Tuesday 31 July 2012

Check Your Six! Rules Review

After looking at Luft '46,  Bag the Hun and Luft Krieg I thought I would round out the series with the current WW2 heavyweight, Check Your Six!

I always loved the Gee Bee racer feel of the I-16

The Shiny
Similar values to BtH - covered softcover with B&W interior. The font is rather small so good luck if you don't have 20/20 vision.  The rules were 2-column but rather dense, interspersed with black and white photos and descriptive diagrams. The layout is serviceable and there are quick reference sheets, and charts at the back.  The table of contents is a bit vague and I find the ads at the back distracting. Falls in the "solid but unspectacular" category.

General Comments
This seems rather traditional - a "guessing game" where you write down maneuvers from a list of choices on a chart and note speed and altitude changes.  In fact this simply seems to be "Canvas Eagles/Blue Max" adapted to WW2. If you liked it, then rejoice - as this is simply an evolution of the design.  If, like me, you expect a bit of innovation in rules sets in 30 years, and don't like writing down orders; then it might be a bit disappointing.

Sound but unspectacular, CY6 is a evolution of pre-plotted games like Canvas Eagles

This is pretty straight forward. Aircraft have:
Speed - 1-5 hexes - good - so planes don't go shooting off the board
Move Chart - planes have rank A to F which determines the maneuvers they can exectute
Climb/Dive - used to see who gets advantage when exiting an altitude band
 Acceleration - Low, Med or High
Robustness - from 0 to 5 shows how tough an aircraft is
Weapons are clustered logically by short range (LMG and low-velocity cannon)  that are good to 300m; medium range (most cannons) good to 600m and long range cannons such as 30mm MK101 and 103s. Rate of fire also impacts the to-hit roll.

Aircrew are rated (0) Green to Ace (+3) which modify their rolls.  Most aircrew checks need to beat 8 on 2d6.  Most dogfights take place within a combat altitude band (with 6 "tactical" sub-levels you can easily track on a micro d6).

Game Sequence is:
Tailed aircraft reveal general info
Simultaneously plot manuevers

Tailed aircraft must reveal general movement info (if turning right, left or straight) and altitude (climbing, level or diving) but not specifics, which allows following aircraft to predict their target's moves.

In the movement phase, aircraft are moved in order of aircrews skill - green crew first; aces last.  Skilled or better crew can amend their maneuvers to moves to the left or right of their pre-plotted move on the chart. I.e  a skilled pilot (+1) can change his move by1; an Ace (+3) can change it by 3.
Pilots that make tricky maneuvers like Immelmans and reverses make crew checks which can fail and leave them spinning out of control.

I really like this emphasis on crew skill; better pilots can react to the moves of aircraft around them far better than rookies and CY6 removes some of the "guessing game" nature of plotted moves. 

All fire is simultaneous and all damage is recorded at the end of this phase.  There is a series of "to hit" scores needed on 2d6 that vary according to range; i.e. 5+ for 1 hex range, 6+ for up to 2 hexes; up to 11+ at 7+ hex range.  There are only a few modifiers for pilot ability, plane agility and deflection. Easy to remember and resolve. Any doubles any time after the first shot; if the number on the dice exceeds pilot skill, the weapon is out of ammo.

Each hit, roll a dice that corresponds to weapon size (d4 for LMG, d6 for HMG etc). Damage of all dice are totalled and cross-referenced against robustness on a chart to find the robustness factor.  2d6 are then rolled against this factor; if they are under it they score damage (critical damage, if they throw far enough below).  If the roll was odd, Airframe Damage is inflicted; if even, Engine Damage is inflicted.  A second damage destroys the aircraft.

Although the overall damage system could be streamlined a little; I think the damage results are simple and commonsense - either the airframe is damaged (impacting on maneuvers) or the engine (slowing the aircraft).  There are the ability to have specific  "Lucky Hits" aka criticals such as rudder hits, fires, weapon jams, oil leaks etc to add more "grittiness" for the rivet-counters amongst us.

Other Stuff
There are advanced rules for formations, weather, surface attacks and spotting.  The latter rule probably should be mandatory and indeed is integral to Bag the Hun - it is estimated the vast majority of air to air losses never saw their attacker.  They are a bit vague "refrain from reacting to unspotted aircraft" and "can't fire at them" and are a lot less sophisticated than Bag the Hun's integrated blind system.  Anti-aircraft fire and aircrew survival round off the core rules which are only 27 (admittedly small-pint) pages.

I always liked the look of the P-40 and feel the workhorse fighter is underrated compared to the sexier Mustang; it faced the IJN and Luftwaffe at their peak strength early in the war

This is a major strength. There are 15 detailed campaigns with plenty of fluff and detail - just reading them made me want to dig out my 1/600 and 1/300 stuff and get painting. In addition there is a mini-campaign (Flying Tigers are always cool) consisting of linked scenarios. I was very impressed by this and I would consider getting the CY6 campaign supplements even if I don't play with their actual rules. There is a reasonable (but not extensive) selection of WW2 aircraft stats with more available online.

Simple, easy to learn. Excellent mini-campaign and scenarios makes the campaign supplements well worth a look.  The pre-plotting (which some people enjoy and some hate) handles multiple players well, but more than 3-4 aircraft per person will bog down.  The spotting rules are weaker than Bag the Hun.  The emphasis on pilot skill is great, and removes some of the "guesstimating".  Not terribly innovative - simply a rehash of older WW1 rules - the core rules such as shooting and damage are sound.  Planes moving only 5 hexes or so means you get plenty of room to maneuver on a hex map. If you have more than 2 people wanting to play and are happy to have only a couple of planes each CY6 is a solid choice for gaming clubs.

Recommended? I'm not a fan of plotting moves on paper, even if pilot skill rules renders it less a "guessing game" than Wings of War. However if you like this sort of old-school air game (it's simply a slicker WW2 version of Blue Max/Canvas Eagles) it's a very polished example of the genre.

Personally, despite its quirks and flaws, of all the WW2 air games I've tried I prefer the more unconventional Bag the Hun - with its ability to handle more aircraft (8-12), better spotting rules, solo play abilities and clever card activation replacing the pre-plotting and record keeping of CY6 which I do not enjoy. I will definitely look at buying the CY6 scenario books though as I was very impressed with the campaign/scenario aspects.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Sci Fi Sub War meets Silent Death - Part 4

This post is partly to show the mega-cheap EM4 Silent Death spacefighter models I plan on using as my "fighter subs":-

 Total cost - $14 - or 30c each

Coming with bases included $3.50 for 12 is not bad.  They are quite crisp sculpts with no flash and only faint mold lines.  I have given them rather bland grey paint schemes as modern naval vessels AND aircraft seem to be grey as their uniform colour regardless of nationality.

Some sculpts are more sub-like than others - the smaller models on the left are quite plausible.

The second reason was to "put out there" the damage system I could use for this (I could also see it suiting a space fighter game) - ergo:


Both sides add a d10 to their piloting roll, and add any modifiers. If the defender wins, the shot has missed. If the attacker wins, the shot has hit. Make sure you note the "margin of success" if the attacker wins as this influences the damage.

Attacker Modifiers
Defender Modifiers
+ if fighter more agile
+ accuracy/tracking of weapon
Firing into target rear +1 (also parallelling target)
Firing at head-on target  +0
Firing into target side -1
+ if fighter more agile
+ range modifiers

Fighters have a "Defence" attribute which is armour and structural ability to absorb damage.
Roll d10 for each hit plus weapon damage; and compare to Defence level plus d10
If the Defence score is exceeded - the target is "shocked"
If the Defence score is exceeded by 3+, the fighter is "damaged"
If the Defence score is exceeded by 8+, the target is "destroyed"

+ margin of success
+ weapon damage

I simply drybrushed 2 shades of grey over black undercoat to pick out detail. Yeah, it probably needs squadron markings and detailing like weapons but I only had an hour before tea to do all 50...  

Shocked = no major damage - glancing or superficial hits; for next turn -2 to all rolls. Shocked results are not cumulative (i.e. you can be "shocked" only once per turn) but they do stack with modifiers caused by damage
Damaged = this takes several forms. See if the damage roll was odd or even.
Destroyed = "Kaboom"
Odds Hull = this is damage to the fighting capacity of the fighter or ship; and may include damage to cockpit, weapons and sensors
Evens Thrust = this is engines or ship thrusters and impacts the mobility of the ship
1st hit = -2 to all rolls; halve weaponry, sensors, ECM
1st hit = -2 to all rolls; halve thrust
2nd hit = ship breaks up; pass pilot skill check to eject
2nd hit = ship drifts; pass pilot check or reactor explodes

For simplicity's sake a fighter will have 2 profiles; a normal and a damaged one.
Why I like it: You only need 2 markers (one for hull, one for engines) - simples!
Why I might change it: People might like more descriptive "criticals"

This combat system would work well with a d10+addons mechanic; for example opposed rolls could use a similar mechanism where d10+pilot skill is contrasted to d10+pilot skill.  Having a similar mechanic for all rules actions makes a ruleset more coherent and "fluent" - as opposed to new random rules and mechanics for every area *cough* Two Fat Lardies *cough*

I also like the fact the margin of success when you hit also impacts the damage roll - a "good" or well-aimed shot will do more damage than a glancing shot.

DUST Warfare Rulebook Review (Fantasy Flight Games)

This is another ruleset helmed by Andy Chambers, who impressed me with Starship Troopers/Battlefield Evo but less so with his direct-LOTR-ripoff horror skirmish Empire of the Dead.

 Bear in mind this is not a fully playtested review, as although I have already bought a few of the lovely FFG DUST walkers for the similar-themed Secrets of the Third Reich, the plastic-y infantry minis are a bit "meh". So I am reviewing these rules with the premise "is it a worthy replacement for SOTR?"

The mecha are awesome - the infantry, less inspiring
The Shiny
As expected the rulebook is pretty nice.  There are lots of pictures of miniatures; the walkers in particular are eye candy; there is a "alt history" fluff piece for the first dozen pages. I would have expected more art (Paolo Parente) but the lavish mini pics compensate pretty darn well. They even make the rather dodgy bendy-plastic infantry look good.* The rules are easy to read and pleasantly laid out. There are markers and a weapons reference sheet at the back but they you'd have to photocopy them, endangering your beautifully bound hardcover book; there is no "quick rules reference" but they wouldn't be missed.  Index and table of contents are par for the course. 

*Note: The infantry aren't AT-43-style pre-paints but they are molded to integral bases and give me a feeling of dollar-store plastic army men. I find them totally unappealing compared to, say, even the pulp-y metals from West Wind but YMMV.

Stats and Stuff
DW uses d6 "combat dice" - with two "hit" and four "blank" sides. Basically, d6 with 5s and 6s hitting, only you gotta buy their fancy dice for it. I've always found special dice a bit of a turn-off, but the overall method is similar to the GOALSYSTEM rules which I liked. Pre-measuring is sensibly allowed. Having your bullets magically rendered harmless if an opponent is 1" out of range always seems dumb to me.
Stats are simple:
Movement this is usually a universal 6" - a 40k simplification I always disliked
DC (damage capacity or "wounds")
Type (Infantry falls into types 1 to 4; 1 is normal helmet+fatigues; 2 is flak jackets, 3 is heavy armour and 4 is extraordinary protection). Vehicles range in similar fashion from 1 to 7; 1 being a softskin truck and 7 being a land fortress.

Weapons have a simple but rather long stat bar that shows Range, but also Combat Dice rolled, and Wounds inflicted per hit against any type of target (infantry or vehicle).

Units have a 6" cohesion range from the leader - nothing new here - and can promote a new leader if one is lost. Weapon ranges are also very "40k" and are quite short in scale to the models. I personally think a tank gun should fire further than 36"....

 I have a man-crush on the walkers... they're just so... clanky and stompy...

Game Sequence
This looks promising. The sequence has been split into a "Command Phase" - where command units can order units within 12" to take unopposed actions; and the "Unit Phase" where units use their own initiative and can be reacted to by opponents.  Basically a two-stage variation on IGOUGO.

 Both sides roll a "combat dice" (cd6) for each functioning unit. Each "hit" provides an order to be used in the Command Phase.  The player with the least hits has the initiative.

So the order goes
Command Phase
Initiative player (with less orders) may issue orders
Responding player (with more orders) may issue orders

Unit Phase
Initiative player activates each of his units (including those who activated in the command phase); enemy units within 12" can react to them.
Responding player activates each of his units (including those who activated in the command phase); enemy units within 12" can react to them.

Interesting points:
Units activated in the "command phase" can make an action of sequence, free from enemy response. This is pretty much identical to the "Heroic Move" from GW's LOTR game - they even have to the same range (12") away from a heroic named "leader" figure.    A unit activated by the heroic move  "Command Phase order" may act regardless of enemy suppression. However units who make a heroic move gets a "reaction marker" and may not react to enemy in the unit phase.

In the Unit Phase players take turns activating and moving all their units IGOUGO style. If an enemy fires on a unit (or moves within 12") a non-active unit can react by moving, returning fire, or "hitting the dirt" - a special move to gain extra cover. A unit that reacts gains a "reaction counter" and may make only one, not two actions when it is activated.  Reactions are simple; similar to Starship Troopers - but add a lot to a game and negates concerns about IGOUGO.

Units who are activated may take two actions; move or attack; in any combination including double attacks or double moves.

Infantry can move freely in any direction; vehicles can make a 90d turn before or after movement (or forfeit moving and pivot on the spot); vehicles can tank shock overrun infantry, suppressing and scattering them, 40k-style.

Attacks are simple and fast; dice are thrown appropriate to the weapon type; and hits are tallied up. 
Units make "armour saves" by rolling cd6 equal to their rating (i.e. a type-2 soldier would roll 2 dice) each "hit" rolled cancels out an attacker's hit. Extra armor save rolls are added by soft (+1) and heavy (+2) cover. Infantry units that are hit are suppressed even if no damage is taken.
Vehicles cannot be suppressed but since they usually take multiple hits they can take damage such as fires, weapon and engine damage and hull breaches.  Close combat rules are similar to normal attacks but with a 3" range that ignores cover (and close-assaulters can only be reacted to by close combat weapons).

Infantry that have a suppression marker cannot react and have 1 less action when activated.  If there are more suppression markers than soldiers in the unit; the unit will retreat.  When a unit is activated you can try to lift suppression by rolling a cd6 each suppression marker; each hit removes one.  In addition you can remove one suppression automatically at the end of a turn. I really like this area as suppression and morale are covered in one neat approach.

In the Command Phase a hero leader can use a heroic action an order to "regroup" and remove all suppression and reaction markers.  The core rules cover 45 pages and are pretty simple.

$15 for a 6-man box is a far cry from $55 for a GW infantry box, so +1 to FFG
However I feel they compare unfavourably with metal minis available elsewhere

Other Stuff
There are 33 traits such as "fast"  "heroic stand"  "medic"  "jump" that endow special abilities on a unit that possess them. There are special rules for lasers, phasers, burst and spray weapons. They are all simple, straightforward and manageable.

Scenario generation for battles is interesting. Players have a point each and take turns putting their points into Objectives, Deployment or Conditions in order to determine the type of battle to be fought.

Objectives can be "break the lines" - get troops into enemy deployment; "eliminate the enemy" - score points for units destroyed; "key positions" - control up to 4 terrain pieces; and "assassination" of a nominated enemy unit.  Deployment can be normal; from the corners (force collision); close engagement (can deploy close to enemy), and unprepared.  Conditions can include limited visibility, off-target shelling and defensive minefields and fortifications.

In addition there are 5 example scenarios which are less balanced and not for "competitive play".

Army building  info and unit stats take up the remaining pages 63 pages. "Platoons" are have 40k-like building rules (albeit more flexible) and must include 1 command section and 1-4 sections. In addition it may have 1-2 support units (or 1 support unit per 2 sections) and platoon upgrades such as airstrikes, an extra hero; or airdropped units.

More opportunity for tactics than 40k, but then again, what game doesn't? (Yahtzee excluded).  The two-part activation is interesting but on closer examination is simply an expansion of GW's LOTR "Heroic Move" - I'm unsurprised considering how Andy Chambers totally ripped off imitated certain aspects of LOTR with his Empire of the Dead ruleset.  Nonetheless it adds more tactical flavour than IGOUGO.  Reactions are a really worthwhile addition, making cover important, and the rules are simple and straightforward.  The suppression rules are neat, though I think firing ranges are ridiculously low - 16" range rifles and 36" tank guns seem silly in scale with 28mm.  All in all a reasonable ruleset which does not set the tabletop universe alight with innovation but it is more streamlined than 40k or Secrets of the Third Reich and would handle more minis.  That said, I am sticking with SOTR as I prefer its alternate move, metal minis and ability to use your own models (and stat up your own mechs). 

It's probably worth mentioning that DUST Warfare is a tabletop expansion of the DUST Tactics boardgame so if you already have "Tactics" then "Warfare" would be a logical progression. My 10c - this is a game that will be seized on eagerly like AT-43 then burn out after a few years, leaving as a legacy cheap boxes of awesome walkers on ebay. Which isn't a bad thing...

Recommended?:  Maybe. The bendy plastic infantry put me off.  Definitely an improvement on DUST Tactics.  If you already have Secrets of the Third Reich I'd skip this rulebook and instead buy the awesome DUST mecha with the money you saved. 

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Delta Vector: Upcoming Items

Due to work, gaming has been on the backburner but I have a busy fortnight ahead:

Dust Tactics - review
Do we see the innovative Andy Chambers (Starship Troopers) or is he copy-pasting old rules (Empire of the Dead).

Infinity Spaceship Interior (table-in-a-weekend project)
This is on hold while I await ordering some spaceship door panels, consoles and furniture from Antenociti's Workshop. While I wait, I am contemplating starting another project so not to stall my terrain-making momentum.

I once had (and lost) an Epic Thunderbolt which is the gaming equivalent of my Moby Dick
Ok that came out wrong

Spacefighter Games
I am updating these house-rules as I just got a few more packs of EM4 Silent Death plastics.  At $4 for 12 the price is right - about 30-40c each is quite reasonable. I want to make a fast-playing game with Infinty-style reactions, but minus the record keeping that turns me off the long-in-the-tooth Silent Death.

In addition, at my wife's prompting (man I struck it lucky when I married her) I ordered some not-BSG fighters from Studio Bergstrom (their website has execrably painted examples which must halve their sales; look anywhere else on the net for much nicer paintjobs) - I plan to use a modified version of underrated-but-brilliant rules Lightning Strike.

Biting the (Golden) Bullet
Both these games are absolute rip-offs but I can't resist dipping my toe in.  Hovering on the horizon are:

Imperialis Aeronautica
Well we know anything from Forge World is worth its weight in uncut cocaine but years ago I fell in love with a Thunderbolt mini I got in a random eBay lot but have since lost.  It still haunts me. It was the most brilliantly detailed model of the size I have ever seen. Worth $10 for a single fighter? Yeah no. On the other hand you only need about 6-8 of them, making an air wing the same price as a Infinity faction. I really, really covet the minis.

A HG Blitz starter box - $115 gets you a princely total of 10 28mm miniatures

Heavy Gear Arena/Blitz
I have always been puzzled by Dream Pod 9s pricing. $50+ for five 28mm models? What other company does that remind you of?  An army of 2-3 squads and support would set you back $250+
Heavy Gear: Arena (a robot gladiator game) uses far less minis so I'm looking at that as a way to ease my way in (or acclimatize myself to the wallet pain, like boiling a frog). I also reckon I could have fun making an arena for robot battles.

I have this uncanny feeling the hitherto peaceful, rather elitist world of 15mm sci fi is about to be invaded by the "great unwashed" 40K masses. Hawk Miniatures is going to be the next Flames of War. Buy your shares now.

Dropship Commander
I love 15mm and some of the models look awesome (don't know what the sculptor was smoking when he made the imaginatively-titled Scourge); I'm mystified by the secrecy - no ideas of how the rules play etc besides the fact dropships are used to rapidly re-deploy troops in-game adding a different aspect to gameplay.  Regardless there is a big buzz about this and I predict Dropship Commander may be a major winner, as like Flames of War; it could tap into the disenchanted 40K fanbase in a big way.  I refused to pre-order as I am tired of giving companies a interest-free loan but reviews should make their way onto this blog in the next few weeks.

Age of Sail
I flirted with this briefly in 1:4800 but gave up due to the fact all the rules seem to be hopelessly over-complicated affairs where damage systems account for every plank with complex charts, critical hits and many many hitboxes.  The wife expressed an interest the other day, so not to look a gift horse in the mouth I quickly ordered some 1:2400 Napoleanics from Tumbling Dice. $20 for 8 ships is quite affordable. She actually wants to rig them! Sucker  I mean how awesome!  I do like the idea of making island/port terrain - a nice change in scale from 28mm. So it's back to looking for a good, fast-playing set of rules.... 

Delta Vector the Game
I will try to con the wife try to tidy up the Delta Vector rules and condense them into a single document. Still playing with the damage rules - I'm not a fan of the "throw a heap of dice against a threshold" Firestorm Armada style and I may separate the rolls into two - one to hit, then one to damage. Sci Fi Sub War will likewise get a polish as soon as I paint my starfighter-come-submarines EM4 minis.

The Painting Backlog
Heresy Ghouls, Infinity (finish Haqquislam to go with my desert-theme board); EM4 spacefighters, and as many random pulp figures as I can motivate myself to do.

So that's the next few weeks. Remember - never start something you can't fini

Friday 20 July 2012

Quick Cheap Terrain - 28mm Infinity Spaceship Part 1B

I thought I'd paint Mark 2 to give a better comparison to Mark 1:

The pipes got a rough coat of paint (I've to to fill gaps and respray later).
The grating will get a metallic drybrush later. 

The quick paint-up was to see how bold the pipe colours were. I'd restrict myself to a coloured "stripe" in future I think.

The ever helpful Sector9 (Lion in the Stars on TMP) gave some great ideas in a post on the Infinity forums:

"Hrm... Pipes should be against the side walls (easier to fix them), but if you're assuming a zero-gee part of the station, what's to say which part is 'wall' and which part is 'floor'? Make whatever you're going to declare as the 'floor' a different color than the walls.
You can color-code and use different sizes of pipe, too. I wish I had some pictures of the inside of the subs I worked on, but Uncle Sam frowned on that kind of thing. Guess I will have to try to describe the look in words, instead.

There will be markings on the pipes for what they carry and the direction of flow. Certain pipes *will* be color-coded. Oxygen is *always* green (and *will* always be painted green for the full length of the pipe!), refrigerant is purple, firefighting stuff is red, compressed air is usually yellow (but emergency air is RED). The pipes may or may not be insulated, hot pipes would have a cloth-like covering over the lagging, while cold pipes would basically have thick neoprene (looks like bigger-diameter pipe, but the clamps are smaller than the insulation).

Don't forget to add large boxes, either rather bright orange for damage control equipment or dull gray for electrical switchboards. Those boxes should stick far enough into the middle of the passageway that a model can use them as cover (they're usually ~2-3 feet deep in reality). If you really wanted to be OCD, you'd put the pipes and cableways in first, and then add the power and lighting switchboards.

You could also add electrical cableways, make them from bundles of embroidery thread or fishing line. Almost all electrical cabling has white insulation, except the big, fat 450v DC power cables. Those are black, and are an easy 2" in diameter in real life. call them 1mm thick on the model. We used those for dewatering pumps, and a spaceship is going to need to haul a gratuitously-obscene amount of water around.

Fittings on (water) firehoses are brass, because it doesn't spark. 3 different kinds of fire extinguishers: CO2 (with a trumpet on the end), AFFF ('A-triple-eff', to put out oil fires, has a nozzle with a small spray end and fatter part close to the handle), and PKP (dry chemical, straight pipe).

There should be some markings on the deck, to show where the Emergency Air Breathing masks are. Either a triangle to point at a spot on the wall, or a rectangle to point at a spot overhead. Both are actually made from grip-tape, but some flat red paint and a bit of Vallejo Metallic Medium will suffice.

There's all sorts of 'junk' that you can put on the sides of a hallway to either provide visual interest or to provide cover."
(bold font added by me as key design ideas I've taken on board) 

I've reproduced his post in full as I think it would provide a brilliant guide for a spacecraft and give a real logical theme as well as great fitting ideas.  I think anyone making a spaceship interior can get something out of this - I know I am definitely going to be influenced by it as I continue my space-terrain quest. Submarines have many similar functions to spacecraft (self contained, sealed, operating in hostile environment) so we can presume many similarities.

Circular airlocks are cool, but the transition to another corridor segment cannot be too ambitious as it has to be mass produced and effectively "mate" with non-corridor room segments

Thoughts: I need some boxes (I think the craft shop sells little cardboard boxes the size of matchboxes) for wall cover. I'll do a final prototype with my foamboard scraps - I'm happy with the floor and the wall piping changes but the "transitions" or ends of the corridor sections that jut out from the walls need to be tweaked. They are a tad bland, but need to be able to join normal room sections so can't be to fancy - no iris airlock doors for each corridor section!

Time Elapsed: 45 minutes total so far for total project

Thursday 19 July 2012

Fast Cheap 28mm Infinity Terrain - Space Station - Part I

Buoyed by the ease at which my Haqquislam/generic third world town sprung up, I have decided to forge ahead with my second project, a space station.

The Goal
Playable and reasonably presentable in 12 hours (or a weekend)
Under $100
Unified  (coherent "theme")
Must fill a table and be modular

The big picture
I wanted to do a station with 3 levels based on a simplified versions of the accomodation, control and powerplant elements of this Sky Rig. I also wanted all the pieces to be modular so I could re-arrange it if I wanted. 

Mock Up Mark I
I had a few ideas - central to which was the use of flyscreen to be "grille" flooring, and the use of straws for piping.

Here is  a corridor section prototype. 

The blobby glue and chunky foam may not be ideal for a slick space station
The fly-screen grill idea was a good one though; the pipes could be cool if I "make them work"

Although I liked the idea of a grille walkway, I was immediately struck by a few concerns:

(a) the "rough cut" look that suited crudely built Middle Eastern humpies fine is not necessarily ideal for a space station
(b) the PVA glue was blobby and obvious - but how else to secure the flyscreen?
(c) raising the deck level necessitates doing it to ALL sections in order to stay modular - using more materials and causing more "fiddly-ness" when planning room joins
(d) the straw "piping" was a bit obscured - maybe locate them centrally instead of against the walls

So - is the grille look worth the effort? The blobby glue would suggest not.  Is there a better way to secure it?

Possible solutions:
Have the pipes end INSIDE the end "bulkheads" and use pins to give support
Place the pipes up the inner wall instead of on the floor to make them more obvious
Place the grille FLAT flush to the floor to keep floor level consistent.

Time Elapsed: 15 minutes
Cost: $4 for 1 metre of flyscreen

Prototype Mark 2
Here is my second attempt incorporating a number of the ideas and solutions from Mark 1.

The simpler floor does not look as good but the piping has improved

 Changes Made:
Mesh applied direct to floor; 2cm side walls to pin it down
Pipes made prominent by attaching to walls

A much "cleaner" design with less room for error. The "flush" floor lacks the depth of Mark 1 but will be immeasurable easier to fit to other terrain.  The piping can be painted metallic colours to add detail.  The straight walls leave less room for error than the V-cutaways of Mark 1 and allow a 40mm TAG base to pass through.

Problems: The mesh still isn't securely pinned.

Solutions: Replace the 2cm "end wall" column strips with a full "end wall" with a 4cm high by 3cm opening. That would pin the mesh down on the edges that you can see are not secured properly in the pic. Downside - there would have to be a 1cm lip - knee high to a mini - every 10cm of corridor.

Time elapsed: 15 minutes

Extra Ideas: I will look  around for pre-made bulkhead doors - from memory Antenociti's Workshop and GZG makes them.

Monday 16 July 2012

Quick Cheap Terrain - 28mm Infinity Part 4 - End of a Weekend

My challenge at the start of the weekend was to create a table-load of terrain.


$100 budget
Unified terrain (i.e. not the usual mismatched bits thrown together to desparately block LoS)

12 hours of weekend

Day 2, Part 2
I spent 30 minutes yesterday night spraying my last two buildings (warehouses) but I had run out of terrain before starting my not-mosque and pumping station/factory. At the end of the weekend I had spent 11 hours and $96, coming in under my time/ and budgetary requirements. 

I had not added doors and windows of balsa as intended (due to a time blowout building the "fortress") but the weekend was over so I thought I'd take stock of what had been accomplished.

Time Elapsed: 30 minutes
 The terrain filled up the board as intended
The two warehouses at the bottom are the newest additions

Every building can be entered. Most have 2 levels

I like the cramped chaotic feel of the table.  Some detailing will really bring it to life.

The 50x30cm Donya Fortress (here with both stories visible) was a huge time sink and used up almost 2 sheets of foamboard.   It will be fun to battle through but with hindsight I would avoid it in favour of three or four 20 x 20cm buildings.

Some lessons I learned:
*Put doors in the corners of rooms to maximise internal space for rooms/minimise firing arcs; never centre internal doors but offset them to avoid easy firing corridors
 *I made too many identical buildings: by simply flipping the front wall (with the door + window) and exchanging the blank wall end with the opposite door end I could have had three times the variety with the same work.
*Bigger buildings use disproportionate time and resources; keep the largest to 20x20cm (8 x 8")
* Pins give a lot of strength and make assembly easy; PVA works as a foam sealant and a secondary connector

There is still lots to be done - about 2-3 hours detailing should "tart it up" a bit....

To do:
Ladders: made of either cut up peg baskets or push heavy duty staples into the walls. 
Windows & Doors: I have lots of balsa. I might consider some flyscreen for securi-mesh
Tin roofing/roller doors: I'll use the corrugated card and my aluminium spraypaint
Low walls:  Create courtyards/gardens for suburban houses for extra cover
High walls: Line of sight blocking terrain with doorways
Trees: a visit to ebay for some Chinese HO-scale palms
Steps: the wife can make some from her Hirst Arts stone moulds
Roof: for warehouses and Donya Fortress (I ran out of foamboard)
Planter boxes: Concrete boxes for rows of palms - adds to cover
 Drums/Pipes: I may get more - I also need to wash/de-shiny the ones I have and add rust streaks etc

The terrain building will continue through the week if I can source the foamcore - otherwise it is a trip to the cost next Saturday to stock up.

Anyway - a complete 4x4 Infinity board stacked with terrain; for under $100 and in under 12 hours.  Hope this has helped someone!

Sunday 15 July 2012

Fast Cheap Terrain Part 3 - Infinity 28mm - Donya Fortress

Inspired by the BF3 map "Donya Fortress" I attempted a centerpiece building rather than my usual tissue-boxes-with-interior-walls layouts. Obviously I could not spend too much time on it, so I simplified the design while retaining many similar junctions and fire lanes. 

Making this model ate up a LOT of time.  In fact I had intended to build this AND a warehouse but I went over time. The requirements in time and materials for large buildings is exponentially greater- this took an entire 500x770mm foamboard sheet AND some of another; rendering me unable to build a roof for it.

The top floor of the fortress. There are balconies overlooking the central courtyard. There are 2 internal staircases.  I notice there is a rather long fire lane in the closest corridor and I'll fix this by putting in 2-3 partitions to break LoS

20/20 Hindsight: I would have scaled this down and simplified it.  It doesn't justify the time expenditure as I could have build a dozen "10x20"s in the time I spent.   A failure in the "board coverage" stakes.

To make it worse I thought I'd dash out and spraypaint it between rain showers -- then realised I hadn't sealed the exposed foam with PVA. I'm hoping the foam will not be too extensively eaten out by the spray paint.

There ARE lots of rooms and I reckon playing inside the fortress will be great fun (I KNEW I got all those shotgun toting Odalisques for a reason*)
*Not the reason you're thinking
The bottom level.  The large central area is the courtyard which can be overlooked  from the upper storey  - I will be putting a ornamental pond and some palms in there.

Time Taken: 4.5hrs (10.5hrs total)

Lesson Learned:
Small mass produced buildings > Large unique building
I only have 1.5hrs left in my challenge to create wooden doors and windows, tin roofing sheets and roller doors.

See the results of the weekend's work here

Saturday 14 July 2012

Fast Cheap Terrain 28mm Infinity - Part II

While I was out shopping with the wife I used up most of my remaining budget (PVC pipe for fuel pipeline/craft containers for tanks and drums) but I know have invaluable scatter terrain; fuel drums, storage tanks and piping.  The sort of stuff that is vital to survival in Infinity.

PVC T-Junction $1.50 x 3
PVC L-Bend $1.50 x 2
PVC Straight Pipe $5
Aluminium spraypaint $2
2 x sets 12 craft containers $6
1 x multi-set craft containers $3
1 x large craft containers $3
Subtotal = $24.50
(Running total $96.50)

 The L-shaped buildings were more elaborate as I gained confidence working with foamboard.
The fuel pipeline and tanks are VERY shiny but will receive a black wash and some rust streaks.
The piping was $1.50 a section vs $6 per section for resin

 Buildings - Stage II
I hosed down my new "drums" and "pipes" with aluminium spray paint. With a good dark wash and then maybe some "rust" streaks they should look pretty reasonable.

I then created two more 10x20cm buildings with roller doors (bringing my base total to 8); and two L-shaped buildings (20x20cm). I am making the interiors more elaborate as I get faster and more confident at cutting.

I am only pinning the walls in place; they get some PVA glue in the sealing process but I don't want walls to be impossible to pull apart.  This approach was justified when I found a few pinned buildings from a previous project which I pulled apart, and reused some wall portions.

I also made some 10x10cm mini-buildings which I will use as a second-story atop my 'base' buildings to add variety.

Again I used the same PVA-glue seal + spraypaint technique to quickly coat up the buildings.

 The two large buildings were adapted from an old project as they fortuitously happened to have a 20x20cm base. They can stack to make a single double-storey building.

Total Elapsed time: 6hrs

The buildings are far from the epitome of a modeller's art, but they can be assembled and painted and are achievable in large numbers. A bit of detailing (adding in doors, windows, random electronic boxes and roofing sheeting) should tidy them up to look OK.

Tomorrow's Goals:
"Donya Fortress"  - build a large building with a central courtyard inspired by a BF3 map
1-3 large buildings - warehouse, factory, meetinghouse/mosque (as foamcore supply permits)
Scatter terrain - drums, trees, gardens, pond; make fences with foamcore scraps
Detailing - doors, windows, roller doors, tin roofs

  The ability to stack buildings means you can arrange the buildings in a myriad of ways.  They can be crammed together so close you can leap from rooftop to rooftop....

Link to Part 3

Fast Cheap Terrain 28mm Infinity - Part I

Infinity needs terrain. Lots of it. When you think your table has too much terrain - add more.
I want Infinity terrain with a unified theme, not just a jumble of AT43 shipping crates and random buildings thrown together in a desperate attempt to block lethal fire lanes. 

There are three enemies of terrain - time, cost, and storage space.

Micro Art Studio, Sarissa Precision and Warmill have great mdf terrain but with baseline buildings around $30-40 each a good table with a dozen or so buildings could set you back $400+

Paper terrain can look great but can be a real pain to print and cut out. And considering colour toner cost, they aren't that cheap, especially combined with the man-hours to create them. 

My goals:
Terrain must be unified in theme
Terrain must cost under $100
Terrain must be able to be assembled in a weekend (presuming 4 x 3-hr sessions)

I really like my Middle Eastern 15mm terrain as it serves from ancient times to near-future sci fi.  After playing "Firefall" - which is very Infinity-esque, I was struck by the design asthetic of mud brick houses and sci fi tech.  It also gives me an excuse to use my sand table.

 Firefall (a free MMORPG) taps into the anime vibe of Infinity. It also mixes slum dwellings with hi-tech; a good source of design inspiration.

I am going to go with 5mm foamcore due to the fact it is so easily shaped with a hobby knife, and has natural thickness for walls. It is quite light and from experience I know it can get bumped a bit - I had resolved to build it on a mdf base but the weight this would introduce would preclude stacking.

Foamcore sheet 770 x 400mm (5mm) 6 sheets @ $4 = $24
Dressmaker's pins $6
PVA glue $6
Gap filler $8
Corrugated cardboard roll $2
Mocha spraypaint $7
Warm ochre spraypaint $7
Misc balsa (hobby bag) $12
Carpenter's square ruler (right angle ruler)

Total = $72
Basic Technique- Building
I am going for 10x10cm (4x4") "squares" - all by buildings are going to be based on this 10cm unit.
This allows for easy stacking and also aligns with the usual 4" short move in Infinity. This is a formula which has worked for me in the past.

I pumped out six 10cm x 20cm buildings, using the following formula for consistency:

Walls are 5cm high.
Doors are 3cm wide and 4cm high
Windows are located 2cm up the wall, and are 3cm wide by 2cm high. 

I made one building and assembled it as a template. The pins held it firmly in place.
I mass produced 20cm x 5cm wall strips which I trimmed down to 10x5cm sizes needed.
I then disassembled my 'prototype' and use it to trace the parts for another five buildings.  

20/20 Hindsight: I could have "flipped" the front on some of the buildings so the positions of the doors and windows were reversed, giving more variation. 

Building Note: You need to trim down the end walls to 9cm x 5cm in order to fit the walls "inside" the long walls and still fit on the base.

The first half dozen took me a while to build - but that included working out a common design
I use a sand table that took me $22 and 30 minutes to make

I then used gap filler (white sealant) to seal and smooth any cracks. It also gave a more 'organic' look and texture to the the foamboard.

I smeared PVA glue over any exposed foam.  (It is important to cover any exposed foam as the thinners in spraypaint will eat away at it, wrecking your building). I experimented with using paint but the PVA had the added benefit of bonding the pinned walls AND it filled gaps.

20/20 Hindsight:  After a few models I had abandoned the paint and was using gap filler for only the largest gaps, as PVA glue seemed to fulfill both roles as both foam sealant and gap filler - and it applies quicker and easier.

I have used this technique before on my 1:300 models.  A thorough undercoat of mocha with warm ochre sprayed lightly over the top from a distance so it falls onto the top of the building. Sort of a dry-brushing with spray paint if you will.

I am leaving this til later as I want to get more buildings done today.

Instead, I make four 10x10cm "attic" second story sections (or they could double as a very small hut) and another two 20x10cm buildings. These will be garages/small workshops with a roller door.

So far I am quite pleased with the amount of stuff I have - I'm steadily filling the board.  In addition, the "modularity" of them means they can be pushed together or used as 1 or 2 storey buildings. It's a bit rough looking but I have yet to detail them.  It's like a mini where you only have the primary colours.

Elapsed time: 3 hours

 I added roofs and a few 10x10cm "attic" rooms. The two new buildings will have corrugated cardboard garage doors

Off to the shops with the wife - may see if I can spend some more of my budget on "bits and pieces"

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Empire of the Dead - Rulebook Review (28mm VSF Horror Skirmish)

This is the third in my three part horror review series which includes Chaos in Carpathia and Strange Aeons.  Empire in the Dead is a skirmish game by West Wind, creators of Secrets of the Third Reich - which is a wonderful excuse to buy stompy Weird War 2 mecha

West Wind makes a well-timed jump on the trendy steampunk/vampire/werewolf bandwagon

The Shiny: A 150-page hardback which surpasses West Wind's SOTR book by an order of magnitude.  It has generous formatting and is an easy read. The art (which I thought rather amateurish in SOTR and isn't much better here) thankfully takes a back seat to lots of great colour photos of minis AND examples of gameplay.   It has plenty of fluff - 22 pages of it - to support the background and factions, and evokes the mood of Victorian sci fi horror well. I'd rather the fluff was in the back rather than the front of the book but at least it is all in the one place rather than interrupting the rules *cough* Malifaux *cough*.  In fact the well-developed factions remind me of Malifaux but I feel EotD has a stronger, more identifiable theme - Malifaux tries to do too much with its wild west-goblins-undead-magic-steampunk-demons-mechs that its background universe is positively incoherent. There are marker templates and a 1-page quick reference sheet which highlights how simple the game is.
 Overall: Well laid out, great photos - well worth the price of admission. 

A nicely presented rulebook, solid value - I have few complaints

The stats are VERY vanilla.  In fact the stat lines of  Movement-Shooting-Melee-Strength-Toughness-Attacks-Wounds-Morale-Magic are basically a direct rip from 40K, LOTR, Mordhiem and many similar wargames.  This is not surprising, as Andy Chambers (a GW pioneer) is behind both SOTR and Empire of the Dead. EotD switches to d10 which is a great move as it offers more (and more gradual) modifiers and degrees of ability. In addition there isn't the need to make a series of rolls (i.e. roll 6, then roll a 4+ on a 2nd dice) like games using the more limited d6.

Surprisingly, EotD even uses a modified version of the the rather outdated IGOUGO that has been abandoned by most modern skirmish games in favour of alternate movement, in a further nod to its GW roots.

 Play sequence goes:
(a)  Maintenance (simultaneous - wound recovery/morale checks)
(b) Roll for initiative (IGOUGO)
(c) Actions: Player A activates, moves and shoots all his models; then player B activates, moves and shoots all his models;
(d) Both sides melee, in order decided by initiative player (Player A)

Actions include the usual walk-run-charge; units can climb, jump gaps, fly and fall.

Missile attacks roll to hit, then to wound (on a universal  'opposed' table). The d10 allows modifiers to be "built in" to the stats and the hit and damage rolls rather than needing an extra"save" roll like GW games.  There is an overwatch mechanic - which always adds more tactics to a game.

In melee, players roll as many d10 as they have attacks.  The highest dice (after adding or subtracting modifiers) wins.  If they tie, the player with the highest combat score wins.  Basically identical to GW's Lord of the Rings skirmish game. However in this case I feel a d10 is not as good as a d6. I'm not a fan of this mechanic and the d10 makes it worse.  The "Melee" rating is almost irrelevant; a melee level 8 super melee expert ninja has a 60-40 chance to beat a melee 1 weakling grandma.  A level 2 peasant has the same 60-40 chance of beating the grandma. Having a higher melee rating makes only a 10% difference in any case.  Multiple attacks are disproportionately important. If the "weakling" has 2 attacks, he would probably defeat the super ninja most of the time.
Like in the missile phase, the winner then makes an opposed roll against the loser (strength vs toughness) to wound. 

The "opposed roll" is made on a chart similar to the 40K/Warhammer/LOTR  Wounding tables, and showcases the extra choices of a 10-sided dice. To be honest I don't see the need for a chart - simply adding a d10 to each model's stats works well for opposed rolls. On the other hand, the opposed chart is used for all opposed actions so at least it is consistent - you only refer to 1 chart.

Wounded models roll a d6 on an injury table and can be:
dazed (with  penalties to dice rolls) staggering 2" with a compulsory movement; it can defend itself but cannot damage foes or initiate attacks; automatically recovers next turn
down - crawls 2" towards cover; recovers if rolls '1' on d6 injury table (a 2nd "down" removes)
removed from play - seriously injured, maybe dead

 This gives you an idea of some of the great minis photos inside the rulebook
There is a free "demo" set of limited rules here

Magic is simple to use.
Passive magic must simply pass a d10 roll compared against the difficulty rating of the spell/ability.
Active magic rolls a d10, adds the caster's magic rating then subtracts the defender's magic rating. If the total passes the difficulty rating of the spell/ability, the spell works.

I really like the selection of spells and powers which offer a good range and really "fit" the genre well. Vampires can mesmerize targets, clerics can bless weapons, trap demons and smite the supernatural.  Undead and vermin can be summoned.  Those with the foresight to see the future can re-roll dice.  

I also like how supernatural creatures cause terror on mundane (normal) opponents but also test for terror themselves when confronted with a crucifix, for example.

Overall: Pretty much Lord of the Rings Skirmish with a new coat of paint, d10s and a better magic system. Calling it original is like respraying a Ford Fiesta, fitting it with race tyres, and calling it a Corvette.  However it IS a slicker, more evolved version of well-loved campaign games like Mordhiem, and familiar GW-style mechanics make it easy to learn.  The d10 generally was an inspired move but I feel exacerbated problems with the melee mechanics. The core rules take only 22 pages and the magic rules another 8 - simples!

Unkind people might suggest EotD is simply a re-badged version of GW's LOTR

Campaign System
This is the remaining 95 pages of the book.  Creating a faction is simple - you may only have up to 1/3rd of your force as heroes (who seem to have the all-important extra attacks and wounds; they also can use all the cool toys and exotic weapons) the other 2/3rds are made up of minions.   

Factions are
Holy Order - a "good" aligned faction of templar monks from the Church who can bless their weapons
Lycoans - "neutral" faction who have werewolves, wolves and human servants. 
Nosferatu - "evil" - vampire lords, their consorts and their thralls. Weaker in daylight.
Gentleman's Club - these come in several flavours
     Diogenes Club style "Sons of the Empire" - a good faction
     Darkfire Club of evil occultists and necromancers
     Wulfen Jager - "good" hand to hand experts who hunt monsters
     Zendrians - Prussian officers and swordsmen (neutral)
I suspect there are more factions to come.  

Weapons, Equipment
There are plenty of weapons from brass knuckles, stakes, halberds to shotguns, heavy revolvers and hunting rifles.  One of the better weapon lists I've seen lately with 25+ choices.

The generic equipment list includes 15 items bulls-eye lanterns, grappling hooks, silver ammo, relics and firebrands.  There are also 16 other exotic weapons such as garlic grenades, tesla coils, heat rays, pneumatic stake launchers and gatling guns.

 The steam exo-skeleton could be modelled from this from Recreational Conflict
Anatoli has a great painted version in his excellent blog

Campaign Play
There are 5 scenarios and 5 randomly generated areas from residential areas and sewers to countryside.  There is plenty of detail in the scenarios but I would have liked more choices.

Players have 500 shillings to buy players and equipment, hire mercenaries or purchase "Influences" 

After a game, injured players roll on the injury table and suffer a range of debilitating effects, or even become "unhinged" which means they might go mental or rock in a corner after failing a morale test.  Models can visit the doctor to be healed, sell equipment at a pawnbroker, or be arrested by the peelers and lose all their equipment. 

Experience is "bought" by paying 10 shillings per advancement roll.  Each player can roll once and may choose from one of the three tables - to increase their attributes, generic skills or faction-specific skills. There are 37 skills that can be gained, from "Regeneration" and "Luna Sight" to "Marksman."

Calculating the value of warbands is easy - starting cost of models + treasury + money spent on upgrades.

"Unusual Occurences" can also be bought and use to influence in game play. One unusual occurrence can be invoked per hero.  They include "Full Moon"  "Holy Ground" and "Angry Mob" - you can guess how they would be used in gameplay. 

Overall: A pretty straightforward system which seems to cover all bases thoroughly; plenty of equipment, skills and abilities to suit the genre

For those looking for the "next Mordhiem" - well, this is it

TL:DR  An evolution, not a revolution from Mordhiem.  In fact the game is simply GW's Lord of the Rings skirmish game  (or "Legends of the Old West/High Seas") with d10s. Andy Chambers has shown with Starship Troopers (and to a lesser extent SOTR) an ability to innovate beyond GW's stagnant Yahtzee-with-lots-of-expensive-models rulesets but this is simply a copy and paste job, with a more interesting magic system than the rather bland choices in LOTR. 

However  LOTR (the best of GW's "big three" games) is a solid platform for skirmish campaign games (as proven by the success of the spin-off Legends historical series); the use of d10 is a positive move, and the game will be easy to learn/introduce to new players. The factions, fluff and campaign system seems solid.  I have concerns about melee (or the supreme importance of multiple attacks > pointless actual melee skill) as peasants dual-wielding bread knives are likely to defeat a single attack super ninja, but this is simply solved by giving the super ninjas extra attacks.

In summary - similar to Lord of the Rings Skirmish in mechanics, and Mordhiem in campaign flavour, but superior to both.  

Verdict: West Wind have come out with a solid mini lineup from the get-go.  Whilst nothing revolutionary, EotD simple, old-school GW mechanics will be easy to pick up. Starter box sets are affordable and the minis are pretty solid sculpts waaay ahead of the old West Wind stuff. If you like steampunk, Victorian horror (vampires, werewolves, Jekyll-Hyde etc), or campaign games; or your old Mordhiem/Necromunda group wants to move on to something better and fresher, you can't go past EotD. Recommended

Other thoughts:
Chaos in Carpathia (a $10 pdf) would be a vastly cheaper option (married with Blue Moon's excellent range of 15mm minis - you get a warband for $7 and a mass of 30 zombies, civilians or monsters for $15)

I also liked Strange Aeons -  similar in price to EotD, but is more narrow in scope - it deals with Cthulhu and cultists (1930s pulp). It is also not directly competitive (players warbands do not directly fight each other) which reduces cheesy builds and unfair mismatches, but since it is so niche, and everyone is the "good guy" faction it might not have the same replay value.

All different "flavours" - all worthwhile games.