Thursday, 30 January 2020

MicroHotT - Hordes of the Things with individually based miniatures

Hordes of the Things is the best mass-battle fantasy ruleset around, I reckon. It's quick to set up, quick to play and brimming with tactical depth. And it copes with any vaguely fantastical period - hence my current 40K HotT project (designed both to use up spare miniatures and to introduce 40K-attuned friends to the glories of HotT).

Standard HotT games use 24AP armies and strict victory conditions. But we often play much bigger games: 36 or more AP a side. We also tend to play to the death or surrender rather than achieving 'technical' victories (as when a general is destroyed as the first casualty of the game). Those are fine for tournaments, but the game's mechanic for the loss of a general (troops become twice as hard to manoeuvre) is a perfectly good penalty if you just play on.

So the game's certainly good for a bit of stretching beyond its usual rigid parameters. Last week, my son and I decided to stretch it a bit more by playing it with individually based miniatures rather than the usual 'elements' of three or four figures.

We used 28mm infantry figures based on 25mm squares and cavalry based on 25mm x 50mm. So all frontages were 25mm, as opposed to the usual HotT practice of 40mm for 10 or 15mm and 60mm for 25mm or 28mm. Each individual miniature counted as a full element, and we used a 3' x 3' table (the 28mm standard) with 15mm movement rates. We also started with 54AP armies - huge by HotT standards - but kept the PIPs (activation points) roll at a single d6.

Orc warbands and spears await goblin riders and reptilian behemoths. The smaller cold one on its own was classed as a knight element.

So how did it go? Well, it was great. My son said that he preferred it to normal HotT (and he's an enthusiast). The larger table, relative to both bases and movement ranges, opened up a lot of space for manoeuvre. And the standardised base depths caused no problems. They theoretically entail very slight advantages for pursuing troops, as those would end up aligned again after pushing back or destroying elements that would usually have different base depths. But that's a trivial consideration. And all HotT base depths are "suggested minima" in any case, so this is still "rules as written".

The only other disadvantage I could see was that square, single-figure elements can look a little odd when one element is providing rear support to another (as with spears and warbands). Having figures standing in columns of two men isn't as convincing as having two rectangular elements backing each other up. It's a very minor point, though.

Other than that, I thought this version of the game offered several advantages:

1. It's a rank-and-flank game for individual figures that's much quicker to play than most of the alternatives (Warhammer, for example).

2. Huge battles are possible. 100 AP a side looks eminently doable. But 24AP games will work just fine too.

3. The single-figure basing keeps everything in scale. One of the few drawbacks of HotT is that certain elements can look oddly over- or underpowered on the table. This tends to apply particularly to behemoths. One player's behemoth might be a solitary, underfed-looking troll while another's might be some huge monster that takes up almost all of the available base space. In this game, we used GW cold-one riders as behemoths, and they looked just right: bigger and meaner than a knight, and dangerous to be near, but not oversized for their fighting ability. Similarly, dragons that fit on 25 x 50mm bases will tend to be appropriately sized, and the same goes for gods and heroes. Airboats might be a challenge, I admit - but then, they always are. Huge plastic vehicles could be supported on perspex rod and heavily weighted 25 x 50 bases, though.

4. Creating elements through painting up a single figure is an attractive option. Need a sneaker? That goblin looks suitably crafty. A flyer? Let's give the magician general an imp familiar. And so on. We found it remarkable easy to parse a batch of orcs into various battlefield roles: spears, warbands, shooters, blades, hordes, heroes, etc.

5. Using the same miniatures for different purposes. I have lots of square-based orcs because the EM4  ones come with square bases that are a paint to remove, and so I based matching Nick Lund metal figures similarly. I've used them for Saga in the past and intend to use them in Of Gods and Mortals, in which square bases are useful. This version of HotT gets still more use out of them.

All in all, I'd say that it's a good way to get a bit more out of both a common basing type and the excellent HotT rules.

Warbands drive through wolfriders

More orks!

Here's another warband element for my 40K Hordes of the Things project. I've refined (i.e. speeded up) the process for these, so that it now runs as follows:

1. Prime in black gesso.
2. Undercoat in Vallejo silver-grey.
3. Paint metal in Vallejo natural steel.
4. Wash everything in Agrax Earthshade.
5. Drybrush all the non-metal bits in white (it doesn't matter if the odd metal bit gets hit).
6. Slop on some contrast paints.
7. At a couple of points during these stages, paint the base grey, then wash it in Nightshade.
8. Add some rust to the weapons, etc.
9. Pick out eyes and teeth with quick highlights and do the same to the metals with silver.
10. Drybrush the base white, do a bit of blacklining to tidy up the figues, then edge the base in black.

It's not a clever or pretty method. But it is quick.

I also (more or less) finished off a shooter element (and painted the cables on the other warband's power axe, though not before these photos). So that's 6AP complete - a quarter of a normal HotT army. Experience shows, though, that HotT works very well with much bigger forces than that - so there are many more orks to come!

Monday, 27 January 2020

Hordes of the Things for 40K

It's not an original idea, but I've been thinking for a while of creating some Hordes of the Things armies from various accumulated 40K miniatures. A few judicious additions to the heaped-up plastic will need to be made, but I'm hoping to get four largish armies painted up in the next few weeks. The goal is a big game of HotT with some old friends later in the year.

Not quite finished, but getting there ...
The assumed figure scale of HotT is unstated but large. So most of these elements will do their fighting in close combat only; the two orks on a base represent several hundred or more, and the short ranges of 40K weapons mean that most shooting will be factored into the base-to-base clashes. 'Shooter' elements, like the terminator with the assault cannon above, are exceptions.

A great deal of the fun of HotT comes from fitting particular miniatures into the game's 20 element types. The orks will be 'warbands' for the most part, and ordinary space marines will be 'blades'. The big terminator base above will serve as a 'phalanx' using these variant rules. Imperial guard, colonial militias and any other normal human types will be 'hordes'.

Then there are bikes ('riders' or 'knights'?), tanks ('knights' or 'behemoths') and dreadnoughts ('behemoths'). Jetpacked troops can serve as 'flyers' or 'aerial heroes'. And demons of various sorts can be pressed into service as 'dragons' and 'gods' in HotT terms.

There's something pleasing about multi-based miniatures - and these HotT elements will also work well for 'large skirmish' games such as The Men Who Would Be Kings and Rampant. As my 'shooters' are all individually based figures, they'll serve to make up the odd numbers in those games as casualties mount. And it's a lot easier to move six multiple bases than 12 individual miniatures.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

More peg warriors!

I painted these for my daughter last night. More shall follow ...

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

A quick orc (or ork?)

I tried to get this orc done in an hour, after undercoating. I didn't quite manage it, but that was entirely down to drying time for the wash of Agrax Earthshade that I slopped over him at an early stage. Drybrushing and contrast paints did the rest.

This fellow's destined for some Pulp Alley and Galactic Heroes games as a primitive member of a batch of orkish desperadoes. But he's also a test piece for one of several Hordes of the Things army I want to throw together from various odds and ends that my son and I have lying around.

Using Hordes of the Things with 40K miniatures may not be the most obvious thing (although it has been done a fair bit before), but we love the game, and it seems like the best way of using up a lot of otherwise redundant plastic.

There's also a bit of fun to be had in building each element. And the sheer size of the 40K miniatures means that each base will hold only a couple of miniatures. I reckon a full 24AP ork army will probably involve around 20 minis in total.

I've started off by converting some Warhammer orcs into orks, chiefly through left-hand (and gun) transplants.

The bulk of the army will be ordinary orks, two to an element. Machine-gunners will be shooters - on their own or with ammo-toting goblins if I can find some. Some left-over savage orcs might form hordes (on the basis that their ferocity isn't enough to make up for their lack of high-tech weaponry) or might be converted too. Then there will be opportunities for scratch-building dreadnoughts as behemoth elements.

Meanwhile, space marines will form blade elements, with marine bikers as either riders or knights. Imperial guards might be hordes - or perhaps shooters or spears, if equipped with las-cannons. Genestealers and tyranids might get in on the act too, as beasts and hordes, respectively. Once all the 'scraps' are used up, I might allow myself the odd eBay purchase to add some more exotic elements - as long as it can all be done on the cheap.

Monday, 6 January 2020


Our big discovery of the holidays was Daniel Mersey's The Men Who Would Be Kings. It's similar to the same author's Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant games, but it also differs in some interesting ways that go beyond period flavour. The rules are designed for nineteenth-century colonial warfare, but we played them using red-armoured sci-fi orcs as colonialists and pallid fantasy orcs as 'natives'. 

Those games went well enough, and the colonial orcs have since been equipped with a field gun. But I thought we could do with some more interesting tribal types for the high-tech orcs to fight. 

'Tribals' in The Men Who Would Be Kings are typically fielded in units of 16, and a normal force might conceivably have eight such units. So the numbers point to recruitment from the ranks of the owned but unpainted rather than new purchases. Looming largest in those ranks are various reptile and amphibian humanoids. I have quite a lot of the old Citadel Slann - perhaps enough for three or four units - and lots of lizardmen of various sorts.

Among those are these chameleon men, which I bought second hand a couple of years ago. They're from an out-of-production boxed wargame called Carnage, and came with some lizard-mounted cavalry (whose amphibian riders might work as Slann) and some crocodilian swordsmen. I think there are about eight of each infantry type and ten of the cavalry. The Men Who Would Be Kings has an option for playing half-size units ('Skirmish Kings'), so the two sorts of infantry would give me either a combined unit of 16 or two cut-down groups for the abbreviated version. Or they could just mix in with the many heterogenous reptilians I've amassed over the years: reptilian auxiliaries of the amphibious Slann.

I painted the first couple up very quickly last night. They're undercoated in black gesso, painted Vallejo silver-grey all over, then drybrushed white. All the rest is Citadel contrast paint, followed by some black lining and highlights only on the eyes, teeth and horns. If the rest prove as quick, I shoudl have that first unit of tribals done very shortly.