Conqueror FoV

The joy of miniatures

A few weeks ago I noted that I was rediscovering my interest in Warhammer 40,000.   The necessary first step was revisiting the baseline post for the game on this site, which includes a series of rules changes/clarifications that improve what I consider to be the definitive edition, the 2nd.

I should clarify that I'm not one of those people that enjoy painting miniatures for their own sake.  I paint to play, period.  Absent a gaming environment, I wouldn't own any models at all.  The only model kits I retain from my childhood are the ones I adapted to use in wargaming.

That being said, if I know a game is coming up, I will throw myself into the act of creation and few things bring me more joy that watching a unit go through the process of acquisition, assembly, priming, painting and final finishing.  My painting table had languished for months, collecting various sundry items I was too lazy to put elsewhere, but now the main space is cleared and groups of models are staged around it, waiting their turn.

Amidst the current turmoil, it's a welcome escape to put on some music and focus my thoughts entirely on what shade of blue will suit the unit of Swooping Hawks I am working on.  Yes, the Eldar army is my current focus.  While I remain a 2nd ed. loyalist, I have no particularly affinity for Games Workshop's overpriced kits.  Many of my armies are built around equivalent figures from other manufacturers.

For example, my Imperial Guard is largely WW II historical models, and I've used some creative color choices on weapons finish and the rim of the base to indicate weapon types in the 40k environment.  The armored vehicles are modified Tamiya kits and these have been more extensively altered to feature weapon sponsons, crash bars and other features necessary for combat ops in the Grim Dark Future.

The determinative factors for me are cost and aesthetic.  For example, my Tyranid army is only a few years old, the last one I collected.  It is exclusively made of GW figures because these fit the bill and older kits are now selling for very reasonable prices.  My Eldar, on the other hand, is almost entirely Void models. 

Void was a short-lived competitor to Warhammer 40,000 that collapsed after a very ambitious launch sometime in the Aughts.  The parent company's demise (i-kore) coincided with worsening economic conditions in Michigan, and the result was many of the independent hobby stores went out of business.  As a result, I was able to buy a huge collection of figures for pennies on the dollar.  The Void aesthetic was more streamlined and less steampunk than GW's, so these models worked well as the advanced but declining Eldar. 

In fact, I only recently bought some actual Eldar models (jet bikes).  Again, prices for older edition kits are now quite reasonable, even as the current game's prices soar.

It's axiomatic that miniatures collections are never "finished."  People might sell them off, or they might stop using them, but no one ever proclaims the thing complete.   There's always room for one more model - and in fact, there's probably more than one model that still needs to be assembled or painted at any given time.

This means that if you take a month or a year off, when you come back, there's something ready and waiting for you to work on, which is nice.


Getting back into Warhammer 40,000

Other than a few posts about my still-incomplete Conqueror: Siege Assault supplement, I've been pretty light on the topic of gaming lately.  I intend to change that.

In the past couple of weeks I've rediscovered my fondness for Warhammer 40,000, though I must clarify that this is focused exclusively on the 2nd edition of the game, which went out of print in late 1998.

I'm sure cynics will suggest that I retain a fondness for that particular version out of pure nostalgia, but my affection for it is based on the objective superiority of its design over any of its successors (GW is apparently on the 9th edition now) and part of that excellence stemmed from it much more limited scope.

I don't think even seasoned players can reliably count up all the current army lists, variants, sub-variants and specialty lists GW is currently pushing.  I find that a huge deterrent to "getting current" and playing the in-print version.  I believe the 2nd edition, which had fewer, more distinct factions gave the armies much more divergent tactics, which made the game more interesting.

In any event, I reckon I will revisit some of these topics in greater detail in the next few days, and likely update my materials pertaining to the One True Edition of Warhammer 40,000.


Conqueror: Siege Assault - basic concepts

Over the next few days I will be posting some of the working rules I've developed for Conqueror: Siege Assault.  These are the trial versions and obvious need to be firmed up.

Feedback is much appreciated.

The Fortress

Fortifications over time have varied greatly, form simple earthen mounds to wooden stockades and finally stone castles.  It is impossible for one set of rules to cover all of these materials in detail (and foolish to try) so instead we will focus on the essential structures and provide rules to support attacking (or defending) them.

Curtain Walls

This is the building block of all fortresses, and their height and materials are entirely up to the players’ imagination.  For convenience, however, we shall assume that they are at least twice the height of models being used to attack them and created in sections six to twelve inches long.  They should have some form of parapet along the top where the defenders can stand and this should be wide enough to support two models.

The key features of curtain walls for our purposes are that they can be scaled using ladders and breached with greater ease than any other section of the fortress.  We will look into this in greater detail later.

Towers

Towers are self-contained defensive works that overshadow the curtain walls.  Towers are much smaller (no more than four inches on a side) and too high to be reached by ladders.  Breaching a tower is more difficult (due the deeper foundations necessary to support their immense weight) and also more dangerous to the defenders.

The Gate

The gate is the most vulnerable and therefore important point in the entire fortress.  The gate may be simply a gap in the wall or a complex building featuring a portcullis and multiple doors.  Either way, possession of the gate is usually tantamount to taking the fortress.

The Keep

Some castles may be built with a keep, which is rally just an enlarged tower.  The keep is too high for ladders, too difficult to batter down (since it is often inside the curtain walls) and it serves as the last refuge for the defenders.

Rally Points

In field battles, routed units have plenty of room to try to make good their escape, but within the confines of a castle, there are less options.

Troops outside the walls will fleet away from the enemy as normal, with defending troops attempting to reach the (relative) safety of their fortress. 

Within the walls, defending troops will attempted to reach a rally point, that is a spot within the castle selected before the game begins.  This will usually be a tower or the keep (if there is one).

Attacking troops will attempt to escape and will only rally outside the walls.

Special Morale Rules

Limited Outranking

Because the tight confines of a fortress do not lend themselves to fighting in close order, combats will generally not see the outranking bonus applied.  Thus units scaling walls, using siege towers, etc. will not receive this bonus.  However, where space permits (such as a breach), the extra weight of numbers will be felt.  The simple rule is: if both sides are fighting from a position where normal ranks can be utilized, this is included, if either side cannot benefit from it, no one does.

Desperate Defenders

Troops defending a fortress are under no illusion regarding their chances of escape, and typically will fight with greater determination than in the open field.  To reflect this “backs against the wall” mentality, defending troops gain a +1 bonus to all their morale rolls.  Note that this applies even to units outside the fortress (since the sortie may be their best hope to survive).

Special Shooting Rules

Full Cover

Units within a fortress generally benefit from a -2 to hit modifier for being in heavy cover.  However, if the walls are properly battlemented (which they should be), units may take Full Cover, that is stay below the parapet or step back from the arrow loop to avoid any risk of taking missile fire.

Units within a fortress may start the game in Full Cover (and it’s a good idea to assume that they do), and may only emerge from it during their own movement phase – they may not “pop up” during the opposing player’s turn to participate in their portion of the shooting phase.

Once out of Full Cover, they may not return to it until it is once again their Movement Phase.

Overhead Bombardment

Models on the top of walls or towers are assumed to be equipped with copious amounts of missiles (rocks, boiling liquids, darts, pianos, kitchen sinks) that can be dropped on the attackers below.

These weapons make missile attacks as normal during the Shooting Phase using their unmodified Shooting Skill.  Unlike normal missile attacks, the resulting hits are not halved (because the targets are so closely packed together) and have an armor save modifier of -2.

Models may only target models “beneath them” aligning as if they were to engage in Melee Combat.  Just as with Melee Combat, only a partial overlap is needed to conduct the attack.

Models may move into position (either up to the wall or along it to reach a troop concentration) and still attack without penalty.

 


Conqueror: Siege Assault continues to grind forward

I've been tinkering with siege rules for Conqueror: Fields of Victory on and off for years.  I'm currently in an "on" cycle.

Though I'm not sure what will come of it, it's fun to do some recreational game design, especially when it involves cool figures and a neat custom-built castle.

One of the great obstacles is integrating siege warfare into a system designed for open-field combat.  In the close confines of castle courtyards and along battlements, things like wheeling and formation changes just don't apply.

I also want to ensure that I'm using the right amount of detail.  That was the hallmark of the original system and I want to retain that.

At this point, I'm looking only at the culminating assault (hence the name) rather than the strategies of a siege (undermining, blockade, etc.) so that the game moves quickly.  I've been tinkering with a grid where each player picks an option and that sets up the type of battle, but it's getting somewhat complex.

In the mean time, the assault ladders are being placed and battle beckons.


Where's my fantasy novel?

With Long Live Death moving to final publication, I'm already thinking about my next project and once again I'm pondering writing an epic fantasy tale.

Why haven't I already done one?

It's a good question.  I'm huge Tolkien fan, spent countless hours playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up, and of course I even did a take on Beowulf.  It's not like I'm a stranger to the genre.

So what's the hold up?  I've done sci-fi horror, space opera, vampires, military fiction and even a romance novel.  Oh, and an entire book of fantasy miniatures rules!  Where's the obvious tie-in to Conqueror: Fields of Victory?

The answer is that because I've spent so much time doing gaming and roleplaying, every time I get going on fantasy story, I get sidetracked (and then bogged down) on world building.

It's weird.  I can write other genres without having to explain the setting in meticulous detail, but when it comes to fantasy, I have to be all Tolkien and discuss language evolution and the date of the ruins.

I've probably written more fantasy material than anything else by far.  Almost all of it was background for DnD campaigns.  In my more mature phase as a writer, I've got give manuscripts that could fit into the description, none of which got very far.  They all come to a screeching halt over setting considerations. 

Until I figure that out, fantasy remains closed to me.

 


Countdown to publication: maps, editing, format and...index?!

This week has been light on writing since I'm waiting for the test readers to get back to me.  Instead I'm working on the maps and figuring out the format.

Also, the dreaded index.

This is a new thing for me.  The maps are basically illustrations similar to the ones on almost every page of Conqueror: Fields of Victory.  Been there, done that.

The index is a bit trickier, because while the function is largely automated, the content isn't.  I mean, who wants a reviewer to whine about your inadequate index?

Anyhow, I'm still on track for mid-July publication.

After that?  I'm not sure.  My unwritten rule is one book per year.  This year I'm already up to two.

I've noticed that the more I write, the easier it gets, but I also feel there should be a point to each book.

On the other hand, it seems a healthy hobby, and when I don't write, I find I get lazy and bored.

Oh well, I'll worry about it in a few weeks. 


Conqueror Revised Edition is now available

Yes, it's finally finished!  I'm sure there are a few errors here and there and don't ask me why it ended up showing up as two separate publications - one on the Kindle and one in paperback, but the new improved Conqueror is now available for purchase.

All manner of fantasy/historical gaming goodness awaits at a quite reasonable price.

I call it a revision, but I could also say it's expanded, since it includes almost twice as much content.  There are pages of sample armies and units so you can dig right in and get playing.

I've also revised and simplified the unit/character creation system for those who want to make their own armies.

Magic got a thorough review, and the spells are much more focused and effective.  The same goes for magic items - no easy choices here, no obvious "best values."

Basically, like every other product, customer feedback and continued research has resulted in clear improvement.  Go grab your copy and get playing!


Summer writing update - Conqueror revision nears completion and a new project

Strange to say, summer seems almost over and yet we're still in July!  All of August is before us, yet here I am making plans for mid-September and beyond.  Being a grown-up sucks.

As for updates, here's my latest:

Conqueror 2.0 is almost ready for publication. 

This time I mean it!  Why are you looking at me like that?

One of the challenges of being a part-time author is that the fun part of the thing comes at the beginning - writing and building out the work.  Publication itself is a drag, which is why this has been historically outsourced to the professionals.

I'm getting better at this part, but sometimes things get busy and the last thing I want to do after a long work week is spend my quality time futzing around with cover-building software.  I supposed that's why so many books just go with the generic choices.  I'm strongly tempted to do this.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, I've decided to shelve the prequel to Man of Destiny and work on something else.  I'll tell you what it is when I get well enough into it, say 10,000 words or so.  Suffice to say it's a new direction for me, but something I've been meaning to do for a while.

Since I don't have a publisher to keep me in line, I go with what interests me and this interests me.  More on it later.

 Finally, I branched out into guest-blogging.  I'll post a link if/when my work goes live. 


Next up: Conqueror: Fields of Victory version 2.0

I've been rather quiet here of late and for that I apologize.  I started the year with grand ambitions of a new trilogy but I've gotten sidetracked in a much-needed revision of my fantasy/historical miniatures rules, Conqueror:  Fields of Victory.

This project has languished for years.  In fact, getting Conqueror into a publishable state took a decade.  In that context, the revision isn't that far behind schedule.

This isn't so much a new edition as it is a revision.  Naturally I'm fixing typos and cleaning up the language where it needs it, but that's not enough to justify the extra effort.

The changes fall into four areas:

Spells and Magic items -  These got a full review and as a result there are a lot of new spells and magic items.  The Magic School of Death got the biggest change and is now as scary as it should have been from the beginning.  Magic items also got a major workover, particularly in weapons.  The end result is more potent, meaningful options for your troops.

Special Rules:  Some big changes here, largely a result of feedback from players.  The list is still short but is comprehensive.  New additions include "horde" troops that gain an extra morale bonus for outranking as well as "rebellious" troops that get sidetracked into infighting during the battle.

Army Lists:  A glaring weakness of the original was that I didn't give you any ready-made options for armies.  This has now been corrected.  Players can still make up their own custom units, but I've provided pre-generated stats for a variety of iconic units like orcs, elves, dwarves, undead, and of course various flavors of human.

Point Values:  The "how-to" section has also been extensively rewritten based on player feedback over the years.  The process for making your own units is now easier and more consistent.

Oh, and the cover art is going to be much better.

I've promised myself that I can't do any fiction writing until this gets done, so I'm hoping to have this wrapped up very soon. 

Until then, Happy Easter!


A new year brings new writing projects

Happy New Year! 

Looking back on 2017, I'm profoundly grateful to all of you who not only bought my books but enjoyed them (and particularly grateful to those who left positive comments/reviews).

After I finished the Man of Destiny series, I wasn't sure which direction to go.  I have a few projects waiting on the back burner but none of them really appealed to me at this point.

So I've decided to look a little further back in the timeline of the Man of Destiny setting and write about the oft-referenced Deimos War.

It's not a prequel so much as a prelude as the characters will be different.  At most a few of the principles in the later book will be seen in their youth, but it will mostly involve their parents and grandparents - assuming these were even involved.

To put it another way, I don't intend this to be a back story on the later characters but instead a different tale in the same setting, though it will of course reflect on later events, just as the US Civil War foreshadowed World War I (and the two events are roughly as distant as the ones described in the Deimos War).

I'm also working on a revision for Conqueror, but given that the first edition took 10 years to complete, who knows when I will finish that.

Anyhow, Happy New Year and keep reading!