Sunday 27 May 2012

Warhammer 40k 5th edition - Adding Tactics

I was looking at the 40k models mouldering in my garage, pondering on how to convert them for Tomorrow's War.  And I was thinking - why did I never enjoy 40k?

I could rant on for ages about GW the company, its pricing and practices, but what did I actually dislike about the rules? (besides the fact they are played primarily by teens, people who are unaware of any games besides GW, competitive nerds, and those with bad body odour, and sometimes a combination of the above?)

Oh - and I see GW has another price rise. Congrats!

At $63 for 5, these figures are literally worth their weight in gold. I believe that Finecast resin is harvested from Pandora. The cost of battling Na'vi insurgents is what caused the recent price hike.

Anyway here are the main gameplay concerns I have about 40K:


2. Overemphasis on superpowered hero melee figures

3. Overemphasis on melee

4. Army building > Tactics

5. Initial deployment > Tactics

6. Cover saves and armour saves being the same roll. Heavily armoured troops have no reason to take cover.

7. Lack of modifiers to targets or firers depending on context of combat

Ok, time to try some changes. I want to make the minimum necessary and retain the most of the original rules that I can.

#1.  Alternate Unit Activation
Each player may move 1 unit or hero figure, then the other player moves a unit.  Hero figures may be moved and take actions along with the unit as long as it is in 2" coherency range.

#2. Actions

The firing and shooting part of a move are divided into "actions"

A 6" move is 1 action

Firing a gun is 1 action

Firing a stationary gun (like 24" Space Marine firing or emplaced weapon) is 2 actions

Running/charging (6" + d6" move) is 2 actions

Melee is a free action

#3. Reactions

1. Each unit that has an enemy take an action within 12" of it may make a Reaction.  A reaction consists of

(a) a 6" move* (in any direction - it can be a charge into melee or even move out of enemy range)

(b) a single firing action

2. A unit that has not activated, and reacts, loses one of its actions when it activates.

3. If a unit has already activated, it may make a single free reaction if it passes a Morale Check

4. If enemies have just moved into view (line of sight) units may have to pass a Morale Check to react

5. If a unit fails a Morale Check it may not make any further reactions that turn

 *If this is over-used, make it a d6" move to make it more of an unpredictable choice.

#4. Cover
Units make a cover roll before hit are applied. Then they make their armour roll. Then they compare weapon Strength vs target Toughness.  Now even Space Marines like cover!

This obviously needs a little tweaking and I am getting out a few boxes of 40k figs tonight., wife permitting.

Aaagh this is unbalanced - shooty armies are too powerful!
Tough titties.  40k isn't even remotely balanced as it is - some 'lists' are unbeatable by other lists.  Competitive gamers have "opponents" who will argue over the rules. For those with friends, messing up the points value of shooty vs melee units isn't that big of a deal - they weren't planning on winning on the strength of a uber-list they copied off a forum somewhere - they just wanted to push models around. And if you are still using 2nd edition or RT cos your mates think it is more 'fun' then you may enjoy experimenting with these rules.

Friday 25 May 2012

Delta Vector the Game: Ship Builder

 Orbital Shipyard

This is vital for any space game as space wargamers are inveterate tinkerers.  Besides there are a lot of generic spaceships out there that need profiles.  I am also aware that most gamers like to win, so the potential to min-max should be minimised.
 Remember the overpowered fighters in Full Thrust inspiring fleets of home-made 'disposable paper carriers - or spinal mount throwaway suicide ships?

Before I get too carried away, I need to find a benchmark for firepower dice and for the hull dice. Once we have this as the 'baseline', we can extrapolate the data elsewhere.   


My original formula was:
DF x 4 = Cost

1DF = 4
2DF = 8
3DF = 12
4DF = 16 etc
Basically DF costs were x4 as it took 4 'damages' to destroy a ship.

This did not work.  As DvTG uses a 'threshold' system, larger hulls can totally ignore certain levels of damage making them exponentially more valuable. 

I found that having double the DF was actually 3-4 x more useful. The current hull costs allowed bigger ships to totally dominate. Example:

2 Destroyers (2 DF, 2 AF) take on a heavy cruiser (4DF, 4 AF).  
The destroyers are extremely unlikely to have the 100% accuracy or criticals needed to score 4 hits necessary to damage the cruiser.   Even if they did, they best they could hope for would be light damage. A more likely result is the cruiser being "shaken" with a temporary die roll penalty. The cruiser is almost guaranteed of crippling a destroyer with each round of fire.  After a few rounds of combat, the most likely result would see the cruiser only 25% (lightly) damaged and both destroyers vaporised (100% damage).

This led me to my current formula:
DF squared = cost.
1DF = $1
2DF = $4
3DF = $9
4DF= $16
5DF = $25
6DF = $36
7DF = $49
8DF = $64

This costing method would see four destroyers facing the cruiser in the above example. This will now have to be playtested as I have a feeling it is may penalise larger ships slightly too much. I may end up with something like
1DF = $1
2DF = $3
3DF = $6
4DF = $9
where having double the DF costs 3 x the price. 


Each hex of range is its actual distance.  We then divide it by the percentage chance of actually hitting at that range. I.e. a d6 has a 83% chance (roll of 2-6) of hitting at 2" range.  So 83% of 2 is 1.66.

D6 Firepower
100% of 1= 1.00
83% of 2= 1.66
67% of 3 = 2.01
50% of 4 = 2.00
33% of 5 = 1.65
17% of 6 = 1.00
Total      =9.28

D8 Firepower
100% of 1 = 1.00
87.5% of 2 = 1.75
75% of 3=     2.25
62.5% of 4 = 2.50
50% of 5   = 2.50
37.5% of 6  = 2.25
25% of   7 = 1.75
12.5% of  8 = 1.00
Total           =15.00

D10 Firepower
.100 x 1 = 1.00
.90 x 2 = 1.80
.80 x 3 = 2.40
.70 x 4 = 2.80
.60 x 5 = 3.00
.50 x 6 = 3.00
.40 x 7 = 2.80
.30 x 8 = 2.40
.20 x 9 = 1.80
.10 x 10 = 1.00
Total       = 22.00

D12 Firepower
.100 x 1 = 1.00
.92 x 2 = 1.84
.83 x 3 = 2.49
 .75 x 4 = 3.00
.67 x 5 = 3.35
.58 x 6 = 3.48
. 50 x 7 = 3.50
.42 x 8 = 3.36
. 33 x 9 = 2.97
. 25 x 10 = 2.50
.17 x 11 = 1.87
Total      = 29.36 

So proportionate to each other, guns are worth
D6 = 1
D8 = 1.5
D10 = 2
D12 = 3
The exact price proportionate to the hull may vary. 

Firepower: Defence Ratio
As a rough guide, the weapon cost can be up to 3 x the DF. So a 2DF destroyer could mount 6 x d6 cannons or 4 x d8 cannons, 3 x d10 cannons or 2 x d12 cannons. 

Rule of thumb: Equal sized ships should be able to inflict light damage on each other on an average firing pass, with a chance to cripple. 



I want to keep bigger ships slower and smaller ships faster. I could simply do thrust x DF, or thrust x hull cost.

Below is my current idea. All ships get 1 thrust for free.  Additional thrust costs proportionate to the size of the ship.
                                 Thrust 2          Thrust 3       Thrust 4
Small Ships                x1.33              x1.66             x2
Medium Ships            x1.5                x2                  x3
Large Ships                x2                    x4                 x8



This guide will change drastically. I also intend to use the build rules to shape the ships.  By making "classes" and giving them cost cuts for certain equipment, I can give players the freedom to make their own ships but also "channel" them towards specific builds.  

I intend for small ships to be made very useful, in specific roles, rather than as simple meatshields/extra hit points/throwaway weapons, and for a range of classes to exist, all fulfulling different roles, rather than a few cookie-cutter 'best builds'  - or Full Thrust style disposable carriers.  


Interceptor Class
Thrust cost reduced to the next cheapest column
Maximum DF 2
Tractor beam costs halved

Obviously players who are interested in having tractor beams are now likely to mount it on a smaller ship - as the cost is halved and they get a free speed boost. 

This will hopefully encourage more small & medium ships with specific roles rather than a few gigantic battlecarrier-interdictor-bombardment-dreadnoughts with everything including the kitchen sink strapped on.

Classes could also vary according to the universe you are playing in, to encourage ships which resemble the real thing. 

Bag the Hun Wargame - Air Wargame Review - Two Fat Lardies

This is a game that will polarise opinion among air gamers.

Most air war games fall into two categories - the guessing game ones (where you secretly choose from a set of maneuvers and simultaneously carry them out) and the others. 

This is definitely one of the others.  The Lardies games seem to follow their own path. A few characteristics of their games is random card activation, use of 'blinds' or markers that stand for hidden units, buckets of dice for hits and damage; and a lack of unified core game mechanic.  This latter can be good (in that specific rules are precisely tailored to the situation or the period) and bad (in that the books can sometimes read like a random collection of house rules thrown together.)  All these are apparent in Bag the Hun.

They set out a rationale in that altitude, fighting in formation are very important, and that unspotted enemies have a distinct advantage.  This is unarguable, but it is how they go about reproducing it in their game that is somewhat unusual.

 A well priced rulebook which packs a lot of content into its slim size.

The Shiny
A softcover 70 page rulebook, very reasonably priced at $23.  Sensibly laid out with a small amount of nice B&W artwork.  There are a lot of tables and each section seems to have its own unique rules and tables as there is no 'core' gameplay mechanic per se. 

Aircraft & Pilots
Aircraft are rated by speed, maneuverability, altitude ceiling, rate of climb, robustness, size and firepower.   Speed is rather granular in 50mph increments, and maneuverability has more to do with the ability to avoid enemy fire than actually perform different maneuvers. This is very different to "Wings of War" where your maneuverability type determines the maneuvers you can do.  In BtH, all fighter type planes can perform similar maneuvers; with pilot skill being the determining factor in if they succeed or not.

Pilots are rated as "Sprogs" "Regulars"  "Veterans"  "Junior Aces" and "Top Aces". These all have negative or positive modifiers for die rolls, but Aces have some very distinct advantages.

Turn Sequence, Cards, Initative
This is the controversial bit and contains the best and the worst bits of BtH.  Aircraft sections (groups of 2-4 planes) are assigned a card for movement and a card for firing and these are shuffled into a deck.

In addition, there is a card for bogeys (unspotted aircraft) and altitude bonus card (a bonus activation for the highest-flying aircraft section) and a formation bonus card (one per side, can be used by aircraft in formation). There are also cards that activate flak and ground and naval units. 

Top and junior aces also have their own cards that allow them bonus activations.

The Good
The random card activation is brilliant in some ways - it is great for solo gaming, and it simulates the random, chaotic nature of dogfights - you may draw a "move" card for a fighter and line up a shot on a foe, only for the enemy aircraft to get its "move" card and escape before you can draw your"fire" card.  Aces having extra cards and thus more activations simulates their added tactical awareness.

The Bad
However the attempt to give move bonuses to aircraft in formation or at high altitude feels contrived.  Giving a complete extra bonus move effectively doubles a unit's speed.  So one of the formations on each side, for example, can effectively fly at double the normal aircraft speed.  I know it is to encourage historical practices such as flying in formation and seeking altitude advantage, but it feels 'off'.  I like gameplay > rivet counting but this is kinda like an arcade game i.e. "fly high to get a bonus speed boost powerup".  I understand they have done it to give tactical advantage, but it feels naggingly 'wrong' and there has to be better ways to advantage aircraft besides flat out doubling their speed.  Extra abilities to spot and fire are a great idea as they simulate greater awareness and reflexes. Doubling an aircraft's top speed is NOT something a real pilot can do, no matter what his skills.

Bogeys/Blinds & Spotting
No Lardies game would be complete without "blinds" - tokens that stand in for unspotted units.  All bogeys have a uniform speed (which may actually exceed the true aircraft speed and simulates the tactical advantage unspotted aircraft have.)

Bogeys cannot be fired at unless they are spotted and can bounce enemies and shoot them down without being spotted if they position themselves well.

These are historically accurate - the "finger four" offers more flexibility than the three-plane "vic", for example.

 Movement & Maneuvers
The game requires hexes which may be a turn-off to some. The six altitude bands used are easily tracked with a micro d6 (which you can easily get from EM4) which is easier and cheaper than the fancy flight stands required by some games. 

Aircraft add 1d4 to their speed rating to get their movement allowance for the turn.  Better pilots and aces can control their movement more precisely than rookies.  I like the element of uncertainty added by the dice roll, which takes away from the laser-like precision allowed in other aerial games.

Pilots must pass a test if they are "tricky" or "hard" maneuvers.  A failure to pass means they fly dead straight and have broken formation. Some tricky or hard maneuvers require a minimum maneuver rating - which would stop a four engine bomber (maneuver 2) from performing a barrel roll (maneuver 3 requirement).

Some maneuvers are historical (Thach weave, Lufbery circle) but most are universal i.e. snap rolls, immelmans, split-s and chandelle.

 Naming the game after a wartime combat guide is very restrained...  ..compared to other Lardie titles such as "Algernon Pulls it Off" and "Troops, Weapons & Tactics".

Aircraft to the rear of an enemy target may make a "getting on the tail" contested roll.  If passed, it can be repositioned dead astern of the target.  The attacker can then choose to ignore his movement card and simply moves after the defender until he is shaken off. 

Deflection to the target determines the length of the burst that can be aimed at it. Head on attacks only allow very short snap-shots while rear attacks allow the targets to be hosed with long bursts of fire.

Firing is done by the 'buckets of dice' appraoch with dice being added or subtracted for factors like burst length or pilot skill. Guns can jam and ammo can run out.  I think the ammo mechanic could have been simplified to avoid record keeping i.e. on a roll where '1's exceed a certain limit (i.e. triples) then there is only 1 turn of ammo remaining. I like how pilots with a wingman get a bonus to firing which shows how he can concentrate better when he knows someone is guarding his tail.  This is a good way to benefit formations, not giving a double move.

Air gunners have their own firing procedure and modifiers which is good in that it is specifically tailored to them, and bad in that is an extra complication, with a new table and modifiers to keep track of.

Damage is a bit awkward.  There are several tables to consider. First the number of hits is cross-referenced against the aircraft's robustness and a d6 roll to determine if the damage causes minor damage, critical damage, really critical damage, really really critical damage (yes, it sounds silly!), or simply forces the target to evade.

Since minor damage means no lasting damage effect, for gameplay purposes it seems a pointless inclusion. 

After all that, you now have to roll on the actual critical damage table. This is modified based on the amount of engines and if the damage was really really critical or simply critical.  So far, so clunky, but the damage effects impact specific systems and sometimes have effects lasting several turns.

This is a real bummer, as apart from the ammunition tracking (which could be easily house-ruled away) and unavoidable altitude levels (easily noted by a d6 microdice blu-tacked to the base) the game is blissfully free of record keeping and written orders and the like that often plague air games.

Damage is very specific (instrument, engine and aileron/wing damage, pilot wounds, fuel line hit, fires of various severity....). Some will love this detail; but I would have been contented with engine damage or airframe damage like Check Your Six. 

Pilots of damaged aircraft can escape on a "bail out" card which is included in the activation deck.

Other Stuff
Air to air rockets, flak, ground target and shipping rules are included. Bombing, torpedo and strafing attacks are detailed. Jets and doodlebug rules are included.  These make the game, like it's sister game, Sharpe Practice, surprisingly complete for its size.  This is very impressive, but each extra addition has its own unique rules, which is a little irritating as the rulebook has few 'universal' rules.  I.e. in "Savage Worlds" and Ambush Alley games you  have different die sizes and usually need to beat a 4+ to succeed; and in contested rolls you aimed to beat your opponent.  In DP9 games you roll 1-3 dice and choose the best roll to either beat a target number or an enemy roll.  These rules were universal to all aspects of the games.  In BtH the rules vary from one section to the next, making the whole rulebook read like a mish-mash of house rules thrown together into a semi-unified whole. I like this ruleset like I love a baby with a full diaper.  My love for the baby outweighs the concerns about the diaper, but it still doesn't stop me wishing someone would change the darn diaper.

The Lardies have an active yahoo group and blog and are very active, helpful members of the online community.  There are plenty of extra house rules out there and variants for Korea and missile era combat in their "Specials" which are also packed full of useful scenarios and ideas.

The Lardies have strong design philosophies that may grate with air wargame traditionalists. The movement rules, use of bogeys and card activation are great; though I am not keen on the "bonus movement" cards which double aircraft speed.  The damage rules are little clunky and add recording to an otherwise fast-playing, uncluttered game.  If they were more streamlined BtH would be the best game out there for fighting larger actions but like Luft Krieg they could not resist adding the extra rivets to count. The rulebook sometimes seems a collection of individual house rules, rather than a coherent whole. Definitely the best of the non 'guessing game' (WoW, CY6) rulesets, but I don't have the unalloyed praise for this like I do for Sharpe Practice.  I also feel the game was originally designed for the 1939-1942 period (with Battle of Britain in particular in mind) as late-war aircraft are very 'samey' and there is little provision to differentiate them from each other.  A very complete rule-set that covers all aspects of aerial war in WW2, and if you want to control more than 1-2 planes this game is the best out there. The card activation mechanic makes it excellent for solo play.  Recommended.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Savage World of Solomon Kane Review - 17th Century Pulp Horror Skirmish

Ironically it was watching the Solomon Kane movie which piqued my interest in olden-day monster hunting.  Whereas modern horror skirmish (Fear and Faith) and pulp era/Cthulhu (Strange Aeons) are represented, and Victorian (Empire of the Dead, Chaos in Carpathia) monster hunting is well supported, the only way to fight monsters and undead with rapier and flintlock was with Helldorado - a game set in hell rather than darkest Africa or Aztec temples.

I wanted pirates to fight zombies; musketeers to face off against Deep Ones! I wanted conquistadors to face serpent cultists in blood-soaked temples!

For a low budget, low profile movie this was surprisingly good.  James Purefoy was well-cast in the lead role.  110% better than the puerile Disney Van Helsing movie. 
4/5 Stars - Highly recommend.

I tried "Witchfinder General" - reviewed here - but was dissatisfied with the narrow scope and limited bestiary.  At the same time I discovered "Savage Worlds" RPG. Based on the Weird West miniatures skirmish game "Great Rail Wars" it was fast playing - far smoother than the usual gluggy RPG combat and able to handle dozens of minis on each side quickly and easily.  When I found out they had used the same game engine to make a "Solomon Kane" RPG I put in an order. (Note: Ordering direct from the Pinnacle website is far more expensive than simply ebaying it from a retailer: their postage is ridiculous)

 The glossy hardback is a beautiful book. I nursed it, crooning softly, all the way back from the Post Office. Surprisingly slim and handy for its whopping 559 pages.

This is a RPG book, but I will be reviewing it from the point of view of a miniatures skirmish gamer.  Since the "Savage Worlds" engine has won major industry awards we can assume it works quite well in its intended RPG role. 

The Shiny
It is very, very shiny. Possibly one of the nicest rulebooks I own. At $50, not the cheapest, but its hardbacked, glossy goodness, plentiful art and interesting fluff make it solid value.  Plus I'm a sucker for embossed covers. This book is complete in every way - you do not need a "Player's Guide" a "Gamemaster's Guide" and a "Scenario Book" like some RPGs. A beautiful book, weighing in at a hefty 559 pages.

My main criticism is it not that easy to use from a gamer's perspective.  It has a thorough table of contents but I feel the book itself could have been laid out better.  I.e. I would have assumed the section on "Damage" would have been right alongside the "Combat" section; not separated by a dozen pages on other topics.  There is a bit of waffle and they are not as focussed and logically set out as a true wargame would be, as they can use the 'refer to GM' cop-out if rules are not clear. 

That said, they do include a solid quick reference section at the back of the book and at the end of key chapters, and the core rules are only 30 pages.  But the other 529 pages are well worth inclusion.

Making Characters, Weapons & Gear
This is aimed at RPGers but it is useful in that the character creation 'points system' is also useful for creating monsters and balancing scenarios; and weapons and gear.  Stats are "Agility"  "Smarts"  "Spirit"  "Strength"  and "Vigor".  There are a few other relevant stats "Charisma" "Pace"  "Parry" and "Toughness".  The ones in bold are very relevant for combat and the italicised ones can be largely ignored.  So a similar amount of stats (4 to 6) to a Warhammer game.

Each stat is represented by a die.  I.e. a character could have d8 Agility, d10 Smarts, d6 Spirit, d4 Strength, d8 Vigor, etc. Higher dice show a better level of skill.

There is a list of traits and skills (summarised well in a quick reference page) which I ironically found less complex than Malifaux or Warmachine "special abilities". There is a comprehensive list of arms and equipment - once again there is a quick-reference page which makes it easy and logical to use.  The weapons list includes everything from Nzappa Zaps, daos and blowpipes to harpoons, halberds, rapiers and matchlock muskets. 

Even better, the free Savage Worlds Showdown (which shares the same combat rules) has a free Excel unit builder (see the link above to access it).  

Swashbucklers vs demonspawn.  Pirates against mutants.  Solomon Kane is cool.

Game Rules
The "Savage Worlds" combat engine is showcased in the free download linked above.  The rules themselves are only 30 pages long and very straightforward.  

Heroes have extra rules to stock troops - namely 2 extra 'wounds' and the ability to throw a "Wild Die" - an extra d6 thrown alongside its normal dice.  The Wild Dice can be chosen instead of the normal roll if it is better; allowing heroes a more consistent chance of success.  They also have the rather idiotically named "Bennies" - tokens that when spent allow a re-roll of any die test. 

Characters and groups of minions are each dealt a card from a normal deck and then take their actions in order of card rank. Jokers allow you to act at any time and give bonuses to action rolls.
Units that are ambushed are not dealt a card that round.

You can "hold" your action to activate later ("overwatch")

Characters can move their "pace" for free but to run, shoot or melee will cost them their action.  You can make several actions if you are a hero but two actions would be at -2 to both, 3 actions would be at -4 to both, and so on.

Most rolls need to pass a target number (TN) of 4 to succeed, or beat an opponent if opposed.  The TN can be modified by range, difficulty etc, usually in -2 increments. 

 If an attack succeeds and beats an opponent's Parry, damage is inflicted by adding the weapon die to your strength. If you beat your opponent's toughness he is "shaken" - he moves at half speed and must make a "Spirit" test or forfeit his next action.  If you beat him by +4 he is wounded. A single wound kills non-heroes outright but heroes can absorb 3 wounds and can even recover when incapacitated. Wounds cause penalties to dice rolls and movement.

The rules are very complete as being a RPG they need to cater for almost every eventuality.  You can defend getting a bonus, disarm foes, use area affect weapons and grenades. Skirmish staples such as cawling, crouching and prone; breaking down doors, jumping and climbing are covered thoroughly.  You can dive for cover, grapple with foes, perform finishing moves, wild attacks and tricks on your foe.  Fire and smoke can incapacitate.  Intimidating your foe gives a bonus in combat.  You can heal yourself or allies.  There are a multitude of other options.  Some, such as fatigue or ammo, may only be applicable to a campaign game.  

Fear rules have good applicabilty to horror and the rules here would work well in a Cthulhu game; gaining phobias and the "mark of fear" or even suffering heart attack.

There is a solid 2 page summary of the combat rules and the "Showdown" rules (available free on the Pinnacle website) provide another easy-to-use reference.

The ritual is about to be interrupted by a well-aimed musket ball.   
Strange Aeons fishmen and other monster miniatures lines are 'backward' compatible to older eras. 

Sensible and simple. Players make an "Arcane Skill" roll minus the spell's difficulty.  Failure to cast the spell may have negative effects  or "backlash".  The base magic rules are similar but not identical to other "Savage Worlds" games and are customised to the setting. Spells include barriers, control animals, boosting abilities, curses, deflecting missiles, invisibility and typical magical fare, along with spells such as  -"animating hands"  - specific to Solomon Kane stories.

GM Stuff (Campaigns)
The "Art of Storytelling" and "Creating Adventures" sections are simply the GM's guide. While more of a RPG thing, they are useful to a wargamer for creating battle scenarios and linking scenarios into a campaign, and for 'levelling up' heroes and characters after battles. 

Fluff & Scenarios
The book describes attitudes and customs of the day, and gives lots of sample adventures for European, Darkest African, Oriental and New World adventures. The thorough explanations and planning of a RPG-centric approach is a benefit - they form the basis for wargame scenarios with lots of colour and 'background'.

Fight Aztec werejaguars, escape the Croatoan spirit, battle snake men warriors in African jungles, thuggee cultists in the temple of Kali, and flee demon worms in the Sahara.  I found this section a font of ideas.  There are 145 pages of this and it provides a global scope and vast pool of ideas that gives immense replayability and impetus to create new scenarios.

Find the lost Roanoke settlers. Discover the meaning of Croatoan.

The Horrid Beasts of Solomon Kane (Bestiary)
I pilloried the "Witchfinder General" ruleset for its limited selection of half a dozen or so monsters.  Could Solomon Kane do better?

A definite yes. And better still, you can create your own. There is a list of "Monstrous Abilities" which act like player skills, and there are rules for making tiny, huge, and undead creatures. Combining them with the character creation rules would give you limitless variety from ghosts to giant King-Kong sized apes.  

Besides this, there are a dozen natural foes like crocodiles, gorillas and pumas.  There are about fifty unnatural creatures like the winged Akaanas reptoids, mummies, hellhounds, hopping vampires, wendigos and succubi.  About thirty human foes are also listed - from inquisitors to highwaymen, explorers to immortals; naval officers and knights.  Amazons, assassins, pygmies and witches - you can see there is a wide varied selection which would allow you to quickly approximate any foe without bothering to work out exact stats.  Or the Excel unit builder used for "Showdown" can be used to quickly tot up points if you want to create a weird one-off monster. 

Flashing Steel is pirate-centric and would need additional rulebooks to add monsters. I have reviewed it previously on this blog.

The other option is combining Ganesha Games' Flashing Steel skirmish rules and their Fear and Faith modern horror rules. Both are a $8 pdf, are fun and simple to play (simpler than SK) and share game mechanics allowing crossover between the games. They also have Excel unit creators allowing total freedom creating monsters and heroes quickly and easily.  However since campaign rules, terrain and warband advancement rules are found scattered through other pdfs (Song of Deeds and Glory, Song of Gold & Darkness, Song of Wind and Water) you may as well have a beautiful hardback rulebook loaded with period specific fluff and foes; and dozens of great scenario ideas for a similar price.  If you already had many "Song of..." rulebooks (or your group already plays the rules) this would be an option worth exploring but if you are starting out 'cold' Solomon Kane gives everything you need in one comprehensive, attractive package.

Smooth-playing combat allows dozens of miniatures to be used. "Heroes" have bonus abilities that separate them from the common troops and give a cinematic quality.  You can easily custom-create characters or monsters with an Excel unit builder but will seldom need to, given the very extensive bestiary.  The fact these are actually RPG rules allows very atmospheric and involved skirmish adventures and campaigns to be run. There are a wealth of ideas and scenarios for adventures in every corner of the globe.  A huge array of weapons, skills and traits are easily accessible given the quick-reference pages at the end of the relevant chapters. A very complete book, attractively presented.  The best game system and reference for 'muskets and monsters' - i.e. blackpowder era horror - I have encountered so far.   Recommended.

The only reason for a pulp horror gamer not to rush out and get these rules is cost - or rather the fact that Pinnacle's The Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition is only $15 (a brilliant bargain) and, when  combined with the free Showdown rules and unit builder software, and you have everything you need to play Solomon Kane adventures if you are willing to be creative.  However I feel at $50 the SWoSK rules are a bargain. The wealth of period specific scenarios and adventures, spells, monsters, weapons, equipment and background info make this a must-have for those interested in gaming this genre.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Battlefield Miniature Modern Warfare Wargame Review (Bombshell Games/Brent Spivey)

Videogames meet wargames?

A unique take on modern warfare, mixing concepts from tabletop games and PC strategy and shooter games.

I was quite interested with this release - Brent Spivey is a rules writer who has impressed me in his ability to write new mechanics to suit the gamestyle he is aiming for.  Many game designers simply repeat the same mechanics in different settings (Two Hour Wargames, Ganesha, Ambush Alley Games, Iron Ivan Games etc) selling you a rulebook that is 90% similar to another one, with a slight change of fluff and the odd new special ability. Mr Spivey seems to create a concept in his head and then create a completely new core game mechanic around it.  Imagine for a moment a "Song of ...." game without rolling 1-3 dice for activation; or a 2HW without a 2D6 reaction roll to beat a player's "Rep". You can't? My point exactly.

In this case, the mechanic IS familiar to me - but only because the designer decided to make radical changes to the engine of his OPS4 game (I reviewed the beta release here) and it seemed a pity to waste the extensive playtesting in the underlying mechanic. 

The Shiny
A pdf is a pdf and does not excite me like a hardback glossy rulebook.  However this pdf is quite sharp as pdfs go. It is well presented with good photos of modern conflicts. Unlike Havoc which was a 200+ page wide-spaced affair which required half a tree of paper, B:MMW is a tight, neat 50-page document.  The picture of modern combat are so sharp I would consider splashing for a colour printout; which is unusual for me.

The guy on the BF3 cover looks grumpy cos someone spilled lasagne on the side of his shirt.

Battlefield what?
Yes, this game is a rather obvious homage to the PC "Battlefield" and "Call of Duty" franchise of team-based tactical shooters.  However it has sensibly taken a wide-angle approach; it can be played both 1:1 with 1 figure = 1 man; or small fire teams like Force on Force.  This would appeal to the 15mm crowd with their fireteams or players who game in 28mm where a smaller figure count is more financially appealing.

Does this mean it forsakes the gritty historical accuracy of Force on Force?  To a degree, yes.  B:MMW is more about gameplay that realism, more akin to a videogame than a war simulation. 

Is this a bad thing? A game that focusses on gameplay? I personally think it is a breath of fresh air. For $10 you can use your miniature armies in a totally different way, in a game that feels "new."

It isn't a totally original concept - the guy who made the fantastic board below has his own free house rules for playing Battlefield with miniatures.  Visit Akula's blog here for fantastic pics and details of how he built the beautiful board below:  (terrain modelled on the "Africa Harbour" PC game map)

Akula's blog is a very worthwile visit. Besides inspirational terrain, he has a free ruleset for gaming Battlefield which is a different flavour to B:MMW.

The Mechanism
This uses the "Overdrive" mechanic pioneered in OPS4 beta.  Basically the game relies not only on movement and firing choices but on management of resources, aka "Command Action Points" or CAP.  This is a more complex version of the command dice pips used in DBA; or the multiple activations of Infinity - something like a more logical combination of both.

You spend 1 CAP to move a unit or 2 CAP to fire.  However there is no limit on the amount of times you can move or fire a single unit - you just gotta pay for it.  To move a unit the first time costs 1 CAP, to move it a 2nd time costs double (2 CAP), to move it three times costs triple (3CAP) - you get the idea.

You can interrupt a unit's activations to activate another unit - so there is no limit on the varations on the tactics you can use - along as you are willing to pay the price in CAP.  As a Infinity player familiar with the "order pool" concept this makes a lot of sense and means repeatedly activating the same unit is a decision not to be made lightly.

Once a player runs out of CAP the turn passes to his opponent. 

Movement, like in SoBH, is in a straight line.  I.e. a unit would take 2 moves to go to an intersection, then turn 90d and move off down the street.  Like SoBH this adds a layer of decision making into the game without extra complication.

Combat uses the 4+ success system used in AAG and the Savage Worlds systems - i.e. 4+ on d6 succeeds, 3 or less fails.  Most firing and actions rely on throwing handfuls of dice and comparing total successes with those of your opponent. 

Units have stats for movement, optimum firing range; attack value, defence value; CQB value and damage (in the case of infantry squads 1 model = 1 damage point).  All fire beyond optimum range reduces offensive firepower. 

Casualties are taken off in figure casualties (if playing in "fireteam" mode) or hitpoints (if in single figure mode). Vehicles are handled in a more interesting way; damaged vehicles cost more CAP to activate.  So they still function, but a crippled tank might take double the CAP of a undamaged one.  Again, it forces tactical choices on the player - do I fire with the damaged tank at say 3CAP at close range; or twice with the undamaged one at 1 CAP + 2 CAP at longer range?

As usual I'm not totally sold on the idea of hitpoints but you can largely avoid this if using infantry squads; and the 'beat 4+ buckets of dice' approach seems popular nowdays though I have never warmed to it.

Capturing Bases
Rather like Battlefield the PC game, winning iin the main mode revolves around capturing objectives.  This is makes games easy to set up and each map, with different objective locations and objective values, would create its own inbuilt "scenario"  Capturing a base ("objective") requires a unit to occupy it.

Terrain rules are sensible and I like the rule for "Hugging" terrain which means troops moving close to terrain (even if they are not "in" the terrain feature) get a bonus, encouraging them to move realistically in single file beside buildings instead of clumping up in the middle of the street.

Troop Types
This is where the purists might object.  Squads are based on "Anti tank"  "Engineer" "Assault"  "Medic"  "Commander"  "Spec Ops" and "Sniper" classes. A veteran of videogame shooters will instantly recognise the weapon classes and equipment loadouts *cough* Battlefield 2 *cough* but they do not match precise army lists of actual 'real' armies.

There are more realistic force and weapon lists and possibly a sci fi or WW2 variant in the pipeline though. 

Troops may be equipped with bonus "loadouts" such as bipods, binoculars,  flak jackets and flashbangs.  They can equip motion sensors to spot enemy troops.  They can carry ammo packs to resupply heavy weapons and explosives.

The vehicle rules are sensible and the damage rules (mentioned above) are neat.  Running over enemy troops is encouraged in the rules.  There are rules for aircraft, parachuting and helicopters. 

Another rule which may exasperate purists - destroyed troops and vehicles can be 'respawned' on a successful 4+ roll at a 'spawn point' or base. 

Advanced Rules
These contain many rules I think would greatly enhance gameplay and tactics. 
In multiplayer games (2 v 2 etc) you can act in your allies' turn ("At the Ready"); you can target and level buildings with heavy weapons.  I particularly like the suppression rules - a friendly unit within 6" of a unit who is using "suppressive fire" gets a free move - replicating the 'bounding' cover-and-move of modern combat. 
In your turn you may assign points to a unit as "Overwatch" to use in the enemy turn. I definitely think this latter rule should be regarded as a baseline rule rather than an optional add-on.  Grenades, mortars, claymores, artillery strikes and other specialist weapons are covered.

Many Game Modes = Much Replayability
There are no 'scenarios' but rather 'game modes' to borrow the PC phrase.  In "attack and defend" you defend an objective for as long as you can. Both sides have unlimited "respawns"  or reinforcements - basically you pay 1CAP to resurrect a dead soldier on or near a base or friendly board edge.

In "onslaught" the defender may not respawn but the attacker has unlimited units.  In "deathmatch" both have 25 respawns - the first to kill 25 opponents wins. There are "capture the flag"  modes, in another mode you get unlimited respawns until your commander dies (making assassinating him important). 

There are even "zombie" and "insurgent" gameplay modes.  Having about a dozen game modes allows for a lot a replayability since you can play the same game mode on different maps and have a totally different game experience - as opposed to 'set' scenarios where forces, units and terrain are 'set' by the rulebook.

You can even play a 'game within a game' where you have say 2 players who are not in the main game, but competing with each other for kills (deathmatch) whilst the other two are trying to capture bases. 

A non-traditional game, with managing resource points/command-pips (CAPs) adding a layer of strategy.  The almost unlimited combination of activations of the "Overdrive" mechanic gives a wide range of choices.  The ability to pay exponentially extra for extra actions with a unit makes for tough tactical choices.   It is a unique crossover toward the PC game genre; and thus hardcore 'simmers' may not enjoy it.  This is a great multiplayer game for 2 v 2 or 3 v 3. The ability to 'respawn' troops means games can be as short or long as you like and the huge range of gameplay modes means you never play the same way twice.  It would also work rather easily for near future hard sci fi with minimal tweaking.

Recommended?  Very much yes.  I finally have an excuse to delve into modern 28mm such as the wonderful models from Red Star, and it gives me a game with fresh, interesting concepts and tactics to use my 15mm sci fi minis with.
Red Star's Chechyan 28mm line is stunning. The diaoramas in their gallery are amongst the best I have ever seen - they look like real war footage at first glance!

Final Comments
This is a game I hope does not fly under the radar, like Bombshell games' excellent fantasy skirmish game Havoc. Havoc justly picked up an Origins award but tends to be overshadowed by the less tactical but simpler Song of Blades and Heroes ruleset.  This I attribute to the Excel unit builder for SoBH giving you enormous flexibility to design your own warband out of random cool minis in your collection, against the rather limited hero archtypes of Havoc.  I do encourage you to check out Havoc, and if an army builder (which has been mooted as possible) is in the pipeline it would definitely shoot to #1 on my fantasy ruleset list. I don't think hard copies of "Battlefield: Miniature Modern Warfare" and Havoc are available - I got mine at $10 pdf downloads at the Wargames Vault. 

Saturday 19 May 2012

Cheap Wargame Terrain for all Scales - the Sand Table

Good terrain adds to the fun factor of any wargame. Sadly, it is also usually very hard to store, quite expensive (especially postage-wise); and making terrain is, for most people, less 'sexy' than painting minis themselves. This is one of my attempts to circumvent these issues (i.e. quick to make, cheap, looks good).

My original "sand table"  - a styfoam dishwasher packing base  - cost $450 but came with a complimentary dishwashing machine, but if you scrounge around you could have one for free.

Originally, I was looking at making an arena for my gladiators.  Initially, a pizza tray was mooted as a circular arena but then I got the solid base of the styfoam packing off the wife's new dishwasher.  (I married a dishwasher and then I had to buy one as well...). I was going to glue a thin layer of sand to the base, but first I loose-laid the sand to see what it looked like.  I used it for a 15mm wargame and although it was a tad small (2sq. feet), it showed potential.  It was also cheap - totally free, unless you count having to buy the dishwasher first, or the dinner I will have to buy my wife when she discovers I used her best flour sifter to sift the sand I scraped off the local beach.... 
...Or you could buy a  premade"Realm of Battle" gameboard from Games Workshop, also for $450. However it does not come with a complimentary dishwasher. 
The Sand Table - a Blast from the Past
This got me thinking.  What about a 'proper' sand table? They used to be popular in the 'olden days' and would provide an easy way to make hills and undulations in the terrain.  It would make basing easy (simply splash a bit of PVA on the model's base and dip in sand).  I could easily store the 'terrain pieces' - a bucket of sand - and the table could be leant on its side against the wall. 

So off to the local hardware store. I bought:
Wood PVA glue $8
Two 2.4m pine strips $6
1.2m x 0.9m (4ft by 3ft) 6mm MDF sheet $8 (MDF is pressed particle board)
Total Cost = $22

I picked a smaller size precut mdf (4 x 3') as plywood was $40+ for decent sizes and I am dubious about the load-carrying ability of a wide sheet of mdf.  The size will be fine for the skirmish games that I usually play. If it is a success I will try a bigger 6 x 4' table. 

15 minutes of cutting and gluing later, and I had this:

The table is 4x3' - skirmish sized. I will try a larger table if this is a success. 

The mdf doesn't look strong enough to hold screws or nails and I don't have a staple gun.  Hopefully the glue will hold, as well as provide a sand-proof seal in the cracks between the boards.  In hindsight I probably should have left a notch in the pine 'lip' to allow sand to be poured out accurately into the bucket.  I plan to put about 1" of sand in the table - enough to entrench a 28mm figure.

-------------------2hr break playing ARMA2 with wife while glue dries-------------------

Here is the table when filled with sand.  I will probably paint or varnish the wood to avoid warping as sand tend to hold moisture. Two people can carry this, loaded with sand, rather easily. The 6mm mdf is strong enough for carrying and on top of a fold-out table is quite stable.

Crusties advance from the edge of town towards a Felid-held monastry.  The models are from GZG and Khurasan - they will be given sand-coated bases if the sand table is a success.

Sand, Sand Everywhere...
My experimental styfoam sand table showed that a sand table, whilst not something my wife would welcome in her living room, did not spread its gritty contents as far afield as I feared.  Simply giving buildings and minis a quick wipe/shake before putting them away got rid of all but the most tenacious sand.  The tiny microdice I use for marking reactions in Tomorrow's War did prove problematic as they tended to submerge themselves during play. Pouring it back into the bucket was a breeze but I am not sure how manageable a very large board would be.  I used about two buckets of sand in the board. - one to cover it and another to provide 'hills.'

You can see the 'hills' created by the sand.  Felid mercenaries wait behind the rise for the Crustie swarms...

Builder's Sand
We call it "brickies loam" and it is used for house construction. I am currently using sifted beach sand but will probably switch across to the loam as it can be moulded in shapes when damp and dries quite hard.  This would necessitate painting the boards to prevent warping. It is a reason to consider more expensive plywood. 

Cheap Trees
The palms I used were ebayed from a Chinese website for $10 for a pack of 30. Just search ebay for N, H0 or 00 scale trees to get a wide range of cheap selections. Thank goodness for model railroad nerds! I'll do an article on using model railroad terrain for 28mm and 15mm wargames another time.

These trees were dirt cheap (30c each approx) on ebay - I need to cut them to different lengths. A bonus of sand = no need for basing - trees can be removed and replaced freely.

To be continued.....

Thursday 17 May 2012

Morituri te Salutant: Gladiator Wargame Rules Review 28mm

 Spartacus - blood-spattered sex and violence with surprisingly complex plots

I have been interested in gladiator games since watching Spartacus (I initially thought it was simply B-grade smut and over-the-top gore but it has some clever plot twists). Advantages of a gladiator game is:

(a) small amount of models needed
(b) terrain requirements are almost non existent - a pizza tray with sand in the base 

I bought Gladiator from Warhammer Ancients - a lovely quality book with a good campaign system but a tad bland in the rules.  I haven't bothered to review it because there is a very clear review here which covers everything of note.

I ordered Morituri Te Salutant (along with Hac, Habet, Hoc the most-mentioned of gladiator games) and it arrived from Black Hat Minis with lightning speed. I was very impressed with the communication, service and delivery times.

The Shiny
Compared to the glorious WAB Gladiator rulebook this is a B&W, spiral-plastic bound homemade affair, the sort of thing you could put together yourself at your local stationary shop.  No pictures or illustrations. At the very basic end of the spectrum.

There is a wide range of gladiator types with different initiative (agility) armour and weapons. Hit points are determined randomly.  When I saw the word "hit points" I flinched slightly.

There are a range of 30 moves which have to be planned in advance.  Written orders in a gladiator game? Yeah, That's what I thought.  The alternative would be to make order cards Wings-at-War style.
For each miniature.   I detest having to make counters and special cards for a game at the best of times.  This is a deal-breaker for me.  

After selecting cards/writing down orders. fighters either move or make attacks.  The gameboard requires a hex map (which goes with the Wings-of-War style orders) which again put me off as it renders my sand-based arena useless. The gladiator with highest initiative score (dice roll + move chosen + initiative) acts first.

You compare your attack (if the enemy is in the right position to be attacked) to the enemy's chosen defence and reference it on a large 'old-school' 80s chart.

Maneuver is very important. There seems to be a lot of jockeying for positon.  From my brief experiments you can 'dance' around your opponent for quite a while before landing a strike.

If your maneuver or attack is obviously stupid or suicidal, you can convert it to another, usually less effective move. Many orders have restrictions on your next move.  I do like the tactics in this system and it adds a lot of flavour and decision making. This is the best part of the system but also involves record-keeping.  It has far superior flavour to the WAB "Gladiators" but the price paid in compexity is too steep. 

Combat & Damage
Damage is done by hitpoints AND various levels of wounds (Stunned, nicks, cuts, wounds) which inflict various negative modifiers to the gladiator. If you have 3 levels each of cuts, nicks and wounds you might as well eschew hitpoints altogether as you effectively have 9 hitpoints anyway.  Players can die a lot faster than their hitpoints suggest as one good hit can take them out of the fight. 

There are rules for multiple combats but can't see myself trying them - the game is complex enough as it is.

Other Stuff
There are rules for throwing, shooting and entangling foes, mounted gladiators and animals such as lions and other beasts.  You can beg for mercy and there are campaign rules, but I wouldn't say they are complete. Your gladiator can 'level up' in experience.  Each gladiator type has different armour and moves - a full page sheet of data on each.  

Not just boobies: the women in Spartacus are strong, willful characters who drive the plot

Hex based, with 30 Wings-of-War style cards or written orders. This is the extreme end of the complexity scale from the simplistic WAB Gladators. Definitely for 1 on 1 combat only.  Record keeping and complexity are high. A quick reference page at the back would be useful.  Has some interesting maneuver tactics, far superior in 'flavour' to the WAB Gladiators; but the game is so cumbersome as to be inapproachable; the rulebook layout does not help.

I liked the customer service, but to be frank, with regards to these rules; they are now at the bottom of my rules choices. I'm going to try Hac Habet Hoc next and if it fails I am going to modify WAB Gladiators with some sort of dice pool mechanic or even try Red Sand Blue Sky despite my chronic dislike of 2HW rulebook layouts.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Galactic Campaign Rules Part I: Delta Vector the Game

 Empire Economics
I am going to abstract minerals, trade and production into "Resource Points" which includes internal empire trade, natural resources etc. Having multiple resources to manage (vespene, unobtanium, rocket fuel, radium etc) simply complicates matters.  This isn't a trading game, and we don't have a PC program to manage the math.

Why are you trying to make friends? Do you NOT want to test-drive that shiny Star Destroyer? There are no formal rules for this but if you want to do some old-fashioned schoolyard ganging up, be my guest. Trade rules offer raiding opportunities but I am omitting them as I want no reason to be discouraged from hassling my neighbours.  Mutual economic benefits? Sounds like an excuse to avoid a fight to me...

 Master of Orion - one of a dying breed of 4X PC games...

Researching & Exploring
Nope. The time span of campaign turns (weeks/days rather than months/years) means significant research "oh wow I discovered a blue +1 plasma laser" is unlikely.We are here to fight battles not win by out-teching our foes, Civilisation-style...

Encouraging Fights
We want to avoid "turtling" (i.e. hiding from a fight whilst building up an overwhelming force) and encourage raiding, particularly small skirmishes with small ships, which follows historical example. Small, expendable ships are always more active than their larger counterparts.

Level Up
Players earn experience and level up their ships each fight they participate in. Perhaps each system comes with a small random defence force that would avoid larger fleets but would come out to fight a few frigates.  This would guarantee 'level up' opportunities as well as economic advantages (see below).

Fight or Lose $$$
Each turn a player does not engage in offensive missions (i.e. incursions into enemy space) they lose 10% of total RP due to population unrest.

Small Cheap Raiders - Attack to make $$$
Fleets earn RPs if they are blockading enemy systems (or at least deny those RPs to the enemy) ; perhaps of they have enough ships to block each jumpgate they deny their foes 100% of the system revenue. If they blocked 1 of 3 jumpgates they would block 33% of revenue....

If they are 'raiding' they can make 10% of the system revenue each ship in system to a maximum of 50%.

This would encourage small raiding parties of 3-5 small ships as the most cost effective way to raid/blockade an enemy system.  Thus small, regular battles should become the norm.

Ok enough rationale, now for some specific ideas:

---------------------------------------Nitty Gritty---------------------------------------------------------
Solar System Generation
I'm going to base solar system probabilities on the only example I know - our solar system
1. Homeworld - Earth - perfect for humans
2. Arid World - Mars - inhospitable but can be terraformed to sustain life
3,4. Harsh World - Mercury, Venus - temperature and atmosphere are extremely lethal
5, 6, 7, 8. Gas/Ice Giant - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune - can only support life on moon habitats orbiting them
9 Planetoid - Pluto - basically a large, glorified moon
10  11  12  Asteroid belt

Roll d12 for number of features in solar system; then roll d12 each time for what the features might be

Galaxy Map
I'm likely opting for a node system beloved by so many 4X PC games.

Hidden Movement?
You move counters with code names on the map (i.e.  Task Force 3, Task Force 8, etc) . You do not need to show your opponent the composition of the task force until it enters his territory or a location containing a task force of his own.  So your opponent can see forces being moved around in your territory, but you have no idea if it is a single escort on a raiding mission or a battlefleet marshalled to crush his homeworld. 

You can swap ships between tasks forces if they are in the same solar system, somewhat like a shell game.

Resource Points
These are in powers of two i.e.   800  400  200  100  50

Homeworld = 800
Arid World = 400
Gas Giant = 100pt for first mining base, 50 for each subsequent one
Harsh World = 100
Asteroid Belt = 100pt for first mining base, 50 for each subsequent one
Planetoid = 50

Mining bases on gas giants and asteroids are very lucrative due to mineral wealth but easily destroyed or captured. 

RP of ships should be balanced against planet RP - as it gives you a rough guide of how many ships you can afford to lose defending it. Perhaps a single cruiser in RP cost for a homeworld, per turn?

Repairing should be much cheaper than building new (i.e. to repair 50% hull would not cost 50% of the total of a new ship, but less than 25%) to encourage players to retreat to fight another day when damaged. 

Ships maybe take a random die roll to see when they are completed as projects are seldom finished on time...

Solar System Travel
There are a few ways of doing this. The more abstracted methods are naturally simpler.  Jumpgates linking systems will be the most common.  Ship jumps take turns = low d6 (roll 2 x d6 and choose the lowest). Momentum is conserved - i.e. a ship travelling 10" velocity into a jumpgate will exit it at 10" as well. 

Ships with jump drives can jump directly to a system where there is a friendly beacon.  The beacon must be located a specific distance from a gravity well.  Ships that have just jumped and used a beacon are "shaken" and at -1 to all rolls that turn.  They can only fire in reaction and are at velocity 0.

To be continued....

Dice Pool Melee Mechanics & Lord of the Rings

I am a bit of a fan of dice pool mechanics for skirmish games.  Note "dice pool" not "dice bucket."

These can be assigned to attack or defence, adding decison-making and tactics to the melee, rather than simply pushing a mini next to another and rolling dice on a chart.  A kind of simple resource management.

Players might need to defend frantically until reinforcements arrive, or all-out attack to maximise the chance of wounds to breaking through a troll's tough hide.

A few games, such as Makatishi's CROM beta rules, Confrontation 3 or the Bushido rules use these.

A homebrew game for playing Conan adventures (but could be adapted for any fantasy).

Players have 3 dice pools: one to move,  one to attack, and one to use for special actions like magic.  Dice can either be rolled or totalled or "burned". You can choose how many dice you attack or defend with. Hits are scored if attack totals exceed defence totals.

Players can lose dice by taking hits, or by "burning" dice.  Burning a dice means it automatically counts as 6 but is lost for the rest of the game (due to over-exertion).  Hits are recorded by removing dice from the dice pool. 

These rules are incomplete but have a pleasing degree of resource management.  You can definitely see potential in the concept.  Far more strategy than simply pushing your model alongside theirs and chugging some dice. 

Sometimes you need more defensive dice....

This is a game with very nice models I have considered long and hard about investing in. I decided against as (a) there seems to be a lot of special rules  (b) there is no campaign system  (c) factions are very limited and there is no unit builder to allow you to BYO.  Basically, a Malifaux-like game that I would have to buy or build Oriental terrain for, a game  in which everyone has the same, identically-painted models (as there is about a dozen models per faction and 90% of gamers seem unable to think up a paint scheme that deviates from the studio one).   Also they have hitpoints. 

But they do have a dice pool.  Players allocate dice secretly to attack or defence.  The combat dice pool is reduced if model is sprinting, frightened, ambushed etc. Players compare the highest attack to the highest defence.  The success level is then cross refererenced with a d6 roll to see how many hitpoints (blergh!) are lost (p.21 of the quickstart rules linked above). 

Ironically I don't play C3 with my metal C3 minis but Song of Blades instead (it is easier to play with new players); but the C3 mechanic is possibly the best of all.

Like Bushido, each player has a pool of combat dice.  He gets an extra dice each opponent he is facing.  So a player with 2 dice facing 2 opponents would have 4 combat dice. 

Players roll for initiative (initiative + d6) and the loser must assign dice first. The side that won the initiative attacks first.

In a 1-on-1 duel, a player must attack with 1 dice as long as he has one.  No matter how many attack dice, only a single attack is made - using more dice simply improves your chance of success.If you are outnumbered, you choose which enemies to attack.

The attacker rolls his attack dice, the defender chooses if and how many of his attack die he will use to parry.  If he can equal or beat the best attack roll the defender parries the attack.

If a defender uses as many die in defence as he did in attack he can use "sustained defence" - he must beat any attack roll by 2.  He may then use the defensive dice again against any other opponents in the combat, each time having to beat his opponents by 2 to parry.

Damage is done by rolling 2 x d6.  The lower result shows the location (1 = legs, 2 = arms, 3 = belly, 4= chest. 5-6 = head) and the higher result is added to the attacker's strength (- any armour on the target location) . They are cross referenced on a table which shows if target is stunned (-1 this turn)  light (-1 permanent); serious (-2); critical (-3) or killed outright.  

The damage is a little clunky but give hit locations and varying damage with the only record-keeping being a coloured token beside the model. 

GW's red-headed stepchild of its 'Holy Trinity" - Lord of the Rings - uses multiple attack dice for heroes. 
Both sides roll their dice -the highest one wins, with the better fighter winning ties.

They allow you to double your dice if you choose 'all out defence' - increasing your chance of beating your foe the expense of being unable to actually damage them.  Weapons with two-handed capabilites can -1 off die rolls but add +1 to damage. 

This offers some modest flexibility but could be adapted to be far more tactical.  A somewhat bland game, LOTR is a prime candidate for a dice pool makeover.

"LOTR meets Confrontation"
Players get their usual number of attacks PLUS one per opponent.

They allocate them to attack or defence like C3. However you do not have to allocate any dice to attacking if you do not want to. 

The player who holds the Priority can make the other player allocate his dice first and decides the order that fights will be resolved in.   

Look at the attack and defence roll of the first combat - the combat with the highest roll goes first.  If tied, the player with the highest Fight resolves his attack first. 

Ties are won not by the defender but by the fighter with the highest Fight score.

Any strikes that beat defence rolls go through and roll on the LOTR Wound chart. 

Whether they hit or not, all combatants on a losing side are driven back 2".

Boromir (F6, 3 attacks) takes on 3 Uruk-Hai (F4, 1 attack).

Boromir gets 3 attacks + 3 dice for his 3 opponents. The Uruk-Hai get 1 attack + 1 dice for their 1 opponent.

The Evil side has the Priority. Since all his fighters are equal he does not really care which combat occurs first.

Assigning Dice
Boromir assigns 3 dice to defence and 3 to attack.  
Uruk Hai #1 assigns 1 to defence, 1 to attack
Uruk Hai #2 assigns 2 to attack, 0 to defence
Uruk Hai #3 assigns 2 to attack, 0 to defence.  

Combat #1.
Boromir declares he will attack with 1 dice and defend with 1 dice.  
Uruk Hai #1 declares he attacks 1 dice and defends with 1 dice.

Boromir rolls a 5 in attack, and the Uruk Hai rolls 5 in defence.
The Uruk Hai rolls 4 in attack, and Boromir rolls 3 in defence. 

Both attacks succeed, but since Boromir had the higher winning roll '5' he resolves his damage first.

He rolls a '6' and dispatches the Uruk hai.

Combat #2
Boromir declares he will attack with 1 dice and defend with 1 dice.
Uruk Hai #2 has to attack with both dice and not defend at all.

Boromir rolls a 2 in attack which automatically succeeds as the Uruk Hai did not defend. If he rolled a '1' it would have been a failure.  
The Uruk Hai rolls a 4 and a 5 in attack; Boromir rolls a 3 in defence.  Both attacks go through.

Both attacks succeed but the Uruk Hai had the highest succeeding attack roll he goes first, rolling a '6' and a '2'.  Boromir takes a wound.  Boromir rolls a '3' which fails to wound the Uruk Hai in return.

Combat #3
Boromir declares he will defend with 2 dice and will not attack at all.  
The Uruk Hai attacks with both dice.  

Boromir rolls a '1' and a '5' in defence.

The Uruk Hai rolls two '5's.  Since Boromir has the higher (F) rating he wins and successfully parries the attacks. Uruk Hai #3 lost and is driven back 2". 

The combat ends with Boromir wounded and locked in combat with a Uruk Hai while one of the orcs is driven back 2" and another wounded. 

Saturday 12 May 2012

Sharp Practice Two Fat Lardies Napoleanic Skirmish Rules 28mm

These are one of the more popular Lardies offerings besides IABSM (their WW2 ruleset) and I thought they would be a good starting off point for my first Napoleanic foray.  The most popular google review was this one (a cool batrep - in 6mm! -check it out) so I thought I would put out a more detailed offering.

Small, simple, but surprisingly complete

The Shiny
Simply a slim softcover rulebook. B&W interior. Limited diagrams and illustrations - to wit, nothing I couldn't reproduce with MS Word at home.  However I do like the quick reference guide being ON the actual back cover of the book, rather an appendix within the book. This means the rulebook itself can be used as the quick reference without bending the book open constantly or having to photocopy and laminate it.

It also has a decent index which is good as TFL games can be a tad random at times in where they place information.

May I say now that as like most TFL games this is NOT a competitive ruleset. There are many, many, grey areas in the rules and the authors actively encourage house rules. This is probably not the ruleset you would use to introduce your ultra-competitive 40k or Warmachine mates to Napoleanics.

Initiative/Move Order
This is a TFL game so of course it will be card based.  "Big Men" (heroic leaders) each have a card which when drawn allows them to make heroic actions rather like GW's LOTR game.  There are also a number of  extra cards that allows additional actions if the next Big Man is high enough ranked to use them. 

The "Tiffin" card ends the turn when drawn, whether or not all the Big Men have made their action.  This adds a lot of uncertainty to the game.  After the Tiffin card is played units who have not been activated by Big Men may act, albeit in a reduced capacity.

Units have "action die" which allow them to move, shoot, reload etc.  These can be increased or modified by Big Men. 

There are optional 'random event' cards which include things like running low on ammunition and bonus moves to the Big Man slipping in dog poop.  (No, I am not kidding)

Big Men
These may get extra activations and command troops over a wider radius, the higher level they are.  They can inspire groups of troops (usually 10-15 troops) or control larger formations.  The game is aimed at between 30-120 figures.  

Movement & Blinds
The TFL staple, the "blind" is used again.  This is a blank 6 x 4" card that stands for a unit that has not been spotted by enemies. These work better than a usual unit as it is presumed troops out of contact with the enemy are easier to organise. Once blinds are spotted they are replaced by their actual unit and treated as normal.

Each action dice spent gives 1d6 movement, modified by various factors. This makes movement somewhat random and is typical of TFL games in allowing general control to the player but taking away godlike precision in maneuvers.

Firing & Combat
Hits are caused on 5s and 6s in a 'bucket of dice' approach.  Dice are added or subtracted from the group as modifiers dictate.  Hits rarely kill but tend to suppress & pin aka "Shock."  When shock hits exceed the number of troops they usually bottle out and retreat on the "Tiffin" card.   Big Men can be wounded individually at varying levels of severity.  Fisticuffs works on a similar system. 

Tasks & Derring Do
 There is a RPG-lite element where Big Men can perform tasks like cracking a safe, break down a door - or remove a lady's corset!  They may also attempt feats of derring-do (swinging from chandeliers etc) if they pass an agreed-upon roll, and attempt to woo ladies (having a "face like a pig's backside" is a -2 modifier btw).   "Chosen Men" can be designated as snipers to take out specific targets, and "sneaky" characters can cosh sentries and pick pockets (!)

Extra Stuff
For a small 68-page rulebook it is surprising what has been packed into it.  Irregulars (including Indians) with jezzails and blowpipes are catered for. I was impressed with the inclusion of small boat, grappling and boarding rules.  There is rules for volleyguns and blundebuses, nightfighting and looting. The book has a wider scope than you might suspect.

Creating Big Men
Another RPG-lite element is the ability to roll to create random Big Men.  Will he be a strapping fellow or a sickly cove?  A handsome devil or a hideous freak?  Will he be popular with his men or universally despised?  He could be well bred, a swordsman, or a novice in the saddle.  He might be chivalrous or a cad.
There is even a small traits list such as "Charismatic"  "Athlete" or "Lush" (the latter is over-fond of the bottle and will fall asleep after a light wound).

This had a lot of historical information about formations that made my eyes glaze over somewhat but would doubtless have a Napoleanic buff nodding in agreement. Optional "National traits" add flavour to forces - allowing naton-specific special maneuvers and actions to be performed; from the Russian ability to soak up more shock to the Prussians having a superior first volley.  Finally there are some useful gameplay examples to round off this section, with each main area of the rules covered.

As an aside, the Lardies Webpage contains links to a very active community of players.

A surprisingly complete toolbox to recreate Napoleanic adventures from your Sharpe or Hornblower box set. Typical TFL quirkiness and unpredictability with less god-like control than many similar games.  Heroic "Big Men" can take on almost RPG-like personas and I can see how linked scenarios could create a series of intriguing skirmishes.  Rather vague "house rule" approach to rules (not a "tight" competitive ruleset by any means) means a laid-back gaming partner or an umpire would be useful. 

Recommend?  Definitely.  I am not a Napoleanic buff by any means but these rules have inspired me to start hunting out miniatures.