Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Building an army for Fantastic Battles

In Fantastic Battles, all armies are custom built to suit the player’s vision of their fantasy race, nation or faction. This post is intended to give some insight into the process of building an army with which to crush their enemies.

Armies consist of a number of characters and companies built using the guidelines below. For pick-up games, players would normally agree a nominal point limit of 500-1,000 points within which to build armies. A 1,000 point army might have somewhere in the region of 4-7 characters, and 15-25 companies. Games with multiple players per side are easily accommodated.

The rules will include a number of pre-generated army lists based on the armies of the various play-testers, but these should be seen as suggestions rather than canon, and players are encouraged to create armies that suit their own collections.


Each army must be led by a single warlord (or a necromancer) and may also include a number of other individual characters who are classed as captains, magic-users or rogues. Character types are standardised to reflect the battlefield role of individual personalities; they are not customisable except for the spell choices of magic-users.

Warlords/necromancers are the player’s avatar on the table. They have the best capacity to maintain command of the units around them and rally them when their resolve flags. Captains have a reduced capacity for command, while rogues and magic-users may only command units to which they are attached. Each magic-user has three spell slots which are chosen from a list of spells (currently there are 10). There is some access to magic items in the form of relics, but their impact is limited.

Characters are essential to any army, but they will never be game winners. They may move freely around the battlefield as individuals, but this is not a game where a single hero can expect to last too long against an entire unit of enemy warriors. Characters can attach to any unit, bolstering their Resolve and Melee capacity, and some ‘units’ (such as dragon matriarchs or giant chieftains) may also take character traits to allow them to lead their peers into battle.

The building block of the army is the company. Each company is recruited from one of seven base profiles and can be allocated up to three distinguishing traits ranging from amphibious and berserk, to flying, monstrous, mounted and undead.

An army may also apply a racial trope. The racial trope is a single trait which applies to all companies (not characters) of that race in the army; i.e. ‘all dwarves are doughty’, or ‘goblins are notoriously unreliable’.

The base profiles include elite, formed and irregular companies, as well as dragons, fantastic beasts, vehicles and ordnance batteries. With 40 traits to choose from (currently), it is possible to create well over 1,000 different company profiles.

Example companies 

The following examples outline the process of customising a company roster. Although both are based on an Irregular company base profile, the two examples will play very differently due to the allocated traits.

Whether dwelling in damp caverns, wild hills or the vast steppe, Goblin Warriors habitually wield wicked short bows but are always willing to throw themselves into a brawl with anyone who stands in their way. Goblin Warriors start as an irregular company (22 points) with the unreliable trait as a racial trope to reflect their argumentative nature (-4 points). They are melee troops who also carry bows, so receive the shooter (mixed unit) trait (2/1 Shoot, +4 points), and their enthusiasm to get into a scrap gives them the wild charge trait (+2 points).

Riding out to patrol the borders of the halfling shires, what Poultry Scouts lack in punch, they make up for in versatility. Beginning as an irregular company (22 points), the scouts are obliged to take militia (-1 Melee, -2 points) as their halfling racial trope to reflect their less-than-martial nature. Their small feathered mounts are not impressive enough to provide the mounted trait, but they do grant the fast trait (+1 Move, +1 point). As javelin-armed scouts, the riders gain thrown weapons (+1/- shooting, +1 point) and the skirmishers trait (+4 points).

Forming Units – Companies and Groups
During deployment, a player chooses to deploy their companies as individual small units, or combine up to four companies in larger group formations. With the exception of companies with the giant trait, any type of company may be grouped together in this way, whether it represents a horde of zombies, a grand battery of artillery, or a clutch of dragons. The only condition is that all companies in a group must have an identical profile and traits. Companies formed into a group during deployment must continue to operate as part of the group throughout the game. Likewise, companies deployed individually cannot be merged into a group later in the battle.

Individual companies are more manoeuvrable than groups; they can more easily navigate between terrain features, and find it easier to position themselves to attack enemy units in the flank or rear. However, by their very nature, lone companies tend to have less Resolve than groups, and lose Resolve faster when they see larger units scatter.

Groups consist of two, three or four identical companies. They have more restricted movement than individual companies, but combine their Resolve factors with the result that larger units tend to stick around on the battlefield longer than smaller units. 

That is all for now. Over the next couple of updates on Fantastic Battles, I'll be posting some example army lists in full.

Monday, 1 June 2020

The Wrong Island: PDEE Pulp meets LEGO™️

*NB - May not be actual LEGO. The figures came out of boxes branded “Pogo” or “Juracic Park”*

Here is another game report from Mark in Thailand. The game was actually played back in February, but I forgot to share it at the time.

The Joker is taking a break from pranking Gotham City, and has taken his gf and a couple of associates hunting on Dinosaur Island. They want to kill every dinosaur they can find, just for the fun of it, and they have 10 turns to do so. The hunters are:
♥️The Joker: pistol, Engineer
♦️Harley Quinn: club
♠️Alan (blonde hair): sub machine gun
♣️Smiles (black hair): rifle

Here they are (photo below) surveying the scene from the top of a small hill.

And here is a shot of most of the island. Note the pterosaur at top R (Raptor), King Carnosaur at bottom R, and small herd of 3 x Great Herbivores around the waterhole at bottom L.

There is also another King Carnosaur roaming off-table. It will appear at a random spot if the right conditions arise. Did I say it was the Wrong Island? It seems the joke may be on The Joker.

Anyway, off they go. The Joker & Alan try a co-op move first, fail 2/3 activations, but the nearest beasts (Great Herbivores) are not bothered. These city slickers will have to up their skills if they want to shoot anything though. Harley & Smiles try the same move, same result, this time one of the munching herbivores, presumably annoyed, makes a lunge towards the hunters to warn them off.

The hunters split into two teams. The Joker & Alan will try to take down the Pterosaur. Harley & Smiles will cautiously approach the Herbivore herd.

At the end of Turn 3 this tactic seems to be working ... Alan shot down the Pterosaur with a near textbook shot from his tommy gun (2/3 hits, no jams) and The Joker and he head back towards the C of the table ...

... and Smiles inflicted two rifle wounds on one of the Herbivores which has obliging Attacked towards Harley & him. Excellent shooting.

By the end of Turn 5 the situation was more ambivalent. Both teams allowed themselves to get overconfident and now have work to do to keep out of danger!

The Joker has been noticed by another Great Herbivore, and not in a nice way. And Alan has had a lucky but maybe temporary escape, after shooting unsuccessfully at the King Carnivore. His SMG has jammed, and the beast is calling to its nearby mate as it flees.

Meanwhile, Smiles caused “his” herbivore a 3rd wound, and as it backed off (Alarmed & Move Away reactions) Harley, ever hot headed, chased after it. Then it turned and lunged at her, causing a wound.

At the end of Turn 8 the hunters have only the hapless Pterosaur to show, and are getting desperate for more kills. But will it be the dinosaurs or the hunters who end up dead?

The Great Herbivores are in full retreat, but their roars are keeping Harley and Smiles at a distance. The Joker has thrown two bombs: the first fell short and wounded only him. The second was perfectly pitched but both affected beasts survived unscathed.

Alan has continued his personal battle with the King Carnivore, causing it 2 wounds but receiving 1 in return. Desperate action clearing a jammed weapon just as the beast attacked! The other King Carnivore has also now appeared, on the other side of the thicket.

I’m not letting beasts who retreat go off the table edge, because it’s an island. If necessary they’ll move along the base edge.

Down to the last 2 Turns now. 

Not much changed in fact. 3/4 hunters were now wounded and on 2 stress dice, which tends to cause a lot more beast reactions. 

From bottom to top: one of the Herbivores, enraged by (ineffective) shooting from Smiles, turned and attacked Harley (closest hunter) and stomped her good. The Joker will be heartbroken, but is otherwise preoccupied right now as the wounded Herbivore has decided to make a move on him. And Alan, facing off against the King Carnivore, has a jammed weapon and been forced to retreat as the beast roars defiance. Also it’s mate is now in LOS, which might matter if the game continued.

So we leave our hunters licking their wounds and wondering where their ride back to Gotham is. Facing the Black Knight was never this hard, not to mention the mosquitoes.

Cheers from Dinosaur Island,

Friday, 29 May 2020

10mm goblin reinforcements from Cibo's Little Dudes

Before the age of pandemics and lockdowns, all-time-good-fellow Andrew and I placed a joint order with Cibo's Little Dudes, a independent sculptor/manufacturer in Switzerland. While the order arrived months ago - and Andrew has long since finished painting his ratman army - I only managed to get my hands on my little bit of the order over the weekend. Behold Skrotrot the Great Goblin on his wyvern, Skittles the shaman, and a goblin battle-wagon.

Technically sold as an orc warlord, I don't have any orcs in my army, so Skrotrot will have to assume the guise of great goblin in an 'under the Misty Mountains' kind of way. The model comes in several parts: the wyvern body with rider are all one, the rider's right hand and axe are a seperate piece, as is a feather for his helmet, along with the wyvern's head and wings. All pretty easy to assemble, although I added a little greenstuff around the wing joints as a precautionary measure, and some more around the head-neck joint where the join looked a bit... obvious. It is a lovely figure with great character. Some of the detailing on the rider was a bit shallow, but still clear enough to paint up.

Skittles is not a separately available figure. He's actually an additional crew figure from the battle-wagon, but I needed an extra magic-user for the army, so gave him a tiki mask and the feather from the wyvern rider.

I love this battle-wagon. It was a real pain to fit together, coming in seven separate pieces (including the three crew). For some reason my glue was sticking my fingers together perfectly, but I struggled to get it to bind the bits of the wagon frame. In the end I used more greenstuff to wrap around the joints. They were already sculpted with rope bindings, so I don't think it harmed the aesthetic at all. The overall model is just so characteristically ad-hoc and gobliny, its great. I'm not sure how it is propelled - the see-saw/pump handle doesn't connect to anything - but I'm willing to overlook that for the fun.

And here is an obligatory scale shot. From left to right: Warmaster wolf-riders, Cibo's wyvern and battle-wagon. and Polar Fox steppe goblins. 

Overall I love this range. The sculpts have great character and the scale is spot on - slightly larger than Warmaster goblins, slightly smaller than Polar Fox, but all three are compatible. My only issue is the price point which seems to be matched more to OOP Warmaster stuff on eBay, making it pretty pricey compared to the likes of Pendraken, Magister Militum, Eureka or Copplestone.

Monday, 25 May 2020

First foray into 3D printed figures - a zombie dwarf

To compliment my Norse 'tribe' for Palaeo Diet, I wanted to pick up a draugr (undead warrior) as a tabletop predator - I will use the 'Mummy' profile to make him truly terrifying for my hunter adventurers. As my Norsemen are actually Viking dwarfs from Macrocosm, naturally, I needed a zombie dwarf as my draugr.

Looking around, I found this splendidly computer rendered chap at the Secret Cat Shop. The detail was amazing and I figured that as a one-off purchase, I could overlook the rather high price tag - £5 for a single miniature would normally make me cry a little on the inside. I also thought it would be a neat way to purchase my first 3D printed figure (printed by the manufacturer and posted to me, not a file to be printed by me).

Sadly, reality didn't quite equal my expectations. I'm not sure if it just shows my total inexperience with the new technology, but the figure that arrived showed far, far less detail than the render advertised on the website. In fact, it reminded very much of the old Matchbox Monster-in-My-Pocket, if any other child of the 80s remembers them. 

Painted up he looks OK, and the figure is definitely serviceable, but I can't help feeling that for the price tag I'm feeling a tad underwhelmed.

To rub salt in the ol' disappointment, he's also kind of huge. The top of his head comes up to the eyes of a Wargames Foundry viking, and they are large 28mm figures. Above you can see (from left to right) a Macrocosm dwarf, Secret Cat Shop zombie dwarf, WF viking and Copplestone yeti for scale comparisons.