Friday, July 9, 2010

Battle Report - Dwarves vs Dragon!

Well, it was my turn to pick the type of battle. I went for a nighttime one, which makes bows have a tiny range.
You start off with half your army near the centre of the table, the other half at the edge.
We also decided to play a different end of game rule.
You play until one side is broken, from then on an escalating chance of game over. A 6 on the turn a side is broken ends the game. A 5 or 6 the turn after that, 4, 5 or 6 the turn after that etc.

My brother chose the points - 600.

Dwarves before the match:

600 points huh. He might choose his Mumak at 600 points, though generally the Mumak works better with a larger supporting army. Who knows! In any case, it's time to let the dwarves have a go. Although their stumpy legs mean that half of the army won't even be in combat until turn 4 or so =(

I've gone with two squads:
Etako's Vault Warden team and Brynmor's rag-tag bunch of tough guys. Each team will have a banner. I plan on putting the Vault Wardens up near the front, even with a Mumak, they should help a lot, with some Khazad Guard to charge in at it. Each team will have 3 Khazad Guard and 3 Iron Guard also. The remaining forces are my other 8 shielded dwarves and a couple of two-handed dwarven warriors.

Harad before the match:

Today’s battle was a fight until break, with increasing chance of game over after a force breaks. At night, arrows had less range, but increased damage. I was tempted to put lots of Harad archers and the Betrayer, so there was twice the chance of poison re-rolls, in addition to greater chance of hitting, but I ended up going for something quite different.

A couple times my brother has mentioned how it would be cool to have a monster battle, and even to throw in a dragon (since I have a toy dragon model that came with the Heroscape game). I decided to try out the dragon today, with fiery breath and toughened hide. It’s not the official model, or on an official sized base, but we’re just playing for fun, so I thought I’d see what it was like.

My plan is to throw the Watchers of Karna and Hasharin, with the Dragon, and try to wipe out as many of his guys as quickly as possible, while my spearmen march up from the back and take on anyone straying from the fight.

The set-up:

Dwarves are known for tunneling ever deeper, ever further, looking for precious stones and, of course, mithril. Deep under the dry, windswept deserts of the South, Etako and Brynmor lead a group of dwarves towards a large cavern, a dullish glow seems to emanate from it and they are intrigued.

Etako leads a group forward, Vault Wardens behind their massive shields, ready for any horde of foul goblins. Brynmor hangs back to cover the tunnel entrance, wary of cave trolls.

The Serpent Horde are not named for the poisonous desert snakes, as many have thought throughout the ages, but for a dragon! The dwarves have mined too closely to the hoard of precious jewels, and the dragon is not happy. When dragons get unhappy, everybody nearby gets unhappy! Plundering the desert kingdoms and ruining their cities, the Great Serpent commands fear and respect from the desert peoples. In the middle of a gift-giving ceremony to appease the beast, the Hasharin finds himself turning to see infidel dwarves in the presence of the Dragon!

Etako finds himself facing the Hasharin and a bloodthirsty gang of Watchers of Karna, black robes almost invisible in the darkness. With a dragon looming on the nearby hill, his only chance is to charge into the men, hoping that the dragon won't risk burning them with its dangerous firebreath.

Brynmor emerges from the far end of the table and waves his men forward, knowing that it's going to be a long slog, but eager to join the battle.

Turn 1: Priority Harad.

The black-clad men swarm forward, and the dwarves counter-attack, trying to bring as many of their number to bear as they can. The banner-bearer calls out for them to be strong and courageous, a difficult task with the bulk of the dragon visible by the flames of the lava pits.

The two dwarves on the flank are protected by heavy shields, though nothing compared to the Vault shields. The furthest is charged by a Watcher, who is incensed with rage at the desecrating dwarf. The dwarf sets himself solidly and shields, focusing all his skill on blocking the darting blades... in vain. The Watcher twirls and whirls and manages to slide a blade sideways into the neck of the dwarf, slashing through the jugular and silencing him forever.

The Hasharin and another Watcher pounce on another of the flanking dwarves, he too focuses on defence, but there is no defence against the Hasharin and his deadly attacks, numerous puncture wounds blossom blood in the weak points of his armour as the dwarf sinks to the ground, dead before his head hits the cavern floor.

Two Vault Warden teams tackle another watcher, the massive shields box the Watcher in and the dwarves heave mightily to actually pin the evil man between them while the spears thrust into the black fabric, staining it dark red before the shields pull back and allow the corpse to fall to the ground.

Another Vault Warden team presses home the advantage against a spearman, who was in the process of supporting the watcher before the massive shield loomed to his right. Stabbing past the shield at the spear-wielding dwarf, he almost wounds the stocky warrior, but the shield dwarf rests the shield on his shoulder and swings his axe around, taking the Harad warrior in the back of the knee and bringing him to the ground, where the speardwarf can finish him off with a quick thrust to the chest.

On the other side of a large rock pillar, Etako leads his personal bodyguard in an assault of more Watchers. An Iron Guard hurls an axe and then bodyslams into a Watcher, while Etako leaps onto him, pulls back his fist and send the Ironfist Gauntlet smashing into the man's head, sending ***censored for excessive violence*** and causing another human fatality.

A Vault Warden fends off a Watcher of Karna, while a Khazad tries to inflict a wound with a massive swing of his two handed axe. The Watcher laughs heartily, enjoying the sport, and darts back, avoiding the axe with ease. 

The Watcher next to him presses home an attack against another Khazad Guard, who loses ground, but obtains no serious injury, every dagger thrust seems to deflect from his well-crafted armour.

Finally, on the far flank two Iron Guards and a Khazad Guard team up against a spearman, who never stood a chance against the three well-trained dwarves. Between the three of them they have well over a century of combat experience and dispatch the human quickly and easily, kicking the body into the nearby lava to remove the barrier to their next target.

Turn 2: Priority Harad.

The Humans, fleeter of foot than the stocky dwarves, retreat! Just as the dwarves are about to charge forward at them in a standard wall formation Etako yells out: "Baruk 'ware the dragon fire!"

For looming on the hill above them is the Serpent of Harad, inhaling with the sound of an approaching wind. The dwarves scatter as much as they are able, given that the Hasharin would love to find them by themselves. The quandary - scatter to avoid dragonfire or stay together to avoid the assassin's blade?

A fireball erupts from the mouth of the great beast and the dwarves in its path throw themselves to the ground. All but the banner bearer, who stands tall and calls them to bravery - before catching the full impact of the firey blaze. He is vaporised almost instantly, charred ash of the standard fluttering to the ground like black snow.

A measure of the fire splashes out into the back of a Vault Warden spearwielder, he is not so fortunate as the banner bearer and dies screaming horribly as the fire eats like acid through the armour on his back and into his body.

Screaming with rage and fury, Vault Warden teams trap Watchers up against the lava and push forward solidly, forcing the black clad men into the molten lake and cursing them loudly as their bodies sink, burning horribly all the while. The Watchers are stoic and die without giving the dwarves the pleasure of hearing their torment - silent to the end, though in terrible pain, burning alive from the feet up.

Turn 3: Priority Dwarves.

Brynmor leads his group ever forward, he can see the other group of Haradrim and calls loudly to them, trying to distract them away from Etako's band. His insults are exceptionally well chosen, but the sound carries all too easily to Serpent ears...

The mighty beast turns atop the hill, sees a close-packed line of dwarves, inhales deeply and sends a burning gout of flame at the dwarven column. Four dwarves are instantly incinerated, much to the horror of Brynmor and followers. The dragon-fear spreads quickly and the Haradrim laugh loudly and evilly at the fallen dwarves.

Still spread out, due to the fear of dragon-fire, the dwarves find that they were, indeed, damned if they did and damned if they didn't. The Hasharin and a watcher leap at a lone dwarf, who, with one watchful eye on the Serpent above, is distracted. He still fends off the first wave of attacks, but the sudden glare of fire and shocked calls from Brynmor's band causes him to flinch enough for the two men to dance past his defence and thrust poisoned daggers through the holes in his mask. The blades penetrate deeply and the dwarf dies quickly. (The Hasharin's ability to re-roll if he doesn't cause a wound is amazing, he uses it multiple times in this battle - ensuring that many noble dwarves die just after thinking they were safe!)

A cavalryman charges full-tilt at another dwarf, the heavy armour a hindrance against the horse as he is kicked to the ground and trampled beneath the hooves of the stallion. A Watcher then darts in and with several deft sword thrusts, ensures that the dwarf will never rise again.

Another cavalryman is brave, but foolhardy, and charges at a line of Wardens. He urges his horse to leap the solid metal obstacle, but at the last second it balks and skids to a halt against the iron and mithril shields. The spears lance forward from behind the wall of metal and bring the man, cursing, to the ground. His swearing fades quickly as blood gurgles in his throat from numerous puncture wounds.

Turn 4 - Priority Haradrim.

Brynmor shouts a command and the well-trained dwarves re-organise from a row into a column, just out of range of the evil dragon's fire breath. The Hasharin backs off from an encroaching wall of shields.

A Watcher and a cavalry man are left behind in the Hasharin's retreat. Three Iron Guards and a Khazad Guard descend on the men, yelling loudly and attacking swiftly. The axes of the dwarves are sharp, and revenge is swift as they attack without flair or style, just quickly and efficiently bringing the human lives to an end.

Turn 5 - Priority Dwarves.

The dwarves press their assault on the Hasharin, surrounding him in a wall of shields. Anybody too far from the combat spreads out as the Dragon looms on the hill again. Etako shouts out to get closer to the enemy, knowing that the great beast won't risk killing the high ranking assassin.

Etako is wrong. The dragon sends another deadly fireball into the midst of the melee. The Vault Warden that it hits is killed instantly, even the mithril-imbued shield is no protection from a direct hit from dragonflame. Etako shields his face with the Ironfist Gauntlet and turns side-on to the blast. His cloak is half disintegrated and his richly embroidered clothes are blackened and burnt, but the mithril armour protects his flesh and his Gauntlet shields his face. (He used all of his might and fate to save the injury!)

The two spearmen are lucky indeed, as the splatters of dragonfire fall around them without causing harm. Another Vault Warden is entirely unfortunate as the flame cascades like liquid fire over his shield, through the narrow eye-slit. He dies screaming as the napalm-like substance eats through his helmet and ***censored due to overload of adjectives about fire***.

The Hasharin, surprised a little, but not entirely by the Serpent's tactics, concentrates all his skills and dodges the droplets of fire splashing off the hapless dwarves as though they were moving in slow motion. He bends, sways and then turns his momentum into an attack against the remaining standing dwarf. The dwarf's shield was raised against the dragon fire and although he feels the heat from it, he survives, only to be forced back by the blows of the Hasharin. Luck is with him as the pools of dragonfire, now cooling on the ground, stop the Hasharin from attacking with full force.

Behind the Hasharin, and back-lit by the inferno consuming the luckless dwarves, a Watcher takes his opportunity and glides past a massive shield, pirouetting past the huge spear and striking swiftly in the back of the Warden's neck, taking out another of the massive shielded warriors this turn.

On Brynmor's side the tide of battle continues raging against the stocky dwarves. Forced into an awkward position due to the worry over dragonbreath, several of the dwarves have been attacked. Indomitable behind their shields, they don't stress too much. Their overconfidence is their ruination.

Also their rolling of more 1s than even Boromir could lay claim to! The dwarves all fell back, shields raised to protect themselves from the flurry of spear attacks. One dwarf manages to keep his feet, three fall to the Serpent Horde's spears. Brynmor, incensed and furious, waves his dwarves forward to avenge their deaths.

Turn 6 - Priority Harad.

The Serpent, growing tired of roasting dwarves at a distance, charges forward towards the one lone Khazad Guard that defends the flank of Etako's diminished force. Axe raised, the dwarf turns to meet the attack.

Although he falls to the Dragon, a day or two from now the Dragon suffers horrible indigestion from swallowing so much metal. Not the best way to get even, sure, but better than nothing. 

Etako leads his remaining troops forward, attacking the Hasharin with fury. Although they use all of the fate, might and sheer determination they have left, in the end the Hasharin falls to dwarven skill. The Ironfist Gauntlet actually knocks the Hasharin back hard enough that he leaves the ground and his black, lifeless body lands head first some distance away.

The last Watcher takes on the last Vault Warden team and another speardwarf, the fighting is furious, the shield trying to diminish the mobility of the black-clad, dual wielding human. In the end, though, the darkness of the cavern benefits the man who finds his cloak snagged on a spear and pinned to the shield! Slipping silently down, however, he shrugs off the garment and lunges underneath the spear, skewering the speardwarf in the lungs and sending him gurgling to the ground.

Brynmor, enraged beyond care by the fatalities of the previous combat, calls a heroic fight and leads a comrade with him into battle, Gjel-grava slamming aside spearthrusts and caving in Haradrim skulls.

The dwarves around him, emboldened by their leader, leap into the fray. Two of the overwhelmed dwarves shield themselves, the Iron Guard and Khazad Guard attack furiously. In the end six spearmen fall beneath the assault, the Haradrim are broken.

Do they retreat? The die is rolled... a 2! The battle rages on...

Turn 7 - Priority Haradrim

Two of the spearmen run from Brynmor's onslaught, those that remain soon wish that they had followed their cowardly comrades. The dwarves show no mercy, overwhelming the last few humans. The Iron Guard viciously attack, hand axes and swords flashing, the Khazad Guard swing their two handers in mighty arcs, ending in bright blood-red sprays. Brynmor's shovel staves in the skull of his opponent and he looks around at the corpses of man and dwarf, blood mingling on the ground.

Etako bravely holds the line against the dragon. It almost decided to leave the battle, but was still hungry for dwarf-flesh. (Failed courage, but used last might to stay in the fight.) The nearby Watcher took the opportunity to disappear into the shadows.

Teeth, claw and tail flashing in the red glow of the lava pits, the dragon knocks all the dwarves back and slays two Iron Guard as easily as though they were unarmoured humans. The dwarven force is now broken. 

The die is cast... it's a 5! The game is over!

The dragon leaves the battlefield. Is it because it's hunger has been sated? Or is it the grim look of the Iron Guard's steely mask? Or something about the positioning of the speardwarf behind it? Only it knows... but it will be back when hungry for more!

Minor Victory for the Dwarves!

Post game Harad:

The dragon was fun! I’m glad I was the ‘evil’ team today, because the dragon could breathe fire on people, even if my own forces would get swept up in the attack, so I was able to attack when dwarves were bunched together. My favourite scene was when the Dragon, atop the hill, was looking down with gaping jaw on a lone dwarf.

Post game Dwarves:

Well, there you have it, last week I surprised my brother with a Balrog, this week he turned the tables and surprised me with a dragon! We decided that the Serpent Horde was named for a dragon instead of whatever the actual reason is =)

What a great game! So close from turn to turn. I'd lose a ton of dwarves, but then the next turn he'd lose a ton of men, back and forth! My favorite moment was the dragon breathing fire on it's own troops to try and get rid of the last Vault Wardens - classic evil!

My man of the match goes to the Watcher of Karna that not only killed multiple dwarves (including a Vault Warden!) but then he just melted into the darkness - I'm sure we'll meet him again!

Another rip-snorting awesomely fun game. Even better, I just got some more cheap Khazad Guard in the mail (e-Bay thank you very much!) so will soon have a 1000 point Dwarf army. I don't know why it's important, but 1000 points is a nice milestone =)

Anyway, as mentioned in the forum posts, I kept an eye on the clock today, the game took about 2 hours, including a spot of lunch in there and all the photography. So I definitely confirm that playing a scenario instead of a "to the death" allows for both a quicker game AND (in my opinion) a more fun one =)

Victory pose - diminished but still raring to go:

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Drums in the Deep - Harad vs Moria Battle Report

Well, as the previous post showed, I've been busy for the last week or so painting up a Balrog in secret - ready to surprise my brother!

We'd picked the scenario last week - Take and Hold. 500 points. That wasn't ideal for a Balrog only army, but what the heck! My initial force before getting the Balrog was going to involve Vault Wardens just swarming over the objective and holding fast to win by sheer indomitableness. But I have a new toy! Must use it!

Moria tactics:

So the plan is, with only a 500 point game, to have the balrog and as many goblins as I can take! You have to have a leader, so I’ve chosen a goblin captain with shield and then added 12 goblins with shields to the mix.
The plan is to kill as many guys as possible with the balrog (duh) and to get the goblins to the objective where they can just stand there and shield to try and stay alive for as long as possible.

My worries are that the balrog won’t enter the game until late (due to the reinforcements rule). Also you win judging by the number of models near the objective, so with so few models that could be a problem. On the plus side, the balrog reduces courage of nearby opponents, so if I can break his force they’ll flee more quickly =)

I’m hoping to be up against the Harad with their lower courage. Boromir and his friends could be tougher. Boromir has might, the Balrog doesn’t. So he could make some ouchies. Then again, last time he played he rolled lots of ones =)

Harad tactics:

I decided not to field the Mumak on this one, as we have a 500 point limit today, and that’s almost all of the points! Instead I’m going in hard with my heroes, followed by the watchers, three raiders, and fourteen infantry. My plan is to keep the Betrayer and archers together where possible, back and away from his forces, while my other units engage the enemy. Using the Betrayer’s enhanced poison arrow ability, I hope to pick off some people with the archers, while casting spells with the Betrayer from a distance.

Whichever side of the objective has the least of his units, is probably where I will try to gather any archers and the Betrayer, and then put the rest of my forces between the objective and his forces. It will likely end up a mass melee in the middle of the map, but I’m hoping the Hasharin and Suladan can work together to stay alive and thin down the enemy to breaking point.

All I need is to have more people near the objective when the game ends to win, so if I can keep the archers and betrayer out of harm’s way, but near the objective, I can move them in if I think there’s a chance that the game could end at the end of the round, to bolster the number of units at the objective.

Anyway, onto the battle!

Deep in the mountains, the Betrayer learns that an ancient gemstone was buried with a dwarven King of old. The gem has the potential to be worked into a powerful talisman and his master desires it. Whispering in evil, sibilant tones into Suladan's ear, the King is bewitched into heading with his retinue into the deeps...

The underworld is full of tunnels and dark spaces that confuse and bewilder even the sharpest minds. As a result the party is scattered, though they still know where they are headed for as they can hear the Betrayer's voice in their heads at all times, driving them onwards. Suddenly the narrow tunnels open up into a large cavern, so big that the glow from the pools of lava does not even reach the ceiling!

They are not alone. Skittering, chittering noises indicate the presence of goblins. There, in the center of the cavern is a tomb, a nearby chest glows with an eerie green light. 

This scenario relies on random rolling to get your troops onto the table. You roll and if you roll badly they don't even get onto the board! Otherwise if you're lucky you get to choose where they come in from. And if you're sort of lucky they get on the board, but at a position chosen by your opponent. 

I had priority so my 6 goblins that rolled well came in one group. Unfortunately my brother rolled well too and, in a great move, though unexpected, brought his troops in behind mine! It's just so normal to automatically deploy on opposite sides of the table that I was totally unprepared! The only caveat is that you're not allowed to charge into combat on your first move.

The Betrayer knows that his master's bidding is more important than any mere goblin infestation and urges Binky straight towards the center of the cavern.

Turn 2 - Priority Haradrim.

The goblins are attacked from behind in short order. They turn and seeing the larger humans there instead of striking back just do all that they can to stay alive, keeping their shields raised at all times and hunkering down to minimise their target profile.

The goblins mainly manage to deflect all of the incoming attacks, though with their total focus on defense they don't have an opportunity to strike back. Against the Hasharin, no amount of skill with a shield can save you, using a mighty leap attack, the Hasharin somersaults over their heads and slashes two goblin throats, spilling green blood with skill, poise and ease.

The Betrayer urges Binky to full speed and is at the objective swiftly. The green gem is quickly obtained from the chest...

As soon as the lid of the chest opens a strange wind seems to blow through the cavern. The goblins all screech in terror, but the Haradrim think that it is their human blades that have scared the greenlings. 

All too soon a red glow fills one end of the cavern and a terrifying roar can be heard, followed by ponderous, heavy footsteps. A miasma of pure terror, at odds even with that emitted by the Betrayer flows across the cavern floor and amidst a cloud of black and sparks of red a terrible sight emerges from a tunnel.

Seeing that this game could suddenly be over far earlier than I thought, I use my precious commander point of might to influence the Balrog's pathetic roll and he enters the board at a point chosen by my brother. Our house rules give you a point of might to be used on any die roll if you win a previous game, 3 points for a major victory, 2 points for a minor victory, 1 point otherwise. The last game was a draw so we each have a point for this game.

The Balrog raises a hand and a fiery, flaming whip flares into existance, flicks out, and wraps around a Harad spearman, his screams are cut short as his body is incinerated into ash with a tug from the Balrog. Bob, the spearman next in line, yells for help!

Amidst the ruins a goblin captain leads three troops into the cavern, drawn by the sounds of fighting and hoping to get some loot!

More goblins emerge from the other side and head towards a Harad bowman.

Turn 3: Priority Goblins.

The besieged goblins run towards the center of the map, hoping that the men won't follow them towards the Balrog. One says to the first one to move "you want us to move closer to that thing?"

They race around a rocky outcrop and find themselves suddenly within sight of Suladan the Serpent King. "You, my friend, are a genius." The goblin says. Suladan charges right at them from one side, the Hasharin, watchers and troops attack from behind.

Suladan's horse rears and smashes through the goblin's shield, trampling the green body into the ground into a gory green mess. The Hasharin spins, slices and dices, disemboweling another goblin. Two watchers and a spearman gang up on another, who manages to block two of the incoming attacks, but dies to a stab in his left side while defending his right. Another watcher and spearman similarly dispatch their opponent.

Suddenly the goblins are close to breaking point (with only 14 models, he only needed to kill 7 and that's 6 down already!)

There is a brief moment of goblin glory as the captain leads his lads forward, swarming over a watcher and overwhelming the human with numerous stabs. The captain leans down over the dead man and takes his long dagger - which was bigger than his own short-sword. The loot is good indeed!

The goblins near the hill all run for it, scampering up the slopes and turning to face the Haradrim, raising their shields defiantly now that they have the height advantage. The human archers let fly, but the goblins hide behind their shields and let the arrows ricochet harmlessly away. One of the goblins manages to fend off the human spear, next to him two spearman gang up on one goblin and between them manage to slip past the wildly defending goblin, stabbing him in the thigh and then spitting him through the chest when he jerks in pain. 

The Betrayer turns towards Bob and points towards the Balrog. In his head Bob hears whispers of how slow and painful his death will be if he doesn't do his duty. Bob turns to face the Balrog, a quick and painful death is probably better than a slow and painful death, though research in this area is obviously hard to come by. Getting the post death surveys completed is the real pain.

The Balrog summons another fiery lash, but Bob dodges away from it. Roaring in fury, the mighty beast summons a massive flaming sword and advances on Bob. The whispers of the Betrayer echoing through his head, promising sweet rewards for success and hideous punishments for failure cause Bob to become a whirling dervish. The Hasharin sees Bob move and decides to hire him for Hasharin training. If he survives.

He does!

In what can only be called "pulling a Boromir", the Balrog is beaten back by Bob. To add insult to injury, the goblin army is broken and at the end of the round the fateful die is rolled...

It's a 1!

The game is over!

Major Victory Harad!

So for all of you out there thinking that sometimes SBG games go for too long, they don't always! And people who say that the Balrog/Mumak/Dragons/Boromir/Aragorn etc. are too tough to win against. Just don't play to the death! This really showed that a scenario can really make for some fun and interesting plays!

Of course, we'd spent more time setting up, getting the game together etc. than playing at this point so we decided to play it out to the death just for fun - but the Major Victory and associated commander points would remain with my brother.

Rest of the game summary:

The goblin captain led his boys on to kill two more spearmen, then saw what was going on, grabbed some more loot and led his men away to argue over who got what.

The goblins on the hill were reduced to one brave goblin that held off for about four turns before running away down a tiny tunnel that was too small for anyone to chase after him, fending off about six Harad as he went.

Suicide Bob ended up finding out about the quick and painful death, but so far we haven't got the completed survey back from him.

From then on it was "stacks on" with the Balrog. The Betrayer cast a few spells, and reduced the courage of the Balrog once, but it managed to resist all other attempts to transfix, sap will etc. The Betrayer eventually left his minions fighting and, laughing in his hissing/coughing fit sort of way, disappeared with the glowing gem.

Suladan and the Hasharin both wounded the Balrog sorely, once the Harad surrounded the mighty creature. (In one combat there were about 36 rolls to wound!) There were enough men so that even when many of them failed their courage rolls (Balrogs are terrifying enemies!) there were usually enough to keep it trapped and taking double strikes.

It took until Turn 17, but in the end the Balrog won out, with three wounds remaining. The hard part turned out to be rolling 6s to win combats, the "curse of Boromir" was well and truly with the Balrog, who only actually won a few combats. Fortunately winning even a few combats makes for a lot of dead humans.

After game Harad:

I was surprised by a massive and deadly opponent in this one! A balrog has been added to my brother’s army! As luck would have it, all I had to do was kill 7 goblins, and make sure I had someone next to the objective, and if the game ended, I would win. It was a quick battle, but the Balrog made for some great photos! We continued on just for fun, after the scenario ended, and his Balrog really slaughtered my remaining Harad forces.

I think my ‘Goblin of the Aftermatch’ award is for a lone goblin who stood atop a hill and fought off tons of Haradrim turn after turn.

My ‘Spearman of the Match’ award is for the lone spearman, who pushed back the Balrog with his roll of 6!

After game Moria:

Woohoo! My Balrog is awesome. Sure, I may have lost. A lot. Totally thrashed actually. But I got to cause some flaming death as well! (When we kept playing after I'd already totally, completely lost.)

Thanks again for my brother's camera and photography - and especially for playing again, I know lots of you don't have good regular combats, so I know I'm lucky.

I guess it is sort of important to try and match your troops to your scenario! Instead of the 50 troops I would normally field in a goblin army, having 14 made for WAY faster turns. This was like "speed SBG", it took longer to roll the dice to see who would come onto the board than it did to play each turn!

If my Balrog had rolled to come onto the board with my initial lot of goblins the game may have turned out completely differently, but that's the way the dice talk sometimes! Part of what makes it a great, fun game in my opinion, where would the fun be if you knew what was going to happen - I have the DVDs for that!

Bob did a fantastic job repelling the mighty Balrog, so he should get lots of credit, but really, my brother just plain out-played me today. Bringing troops in behind my goblins, getting straight to the objective and charging Suladan in to box in my exposed goblins all contributed to a sound thrashing of me.

Of course, now he will know the fear that comes from knowing that your opponent has a monstrous beast. Now instead of me always worried about the Mumak, he'll be worried about a Balrog turning up.

And you just know that some time, some place, that there will be a Clash of the Titans between the Mumak and Balrog. So stay tuned =)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Worse than drums - Games Workshop Balrog Painting Guide

When dwarves hear drums in the deep, believe it or not, they're not actually scared of the drums themselves. Sure the goblins never took music lessons and have all the rhythm of a drunken goat whose left legs are longer than it's right legs trying to play the drums while swinging in a hammock. Nevertheless, it's the heralding of something far, far worse...

What happened to being done painting for a while? Well, it's been a few weeks, but really: e-Bay. Someone was selling an out of production metal balrog, it had been barely started on and I got it for a quarter of the price it would cost me over here (including postage!)

I've never painted anything so daunting before, sure it's bigger than a normal mini, but you don't realise just how much bigger until you paint for an hour and realise you've barely started. And it's not like the game board, because it's got details.

Anyway, here's how I went about the task. I got it in the mail last week (woken up by the delivery guy) and have worked on it pretty much constantly since I want to surprise my brother in our next game.

It took 6 days of 6-8 hours of painting a day. Of course, that's with my usual DVD in the background, interrupted style, but it was still a LOT.

Here are the bits. The torso and head were already glued together by the previous owner. It was a tiny bit askew, but well enough done for me. There were dents on the neck and legs in particular from the vice that it'd been held in while the glue set, but I was reasonably sure they'd be un-noticeable once painted.

With such significant gaps in the model, it was time to greenstuff fill. I don't have sculpting tools, the paperclip you can see was what I ended up using.

Gluing it together was quite a challenge. I used a whole tube of superglue (not the one you see in the picture - but good stuff). The wings were easy, plastic sets quickly. The arms took a while. It was really hard to be patient and there were a few times that I went too eagerly before the glue had set. I also used greenstuff in the torso, attached sausages of greenstuff to the ends of the arms, then smeared it out inside the torso for some extra holding power.

Remember that the weaker points are the top of the arm, not the bottom, so I used two or three layers of glue there, making sure that it was well sealed from the inside out. If I held it in my hands for a few minutes it would set enough for me to put it down, I then used blu-tac to prop it into position and waited for probably 6 hours before moving on.

This is 6-8 hours later. You can see the blu-tac there propping it up still. I've switched bases from the thin one it came with to one of the same radius, but much thicker. It's got a couple of small bits of gravel on it, a skull and ribcage and a dwarven axe (I'm glad I save all the little bits I clip from other conversions!) then it's just some aquarium sand sprinkled over the rest. Oh, and lots and LOTS of glue around the feet. That was it for the day, I then let it set overnight.

Well, originally I didn't let it set for long enough, then it came loose from the base, and then I got grumpy, so then I put it aside overnight after gluing it back on.

Okay, now it's time to greenstuff the other joints, now that the glue has set. I rolled the greenstuff out into really long, thin snakes. I got them as thin as I could and then used the paperclip to shove it into the gaps and carve it, following the lines that were already in the model.

And underneath. I learned a lot during this project. Firstly that I'm not very good at patience and gluing. Secondly that I'm not good with greenstuff. I thought I'd done an okay job, but I didn't really. I'm a bit disappointed with how it worked out. The smallest bumps and ridges show up so much on the final model. I'm sure most people won't notice it, but I do.

So my advice, take some time here and make sure that you really smooth off the edges of any joins. You can see in this picture down in the groinal area in particular I didn't smooth the greenstuff off. It's really noticeable when you start painting. Less is definitely the way to go here.

To paint the balrog I decided to go with what I already knew, lava. If you remember from doing the gaming board it's fairly straight-forward. Prime white, then golden yellow, then blood red, then scorched brown and black. So step one was outside with the spraycan to make it white. I've mounted it on an old salsa jar filled with my medium sized rock gravel. I used a LOT of blutac to make sure it'd stay put. I found it an endless source of amusement to read the salsa lid: 99% fat free. He works out a lot I guess. (It's also just "mild" salsa, so maybe I should dim the flames down a bit.)

The advantage of the metal model is that I like painting the metal minis more, there's just something about the weight and texture or something. The disadvantage is the weight, quite heavy, especially while painting underneath. So lots of blu-tac to hold it to the lid!

Starting with the yellow. I used a big brush for this! This is the first time I realised just what I was getting into. It's a big model! I started hoping that I would actually have enough paint to get through it!

With a yellow balrog I had a momentary panic that my method would suck. So I ducked upstairs and grabbed a skink. As you all know, I don't play Warhammer, but I had some dwarves, skinks and undead just because I think they're cool. Just for the hobby/cool value and some fun, I'd only painted a few of the skinks, so I grabbed an unpainted one.

As you can see, it's a rough job, but I thought it looked cool, so was confident once more about Mr. Balrog.

And then moved on to red. I used the same technique as the lava - a sponge. I cut a bit off an old sponge, dipped it in the red, then dragged and padded across the mini. This left the yellow underneath, with occasional stippling.

It looked horrid. But I just looked at my skink again, breathed deeply, and kept going.

I decided to have a go at the flames first. Why? Well, I've not really done flames before. I started with Skull White along the ridge between back and flames. Then I used a golden yellow/skull white mixture for the next bit further away. I'm not really good at blending and stuff, but I think it came out okay. I also black washed the base. I had to black wash multiple times to try and get all those little bits of white that were showing through.

Here we have more flames done, A bit of orange further up, followed by some more red, then a scorched brown/red mix just on the tips of the flames. Overall I think it looks pretty good. I may re-do the flames at some point, I think they're just a little too orange for my taste. It does change a lot depending on the lighting though. I know that part of why I didn't like them at this stage was just the whole rest of the red balrog kind of washes out the effect or something.

The first of the scorched brown starts going on the scaly bits. I started with three layers. Scorched brown mixed with red, scorched brown, then scorched brown mixed with black. Then I got lazy and just skipped to the last step after realising that it didn't seem to make any difference!

Here you can see the difference between the two sides, even with just a little darkening on the scales it makes the whole effect stand out. Thank goodness.

Here we have some more skin being done. This was done in several layers. Firstly a scorched brown/red mix, then a watered down scorched brown, then a scorched brown/black, followed by a highlighting drybrush of the brown again. Later on I stopped using the scorched brown/red as I found that Dark Flesh was almost the exact same colour and meant I didn't have to mix paints!

I should say at this point also, that I worked in small sections. I get a sore shoulder after a while of painting, driving, playing games etc. so I have to take regular breaks. I think it's also just good practice to get up and move once in a while. So the above picture I did the shoulder and upper arm in one segment, then came back and did the rest of the arm later.

The ridges on the arm were carefully traced out with the darker mix just along the tips of the "V" shapes, leaving the brighter red showing through underneath. Here you can see the torso and head have been browned up a bit. It was interesting, at this stage I was running out of scorched brown so I just tipped some water and black into the pot and shook it up, giving myself a pot of the brown/black mix. From then on I pretty much just used Dark Flesh / red/brown / brown/black. It turned out that the red/brown mix that I'd made was slightly darker than the dark flesh, so I mixed a pot of that using the last of my blood red.

The brown/black never seemed to mix properly, no matter how hard I tried. In the end, though, it worked out really well, it added streaks of the two colors, giving a little texture to even the flattest parts of the model.

The leg was done, and the claws undercoated in grey. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them (and didn't until just about the final step). I didn't want to do them grey because the base is grey. I didn't want them black because I sort of wanted them to stand out a little. I toyed with metallics, but decided against them too.

You can also see that I put a white edge along the very bottom of the sword to try and define it a little better.

Well, left side done, moving on to the right side. I'll skip steps this time to save you looking at forty times as many pictures as you need to (you're already looking at about 20 times as many as is necessary).

Here's a front on shot of the Balrog with a mostly finished body. You can also spy an unpainted Gandalf that came as part of the package. (I know - the Gandalf himself brand new is worth more than I payed for the whole set... bargain!)

Body all done now. I left jagged lines of the dark flesh showing through on the legs and torso. Not as much as some people have done, but more than others. Everybody has their own personal preference =)

First coat of the wings. Wow, I really didn't like painting the wings. I was really disappointed with how they turned out at this stage. The membraney bits are too light. I tried drybrushing when I started, but it was just too streaky, I'm sure it's my lack of skill rather than a bad method of doing them. I spent two days just working on the wings.

Part of the problem was the lighting, I work under a bright desklamp with a compact fluorescent bulb, so it can be a bit stark sometimes. Here's another shot from a higher angle. When I get around to matt-spraying it hopefully it won't be quite so shiny.

And the underside. I should also mention that I started with the underside, figuring that if I stuffed up there it wouldn't be so noticeable and would give me some practice for the top. Of course, it's also harder doing underneath due to the logistics of holding the metal mini upside down without knocking things over with the wings and tail! You may be able to see that the wings are streaky brown and black, that's due to the paint not mixing as mentioned earlier. I still thought the red was too bright on the wings at this point.

Oh, and I've done a codex grey drybrush on the base too. I also had to do even more black washing on the base to try and get rid of those annoying white bits that kept being visible from different angles.

I took a break from the wings and worked on the base for a bit. This has had a Codex Grey / Fortress Grey / Skull white drybrushing. Keeping each layer smaller than the one before, and the white just on the very edges. The bones were heavily drybrushed with Bleached Bone, then given a Devlan Mud wash, then re-drybrushed with Bleached Bone. Then a tiny bit of highlighting Bleached Bone on the teeth, eyesockets and shoulder blades. An even smaller touch of Skull White on the very tips of the highlighted bones for a finishing touch.

It was so nice to work on something so small. It made me want to go paint more skeletons, given how quick it seemed after all the balrog work!

I also used Bleached bone on the teeth, fingernails, toenails and claw bits. You can see a Games Workshop bag there in the background. I had to re-stock my red/brown/black paints =) I'm like most of you out there, I shop wherever I can find what I need. ebay for fluke sales, maelstrom games for cheapness, but not so much range, milsims for less range, but local so quick and Games Workshop (usually Chadstone) for the range and ability to choose particular poses for Khazad Guard, Vault Wardens etc.

The claws etc. were given a liberal washing of Devlan Mud. Then they were drybrushed with the bleached bone again, then washed again a little, then the edges and highlights were painted lightly with bleached bone and a tip of white on the very edges.

The wings were then finished up with two more layers of drybrushing. A very light black/brown was drybrushed over the whole wing (and to highlight some joints and muscles etc). Then a brown/red was drybrushed just in the central part of the membrane. The end effect is quite subtle, but the wings are darker nearer to the bony bits and lighter in the middle.

The axe near the dead dwarf skeleton is dark flesh / bestial brown / vermin brown on the handle with a devlan mud wash. The blade is boltgun metal / chainmail / tin bitz and badab black wash. By the way, the skeleton's name was Yorick.

Finally, it's time for some anti-dwarf shots...

The camera flash over-exaggerates the brown colour and the reds, it's not quite so vibrant IRL, but not so dark that all you see is black, you can definitely see the contrasting shades. Oh, the head! The tongue was painted like the flames, with the "hottest" part at the back of the throat and in a line under the tongue. The edges were done in reds and dark flesh. The teeth were done like the fingernails etc.

The eyes are Skull White and the nostrils are slightly yellower. I put a gloss coat on the eyes, nostrils and tongue. After I matt the model I'll probably gloss the lava on his back too. Not sure about the flames.

Here's a view from above. You can see the wings have dulled down a lot, and can sort of make out the "V" patterns in the membranes with the darker edges and lighter middle. It also shows that using the mini in a game might be kinda tricky if there are tall bits of scenery. Fortunately the wings should be high enough to not get in the way of most other miniatures.

Not sure what happened in this shot to the background, but I think it looks cool! I think I may have had the flash off. With strength 9, even Vault Wardens will suffer some casualties I think, though they're a good chance to wound it if I use all 5 teams, 10 dice plus rerolls with the banner =) I really don't know who I'd want to win!

And finally another flash-less shot. The goblin (Gorlab) was a short time later picked up by the Balrog's hand (you can see it grasping there) and thrown at Etako, who used his Ironfist Gauntlet to knock the hapless shorty into the lava. Just thought you'd like to know.

Can't wait to surprise my brother in our next game with this guy. I was gonna call him Barry, but that might be a little too obvious. Boy what a project. My back and shoulder are sore from the strain, but I got him finished in time for our game this week!

That was an exercise in patience, it just seemed to take forever and I kept wanting to just do it all black or something to get it over with faster. Still, I am mostly happy with the results. I mean, I am really happy, but there are some bits I wish I could do better!

Things to work on: Greenstuff, flames, highlighting dark colours.
Well, more than those, but those three were the major things.

Hopefully you'll see some shots taken with the better camera when we play =)