2020-11-28

16. All about the bases...

Bases. Doesn’t Seem like a very interesting theme, but there are a lot of different options, which can be pretty confusing for a beginner (like me). And although I’m reading/watching (way too) many blogs and channels about wargaming, I didn’t find a cover-all source of it. I will try my best, to fill this gap. Because its important! Because if you want uniform armies, one very important point to decide at the very beginning is, what base do you want to use. Because an army on different base types looks very-very disappointing (in my opinion)… Let’s start with the main parameters!

Multi or single?

  • Multi base: that means, that a base is filled with more figures, a complete unit for example. There are many games, which use this type. Advantage is here, the option to make nicer scenic on the bases (more space), and its easier to handle them as single miniatures. In smaller than 28mm scale its mainly the only option.
  • Single base: 1 man = 1 base. You can use a single based miniatures as a unit, but you can’t use a multi based unit as single figures. So the choice for me it’s pretty obvious… (in 28mm scale at least)

From now on, everything applies for 28mm (32-35-40, as GW is pumping up the miniature size…).

Ground layout?

  • Square: easier to stack in closed units, so its used for big battle games.

  • Round: former mainly used in skirmish games, but nowdays everywhere. If you want to use your minis in different game types, I would strongly recommend to use this type, because single figures on square bases can be frustrating to use in a skirmish game (limited space, no orientation, harder to circle). Movement trays (see later) can eliminate every disadvantage in bigger battles, and there is also an advantage by closed units: you can turn them as you need, so there is less problem with intersecting axes… So again, for me pretty obvious what to use.

Size?

  • That’s mainly a question of the miniature size, and the game system. For example Oathmark rules use 25mm base for man sized miniatures, GW mainly 32mm. But a monster, a machine or mounted troops have different sizes.

Slotted or not?

  • Slot is only needed, if you use heavy, metal figures, because slotted fit is a very secure fixing. With plastic figures, the slot is only a disturbing detail (you have to fill it). But if you have mixed figures, and you want an uniform look…

Form?

  • Flat: flat. What else to say? They are flat on both sizes, and approx. 1,5mm thick (at least by Renedra). This is the cheapest option (many manufacturers include them in their boxes), but there are some disadvantages. Because of the thickness, is a bit more work to mount a strong magnet in it (see later), on bumpy terrain the can be waggly (because the contact point can be in the middle, not only on the edge), and because of the thickness there is no slot.

  • With rounded lip: Thick base with rounded edges. Honestly, I don’t like the look of them, and I cant find any advantage against the next type…

  • With chamfered edge (aka GW-style): a thicker base, where the bottom is hollow. There is place for strong magnets there, they have a more stable stand on uneven surface (contact only on the edge), and they can be slotted. As I know, GW includes this type in their boxes, but for other miniatures they need to be purchased separately.

Material?

  • MDF: medium-density fiberboard, a really cheap option, but they are flat, and plastic glue doesn’t work on them.

  • Acrylic: they are transparent, so no need for basing, and they do not hide the terrain below. But they are not really cheap, only flat, and I personally don’t like the glimmering look.

  • Resin: pretty expensive, but You can find beautiful, textured ones.

  • Steel: simple and cheap solution to use a flat washer. It’s like MDF, but if You can use magnetized bases with them (watch out, stainless steel washer are often non-magnetic), and it’s a bit more stable because of the lower center of gravity.

  • Hard plastic: cheap, plastic glue works, there are also textured ones, and by far the widest variety in every aspect.

Getting too long, let’s have a break.

2020-11-19

15. Siege of Oathmark

This will be a special post, because here will be nothing about miniatures or introduction of rules. This will be fiction of rules.

I read on Bloodbeards blog an idea: siege setting in Oathmark. I find this great, I would love it (I was always amazed by the painting: Siege of Acre)! So I started to think about possibilities, how this could be implemented in the rules. I don't know if any other fantasy rank-and-flank system has any special rules for siege (are there any?), so the following will be my personal, one man brainstorming about it (I try to write it systematic, but I can’t guarantee the solid lucidity).

The basic of siege is the unsymmetrical layout of the sides (its relatively hard to imagine a castle against castle combat, only Mortal Engines could do it). So the biggest issue to solve here is the balance. I think, there are two possible ways:

  1. Make fixed scenarios with pre-built terrain/castle features, where the point values (and other features like turn limit or reinforcements) of the armies are adapted.
  2. Give the castle features (walls, towers, gates, moats) and of course the siege engines point values, to be recruited as regular units. There are also rules needed for the castle building, not to have full tower, gate-less castles with triple moat...

Both of these options need of course careful balancing of the point values. This is less effort with the fixed scenario, but need to be made for every single on of it (because who would be satisfied with only one siege setting?). Although with the recruitable walls would it be more work, but it also would open up the game for self-made sieges. I would clearly prefer the latter, but I’m not a game designer or game tester, nor a financier of such a project.

Another, (but maybe a little) less critical question is the basic process of the siege. This problem contains a lot of detail questions too:

  • Walls:
    • Height: a range of 2-3-4 inches would be enough. Lower is only a fence (like in Battlesworn), higher would need an insane amount of terrain building.
    • Material: wood (but only until limited height) and stone would be enough I think. The difference could be in the durability, and maybe fire resistance (if fire resistance would be included).
    • Width and depth: the basic width should be 5 inches, like the normal unit width, but the depth? 4 inches would be clearly too much... But how many rows of defenders should fit there? Maybe maximal 1 on the wooden walls, and maximal 2 on the stone walls? Should monsters fit on the wall?
    • What bonus should be given by the walls? Maybe like the rank bonus, depending on height of the walls (2 inches is +1, 3/+2, 4/+3)? That could compensate the loss of ranks, because of the depth. Maybe also a bonus for range? Maybe a handicap too? With a minimal firing range: not able to shoot at close units, for example with a wall height of 3 inches, 3 inches from the walls are protected? But without this handicap with machicolation?
    • Damage and durability of walls, gates and other parts if the castle?
    • What happens with damaged walls? Do they crush immediately, or they will be climbable objects?
    • How could damage/repair engineers different parts of the castle?
  • Gates:
    • Material: wood, iron reinforced wood, iron grid, full iron (I know, but its a fantasy game...)? Here again could be the durability and the fire resistance the difference.
    • Opening the gates for a counter attack?
    • Falling traps in the gatehouse? Would be fun!
  • Moat:
    • Width: again 2-3-4 inches seems like a good range. How to bridge it? The attacking engineers must have a bad day...
    • Whats in it: honestly, I don’t know what should be a difference between water, and for example spikes… Maybe it would be too much to differentiate it.
  • Towers:
    • Height: I think max 2 inches higher than the walls would be enough. But this should definitely give a bonus (+1, like rank the bonus?) to the ranged troops, and maybe 360 degrees of firing arch instead of the (more or less) 45 of normal battle.
    • Everything else, as by the walls
  • Combinations: 1 gate should be a must... But how many towers? 1 for every 2 sections of walls? Should the rules handle more rows of walls (that would be a little too much I think)?
  • Active defensive works: Falling rocks? Boiling water? Or some greek fire (which wouldn’t be a great idea at a wooden fort…)?

And lets get to the siege weapons!

  • How to handle ladders? Speed, climbing speed, push-back from walls?
  • How do siege towers work? Speed, height, material, durability, how many attackers in it (1 unit in smaller ones, more units in bigger ones)? Should it compensate the bonus of wall heights? Should it simple work, like a moving wooden tower?
  • How does a ram damage the gate? Durability, wall damage, gate damage? Maybe in roofed, and an open top version also?
  • How do the artillery damage the castle? How to hit, damage on different parts? Maybe use different ammunition? Rocks, greek fire, cut off heads (penalty on morale), infected bodies (some illness, like the poison breath)?
  • Should there be movable, wooden palisades?
  • How to handle monsters as siege weapons? I want to see ogres, smashing gates to splinters, and giants climb over walls!

And because it’s a fantasy setting, don’t forget the magic! I’m afraid, my imagination is insufficient for inventing really fun new siege spells... But this part of game design is one of the biggest strengths of Joseph A. McCullough, so I wouldn’t worry: we would get fantastic magic options!

A lot of details... This could make the game difficult to use. So make them as easy as possible, like the boat rules in Battlesworn (the first Oathmark supplement)? Honestly, I love the simplicity of rules there, but I think it would take the essence out of the siege… So let it be a bit complicated!

Anyway, I hope that sometimes Joseph A. McCullough and Osprey will fill this gap on the tabletop market, and we will see some kind of siege-rules for Oathmark!

2020-11-15

14. Kingdom building in Oathmark

So last time I wrote about the races, but there is one more point, what should be clarified before introducing our armies: kingdom building. The different races have some things common, but they are still different enough, not to be just a skin on the general unit types. But because of that, you have to choose. You can’t decide yourself? I have good news! You don’t have to choose only one, you can collect them all (like pokemons …)! In Oathmark you don’t have a race, but a kingdom, and your kingdom can contain many different races (if you will). I don’t know how you feel about this, but to build an individual mixed army, with no racial limits is great! And with this rule there are immediately and simultaneously much less issues with balance. There cant be any complains about one race is being stronger than the other, because if you think, for example, that the lack of cavalry is a big handicap for dwarves, just buy human, elven, or even goblin cavalry in your army. Genius!
So you have a kingdom, with empty areas, and you have to fill these with different territories: cities, forests, mountains, etc. Every territory unlocks one or more different troops types, that you can hire for you army. For example the human city unlocks the most basic human troops an characters, on plains you can hire human cavalry, in dark forests giant spiders, and so on. Here is a thing that should be mentioned. Orc and goblins are handled as one race in the rulebook, but they’re still a bit separated: they have own cities. So there is a goblin city, and an orc city, and you cant hire goblin troops from an orc city and vice versa.
There are only a few reasonable restrictions for building a kingdom:
  • there can be only one capital, and a king can only come from the capital, so you can’t have more kings (remember, you have one kingdom)
  • there are limited number of areas, but I think there is enough
  • there are limitations, depending on the distance to the capital, so you cant build a dragons lair near to your capital, but you can build a city anywhere
The last point sounds difficult, but believe me, it’s not! You can download the kingdom building sheet from the homepage of Osprey Publishing, which makes everything much easier to understand.
You can use this system from the view of creating your wish-kingdom, but the logic can be reversed. If you already own miniatures or complete armies from other fantasy games, you 
(because you can use any figures) don’t have to start over, you can use them in this game. Just find out which of your existing units fits which Oathmark unit type, and create a kingdom so, that you can hire them. You have an army from a race, which isn’t included in Oathmark? Also not a problem, just find out which race is the most similar to your army, and use them according to their rules. For example, because the dwarfs have no cavalry, and the elves have no cheap troops, I bought some fauns and centaurs (from RGD Gaming / Wargames Atlantic), and they can be hired as “goblin” mercenaries.


Furthermore, my son, who has the goblins in our family, would like to have orc heavy infantry, but there aren’t any in the official range yet. But he loves gnolls and there is a very nice plastic box from them for Frostgrave, why not use them as orcs?

Or another example, I have a beautiful werecrocodile (from Reaper Miniatures), why not use him (Or her? I’m not a reptile expert) as a troll? You are free to use and mix anything you want, I love it!


Moreover, as mentioned in the introduction of Oathmark, there can be not only battles between two armies, but also war between kingdoms. And that means an instant campaign system…
Still not convinced? Joseph A. McCullough, the designer of Oathmark, had nothing against houserules in Frostgrave, so I think, he will act here the same. I already made some home brew rules, units, monsters, tough their not playtested yet. May occur that they will never be, but it’s fun for me to make these things. Maybe, someday you can read about them on this blog…

2020-11-11

13. Races in Oathmark

Before I introduce our family Oathmark armies, let’s get a closer look into the races of the game. 

As mentioned before, there are 4 from them (at least until the release of Oathbreakers): dwarf, human, elf and greenskins (orcs and goblins, mostly treated as one race). Every race has his own characteristics:
  • Dwarves have the best defense values in the game, they are the second most disciplined (so activation and moral tests shouldn’t be a big issue for them), but are the second most expensive, the slowest (every other races shares the same speed), and the only race, which has no cavalry units (and therefor no mounts for the characters). Another important, but not so obvious thing, that they (somehow, maybe because of lack of the mounted characters) have the cheapest wizards (even cheaper then their goblin colleagues)! Their magic is mostly built on defensive spells, and are relatively easy to cast. They don’t really have any special troops (militia is basically cheap infantry, and ranger style troops has everybody except the greenskins), I really miss a very tough, heavily armored infantry here… And berzerkers! (Maybe in a following supplement? Or something home brew?) Therefor the preferred play style for them is fortify a place on the table, shoot and cast as long as the enemy doesn’t come closer, and then crumble them in hand to hand combat with the tough infantry. Not the most dynamic but a pretty easy to follow tactics.

  • Elves have the best attack values, the best discipline, but they are the most expensive ones too (an elf costs as much as two goblins). Besides that general points, they have the best archers (they don’t have to shoot at the closest enemy, as everybody else, and they range is also a bit higher), more units, who can move easily over rough terrain, light (and pretty fragile) mounted archers and a very good armored cavalry, the most expensive normal unit (so no character, artillery or monster) in the game. There is also an interesting, highly mobile war dog unit. (But how can war dogs be stronger then the horse sized giant wolves? Maybe magic?) But they lack of the usual, indirect firing warmachines of the other races. Their spells are the hardest ones to cast, but if they succeed, they can help a lot. If the enemy has no strong spellcasters, or artillery, the elven army has mostly only to wait for the enemy to come in range of their devastating arrows. But because of they high attack values, they are also pretty good at assaulting the enemy. But then you have to be careful at the flanks, because a charge on the side or in the back is deadly, and every enemy will have more troops, more units, therefor more opportunity to outmaneuver the elves.

  • Orcs and goblins are two races, with different properties, but they are more or less one faction in the game. Goblins are the cheapest troopers, they have charge bonus, but they have the weakest attack and activation in the game. They have very cheap slave units to tie up enemy troops, and they have very cheap (equals an elven infantryman) light cavalry, an even cheaper giant wolf pack, and the most armored missile cavalry. Orcs have very similar attributes as humans (next point), with worst activation, but bonus on a charge. Goblins have no heavy troopers, orcs have no cavalry, so they can (and has to) complete each other. They are good in offensive magic, and have some spells, that can equal the activation disadvantage. And don’t forget a small thing: orc spellcasters are the only ones, who have armor values like their soldiers. The tactics here is attack, assault, charge with everything, and overwhelm the enemy with numbers. Slaves can shield the more valuable troops, light cavalry can threaten the flanks, and harass the enemy troops. But careful! You can never be sure, that you can make your planned moves, and spreading panic on the battlefield can be tragic because of the low activation.

  • Humans are the last race (yet), and after the characterization of the other races, there is not much to say… They are the average in every aspect (as expected). The only thing where they really stand out, is the cavalry. They have light missile cavalry (without armor, so they are really vulnerable, must avoid close combat), “normal” cavalry, and devastating heavy cavalry with the hardest armor (not counting the monsters) of the game. So their tactical options are the widest, but because of their average values, they must adapt. The human magic supports that pretty well by increasing the own, and decreasing the enemies mobility, strengthen the initiative (very good for the cavalry). And another tactical advice: stomp the enemy in the ground with cavalry charges!

I bit more about the unit types, that every race have common: soldiers (basic troops with hand weapon, shield and light armor), spearman/dwarf/elf/goblin/orc (the same as before, but with better defense against charging enemy), archers (in light armor, and the ability to shoot over close friendly units), warriors (heavier armored but slower soldiers), linebreakers (heavily armored with two handed weapons), rangers (unarmored archers, who are able to move easily on rough terrain, but orcs/goblins somehow forgot to train such troops).
Don’t forget the characters and the war machines. Every race has them, they can be leaders (support activation), champions (elite fighters), a mix of the previous two, and spellcasters. Every character has the properties of their race, for example dwarven characters has a high defense value. Artillery is a hard hitting, long ranged, indirect firing (no need for line of sight) unit type, who is more effective against large units (caution goblins!), but need protection against every form of attack (close combat, missile attack and attack spells are all very dangerous). Elves are the only race without the usual catapults, but they have a ballista instead.
Oh yes, there is common magic as well… And the monsters! Every race has monsters (there are even neutral ones), but they are worth an own post (maybe even more)!

2020-11-06

12. Oathmark elf cavalry

I didn’t show our family Oathmark armies here so far (this will come later), but I mentioned, that my wife chosen the elves (that pointy-eared…). She mostly has archers (because they are by far the best archers in the game), which limits the tactical options a lot. This needed to be fixed! Any other infantry type would only make the archers harder to reach, wouldn’t really change the overall tactic of the army. So something else was needed. I think that the cavalry can be a big game changer in this, so lets go for it.

Elven cavalry… How to get them? First try is looking at the Oathmark range of Northstar. They constantly releasing new sets, but there isn’t any elf cavalry yet. Who is making elven cavalry? Lets look at the 9th age Miniature Library, which is always a very good starting point if you are searching for sources. There are a lot of possibilities, but unfortunately they are too expensive, and we are on a budget…

What to make, if nobody produces the kind of miniatures, what you are looking for? Coversion! Yeah, I love it! That means, that you have to get some miniatures, which at least partially fit your expectations, then mix and modify them. In the case of the elven cavalry, I got the kiss from the muse, as I was looking at the Gripping Beast plastic range: horses with full scale armor (Goth Elite Cavalry)! How awesome looking would be a charge of them in bright sunlight, as scales would be sparkling from light! And I think its also fits (my imaginary) elven attitude, to protect not only the rider, but also the horse.



So the horses are perfect, but the riders need some modification. I think that the bodies with chainmail are pretty okay to be elves (altough the upper body seems to be pretty short), but the weapons and the heads are far away. Changing the heads is not a big deal, I took helmeted heads from the Oathmark Elf Light Infantry box, and fitted them to the body (with just a little carving). And yes, they got also decorative feathers. The shield is also not a big deal, I just glued the elven shields instead of the original ones (they won’t look like the weapon holding hands, but they are mostly covered by the shield). Let´s get to the weapons!




My wife wanted to have 5 riders with swords and another 5 with lances, and I didn’t oppose to her. The swords were easy, I just cut off the original hands where the chainmail ended, shortened the elven, sword holding hands properly and glued them together, ready:



Half of the riders are already ready, but the most complicated part is still ahead: the lances. The original box has lance holding hands, but I didn’t like them, I wanted to use hands from the elven box. Unfortunately these hands don’t hold lances, so the first step is cutting away the swords and drill a hole in them (1,5mm, and watch your fingers). Then I needed bare lances, so I cut away the hands from them. There was another problem: the lances are too simple for elves… I had to modify them too. I cut the point of the lances, and glued the cut-away swords on them. The contact surface is very small, no chance for superglue, but plastic cement molds the two surfaces and creates a strong bond between them. Be careful, it takes time to harden, and the lances should be straight and in line (important to have straight cuts on both parts)! The result is a long and elegant killing device, which fits for the elves. I fitted the drilled hands to the body the same as the sword holding ones, and I glued the pretty lances in, and the lancers were also ready:



As you can see, I also made two banner bearers (so my wife can use two separate units of five), one with a shield another one with a (bent) horn from Perry Miniatures English Army 1415-29 box (because I only had 9 shields left for the 10 riders).

The box contains 12 riders, but I used only 10 of them (because Oathmark uses 5 figure wide units). So there are two miniatures left. What to make with them? Characters, of course! I made a leader (champion, captain, general, prince, king, whatever), which was easy: fitted a head, and two arms on the original body, as written before.

The second one had to be a mounted wizard. That’s hard, because wizards don’t have armor so chainmail had to be hidden. I filled up the surface with sculpting putty (I use Milliput, but I think other products will also do the job), but honestly, I don’t know how it will look after painting… Then I took a hooded head from the elven sprue, two hands from the Frostgrave Wizards sprue, and fitted them (I will probably modify the staff afterwards, I don’t like that miniature, retro-future rocket on the top). The last step was to make a cloak. Sculpting putty again, but I won’t describe what I´ve done with it. As you can see I really suck in this… If you want to sculpt cloaks, search for tutorials, and don’t take my work as a reference. I will try to fix everything with painting. Sure. Not gonna work, I already know, but I will try my best to reduce the losses. The results here:




Next time? I don’t know, let it be a surprise!