1/48 Hobby Boss 1942 KV-1

Now that my mid-war 28mm Russian platoon has been painted up, I figured I needed a tank to go along with it. The KV-1 was an obvious choice for historical reasons, however given Bolt Action is pretty much Hollywood history with the point platoons, I’d have to settle on fielding it for 1,200 point games. The KV-1 is a monster tank on the table, but it’s a chunk of points. For 1,000 point games I’m going to have to settle on a T-34 instead.

I picked up a 1/48 kit from Hobby Boss. It’s a really nice kit which I would garner needs a tad more modeling skill to assemble. I’m still pretty much a novice and some of the sections (especially the treads) were a bear to assemble. Nonetheless the instructions were clear and the parts labelled well. Some of the tread sections had individual links, but you had jigs included to help with assembly. Another fiddly part were the side struts over the track skirts. These were metal and I had to break out superglue to get them on.

I gave it a simple paint job using Tamiya spray Field Gray TS-78 and a wash with Vallejo Military Green. The treads I used a heavy wash of Tamiya Dark Green XF-61 and drybrushed with Vallejo Gunmetal Grey. I also gave the treads and some sections some weathering with Modelmates mud. I need to work on how to weather decals more. The color sections under the transfer didn’t quite seem to match up, even after a matte spray. Still it turned out pretty good and the model is a huge chunk of plastic on the tabletop. It’s a beast!

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A more common kind of evil in your game

Evil PCs and NPCs have been on my mind as of late. For villains most DMs seem to go with the typical kick-a-puppy type. You’ve got a baddie and they are mean. Occasionally you’ll dabble in the Mr. Freeze type, a villain that thinks they have moral justification for their evil actions. But for the most part you’ve got villains running around doing really bad things to good people.

Thugs, bandits, warlords, necromancers, you can pretty easily sketch out what drives that type of evil. But if you broaden your definition of evil some. You start to see how easily it can be a label placed on many NPCs, organizations, and even for the players.

What I define as evil in much of my campaigns is a lack of empathy and selfishness. You’ve got a merchant that scraped their little store together from nothing. They’ve been ruthless against competition and unyielding with their prices and policies. Want to get something on credit? Sure, but you pay hefty interest. They’re the kind running a company store for mining claims. They are evil.

Think of a wealthy merchant that built trade empire on white lies and uncaring adherence to the law. They never busted heads or threatened anyone with violence, but they sure got signatures for contracts through pure browbeating and other underhanded tactics (cutting off water rights, undervalued offers for land, etc.) that would make a fictional character like There Will Be Blood’s Daniel Plainview seem mild.

If anything Lawful Evil would be a fairly common description of most the evil NPCs in my game. While they might not outright break laws, they certainly bend them and find loopholes. Even more so they’ll also unerringly seek to enforce laws that play to their advantage. The most important characteristic they share would be lack of empathy and being selfish. They are a literal embodiment of ‘F&*K you. Got mine.’

It’s their family, loved ones, and kin that might get an expression of kindness or caring. Everyone else might get a furrowed brow of concern at the most. After all, they can’t give away all they have to help everyone in the world. And this logic is used to cloak themselves from shame when turning their backs on strangers in need. When you adopt that type of mentality for evil NPCS, you begin to see these types of people can be found everywhere in your game.

Alignment isn’t an absolute. Those good villagers might be distrustful of strangers, and circle more around those that they know. But they can be goaded into doing the right thing. However for my evil NPCs I see them doing good deeds as a way to adhere to quid pro quo. Yes, that evil noble will donate to an orphanage but it isn’t an act of charity or compassion. They know they are getting something from it. They know it helps seat them in power and sway the peasants to his banner. He is using that act of charity to further his own selfish goals.

This is easily something that can be adopted for your players. The evil PC is going to get theirs, no matter what. Tasked with clearing out a warren of goblins? Okay. But the village is going to pay. The PC will get a reward AND keep a share of treasure found, no matter what. It’s literally a mercenary way of thinking. And when this type of motivation is expanded some, ensuring a PC gets compensated sufficiently for every ‘good’ deed that is done, your game opens up to playing evil aligned characters.

I would argue it’s the Neutral characters that are the most difficult to play. I see these types more akin to zen-like monks that see the value in letting the universe just be, and not align with any particular moral force. These types seem to hardest to properly stoke motivation in navigating through potential story lines and adventures.

In the past I’ve put my foot down on having players helm evil characters. More from my laziness in not wanting to wrestle with thinking up the right type of adventure hooks and lures to get the group going in a particular campaign direction. But lately I’ve reconsidered acceptable motivations for PCs that swerve into more selfish territory. Once you allow the notion of evil being acceptable for PCs, you’ll also start seeing it a more common NPC personality trait too. It can add more complexity and depth to the type of interactions your group has with denizens in your campaign, and something worth exploring around the table.

Review: Hero Realms

From White Wizard games, Hero Realms is a 2-4 player deck builder game. Using similar play mechanisms in its sci-fi predecessor, Star Realms, players each start out with similar base decks and slowly accrue more cards, trying to eliminate other players. There are a variety suggested game variants such as players forming teams or everyone can just jump into a free for all, where the last player standing wins.

The game is played by taking turns, with each player being able to take a series of actions in any order (and as many times as they wish). From a hand of 5 cards, a card can be played, abilities on current cards in their play area can be used, cards can be purchased from a common pool, and finally, a player can attack another player.

Purchased cards are placed directly in the player’s discard pile. However cards that are played can be used for various actions. Some will add gold to a player’s resources which can be used to purchase more cards, while others are used for attacking players. At the end of their turn, except for played champions, used cards or ones still in the player’s hand are put in the discard pile, and a new hand of 5 cards is drawn.

Attacks commonly use a pool, or total, of an attack value that will damage an opponent’s health. When their health reaches zero they are eliminated. Some cards can heal damage, and other cards have a defensive value that can reduce the attack pool number. As an additional tweak to combat, players can directly attack champions (cards with special abilities) in their opponent’s play area.

To bolster the defense of those champions or a player, some special champions are guardians. These guardian champions must be eliminated before other champions or a player can be attacked. To eliminate a champion or guardian, the attack pool must equal or exceed the defense value of the card. Once a card is eliminated it goes to the owner’s discard pile (allowing it to be drawn and played again on future turns). Alternately some card abilities can ‘expend’ itself, tapping it and changing its orientation. The card is in play but can’t be used for its abilities or provide defense.

That is the heart of the game. A rather simple numbers game where players try to beat the defensive cards of their opponent, while being able to maintain enough defensive abilities to bolster their health total. The wrinkle of course is the four faction types and interactions with various cards of the different factions leaning towards particular action types (attack, defense, purchasing cards, etc.).

As mentioned the game out of the box can handle 2-4 players. An interesting move regarding expansions are various starter decks which allow for more players. Unlike the starter decks in the base game, these have a few unique cards. This offers some light replay value by dabbling into different expansion packs as you can have some variation with starting hands (provided you buy enough expansion packs).

The Good – Out of the box you can have a fun deck builder that can handle 4 players. The card faction options and abilities or actions that allow for expending/stunning other cards open up for some different strategies. The set includes some clever cards to track health/score of the players, and the art for the cards is well done with bright, lovely colors, and layouts.

The Bad – Purchasing cards can lead to buyer’s remorse, where a better option becomes available replenishing the card pool after a purchase. The abilities are interesting but at times healing can get out of hand, almost outpacing damage. Adding to your deck can very much become a race, where the player that manages to scoop up cards to make a working combo first can really shift the balance in their favor.

The Verdict – Hero Realms is an enjoyable game. Being able to play 4 people out of the box is great. However the 4 card factions and limits on purchasing cards hampers strategies that players can explore. I also felt some games could just be a slog, with opponents countering damage easily through healing or being able to reliably get out champion cards.

I don’t know how the character expansions will work with the game. I do wonder if they will have balanced starting hands. Also as each expansion deck adds a unique starter deck, a person almost has to go all in buying at least four to offer parity. You don’t have to do this, but I could see some players grumbling they are stuck with the ‘regular’ cards while someone else gets new cool toys to start out with.

Nonetheless, it’s a reasonable product with room enough to discover fun combos, and there are expansions out there to diversify your card pool if wanting more. It’s a light deck builder that is enjoyable. I am somewhat not too keen to gush over it though. I feel Cthulhu Realms seems to capture a more fun experience out of the box with tighter game play. However if looking for a fantasy themed game akin to Star Realms that provides a 4 player deck builder with a single purchase, Hero Realms isn’t a bad buy.

Algoryn AI Unit

I’ve been making slow and steady progress on my Algoryns for GoA. Thankfully for my wallet, Warlord has released plastic kits for rank and file units. They offer quite a few poses and aren’t too difficult to assemble.

Out of the box you get a command unit with choices to arm them with a mag gun, mag repeater, or a mag pistol (with a X-sling option), while the rest of the sprue provides mag rifles and a couple of micro-X launchers. You also get a spotter drone along with bases for all the figures. Overall they piece together pretty well. My only complaint is that it can be a little tricky to figure out the ‘proper’ way to assemble the chest and back pieces, as the heads have a lot of play on the chest peice (and lack of assembly directions or pics of the figure’s rear).

I went with a super simple painting scheme. I’m still not too keen on it and likely will retouch the chest pieces some. I’m using a stark highlight of orange over base coat like what I used for my Russians, but even after drybrushing it doesn’t seem to pop much. It’s a very subtle effect which doesn’t photograph well (using a crappy phone camera doesn’t help much either).

I’m also on the fence some with the micro-X launchers. Likey retouch them up again with some OSL effects on the weapons to give them some life. Regardless, they’ve been languishing too long on sprues, packed away. Glad to finally get some of the figures assembled and a coat of paint on them.