Saturday 13 July 2024

Delta "Forza"? Homebrew Car Racing Wargaming

My kids (including daughter!) have had a sudden craze for cars this last week, probably due to me introducing them to the PC game Forza Horizon 4. I can't walk down our hall, without tripping over Hot Wheels which are being tested off a ramp for speed and distance (they have elaborate championships with knockout heats).

I loved the idea of Gaslands but found it kinda gluggy and slow to play. Although my homebrew rules LOOK a bit like it, they probably owe more to my fuzzy recollections of a GW(?) game called Dark Future, where you moved along rectangles of highway in a set direction. I kinda adapted them into templates cos I'm too lazy to rule up/grid miles of highway gameboard. And we just had pizza and I need to get rid of the boxes...


My templates are based on 4x8cm rectangles and 45/90d turns.

My son (who had set up a medieval battle nearby; where he uses no dice and merely the coolest guy wins - a literal 'rule of cool') wanted to know what was up; so I made up some rules on the spot and he raced some cars around the track.  He had some ideas to improve it; he also wants damage and a way to tune your car (level up its stats) between races as well as improve your driver's stats and skills, which sounds kinda fun actually. But this is what we played, typed up:

Order of Play

Each player rolls; in order of highest dice to lowest, players chooses who goes first – either themselves OR they can select another player after them in the order.

Ties are broken by (a) best driver then (b) fastest gear then (c) fastest car

Basically, you can 'game the system' to create more rams, chaos etc for others

What you need

A set of templates

A d6 to be the turn 'clock'

A gear d6 for each car

Damage tokens for each car (wheel/handling, engine, crew)

Two different coloured d6 (crew + stat)


I based all my templates on a 4x8cm grid - the idea was from Dark Future....

DICE RESOLUTION: TWO STAT SYSTEM – It’s the driver AND the car; the man not just the machine….

Each situation rolls two different coloured dice. You must roll equal or above the relevant stat to succeed.

A ‘1’ always fails and a ‘6’ always succeeds.

Basically, roll both d6 and compare each to its relevant stat:
“Success” Two successes – you do it well/get a bonus!

“Partial” One success/one fail – you do it OK

“Fail” Two fails – you fail

DRIVER DICE ROLL – this is 3+ (expert/elite), 4+ (professional) and 5+ (amateur/rookie)

Plus….. any one of these stats

CAR DICE ROLL. The stat used depends on what you are doing.

SPEED – this is top speed. It is used when driving in a straight line (and if speed 5+) to get a ‘boost’ move. It also determines the top gear. It is written as top gear + dice roll; i.e. 5/3+

ACCEL – this is used to increase the “gear” or “speed level” at the start of the activation; or a boost after a turn

HANDLING – this is used to perform risky turns and rams

BRAKE – this is used to reduce the gear/speed level or make a short “brake move”

STAT levels are broad:

2+ supercar (Lamborghini, McLaren); 3+ sports car (Corvette, M3); 4+ standard sedan (Ford Caprice, etc); 5+ poor (van, truck)

Speed cap is basically  6 = Supercar (300kph+); 5 = Sports Car (250kph); 4 = V6 Sedans (200kph); 3 = van, truck, small V4 sedan (150kph)



Top Gear/

Speed Roll





Toyota 86/







Dodge Hellcat
















I’m tempted to switch to d10 actually so I can have a broader spread of car stats, say 4-5-6-7-8-9...


I ended up with a very simple set of templates. The small triangle is for 90d skids or 45d drifts and the "brake/boost" short rectangle is used for short moves or as a bonus move on the end of the turn if you roll well....


You can always change your speed (up/down) by 1 for free. Car speed/gear is denoted by a d6 placed beside the car; roughly corresponding to 40-50kph per pip.


However if you want to accelerate more, you roll a Accel Test. Basically this is rolling vs acceleration stat and driver stat.

Two success = you can increase gear by 3

One success = you can increase gear by 2

No success = you cannot increase gear at all.


The braking is just like acceleration in reverse; a Brake Test (roll vs brake and driver stats)

Two success = you can decrease gear by 3

One success = you can decrease gear by 2

No success = you cannot decrease gear at all.

My son wanted to know about the extra move templates he spotted, and wanted to use them... I said he hadn't bought the expansion DLC.....


A turn is broken into 6 sub-phases. Cars only move if their speed corresponds to the phase. All cars move on phase 1; but only a speed 6 car would still move in sub-phase 6.

If your car can activate, determine the order of play (see above) each sub-phase, then....

(a) Choose a template

(b) Check your gear

(c) Roll dice

There are three speed levels to be aware of that impact movement; low (1-2); medium (3-4) and high (5+).

Below are the templates and how they work. 

BRAKE (8cm)

Use Brake Stat to test.

2 Success = May also choose Drift 45 or 90d in a direction of your choice “Brake Turn”

1 Success = Just move straight 8cm

Fail = Spin or Skid randomly


Does not need to test but may opt to Boost. Use Speed Stat to test.

2 Success = May Boost a bonus 8cm

1 Success = Move forward normally

Fail = Move forward only 8cm (Brake) instead of the usual 16cm “Clutch slipped”

GENTLE TURN (16cm + 45d)

Must test if 5+ Gear. Use Handling to test.

2 Success = May Drift 45d in direction of turn OR opt to roll a single Accel dice* to see if boost

1 Success = Usual turn

Fail = Spin or Skid randomly

SWERVE (16cm; two 45d turns)

Must Test if 3+ Gear. Use Handling to test

2 success = May Drift 45d in direction of last turn OR opt to roll a single Accel dice* to see if boost

1 Success = Usual swerve

Fail = Spin or Skid randomly

SHARP TURN (16cm + 90d)

Must test if in 3+ Gear. Use Handling to test.

2 Success = May Drift 45d in direction of turn OR opt to roll a single Accel dice* to see if boost

1 Success = Usual turn

Fail = Spin or Skid randomly

Extra Information:

*If top gear is 5+ may use Speed stat instead, if it is better.

If current speed exceeds the 'must test' speed of a template; -1 to the roll each level...

A 45d DRIFT causes a player to drop -1 level of speed.

A 90d SKID causes a player to drop -2 level of speed.

My son wanted to compare current speed to handling stat i.e. if your handling is 4, roll for any maneuvers at speed 5 or more… So the better your handling, the faster you go before needing to check. This makes sense, but requires me to rework my mechanics.

=New Mechanics: Probably roll low = best i.e. roll equal or below a stat? i.e. Speed 4 = roll 4 or below to succeed….

The Shelby roars over the finish line as the Lambo spins out. We had a few rams, spin outs, and drifts and cars 'swerved' in front and got shunted along. To keep things simple, both cars were basic sports cars with professional drivers (see M3 profile above).


If a movement template intersects with an enemy car, the enemy car is either (a) moved aside or (b) shunted forward. If moved aside it is placed 45d from the template at an angle corresponding to the contact point.

The ramming player finishes its move.


Both players roll a Handling Check and compare successes.

-The loser tests to Skid/Spin Out (see below)

-If there is a tie, the rammer (moving car) merely shunts defender car sideways 45d like a drift (making it lose -1)


If a car loses control, roll another Handling Check.

Two passes = the car skids 90d

One pass = consult spin table; reduce speed -3

Fail = car spins and reduce speed to 0


Using the Spin Table

There are 8 faces, 1 each 45d. N=0, NE=45, E=90, SE=135, S=180, etc.

Roll a d6. Begin counting at 45. So a 1 = 45, 2 = 90, 3 = 135, 4 = 180

It worked quite reasonably and seemed faster than Gaslands. Obviously, there was no combat/damage (yet) but the templates were simpler, and there was no 'recording' carrying over besides the speed dice next to the car. 

My son would like the mechanics to link speed and handling more, besides additions of damage - he'd like to increase the violence a bit more. I'd consider 'roll low on d10' as a universal mechanic that would allow car stats to be more granular. I tend to be pretty casual about mechanics and don't mind completely swapping d6 roll high for d10 roll low... it's more about the % they create and consistency/simplicity...

I probably also need to revisit spins/flips and negative effects. (Bear in mind I invented this 'on the fly' so it probably has a lot of 'assumed' knowledge and is not well explained...)

The lad also would like a 'campaign' where you can tune cars between races (i.e. i.e. add a turbo to increase speed stat +1 etc, add race tyres and strip weight for +1 handling etc); with drivers gaining skills - e.g. say "drift" makes the driver better at bonus drift moves etc.... Which would be fun to design but I need to make the game work consistently first...

Anyway, time for bed....

Saturday 6 July 2024

Delta Vector 2024 - Spaceship Game Design Manifesto - and some LEGO, LoTR

 This is mostly a post about spaceship rules. But my 8 y/o son painted some miniatures, so here they are:

He also has some rather cool not-LEGO. The army guys in particular may prompt some simplified LEGO wargame rules. 

OK, back to spaceships.

Spaceship rules are something I revisit every year, I create/play a few test games, then put them away, distracted by some new shiny. It's tradition. In fact, whinging about how spaceship games are boring wet-navy-in-space was one of my first forays into making games (besides the "make 40K better" most wargamers have tried). Hello, 2012. I then pumped out 30+ posts in April 2012 outlining my game. I just had a quick skim - it was obvious the games I liked and played at the time!

Making near future sci fi (so it's not just Vietnam in space) and jet fighter games (this is super difficult as the nature of jet combat seems naturally opposed to wargaming) as well as "better Mordhiem" "better aeronef" and "supercavitating fighter subs" and more recently "tank commander RPG" also get annual dust-offs. 

As I get older I am less interested in pet mechanics. The game mechanics must merely be simple, easy and serve the purpose. I like them to be consistent if possible. (Although I've always found this hard in space games). It's like a car. I don't care what is under the hood as long as it goes fast and is easy to maintain.

Ok, LoTR pics + space discussion is a bit confusing but I like to track my painting in the blog and I don't like empty posts. These Victrix are serving as Wildman of Dunland - a cheap horde option.


I do one of these periodically, to remind me of my core focus. How do I want the game to play?

Influences were EvE Online (game), The Lost Fleet (book) and The Expanse (book/tv). It was not designed to play Star Wars or Star Trek. It is more like a combined arms game (or party RPG) not a mass fleet battle game. It should give a unique "feel" of space not just WW2 navies/age of sail-with-spaceships.

There should be minimal record keeping and no needless recording. Anything that is recorded should provide a meaningful choice/tactics. There's no "empty hitboxes" where you tick off 10 hits and nothing happens. Recording for a single ship should not be more extensive than a General Quarters SDS or a Warmachine warjack. The game should handle 2-6 ships per side; task forces comprise of a couple of big ships and a handful of escorts.

All Ships Have a Role

The game is more like a modern task force (2-6 ships) than giant fleets. Small escorts are not just cannon fodder but are vital in supporting the fleet and can even take down battleships if correctly employed. Inspired by EvE Online, small ships can tackle (stop ships warping off); paint targets, jam and defend against missiles as well as launch attacks from difficult to defend directions.

Movement - Space, not Sea

This has a sense of momentum. Ship trajectories can be predicted. Ships can drift one way and face the other - to brake quickly, bring weapons to bear or show undamaged shields. I have used some good systems but they have been messy. Small ships have high thrust and are unpredictable, while lumbering battleships positions can be calculated a turn in advance.  This allows small ships to dictate fights.

The inclusion of reaction mechanics allow you to engage a series of ships in your path, with ranges being measured from the enemy bases to the closest point on your path past them.

Missiles, Terrain, AoE = Tactics

To avoid space feeling empty and encouraging a scrum in the middle; missiles make an AoE "attack zone" - a radius (almost like dangerous terrain) to be avoided. Battles always occur near something of importance, never in empty space. Gravity can affect ship trajectories. Asteroids block fire.

Facing - Shields and Spinal Mounts = Tactics

Ship facing matters.  Firepower is weaker through rear arcs. Shields cover forward and aft hemispheres; one side can be up and the other undefended. Mighty spinal weapons fire forwards in narrow arcs; laser batteries cover broadsides. This is another way for a thoughtful player in a small ship to outplay a larger ship. Shields are probably just up or down; i.e. attacks are resolved vs shields and if breached then excess (or future) damage is resolved vs the ship.

Lightspeed, Relative Trajectories = Tactics

How the ships approach each other matters. (This is vectors/direction of movement, not facing)

Example: (a) Both ship head on = combine velocities = add; (b) One ship approaches other side on = use highest velocity; (c) Chase (one approaching from rear) = difference in velocities = subtract.

Yes, math - but we're talking about the sort you can do on your fingers. Why does this matter? Because lightspeed hard caps movement and firing. As you get closer to lightspeed; you are harder to hit. Again, small high-thrust ships can control modifiers.

Signature Range, Target Numbers and Reactions = Tactics

Ships have a signature - their size + how "noisy" or "bright" they are. There's no magic cloaking. No ships are invisible (unless behind an asteroid etc) - it's just about acquiring a predictable target solution. A distant target may have moved since the light reflected from them arrives at your sensors. A ship with a large, hot signature is easy to react to and predict and thus has a wider "reaction" radius. I.e. a sig 3 small ship might trigger reactions from enemies within 6" and a sig 7 ship trigger reactions within 14". The ship sig also determines how easy it is to hit - the sig 7 ship might be 70% and the sig 3 only 30%, for example. This makes small ships surprisingly survivable, not disposable glass cannons or extra hitpoints for capital ships - they're hard to engage and hard to hit.

Capacitors (mana) = Resource Management/Tactics

A bit like shields - you either have spare energy or you don't; there's no complex recording. Capacitor power is like mana or stamina - you use it to power extra abilities like extra (or overloading) energy bursts; restoring shields, jamming enemies or charging warp drives.

Capacitor boosters or batteries allows you to maximize your "support" tech or simply fire and defend more often/powerfully. It's an X-factor that allows more player decisions. 

I found some unpainted Rohan during my shed clean. My total +29 = 68 LoTR for the month.

Simple but Distinct Weapons = Tactics

Weapons should be limited in selection but act differently; not just a +1/-1 modifier.  Range bands are simple: effective range and falloff range. Many weapons can change ammo types mid-game which adds player agency. You choose the right tool for the job.

Kinetic weapons are grouped into railguns (which fire AP shells or shotgun AA flak rounds) and PDCs (rapid fire small calibre miniguns). They are inaccurate at long range especially against fast movers but lose no damage (and even gain damage if closing velocities are high enough).

Energy weapons are grouped into cutting beams and pulse (pew pew) lasers; the latter mode is weaker but rapid fire with faster tracking; more for engaging fast targets with short bursts. Lasers are accurate but weaken at long range. Weaker against shields.

Missiles are divided into giant slow short-range anti ship torpedoes, long ranged guided missiles, and short ranged rapid fire/seeker swarm micro-missiles. They retain momentum from the firing ship which impacts range/AoE. Missiles are a great leveller; torpedoes can allow even a small escort to down a battleship, while agile escorts can avoid them (and their heavy PDC armament can shoot them down). 

Missile bays can also deploy unguided AoE EMP bombs - fired along a ship's vector to break locks and nova bombs - which do very slight damage to ships but are deadly to missiles and drones. Likewise similar AoE interdictor bombs prevent warping. They work on friend or foe.

Many weapons can swap between modes/ammo types from turn to turn (which is a decision). Weapons are classed as small, medium and large. Spinal weapons are very powerful but have a limited firing arc.

Drones not Starfighters = More AoE

There are no expendable one-man snub fighters. Drones are tethered to the mothership (another AoE to maneuver/consider). They are similar to missiles but have unlimited endurance and usually their own subsystems and weapons. Sentry drones orbit and protect their own ship.

Drones can perform support duties like webbing and various E-war; as well as self/ally repair (like a AoE healer).

Support Tools, E-War = Combined Arms Tactics

There are a few key tools/roles that debuff enemies or buff allies. Small ships are useful as a fast, cheap way to provide these roles - mostly borrowed from EvE Online. These support tools take up "bays" in the ship, and can kinda align ships to "classes" like a RPG.

E-War/Sensors: Can include target designators = increase enemy sig size + buff own/ally weapons; disruptors = decreases accuracy of specific enemy ships/weapons/reduce ally sigs; jammers = disable weapons (if use energy; emp bursts (AOE) jam. A tracking computer increases the ships' own weapon accuracy. Drone links increase drone range and buff drone rolls.

Energy/Repair = booster batteries (less chance to drain energy) and rechargers. Hull Repair Nanobots = heal self.

Tackle:Tractor Beams/Stasis Webs = slow/tow enemy ships/move self and others vector; warp interdictor beams = stop enemy ship warping.

Propulsion: Microwarps = straight-line tactical warp jump from A to B to avoids reactions (drains energy); afterburners (double sig, double thrust) = uses lots energy

Shield: overboosters or rechargers (increase size of shield or restore)

Limited But Flexible Build System

Ships have "mounts" that can fit certain weapon types or sizes.They have set turret mounts and sizes i.e. a cruiser may have weapon bays, subdivided into "3 medium turrets" and "no drone bays" and "2 missile bays" as well as general bays, subdivided into "1 sensor slot" and "2 support slots". A ship can have a maximum of one turret designated as a spinal mount (supersized weapon).

Particular ship types may have innate "perks" - +1 or so to energy recharge, or drone attacks, etc - which combined with hardpoints/layours encourage a particular style of play. So you can min-max; but within a pretty structured framework - something I enjoy from Mechwarrior: Online. Aim is to allow creativity but not 'anything goes.' Just like the whole game is not attempting to be a 'sandbox' for every spaceship movie ever.

Ok visitors arriving so I'll post this up. If anyone is interested I may put up some of my experimenting with the rules...

Monday 1 July 2024

Victrix Dunlendings, Command Levels, Micromanagement and AI

There's still cardboard boxes to be unpacked but I did manage to get some painting in...

2024 LoTR Paint Count: 39

These are Victrix vikings. $1ea. My quick paint job by no means does them justice, but they are probably the best off-a-sprue minis besides GW. They are a significant improvement on, say, Gripping Beast. Assembly is a bit fiddly though.

 The White Hand of Saruman on their shields shows their alliance....

These guys will stand in as Dunlending Warriors worth 10x that from GW. They are a bit larger than the Perry-era LoTR sculpts but are close enough (and cheap enough) that I don't care. I simply can't afford a $500 army. Doing it this way is a 90% off discount per mini!

There is enough sculpt variety in the packet I could replicate all the Dunlending heroes, which is another huge saving. Admittedly I couldn't make a mounted Thrydan Wolfsbane...

...but I have only used 1/3rd of the packet and I already have a decent Dunlending force with an array of bows, 1H and 2H weapons. I'll probably pick up some 3D print ponies and crebain (crow swarms)- there's about 20 or so more wild men and warriors I've assembled, still to go. I'm aiming for 500-600pts which is pretty much all you need to use all the Dunland heroes and toys. I could tidy and detail the models more but at this stage I'm trying to just get things table-ready to avoid a backlog - which can cause crippling painting paralysis. I've been out for a while so I need to get 'runs on the board' - a bit of painting momentum.

This is a 3D print Watcher in the Water. It did cost me $40AUD - down from the official $134AUD. I'll come back and touch it up later; but it is also table-ready and functional. Not everything has to be a display piece by a full time Youtuber painter - some of us just need to paint our toys!  I did everything in an afternoon, after undercoating them last night.

Because my paintjob is a bit rushed and meh, here is the primed model to give you an idea of the detail.  In the background is my tomorrow job; some Black Numenoreans aka 'Dark Rhumenoreans' so I don't get bored of Dunlendings...

Command Levels/Micromanagement

I've discussed this before; how in wargames we usually control an unrealistic amount of things. I've been thinking about this a lot lately as quite a few PC games I should enjoy... but I don't.

Nebulous: Fleet Command - it's the Expanse; railguns, PDCs, missiles, E-warfare... and you can build your own ships! But... you need to micromanage each ship (and you have several of them) and can even program the flight patterns of missiles. This would be great if you were captain of A ship, but not when you command half a dozen. You are a squadron commander who micromanages individual systems on individual ships.

Men of War II/Call to Arms. It's a more realistic Company of Heroes which can be modded to Star Wars, or 40K. You can even play in first person mode like the old Battlezone games (FPS/TR hybrid). But... you need to tell individual soldiers to crouch, or throw grenades, or reload... when you command 30 or 40 of them. 

I've also discussed the amount of independently-maneuvering units a person can control in real life, and the sweet spot for wargames (I think my conclusion was 4-12). This obviously ignores the complication of the games mechanics - controlling 4-5 spaceships in Nebulous would be easy if your only decision was where to move and who to shoot at. 

Perhaps it could be a formula: units x decisions you need to make for each unit (besides - move to x, shoot at y). ME:SBG handles 30-40 individually moving/fighting minis reasonably well, but that's because the mechanics for most troops are so simple: most troops move 6", melee is highest wins with better fighters winning ties, and shooting/damage being 'roll over 4/5/6 on d6' depending on shoot skill/defense - so simple mechanics; with most troops moving in groups anyway. Adding just a few heroes and monsters - with special rules and resource mechanics will slow a game significantly because there is more to track/remember and just more decisions to make. A 9-man Fellowship with lots of special abilities takes the same time to play than a 30 man vanilla warband with a few generic captains.

In broader terms, this ties in with "wargames rules pushed beyond breaking point" - i.e. rules which have been either complicated or bloated well beyond their original scope or simply used to do too much; as well as "wargamer who is all-knowing god of battlefield" who can micromanage his troops with unnatural and ahistorical precision. What rules do/don't do this well?

 But what if micromanaging WAS expected? Something like a powerful AI which could flawlessly co ordinate swarms of units.

AI: Born to Micromanage

With the micromanagement in mind, since I'm also watching the surprisingly good Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles with my daughter; I've been thinking of a use for my 15mm minis.

Basically, you have warring AI (with both human, cyborg and robotic soldiers) who are allocated "processing power" - basically action points.

Units can act independently but have 'move x, shoot y' - but with the AI boosting or 'riding' the host they could do things like co ordinate actions with other units (i.e. act with 2 units on a single action); get extra reactions/actions (they process things/are more aware than usual so seem supernaturally fast to react) or even make boosted actions (like re-rolling shots due to immense calculating power eliminating all the variables). You could even 'bid' on who acts first.

Wifi range could be a factor (or just the ability to push signals through heavy jamming) - so signals must be 'passed on' by units in radius. EMP weapons could be deadly to fearless robots but be ineffective vs humans who tend to have other, different issues (suppression/morale). Humans could be better at independent action (better reactions, initiative, independent action) making them less reliant/vulerable to E-war; but have lower stats in accuracy etc. 

Basically, a paper-scissors-rock with AoE radius of wifi/signal playing a major role (also EMP disrupting AoE). Units who are cut off from the AI's mainframe cannot be assigned "processing power" so you may be unable to spend your "Action Points" - so besides killing enemies you can also deny them their buffs with EMP burst weapons, jammers, etc. 

Dreadball vs Speedball vs BB

On the steam sale Speedball 2 (a remaster of the 1990s game) is $4 so I bought it for 'research purposes.' I'll probably work on some homebrew Speedball-esque rules to use with the few Dreadball minis I actually like. 

I'm also curious about Tech!No! (Spivey's NFL rules based on old videogames) - has anyone here played it - as I think I registered it as a blip on my radar in ?2020? and never heard of it since.  I think I rejected it at the time as it seemed card-heavy (and I was/am very suspicious of any wargame that reliant on cards). Someone recently also recommended BB:Blitz but I'm not familiar with it - is it better than 7-a-side BB (the one with 6 turns etc)? I'd probably prefer the latter as you can just tape the pitch and have a normal BB option if you want. Hmm, decisions decisions. $250AUD for a BB set would buy me a crapton of Battlefleet Gothic 3D prints and I always regarded it as the GW game that aged best next to ME:SBG...

Sunday 16 June 2024

Victrix Vikings & Dreadball Musings

I bought a pack of Victrix Vikings, intended either (a) to proxy as Dunlendings or (b) fight zombies in a medieval post apocalyptic ice age.



Well, they are amazing. GW-level detail, at $80AUD (~$50USD) for 60 minis. They are a tad big to go with my MESBG but after I priced up the official Dunlendings, I don't care.

So with my single packet I managed to make...

Thrydan Wolfsbane (foot only) = $25

Igrinna/Oathmaker/Gorulf = $78

Chieftain + Banner + 12 Dunland warriors = $137

Wildmen of Dunland (16 not 12) = $101

Huscarls (4) = $57 my Victrix pack allows me to duplicate about $400AUD worth of stuff as per GW Australia. And I've still got about twenty vikings left to make a zombie fighting expedition for my own skirmish homebrew rules...

I'll add some 3D printed Crebain (crow flock) and maybe a few hill ponies and I'm good to go. It's pretty much a single packet = an entire Dunland army.

Why are these displayed unpainted, you ask? Well, here's the negative...

Unlike say Perry plastics which are pretty casual in mix-and-match, the combinations are quite complicated. It took forever to assemble them (hours and hours). Not quite Wargames Factory samurai level annoying, but much slower than I expected. 



My son has expressed an interest so I've grabbed these out again for a playtest. In my teen years I loved Bloodbowl and technically this is a sleeker, faster playing game of similar ilk. Well, it's not exactly the same (more akin to basketball/hockey/some sort of 90s speedball arcade game) but you can tell BB was in the back of the designers mind when they made it. There's some good design choices here but I'm strangely unenthusiastic.

No setup/kickoff. Once you score the game just keeps going. It's a massive time saving compared to BB and you can actually think ahead beyond when you score. Cool.

Resource Management vs Risk Mitigation. You have 5 actions to spend in various ways; it's more managing your resources than slowly setting up a play, avoiding being f---d by the dice like BB.You can pass multiple times in a turn. Play also alternates faster. You can try riskier shots for more points.

Less meaningless turns/one sided games. Goals can be worth 1-4pts and can be scored almost any time; you never get far behind (there's a 7pt mercy rule); there's no feeling of playing out meaningless turns in an unwinnable game. From my limited experimenting, there seems to be more balance. Stats don't differ much between teams.

Consistent Mechanics. The same mechanics (roll a handful of dice; count successes, modifiers subtract and add dice to pool) are used throughout. No weird dice. Also, the results are less 'swingy' and less terrifying than BB.

A lot of these seem like a direct 'fix' for issues with BB. The game just seems better/more modern. Mechanics are better/smoother. Seems pretty balanced. So why am I not so keen to play?

Miniatures. They're just meh. Some are OK, but many are weedy and lame. Others have pretty much the same sculpt for the entire team. Extra teams are the same price as a BB team and they are nowhere near the quality. Bah.

Factions/Fluff. Bloodbowl is iconic and easy to 'get'. Violet gridiron with fantasy teams. Ogres, elves, orcs - you know what to expect - it 'fits.' Now the sci fi fluff of Dreadball is just... it's like they threw a ideas at a dartboard. Teleporting turtles? It feels like a wasted opportunity. Combined with the lackluster minis, there's almost no team I go "cool - I wanna play as these guys!"

Generic Samey Teams. The teams (and players) seem kinda similar. Bloodbowl had more variation within a team than Dreadball has between teams. Perhaps it was for better balance. It may be because the probability curve has been smoothed out (which although it removes some of the harshness of the rolls) makes things feel.. bland? Flavourless? Except...

Guards/Locked positions. For some reason these guys can't pick up the ball at all. There's some B.S. reason in the fluff but even the most hilariously clumsy ogre in BB could at least attempt to pick up the ball. It just seems weird and contrived. In fact, most Dreadball positions are a bit 'locked' compared to BB - where a player can start out one position yet do other jobs - and through skill rolls, can kinda turn into another. Anyone can do anything - even if it isn't a great idea! But in Dreadball, the strikers can't slam at all (act as guards) they can only dodge. There just seems to be more of a 'hard lock' on positions. There's less flavour yet less flexibility. It's a limitation.

Less simple than you'd think. No one I know plays Dreadball - I'm just teaching myself from the book and it isn't as easy as it seems. There's lots of actions and although they share mechanics all are slightly different. I don't find the rulebook easy to use. (And I've read and played it a few years back so I'm not completely unfamiliar)

 Disclaimer: Dreadball has been out for ages and I'm sure there's many more thorough reviews by guys who play leagues etc. This is just my 10c - but it may be relevant if you are, like me, the 'early adopter' or only player in your area and you can't try/learn from someone else. That said, I see starter sets on eBay for ~$60AUD ($40USD) so it's pretty cheap to start if you're curious. Unfortunately for us in Australia, that's also the price of a single extra team - and the quality of some of the models is very iffy.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Man Cave v2 Activated

Still some boxes lying around, but the Man Cave (tm) is habitable. I've done a bit of painting and been testing Dreadball rules again (my son likes the idea of it).

I've actually got LESS shed space now (6 bays from 9) but as it's a single large shed not three smaller ones; it seems about the same. Ooh, and I got a shed fridge (allegedly to help my wife with extra room but we really know what it's for) as well as a better shed TV setup. I've forsaken streaming services and have collected ~900 DVDs this year. It sounds a lot but 20c each from the local dump the collection is cheaper than most wargames! There's about ~6 tables of terrain but they stack on top of each other or are hollow so you only see a few tables here. 

The painting gear isn't unpacked but I'm sort of operational.

The wall is mostly wargaming. It goes painted models, books, unpainted models, terrain.

I guess my LoTR count is ~18 for this year? Down a bit on 466 for 2023 but I blame the move...

The dwarves are genuine but the Shelob is a $5 Toys R Us kids toy, the Riders of the Dead are from a Fireforge sprue and the Heralds of the Dead are 3D printed.  In other words, a fraction of what they cost from Gee-Dub. 'Official' Shelob alone is $70AUD. 

I have visitors - Australia's most terrifying predator. The magpie! No, crocodiles and snakes are not what a true Aussie fears (although I do keep the screen door shut to discourage slithering visitors). It's being swooped by a feathered fiend!  I've been appeasing bribing feeding befriending ours so the magpie mafia now appear as soon as they see me in the backyard and tend to come peek into the house and man shed. Yes, I do have kangaroos (lots) in my backyard. No, I have not seen any koalas - although there is a koala reserve on my back fence. Weirdly enough, there is also a lot of ducks.

I was going to discuss some Dreadball thoughts but kids are impatiently awaiting me to read them their nightly book...

Monday 29 April 2024

Game Design #105: Suppression, Pinning, AoE

Q: What does Generation Kill, Green Zone and Battle for Los Angeles have in common?

 A: They are all movies I have watched recently with my wife, and have prompted thoughts about suppression/AoE in wargames.

Here are a few shower thoughts. I reserve the right to add to/edit this post as I "concrete" my thinking so apologies if this post changes a bit vs what is in the comments. Also all my wargame books are boxed up for my shift so I can't check details.

What does pinned and suppressed even mean? Which is better/worse? Are we using the right terms?

I kinda presumed pinned means "can't move" and suppressed means "can't shoot." But definitions seem vague in wargames. I'd be interested to know what the correct usage is. 

Usually in wargames pinned is a worse result (frozen in place, unable to return fire); but should it be? If a unit is "pinned" in cover it could presumably return fire (maybe at a reduced effectiveness). Something that is "suppressed" is rendered ineffective, right? So... no shooting? And no moving either? Or is it merely "degraded" enemy shooting/observation?  I also read "suppressing fire" "pins down" the enemy and stops them from moving but "covering fire" stops them from shooting and allows you to move. Ugh, confusing.

I'm not sure if this is semantics but do wargames actually treat this the right way? The terms seem to be two different effects in wargames or two "levels" of impact. I'd be interested to know the proper usage. I'm pretty sure my various army rellies used the word "neutralise" but I think it's just the Aussie term for "suppress?"

Are there two stages of suppression? And if so, what effects should they have to best mimic real life?

I'd like a lot more clarity as to the correct terminology... are wargames even using the words right? 

Are wargames too lethal? Is aimed fire too lethal? Does this diminish the value of suppression?

Should you need to suppress first to reliably kill?

I have 0 real world experience, but in milsim PC gaming, the ones getting kills are the ones who are not being suppressed; or the unspotted ones/ambushers with the leisure to aim carefully. When both sides are suppressing each other/spraying fire from cover there is less casualties then if one side has "won" the lead-slinging contest. I'd presume this is even more so when there is real life risk involved. Aimed fire tends to be close range or when there is less risk to the shooter.

Should it almost be a sequence where you have to suppress first / make yourself safe from return fire (can include first turn of an ambush), THEN your chance of getting an actual kill say ...doubles?

Ambush Alley has units "defend" with a pool of dice that represents their active return fire etc; and as a unit takes fire it looses dice from this defensive pool; making it more liable to actually take more losses.

Rolling a 4+ (50%) on a d6 to hit is crazy high, even for a burst of fire. Heck, even 6+ (17%) is high. It almost infers for modern games we need d10, d12 or d20 to allow the low probabilities and allow modifiers.

Should suppression always include the chance to kill?

Quite a few games have "suppression" effect as merely a morale roll. But shouldn't the suppression actually include danger? Having no chance at all to be harmed (however small) seems a bit contradictory.

Should being suppressed/pinned be a choice?

Should units be able to voluntarily "pin" themselves? Maybe units can choose to override the pin at risk of casualties? (risk vs reward) I.e. WW2 USSR troops would probably push through fire that would pin say US troops  - but would certainly take more casualties. (I think Zona Alfa does this?)

Suppression - should it be an AoE marker?

A bullet suppresses ~1m or so; a artillery shell/bomb might suppress to 100x that...

Should suppression be an "area" i.e. a high RoF weapon like a SAW might suppress a 6" diameter circle but an assault rifle a maximum of 3" - representing the volume of fire. (And even then the AR may need to do some sort of reload afterwards). A .50 cal mount on a vehicle might suppress 9-12" due to the bigger rounds...  How long will suppression linger (before cease fire/enemies recover)? Can you place a "suppression" marker as a sorta hazardous terrain token?

I've always liked AoE effects which I've explored more here already...

Squad/Platoon vs Individual Minis - Different Mechanics for Different Scales?

I feel a game that operates on the Bolt Action/40K level (you move clumps/squads of 4-10 men) will probably need very different mechanics to games where you move and fire individual minis (a la Infinity or Necromunda) - i.e. the effect of suppression on a group vs an individual. This would probably also effect the infliction of suppression; 10 squaddies with semiautomatic rifles could probably "suppress" an area or enemy squad; whereas a single guy's semiauto rifle probably would not be viewed as "suppressive" weapon; whereas a single SAW/LMG might...

Suppression/Covering Fire: Should it effect the move sequence?

Wargames nearly always move then shoot; maybe you must shoot (or suppress) then move; or indeed need to suppress to be allowed to move. Can a successful suppression shift the initiative or change unit activation sequences? I.e. the "flow" of battle. 

Gaining fire superiority is often a precursor to maneuver... so shoot, check, THEN move/flank somehow?

Also... should we allow some sort of joint activation, where one unit covers/suppresses a target and the other unit moves in a single action/activation?

Games like Infinity have reactive/suppressive fire that can stop miniatures dead; but it does not interfere with the move sequence. I think Crossfire did swap the initiative when an action was hindered by enemy fire?

It's very late so I'm off to bed; but I'll probably return to expand upon, and add questions.(And hopefully some solutions - I'm just a bit handicapped due to my move not allowing me to experiment. This topic probably links with other posts; on morale/willpower, activation and lethality.

EDIT #1 - Further Thoughts: As you can see from the comments, there isn't a lot of consensus of what a term exactly entails. 

In my googling I realize we may be rehashing a debate from TMP - who also didn't properly define the terms!

-Looking at the AAP6 NATO terms recommended, suppression "degrades" (limited fire and/or move?) as long as the fire lasts*; neutralisation is the next level up; it renders a target temporarily ineffective/unusable (no fire or move?). I kinda like this as the two main "levels" of effect.

-Wikipedia is not ideal but it is a 'common source'  and is suggests "pinned" is a colloquialism like "keeping their heads down" - it's just suppression, rebadged. Relation to cover probably differentiates suppression from pinned; most movement of a suppressed unit is going to be towards cover; once it arrives it'll be 'pinned' there? I'm wondering if pinning = suppressed; and the idea of pinning > suppression or pinning > suppression may be more from our wargaming rulebooks than 'real life.' 

Pinning may just be one aspect of being suppressed; suppression fire by nature isn't too precise - your minis are relatively safe unless they try to move or shoot back. So allowing a risk/reward choice mechanic (stay put and be safe vs try something and risk death/penalties to hit) might be available to better troops. These options could vary - fanatics may be allowed to move/charge despite enemy fire; while trained militia might only be able to return fire and not move, for example.

-Suppression is temporary and limited by ammo. HE/grenades can be used by suppressed units to "counter suppress" ('win the firefight?'); smoke/flares can technically be used to suppress nonlethally through giving/denying concealment....         ....So should these be factored into a wargame? I.e. a single model using suppressive fire with a non-belt weapon may need to reload - a squad may have reduced attack dice etc in the next turn etc? And you can throw grenades and (if it breaks LOS) next turn you squad gets bonuses to "unsuppress" themselves etc.

-The use of marksman/snipers to suppress interests me; I think I mentally classed it as "aimed/directed fire" - intentional killshots the opposite of "mad minute" sprays and AoE blasts; but they are listed as a suppressive weapons and it does kinda make sense. Didn't the USMC ditch its SAWs altogether?

-Suppressing enemies seems integral in doctrine to allowing allies to move freely - so I am increasingly thinking, yes -  suppression in a wargame should be linked to activation; i.e. successfully suppressing a unit may allow a 'free' move to an ally nearby, or allow joint activations between supporting units; anything to control the "flow" of the game; not just a penalty on the target.

Sunday 21 April 2024

The New Man Cave + Terrain Musings

If the blog seems a bit dead, it is a combination of (a) school busyness (b) moving house and (c) Google's 2FA (ok, the latter seems a bit lame but it is more the straw that causes the camel back pain or however the saying goes...)

You'd think the shifting house is a perfect time to remove the projects/terrain I no longer need/use, but au contraire - I have been mostly shoving stuff in boxes to speed up the process, as I am not in the most thoughtful of moods whilst moving. The painting has ground to a standstill (although I have prepped a few minis) as my man cave contents have transferred to my new shed. It's actually smaller than the last, but it has better storage as I have replaced older wooden bookshelves with larger, more practical metal 'shed' shelving. 

Down the track the aim is to have an additional converted small shipping container which will either house my library or wargaming stuff - whichever looks/fits/works best. Over the years the man cave has become more about kids reading or playing LEGO or painting minis alongside dad rather than hosting multiple big folk, so smaller premises are OK, given I rarely play games beyond skirmish 

(I tend to have a single big table split into two 4x4's for concurrent projects - usually a playtesting table and an actual game table).

I have 4 of these 120x120cm tables, made of cheap MDF and pine. They are placed atop folding picnic tables, and can be stored sideways against the wall, or (more usually) stacked on top of each other, and can store miniatures (or more usually, dice, trays, rulers and various gribbles) inside...

...and then put a extra 'lid' of MDF on top and play on that....

 ...or even fill them with sand. Not bad for around ~$20 of materials and 20 minutes of work.

Most tables have textured interiors - (sand, PVA and grey spraypaint) in this case - for various genres.

The other really useful terrain (probably my most used) is simply some cuts of pine, painted grey which has served as underground caverns, bases and spaceship interiors. Considering these pine strips all fit into a shoebox (or can be left loose "inside" a table) and cost about $10 it's also highly recommended - super useful for quickly setting up a game/testing rules.

Why am I mentioning terrain? Two reasons. 

(A) During the shift I realize terrain storage needs far outweighs my miniatures storage. I've got thousands of LoTR troops which take up about the same storage space as a single box of terrain. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a 5-bay shed (I had 7 bays so I've gone backwards)...

(B) From my "barriers" musings of late, lack of proper terrain can really impact my motivation to play various genres (lack of good vertical terrain is hindering my Zone Raiders project - finally I have a decent set of sci fi rules but terrain is holding me up...)

I don't particularly love making terrain. I feel money spent on it could be put towards cool toys (minis)... yet decent terrain is kinda integral to the experience. It's like buying paints and brushes - I know I need them for my hobby but resent buying them...

I was thinking: What would I recommend to the "average" wargamer who is starting out? I'm assuming "some" shed/basement space and not a tiny apartment.

*One of those 4x4' MDF tables as per above, painted different colours on each side of the table and separate MDF lid (allowing 4 colours say desert, moonscape, brown dirt, ocean blue) and/or sheets of fabric to go over them. ~$20+  I put mine on picnic tables but it could go on the kitchen table.... wife permitting

*Some sets of cardboard fold out terrain (Dropship Commander, Carnivale, etc) ~$50ea for various; however be aware they don't always fold back down flat...

*Some "block" strip terrain as per above ~$10

*If time/space permits, some nicer bigger terrain specific to a system you are proven to play OR works for several genres. In my case, 15mm middle eastern works from ancients to sci fi - which is excellent versatility.

The high storage commitment for bigger pieces has to match your use of the system; for example these toddler toy castles (total ~$30 or so from a thrift shop) serve dual role in MESBG (my most played game) and medieval psychic dino knights (my own homebrew rules).

Anyway, this post is (a) to reassure regulars I will be back after a hiatus and (b) perhaps stimulate discussion on what storage/terrain works for you.