Archive for January, 2016

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I’ve been a fan of Gerry Anderson generally, and Thunderbirds specifically, my whole life, ever since I used to read my Dad’s old TV Century 21 annuals when visiting my Grandparents, and obsessively re-watched my VHS copies of the original Thunderbirds are Go and Thunderbird 6 movies. Something about the alchemical combination of future heroism, totally OTT miniature pyrotechnics and freakish, shambling puppets really spoke to me (not forgetting the endless extreme close-ups of real hands). To this day, any remotely exciting or tense event in my life is given a Barry Grey soundtrack by my brain (most often the excellent Sun Probe Collision Theme).

So naturally I was delighted at the emergence of this new cooperative board game from Modiphus Entertainment, themed around the classic 60’s TV show. In fact my inner eight year old may still be doing cartwheels of delight.

In this game players each take the role of one of the members of International Rescue and work together to thwart the schemes of the dastardly Hood, as well as their day job, performing daring and time-critical rescues around the world. All of the Tracy brothers are available as player characters, along with their titular craft, as well as Lady Penelope in FAB1.

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Unboxing this game is something of a treat first time around, as in the same vein as the much-loved 60’s TV show, this board game is as camp as fifty rows of tents, with bright primary colours and retro-futurism practically dripping from every card and component, mainly thanks to the gorgeous game pieces. Of particular delight to me is that Thunderbird 2 has a pod that really opens up, enabling players to actually load the ship with The Mole or The Firefly or any of the other pod vehicles! I got similar levels of excitement from discovering that the numbers on the dice are lifted from the Thunderbirds themselves (naturally the dice only go up to five, the sixth face is the hood, and rolling that is not good), and most of all, from my own International Rescue ID card. The attention to detail in these design flourishes betrays a real affection for, and knowledge of the source material, which thankfully kept me on side when I discovered my Thunderbird 3 was really rather bent.

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The board itself is a world map. with elements along the top and bottom to represent outer space, Tracy Island, Brain’s Notebook (where players build their specialised pod vehicles and rescue craft) and the progress of the Hood’s Schemes.

In gameplay terms this should be relatively straightforward for serious gamers, mainly being an exercise in what I like to think of as ‘plate-spinning’, i.e. working towards an overall goal randomly determined by the Hood’s scheme cards, while also performing rescues around the world, which when solved, provide you with bonus counters which give you re-rolls, extra dice and so on, or can be saved up and spent in order to defeat schemes. Successfully performing a rescue requires the player get to the correct location, and win a dice roll, while also coordinating with other players to get certain characters or machines into certain locations to gain bonuses against said roll. The emphasis is on cooperation and coordination of the whole team, which can actually be quite rowdy compared to a more adversarial game, or a co-op where one player is a mole or traitor, as players shout instructions at each other across the board.

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The disasters stack up, with a new one being added with every player’s next turn, and with each turn that passes, the existing disasters march relentless along their track. If one goes unrescued for eight turns, you lose, so it’s important to plan your turn in connection with your fellow players, as having the right additional character on Thunderbird on site can provide a bonus to your dice rolls.

I found my first playthrough of this game to be a lot of fun, but very easy. Years of playing Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror and similar with my fellow Suppressing Fire writers has conditioned me to expect co-op games to be utterly merciless to the player, but Thunderbirds come with multiple difficulty set ups, enabling you to ramp up the challenge through five levels if you wish. So after my first go round, which I had inadvertently played on intro level, I had another go, cranking right up to the hardest level. The result of this was the schemes were much harder to foil, and I was filled with dread every time I rolled dice or drew cards, in case I revealed a The Hood Advances result, giving me a little less time to get the umpteen tokens I needed.

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Thunderbirds is overall a fun game, with lots of affectionate touches in the art and design that will really please fans of the series, particularly the game pieces, cards and artefacts. The actual gameplay is fun, with adjustable difficulty for more skilled players or those seeking a lot of replay value. The game can in theory be played two player or solitaire but I recommend at least three players for a real good crack at it, especially as playing solo one can easily get deeply confused while spinning all those plates, as I can attest.

On the flipside, it might have been good to throw in a smidge more combative action into the mix, perhaps giving one of players the option to play as The Hood, rather than confining him to being an NPC. Furthermore, I think I will always be somewhat distraught about my wonky Thunderbird 3.

Good stuff. Would save imperilled marionettes again.


Review by Spike Direction.  Thunderbirds is available now from Mophidian Entertainment; and you can follow Spike on Twitter.

REVIEWED: Dragon Rampant

Posted: January 20, 2016 in Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Gaming

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In 2014, Osprey Publishing, with author Daniel Mersey, released Lion Rampant, a set of wargaming rules for the medieval period, aimed at staging matches somewhere between a small scale and a full scale battle. The game was a roaring success, due in part to its accessibility and flexibility in terms of troops and basing. It wasn’t long until players, and the author himself, realised that the rules easily lent themselves to a fantasy setting, and people were including orcs and goblins in the game. This gave rise to the spiritual sequel, Dragon Rampant.

It is important to note that Dragon Rampant is not simply a rehash of the older game; it has new elements such as wizards casting spells and the ability to make your troops fly, and these new factors are integral to the game. Yes, the engines may be the same but the cars built on top of these pistons are very different. It is also worth pointing out that Dragon Rampant is not an expansion, but a standalone game. In all honesty I’ve never actually played Lion Rampant (despite owning the rulebook) but the rules in this new version are complete and you don’t need to have one to play the other. That said, if you have played one of them you will probably get to grips with the other rapidly. Much like other Osprey releases, the book itself is nicely laid out, with beautiful artwork throughout.

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So, how is the game? I’m very happy to report that it’s incredibly good. After only two games I felt that I was barely picking up the rulebook, to check some odd bit that I couldn’t remember, which to me is a mark of quality. I like my rules to be in-depth, covering most scenarios, but also to leave room for the players to come up with their own solutions. This game does that perfectly. The rules are actually incredibly simple, and because of this, little rules don’t cross over to cause moments that stop play, the game flows very fluidly from movement to fighting, to rallying your troops and all sorts of other actions without numerous mathematical equations to work out whether or not you can do something. Never did I find myself saying “Well, these guys are here, and they want to do this, but these guys are using a +1 block to boost the penalty from these guys…”. The most complex conversation I found myself having was “Well, these guys move on a 4+, but they’ve been hit twice, so… I’m looking for a 6+ on two dice.”

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In terms of equipment needed, you’ll want a maximum of twelve dice (preferably per side) some models to play with, some markers to represent units that are hurting, some terrain, and a tape measure. That’s it. The rules recommend a 6′ x 4′ table but I played on a much smaller surface and found it perfectly adequate. The book also recommends playing in 28mm scale, but gives ideas for playing in something smaller or larger. I also used a single piece of A4 paper as a roster sheet, and whilst this isn’t really necessary, I, and the author, would suggest you use one, to keep track of skills and scores. Games, once you get going, normally take about an hour.

In terms of miniatures, the book says you’ll use around sixty, but I used twenty-six, and my opponent used twenty, and this is the real strength of the game. It is absolutely flexible in creating a warband. There are unit types (heavy foot, elite mounted, etc) and each of them has a profile, but how you portray that is entirely up to you. Every unit has a “strength” of six or twelve, which is kind of like its “Health”. But however you represent this strength, and the depletion of it is your choice. You could have a massive ogre, and put a marker next to him every time he takes a hit, twelve warriors that you remove one by one, or 600 tiny banana bread constructs that lose 100 soldiers every time they take damage. In theory, the game could be played with four figures a side. This is undoubtably my favourite part of the game, as my warband had a ferocious dragon, some Viking berserkers and a Saxon warlord, whereas my opponent’s had Arab cavalry and a giant Pikachu.

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I could write pages after pages about the small details in this game that I enjoy, like rules for making one race hate another, “Quests” that you can embark on during larger games and the effect one battle-hardened warrior can have on a skirmish, however, I have one main thing that I ask of any game I play: Can I tell a story during the game? To answer this, you have to look at my opponent’s Arab cavalry on our very first game.

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As my ferocious dragon laid waste to all from the top of a tower, the brave riders flanked the battlefield, smashing through a group of light skirmishers, and routing a bloodthirsty rank of berserkers, losing one of their brave number in the process. Meanwhile, my warlord has been peppered by arrows from an archer unit, pummelled by an Axe-Maiden and Thunderbolted by Pikachu. As he falls, the dragon swoops from the tower, the archers fleeing in its wake. It swallows the Axe-Maiden whole and burns Pikachu to a crisp. Then, the sound of thunder, as the remaining riders cross the entire battlefield, charging fearlessly into the deadly beast, finally slaying him and saving what’s left of the kingdom.

Dragon Rampant is brilliant. Buy it with your hands.


 

Review by Ömer Ibrahim.  Dragon Rampant is available now from Osprey Games; and you can follow Ömer on Twitter and Facebook.

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And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.

Imperial Stormtroopers are the backbone of the military of Sheev Palpatine’s Galactic Empire. Their imposing armour, itchy-trigger fingers and sheer numbers make them a deadly threat for the Rebels, and a legitimate pain for the forces of Scum and Villainy across the galaxy.

Stormtroopers are now available in a blister pack for Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: Imperial Assault, for the first time since the base set was released. These figures are in a slightly different pose to the earlier models, but painting them uses pretty much the same technique.

After removing the flash (which is minimal), and giving them a quick scrub in soap and water, you should give them a white undercoat. Imperial Stormtroopers are more or less entirely white – bar a few detailed points – so spraying is definitely recommended, even if you normally prefer to dip or paint on your undercoat. Once you’ve done that, they should look sort of like this.

Yup. Nearly there already.  The next photo shows the results after the next two steps.  First, using a reference photo (images of Stormtroopers are relatively easy to find between Google Image Search, the many reference books available, and – of course – the movies themselves), colour in all the black areas in a mild-grey colour.  I used Citadel’s Mechanicus Grey, but you can use another brand of your choice.  This is because the next thing I do is add a black ink wash (Citadel’s Nuln Oil).  This has the twin effect of darkening the grey colours to a nice black, while also filling in all the crevices of the armour, to give the impression of shadow; as well as making all the detail – particularly in the helmet – pop.

This does, of course, have the side effect of turning our gleaming white Stormtrooper into a rather dirty gray/black, but there is method behind this madness.

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The next step is to get out little TK-421 back up to white standard, and the way to do that is with drybrushing.  When I first started learning to paint, way back in the mid-nineties, drybrushing was portrayed as this advanced technique that only a handful of Shaolin monks living in the offices of White Dwarf had managed, but it’s actually pretty easy.  There are a hundred amazing tutorials out there, so I won’t rehash them here.  Basically, what drybrushing achieves is to apply paint to all of the raised areas of the model, while avoiding getting any on the recessed areas.

What this means is that it’s a brilliant method for achieving highlighting effects, such as restoring our Stormtrooper to his shining, white armour.  Applying some drybrushing using a strong white (I used Citadel Ceramite White, but any strong white will do) will make the armour look white again, while also keeping the recessed parts black, showing off the detail of this great model.

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I chose to stop there, but if you want to add a little more A New Hope style gleam, then you can paint in some areas white using more conventional techniques than drybrushing, but that’s entirely up to you.  Personally, I’ve kept him like that because I know the Snowtroopers have just arrived, and I want them to look gleaming white by comparison.  I’ll be covering them on the site shortly, too.

If you want to make the armour shine a little more, then a light coating of Citadel ‘Ardcoat will give it a plasticy sheen, like the movies.

There you have it, a quick and stupidly simple way to get your stormtroopers looking good.