly, no gym, no game nights, no anything other than sitting down at my desk every night and pushing on with the job at hand. It was a challenge, but I managed it, I am proud of it (and here's hoping Modiphius and Corvus Belli feel the same). It has been intense, but I have loved it.

I learned a lot in the last few weeks.

One: I can manage 20,000 in a week if I really push myself, but it is exhausting.

Two: Most nights I worked between 3-5 hours, and managed a rate somewhere around 800-1000 words an hour (some nights more, some nights less - and these are words that I am happy with having on the page).

Three: No distractions, no procrastination. Even half an hour lost is too much time lost. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to start.

Four: If you're stuck, start some other section. Don't waste time staring at the screen and wondering what to do. A lot of the time your subconscious will keep at the problem even when you're thinking of something else - then at some point it will ring the consciousness doorbell - Ding. Hi, I'm the subconscious, I'm here to tell you how to deal with that problem... Or, go for a walk, throw some darts, do something mindless for a short period of time to let your brain clear and mull things over.

Five: I have been writing for a role playing game - so the key question is always: How would this be interesting or useful to the GM or players? How would this make the stories they tell, the adventures they experience more exciting and nuanced?

Six: Writers research some weird stuff. Common Latvian surnames? What conditions in the ionosphere cause microwave beam attenuation? Types and effects of different necrotic poisons? What would the word 'condolences' be in Persian? What biological systems allow an insect to breathe? What is the structure of the UN Security Council? Seriously. My search history has me flagged as a seditious terrorist, I'm sure of it. Irrespective of the watch lists you might end up on, writers research. I was lucky enough to have the Infinity books published by Corvus Belli, the Graphic Novel Outrage, the Infinity RPG Core Book and so on to call upon. But we don't just get information, we apply it. How does that information change, mutate, alter and make more interesting the thing we are sculpting with our words?

Seven: Reread and edit. Chances are at that at some point you were three sentences ahead of your fingers and you accidentally typed to to or or and and when when. Chances are you mistook one name for another, or rewrote something you had already described. Chances are a convoluted sentence can be rewritten to be more clear. I read my writing aloud to myself. If I stumble as I read I stop and look to see why, most of the time it's because the sentence structure needs work, the phrasing is confusing, or too much has been packed into a single sentence.It seems obvious to write this, but it takes time and needs to be done.

Eight: Ask questions. If you have an editor, liaison, or group you're working with and you're stuck on something, ask (for me this was regularly something like: Wait. What did you want with this bit?). They want what you want - the best danged piece possible.

Nine: More. Much more. It was a real challenge this last two and a bit weeks, and I have more projects to finish yet, but I have a better understanding of my capabilities and limitations now than I did at the start of the month.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this was... but there are some thoughts regardless.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

MOAR Artillery!

Well, I had intended to post this a week ago, but I have become unreasonably busy with several jobs all landing at once. When you work as a freelance writer, the process of getting a specific job, and the steps it goes through can be staccato. This is especially true when working with an IP that is being licensed by the company your are writing for. Proposals go to the company, maybe back to you, back to the company, eventually to the IP holder for approval, back to you... the steps can be multiple. Added to this is the fact that any one of those might happen quickly, or might take time. Building a true sense of when a proposal or outline will be fleshed into a draft, and from draft to editor to final draft to editor and eventually layout can be difficult and sometimes impossible. The process may be quick, or it may take months. You can go from having no work to do to having a whole lot land at once.

This last week has seen the latter, with multiple jobs either clearing or soon to be clearing approvals and deadlines suddenly looming. I'm not complaining, I love writing for games, probably more than playing them, but jobs take precedence over blogs, as the old rhyme goes.

In any case! Artillery!

I wrote a scathing attack on Mantic's policy of basing Artillery on trifling bases a week or so ago, and my view on the topic has only grown more strident. Mantic can be sure that an angry 'Letter to the Editor' is being formulated as you read this. The so-called boffins at Mantic HQ will blister with shame when they read it, but it can't be helped; they brought it on themselves.

The more I think on it, the more apoplectic I become. I sit staring gloomily into the dying embers of the fire, a vintage cognac spoiling in my idle hand, swirled only occasionally by a fierce convulsion of fury that engulfs me when I think of the base sizes, and a cold disquiet settles on me... 50mm indeed! How hulking weapons of an epic fantasy setting are meant to be represented on 50mm square bases is anyone's guess. A random spasm over the '5' and '0' keys, driven by a force of madness that knows no bounds is the only reasonable conclusion. It is what it is. And what it is is a level of foolishness that could drive a grown man to the edge of his sanity, but I digress.

After piecing together the monumental bombard from Perry Miniatures, I managed to put together two smaller engines (picked to fit the minuscule bases Kings of War demands for such things). Both of these are from the War of the Roses range of Artillery, and are breach loading field guns.

As always with Perry Miniatures, the models are well cast and hold excellent detail. They went together quickly and without much trouble. I am a big fan of this company!

Yes, yes. I glued everything down before undercoating and painting, again. I blame the base sizes personally, the topic is chewing away at my sanity like a gerbil on a wafer. Nonetheless, they are excellent models. The top two images are of the single arc breach loading field piece. The final two images are of the double arc breach loading field piece. I am very pleased with how they came out!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Celtic Holocaust...

In a stated growl, with sentences and determinations paced dramatically for effect, Dan Carlin, of the Hardcore Histories podcast, bites off every word and phrase.

I am a fan of the Hardcore Histories podcast, the menagerie of topics covered has been a fascinating trawl through captivating stories from history. Dan Carlin does a wonderful job of executing, his points well stated, thoughtful and poised for effect.

The latest episode is an epic, over 6 hours in length it delves into the story of the Roman conquest of Gaul. The history is fascinating, the delivery striking, the discussion thought provoking.

I'd strongly recommend anyone who is a fan of history subscribe to this podcast, and this latest episode had me by the throat. Not simply because I am a fan of the period and story covered; Caesar's conquest of Gaul is one of the great tales of generalship from history. But also because it made me think of the conquest of Gaul in a different context. It drew comparisons to the conquests of other peoples. It asked if the phrase, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" had ended with death, but not just death: with dissolution. A death so complete and far reaching that whatever spirit had urged the words was broken by it.

Carlin asked, what would we sacrifice ourselves for? Then deepened the question by asking what would we sacrifice? What are the things we would die to protect? Our families? Our homes? Our goods? Our liberty? But deeper - what of those would we watch burn in the fires of conflict for another? Would we sacrifice our families for liberty? Our children? It is a question that made me think, not just about the Celts of Gaul facing an implacable and feared general, but about the refugee families and children in my classroom. These are people, here in my class, whose families have stood at the crossroads, be it Damascus or Mosul, and faced the question: what would we sacrifice? I cannot imagine.

The history itself, of the Roman capabilities, force projection and organisation, the Celtic story of defiance in the face of a foe unrelenting and well organised, is thrilling. Carlin does an excellent job of painting the scene and asking questions that have you examining the conflict from multiple sides. I thoroughly recommend it.

The Ludovisi Gaul

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Bombardment of Impracticality!

Continuing in the trend of building artillery pieces for Kings of War which, in game terms, are hugely impractical, but which, in visual terms, are absolutely sublime, this week I put together a Bombard...

The problem with Kings of War as I see it, is that despite the nice mechanics, quick play and enjoyable game experience, they have vastly underestimated the base sizes for artillery pieces. In the Kings of War rules book they declare blithely that so-called war engines and monsters should be based on 50mm squares. Bah! Obscene! The rules at this point (the second page of the rules book), are a willful desecration of all that is good in the world. Now, it does, and I say this grudgingly, improve. But that 50mm square business is like an ice-cold shard of tungsten lodged in the eye. One can't just ignore it. One can't see around it. In order to sate the insanity of this rule one needs to start looking at 6mm scale artillery. I can only think that the rules designer, one Mr Cavatore, had a moment of madness and that the thought, later, of rewriting it would force him to look that madness in the eye again and perhaps succumb, and he just couldn't do it. I can, perhaps, forgive him that.

However, I won't pretend for a moment it's ok, people have been flogged for less, but I don't intend to petition Mantic on the subject at this stage, and continuing in this vein will see us on to a blog post of unprecedented length, so... Leaving aside the madness-induced, Necronomicon-inspired, cavalier attitude toward artillery base sizes for just a moment...

Last time we touched on the subject of Artillery and Kings of War I was writing about assembling the hugely impractical but monumentally impressive Trebuchet, from Gripping Beast. This time around the artillery piece in question also required a special base, though not quite so large, and is also impractical. It is the War of the Roses era Bombard, from Perry Miniatures.

It arrived in a rather small box, and my immediate reaction was, 'What ho? The Perrys seem to have contrived to paint me a fool! I thought this bombard was impressively impractical in size!' Despite, however, the diminutive nature of the box, and the number of exclamation marks in my reaction, I turned out to have underestimated the Perrys.

Bombard, replete with crew and mantlet. No, I shouldn't have glued it all down, but my impetuosity got the better of me and once the cap was off the glue there was no turning back.

All the figures are 28mm scale, and the base is something like 60 x 210 mm. Tis a thing to be feared...

The mantlet was so agonizing to put together (it kept collapsing around me), that it very nearly suffered a Terrible Fate. I endured, and with a dozen random items to prop it in place, so did the mantlet... 

The figure at the back is simply admiring the vast worth of such an impressive instigator of impairment.

Trebuchet, bombard and single 28mm scale crossbowman for comparison.

It is a fine model, impractical yes, but a good looking piece of kit for all that. It was a clean cast and easy enough to put together, though I did scratch my head a few times to work out where all the bracing pieces went. The manlet was the only thing that caused me grief, but endurance, pure will-power and a bottle of absinthe later and it's done, the grief forgotten. Next time I'll endeavor to write about the few artillery pieces I did buy that actually fit on the insanely tiny bases demanded by the brilliant, but mad, Mr Cavatore.