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Monday, June 30, 2014

Bolt Action - AAR: Hold The Crossroads - Part Two

 Can the German reinforcements run the gauntlet that is the occupied town?

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Remagen AAR - Germans vs. US in Hasty Attack

Sean and I got in our first Flames of War Remagen game the other night with some fairly weird lists.  I have only a moderate amount of Americans, so I had to use what was available.  We rolled randomly - Sean got the Germans, and I got the Americans.  For the random mission, we got Hasty Attack.

US Tank Company - 3rd Armored Division (RV)

190 HQ - 2X M4A3 Shermans (late)

495 Jumbo, M4A3 (late), 2X M4A3E8 Easy 8

495 Jumbo, M4A3 (late), 2X M4A3E8 Easy 8

100 Armored Mortar Platoon

290 Full Armored Rifle Platoon w/.50cals

75 Recon Platoon - 3X Rifle Team, 2X Jeep, M2 Halftrack w/.50cal

125 Sherman Assault Gun Platoon - 2X M4A3 (105mm)

512 Schwere PanzerJaegerkompanie - 2. Kompanie (RT)

535 HQ - 2X Jagdtiger (RT)

270 Jagdtiger (RT) 

220 Panzergrenadier Platoon - 7X Panzerfaust/MG teams, 3X Sdkfz 251/1 Sdkfz 251/17 (RV)

420 654. Schwere Planzerjaeger Platoon - 2X Jagdpanther (RV)

105 Panzer Scout Platoon - 5X Panzerfaust/MG teams (RT)

105 Volks Light Artillery Batters - 3X 105cm guns + HQ & Staff (RT)

110 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery 2X 8.8cm FlaK36 + extra crew

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The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Core Set Heroes Pt II

In the last post, I discussed the 6 heroes comprising the Leadership and Lore spheres. Today, I'll be finishing out the core set by discussing the Spirit and Tactics spheres. As always, please sound off on the forums if you have any feedback for these types of articles!

Without further ado, let's get started. Thanks again to Hall of Beorn's card search for the images.

Realtalk. Eowyn is one of, if not my favorite, character in The Lord of the Rings. While the movie did her character justice, the way she actually confronts the Witch King in the book is so badass, I've decided to replicate it here.
The Witch King: [I will] bear you away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where your flesh shall be devoured, and your shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye. No living man may hinder me." then she drops the bomb, takes off her helmet and...
Eowyn: "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
Alright, enough of that! Eowyn is fantastic in the game- and is singularly THE questing character to end all questing characters. With 4 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, and 3 hitpoints, she does one thing exceptionally well. Her ability allows all players to optionally discard a card to give her +1 willpower each turn. Seriously, she is the best questing character in the game, bar none.

Eleanor is a creation of Fantasy Flight Games, so I'll jump right to her game abilities. 1 willpower, 1 attack, and 2 defense, with 3 hitpoints makes for some ho-hum framework stats, but wait! There's more! Her starting threat is only 7 which is nice, but her ability is what makes her great. As a response you may exhaust Eleanor to cancel the 'When revealed' effects of a treachery card revealed by the encounter deck. Having this capability is FANTASTIC. Some of those treachery cards are particularly nasty, and though you replace the card with the next in the deck, it's a great way to shield yourself from the worst of it.

Dunhere sadly was not in the movies, but played a role at the Battle of Pelennor Field (though was not at Helm's Deep). Dunhere has 8 starting threat, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, and 4 hitpoints. His ability allows him to attack enemies in the staging area so long as he attacks alone. When doing so, he gets +1 to his attack.
thoughts: Pretty meh on this one. His ability is kinda cool, but it rarely works out. Either they're weak enemies, so they don't stay in the staging area long, or they're big beefy bad guys, and being hit with 3 doesn't do much. Combined with other effects he can be alright, but I've never been all that impressed.

Thalin is another Fantasy Flight Creation. No big, I love the guy! You have the opportunity to tell his story, and his story is full of epic deeds. Thalin has a starting threat of 9, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, and 4 hitpoints. His special ability is fantastc; essentially any enemies revealed during the staging step (See my overview for gameplay!) immediately take one damage before any of their card text is revealed. This is particularly fantastic against little pesky annoying enemies that have detrimental effects (I'm looking at you, Eastern Crows!)
thoughts: When playing multiplayer, whoever brings Thalin deserves a pat on the back. Plus, you can hook him up with bonuses that boost his willpower to make him even more of a no-brainer for questing.  This dude rules!

I always loved Gimli, and was a bit bummed they made him so silly in the movies, but hey! Gimli is here and he rules! with 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, and 5 hitpoints, Gimli is a well rounded hero clocking in at 11 threat. His special ability is that his attack goes up by onefor each point of damage he's taken- awesome!
thoughts: I really like Gimli- for a while he was overshadowed by an ally called Erebor Battle Master, but a recent errata has brought that somewhat in check (he now only gets +1 attack for each other dwarf ALLY). Obviously you WANT Gimli to get hurt, but not too much. Paired up with some armor, and a weapon, Gimli can become a beast of a damage dealer, dropping major bad guys with one hit. I like Gimli a lot, and certainly always consider him for any dwarf deck.

You can't have Gimli without Legolas! I feel like I've said this about almost every hero, but Legolas is just fantastic! With 1 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, and 4 hitpoints, Legolas does one thing very well: kill bad guys. With his low threat and Ranged, he's great even before you get to his special ability: When Legolas participates in an attack that kills an enemy, you immediately place 2 progress tokens on the current quest! thoughts: With no shortage of bad guys in most quests, that means Legolas is both killing baddies AND moving you forward on the quest. Love it! With some later attachments like Rivendell Blade or Blade of Gondolin, Legolas is just killer!

I hope you guys enjoyed this post, please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see specifically! I plan to take a look at some of the better core set cards next post.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bolt Action - LRDG Podcast Episode 16

LRDG 16! Kicking things off in the first segment, Bryan, Brad, Tobu, Lachlan, Anfernee, and a can of Wild Turkey talk about the latest errata and FAQ update. They also get after the French Foreign Legion, not forgetting to include the honorable Jean-Claude Van Damme in the discussion. At some point in the first segment, Anfernee's secret identity is revealed to the world, while Brad continues his shameful refusal to use a Sturmtiger. Rounding out the first portion of the show, the boys talk about the new German metal boxes and the fancy German weaponry that's included. In the second half, Patch, DaveOwaR, and Brad talk about Senegalese troops, buying skis for your Finnish troops (and Finland forces in general), swapping Soviet and Finnish models, and gigantic tanks. A tasty episode covering all the Bolt Action bases!

Download Episode 16!
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Friday, June 27, 2014

Review Hohei Chutai - Japanese Infantry Company - JBX01

By Tom Burgess

The war in the Pacific has always held a special place for me. My Grandfather served in the US Army’s 81st Infantry Division there.  I was very excited to see Battlefront turn its attention to the Far East with “Rising Sun” not only for Early War Manchuria gaming but also for later WW2 gaming in the Pacific.

So, I jumped on this opportunity to do a review of the Hohei Chutai JBX01 set offered by Battlefront.

The Hohei Chutai JBX01 set, like other Battlefront Infantry Company boxed sets includes the Company HQ and two full platoons. This totals 96 figures all of which were  very well sculpted and cleanly cast. These work out to the two Company HQ teams and each of the platoons with a Command Team, nine Rifle Teams, and three Light Mortar teams.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Tank War

Tank War is here, BARbarians! For your previewing pleasure!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bolt Action - Historicon 2014

Kick off the Blitz! Historicon '14 is nearly upon us!

Bolt Action is about to Happen!

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Review - Italian Houses - BB180

By Tom Burgess

Battlefront recently released houses for the Italian/Mediterranean Theater. This was particularly good news for me as I could use these building with my WW2 Flames of War games as well as Napoleonic games since I focus on the “Peninsula” for that period.

The code is BB180 "Italian Houses."

Like the previous single level houses offered by Battlefront, these come packaged in pairs. Each house has a different door location and other subtle differences but they do look very similar.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bolt Action - Hosting Large Multi-Player or Convention Games

There is nothing worse than paying hard earned hobby money on a convention, then sitting through four hours of hell because of a poorly planned multi-player game. The same can go for large garage games with multiple friends. The most common problem I see in large group games is players sitting around not engaged with nothing to do. Nothing to do is a quick way to ensure no one has a good time. This can go for any game system, but is particularly true for Bolt Action which relies on a random activation mechanism. When I first read the Bolt Action rules I was hesitant to get into the game because of bad convention experiences I have had with random activation games. There is nothing worse than waiting an hour to move your unit. However during one on one play, random activation does not result in you sitting around doing nothing while other players go; but once you introduce more than two players the risk for boredom can become high. So, what is a GM to do?

Most gaming I do is with a large group of fellow gamers. We gather on Friday nights in the winter to roll dice, drink beer, and push war dollies around a table. If our games were boring, we would have stopped gaming years ago. Group games are very social, and having to coordinate strategy and tactics with other players adds a new level of complexity to gaming. There is nothing more rewarding than pulling off a coordinated plan with your team, and nothing worse than watching a teammate make a blunder that is outside of your control. I have hosted many of these games over the years and found a couple of tricks that help keep my players engaged and the games close. My hope is that you find these tips helpful in running convention or group games.

Get Some Perspective

When I am setting up a scenario I like to put myself in the shoes of the commander of both sides. I will stand on both sides of the board and think about how I would play the game if I was commanding that side. I do this to look for weaknesses in the scenario, to determine troop choices, and terrain placement. You want to look for blaring gaps that unfairly favor a side. If one exists you will want to make tweaks to your game. Ever since I started doing this, more and more of my games come down to the wire as opposed to being lopsided. There is nothing worse than a lopsided group game.

Keep Everyone Engaged

For games that rely on random activations there is nothing worse than sitting on your butt while someone else fights on the other side of the table. Let’s be honest with one another for a moment, most large group games end up with players primarily fighting the player directly across from them, with the occasional skirmish involving the players next to them. If you think of large group game as three games being played at once, instead of one big game, it makes more sense to allow multiple players to activate at the same time to one, keep the game moving, and two, keep people engaged in the fight. Otherwise games have a tendency to drag out for more hours than you want, players get bored, and your friends stay over so long they drink all your beer (love you guys but beer for six ain't cheap).

Warlord recently released a set of rules for large group games, but I found these rules to be overly complicate, cumbersome, and had the potential to draw a game out longer than you really want. We frequently play games of Bolt Action with around six players with thirty-plus units on each side. We can play a game of Bolt Action in about four hours. What we do at the end of each round is first, count up the remaining units and assemble our dice pool. We then put half the dice, rounding up, into the bag and put rest of the dice off to the side in a pool. When we pull a die from the bag, we also pull one from the side pull which allows one side to activate two units. This keeps the game moving and ensures that two of the three players on a side are doing something when it’s their turn to activate. This works well for 4 to 6 player games and can be adjusted as the size of your game grows. To pull this off, you want to make sure that each player on a side has roughly the same number of units to control.  If someone loses their units early one encourage other players to share their units or invite them to help you GM.

Be Flexible 
General Cota leads the way
It’s important to have a backup plan in case things start going terribly wrong early on. Sometimes the dice gods are not with a side, or you missed something, or the ineptness of a commander early on puts a side in an unwinnable situation. If by turn two the game is over and players know it, they stop having fun. So it is important to be flexible and prepared to adapt your game on the fly. If by turn two the attacker’s offensive power is neutered, maybe it’s time to allow them to bring on reserves not originally in the force. In our recent D-Day game, by turn two the Americans were so pinned on the beach there was no hope of winning. So we brought on Gen. Dutch Cota (a +5 officer) to rally the troops. Not only was this fun, but it introduced an element of history to the game. It is important to note that you should avoid doing this at the end of a game unless it was its part of scenario from the beginning.

Be Fair and Balanced 

Scenarios with units that can’t be stopped suck in group games. When planning a scenario make sure there is something on the board that can kill or effect any other unit on the board. A god-unit is not fun to play against. There is nothing worse than playing a game where from the beginning I have nothing to deal with an enemy unit that is preparing to steam roll me. This does not mean you should have identical forces - in fact I find that boring - but you should give players the tools to address a threat. If I allow that unit to die early on, well that’s my fault, but at least at the beginning I had a chance.

I also hear a lot of people talk about how real war isn't fair so neither should our games be.  There is some truth to this, but let's be honest: Getting your ass beat by the end of turn three isn't fun.  You can come up with interesting alternate objectives to make what may seen to be an unbalanced game, in fact, balanced.   Maybe you give a force a Tiger which can’t be harmed, but the Tiger has to do something to earn victory points for its side. Or a side gets points for each turn they hold the bridge.  This will reign in a larger, more powerful force, and give a smaller, weaker force a way to win.

Size Matters
A 15mm Bolt Action Tank Game played on a 5 by 8 table (almost 80 units)
Always make sure you have enough room to play the game. Don’t, don’t, don’t cram too many units on a table that is too small. As your game scales up, so should your table size, an your miniature may need to scale down. If you fail to do this it becomes incredibly difficult for troops of maneuver and games degenerate into two lines slamming into each other. Giving players room to maneuver their troops will encourage interesting tactical and combat situations. This makes for a much more interesting game than two lines crashing against each other.

Details Count
Chickens, cars, and manure
One way to add to any game is by adding detail.  Whether you use explosion markers, craters for artillery strikes, farm animals, or other extra terrain bits, this will make your game feel real.  The first convention I ever went to as a young gamer was Enfilade, in Washington State.  At that convention I played in a game of Sword and the Flame where the GM had taken the time to add all the details.  Crocodiles in the river, rolled up rugs in the market, pots of goods, civilians, livestock, you name it he had it.  I always am looking for these kinds of extra bits to throw on the table and make the game come alive for the players.  Adding details brings a new dimension to gaming which most people will appreciate.

Story and Tradition 
I swear it was six inches
Whenever I host a game I like to bring in some sort of narrative for players to latch on to. This adds another element of fun and can be a way to introduce history to game night. It can also be a way to have a semi-campaign feel. Whether that’s playing a series of Stalingrad or D-Day games (introducing deferent scenarios based on aspects of the historic campaigns) or having interesting mission objectives, like having your Soviets trying to capture a Finnish field kitchen full of sausage. This is far better than saying the forces just showed up to fight to the death - BORING!  Another thing you can do is have random events.   This can bring an element of fun to a game, but be careful as random events run the risk of bogging down a game and making them no fun.

Next is gaming traditions. Our group has developed many strong traditions which we encourage and work into our games. Here are a few:

Cheese Hat – When someone bends a rule or tries to “cheat” we make them wear a Wisconsin Cheese Hat. We then take their picture and put it on our Wall of Cheese.

Col. Shiply – We have a piece of terrain that is a Southern Belle opening the door to an outhouse on a Union Colonel. The colonel is named after one of the members of our group. In all our Civil War games, this piece of terrain makes its way onto the board. No matter what, we always get a laugh out of it. This can easily be adapted for a Bolt Action group.

“I had higher support expectations.” This is a saying our group uses whenever a player on your side fails to complete his mission, or when your troops fail your particular mission. It is in reference to not having enough support or troops to get your job done, and it also generates a laugh. Maybe I charge the MMG nest and against all odds the MMG wins the assault. When my teammates start ragging on me for failing to take out the nest I would say, “Well, I had higher support expectations.” This comically shifts the blame off of me (who failed) and places it on my teammates in a comical way. (Also works when recording podcasts. - J)

Be Prepared

The last tip I will give you seems like an obvious one, but all too often I see people fail at being prepared.  Make sure you have charts for people to follow, the units and their abilities are clearly defined for the players, and everything needed to play the game is ready when players show up.  Also make sure you know the rules, read them, read them again, and for good measure read them one more time.  I like to include things like unit cards or organization charts to help players track their force.  I also make sure all game aids and tools are out and ready to go.  Nothing worse than showing up for a game and not knowing your unit can shoot smoke until after the game is over.

Adding these types of elements to your game ensure players are engaged and have fun throughout the game even when things are going rough.  This is by no means the only way to keep people engaged in larger group or convention games. These are just the tricks I have learned to use over the last few years to keep games interesting and engaging. If you have any ticks you use to keep people engaged feel free to share with the rest of us on the forum.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: The Assault Group Assault Rifles

As we have been discussing on the LRDG podcast, when it comes to 28mm WWII models, there is a wide variety of companies selling a WIDE variety of wares catering to our gaming wants and needs. (We need what we want. - J) Today I will be taking a close and critical look at German assault rifles and assault rifle troopers from The Assault Group. 

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Jagdtiger Build & Paint

By Sean "Throckmorton" Sarah

With the arrival of the new Remagen book (see our review here!) for Late War Flames of War play, I decided it was high time to pick up a few of the monstrous Jagdtigers and get some paint on them. 

There are two big reasons I love German armor. First, I'm a hobbyist at heart, and the many and varied German camo schemes mean I get the opportunity to paint historically accurate looking tanks that aren't just green with a side order of green. And secondly, to my eye, German tanks look significantly cooler than any allied tank, especially in Late War, except maybe the Cromwell and the Chaffee. 

In the game, the Jagdtiger is a meaty beast. Before Remagen it only showed up for 345 points in NUTS! But as we all know that's changed. 
From the mighty
Sure it's unreliable, sure it's overloaded, but on the other hand front armor 16 and an AT 17 gun. I'll happily take the good with the bad here. Especially with that breakthrough gun, which I totally forgot about before doing my research for this article. 

During the war, only around 88 Jagdtigers were built, but with Tiger Aces like Otto Carius at the head of a formation they certainly made their presence felt on the battlefield. 

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The Lord of the Rings LCG- The Core Set Heroes pt I

To follow up on my previous article (an overview of the Lord of the Rings Card Game), I thought I'd spend some time taking a look at the heroes included in the core set, how I've used them, and how I think they could be useful. In part one, I will look at the Leadership and Lore spheres. Without further ado, let's jump right in!

Note: Thanks to Hall of Beorn's card search for the images.

The heir of Isildur himself. The king of men. Aragorn is a sentinel and with 2 defense and 5 hitpoints, that means he can come through in a pinch to block for your comrades. His ability allows him to ready after committing to the quest phase, making him very versatile. With 2 willpower and 3 attack, Aragorn can be counted on to fill a wide variety of roles.

Thoughts: Aragorn should always be considered in a leadership deck. With the Leadership sphere's ability to generate resources, utilizing Aragorn in 2 different phases is hugely beneficial. His threat is quite high, however, making powerful combinations of Aragorn and other heroes a dangerous proposition!

One of the member's of Thorin's company, and Gimli's father. Gloin isn't a particularly strong hero on his own, but paired with any form of healing and his ability allows you to generate resources quickly. This can be a bit dangerous has Gloin only has 1 defense, and 4 hitpoints. With 2 willpower, he's usually committed to questing as fighting isn't his forte.

Thoughts: I tend to overlook Gloin as he doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but I have used him in a dwarf deck here and there, particularly if that deck is light on resource generation.

Son of Theoden, who fell at the Ford of Isen. Theodred's printed stats are fairly weak: 1 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, and 4 hitpoints. With a low threat, and a fantastic ability, however, I really like this card. His ability allows him to generate resources not only for yourself, but your comrades should they find themselves light.

thoughts: Theodred is one of my favorite heroes from the core set. with the Voice of Isengard and Ring-maker cycle adding more support for Rohan, I expect Theodred will see continued use in my future decks!


I'm not entirely sure who Beravor is- I think she's a concoction of Fantasy Flight like a few other characters in this game. That's no bother, though, there's plenty of room in Tolkein's universe for people to be creative! Besides, I really like this hero. Like Aragorn, she is a Dunedain Ranger; I'm hoping to see more support for those particular traits in future expansions. At a threat cost of 10, Berevor's stats are well rounded: 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, and 4 hitpoints. Her ability allows you to draw two cards by exhausting her.

Thoughts: I've tried my hand at a Ranger themed deck a few times now, and Beravor has made the cut every single time. If I have enough willpower on the board, I will usually leave her free as a backup defender, or some extra card draw. Paired up with something that lets her ready after doing something else. that card draw is just hugely helpful!

The Steward of Gondor himself. With 1 willpower, and 1 attack Denethor isn't great at much, except maybe defense (Even with 3 defense, having only 3 hitpoints means he can't sustain much damage!), but his special ability is fantastic! Being able to have any control at all over the Encounter deck is huge.

Thoughts: Look, Denethor is a fantastic hero for only 8 threat. Honestly, though, I just don't like the guy! Maybe it's John Noble's excellent portrayal of the disturbed man in the movies (though he is much less crazy in the books), but I can't help find excuses to not include Denethor in my decks. That's just me, and I should probably embrace the Steward.

I was so bummed Glorfindel was left out of the movies! For those of you who may not know, Glorfindel was the one who rescued Frodo after the battle on weathertop, not Arwen. Anyhow, Glorfindel actually has another Hero card in the game that is, in my opinion, better than this version. Still, Glorfindel is a well rounded hero with 3 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, and 5 hitpoints. Compared to Aragorn for the same cost, however, he just isn't quite as awesome. His ability doesn't require exhausting, but the Lore sphere is frequently at a premium for resources, making actually using a bit more difficult. Paired up with Elrond (who we will discuss later!), however, you get much more bang for your buck!

Thoughts: Glorfindel is a great hero... but maybe not this version of him. Paired up with his horse Asfaloth, Glorfindel can be a questing beast. Though I tend to use his other version, I have used "Lorefindel" as my captain hero from time to time.

Check back next time as I go through the other 6 heroes from the core set! Make sure to sound off on the forums, and let me know what else you might like to see from this wonderful game!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Mandertory Miniatures Bocage

Since the moment I picked up my first dice and sent it rolling onto a table stacked with toy soldiers, I have known the value of nice terrain; not so much value in dollars but what value it adds to gameplay. Just like I can't bring myself to play with unpainted miniatures, I also have big issues in playing on a table that is not aesthetically pleasing.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

NJCON '06 "Fire In The East" After Action Report

By Sean "Throckmorton" Sarah

Hello from tropical Edison, New Jersey! Home of New Jersey's Premier Wargaming Convention "NJCON."

This year team Throck decided to head up and support the the fine folks from Showcase Comics as they hosted a 1485 point, open mid-war tournament for Flames of War.

I'm personally not as sold on the "it's sooo balanced-ness" of mid-war that I hear out of most Flames players. But I never hesitate to jump into a tournament and meet up with my fellow players, so I decided to do something a little different:

Play the Spanish.

That's right, Division Azul (here's the Flames PDF!). The Spanish Blue Division was originally an all volunteer division brought together as a response to Franco's refusal to join the war. They were equipped and trained as German soldiers so in game they share a similar OOB and most of the same specials rules. The only difference is the swap out of "Stormtrooper" for "British Bulldog" or for the Spanish "Good Luck, watch out and go for the bull" or Suerte, Vista Y Al Toro!

I had a huge amount of fun with this list:

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bolt Action - USMC Painting Guide

Hello ladies and gents! Tobu here to run you through my recipe for painting US Marines. The scheme I’ve been using is from later in the war, featuring the camo helmet cover. All paints used are Vallejo unless otherwise indicated. Hope you enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bolt Action - AAR: US vs Germans D-Day +7 (Part 1 of 2)

A week after our D-Day game and the Americans find themselves helmet high in the bocage of Normandy.   Years ago I made about 30 feet of bocage for Flames of War.  Its always fun to break it out since it just looks fantastic on the table top.

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WWPD's Italy Campaign Comes to a Close!

The Axis hold Rome!

After a series of stunning victories, counterattacks, and fighting withdrawals, German and Fascist Italian forces have claimed 'victory' in Italy.

The Allied stalemate in Italy has forced Churchill to capitulate his desire to win back the Mediterranean, as US, French, Polish, and Commonwealth forces reorganize and redeploy to support the effort in Normandy. Operation DIADEM proved to be too costly in terms of manpower, material, and political will. Britain's ability to influence Allied High Command has been damaged significantly, perhaps beyond repair.

Sad, Sad Churchill

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Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Overview

Recently, I've been smitten by Fantasy Flight's Cooperative living card game (LCG) The Lord of the Rings. I was looking for a fun card game after playing the Decipher Star Wars CCG with Jon, and initially picked up FFG's Star Wars LCG. After playing through a few times, I decided the game wasn't for me, as it just didn't feel like Star Wars. I was ready to give up on my quest to find a fun card game when this twitter exchange happened:
While I definitely plan to jump into Netrunner soon, a new voice rose from the shadows:
Now, with just that offhanded remark from PIflamesofwar, my interest was piqued! I did a bit of research, and ordered the core set. I was a bit hesitant about jumping into a "living" card game, as I'd been down the CCG road a few times before. The nice thing about LCGs (More on FFG's LCG here) is that you know exactly what you're getting in every pack of cards, yet new cards are always coming out keeping the game exciting. It's a very good approach that reduces randomness, but still ensures you're parting with your money on the regular.

Next, I was off to watch FFG's excellent tutorial videos to learn the basics: but for those of you who don't wish to sit through them, I will do my best to summarize below, but understand this article is not exhaustive!

Game Basics
Aragorn's starting threat is 12
(blue number in the top left)
I was initially drawn to the game because it is Cooperative (or solitaire!). One or more players each construct decks of 50ish cards and between one and three heroes who hail from 4 spheres:

  • Leadership with a focus on influential figures who inspire their comrades to great deeds.
  • Tactics which focuses on martial prowess on the battlefield.
  • Spirit that emphasizes strength of will, which aids the allies along their quest
  • Lore which represents a heroes wisdom and intellectual prowess
The core set decks are separated by sphere, but players will quickly wish to advance to building their own decks of two or even three different spheres to maximize their capabilities.

One major effort the players undertake each turn is keeping their "threat level" to a minimum. Your starting threat is equal to the sum of all of your heroes' threat level. Typically, the better your hero is, the higher their starting threat. At the end of each turn your threat level advances by one; unsuccessfully questing and treachery cards (more on this later) are additional sources of increased threat. If a players' threat reaches 50, he is immediately removed from the game.

Card Types
Hero decks are made up of 3 card types (not including heroes, which start in play):
  • Allies who, along with heroes, form your characters that make up your questing party
  • Events which can boost your allies, hinder your foes, and do all sorts of fun things
  • Attachments such as weapons, mounts, blessings, etc that can be attached to your characters or enemies.
Allies as well as heroes have 4 primary stats: willpower (how good they are at questing) and attack/defense/hit points. They also have action/or ability text that differentiates them.

Events are typically one-use cards played as either a Response to another action taking place, or are played during player actions.

Attachments as well as allies can only be played during a player's planning phase.

All three type of player cards have a cost associated with them, representing how difficult it is to bring it into play (more on this later!)

Encounter Cards form the enemy's deck, and are also comprised of three different types of cards: Lands which the heroes must explore, Enemies which the heroes must fight, and Treachery which often directly impact the players in a negative way. Occasionally encounter cards also include neutral allies and objectives the heroes must obtain. Lands and enemies both feature a "threat" number which represents how they are making the heroes' quest harder even when not directly engaged.

Some Encounter cards also have a "Shadow effect" which will impact combat- more on this later. In the Eastern Crows example on the left, he has an engagement value of 30 (more on this as well!) a threat of 1, an attack of 1, a defense of 0, and 1 hit point. He also has a shadow effect. The symbol on the right (the eye of mordor) is used to construct unique encounter decks, based on the scenario.

Scenarios are also made up of one or more two sided Scenario/Quest cards that set out the problem the heroes must solve.
Basic Play
Pre-game Setup
At the start of the game, players set their heroes in front of them and then shuffle their decks. Next, they setup the scenario by reading the "setup" instructions on card 1 (side A) of their chosen scenario. This will instruct the players how to setup the "staging area" (the area where enemy cards reside before being engaged/explored by players). On the right side of card 1A, symbols tell the player which decks to use to construct the encounter deck. In this example, the characters have stumbled upon the treacherous Spiders in Mirkwood, and so are instructed to create their encounter deck from 3 of the 7 encounter sets from the core box: "passage through mirkwood", "spiders of mirkwood", and "Dol Guldur Orcs". Those decks are shuffled together to create a thematic enemy deck.

Once the scenario is setup, the top card of the quest deck is flipped to side B. Note the "8" in the bottom left- that is how many quest tokens must be placed on this quest card to proceed to the next phase of the quest.

Once the scenario has been setup, and the staging area prepped, the players may draw 6 cards. Either player may take one mulligan to hope for a better starting hand, but no more than one. After this, the players decide who the "First Player" will be for the round, and then get started!

For each living Hero a player controls, one resource token is placed on that hero's card. These resources are used to play cards from your hand. Note that there must be a "resource" match within the sphere. If I wanted to play a Spirit card that cost 2 resources, I must spend 2 spirit resources on that card. So if I have 2 Spirit heroes, and 1 tactics hero, I am effectively generated 2 spirit and 1 tactics resource per turn. That means it may take multiple turns for me to play high-cost tactics cards, since I only have the one tactics hero.

Each player, starting with the first player, may now play ally and attachment cards from their hand. Certain actions may also be triggered at this phase.

Quest Phase
Next, players must choose what characters to commit to the Quest. Questing is essential to move the party forward in the scenario, however, committing a character to a quest leaves that character "exhausted" and thus unable to attack or defend in subsequent phases. 

After the players mutually decide what characters are committed to the Quest, 1 card per player is drawn from the Encounter Deck and immediately resolved. Lands and enemies are immediately placed in the staging area, while treachery cards are resolved immediately.

Banks of the Anduin has a threat of 1
and requires 3 quest points to explore
Once the Encounter cards have been played, the threat level of all lands and enemy cards in the staging area is added up and compared to the sum of the willpower of all characters committed to the quest. If the total willpower is higher than the sum of the threat from enemies and lands in the staging area, the heroes have quested successfully. For every point of willpower over the threat level, a quest token is placed on the active quest card. If there are ever tokens equal to or higher than the number required to complete a quest, that quest is automatically completed and the next quest card is drawn. If the quest is failed, however, then for every point UNDER the total threat the combined willpowers are, each player raises their threat by one.

Immediately following the resolution of the quest phase, players decide as a group if they'd like to travel to a location currently in the staging area. Should they do so, that location becomes the active location, and is removed from the staging area (and thus no longer contributing it's threat level for future questing), however it now acts as a buffer for the quest card- all quest tokens that would normally be placed on the quest card are now placed on the active location. Locations have a value specifying how many tokens need to be added to "explore" the location. Anytime a location has enough quest tokens on it to be explored, it is immediately discarded. The active location can only be removed by successful questing.

Misty Mountain Goblins has an
engagement value of 15
During the Encounter phase, monsters can engage the players and enter in martial combat! The first part of the Encounter phase allows the players (starting with the first player) to optionally engage one enemy in the staging area. This could be useful if, say, one player has a lot of combat-ready heroes while the other player does not. In either case, each player may only optionally engage ONE enemy.

Next, starting with the first player, enemies in the staging area make engagement checks. To perform an engagement check, start at the enemy in the staging area with the highest engagement value and compare it to the first player's threat level. If the enemy's engagement value is equal to or less than the player's threat level, that enemy immediately engages the player. Now, alternating players, you continue this process until there are no enemies left in the staging area who could engage players. Essentially, this means that while the players' threat level is low, many of the larger enemies will remain in the staging area unless optionally engaged. 

Remember that enemies and lands in the staging area contribute threat during the quest phase, while enemies that are engaged with players and lands that have been traveled to do not.

Combat- defending
Let this be the hour we draw swords together! Starting with the first player, every enemy that is engaged with
a player is dealt a card from the encounter deck, face down on top of it. This is called the "Shadow Card". Next, beginning with the first player, each enemy's attack is resolved. Each attack follows these steps:

  • Choose an enemy
  • Declare a character (hero or ally) as the defender. The card must exhaust to defend.
  • Reveal the encounter/shadow card and resolve its effects. If the card has no shadow effect, simply discard it (See the Misty Mountai Goblins card above for an example of a shadow effect, always separated from the main text by the skull/shadow symbol divider).
  • Compare the enemy's attack value to the defender's defense value. If the attack value is higher than the defense value, a number of wounds are taken on the character equal to the difference. Obviously, if a character ever has as many wounds as hitpoints, that character is immediately removed from play along with all attachments.
If an attack occurs without a defending character, it is called an undefended attack. This can happen if all characters are already exhausted, or sometimes you may even choose to leave an attack defended- perhaps you'd like to leave your characters ready (unexhausted) so they can attack! In either case, when an undefended attack occurs, the FULL value of the enemy's attack must be immediately taken on a HERO, ignoring their armor value. 

Combat- attacking
Now that all enemy attacks have been resolved, the good guys finally have a chance to swing back. Starting with the first player
  • Choose an enemy you are engaged with as the target of your attack.
  • Declare and exhaust one or more characters who will attack that enemy.
  • Total all of the attacking characters' attack value and compare it with the enemy's defense value.
  • As before, place wounds for every attack point over the defense value on the enemy, and if that enemy's wounds are greater than its hit points, it's destroyed.
Note: characters with RANGED may be declared as an attacker against enemies engaged with another player, while characters with SENTINEL may be declared as a defender against enemies engaged with another player.

Note 2: As you can see, managing your characters' readiness is very important. Commit too much to the quest (and thus exhausting characters) and you may not have enough left to defend. Commit too heavily to defense, and you won't have anyone left to kill the bad guys!

Finally, all exhausted cards refresh, Each player raises their threat by 1, and the first player token is passed to the left.

That sums up the very basics of the game. I've really quite enjoyed the game- the mechanics FEEL like Lord of the Rings. Cooperative play brings the Fellowship of the Ring to mind, as the good guys join forces in a desperate fight against evil. The mechanics similarly feel very much in-line with the theme, while still allowing for fun and powerful card combos. Deck building is addictive, especially as the card pool is now fairly expansive.

In continuing articles, I will explore the game a bit more in depth, and maybe even do a few quest writeups. Please sound off on our forums and let me know what you think!

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