Well I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a bit of a guide to some of the games I am hoping to explore in the coming weeks and months and the thinking behind what I plan on doing with them!
Warzone 1st Edition
Ah Warzone! After leaving the GW hobby and getting rid of literally every miniature I had, I happened across this cracking game when I nipped into Mac's Models on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
With its cutting edge artwork and rules, not to mention the pleasingly chunky and characterful miniatures that came along with it, I was strongly drawn to the game and the setting. Having experienced nothing game wise than 40k and a bit of Fantasy Battle, the lavishly coloured (if poorly bound) rulebook was an eyeopener.
Packed with illustrations by Paul Bonner, Paulo Perente and featuring the sculpting talent of much of the ex Citadel team, I loved the dark setting with the mega-corporations fighting it out over resources in the inner planets of the solar system whilst the sinister threat of the Dark Legion threatened to plunge mankind into eternal darkness.
Sounds a bit similar to Warhammer 40k you may think, but the hope of moving forward and overcoming the evil forces arrayed against them by small forces of humanity's finest in the form of Doom Troopers and the Brotherhood, not to mention lowly grunts on the battlefield really made it stand out.
Similarly, the rules themselves were far more interesting than 2nd edition 40k. The forces were far smaller, usually a couple of squads backed up by a hero or small vehicle and the alternative activation system appeared like a breath of fresh air. Troops could dive for cover, dig in and perform all manner of interesting actions that made each trooper vital and not just cannon fodder.
Gone were the fantasy elements of 40k with its space Elves and Orcs and in their place, a selection of Human forces, each with their own motivations, styles and back story and standing against them, The Dark Legion with its nightmare creatures!
I have fond memories of painting up a squad of Imperial Blood Berets, a squad of Wolfbane Commandos and a Necromower which gave me an entire force for under £20! This would actually be the first force that I ever fully painted and it saw quite a bit of action against a similarly ragtag force of Demigonis Dark Legion troopers.
Sadly most of them were sold off when I headed off to uni but I did keep one or two bits and bobs and hope to re-explore the Mutant Chronicles universe at some point in the not too distant future. Who knows, I may even attempt to recreate the force I originally had 21 years ago!
As with so many games I list here, Void 1.1 came and went with barely a notice by many but it too was a great game worthy of taking a look at!
Created by the same team that brought us Warzone, Void 1.1 was a very different fish than its ancestor, or pretty much any other game available at the time. Set in a universe where Humanity had explored the stars and begun fighting amongst themselves before the discovery of the Koralon, a strange aquatic race of aliens whose terraforming and genetic manipulation of anything they encountered posed the greatest threat humanity had ever faced.
For the first edition of the game, the artwork was provided by Stuart Beel and the arts bright, cartoony and almost Anime stylings really made the game pop when compared to the Grimdark that 40k was rapidly becoming and the Battles With Miniatures magazine i-Kore produced, which included new forces, units and the odd battle report and painting article was a fascinating way of slowly building up small forces.
I actually demo'd the game at Borders books once or twice in Edinburgh and even had a VASA force painted black and green in store colours but once again, i-Kore folded and the game vanished from people's games tables.
Again, most of the forces available were humans but each had a quirk and style of it's own, be it the dinosaur mounts of the Viridians, the penal legions of the Junkers, Syntha's AI units or VASA's close combat teams, I loved the fact that the setting itself was quite loose and encouraged you to develop your own forces, often using figures available to each faction!
Now Void has morphed and mutated over the years into Urban War and now a 6mm mass battle game but the original is still the best in my opinion and I'd love the chance to re-explore the game and possibly build a couple of forces..
Handily, the rules and even the miniatures are still in production so it's relatively easy to pick up and get some forces put together. The question is, do I have the time or space!
Speaking of which, I do actually have a few bits and bobs kicking around for a Syntha force and actually painted up a few of them last year so maybe 2016 is going to see me actually get some more bits and bobs painted up for the force.
Only time will tell but I must admit that I find the prospect rather an appealing one as I love the visual aesthetic of the forces and the sculpts themselves have held up surprisingly well, despite being almost 20 years old in some cases. Yes there's a few howlers amongst the range (I'm looking at you original Koralon sculpts!) but there's some interesting prospects for painting ahead.
Vor: The Maelstrom
Vor: The Maelstrom was released by FASA in 1999 and featured the planet Earth being sucked into a pocket dimension called Vor which was a tad inconvenient for all involved as the planet was stuck in the middle of a new cold war between the US led Union and Russian Neo Soviets.
I must admit that I came late to the setting, picking up the box set from Ral Partha Europe after Void 1.1 vanished and quite liking what I saw. There was enough crunch to keep games entertaining but the alien races were really fun. There were the Growlers, massive reptilian looking apes who devoured pretty much anything they encountered, the Pharon, a race of undead types and the Shard, crystalline entities who hated all other living beings. Mix in some jingoistic humans and you had quite an entertaining mix.
Sadly, as with many of FASA's releases at the time, the miniatures were a rather mixed bag with some fantastic sculpts alongside some pretty terrible ones but it still held quite an appeal to me and I do believe that given time, the rules would have continued to improve and the figures would have got better too. Unfortunately, as always, the game went out of production about six months later when FASA closed it's doors.
The game's creator Mike 'Skuzzy' Nelson did make a brief attempt to get the game back into production with a new edition a few years back but it went nowhere and the few holdouts of the game drifted away and Vor slid into oblivion again...
Now Battletech is an odd bird, it's been around longer than 40k, has more supplements and fiction and even a constantly evolving setting but why don't people play it?
On the one hand, it's got a fantastic setting and involves giant stompy robots beating the stuffing out of each other in a neo feudalistic setting as humanity teeters on the brink of falling into savagery following hundreds of years of almost constant warfare.
Losing technology and fighting over dwindling resources with massive war engines sounds fun but the game itself is just so slow, everything requires record keeping from ammo expenditure to damage and even heat. The result is a game that can take hours to play between just a handful of mechs.
Things aren't helped with the storyline which saw the introduction of the Clans, descendants of Humanity's finest military who have returned to the Inner Sphere to reclaim their empire and bring with them all manner of new and shiny tech. This saw rules bloat of an incredible degree and while I adore the Succession Wars era, I just can't bring myself to care about anything past about 3050 and the arrival of the Clan menace.
Of late, it looks like Catalyst Games has tried to slim things down a bit by releasing a new tabletop version of the game which looks rather promising but I must admit that I am finding the urge to redevelop the setting to my own ends, disposing of the Clans and using another ruleset to game out mech combat.
What if things developed a little differently and technology moved in a different way? What if the mechs didn't tend to look quite so silly but proper, chunky military hardware? Can the setting cope with a bit of tweaking but still keep it's almost Dune like intriguing and jockeying for position amongst the great houses. Can humanity continue to grow and develop or descend into another darkage?
Over the coming weeks, I hope to begin by reviewing some of the classic era guidebooks and beginning to flesh out my setting before painting up the odd mech or two to fight things out with!
I seem to have rambled on a bit! There are several other games I plan on exploring over the coming months, some of which I want to play out a game or two of and others which have a setting that would be fantastic to explore in more depth so watch this space as I continue with my rambling explorations and hopefully even paint up some bits and bobs...
In the meantime, All the best!