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.