Sunday, 26 October 2014

Oldhammer @ Slayer Gaming: Night of the Living Dead 2

Yesterday, I made a rather long journey (thanks to the A1) to Nottingham to have a game with some of my Oldhammer colleagues, most notably Old School veterans Nik Dixon, Paul Mitchell and Steve Casey. Now I won't attempt to make sense of the game, as I arrived late I missed much of the background and I just unpacked my stuff and added it to the battle already raging. I was keen to try out my Slaaneshi army so passed control of the Deathfist to Steve Casey. 

The day was thoroughly enjoyable for many reasons. And we are keen to organise another meet up after Christmas, perhaps at the Foundry. I would like to thank Paul for doing a great job running the game and all of the other Oldhammerers who attended. 

What follows are the photographs I took of the game with a little commentary from me. The venue was Slayer Gaming in Mansfield. A very friendly independent store that is easy to get to and has access to lots of free parking. I will be summing up this post with some of my thoughts about how to create an immersive, strategic and ultimately rewarding Oldhammer experience. These thoughts are largely based on what I feel has worked best in the games I have played over the last year or so and will be, of course, just my opinion. 

Huge blocks of undead advance. Though impressive looking, I have learnt that enormous units like this are not a benefit to the types of game I want to play. In modern gaming these are often called 'tarpits', and the noun is well chosen as troops like this just sit there on the table locked in ever more repetitive combats, offering little to the narrative development of the game. 
Rather than faffing about with the aerial rules for fliers, we roleplayed the combats under the supervision of the GM. This resulted in some spectacular deaths, fire attacks and swooping dragon attack runs. Paul supplied the 'pew' 'pew' noises free of charge!
The Baron Kraust. A worthy character who should of been the centre point of the game, but in truth he was never really used.
The Deathfist advances with his hearthmen and beastmen allies. Giant spiders surprise the flank and bat swarms strike against the minotaurs. This side of the tbale was much more dynamic thanks to the roleplay elements introduced and Steve Casey's creative use of some ancient and amusing rules. 
Undead units clash with Fimir in a very one sided engagement. The swamp rapists had no chance of over coming these odds and the combat added nothing to the game really. 
Artillery fire and the song of swords make much of the spiders, but it was the destructive power of dying spined dragon that created the perfect storm of fire and explosive spider acid. Again, this was all roleplayed under the GM's guidance. 
We roleplayed the likelihood of a spider being able to climb up the side of a building and jump down onto a unit of beastmen. Of course, they failed their fear tests and almost turned the tide of the battle by running away. However, the remaining units (perhaps more terrified of the Deathfist's rage) stood firm. 
A chaos chariot causes a thug unit to break and run in spectacular fashion. An example of the rules as written being used to create something interesting. It was the dice rolls that dictated this though, rather than one sided blocks of troops.
'Slapped by a god'! Amusing and varied rules provided by Paul's GMing and Steve's amusing old rules.
Bryan the Troll saves the day after spotting  a recaster disguised as a liche lord. Behind him, Slaaneshi thugs flew from the crazed chariot. 

After the game, we had one of those chats that gamers always have. What worked well, the moments we all enjoyed and things to suggest for 'next time'. One things that was pretty obvious was that the game lacked the immersion we often seek to create through narrative play and we talked about how best to achieve this in future. What follows are my opinions concerning my philosophy on what makes an effective Oldhammer style game. 

Remember, for many of us Oldhammer is a mindset and not a ruleset.

This is the most important thing to bring to the table. I have played a great number of games with people and I can honestly say that those of you who are part of the Oldhammer Community seem to fit into two groups. 1) Rules as written. 2)Rules to support role-play. In truth, there is nothing wrong with either model. Both can be very rewarding, but I have noticed that when the two styles clash in a game it call slow things down remarkably and cause dis-satisfaction. 

Others find it very, very hard to break the indoctrine of 'modern' Warhammer and forget about things like 'points resolution' and instead using logic and roleplaying to resolve combats based on context. All this can easily be achieved by consultation with the GM.

Good background can create a fantastic game. And truth be told, the more detailed a game the more rewarding the seem to be. By detail, I don't mean the 'rules' but the options open to the players. Try and resist the temptation to just line up your forces en mass and march them against each other. Think about the situation the players are in, what they need to achieve. Add a little conflict to those achievements. 

For example, 6 players are each given a single model and told that they are a Nightwatchman patrolling the town after curfew. Appoint one of them a sergeant and give them command over the remaining 5. Explain that there is a report that a couple of mysterious figures have been seen stalking the streets. Which direction should they move in? What plan do they have? They will need to find out. The other 3 players can be given a miniature each (to be hidden from the other players) and a briefing. Two are assassins sent to kill a rebellious illusionist hidden in one of the buildings, the other is just a strumpet keen to work her trade and reach the mayor's residence without being spotted. The GM can work with these players to move secretly around the board.

Let the game run and the why the players interact with each other can help build up to a battle. If the illusionist is killed, perhaps his illusions run riot in the village? If not, perhaps he bungles a spell and they are released anyway. If the strumpet reached the mayor then perhaps the order to raise the militia will be delayed? 

The result of this kind of scenario is one of immersion and suspense. The nightwatchmen players will have no idea what lurks around each street corner. They will have no idea who the figures are or what they want to do. If they catch the strumpet how will that change their game plan? Who sent the assassins? 

The more I have been involved in gaming the more I feel this is an absolute must. True balance is NOT the job of the ruleset, but the GM running the game. Producing a strong scenario, with balanced forces for all with result in a challenging and creative game. A choice pick of the more wacky aspects of Third Edition will also result in some interesting effects.The old scenario packs (Orc's Drift, Lichemaster, McDeath... etc) are great examples of this, along with guidance on how to play with 2, 4, 6 etc players. How these forces then interact will be up to the dice rolling and the rules mechanics as well as the strategic choices made by players. 

Never forget the importance of the 'third army'. Good scenery really helps aid the immersive aspect of wargaming. And by good I don't just mean well modelled. Scenery that helps create a sense of place, that the location in which the game is taking place in is actually real makes such a difference. It also adds to the spectacle on offer. In addition to this, the scenery needs to actually mean something and be part of the world. Those fields need sheep, goats and chickens and the buildings need occupants!



  1. The 'tar pit' units you dislike are one of the reasons WHFB has become such a monotonous game: resolving combat with such enormous regiments is a real chore especially when there are loads on the table. As you rightly point out such slug-fests kill narrative and thus enjoyment considerably. However, it looks like a great game with much fun had by all.

    1. I cannot see how the gruelling experience of endlessly rolling dice dealing with these massive units can be fun. Nor getting the things painted to a good standard. But each to their own I suppose.

    2. Would it be cynical of me to think that the units are so large simply so GW can sell more minis? (Surely not...) :P

  2. Looked like alot of fun. Bryan the troll is brilliantly painted.

    1. He was a joy to paint as well. Such a simple model, like its cousin the werebear, yet the simplicity allows you scope for so much. It originally had a rather basic attempt at a ogre-face Citadel T-Shirt on it before I stripped it!

  3. I think also important is the mission you give each player - Orc's Drift is clever in that it features various outnumbered defenders scenarios and actually states on one of them that there is no doubt that the Elven defenders should "lose". However, it also provides a victory point scheme that favours the beleagured defenders as well as a secondary mission so that they can achieve the moral victory, despite being most probably slaughtered. As long as the Elves can kill enough Orcs (depriving the Orc player of reinforcements in the final scenario) and prevent the Half Orc spy from escaping from them, they usually end up with more victory points than the Orcs even though they will inevitably be over run. From the Orc's point of view, they must kill the Half Orc spy to stop him revealing some sensitive information about their Chieftain and try to destroy the Elf garrison without incurring too many casualties - possibly encouraging a slightly more cautious and crafty approach than the usual full frontal assault.

    Me and Paul went on to have a good old chat in the car on the way home - we decided that playing out one of the Fighting Fantasy game books on the table top with a small band of player adventurers would be a lot of fun. Scorpion Swamp or Island of the Lizard King would be great candidates. I reckon if the GM had a good map of where the various baddies popped out and the terrain was set up in a way to encourage the players to make certain choices as to which way to go it'd work pretty well.

    1. Now that sounds like an interesting premise for a game. Hopefully, the only tarpits we would encounter would be literal!

  4. Orlygg suffers HATRED towards undead, lol. Thanks for taking part and providing so many good ideas for the next one in Feb.