Monday, 30 March 2015

Comic Con 2015 - Newcastle

And so, quicker than the blink of an eye, the second Newcastle Comic Con is upon us.  My darling wife and I headed up The Toon and the Metro Arena for a weekend of fandom and general fun and games, and what a weekend it was too!

Firstly, the organisation this year was far better than last year and the crowds seemed to be under greater control.  As with last year we'd purchased Early Bird tickets, so the crowds weren't really an issue for us and so we wandered in to find the place buzzing.

Comic Con has Three main elements to it:

1.  A large fandom marketplace, and this basically dominates the layout.

2.  Celebrities - a variety of celebrities, and others who have acted or contributed to various films, TV shows etc.  Typically they do a meet & greet panel and autograph sales thing, and some also contribute to various formal 'breakout' talks.

3.  Cosplayers - attendees often turn up in the costumes of their favorite fandom or character.

Ultimately its an opportunity to spend time among like-minded individuals of all ages, and to express and enjoy being immersed in a culture of unrestrained joy.

The Marketplace
OK, well, sure the chance to pick up a few purchases is always welcome and I purchased a few things, as did my wife (pop vynals are her new thing).  I'm always interested in the artists who pitch up to show their wares too; from professional comic artists, to other more general semi-pro and amateur people.  Of those present, I was particularly taken with Kate Mia White.

Her work reminds me of Russ Nicholson's stuff, which i'm a huge fan of.

Other than that the marketplace is a good place to wander and view the cool stuff on display, like this...

On the first day the marketplace was heaving, but nowhere near as crammed as last year, i think in part due to the better organisation this year.  It never felt overwhelming, although you did need to do a few circuits to be able to get to see everything you wanted to through the crowds.

Generally i'm not starstruck, so these hold little interest for me.  My wife on the other hand was specifically interested in meeting Louise Jameson, here childhood heroine, who among other things played Leela in Dr Who.

We only managed to get to one talk this year and it was with the Dr Who panel; Louise Jameson, Bonnie Langford, and  William Russel.

William Russell as Ian Chesterton.

 Louise Jameson as Leela.

Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush.

It was an interesting panel discussion, and Bonnie Langford was very good.  Being a huge Whovian, this delighted my wife, and she was particularly happy to get to spend time talking to Louise Jameson.

Of course I'm rather more interested in Star Wars and it was great to see Jeremy Bulloch.

Perhaps he's better known as Boba Fett.

There was also KITT from a rather, ahem, show from back in the 80's...

But for me the highlight of the whole weekend was on day two with an impromptu display from Ray Park and Garret Wang.

Does it get anymore awesome than Harry Kim...

...having a lightsabre duel with Darth Maul...

...???  I'll admit, I nergasmed a little bit.


Ray was so fast, the camera couldn't keep up with him...


Garret was watching in joyous awe like the rest of us, and then he wanted in on the action...


Ray Park showed him the moves...

And it all kicked off...

Bloody awesome!  

Someone else managed to get video footage of the whole event...

This year there was a fine crop of excellent costumes and people indulging their fandom fantasies.  I'll let the evidence speak for itself.

I find your lack of costume...disturbing...

Star Lord...there were a LOT of these!

A female Comedian.  My wife's favourite, and this cosplayer certainly did the job!

Impressive groinal attachment you have their Kryten...

So refreshing to see the Good Guys for a change!

Poor unfortunate souls, in pain, in need...

Could I get away with this at the office?

Overall, an excellent weekend.  Can't wait for next year!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Warband: Hill Dwarves vs Goblins

Tonight we took to the field with a game of Warband, and the battle was joined between a warband of Hill Dwarves (me) and a warband of goblins (my opponent, Graeme).  We've played lots of playtest battles over the years, but this is the first game 'in anger' so to speak.  Both Graeme and I are still building 'proper' armies, so we dug out the playtest figures for another bash.

Hill Dwarves
General - Exceptional
Spell-crafter - Average
2x Archers (with shieldwall)
1x Archers
3x Warriors
1x Honour guards

Chieftain - Exceptional
Shaman - Good
5x Warriors (with Fierce)
2x Wolf riders (with Skirmish)
1x Scouts
1x Giants

My battle plan was based around a flanking maneouvre by some warrior units, supported by the magic user, while holding a line with the archers.  I wanted a flank filled with hills to give my hill walking spells an advantage to exploit.

Graeme's plan was to bring his shaman up behind a swarm of fierce troops, to use his vicious spells to devastate my army on mass.

We played a pitched battle (not a scenario).  The terrain fell poorly for me, with the much needed hills on the goblin side.  

My dwarves deployed opposite the hills to try to enact the plan in any case.  Graeme's goblins deployed centrally, looking to push through the valley into my force.

The small, powerful hill dwarf army stares across at the howling goblins.

The goblins howled and slavered at the chance to get to grips with the short, fat, bearded ones.

And so the battle opened with the lines closing, and the dwarven archers opened proceedings by immediately routing a unit of goblins!

I manged to get two archer units shooting at one goblin warriors unit and inflicted 4 hits, none of which were removed by the protection rolls!


Somewhat shocked by this, the goblins panicked and disordered.  Their lines failed to advance as the local leaders knocked heads together to settle the endless disputes that erupted regarding the wisdom of advancing into the wall of dwarf archery.

The goblin motivation dice rolls then went into meltdown, and Graeme managed to fail dice rolls including the CP dice added in for a good couple of turns.  It didn't help that he tried a few group moves.  these are risky as you can't add CP to the roll.

The dwarves took the initiative, pushed their archers forwards, and sent out the intended flanking move by the warriors.

My Motivation tests were pretty average and i had to use CP to get the flank forwards.  It didn't help that my magic user wasn't keeping up his end of the bargain and kept generating too few MPs to give the flank warriors the needed 'hill walkers' special ability.  The plan wasn't coming together.  

The dwarf archers formed a kill zone and poured more arrows into the goblins, who still wavered in disarray.  Even their Chieftain's yelling and bawling couldn't get the troops moving.

The goblins started to pay for this, as the dwarves inflicted hits on their lines, including the chieftain himself, who took a real pounding.

Motivation fails were starting to tell, and gave my archers time to inflict hits.  As I stood back though, this would give Graeme time to rally any routed units, and he always kept enough CP back to rally his general if needed.  Sound tactics.


With the centre held well, the dwarves pushed their warriors up into the hills to try to outflank the goblins.

The warriors stormed over the hill and engaged the goblin scouts on the flank.

My motivation and magic point problems told here, and i was forced to attack piecemeal.

Meanwhile, disgusted by the goblins squabbling intertia, the giants lumbered forwards on their own.  Anticipating this move, the hill dwarves had deployed their Honour Guards on the northern flank of the warband, and these stout fellows stood ready, and fearless, in the face of the thundering horrors.

Inspired by the giant's advance, the rest of the goblin horde finally got their act together and started to advance.  

Graeme's lamentable series of poor Motivation dice finally broke and he got his little green chaps moving.  I think it helped that he switched away from attempting group moves into motivating individual units.  A group move can't be boosted by command points so its a risk.

Meanwhile back on the southern hills, things began to turn in the goblins favour.  The dwarves advance stalled, and the goblin counter attack began to bite.


My disjointed attack meant that the goblins were able to outflank my isolated units.  The combat advantages were telling, and my units were outside of command range so i couldn't help them with command points.  Predicatble outcome really...

Cut off from their commander (and his precious command points), the dwarves were outflanks and routed.  This left the spell-crafter exposed and he was charged and tied up in melee, critically restricting his spell casting.

And it was MUCH needed as the goblin shaman finally moved up to get into range of a combination of devastating spells.

He opened proceedings with a horrific Consuming Rage spell.  Graeme decided to burn out his shaman to maximise its effect, and although the Shaman took a bunch of hits he survived.  It was worth it though, as much of the dwarf warband took 3 hits each!  Ouch!!  The dwarf general looked on at the raking magic, and screamed, 'someone kill that shaman, and fast!'

The dwarf spell caster can cast Anvil of Fate which reduces the goblin shaman's magic points.  This became vital, but tied up in melee a magic-user can't cast spells at all.  

Consuming Rage is potentially devastating and is a great spell for the Goblins.  In this case, Graeme chose to max out the spell, inflicting 3 Hits on all enemy units within 4BW, but also inflicting 4 Hits on his Shaman!  He had to use Command Points to rally the Shaman after that, and the dwarves high Protection helped stave off much of the damage - but not all of it.

Here's where the dwarves lack of mobitlity, and my defensive stance caused problems.  Had i had a unit within 1BW of the Goblin shaman, he would have been destroyed by his own spell (unable to rally).

Goodness that spell hurt!  However, the line held and dished out some damage of its own.

Back over to the north, the giants found themselves in a fight for survival against the honour guards and some supporting warriors.

The giants, isolated from their goblins friends so little reason to fight and showed the enemy their...ahem...heels as they ran off.  'Live to fight another day' would appear to be a popular giant saying.

With the dwarf line savaged by the Consuming Rage spell, the goblins followed this up with a Surge of Savagery, pushing their fierce units into the battered dwarves.

This mid game sequence was devastating for the dwarves.  After early motivation inertia, Graeme finally got his Goblins moving and once the Shaman got into spell range he got some good consistent Magic Point totals.

The dwarves were still reeling from the Consuming Rage damage, when the Goblin shaman cast Surge of Savagery.

This gave all the Goblins +1d6 Melee, Powerful, Impetuous, and Skirmish.  Ouch!

Not risking the Motivation fails, Graeme let the Impetous take his troops in, and accepted the hits this would inflict on his units.  It was well worth it though as the Goblins were hitting the dwarves really hard as a result.

The resulting combat saw morale collapse across the dwarf lines, but also a few Goblin units broken with exhaustion from the magic spell!

Pretty sure those dwarf archers are on a sticky wicket...


The goblins' numbers, fierceness, and magic turned the tide and the dwarves that remained fell back to rally around the general.

The dwarf morale was about to collapse but a last desperate hope remained.  Their general charged out to meet the goblin chieftain in personal combat.

The attack failed, and the goblins mopped up what was left of the dwaves, winning a solid victory!

All told a good, fun game.  The action switched across the battle front and the victory hung in the balance for most of the game.  Overall, Graeme's ability to rally his routed troops, while denying me the chance to rally mine was a key part of his victory, along with inspired generalship of course!

I learned - if the goblins bring a shaman, kill it immediately.

Graeme learned - he wanted an undead warband, but he had such fun with the goblins he's rethinking his choice!

The game attracted a bit of attention at the club, and in particular many players were inpressed by the hit markers.  I must say I am too - good job Pendraken.

Warband pdf


Post battle reports and discussion can be found here.

I've copied the text here too.

The Goblins - debrief

Well, the plan was a cunning cunning as a fox who has just been know the rest...

My army composition was the best Leader and Shaman I could take, 5 x Warriors (all fierce), 2 x Wolf Riders (Skirmishers), 1 x Scout (Skirmisher) and 1 x Giant. The plan was, rather than pump Command Points into hits/saves, instead use them to rally broken units, keeping them on the table, thus not losing too many points. The Shaman just had to get into range, roll a 5 or 6 for his magic points, then unleash the Consuming Rage Spell to soften the enemy, before charging in, hopefully with the Surge of Savagery spell if I could roll the points at the right time (which I did).

It seemed to work pretty well, I burned out my Shaman with the CR spell, but kept him on the table using command points. I used the Giants to distract the opponent and force him to commit troops, or ignore the threat. He committed, and the giants broke, but again I was able to rally him. The 6+2 command points meant i was able to rally broken units and keep them on the table once or twice a turn.

When the Surge spell was cast, I managed to get all bar two units into combat and used the command points to target weakened units, my Shaman adding to the combats by positioning himself on a hill, thus shooting over everyone to do maximum damage where possible.

It was a different take on the army, where I deliberately didn't take any shooters (though I forgot that scouts could shoot during the game) as they would be outshot by the dwarves, and using the Commander in a different way, away from the front line (thoughpart of that wasn't choice, he had to retreat when shot at), but primarily to rally was a change from the games I have tried in the past. A successful formula, but one I may not get away with again as Mr. Luddite will no doubt be working out ways to counter it.

Great game, finished in two and a half hours, and tense right up to the last bound.

Hill Dwarves - debrief

I think that's a sound tactic - relying on the inherent strength of your warband's units, and using the command as a rallying point.  Very sneaky!

It did the job too!  My dwarves were far too defensive, and the plan to use shooting to try to win doesn't work.  You have to have melee units able to press on into the enemy, beat them toe-to-toe and then crucially, stay close enough to stop the opponent rallying them (or simply running the routed units down and destroying them).

My archers did a LOT of damage, but as I sat back, the goblins had an open backfield and plenty of space with an exceptional quality Chieftain to rally his routed troops back into the fight.

Whereas, the goblins did something similar with ranged magic, but followed that up by charging in with fierce backfield was shut off, and my routers cut down by pursuits...dwarves are tough, but not that tough!

Aye, great fun and wildly different tactical options available to each army.  I was beaten by better tactics!

I think i'll be investing in some gyrocopters, and hoping that my opponent doesn't have bows...