Monday 26 August 2013

A Grave Matter....

So I got to play a bit of 3rd ed. yesterday which turned a good Bank Holiday Weekend into a great one! Once again Warlord Paul did a fine job of hosting the game and came up with a great little scenario - if you haven't done so, check out the background and victory conditions on his blog.

Here's my take on things...

Toady Rob'imsun shifted uncomfortably in what passed for the saddle lashed carelessly across the rough shoulders of his irritable boar. Bristles had worked their way through the tattered leather and matted cloth and were well on their way to doing the same to the Chief's filthy britches.

This fog didn't help matters either. Made the lads jittery. Especially those lunatic Savages who'd tagged along. Usually the only communication between Rob'imsun's Ty 'Um Teem Tribe and the somewhat backward Paylah Liffik Tribe was a lot of shouting and throwing of rocks. But that had all changed.

It was that Maliss Grobhurtz' fault - the mad old shaman had been worse than usual for the past week, constantly ranting and raving about his visions of some Demon called Jeeyofizz and the treasure it had revealed to him buried in the Dead Place. Fillhar Dring, Shaman and leader of the Paylah Liffiks, had had the same vision, and between them they had bullied and cajoled Rob'imsun into setting out on this treasure hunt.

Now it looked like the boys were having second thoughts. Strange sounds floated up out of the dead valley, drifting like spectres in the mist. Whispered voices snaked sibilantly out of the gloom and ominous creaks and groans emanated from every direction. Even the Shamans had become strangely quiet.

Rob'imsun bristled with a mixture of anticipation at the coming battle and a frisson of fear as Grobhurtz' eyes rolled back and his crooked claw swung round to point down the hillside, in the direction of the ancient relic lying hidden there.

The tramp of bony feet confirmed the Shaman's premonition and as the mists swirled in a sudden eddy of wind, the Orcs got a glimpse of what awaited them in the valley below.

The line waivered slightly at the sight of the legion of skeletal warriors drawing up in their ranks on the other side of the shallow valley. But between them lay their prize - buried somewhere in the place of death was the relic Grobhurtz spoke of.
Rob'imsun growled his orders and fixed those who had gone a paler shade of green with his best stern gaze to keep them in line. With a braying of horns and the crash of drum and mailed boot, the Orc line advanced into the gloom.
 On the right the Hobhounds dashed forward along with the main column of Orc warriors. To their left came a unit of Spear armed Orcs and the warriors of the Paylah Lifficks, led by the Savage Orc Shaman, Fillhar Dring. Alongside them, wrinkling his nose at the fusty smell wafting up out of the valley, the Giant, Mick Vast'un, strode forwards. Anchoring the centre was Rob'imsun himself and a regiment of heavily armoured Orcs. Grobhurtz and a unit of Orc Archers made up the left flank.

The two sides marched steadily forwards towards each other, when suddenly a terrifying apparition tore through the mist and into the main Orc column. The savage appearance of a Chimera was too much for them, despite their great numbers and they turned tail and fled. As they ran the beast gave chase, filling the air with the terrible screams of those who didn't flee fast enough!

Over on the far left, the archers flexed their bow strings but their quarry was just out of range. In the centre red eyes narrowed and glared at the unseeing sockets of their Undead foes as the two armies stood poised for the charge...

And that's all for now folks as its getting late!

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment...

Sunday 4 August 2013

Maxing your Oldhammer

So how do you go about getting the best out of Oldhammer? Is it just about being rosey-eyed about WFB 3rd ed. or drooling over the latest amazing ebay bargain someone got on a Leaping Slomm Twoface? Are we backing ourselves down a rather narrow passageway in celebrating all things Citadel and 80's? Heaven forbid, are we becoming as prescriptive as the current GW scene?

An unattainable goal for many aspiring Oldhammerers?
I don't necessarily presume to speak for others as we all have our own personal take on what Oldhammer means to us. However, there are certain trends I'll refer to and I apologise in advance for the sweeping statements I will no doubt end up making!

Let me address those questions in two ways. Firstly, our (well definitely mine!) apparent 3rd ed. and 3rd ed. era miniatures fetish. Don't get me wrong - I love all that stuff, as is somewhat obvious by much of the content of this blog. However, this is just the vehicle I (and many others) have chosen for my personal Oldhammer Odyssey because this was the stuff I always wanted to own as a kid. Unfortunately though, as a movement, it seems that concentrating so much on the collecting and painting of old Citadel lead that the perception of Oldhammer is becoming a little skewed. Just look at the difference in the number of posts in the WIP and Showroom boards to the Battle Reports board on the Oldhammer forum, as well as the content of many of our Oldhammer blogs.

This of course (the preponderence painting and collecting) is partly down to not having the time and in many cases, being geographically remote from each other to play many games. Of course there is the need to polish up our old collections models and get our various ebay binges painted up and ready for the table top too. However, Oldhammer is a way of getting the most out of playing the early editions of Warhammer. Its life blood must surely be in the act of playing and sharing the enjoyment of these games with an opponent and hopefully the GM running them.

A rare and wonderful thing - Oldhammer battle report from Nico's blog Realms of Chaos.
Yes that is Chaos V. Slann!
That's not to say that posts about painting and modelling old lead are a bad thing in themselves - the Oldhammer forum would be a dull place without seeing the wonderful work folk put on there and we know the motivational effect of receiving praise for and positive criticism of our efforts with the paint brush. Its more the case that its the relative absence of battle reports and discussions on approaches to game play that is the problem.

I've been doing a little research to see how the other half lives. If you know what Cheese Lists, Death Stars and Leadership Bombs are you'll know what I'm on about...

Now I'm not here to ridicule, criticise or badmouth others' interpretation of wargaming - most of this stuff is pretty unintelligible to me and I've never experienced it first hand myself. If that's how some folk like to roll then fair enough but its obviously not my cup of tea. I suppose the nearest I've been (or want to be) to suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Skaven slave spam dual hell pits or a DE dual Hydra unkillable lord is playing games like Wolfenstein 3D online and literally not being able to stay alive for more than a few seconds unless I'd got lost in some remote and unimportant corner of the map - not fun!

Why venture into such apparently arid territory for Oldhammer? Well it seems there is a great deal of energy invested in these communities in working out the best ways to win, max out your army list and counter killer combinations in your opponent's army - all based on the regular playing and desire to win the game.

So I thought why not flip this on its head. 

Bear with me - I'm not proposing we begin endless debates on the best army lists to be mined out of the Warhammer Armies book - such a thing would be anathema to the Oldhammer concept that there are no Army lists, or rather that you shouldn't feel constrained in building a scenario or organising a game by the limitations enforced by such lists.

Nor am I suggesting that tactics for winning against various armies become a hot topic for debate.

And you thought your Space Marines were AWESUM!

Instead we need to talk more about "winning" at Oldhammer and by that I mean how do we go about organising, playing and making the experience enjoyable, fun and fulfilling for all concerned. 

Ideally we'd have lots of games that have been played and could be up for discussion in terms of what worked and what didn't. However, as we know, time and distance are a little against us for that. 

As a lot of us haven't played regularly or GM'ed a game for a long time and it seems to be a bit of a worry for some with the Oldhammer Weekend approaching, might I suggest we see more topics along the lines of tips for GM'ing. Ask the question - how do I set up/tweak a scenario idea to provide both players with a suspenseful and exciting experience? What makes a good scenario? Share ideas on cooperative play that might also have conflicting objectives to spice it up a little. Begin discussions on how to map hidden movement or use wandering monsters and third party forces. I know various folk have dabbled in this already, I just think we need moar! I would imagine the upcoming Oldhammer event will change this in terms of the amount of games that will be played over the weekend and I look forward to reading about people's experiences as players and GM's.

Oops - wrong one!
I recently reread Dr Bargle's excellent article on the Pathetic Aesthetic in Old School Gaming. This kind of intelligent and self-deprecating debate is great too. Personally I love it as an intellectual exercise but the argument is a strong one and the pathetic aesthetic is essentially key to getting the right flavour for Oldhammer gaming - for this see especially what he says about the Magnificent Sven and Lichemaster scenarios. Further exploration of the ways these ideas could be put to practical use as a GM would be another valuable avenue of discussion.

In fact all that talk of RPG's has got me thinking and I've long been enamoured of the idea of including elements of them on the tabletop. There is some excellent material at Oldhammer as RPG for gaming in this way - either going down the line of playing 1st ed. as an RPG or adding meat to tabletop characters in the form of random characteristics generation, character progression and injury charts. I rather like the idea of taking some lowly character and playing a series of scenarios that widen in scope as he/she advances, until they either meet an untimely demise or retire with their ill-gotten gains.

Influences from other sources is another valuable topic - personally, having finally tracked down copies of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, Dungeoneer and Blacksand,  I'd love to translate them to the table top somehow - possibly using 1st or 2nd ed. rules and stats.

Fighting the Trolltooth Wars would be another good one - either from the two evil and warring Wizard's point of view, or from some lowly Captain in there armies, be that Hill Goblin Chieftain or Rhinoman Officer.

Think of all the fun you could have putting together and converting the miniatures for Zharradan Marr and Balthus Dire's Chaotic forces together from umpteen different manufacturers!

I'll wrap up my long and rambling post by doing my bit for Oldhammer style meta-gaming - here are a few scenarios I posted some time ago on the Oldhammer Forum. I can't remember whether or not I ever put them on the blog so either way here they are again. For the sake of giving some form to the possible forces that could be used I used the Warhammer Armies book for the various troop types - feel free to use whatever is in your collections though!

Here's a more basic scenario from when we were thinking about putting together a retroclone WFB

Enjoy and do share your thoughts on the matter - perhaps we could even have a set of rules that has its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek on how to be a good Oldhammerer like this send up of WAAC players!

Saturday 3 August 2013

Stop - Its almost Hammer Time!

Yes folk the big day is almost upon us!

Yep - I am this excited!

In four week's time we will be descending on Nottingham for a weekend of Oldhammer antics at the Wargames Foundry.

Hammer Time - Old World Style
Dark clouds hang over the troubled kingdom of Ramalia as King F'yar marshals his invading Orc Tribes against the weakening Alliance of Men, Dwarves and Elves. Will Orc's Drift hold or will its defenders' failure see the Goblinoid hordes free to descend on the capital, Palesandre? As you might guess I'm quite excited about running Orc's Drift - the first time around it was for a bunch of lads and lasses at the Explorer Scout Group I used to help out at. They were keen and enthusuastic and it was great to give them a taste of wargaming and we all  had a blast,  but I'm keen to see what a bunch of Oldhammerers will make of it. I for one won't feel I have to hold back a little with the GM controlled characters as I did with the young'uns because of their inexperience!

Although I probably won't have masses of time away from Orc's Drift I'm also really looking forward to seeing the Realms of Chaos ringing with the clamour of battle in a huge free for all between Khorne and Slaanesh. Orlygg's Bring and Battle game is going to have some seriously twisted warbands and there looks to be some fantastic painting and conversion work happening on the various participants blogs!

Coop is running a Rogue Trader showdown in which you can enter a squad of Space Marines - sorely tempted by this one but time is against me alas! Again I'm sure the table will look a treat with Marines old and new duking it out.

Then there's the Rumble in the Jungle game that I hope to get some time off Orc's Drift for - a mad melange of Lizardmen, Norse, Slann, Amazons, Pygmies, Undead Pirates, High and Sea Elf expeditionary force and whatever randomness gets spewed forth from the dimesion of the Black Yungon! The object of the game will be to raid the Pygmy temples and get away with whatever treasure you can.

There's tons of other games going on too, including a chance to participate in the Forenrond's Last Stand scenario from the 3rd ed Rule book, a mega battle against Golgfag's huge Orc horde and various other engagements that have been organised between fellow Oldhammerers through the Blood Forum.

There has recently been a bit of a debate about the inclusivity of the event and Orlygg has posted a great article on his blog. Living in my little Oldhammer bubble - I usually just frequent the Blood forum, the LAF and all the fantastic blogs you chaps produce - I wasn't aware that Oldhammer had been noticed and what's more been somewhat misunderstood in some quarters.

Seeing sellers on ebay using the Oldhammer label to sell old lead made me laugh (but not necessarily at the prices!) but the misconception that Oldhammer is a set of rules and requirements that have to be met to participate is one that needs setting straight.

Now I haven't played much of the later editions of WFB or 40K, nor have I been part of the tournament scene so I don't have much first hand knowledge of what drove many other folk away from it all and into the arms of Oldhammer. 

However, what I do perceive from the occasional forays I have made into other forums that seem only to discuss the best combinations of magic weapons, Death Star units and constantly bemoan the lack of balance in the latest Army book is a mindset that needs a stringent set of rules and parameters that can be fine tuned so the ultimate goal of winning all the time can be achieved. 

Not my cup of tea I must say! Part of all this is also the need to make everything official so no-one can cheat and beat your uber army of awesomeness with something that's "not in the rules". This all smacks of little kids spitting their dummies out in the playground because little Timmy isn't playing fair and I didn't win! This is pretty much the polar opposite of what Oldhammer is about.

Oldhammer is an ethos - a set of beliefs and aspirations, if that doesn't sound too lofty and evangelical! It is about enjoying yourself and ensuring your opponent enjoys his or herself too. Its about revisiting simpler wargaming times and the minis you loved as a kid - or if you're not an 80's Citadel devotee like myself and others, its about using whatever miniatures you hold dear.

Oldhammer is the zen of wargaming (probably getting a bit carried away here!) - by that I mean its about being laid back about trivial things like having the "right" miniatures, making the rules work for you and your opponent (or better still letting the GM worry about the rules!) and achieving a state of inner peace because you don't have to win. Ritual worship of the false Gods of Game Balance, Rules Lawyership and Official Army Lists it is not!

So what is the thing I am most looking forward to about the Oldhammer Weekend? 

Chilling out with a bunch of mature, like-minded gamers who are there to enjoy each others' company, make new friends and have a great time playing the games we played in our youth. I for one don't want to get too militant about anything when we should be having fun!

I won't repeat too much of what has been said already as Orlygg has done a fine job of addressing the misconceptions that are apparently flying about the internetz. Instead I'll point you towards what some other Oldhammerers think about our ethos. Apologies if I've missed anyone else out there who has set out their thoughts on the subject - let me know and I'll add a link.