Wednesday, June 18, 2014

+ 'These hands are not mine' +

+ A melancholy quote that the novel, Wrath of Iron, attributes to Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the tenth legion. A little more of it:
'Hatred of what is natural, of what is human, is the first and greatest of the corruptions. So I record it here: when the time comes, I will strip my hands of their unnatural silver. I will instruct my Legion to recant their distrust of the flesh. I will turn then away from the gifts of the machine and bid them relearn the mysteries of flesh, bone and blood. When my father's Crusade is over, this shall be my sacred task. When the fighting is done, I shall cure my Legion and myself. For if fighting is all there is, if we may never pause to reflect on what such devotion to strength is doing to us, then our compulsion will only grow. Already I see the madness that path leads to, and so I shall excise the silver from my hands. In doing so I shall weaken myself and my sons, but nonetheless it must be done. The hands are strong, and have created great things, but they are not mine.'

+ I like the Forge World version of Ferrus Manus, but for a few reasons, it just didn't quite hit the spot for me in terms of capturing what I had in my head for the Primarch; so I decided to build one myself.

+ The base model is from Heresy Miniatures. I started by using pure greenstuff to add the flexible power armour undersuit for the joints (always work outwards), then began sculpting the basic shapes of additional armour on top using a mix of ProCreate and greenstuff:

+ With that in place, I continued to bulk up the armour plates. +

+ Next, I'm going to begin the armour on the arms – just the uppers – and begin thinking about the embellishments in more detail. +

Monday, June 16, 2014

+ Engine War power generation +

+ Continuing from the previous inload about Engine War(+noospheric inload link+:, I thought I'd write a little bit about the power generation system of the game – mainly as an excuse to post the cool Gary harrod artwork at the top of this post! +

+ Basic thoughts +

+ When writing any rules, I aim to strike a balance between character and simplicity. My personal preference is for very abstract and hands-off mechanics; so that there's maximum freedom for putting your own interpretation on the events, and minimum space for confusion or complexity. 

+ For example, while there's a lot of pleasure in long tables of mutations or weapon malfunction effects, they do slow down the game, which can make things drag. Besides, however many D1000 tables you write to explain the effects, you can never quite match the creative possibilities that a simple 'hit' result can entail in the player's imagination. 

+ However, in a game involving only three or four models, there needs to be something to do. Warmachine is fantastic for balancing complexity (managing the 'Focus' system) with a clean ruleset. It was an obvious source of inspiration. 

+ Differentiation and initial approach +

+ Imperial, Ork and Eldar forces fight very differently in Epic: Armageddon. They share common rules, but also have a few well-picked unique rules that help create the flavour of the army. As mentioned in the earlier post, I didn't want to have just one basic system for the different factions; but for each to work differently; so I worked out each type simultaneously.

+ In Warmachine, a Warjack can (mostly) be given a maximum of three Focus points per turn. This works nicely, as that's generally not quite enough to do everything you want to do, which makes for an interesting resource management system. In Engine War, I wanted to get a similar balance of not quite being able to everything you want to do. 

+ The game differs from Warmachine in that the models are creating their own 'power', rather than drawing from a single leader – a process that tends to mean you have to have a hard limit to allow for the fine balance of Warmachine

In Engine War, a typical model have far more weapons than the typical two a Warmachine model has; so more power is needed for each model. Typically, a War Engine of the Battle Titan class we're looking at initially will generate between three and six useable power a turn; with the orks having a much greater variance, and the Eldar a hard limit. 

+ Imperial Titans +

Power generation During the Control phase, generate power for your War Engines as described.
Plasma reactor: Generate 1D3+2 Plasma counters during in the Control phase, if the Plasma reactor system is not crippled. If this system is crippled, the War Engine generates no Plasma counters.
+ Imperial Warlord Titans (the basic Titan) will use these Plasma Reactor rules to generate Plasma counters; which can then be spent in various ways. (When I add the other Titan types, I'll adjust the general rule to be generic, and add the specific number to the Titan type rules – smaller Reavers will generate less, for example).

+ This system works in a very similar way to the Focus mechanic. The Plasma system can be used to improve the aiming of weapon fire, fire additional shots (from suitable weapons), increasing damage and regenerating shields, amongst other things. It's the most basic of the systems. 

+ Unlike Focus, not all of the Plasma Counter will be removed at the end of the turn. Instead, they will overcharge the void shields, and potentially provide a reservoir of power for the following turn. There'll be a 'safe limit'; above which the Titan will start getting overheats and problems. This will hopefully create a balancing act between holding plasma enough to protect yourself and act as insurance against an unlucky low roll the following turn; and using the plasma to cause more damage, regenerate shields and generally be useful.

+ Damage to the Titan's plasma reactor will result in a drop-off of power and the safe limit. Eventually, I'll add rules for critical damage – and the amount of plasma left in a generator will affect any resultant earth-shattering kaboom! +

+ Eldar Titans +

Infinity Circuit: Generate 3 psi-counters during in the Control phase, if the Infinity Circuit system is not crippled. If this system is crippled, the War Engine generates D3 psi-counters.
+ More reliable than Imperial's roiling plasma reactors and ork's atomic boilers, Eldar Titans draw power from the warp via the the Titan's Infinity circuit. The Infinity circuit acts as a safety valve to the warp. For important cultural reasons, the Eldar are very wary about making use of the Warp, so always operate within very tightly-reined safety limitations. Should the Infinity circuit become damaged, it collapses the link – so there's never the risk that the system will cause a warp rift. 

+ At the end of the turn, the psi-points are bled away. Eldar Titan shields don't work on damage resistance or amelioration; so there's no need to hold onto power.

+ In game terms, this means Eldar Titans generate less focus than the others; though this is balanced by the fact that their basic stats are better, and also that Eldar Titans have fewer weapons in general, so less need to use power points to activate them. The system is also generally more reliable than the Imperial or Ork systems; and won't result in a catastrophe that damages nearby friends. This becomes important when you see the interaction between holofields (which encourage the Eldar player to bunch up). 

+ On the other hand, while it means Eldar Titans will almost always be able to do what you want, they're never going to surprise you with being better than you expect – exactly as a haughty space elf might deign to help you. 

+ This system is much simpler and cleaner than the others; and this is in part because Eldar Titans will have to concentrate much harder on manoeuvre and rationing their power in the movement phase. +

+ Ork Gargants +

+ Right, these are more complicated than the others! This is for a number of reasons:
  1. Ork technology is less refined and sophisticated (though no less advanced or capable) than the 'pink species', and I wanted to capture the sense of tinkering that should warm the heart of any good mek.
  2. I wanted to introduce a risk mechanic. Gargants will require far more micromanagement, but with the reward that they will be far more puissant than an equivalent Titan. However, that'll need to be balanced against the threat of overcooking things, which'll make the Gargant far worse than the equivalent.
  3. I didn't want ork tactics to be one-dimensional. Since their weapons are typically shorter-ranged than Imperial or Eldar guns, I wanted to ensure that the ork player had some interesting and fun choices to make in the early turns.
  4. Gargants tend to have lots and lots of secondary weapons. I wanted to ensure that the ork player had the potential to fire them all; as well as their primaries.
+ So, there's the reasons; here's the execution: 
Atomic Furnace: Nominate a number of undamaged Furnace boxes in the Control phase, then roll an number of D3s equal to the number. Generate a number of Steam counters equal to the result. For every undamaged Furnace box not nominated, remove a Steam counter. 
Steam counters are not removed during the Maintenance phase. If the number of Steam counters exceeds the Threshold at the end of the Control phase, roll on the emergency vent table for every point over the Threshold.
+ For reference, an undamaged Great Gargant has six furnace boxes, and a Threshold of twelve. This provides a few interesting calculations. An undamaged Great Gargant can potentially generate 18 Steam Counters; but would then have to roll six times on the emergency vent table (tune in next time for information on this) – virtually guaranteeing that the Gargant will blow its boilers, start a load of fires and lose all of its Steam Counters.

A more wily Warboss will order the riggers to generate from just four Furnace boxes; which will get him 6 Steam Counters on average (4 x D3 = 8 - 2 for the venting boxes). +

+ Steam Counters will build up – i.e. they won't be removed at the end of the turn – which will prove at the heart of maintenance. After a surprising high roll one turn, the Gargant commander might generate from just two furnace boxes; generating 2D3 and bleeding off 4; for a net gain of 0. 

+ At the start of the game, the Gargant commander will be able to use Steam Counters to boost his Power Fields and movement; keeping his defences up as he closes with the faster, longer-ranged Imperial or Eldar opponents. As he closes, Steam can be diverted to the multiple secondary gun decks to allow them to fire a blistering broadside; plus to boost the primary weapons' power. Ork guns are going to have fairly unimpressive stats, so they'll be well-advised to use the atomic furnaces to boost their power. On the other hand, they'll have far more guns as standard than opposing Titans, and access to more potential power; so close-up, they should be intimidating.

+ If that sounds scary to potential Imperial or Eldar players, the fire mechanic should provide some relief. I'll look into this a bit more next time, along with more information on defensive systems. +

Monday, June 09, 2014

+ inload: Brother Medardus, Psi-cursed of Clan Trago +

+ Sometimes you have to run with your enthusiasms. My friend Chris, who has an excellent Blood Axe army (Nuzzgrond's Shooty Boyz; though currently being used to represent an M37 force under the command of Og Throatchoppa), asked to play a game of 7th edition over the weekend. I'd recently built myself a gaming table, and thought it'd be great to do it properly and have two fully-painted armies playing over some nice terrain.

+ Obviously, the best idea was not to use any of my painted armies, but instead build and paint a whole Iron Hands army in the two days preceding the game. Cue much panic-painting!

+ The force ended up being ~900pts strong in the end; a testament to just throwing models together and ending up with some combinations of wargear that were rather questionable in terms of effectiveness, but it was great to just throw together models that I liked the look of, instead of meticulously planning everything. +

+ I'll be showing some more of the army as I finish off a few details on them, but for today I'd like to show Brother Medardus, an Iron Hands librarian:

+ I'm really pleased with how he came out – I was going for a 'Doctor Doom' vibe (the Iron Hands aren't very nice!), and ended up with what I think is a very menacing model that owes as much to other comic book characters like Magneto and Iron Man.

+ At the same time, I hope that there's enough 40k in there to tie him in as a character that fits into the universe. When converting with an outside source (like comic book characters) as your inspiration, it's easy to get carried away and just make a version of that character that doesn't fit into the universe. 

+ The model is mainly made from the Forgeworld Mk III Iron Hand pack (torso, legs and head); with one plastic bionic arm and a hand from the Sanguinary Guard kit, I think (I bits-ordered it from eBay ages ago), and the other arm taken from the Dark Angels librarian in the current 40k boxed set. It might seem extravagant to use a model like that for just one arm, but there's loads of him on eBay for ~99p! The backpack is from the mail order exclusive Captain, the remainder of which was used for the basis of my Clan commander (of which more in a future post).

+ I trimmed a section out of the helmet's grille to give a more threatening look, basing it on the helmet from Gladiator. +

 + The name is drawn from a book called The Devil's Elixirs, a Gothic novel I'm enjoying reading. The character doesn't really relate to this Iron Hand, but I thought it was a great name. His forename, Cyle, is a throwaway joke based on my choice of telekinesis as his psychic discipline. There are some great mechnical-type powers in the list, which I thought were most appropriate. Besides, hovering in the air as he is, telekinesis seems pretty important! +

+ Kneel before the Hands of Iron! +

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

+ Concept inload: Engine War +

Zoggin' 'eck!

+ A slightly tongue-in-cheek title for this. I've been musing about scratching my giant robot itch ('you can get a cream for that') recently, and ended up thrashing out a set of rules to adapt the excellent Warmachine ruleset to work with the gigantic War Engines – Titans, Gargants etc. – of the 41st Millennium. 

+ I really like the Epic: Armageddon ruleset, but one thing that it doesn't do particularly well is Titans. The obvious thing would be to use the old Adeptus Titanicus or Titan Legions rulesets, but I enjoy writing. Besides, this is a fun project, even if it never becomes more than a theoretical exercise.

+ The abstract +

+ Write a set of rules that convert Warmachine to allow the use of Epic-scale Titans and Gargants. The ruleset should:
  • Be easily-digestible; using existing rules where possible.
  • Represent the factions as they are portrayed in the background.
  • Evoke a sense of size and power in the figures.
  • Keep both players involved.
  • Allow multiple strategies, whatever your choice of faction.
  • Be fun.

+ Specifics +

+ Additions to the general rules:

Primary weapons: When making a Shooting attack, any weapons with the Primary rule may fire as part of the initial attack. Resolve the attacks separately, one at a time, in the order you choose. 

+ This rule is introduced because Engine War is much more dependent on shooting than Warmachine. Allowing all weapons designated Primary to fire during one Shooting attack allows the main guns to speak; while you can also have non-primary weapons to allow for micromanagement. +

Continuous effects: War Engines are very large. Multiple fires can affect completely unrelated areas on the same Engine, for example. Unlike Warmachine/Hordes; you can be affected by the same continuous effect type multiple times. 

+ The fire mechanic from Titan Legions was a lot of fun, and having lots of fires raging evokes the idea of great land battleships billowing smoke while they continue to fire. +

Alternating activations: Players take it in turn to activate individual units. Turn order is determined as normal at the start of the game.
+ One of my favourite mechanics from Epic; I wanted to include this. Because War Engine doesn't rely on synergies (like the parent game Warmachine), the alternating activation should work fairly smoothly. In addition, because the use of individual War Engines is relatively complex (compared to a Warjack, for example), this mechanic is the best way to keep both players involved. It also allows for easy scalability and (potentially) multiple-player games. +

+ Currently, these are the only major changes; everything else works according to the slick and tight Warmachine rules. Of course, there are huge differences – the lack of Warcasters and the fact the Engines work slightly differently to Warjacks is obvious, and I'll have to come back and tighten up the general wording on those areas once I've worked out how each faction will function. +

+ Faction specifics +

The following (fragmentary) notes are taken from my initial draft; just to give you an idea of how I was thinking. If something comes up later that just doesn't work, I'll be able to come back to these basic ideas. 

+ As you'll see if you compare the specifics to these earlier notes, I've already moved away a little from some areas, but the core is there. +

General thoughts. 
  • Mainly based on Warmachine Colossal damage grid; including two banks of six columns and systems that can be knocked out.
  • Weapon types

Imperial Titans 
  • Few special rules inherent; instead purchased by weapon choice. e.g. Harpoon missile will disrupt
  • Void shields
    • Available in 'banks'. Each bank will stop X damage, then collapse and allow excess to 'bleed through'.
    • Banks can be regenerated by spending plasma.
  • Plasma reactor
    • Equivalent to Focus mechanic; but randomly generated per titan. 'Bled off' at the end of the turn.
    • Can be spent to:
      • Additional die to hit 
      • Additional die to damage
      • Run
      • Additional attack
      • Shake effect
      • Power attack
  • Structure
    • Hull
    • Weapons 
    • Head – Fire control: can +1 or -1 from column choice(?)
    • Reactor
    • Legs

Ork Titans
Easy to hit, slow, but monstrously resilient. Can repair. Slightly unpredictable; require more micromanagement. 
  • Power fields
    • Works like Warcaster power field (+1 ARM for each steam point)
  • Steam points
    • Equivalent to Fury mechanic; generated at a low rate, but maintained from turn to turn.
    • Steam can be vented voluntarily.
    • If too much is generated or spent in a turn, causes overload (like a threshold check). 
      • Causes the gargant to gain fire markers and lose steam.
    • If all steam is lost, gargant becomes inert and has to be restarted.
    • Bigger gargants can maintain more steam.
    • Can be spent to:
      • Additional die to hit 
      • Additional die to damage
      • Run
      • Additional attack
      • Shake effect
      • Power attack
  • Waaagh! points
    • Equivalent to Focus mechanic; generated across whole army and distributed from biggest Gargant downwards.
    • Can be spent to:
      • Add special rules (different costs)
      • Restart gargants
      • Get grots to put out more fires
    • Gargants are designated 'kunnin but brutal' or 'brutal but kunnin' before the game.
      • Kunnin but brutal get access to:
        • Awe; circular vision; defensive strike; finisher
      • Brutal but kunnin' get access to:
        • Aggressive; assault; brutal charge; bulldoze; cleave
    • Generated if: 
  • Mega-gargants:
    • Gunfighter, Virtuoso

Eldar Titans
  • Power-points
    • Automatically generate a static number of points.
    • Number of points generated is low because of Future Sight combined with generally better stats makes things more reliable.
  • Holofields
    • +1 def per power-point
    • Improve if on the move.
  • Wraithbone matrix
    • Is an arc node
    • Bushwhack
    • Future sight
    • Evasive
    • Swift Hunter

+ Starting points +

+ I didn't want to start by working out one faction (Imperial Titans, for example), then converting the others from that mould. This is because I think that approach can lead to awkward bodges to get things to work appropriately and thematically; and is also a bit unimaginative. Gargants are very different from Eldar Titans, and simply having the former as 'slower, tougher Titans' and the latter as 'faster, weaker Titans' sells both short. +

+ That meant I had to build all three up simultaneously. Doubtless there'll be areas of disagreement in specifics, buI hope I've done justice to the basic concepts, culled from the background of War Engines rather than the old rulesets. I decided to work from the iconic Battle Titans, as these set a basic standard from which the larger and smaller types can be distinguished: the Warlord, Great Gargant and Phantom. +

+ Statwise, all were going to be based on the Warjack rules, as these are nicely balanced across the factions while still getting nice themes across. They'll get tweaked, but I started with Cygnar, Khador and Cryx heavy Warjack stats for the Imperials, Orks and Eldar respectively. 

+ Because the game is much more based on ranged combat, and because War Engines typically have at least three weapons, the normal damage chart wasn't going to cut it – there wouldn't be enough space for a decent amount of boxes for each location; which would lead to weird lop-sided damage. On top of that, the War Engines needed proportionally more damage boxes because the number of weapons – and emphasis on ranged combat – meant it would be easier to damage them.

+ I decided to use Colossal damage charts. These are twice the size of Warjacks' damage charts, and split into left and right sides. This gave plenty of space for locations like legs, head, and – of course – the weapons. It also helps create a sense of scale and size while adding to the importance of manouevre: an opponent who outflanks you can only be targetted by the weapons on the relevant side, for instance. +


+ This is becoming rather a wall-o-text, so that's enough for the mo; I just wanted to lay out the basic ideas. Next time I will show the draft rules for one of the factions (or more, if I have time) and explain the different power generation mechanics. 

+ If you have any thoughts on the parts of the project I've laid out – whether general, specific or simply a bit of encourgement – I'd be keen to hear what you have to say. +