Saturday, December 31, 2016

My entry to the 6x6 Challenge 2017

So, it seems my expectations of getting back to the world of gaming in September were optimistic, and here we are at the last day of the year. This time I am not making a review post. Instead, I will be skipping right to 2017 with the 6x6 Challenge.

I found out today, through Shaun's blog, about the 6x6 Challenge by Kaptain Kobold: pick six games, play each six times through the year and blog about these plays. After months of inactivity, I expect that this provides motivation to get back to some miniature gaming in the next year.

My chosen games are six titles that I have not played yet (or only tested a bit.) Two are not miniature games, but are dedicated solo games:

1) And a Bottle of Rum (Two Hour Wargames): some time ago, I got the bundle with the Free Ports expansion, so this includes all things pirate. Sea battles, exploration, skirmishes, large battles. I have a number of ship tokens and pirate paper miniatures that may be useful.

2) Clash on the Fringe (Nordic Weasel Games): a game about space adventures and exploration, including campaign and solo rules. I wonder how I have not yet played this, since I mostly play sci-fi skirmishes.

3) Mercenary Air Squadron (Victory By Any Means Games): a solo strategy game about leading a group of mercenary pilots, making profits and upgrading equipment. I have meant to play this a few times but always stop at the preparation.

4) Morale Napoleon (Two Hour Wargames): a game of large Napoleonic battles, a bit scary to me as I do not have any experience with that period (and very little experience with historical wargaming.) Still, if things get too complicated, I can play the "alternate universe" card and get things done regardless of proper uniforms!

5) MOTH - The Ion Age (Alternative Armies): a miniature game of sci-fi battles. It comes with its own setting and forces, but seems flexible enough to create variations. It seems to share some rules with USE ME, which is a system I like.

6) Star Trader (Zozer Games): a solo strategy game about managing a trader starship, using the Traveller RPG rules. I read and played a bit with the Traveller rules, and I expect that this game will give some structure to play solo with them.

So that is it, the clock starts ticking in a few hours (in my timezone) and even if I cannot play each of these games six times, trying them all will be great anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back to the world of gaming!

The last months have been really busy, but now I am finally getting back to miniature gaming. I have a number of Osprey wargames to read (bought in a Bundle of Holding offer), including In Her Majesty's Name and Fistful of Kung Fu.

I have just noticed that Tabletop Simulator now supports figurines with fronts and backs, so I might have yet another use to the large number of paper miniatures I have been buying (and not always printing) over the years.

By the way, I would really love to try it with HTC Vive to see how close it gets to the actual tabletop experience. Has anyone tried it yet?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Blast Pistol

It seems shaking my habit of buying rule sets is harder than I thought, as I have added a few to my collection, including Blast Pistol. This is the new game from Nordic Weasel, and intended for quick pick-up games in sci-fi settings.

One interesting thing about Blast Pistol is that it is published as a "living rules system", meaning it will be updated as time goes. Right now the rule book is very bare-bones, and I would normally be wary of this proposition (having purchased rules that were later abandoned in a bad state by other authors). However, considering how Five Core has evolved in a relatively short time, I think it will work well.

Right now, Blast Pistol is a very simple rules system, with an alternate activation turn sequence in which players select and activate a number of units at a time. Miniatures are single based and grouped into squads or act as individuals. There are some unit templates for squads, heroes and vehicles. The writing is clear but since the document is very concise, it requires attention. For instance, in my first read I was hunting for the definition of damage in vehicles, which is presented in a bullet point on the section about big models.

As a pick-up game, battles are played as meeting engagements, fighting four turns and counting how many points in units each player has destroyed after that. Here is one simple example with balanced forces: on one side, three colonial militia squads, a gunsliger and a hero (302 points) against 3 precursor squads (300 points).
Board setup: a virtual 4'x4' table with some obstacles. Precursors at the bottom of the image, colonial forces at the top. The grey patches are rock formations that are impassable and block line of sight.
Turn 1: the colonial forces go first but don't kill anything. The precursors cause damage to one of the colonial militia squads.
Turn 2: colonial forces keep advancing and the hero and gunslinger move. In the exchange of fire, both sides lose some units.
Turn 3: the colonial forces move to a position where they can fire more effectively, but miss most shots. The precursors are then able to shoot back and cause lots of damage. Two colonial squads flee the battlefield.
Turn 4: the precursors defeat the gunslinger and hero. The last colonial squad only hits one enemy. The game ends with a clear victory for the precursors.
After this battle, I played again two more times (that is the beauty of a virtual tabletop: you can set up a scenario, save it and then quickly replay it several times.) On the second, the precursors won by 146 vs. 120 points (point costs of defeated enemies.) The third was also won by the precursors, 210 vs. 120 points. I guess the terrain favored the longer range of the precursor weapons, although I also had some terrible rolls for the colonial forces.

These are only my first impressions, as I have not tried battles using vehicles or other big models. I also want to try other board sizes and setups. So far, it seems to work well for quick games. Based on the rules for activation and morale, I think smaller squads (of 4-5 troops) are better than larger ones.

There are no solo rules, and I do not think this game is aimed at solo play. That said, I think it would be simple to adapt the solo rules from Five Core or No End in Sight if one wanted to.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The ruins of Algor'nas: a 4 Against Darkness adventure

I picked up 4 Against Darkness (by Ganesha Games) a few weeks ago and played my first adventure this weekend. My party of four adventurers consisted of the following, in marching order:

Stegmo: level 1 warrior, equipped with light armor, mace, shield. Carrying 1 bandage. 7 life.
Kernas: level 1elf, equipped with light armor, sword, bow (default). Spells: blessing. Carrying 1 bandage. 5 life.
Abugol: level 1 wizard, equipped with a dagger and spell book. Carrying a lantern, 1 bandages and 10 gold. Spells: 3x fireball. 3 life.
Sharnas: level 1 rogue, equipped with a sling (default), dagger, light armor and lock picks. Carrying 1 bandages, rope and 10 gold. 4 life.

The entrance to the dungeon was a large room with two doors and a poorly lit corridor. Before trying the doors, the adventurers decided to move down the corridor. They found a closed door and beyond, another room with an alchemist in it. They did not have enough gold to purchase the strange potions he had, and so he moved on.
Starting a dungeon. I opened the provided graph paper template in Gimp and scribbled the rooms there.
They opened the next door to find a weird bug-like creature with four claws, dripping a green goo from its mandibles. "Iron-eater!", Stegmo shouted and leaped at the creature, hitting its head with his mace. Kernas hit a weak spot of its carapace with an arrow, and Sharnas exploded one of its eyes with a good sling toss. The monster dropped to the ground. After the fight, Kernas found a magic sword that somehow was not eaten by the monster. [Besides finding the treasure, Kernas gained a level.]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Five Core Expanded Steatlh Rules

A while ago, I posted about Black Ops and it was fun playing stealth missions with that system. Afterwards, I bought Five Core Field Guide, which has a number of optional rules and extensions to the Five Core rules. One of the most interesting is the expansion for stealth missions, which was also incorporated into Five Core 3rd edition.

The expanded stealth rules include more detailed rules for patrolling defenders, distractions and stealth kills. Here is a battle report using them with "basic" Five Core 3rd edition rules.

In this battle, the infiltrators, set up on the left, must contact the small building guarded by the defense forces and make a task roll to plant explosives. The following picture shows the table setup. The red dice are patrol points. The two chainsaw-wielding soldiers in front of the building are static sentries. The rest of them may move between patrol points.

Game setup
One fire team of the infiltrators moved through the woods while the other waited in cover. The patrolling sentries started moving towards the other patrol points.

Let's get moving.
One of the infiltrators created a distraction for the closest sentry (marked with the green die), allowing the other two to run behind the other patch of woods. However, the noise from running caused another sentry to cross the woods and find them. The sentry raised the alarm and the stealth segment was over.

What's that noise? Surprise!
One of the infiltrators fired at the sentry but missed. From this point on, it took a few standard Five Core turns (with only one rolled fire fight and no scurry turns) until the infiltrators were pushed away from the map.
A few turns later, only the infiltrators in the ruins remained.
The infiltrators in the ruins still tried to make another push, taking cover behind the hill, but when they got closer to the building, the rest of the defenders had already taken positions to suppress any attempts of getting closer.

Compared to Black Ops, the stealth rules in Five Core are less complex but also result in a fun game. I have the impression that in Black Ops it is more difficult for the defenders to raise the alarm. Maybe this is because that game is noticeably inspired by "stealth-action" video games, so the focus is in smaller, elite infiltration forces that try to keep hidden until the end of the mission.

In Five Core, it seems to me that stealth will play a part in initial infiltration and positioning of a strike force. In particular, I am interested in trying a few more games between evenly matched forces, to see if stealth can compensate for the positioning advantage of the defending force.

There are no specific rules for handling the sentries in a solo stealth game using Five Core (or at least I could not find them), so here are my house rules:
1. Spread patrol points to make a large triangle on the board, with one patrol point near the defenders' edge of the table. Number the patrol points: the one closest to the defenders' edge is #1, the others are #2 and #3.
2. Roll a die for each patrolling sentry. On a 1-2 they will make a circular route around the patrol points. On a 3-4, they will move back and forth between points #1 and #2. On a 5-6, they will move between points #1 and #3.
3. Roll another die to define direction of patrol. For circular routes, even means clockwise and odd means counter-clockwise. For linear routes, even means the sentry starts moving towards point #1, and odd means they start moving towards the higher-numbered patrol point.
4. Deploy the patrolling sentries within 8" of the edge. Sentries in a linear route should be placed as close to halfway through the route as possible. Sentries in a circular route should be placed near patrol point #1.
5. When a patrolling sentry moves, they will approach a noise marker if it is closer than the next patrol point on their route. Afterwards, if there is no contact, they will resume their route.

It might be possible to fine tune these house rules by taking into consideration the level of aggression of the defenders and other factors.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tone Pulsar and the missing com-link

I have just finished playing my first adventure using Future Tales by Two Hour Wargames. Here is the report, followed by some first impressions about the game.

I started by creating my Star, and then recruiting (rolling) a co-star and grunt to help:

Tone Pulsar / Rep 5 Star / Human Male
Star power: 4 (base 5)
Attributes: Nerves of steel, Pilot
Class: Adventurer / Circle: Exotic (SS 3) / Profession: Pilot
Weapons: Laser pistol, shock dagger
Home: Office at the commerce area of Starlis station, orbiting planet Gablum

Yeerox / Rep 3 Co-star / Klorian Female
Attributes: Genius, Tough
Class: Civilian / Circle: Civilian / Profession: Merchant
Weapons: Laser pistol
*Klorians are a humanoid alien race with bat-like heads and furry skin.

Ingrid / Rep 3 Grunt / Small human Female
Attributes: Initiative, Slight
Class: Criminal Element / Circle: Criminal / Profession: Thief
Weapons: Knife

A bit of invented lore
The post of Free Agent was created after the Galactic Empire was forced to admit that there was just too much going on for the imperial forces to handle. An Imperial Free Agent is granted a limited amount of power to conduct investigations on the Empire's behalf in distant sectors of the galaxy. They are allowed to form an agency and hire deputies and assistants. In practice, investigations often turn into conflicts with local crime lords, which the Empire is glad to ignore.

The Missing Com-link

Lieutenant Wilka came looking for help after she and friends were attacked while on leave. She had her com-link stolen, and it held some intimate pictures. That is why she came to the agency: she wanted it solved before any of it reached the galactic network. The incident happened on the space station orbiting planet Kerris, and so that was Tone's first stop.

[I rolled a "Find object" mission requiring 3 clues. The "Big Bad" class was Royal Pain, which became Baron Brezal (Rep 6 noble)]

Retro-futuristic rocket approaching a planet.

Scene 1
Planet Kerris / Space station Morgane / Quarters

Tone and crew flew on their agency spaceship to Space Station Morgane, orbiting planet Kerris. During their travel, Yeerox found out that a security engineer might have footage of the assault against Lt. Wilka, so their plan was to look for him. They arranged a meeting at an electronics supply store in the quarters sector of the station -- a place that should be safe.

The store was empty when they arrived -- a trap. Three large guys carrying heavy guns surrounded them: two coming from the storage area and one closing the front door. Tone tried playing the "free agent" card and it paid off: the thugs admitted working for Baron Brezal, who apparently didn't pay them too well. From what they said, Brezal had ordered the attack after Lt. Wilka had ignored his advances. A petty motive, but not surprising for local nobles.

[Still, this scene was a failure as they didn't gain a clue about the object.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Vagrant

Previously: Winston and crew reached Zetaris, a Zhuh-zhuh controlled world, and sold some stolen cargo there. Now they must find another job.

Month #9
One night, Winston was heading back to his hotel when a Xeog and a friend surrounded him. He had seen it before: expensive clothes, unfocused eyes from drinking or something else. These were the stressed-out corp execs looking for a living punch bag. Axor had stayed behind, looking for who knows what, and reached Winston as the Xeog held him and the other girl hit in the stomach. The Xeog let Winston lose as she felt Axor's grip on her neck. She spun around impossibly and hit him with a kick, to which he barely flinched. While the two fought, Winston and the other human also traded blows. In the end the troblemakers were laying on the ground, knocked out.

Winston spent the rest of the month looking for jobs on Trellis. He had had enough of Zetaris but he wanted someone to pay for the expenses of leaving the planet to somewhere else. He got a delivery job with Togal, to bring a shipment of industrial components to Krema, another Zhuh-zhuh colony on the first sector of the fourth ring.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Battleblade: first impressions

I recently purchased Battleblade by Echidna Games. It is a fast and simple rules set for fantasy skirmish battles. The author notes that Song of Blades and Heroes was an influence, and it does share the feature of having a short stat line and special rules (abilities) for figures.

The game uses an IGOUGO turn system, with limited number of activations per turn. There are no reactions, but to be honest I do not think those are so necessary in medieval fantasy battles (as opposed to modern or sci-fi battles.)

Most actions are resolved with a single roll with a few modifiers, and there is little need for status markers on the table. Since figures can have various abilities, a roster sheet or some unit cards will probably be helpful for players.

The rules are easy to learn -- furthermore, they are very well organized and clearly written. The book also features pictures at the right places, serving as welcome examples, and I think this must be one of the most newbie-friendly miniature game books around. It assumes very little from the reader, states things clearly, shows many examples and has a decent glossary and turn flowchart (even though the turn sequence is quite simple.)

One interesting bit is that the game is written for 54mm scale miniatures mounted on 50mm round bases.  The larger scale makes the recommended table size 4'x4', but it also means that it is possible to play with 28mm scale miniatures mounted on 25mm round bases on a board as small as 2'x2'. I played a few test battles on MapTool to learn the rules and it worked well.

A test battle between 100-point forces in Battleblade, in a simulated 2'x2' board with 28mm miniatures
And what about solo play? The rules do not mention it, but I think it would not be hard to include ideas from Featherstone's books or from other rule systems, given the simple turn structure and combat rules. In fact, setting a goal for the enemy band and using "blinds" before enemy contact might be enough for basic solo play with this game. However, I still have to try that.

My first impression of Battleblade is that it is a good introductory miniatures game. It plays quickly and it is not difficult to pick up a figure and build its profile to use in the game. There are other game systems with similar purpose, but at its low price, it might be worth looking.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A large battle of elves vs. orcs in MapTool

After some time of inactivity, here is a battle report of elves vs. orcs using Rally Round the King, played in MapTool. In this battle, the elves led by Yoselith the Defender have arrived to challenge Warchief Zagul's campaign of conquest.

Game setup, with a 1" grid and force leaders marked

Yoselith's forces are concentrated at the center. At the front there are four units of elf archers, followed by two bodies of elf soldiers. At the rear, Yoselith stands with three units of elf marines, ready to come to support the battle as needed. [As I played the elves, I made the recruitment rolls and deployed them before finding out what the orcs would do.]

Zagul's main forces are a wide line of melee troops including ogres at the center, black moon orcs and then orc soldiers. In front of them are three units of skirmishers (orc archers.) Warchief Zagul stands with two units of wolf riders and two units of soldiers. Ready to take the other flank are two units of trolls and another two units of soldiers. Lastly, their reserve is composed of two more units of soldiers.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Starfighters for MapTool

Here is another token pack for MapTool. This time there are four starfighter styles, in three color schemes.
A compressed file containing the tokens and the Inkscape file with the original vector drawings can be downloaded by clicking here. The files are shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Vagrant - Zetaris

Previously: Winston and team left Letos II after some troubles, and are on route to Zetaris, a Zhuh-zhuh controlled world. On the way, they picked up some cargo from pirates that attacked the Vagrant.

Month #7
The rest of the trip to Zetaris was uneventful. Winston and crew landed on the spaceport of Trellis, a smaller, industrial settlement, and went looking for someone to sell the pirate cargo.

On their way to the Mutant Shack, a seedy tavern at the Pub & Rec area, they met a couple of scientists looking for "recreational drugs." During the rest of the night, they attracted the attention of a local gang, but Winston managed to avoid a fight. Then a band of drunk administrative workers also tried to pick a fight but Pingh convinced Winston that they would not find any dealer around, so they left.

Month #8
Winston was contacted by Gek, leader of the gang he met last month, who invited him to go and meet some "important people." While they went to the Triangle Casino, they met Anders, a local dealer. Winston arranged to meet him again later.

At the casino, they met with Togal, a Zhuh-zhuh that Gek described as "the owner of the trade business in Trellis." Winston caused a good impression on him, who said that he might have some jobs for him later. [Note: this was a chillin' encounter caused by a random event.]

Anders and Winston met at the Mutant Shack. It seemed that his luck was changing: he had no encounters on his way and Anders was, indeed, waiting for him at the tavern. They arranged a meeting at the Spaceport area the next night.

Winston went along with Pingh and Axor. Anders was accompanied by three mercenaries. Winston tried to haggle a better price for the cargo, but did not succeed. Still, the cargo was sold and thus, they had more money on hand. Time to go somewhere else, but not before talking to Togal one more time.

Winston gained two Rep D6 for selling the pirate cargo, but they did not cause a Rep increase (neither die rolled a 6.) His lifetime total is 6 dice, still too low for a comfortable retirement.

Note: This post accidentally went "live" on march 19th, and then was corrected and updated on march 22nd.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An ambush between tribesmen

Theg, a veteran warrior, is on patrol with his nephew Dorn and Ebner, the archer. There have been conflicts with a neighboring tribe and they have to make sure no enemies are hiding in their territory.
[The warriors must reach the opposing board edge and return, having passed through both patches of wood to complete their patrol. The yellow pieces are possible enemy forces.]

A group of two warriors and an archer appears from behind the large rocks. The enemy archer shoots an arrow at Theg, missing. They run towards cover of the nearby low wall and Ebner takes down the archer. The enemy warriors are scattered, running for cover.

Theg and companions advance, then the enemy springs from the woods. Another group of two warriors and archer. Again, the enemy archer misses Theg, and then the warriors enter combat. Theg manages to hurt his opponent before being cut down. Dorn, eager to enter combat, is quickly defeated with a stab in the chest.

Terrified, Ebner flees and the enemies do not chase him.

This battle was played using Chain Reaction Swordplay 2015 and only took two turns in 20-30 minutes of play. Flat terrain was drawn with sharpies and colored with crayons in a bout of arts and crafts mood. Miniatures are very simple outlines of warriors and archers done in Inkscape and built in tri-fold shape. Everything was done in reduced scale, using centimeters instead of inches.

The battle between Theg (rep 5 star) and the enemy veteran warrior turned into a mini-game with several rounds. It got me rolling for Star Power three times, and this was the first time I saw all Star Power dice being expended in a battle. Meanwhile, Dorn lost the first round of melee and his opponent rolled a natural 6, killing him right away.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Vagrant - Letos II

Previously: Winston and team took a transport job to take a Hishen investigative reporter to Letos II, in the 5th ring.

Month #4
There were no more events during the trip and the Vagrant landed on Polara -- the one and only settlement on the planet. Letos II was an independent planet and Polara served as a trading post and headquarters to a few corporations. Due to the weather and radiation, most of Polara was built underground.

The spaceport of Polara on Letos II.
Keorn paid the rest of the credits for the trip and left them on the spaceport. Winston decided to go looking for information traders in the pub & rec area of the settlement.

Late in the night, Pingh sighted him entering the cheap hotel in a hurry. "What's up?" he asked in the usual reproving tone. "Maybe we should get out of this place..." Winston sounded tired. He told about the Xeog corporate executive who picked a fight with him for no reason, and ended up bleeding in an alley, and the Razor who tried to rob him on the way back. "And of course, you couldn't find any broker," Pingh finished, shaking his head.

Still, the pay for the transport job was good, and he was alive and without any bullet holes. [This month, Winston accumulated 3 increasing Rep dice, which added to his lifetime total. He also increased his Rep to 6, thanks to a good roll.]

Month #5
Convinced that the planet was more trouble than it was worth, Winston decided to go to Zetaris, a Zhuh-zhuh class 1 world on the fourth ring, sixth sector. Thus they took off from Letos II and on to the jump gate.

On the way, they avoided contact with another Hishen ship, and then were approached by a Zhuh-zhuh cutter on patrol, who inspected the Vagrant but did not find anything unusual.

Month #6
Before they could reach the jump gate, the Vagrant was attacked by a pirate ship. The pirates came in firing their lasers and demanding that Winston and crew surrendered. Instead, he was able to outmaneuver and cause extensive damage to the enemy ship.

Seeing that their ambush did not work, and unable to escape due to his damaged ship, the pirate captain surrendered. Despite Pingh's suggestions, they put all the pirates on life pods, sent them to a nearby planet and destroyed the ship, gaining some contraband.

After this, they met a Xeog named Virka, in command of a trader ship. They traveled together to sector 6 and then parted ways. Zetaris was now near, and Winston had high hopes of finding buyers for both the data pack and the cargo gained from the pirates. [This month, Winston gained 1 increasing Rep die because of the combat with the pirate ship. It rolled a 6, causing another increase in Rep!]

These three months were very good for Winston, although he still has a long way to go if he wants to retire comfortably. Now, at Rep 7, he can take more risks.

This time I had my first ship to ship combat in Fringe Space. The rules take a bit to get used to, as the battle flows from table to table (like in Red Sun Black Moon, for instance) but they work well and do not require setting up a board, especially if there are only two ships involved.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Battle for Zorpel: Closing Time

After ten battle reports, I think it is time to finish the Battle for Zorpel campaign. A few thoughts about the campaign and the tools presented in Five Core 2:

The campaign system is good, with its random events and character advancement. The campaign progress system may result in quite long campaigns if you play until one side reaches 10 progress points. During these 10 battles, it fluctuated between -2 and 2.

The mission generator is great. The board setups that I ended up playing were quite different from each other and different from what I would have made on my own. I barely used the force generator but I can see them both used together to create very different one-shot games.

The character classes and skills add detail and variety to the forces and worked really well in this campaign, in which each side had 3-4 figures.

Despite all of these tools, I should have worked more on the background of the campaign. The general setting (directly inspired by Legions of Steel) gave some meaning to the battles but they still felt disconnected. A region map with settlement locations etc. might have helped.

Likewise, an outline of the colonial forces and maybe a detailed description of a few recurring characters (instead of an unlimited supply of new grunts replacing the losses) might have made the battles more meaningful.

The two battles fought using MapTool worked well (even if they did not look pretty). Now that I have learned how to rotate tokens in small increments (using Control+Shift+Mouse wheel) I have to try playing games with element bases in it.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Black Ops: Data Theft

"Ok folks, all we need to do is to enter the building, copy those files and move out." Even when keeping her voice down, Kate could put energy in her words. The rest of the team nodded. Jamie had checked her machine gun twice. Bill and Eric had their automatic shotguns ready. For a stealth mission, this was a lot of noisy hardware, but that's how they played: if the plan went wrong, would you rather have a silenced pistol or a heavy machine gun at your side?

This was a stealth mission played using Black Ops. The special ops team (pictured left) are Kate (leader), Jamie (heavy), Bill and Eric (soldiers). The opposition is a mercenary commander and six soldiers. Each side is just below 50 points.
The opposing forces, roughly 50 points per side.
The operatives must enter the building closest to the center, then spend two activations inside to steal the data files. Then they must leave through the same edge they entered. There are two mercenaries on patrol, and the rest are in buildings.The ones in the buildings will only leave on a reaction roll of 7+. This is similar to the espionage scenario in a city board, from the game rules.
Starting board. The spec ops enter from the bottom edge; the mercenaries are spread around.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Treasure Hunt

I recently bought the Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes book. While the core rules remain the same, there are some new options for activation, as well as special rules for weapons and an expanded magic system.

In order to try the new activation, I played a battle between dwarves and orcs, using profiles given in the book. Note that now the standard force size is 400 points (up from 300) with more allowance for personalities.

The dwarf warband was composed of Captain Tormak (Leader Swordsman w/shield), Brelik (Hero Swordsman w/shield), 2x Trained Heavy Axeman, 2x Veteran Heavy Axeman, and 2x Veteran Crossbow Wielder.

The orcs had Warchief Krakk (War-Leader), 4x Armored Spearman and 4x Chosen Bowman.

The new book does not include scenarios so I used the Treasure Hunt scenario from the "basic" Song of Blades and Heroes. There are three treasure markers and both warbands compete to find the treasure and take it away through their starting edge of the map. This is the initial board setup. The treasure chests mark the possible locations of the treasure.
For some reason, the short movement stick was not included in the exported screenshot.
The plan for the dwarves was to have their leader activating as a group with the trained axemen, going for the treasure marker in the distant forest patch. The hero would go for the marker in the ruins, covered by the crossbowmen, and the two veterans would move to the closest marker.

The orcs split in three groups, with the leader and two spearmen going for the farthest marker, and two teams of spearman and bowmen going for the other two markers.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Battle for Zorpel: the Sensor Array

This is report #10 in the Battle for Zorpel.

The human soldiers had to retrieve components from a sensor array in the ruins of another outpost. The robots had the mission to destroy the same sensors.
Board setup. The sensor array is the blue box near the ruins.
The humans started in a patch of woods. James moved first but one of the robots spotted him and fired. The laser shots nearly hit him and, being in the open, he ran away. Then Mack had the idea of tossing a smoke grenade at the robots. He moved out of the woods, avoided enemy fire and tossed the grenade at the enemies, blocking their sight [the grenade impact point is marked with the red slime]. Igor then rushed to the ruins. The robots then dashed into the nearby patch of woods and Mack took cover in the ruins.
The grenade landed on the perfect spot. Too bad it was too late to make much of a difference.
The robots then moved out of the woods. Mack fired at them with no effect. One robot took down Mack, the other took down Igor. Karl fled before he suffered the same fate.
A terrifying sight: the robot team storms out of the woods firing their lasers.
A terrible defeat for the humans, and campaign progress is back to 0. Karl raised to level 2 rifleman, and James remained a level 1 Scout.

I did not remember to use the smoke grenade until James suffered a bail result from reaction fire. If I had, the humans might have been able to win.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Soldiers for MapTool

I have created a simple pack of top-down tokens of sci-fi soldiers in light armor, suitable for colonial forces or scout squads. These include soldiers with rifles, a heavy repeating laser and sergeants with submachine guns, all in four skin tones. Here is the preview:
The compressed file with all tokens and the Inkscape file used to build them can be obtained clicking here. The files are shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Battle for Zorpel: Medical supplies

This is report #9 in the Battle for Zorpel.

In this mission, James, Karl and Leon must recover medical supplies in an abandoned outpost, while a robot team must complete their patrol. [Human objective is the yellow marker with a cross, robot objectives are the three blue ones.]
Game setup
The human soldiers crossed the patch of woods to approach the abandoned buildings. Karl saw the robot patrol approaching and ran into the woods. James moved ahead and got the supplies, while the robots advanced. Leon moved out of the woods and shot one of the robots down.
"But I saw the human enter the woods!"... "Surprise!" BOOM
One robot entered the patch of woods while the other set an ambush on the corner of a nearby building. However, Karl rushed to provide cover for James. As James moved out of the building, a quick exchange of fire ensued, with the humans taking down the ambushing robot.
Ok, now let's get out of here before anyone gets hurt by a bad die roll...
Before the remaining robot managed to get out of the woods, the human trio dashed out of the outpost. A laser blast burned a mark on Karl's helmet but he was not hurt.

The mission was a success and Karl was promoted to rifleman. Campaign progress advanced to +2.

Leon was reassigned to another platoon, but Mack (level 1 Support) arrived [I rolled the campaign events Recruit and Reassigned].

The next mission will be a standard military mission in 4 campaign days, so Igor will join the team.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Vagrant - leaving New Hope

"Captain's log #0192," Winston paused to hold a chuckle. "We are on our way to Letos II, after contact with what I suppose were Hishen slavers." Pingh sighed, "You suppose? In the Hishen navy this statement would get you punished! After all this time, you still find it funny to play captain of the ship?" The Hishen twitched his small hands in the air. "Why don't you go check on our passenger?", Winston answered in an annoyed tone. Pingh didn't answer as he left the bridge.

This is the first report on the Vagrant campaign. Our crew started in New Hope City, after a failed meeting with someone who would buy the data pack from Winston.

Month #1
While Winston's team decided what to do, he received a call from someone who might be interested in the data he was selling. [ This was a random event: a Chillin' encounter at a Low End tavern. ] Winston was not sure what this was about, but ended going to the meeting alone. On the way, he met a Xeog named Kay who also seemed to be looking for work but was not impressed by Winston's talk.
The meeting place was named "Astra," a dirty tavern in the Low End district. Winston ordered a drink and waited a couple of hours -- nothing.

As he left, late in the night, a ganger tried to rob Winston. The young bandit was nervous, firing his pistol before Winston could try anything. Luckily, he missed and Winston fired back. He didn't bother to check if the guy was dead. A few days later, the police interrogated him about the crime but let him go.

Later in the month, Winston got a job with a Transporter. Apparently, a fellow investigative reporter, a Hishen name Keorn, needed to go to Letos II but didn't want to use a regular passenger ship. Letos was on the 5th ring, hot in the dispute between Gaea Prime and the Hishen. Still, the pay would be good and Winston was getting tired of New Hope, so he accepted the deal.

The Vagrant - a Transport-class ship
Month #2
While preparing for the travel to Letos II, Winston was called again for an interrogation by the police about some random crime in the Low End district. Maybe he got into their suspects list after the shoot out with the robber...

Finally, the crew set out to Sector 1 of the 3rd Ring, a necessary step to jump out to the 5th Ring. On their way, they met a Gaea Prime trader ship and a Star Navy cutter. In both cases, Winston's charismatic personality allowed him to avoid any trouble. [ The ships were due to the resolution of possible enemy forces for the month. ]

Month #3
Before they could make the jump, the Vagrant was intercepted by a Gaea Prime military ship. Winston transferred the ship's and crew records, knowing that these patrols were more concerned with pirates and infiltrators. Still, all this contact with Gaea Prime ships made Keorn anxious.

The team finally jumped into the 5th Ring, and Letos II was in Sector 1 (the same as the jump gate.) On the last leg of the journey, they were greeted by the independent businessmen that roam the space farther from Gaea Prime domain. First, a small Zhuh-Zhuh pirate ship approached them but somehow Winston managed to intimidate them into looking elsewhere for prey. Then a Hishen trade ship approached. Tanya detected their scanners inspecting the Vagrant. Not to take any chances, Pingh passed for ship's Captain and dismissed them.

For now, Winston's lifetime total rep dice remains at zero but that should change after he arrives at Letos II.

Only as I was writing this report I noticed that the player can keep resolving PEFs during a Chillin' encounter -- so it is still possible to find someone interested in selling or buying contraband even if the original contact was not found. Of course, this makes things more risky...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Battle for Zorpel: Sneaky Robots

This is report #8 on the Battle for Zorpel.

Following a successful offensive, the humans repel the skelebots from another settlement. In this mission, James (carrying the detonation charges), Karl and Leon must destroy a robot power core that was detected in the woods, probably left behind as the robots retired. Meanwhile, a group of robot scouts is in the same area, intent on retrieving a data storage system (which was not even detected by the human command.)
Game setup. Robots at the top edge with red bases, soldiers at the bottom edge, with blue bases. The human objective is marked in red, the robot objective is marked in yellow.
The human team moved in between the ruins and woods, watching carefully for enemy contact. They knew some robots might still be in the area but their mission was very clear.
[Both sides moved avoiding contact. The robots left a sentinel to guard the human objective while the other two went for their own objective, which was reached by the fourth turn.]

Leon's energy tracker indicated that the energy core was close. He and James stepped into the woods in a coordinated movement and surprised a robot sentry, firing their rifles until it dropped to the ground. Meanwhile, Karl was standing guard near the ruins. In a moment of distraction, two skelebots dashed past him before he could fire.
[The robots started to get away with the data system, while the human soldiers managed to attack and destroy the enemy sentry.]
Robots rolled a Scurry turn, avoiding the human sentry. Then the humans rolled a firefight and killed the robot sentry.
Karl warned his companions over the commlink and moved towards them. James was concentrated setting the demolition charge on the energy core, but Leon moved out of the woods in time to fire at one of the robots as they escaped.
[In the seventh turn, the robot carrying the data system left the board. Then the humans set their demolition charge, and Leon caused the remaining skelebot to bail.]

The three soldiers reported their action to their commander, still unsure of what the robots were doing there, and why they avoided engaging.

This was a human victory, 8 points to 5. However, as both sides achieved their objectives and the robots rolled higher for overall progress, the campaign progress score decreased to -1. Then I rolled a "War Advances" random event, which pushed the progress score back to 0.

Leon was promoted to rifleman. The next mission will be a regular mission after 2 campaign days, so Igor will not be available yet.

The second mission in this campaign had similar parameters but the different setup changed the game entirely.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Vagrant - a 5150 campaign

Following my playtest review of Fringe Space, I decided to continue Winston's adventures as a campaign using rules from Fringe Space and 5150 Urban Renewal.

The idea is to play an open-ended campaign. Every six months (campaign turns) I will evaluate Winston's situation to decide if the campaign should go on. Of course, if Winston dies along the way, the campaign is over.
The Vagrant crew
The campaign is named after Winston's ship, a trader class vessel. The ship crew consists of Winston, acting as captain of the ship, Pingh and Tanya (42 years old Basic female, Rep 3, Initiative, Poser, Resilient). Axor just hangs by while on the ship.

The campaign will start where my last report left: Winston and friends are at New Hope City, with a data stick full of stolen corporate information.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Battle for Zorpel: Salvage

This is report #7 on the Battle for Zorpel.

In this mission, the human soldiers must salvage some electronics left in a ruined area overgrown with vegetation. A robot patrol spotted them and moved in to destroy the equipment or kill any soldiers.

The humans are Igor (grunt), James (level 1 Scout), Karl (grunt) and Leon (grunt). There are two regular robots, one riflebot and one assault robot.
Board setup for the mission.
The humans went first and reached their objective right away. The robots approached, trying to attack their objective [I rolled to choose if they would attack the humans (1-4) or focus on their objective (5-6), the result was a 5]. Meanwhile, Igor was positioned to cover the approach of other robots.

A robot grunt entered Igor's field of view. He fired but missed, then the robot took him out of action. In the nearby woods, while Karl retrieved the salvage, Leon fired at the robots. One of them was destroyed, the other bailed out [this happened during a firefight turn].
Igor is taken out of the fight by the approaching skelebot.
The riflebot moved back into the woods, but Karl snap fired at it, knocking it down. Meanwhile, the other robots advanced and fire at their second objective.
One robot out of action, another knocked down.
Having completed their mission, the soldiers moved out, dragging Igor with them.

This was a victory for the human soldiers, made easier by the random assignment of map edges for the forces. The campaign progress is back to zero (from -2 in the previous game).

Igor was seriously wounded and it will take 10 campaign days to recover.

The next mission will be a standard military mission after 4 campaign days, so Igor will not be available.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tunnels and Trolls Classic Solos

As a backer of the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls crowdfunding, I also received the Adventurers Compendium (in PDF format.) It is a compilation of 10 solo adventures (and some GM adventures too), originally published from 1978 to the early 80's. Looking for a quick RPG fix, I decided to try some of them (being fully aware that many of them are brutal.)

To keep to "old school" traditions, I rolled a character (although Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls does have an option for point-buy character creation.) Thus was born Brelok, the rogue. From his attributes, we can see that Brelok is quite frail and not really charming; an odd, twitchy man hiding in the shadows and stealing what he needs:

Brelok (level 1 human rogue)
STR 6, CON 17, DEX 4, SPD 14
IQ 12, WIZ 5, LK 13, CHR 4
Personal adds: +3
Talents: lock-picking, stealth
Items: high quality dagger (2d6+4), 20x caltrops, leather armor (3 hits), lock picks, basic delver's package, 6gp.

(Note: personal adds are a bonus added during combat by the character. For those curious about this game, there is a free short version of the rules.)

The wannabe warrior
And off went Brelok for a stroll in the wilds, only to be captured by barbarians, stripped of his possessions and put to a trial to determine if he is the reincarnation of a legendary king. That is how the mini solo adventure "Kingmaker" starts. It did not last very long: in the first trial, Brelok was crushed in combat against a much tougher opponent.

After such a quick career, Brelok went to the Abyss, a solo adventure for dead characters, included in the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls book. Not that he fared much better there, being dragged to hell by a demonic creature right away.

The smuggler
In a parallel dimension, Brelok II tried to smuggle drugs into the city of Gull, in the solo adventure "Golden Dust, Red Death". Not only did he make a good job of it, but he gained 2000gp and 1000 adventure points. 

With these gains, Brelok II raised STR to 8, DEX to 7, SPD to 17, LK to 15. These changes increased his personal adds to +8. He also purchased a high quality shortsword (3d6+4) and a suit of brigandine (8 hits, -2 DEX).

After these upgrades, Brelok II went to another shopping session at the Great Bazaar of Khazan, starting "A Sworded Adventure". He got mugged but got 200 adventure points in the process, more than enough to raise LK to 16 (add 1 to his personal adds.)

Enjoying his good luck so far, Brelok II traveled to a distant fishing village, in "Seven Ayes." There he found his doom in a tavern filled with weird and ugly folk (and I cannot add more without giving out spoilers.)

I am still amazed at how open and rules-light Tunnels and Trolls is, compared to other "old-school" RPGs. Looking at its 1st edition reprint, the same core ideas present in the Deluxe edition are already there. This alone makes it inviting for narrative play and solo play. The vast amount of solo adventures is good, too.

The mini solo adventures that I tried can be really brutal. I am convinced that if a given adventure is recommended for characters up to, say, level 4, then a level 4 character is required -- preferably a warrior with a lot of personal adds.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sci-fi settlements

I created a few, simple sci-fi settlement buildings in 15mm scale to use in miniature games. Here is a link to the PDF file with uncolored and colored versions.
Low-resolution preview of the colored version
The buildings can be assembled as fold-flat or permanent structures. Not as simple as Toposolitario's Ikubes but still very handy. Each building is 75mm x 75mm x 30mm.

Here is a picture of a test build, along with some miniatures (15mm at eye level.)

"On the count of three..."