Thursday 24 September 2015

Beyond the Gates of Warlord!

Wow. What an amazing few days.

I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days with Warlord Games playing Beyond the Gates of Antares, and along with Sam Phillips, Jez Allum and Matt Houghton we were treating to be  seeing some of the incredible new models that are due to be released very soon. Absolutely none of which I can talk about other than to say woooooooooooow, you are in for a treat. The book especially is shaping up to be something really special, and there is just so much character in all the models.

After a horrendous journey courtesy of rain that was obviously trying to do a (successful) impression of the Atlantic ocean, and hideous volume of traffic on every single motorway between Kent and Nottingham we unpacked our models for a photo shoot, and whilst the camera wizardry was occurring we played a small game, with Sam and I using the Boromites, and Jez and Matt fielding the Algoryn. We used forces comprising of 2 squads, a support weapon and a command squad, with the objective of taking a central point and then holding this until the 4th turn. 

The game was quick and bloody, with troops from both sides being cut to pieces in close range fire fights (A mechanic in the game that allows units at shortish range to fire on one another simultaneously if the targeted unit wishes, and has not activated that turn). Our Boromites got off to a great start, pushing some accurate and powerful fire, whilst weathering the hail of return fire, and although we managed to get to the objective point, a swift and sneaky counter attack from the Algoryn mixed with a failed orders check led to our control of the point being contested, and the game ended in a draw. 

A short break for lunch, and we were back in the car again and heading to a mystery visit, which turned out to be Rick Priestly legendary gaming barn! This was a truly mind blowing experience, to be picking the brains of gaming royalty and drinking his coffee whilst setting up our second game of the day.  My thanks to Rick for welcoming us to his home, and the innumerable brews we got through.

The next game we played as a team game, with Sam and I again teaming up against the dastardly Algoryns of Jez and Matt. This time however Sam and I were using the Concord, with each side having a total of 14 order dice, including Matt's fantastic home made tank, and I was using a squad of Drop Troops and the Nu-Hu reviewed here.

The game ran for 5 turns, with our forces fighting over 5 key objectives to seize control of the area from the enemy.  My Concord were opposing Matt's Algoryn and his tank was slightly scary, I was eventually able to get some damage on it, but not enough and I had to be quite careful in my movement. We had a lot of close range fighting around a housing settlement, with my Nu-Hu gliding through and flattening everything he looked at. 

My drop troops tried to make a quick shift accross the board at the start of the game, and got punished for it, however I've learned a bit about using them tactically and can't wait to use them again. Ultimately the Algoryn were able to hold one more objective than us, but it was a close game that could have gone either way comfortably. 

Unit of the match has to be our targetter probes, these little treasures marked the Algoryn units and let us really punish anything silly enough to walk into range and site. The game took around 3 hours to play, even with so much stopping to chat and eat cake, the feel of the rules was intuitive and the differences between Beta and release were subtle enough that we all managed to jump straight in and have start messing each other up.

After the game it was off for dinner and beers, and again thanks to John Stallard for his hospitality, and wonderful of nostalgia in his treasure cave. 

The following day we spent our time making terrain using a variety of bits boxes, plastic cutlery and anything else not nailed down. Our creations will be in an upcoming Warlord news letter once they are painted, but it went to show how much can be done in a short time with a bit of imagination. A quick chat with Wotjek, lunch and a shopping expedition and it was reluctantly time for the long drive home.

I'd like to express my deepest thanks to Warlord for their kindness and hopsitality, and hope we can all get together again soon for some more games and cake, and I'd like to thank Jez for letting me use some of his photos. I really urge people to have a look at the Warlord Games website and sign up for the Beyond the Gates of Antares news letter, and also to check out the Facebook group. And as ever, you can always find my work or contact me through Volley Fire Painting Service

Rubicon Models T34/85 Review

The T-34/85 was designed as an upgraded T-34/76 fitted with a slightly redesigned hull, a larger turret, and extra crew man, and a much larger gun than issued T-34/76. The T-34/85's production started in February 1944, and the tank is still in service to the present day in some parts of the world. 
The T-34 is the second most mass produced tank in history, by mid 1944 1200 were being built each month, in comparison around 1150 Tigers were produced in the entire war... 

T34/85's served on the Eastern Front and in the Manchurian campaign during the second world war, Korea, Vietnam, The 6 Day War, Angola, Bosnia and Yemen.

Rubicon have recently(In geographical terms), released a follow up kit of their T-34/76, the T-34/85. This kit is comes in their familiar dark grey plastic, and allows you to build either the initial production version, or the main 1944 production variant. 

Rubicon have provided cylindrical fuel cells, and also the optional cells for the rear of the hull as well. Also included is a flame thrower to make the OT/34 flame thrower variant. 
No crew is included, however there are a few extra track links for stowage, though no other stowage is provided.

The set does include a T-34/76 turret, however this is designed for the T-34/76 kit, and the /85 turret ring is too big for this, and the 76 turret floats around and shows a bit of a gap in places looking into the hull. What I'd like to have seen is either a different design to the upper hull so that both turrets could be used on this hull as well, to get more milage from the model. Alternatively, instead of providing a 76 turret a crew man or some extra stowage would have been very welcome too. 

The kit goes together very well, and fits very neatly. My only gripe is the tracks are devoid of detail other than a vague tread pattern, which resembles the 1940 pattern vehicles links. Whilst the one part wheels and tracks Rubicon do is very simple, I think I'd prefer the parts to be separate as in Warlords kits, especially their latest Panzer III as having each set of tracks in 4 parts means you get perfect detail, and is still simple to construct. 

I painted the model with Vallejo's 4BO colour modulation set, and I'll do a full review of this paint set in the next week or so once I've tested it a bit more.

On the whole though this is a very nice kit, and simple to add to your Soviet forces, and retails at around £20

As ever you can see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting  and you can find Rubicons kits through their local distributers list on their website

Warlord Games plastic Fallschirmjager review

The Fallschirmjager were Germany's airborne forces, initially deployed by parachute and glider, during the battle of Crete their casualties were staggering, so apart from a few exceptions they mostly served as elite infantry. Fallschirmjager served with distinction at Eben Emal, Crete, Tunisia, Monte Cassino, Drvar, Normandy, Leningrad, Ardenne, and Fallschirmjager were even present at the Battle of Berlin. 
Wherever they fought the Fallschirmjager put up an incredible fight, and became known as the 'Green Devils' by the allies due to their distinctive green jump smocks. and never surrender attitude. 

As part of their growing range of plastic infantry sets for 28mm WW2 collectors and gamers, Warlord have released this set of 30 figures. Each sprue contains 6 bodies, and an assortment of heads, weapons and equipment, with sculpting being characterful and well detailed, without being too exaggerated, a complaint that has been levelled at some Warlord sets in the past, however this new release takes everything to the next level. 

The contents of each of the 5 sprues in the set break down as follows :-

  • 3 bodies wearing early pattern jump smocks (Can be painted either green or splinter camouflage).
  • 3 bodies wearing later pattern jump smocks (Can be either splinter or tan and water camouflage). 
  • 4x K98 rifle arms of various pose
  • 2x FG42 assault rifle arms
  • 2x MP40 sub machine gun arms
  • 2 xMG42 light machine guns
  • 1x Panzerfaust arm pair (also has pioneer grenade bags attached too!)
  • 1x Panzerfaust weapon
  • 8x Heads in Fallschirmjager Helmets with various types of cover 
  • 2x heads in M43 caps
  • 1x head in officers cap
  • 1x head in side cap
  • Extensive webbing and field gear, including ammunition pouches and belts, bandoliers, waterbottles, holsters, map cases and tool pouches for the MG's. 
  • Gesticulating officer arm
This gives a great range of weapons to equip your units with, and appears to be based around the 1944 table of equipment for a Fallscrhirmjager squad.  The set includes bases for everyone, and also has a transfer sheet and instructions too. From the mix of equipment in the set this is very much a late war set, but perfect for Sicily onwards, including Cassino, Normandy and the Ardenne.

The models are extremely cleanly molded, and the detail is impressive. Particularly like the expressions on the faces, the face of the guy smoking a cigarette is particularly inspiring.  With so many extra parts it's easy to combine the sets with Warlords other packs and create even more variety, something I've spent a bit of time on here. I also detail the colours used to paint each figure in the article as well, so won't repeat that at this stage, though I may do when I have my Fallschirmjager force finished...

Each sprue provides 2 kneeling and 4 standing poses, with no prone models provided. Personally I can't stand prone figures unless it's part of a crew served weapon team, so this makes me a happy panda. 

I've included comparative shots of a plastic Fallschirmjager with models from the Perry, Artizan and metal Warlord ranges. The picture is slightly misleading as the plastic figure doesn't have the 2mm tab the metal model stand on


. In terms of proportions the set works with all existing ranges to my eye, even mixing well with the Perry's, the only figure that appears a little too large to me is the Artizan one, though again this could be due to a thicker lug on his base. 


This is a superb set, and I'd like to see Warlord maybe release the set with the addition of the metal parts in the Blitzkrieg Pioneer set to make Fallschirmpioneers... 

The set retails at £26, and at around 87 pence per figure represents outstanding value for money. You can get your own set from Warlord Games and if you would like to contact me about a commission, or would like to see more of my work check out Volley Fire painting service

Beyond the Gates of Antares Concord Drop Troops and Nu-Hu Mandarin review

As part of my ever expanding Concord force for this rapidly approaching game, I've added a Nu-Hu and squad of Drop Troops to my force.

The Drop Troops come in a box of 5 metal models with seperate heads and power packs, and some have seperate weapons too. The set comprises of 3 Drop Troops armed with plasma carbines, a similarly armed squad leader, and a fifth trooper with a plasma lance. the final model in the set is a spotter drone. the box is rounded out with bases for everyone. 

All 5 figures are very cleanly cast with only a few light mold lines to clean up. Prep work took maaaaybe 5 minutes, including time to get the kettle on for a coffee. 

Personally I love everything about these models. The armour is no nonsense, practical, and just makes them look hard. The poses really do reinforce the impression these are elite troops sent into deal with the biggest and baddest threats. The rules for these weren't in the Beta version of the game, but they will be coming in the full release. 

Obviously these are designed for Gates of Antares, but the lack of anything particularly identifiable to one genre would allow these fine models to be used in any sci-fi game setting. 

The second addition I painted was The Nu-Hu Mandarin. This figure represents the leadership class of the Concord civilization, and represents a nanite infused, very powerful individual. You can read more on the Nu-Hu here. Again the model is extra ordinarily well cast, and includes the Nu-Hu's nanite drone as well. 

The figure is a single piece with a separate arm with spear/wand, and separate leg.He is dramatically posed hovering in the air and about to flatten some unfortunates with his powers.  Bases again are included. 

I painted both figures with my 'Ambiguous Blue' TM colour scheme, using Vallejo Light Green Blue as a base, and then using green and blue inks and glazes to add depth of colour and character.

I think this is a superb range of models, that simply oozes character and are quick and simple to build. I've also just had the opportunity to try them out, which I'll write up as part of my next post....

As ever you can see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Service and you can pre order Beyond the Gates of Antares and read more articles on this great game at the Warlord Games page. I also really recommend signing up to the news letter for Antares, as there is a lot of information starting to flow now...

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Warlord Games Freeborn Domari squad

One game I'm getting increasingly excited by is Beyond the Gates of Antares, having been playing a few games recently, and more on the cards before the game launches in a month or so's time I wanted to add some reinforcements to my Concord Strike Force. First up in the stream of reinforcements, are my squad of Freeborn Domari. 

These are a very recent release from Warlord, and are beautiful sculpts. Like all the Antares models I've built casting quality was top notch, and the detail and sculpting superb.

I was really taken by how each figure was an individual, not just in pose, but in face too. Each is very distinct, without becoming a caricature of itself. 

The set contains 6 figures, a spotter drone, bases, and an order dice. 

This last is a handy addition, as it means your gaining all you need to use a unit straight out of the box without having to by additional dice sets. (Though as we all know dice sets ARE addictive...).

 Assembly and clean up are straight forwards, as stated the models are extraordinarly well cast, and are 1-2 part figures, with usually a separate weapon. 


I wanted to do my figures in a mix of dull and bold colours, so painted cloaks and weapons utilitarian tones, whilst the armour was a dark metallic blue. To add an extra splash of colour I painted the faces white with a splash of red war paint

Paints used are as follows:

  • Armour       - Vallejo 800 Gunmetal Blue
  • Cloak        - Vallejo 825 German camo beige brown
  • Weapon       - Vallejo 914 Green Ochre
  • Red warpaint -  Vallejo 909 Vermillion

You can get your own Domari squad, as well as checking out the rest of Warlords range here, and as ever you can see more of my own painting at Volley Fire Painting

Friday 11 September 2015

Halo:Fleet Battles

Apologies for the long gap in articles, It's been an 'interesting' summer, and times been at a massive premium. Lots of 28mm WW2 reviews and articles coming up, but for now something totally different!

One of my fondest gaming memories is playing Battlefleet Gothic many years ago, and I've been wanting a star ship capital class game to come along for years that will hook me, and finally one has, (Since finding Halo there are a couple of others I now like the look of too...).

I've never really played the Halo computer games that Halo: Fleet Battles is based upon, however I liked the look of the ships and saw an interview on Beasts of War with the developers that piqued my interest, and finally an offer I couldn't refuse on a boxed set and I was fully on course to a new game system.

What is Halo Fleet Battles?

Halo Fleet Battles is based upon the massively succesful computer game series Halo. Unlike Halo though which focus on elite infantry ground combat, Fleet Battles uses it's core concept capital ship combat with cruisers, carriers, frigates etc. Combat is fought between battlegroups comprised of a mix of capital and escort ships, as well as smaller fighter and bomber wings, and boarding actions can be utterly devastating. 

The Halo universe focuses (Initially anyway), between the conflict between the Human UNSC and Alien Covenant, and the game kicks off at the point of humanity's near collapse in the Human Covenant war in the mid 26th century...

Initial Impressions

 Halo Fleet Battles retails at £80, and for that you get (From the Spartan Games page):-
  • A full colour 100+ page rulebook packed full of images and examples
  • Fall of Reach campaign guide
  • 49 highly-detailed plastic ship models
    • UNSC (32 models)
      • 1 Epoch-class Heavy Carriers
      • 4 Marathon-class Heavy Cruisers
      • 27 Paris-class Frigates
    • Covenant (17 models)
      • 1 ORS Class Heavy Cruisers
      • 2 CCS Class Battlecruisers
      • 14 SDV Heavy Corvettes
  • 30 custom Halo Dice
  • Fleet Commander Data Sheets
  • Flight Stands and Overlay Cards
  • Punch-out Scenery and Token sheets
  • Quick Guide reference sheets

The game comes packed in a large but very appealing box with some great art work on the front. It could be argued the box is too large for the contents, however there is a lot in here and any smaller and things would have been a bit too tight I feel. 
Opening the box presents you with two smaller boxes, one containing the models, and the other containing  all the counters, books and dice. Everything feels like a quality product, and is very satisfying to open and fiddle around with.

How are the models? 

The models are quite a small scale, however the ships they represent are very large, even the smallest in the game represents a vessel hundreds of meters long.  This translates to quite satisfyingly sized models that range from about 1" long to maybe 6" for the largest ships in the set. The models are based on flight stands that contain between 1-3 ships usually depending on their class and formation. More on this later.

The ships are designed to be simple to build, even the most complex uses maybe 6 parts, but looks quite striking. 

So far I've only tackled painting the Covenant, (apart from one stand of UNSC frigates), but enjoyed them as a change of pace. Not really having much point of reference I decided to do a quick image search on Google, and decided to do my vessels in a metallic blue colour, with lots of OSL effect. 

  • Build the model, and prime it
  • Spray the model gloss black. Keep repeating this process until the gloss is glassy smooth with thin layers of paint
  • Airbrush on Alclad II Prismatic Sapphire Deep Blue
  • Mix Alclad II  Chrome into Alclad II Prismatic Sapphire Deep Blue and spray this on the higher points and edges of the model
  • Spray Vallejo Game Colour Magic Blue anywhere you want to be a large light source, such as engines.
  • Spray Vallejo Sky Blue into the centrre of the large light source, leaving some of the Magic Blue visible
  • Spray Vallejo White into the centres of the large light sources, leaving the preceding 2 stages visible as well
  • Add light sources to the rest of the model using GW Nihilak Oxide and Vallejo White to add things like spot lights, hull lights and running lights. 
Using these techniques I was able to finish my fleet in about 3 evenings of work, excluding the drying times! 

How does it play?

The rules appear quite daunting at first, and a lot of effort has been spent on the part of Spartan Games to make a rule book that leaves very little lacking in clarity and that explains every situation conceivable. I did find this quite over whelming actually, and had to have a few read through of the rules.
 This may have been from coming from the perspective of an experienced gamer where I tend to go through rules and pic out the flow of the game, and the break down into examples and definitions of terms broke that for me. I suspect if your completely new to gaming which a lot of people coming to Halo:Fleet Battles are likely to be will be grateful for that extra clarity. 
I'd recommend having a handful of dice to hand and playing along with the rules, as this really does help them click. 

Halo Fleet Battles is actually a very simple game,  and splits into the following phases, titles of the phases might be wrong as my books not to hand at the moment.

Command Phase
Each fleet has a commander who provides you with abilities to use through the turn.  These are generated using 5 order dice, which can also come into play for determining who has initiative for the turn. The order dice is a standard 6 sided dice marked with 3 symbols specific to the faction. these are assigned to either attack or defensive abilities. Once this is done both players role a standard D6, and add the total number of their faction specific order dice icon to this. The player with the highest score may choose to go first or second in each of the following phases, until the end of the turn.

Wings Phase
This is where players move their fighters and bombers into position, and also where these classes of ships fight either one another or against the enemies capital ships. They operate in stacks of between 2 and 5 craft represented by counters, with each player alternating activation of a stack. Fighters are used to engage other wings, whilst bombers can also attack capital ships.
Elements Phase
This phase is the meat of the game, and where you use your big ships, with movement being key. Like the wing phase activation alternates between players, and ships are grouped into battlegroups consisting of one Capital ship and at least one escort ship, which I'll discuss more a little later.  All vessels have to move at least half their full move allowance and turns are restricted as well. Escorts get to make a 45 degree turn at the start and end of their moves, whilst capital vessels only get a single 45 degree turn at the end of their move. After moving firing solutions are declared, where various ships in a group can combined their weapon types together to better increase your chances of damaging an opponent (Unless your dice are like mine...). In this stage you can also fire off boarding craft to engage enemy vessels at close range. Players alternate activation of their battlegroups until all have been activated, and then the phases moves on to the the Boarding Phase.
Boarding Phase
If boarding craft have been launched, then boarding actions occur, These are resolved between the security details on board ships, and the raiders sent against them via boarding craft.  These can be utterly devastating, and result in  huge chain reactions being set off that destroy or cripple several ships at once. This is probably the tensest and most fraught phase of the game! 

End phase
The final phase of the turn cleans up the board, and players attempt to defuse count down templates, and remove vulnerable tokens from their ships. 

How does combat work?
When attacking, players roll Halo Dice. These are 6 sided dice marked, 1,2 a skull and circle with a line through it. These represent 1 or 2 successes, a failure,and a miss. Players roll the specified number of attack dice when fighting, adding up all the 1's and 2's rolled, and applying any relevant re rolls. The defender then rolls their specified number of defence dice, and again apply any re rolls and total up all their successes. These are then subtracted from the attackers number of success, and compared to a damage track of ships. If the score is higher than the number of hull points a ship takes damage. It's a very simple, intuitive and elegant system, and one I really like.


Force building
Halo Fleet battles uses a familiar point system to guide you in gathering your ships, and the set comes with 2 complete 1000 point forces, more than enough for an evenings gaming. 
Constructing a fleet comprises of creating a series of battlegroups that have a combined build rating of 6. A build rating is a rating assigned to a ship depending on its size, the larger the ship the higher the rating, so a battlegroup will consist of between 1 capital ship and usually 3-4 Escort formations depending on the faction. 

Final Thoughts

I'm really quite taken with this game. I like how it flows, and it is extremely tactical and has quite a steep tactical learning curve. It's simple to learn but tough to master. 
The models are nice, and there seems to be plenty of support coming from Spartan Games in the form of new content as well. 
I got my copy of the game through Gladius Game Arts and you can read more on Halo Fleet Battles at  Spartan Games

As ever you can see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Service Thanks to Lewis at Medway Wargames Society for being a willing opponent!