Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guild Ball -- still trying to figure out this game!

Chris and I found time for another game of Guild Ball this past weekend.  Supposedly, finding time to play should be easy, since the full, largest-size game should finish in about 90 minutes.  We're still consuming over 3 hours to work our way through half a game!

Fishermen win the toss and opt to receive.
The lineup l. to r.:  Jac, Corsair (team captain), Salt (team mascot), Greyscales, Kraken, Sakana

Now granted, I am primarily to blame for the long play-time.  Chris makes his decisions relatively quickly, while I have been stuck in analysis paralysis.  A big thanks to Chris for being patient, while I try to untie the Gordian Knot of my thought process.

The rest of this post is specific to Guild Ball, so be forewarned that I may be speaking some jargon.

Salt actually participates in the game and retrieves the kickoff!
The tripod on the left are in a defensive position, but I think it would have worked better as a line.

What I've been struggling to do is find patterns for the basic tactics of the game.  I've been trying to identify a workhorse tactic or an intermediate building block, on which I can build a game-plan for the turn.  I'm looking for a core mechanic that neutralizes an enemy model, either directly or positionally.  But every neutralization is too short-lived for me to capitalize on it.

A Knocked Down model can be immediately recovered, and then the model can still Advance.  A model can leave melee, at will, for very little cost.  Fast movement, across or down-field, can be countered.  The games that Chris and I play pretty much stalemate, as we counter each others' maneuvers and shenanigans.

Salt passes the ball to Sakana, who zips it up the sideline, behind the trees.

I see nothing that can "pin", "disable", or otherwise neutralize an enemy model within the core rules.  All of the neutralizations are immediately recoverable at low cost.  A model can leave melee by accepting the low cost of a Parting Blow; recover from Knocked Down by spending Momentum; etc.

Half the Mason team moves to intercept Sakana!  (They're hidden behind the trees.)
Sakana sends the ball back to Salt.  The Fishermen hope to take advantage of their greater speed and maneuverability, in order to move the action to the opposite side of the board, leaving half the Mason team to struggle after them.
I realized later that Sakana could have tricked his way through all those defenders and taken a shot.  Even so, splitting the Masons in half seemed like a good idea at the time.

Salt chortles as he bathes in the glory of handling the ball twice in one game.

In our game this weekend, even though I knew better after having a half-dozen games under my belt, I had in my brain for some reason that Knocked Down would keep a player Knocked Down until their next activation.  And then, even when they stood up, their movement would be squandered.  The resulting assumption was, "Knock 'em down, they ain't going anywhere."  That conclusion, of course, was wrong.  But that's the type of building block I'm looking for.
Oh, no!  Honour screams down center-field, in a bid to threaten the innocent otter, steal his ball from him, and score a quick goal, all while picking on a cute, endangered species.  Bitch!
Salt shits little otter pellets on the field.
I'm looking for "default patterns" or "initial conditions", so to speak, which I can use as a foundation to think through each situational case.  Right now, each and every situation is entirely unique, and that is what pushes me into analysis paralysis.
Salt manages to escape certain death and utter embarrassment.  He carries the ball to his buddies and hides behind them.
 Does "the edge" in Guild Ball reside only in combos and synergies?  Does it depend on planning sequences and constantly replanning sequences, when the early-turn sequences are inevitably disrupted?

Jac pulls the ball away from the scrum.  Will he have a chance to score?!

So, where my mind is at the moment is trying to identify "default missions" for each model's activation.

For example:

Sakana:  Score a goal or take a position for a Snap Shot.  Secondary: reduce Armor on a Mason.
Kraken:  Knock Down and/or do Damage.  Secondary: spoil opponent model's position.
Greyscales:  Control the ball; Pass.  Secondary: interfere as a Decoy.
Corsair:  Control the ball; be aggressive.  Secondary: spoil opponent model's position.
Jac:  Spoil opponent model's position.  Secondary:  Be aggressive.
Salt:  Recover and move the ball.  Secondary:  Don't die. 

Having been pummeled in the scrum, Tower finishes off Jac, dislodging the ball. 
Loose ball on the field!

Finally, Chris and I decided to try the game with a chess clock.  I think the chess clock will relieve the mental stress, actually.  I won't care as much about my indecision or making mistakes.  And the time will be spent more efficiently.  Even if I'm making blundering mistakes, I'll be learning at a faster rate!

Salt recovers the ball!  The faithful otter returns the ball to the possession of his team-mates.

I was listening to the recent Episode 189 of the D6 Generation, and Craig Gallant pretty much had that experience, when he and his opponent added a chess clock.  The other cool thing is that a chess clock will guarantee us two games in the time that we've been spending to play one!

All the wounded players return from the sideline.  But this game is done.  The Masons lose Mallet, and the Fishermen lose Corsair.  The game is called at 4 to 4.  Two take-outs to each side.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

After a long hiatus, a game of Guild Ball

My regular opponent, Chris, had real-life priorities to contend with for the last several months, as he had to move house.  We finally had a chance to pick up where we left off on the Guild Ball pitch.  We had another game at one of the microbreweries in town, the Rocket Republic.  Meanwhile, other folks in our gaming group organized a 3-on-3 game of Frostgrave, which looked like a blast!

Fishermen vs Masons.  Both captains are down, while the rest of the team wrestle through a scrum.

As for my Fishermen, I swapped out Shark with Corsair, to serve as my team captain.  I also swapped out Angel and Siren for Sakana and Jac.  These substitutions gave me a lot more durability against the beat-down that the Masons have been delivering to me.  My guys stood pretty tough, and they even took out Flint!  Granted, Flint recklessly swaggered into the deep end of the pool, where 3 Fishermen took turns dunking him, but it's out-of-character for Fishermen to take out a player, so it was kinda exciting.

Chris had a very clever play to have Mallet squeeze through my line and score a goal, and then he invested a lot of muscle to take out Corsair.  Yeah, real cool, Chris -- beat up the drunk, crippled pirate!  All the while, I was trying to line up shots on the goal and kept having it slip through my grasp.  Greyscales finally escaped the scrum in the middle and had an easy shot.  And he blew it.  There went my tie score, so we called the game, and gave the win to the Masons.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ready for pillaging!

After several years of delay, procrastination, and "oh, squirrel!" moments of other-project distractions, I finally have one unit of a horde of orc infantry.

A phalanx of orcs!

As mentioned in the previous post, I started this project over 5 years ago.  I was using washes for batch-painting army-sized units, so the basic job on these guys is really rough.  I did some touch-ups, and I experimented with some newer techniques on their equipment, but, overall, these guys are relatively low-grade in terms of paint quality.

But I'm cool with that.  This unit is only intended to impress with bulk, numbers, and pointy sticks, in a mass-combat fantasy wargame.

The basing is worth mentioning.  From the get-go, these guys weren't going to rank up well in a square-to-square formation.  Because the models are positioned diagonally on their slotta-bases, the front spearmen would have been fighting sideways!

An adjacent line-up has the front spearmen fighting to the side.

I had the models individually based, intended for a movement tray, to make sure the unit would be compatible with Warhammer Fantasy.  Now that I don't have to plan for individual model removal, I could have fixed the models to the tray, independent of the slotta-bases.  However, the project was too far along to shift to that basing method.

With the magic of scratch-built, magnetized movement trays, I can position the models in any orientation.  All of this effort for flexibility is overkill, however, since I won't need to remove models as individual casualties.  One of the first "corrections" I made to Warhammer was to have the rules for Mini Mayhem keep the models on the tray.  Several years later, Kings of War introduced the same idea to the general market.

Magnetization allows the front spearmen to face forward.

Sure this unit would look better if the models were fully integrated and fixed with the tray.  But this unit is just a filler unit.  And it was a test case for color scheme, technique, and basing.  Future units will look better aesthetically.  But this project counts as a functional achievement.  I finally have a horde of orcs to put on the table!

So here's something that's kinda cool.  I'm pretty pleased with how the iron wristband turned out, painted with the non-metallic metal (NMM) technique.  The circled wristband on the right is the one painted with NMM, compared with the TMM one on the left, painted with metallic paint.  The NMM is more convincing, to my eye!

I'm pleased with how the circled wristband on the right turned out, using the non-metallic metal (NMM) technique.

That said, the armor and weapons are painted with TMM, and those elements look better with TMM, I think.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Experimenting with NMM

On the heels of my visit to Germany to savor the Duke of Bavaria show and indulge in my coaching sessions with Raffaele Picca, I am hungry to begin about a half-dozen display-quality projects in preparation for NOVA Open.


I have a few tabletop projects on my desk that I need to finish first.  One of these projects is an orc unit that I began over 5 years ago!  It has languished at about the 70% mark for most of that time.  The plan back then was to use these cruder models on which to practice, before I committed my more valuable models to the brush.  I wanted to test skin colors, contrasts, paint-techniques, and color-theme, in order to have a more polished style in preparation for my more favored orc models.

Revisiting my tabletop paint techniques from 5 years ago is an abrupt turnabout, when I'm so eager to exercise my newer techniques.  My old wash technique is pretty rough, compared to the standard I want to meet now!

So, instead of reworking the models to a higher standard, I decided I would use the project to experiment with different approaches to non-metallic metal (NMM) -- in order to gain more practice with it and to compare different techniques for it.

Here, you can see the different methods that I tried on the dagger hilts and scabbards.  I tried different colors, different gradient directions, different contrasts, different transition proportions, etc.  There's one true metallic metal (TMM) in there, too (can you tell which one it is?).

This was a useful experiment.  At the end of the day, there are only about 2 versions that I would repeat going forward.  Good thing that I learned what not to do on miniatures where these features will never be noticed!

Oh, by the way, there are again 17 more orcs where these guys came from!  I'm making some movement trays to use these guys in Kings of War and in Mini Mayhem.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A visit with Massive Voodoo! Plus: Duke of Bavaria

l. to r., Roman Lappat, me, Raffaele Picca

It's been a while since I posted to the blog.  One reason for the hiatus was due to spending a good chunk of free time preparing for the trip of a lifetime:  a week-long visit with Raffaele Picca and Roman Lappat, at the Massive Voodoo studio in Augsburg, Germany.

Augsburg, Germany

The trip has been in the works for over 4 months.  The idea evolved indirectly from conversations I was having with Raffa concerning the prospect of purchasing some pieces that he had posted for sale.  Eventually, that idea morphed into a momentous vacation plan -- a week of private coaching with Raffa in Germany!

Roman artifacts. 
Including the official symbol of Augsburg, which I mistook to be a "pineapple", to the chagrin of the natives.

Roman ruins.

Some bizarre trees.

Lockers for personal beer steins, at the local brewhouse.

The week started with an inspirational sidetrip to Ingolstadt, location of the Duke of Bavaria figure show and competition.  Visiting the show was an ideal, low-pressure way to both acclimate to Germany and to ease my mind into painting-mode.

On the way to the castle, where the Duke of Bavaria miniatures show was held.
The high-ground entrance to the castle.
The gathering ground for smoking and socializing.
Bronze cannon.  The second one rolled a '1' on the Misfire Table...

A European miniatures art show is everything I imagined it would be.  High art, high class, and friendly community spirit.  The vibe was invigorating.  There were hundreds of pieces, by dozens of artists of all ages and walks of life.  There was fair representation for both historical and fantasy/sci-fi pieces.  The vendor hall was a gold-mine of variety and quality.  And hosting the show in a beautiful castle intensified the grandeur of the event.  I left the show chomping-at-the-bit to start painting!

Judge's Display for Sascha Buczek.

Generally speaking, the shadows on this bust are painted on.

Sculpt by Raffaele Picca, painted by Ben Curry.

Painting the under-lit effect was popular.
Painted by Peter Toth.

By Roman Lappat.
Raffa, Ben Curry, and me
Dinner with Raffa and Phillip, founder of Putty & Paint.

New friends!  I spent a long evening chatting with these fine folk at a BierGarten, and then I enjoyed a pleasant breakfast with them the next morning.
Coffee break downtown from the Duke of Bavaria.
Beef magazine!  Oh my God, Beef!

Raffa and I had a game-plan of activities for the week.  Generally speaking, I wanted to:
  • observe Raffa paint one of his own projects
  • observe Raffa prep a model and construct a base
  • paint an identical pair of miniatures side-by-side
  • have a focus session on non-metallic metals
  • be coached on a project
  • have both of us batch-paint a skirmish-size set of gaming miniatures and play a game! 

I am led to the hidden jungle that is the Massive Voodoo studio.
The building is an old army barracks, repurposed to house an artists' community.
The hidden bread-crumb trail to Massive Voodoo.

The famous Massive Voodoo mural-wall, full of incredible art and memorabilia.
The Medusa took my breath away.  It is a potent, powerful piece.  Painted by Raffaele!
Welcome to the Jungle!

A small sample of the masterworks that emerge from this studio.

The heart of the studio.
Raffa at his paint station.
Erik.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of Bene.

We re-prioritized the plan along the way, as we discovered which activities were more instructive and a better use of time.  We ended up consolidating a lot of the activities by focusing on one miniature, the Peter Punk Productions dwarf sculpt, Random Encounter.

Our primary project, Random Encounter. 
I painted about 75% of it, and Raffa would demonstrate how to paint the extra sizzle and special effects. 
My main task was to practice painting to the highlights, which I almost never do normally.

Most of what I learned was actually accomplished by talking through art principles, while relaxing over coffee or lunch.  These lessons were actually my fondest and most enlightening moments.  Raffa has enormous patience and deep knowledge for fielding questions about making choices based on a variety of criteria, be they physics-oriented or aesthetic-oriented.  He also has a great talent for communicating very clearly and precisely, especially considering he was instructing me in a language that is not his native tongue.  At one point he even helped me find the right English word for something I was trying to say!

Raffa paced me, painting this figure in the same color scheme, so that he could demonstrate techniques against his own context.

I'm glad we were both flexible to deviate from our original plan.  Doing so enabled me to learn things that I didn't expect to learn.  For example, I learned why building saturation on top of a desaturated ground can be more favorable than going the opposite direction.  Raffa demonstrated that concept on the back of a blister pack -- a valuable lesson that I might have missed, had we had adhered too strictly to our initial plan.

The finished piece.
Raffa scratch-built the wagon-wheel from balsa wood and toothpicks. 
He completed the wheel and the base in about 3 hours!

We did manage to barely squeeze in enough time to assemble and paint one team each for Guild Ball.  I chose Masons, and Raffa chose Butchers.  Raffa rarely has the opportunity to paint gaming figures, much less actually play a game, so I hoped to at least give him a chance to dip his toe in that part of the hobby that started it all!

My Masons. 
We ran out of time to go further than base-coats.
Raffa's Butchers.
Raffa sculpted a tutu and a tiara on the Butcher's mascot, Princess.
Butcher players the world over will 'squee', when this piece is finished.

A new fan of Guild Ball!
And, yes, Raffa beat me, 6 to 4.
Rematch at NOVA Open, punk!

In short, I spent an incredible, memorable week with Raffa; his wife, Anci; Roman; the Massive Voodoo studio; and new friends at the Duke of Bavaria, and I wish to thank everyone for their care and hospitality.  I relished the opportunity to totally immerse myself in an atmosphere of art, hobby, and German culture.  Raffa and Roman are warm-hearted and generous gentlemen, who infect people not only with their passion for art, but with their warmth of spirit, too.  The experience was a true lifetime high point, which I will treasure as a memory of joyous learning, child-like wonderment, and earnest friendship.

Our gangsta shot.