Sunday, April 28, 2013

Osric: Vengence of the duergar (12)

Having cleared the major part of the hobgoblin lair, we move south to try and finish the job. Our rescued slaves arm themselves with axes and follow us. In the complex we find a secured door that we bust in, and make war on the remnants of the hobgoblin clan. It's a bit of a massacre as the main warrior force had been dispatched prior. A few of the PC's are a bit disgusted at the blood bath but we try and reassure ourselves that these were murderous slavers.

We find a storeroom of basic goods and food, and figure this is the 'treasure room' that the slaves were speaking of....curses. We park them there while we continue to explore the complex. We find what appears to be some sort of blood bowl pitch, which the gamers all find quick amusing. In one corridor Jenks spots another duergar sentry to hot foots it. As Jenks pursues, we discover that Duergar were obviously created by some malign GM who decided they can do everything. The sentry turns around and fires up some psychic powers and Jenks bursts into a human torch. Much more of a problem is that his cloth magic item, the robe of eyes, worth a stupid amount of money, gets the sense that it is now mostly a black smudge on the floor and Jenks' armour. The GM helpfully observes that we should make sure that cloth magic items are properly protected. I curse under my breath.

It's time to evacuate the dungeon, again under pursuit. Luckily this time, we have noticed there was a smoke hole in the roof of the goblin lair. We fall back, picking up the slaves and getting them to grab as much food and travel equipment as they can manage.  Back at the goblin lair we barricade 2 of the 3 entrances while Scabs and Chester the gnomes are sent up a 10 foot pole to scale the hole in the roof with a rope, the rest of us guard the entrances. Jane spreads finely ground flour all around the

area to help catch our expected invisible attackers and casts her last see invisible spell on Dan.

Jenks is sent up the rope next to use shape stone to open up the hole so humans can get through. The slaves follow. About this time a group of 6 duergar assault us from the Northern entrance. Dan and Renault the fighters manage to fend them off as Archon, the dwarf priest, and Jane, the illusionist evacuate. There is a wrestling match between the last duergar and Dan as the evil dwarf attempts to blow on his black horn. Dan manages to slay him just in time.

The door to the south splinters open just as Renault escapes up the rope. Dan lashes the rope to his body and fights defensively as the group hauls him up. We run off and hide in some woods. The slaves are sent off immediately to head to Compliments, we decide that we can rest and head back to strike the dungeon again before the Deurgar will expect to see us.

In about 6 hours (it's now night) we hear a large group speaking dwarvish preparing to strike South along the road. Archon translates and it sounds that they know we are from Compliments, and intend to massacre the village. We consider striking the dungeon while this group is gone and trying to catch up when we start to hear the sounds of much MUCH larger footstep. Oh right, Duergar can grow to ogre size. Dan blows to the duergar horn to attract their attention and we start a dodgy fight (as we are at reduced health already).
Invisible, ogre size, and now bursting you into flame

A group of 12 deurgar head in, lead by a larger deurgar with a firey ruby mounted in his gorget. 3 Hold back and start using their psychic powers to create a circle of flame around the melee. Jenks manages to entangle a few and delay their advance, but the bastards just shape change to break the entanglement. Jane has no useful spells and is merely throwing darts at this point. The gnomes are relatively safe as they have huge bonuses against large enemies. The fighters Dan and Renault take it on the chin. Jenks is targeted too, and the 3 psychics cause the circle of flame to tighten and send streams of flame to burn Jenks and Jane (who catches fire briefly). Towards the end Jenks manages to cast pyrotechnics on the circle of flame (now dangerously close) which extinguishes it and makes an enormous smoke cloud. 2 of the duergar escape, but we manage to flee under the cover of smoke as well. Dan only taking a moment to grab the Ruby gorget.

We have no spells and few hit points but we've stopped the destruction of Compliments for the moment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for....JET AGE!

At the local nerd convention I managed to sell off some of the materials filling up my precious space. Fare thee well to those who may use you more! The organizers ran a bring and buy that charged 10% commission which, despite the whinging and moaning I heard from some people, seemed to be pretty much par for this type of set up.

It was suggested we toss some of our new found cash at the sponsors. Imperial Hobbies had a booth there and I stumbled upon "Check Your 6! Jet Age!" I sorta caved in, as I'd been hunting on picoarmor site a while ago, and damn me if there aren't a lot of planes available for cheap there. I also greatly enjoyed playing in some Check your 6 games held by John W at the Trumpeter nights.

My latest acquisition focuses on the period of Aerial combat from 1946 - 1988 where dog fighting still happened. Later than that and improving sensors and missile technology has removed the sort of close in maneuvering for cannon shot (or missile) that the game models. The author notes that he believes that it is the man not the machine (quoting test pilot Chuck Yeager) that has some of the greatest effects on combat performance. The system neatly models this by giving better pilots more flexibility to alter their moves. All move plotting occurs secretly, the reveals and moves occur in order of worst pilots (and in sub order of worst position lower altitude, down sun, national characteristics). The better pilots then can slightly alter the moves they plotted so that they move after their opponent, and can change allowing them much greater latitude in movement. Tailing a plane forces the opponent to reveal some of his movement information during the plotting phase.

The greatest barrier in my mind for this game is going to be functional flight stands. John W has some great stands with ball joints on top (so the models can be tipped to reflect their move), an indicator for air speed, and the brass rods are swapped out to represent different heights. I find the brass rod changes kill a lot of time though (it's also a bit challenging to read the heights on the rods sometimes as they are thin diameter and a bit worn). I do really like the visual representation of different heights. I'm contemplating using legos with numbers on each block to represent the height. I have a sample pack of planes heading over from picoarmour so I will be able to assess if this is going to work soon.

Here's a nice review of a game (no relation to myself) from Brian Cantwell.

Hopefully I can get some pictures up in the not too distant future (although likely after this month).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for....Insurrection

It appears that a fair amount of my interest in games these days (and war gaming subjects) is around insurrection. As defined by Free dictionary: A violent uprising against an authority or government: "opposition to the new regime led to armed insurrection".

I was reading my new book "The other side of the mountain" by Lester Grau today on the bus, and came across some quite interesting information in the preface. Here is a quote: 'Afghanistan was not a guerilla war ala Mao Tse Tung or Vo Nguyen Giap. The Mujahideen were not trying to force a new ideology and government on a land. Rather, they fought to defend their Qawm and their religion against a hostile ideology, an atheistic value system, an oppressive central government and foreign invader. It was a spontaneous defense of community values and a traditional way of life by individual groups initially unconnected to a national or international political organizations.'

The interesting part of this quote to me is the idea that there really are so many types of insurgents who have very different objectives and values. If we look to Carl von Clausewitz' maxim that war is an extension of politics it helps shed more light on how we should consider the roots and reasons of various insurrections as informative to what their strengths, weaknesses, and objectives would be.

Why would this be important in a wargame? I like having context in games and that the battle is merely a part of a larger mission/war/whatever. This should help inform the objectives of the player(s). While line em up, shoot em down battles were interesting, I find it much more fulfilling to have side specific objectives to achieve. By adjusting the objectives and matching them to their strengths you can have very 'imbalanced' games where each side has a good chance of winning.

The ambush alley line of products certainly fits into this mold. Two Fat Lardies product, Charlie don't surf, has distinct objectives for both the VC and the free world forces (and both military as well as political). It's really the campaign play, though, that I think would be important for gaming out insurrection material.

I was trying to play through a FNG (2 hour war games vietnam ruleset) supplement, FNG operations, where you command a firebase in vietnam and are trying to control VC activity in your Area of Operations. It was a bit unwieldy in the amount of information you needed to track, and there were (to my mind) some misses information in the rules, but it was interesting trying to build the base, manage limited air strike resources, patrol troops and support battles. It was also bleak as well, my base ended up getting overrun within the first 10 days and I scrubbed the mission at that point.

Similarly, the classic Traveller adventure, Broadsword that I see people play out occasionally on the blogosphere involves a mercenary company (platoon really) that is called into a world to help maintain order in the face of unrest in the countryside and an unreliable armed forces. A war breaks out in the background and suddenly the mercenaries are facing a trickier situation with less backup than anticipated. The adventure as written leaves lots to the'd be great, in my mind, to have some sort of rules set for helping track the contest for the hearts and minds (and troops losses/gains) of both sides. FNG Operations probably has some useful mechanics to lift, but I don't think it's the bee's knees.

I'm finding the Hokastani campaign (Big Force on Force blog) to be fine reading as well. I like how they have a board that queues up table top battles. It seems that it's largely a regular vs regular-ish campaign...but we may see some new things emerge. I imagine that a GM moderated campaign would be almost mandatory for a insurrection campaign (certainly it appears there is a GM introducing new developments in the Hokastani game). If you can convince the players to place the campaign/war rather than the ruleset with a GM you can end up with all sorts of interesting outcomes. I distinctly remember reading a AAR report where the rebel forces were able to video tape the governmental forces fighting badly and freely attaching civilian structures that it was obvious that even if they had acheived their objectives it would have been a strong victory for the rebels. It's great to have that sort of free idea capability in games....and able to model it's results in some way within the sytem.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for.... Hovercraft

Bit of a random topic, but here goes. I occasionally peruse the Defense Industry Daily website. While the articles are largely not available for non-subscribers, there are occasional full length freebies, as well as short summaries.

I happened across this the other day and was quite astounded by the size of this beast.
"The Zubr Class is the world’s largest hovercraft, displacing 555 tonnes. It has over twice the tonnage carrying capacity of the US Navy’s LCACs (150 tons to 70 tons); the ability to carry a number of weapons including 140mm rocket pods, 30mm cannon, or air defense missiles; and a cruising range of around 300 nautical miles.

The thing that got me was the multiple tanks (or more likely, APC's) that can be seen coming out fo this thing. The general idea of the article is that 6 of these hovercraft bought by china represent a extra threat for a Taiwan invasion or, indeed, any sort of island fights in China's backyard. 

Here is a further quote from the hovercraft's manufacturer Almaz:
Maximum speed of "Zubr" is more than 60 knots (110 km/h). The ship is capable to carry up to 500 people of landing troops, or three tanks, or ten infantry combat vehicles and to carry out their disembarkation to unprepared coast. To solve close-range anti-aircraft defense tasks and to destroy sea and shore targets two 30-mm automatic artillery gun mounts АК-630М are installed on the ship. To neutralize enemy`s on-shore base stations two 140-mm ship`s launchers MC-227 are installed on the ship.Two launchers of a missile complex of "Igla-1M" type may be installed aboard "Zubr". The ship may be used as a minelayer for a concealed mine fields laying.  

It's cool knowing these type of rough numbers for a wargame. I can imagine creating some linked campaigns out of a landing requiring the troops to seize and hold some important objectives. This also feels sorta right to me for a decent sized dropship for a sci-fi game setup.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for.... Ghosts of Hefei

Ghosts of Hefei is a kickstarter running for a game designed by the same author(s?) of The Department. I originally backed the department, and was reasonable happy with the result. The game seems fairly intriguing with a number of cool features. The basic background is that artificial laborers (fabricants) have largely displaced humans in their jobs. Unfortunately the higher version fabricants occasionally go wrong and start killing humans/committing crimes. A department, a la the FBI, is responsible for tracking and eliminating fabricant criminal threats.

Fabricants look very similar to humans (high level ones anyways) and so you can't necessarily just cap a suspect. You need to question it and determine it's humanity (or lack of). Shades of Decker in Blade Runner. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lot of hostility to the 'fuzz' in the areas you conduct your investigation, so many hostiles may be real humans who just want to mess you up. More likely though, are the runners who just take off.

This is used as book art. It's a sketch.
The features of the game I like are that there are matrices for suspects (and other appearing characters) that conduct how they act. They may act on a flee, hostile, or normal matrix. These help you run the game solo, or players vs the game. The various missions require you to meet with suspects (stoolies), investigate murder scenes, raid dens of inquity and more. Each mission results in the ability to accumulate evidence which comes in a variety of flavours (place, people, electronic, financial, physical). These pieces of evidence can be used to pay for better missions (with higher payouts) until you can afford the final big mission to take down the mastermind of the story arc. You are racing against time however, as your budget continually is depleted by missions and equipment requisitions. Unlawful activities can result in internal investigations and cost you your assets, budget points, and possibly even your agents.

I haven't yet experimented with the actual goal system rules that are used outside of the campaign system, but that alone seems wo
rth the price of admission to me. My quibbles with the book are the appalling art, and some editing/playtesting errors that have crept in.
This 'art' is a total abortion.

Ghosts of Hefei is based on a short peice of flavour text about a chinese city that is almost all fabricants. The only humans who are there are basically a support structure (techs/mechanics mostly) for the artificial labor. Ghosts of Hefei sounds like it's meant to be a gang skirmish (a la necromunda) in the setting. Boot legging fabricants and using them to conduct crime. My major draw to the kickstart is that there should be some good 15mm figs, and my support of the Department means I'm entitled to some bonus figs if Ghosts funds.

The greens of the figs look decent. I'm not sure hopeful based on the kicktraq trend that this one is going to go through....but you never know, sometimes things can surge later on (or fall utterly flat).

EDIT: And I've found a review that savages the department a bit. Nice to know we both had hoped that it would work. Some gorgeous shots in the second link...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

F is for.... Force on Force

I recently had the opportunity to play Force on Force for the first time. Considering all the hub-ub I've been seeing on the interweb about it, it was high time. Cameron (of Cameron's tiny men) hosted 3 games at the local gaming convention, trumpeter salute. As part of the lead up to the convention he got Jenn and I to playtest out a mission to test it and offer comments.

Alas I was particularly derelict in my duties in picture taking, but Cameron managed to snap a few and post on his blog which I've ruthlessly stolen. I've also posted on of the shots from his game on saturday at the convention.

Note the tiny white rocks on the RPG insurgent (yellow hat)
As always, Cameron has a fine looking table set up and very well painted miniatures. He's cleverly managed to communicate special weapons in squads with larger rocks on the bases. The number of rocks on the base indicate the extra dice the trooper gets from his weapon. Quite unobtrusive, but very VERY helpful while playing.

We played a mission out of the Afghanistan source book. Cameron has chosen to represent coalition soldiers as Canadians which is a nice touch. The scenario had the coalition looking at an open market with crowds and facing Taliban and a suicide bomber. As normal, the insurgents get points for hurting the coalition troops and pretty that's it. The coalition gained points for dispersing all the crowds and evacuating all troops and casualties quickly (by turn 6).

I took the coalition troops in the first game  threw in the towel before long I was obviously getting crushed. I was the victim of some bad rolls at the wrong time, and tried to aggressively move to the square and disperse the crowds.......who just wouldn't leave. My casualties rapidly piled up and soon it was impossible to win, even if I could have evacuated by turn 6 (too far away). One of the things that Cameron has noted to me a few times is he often doesn't finish games....but it's completely obvious who wins.

Seconds later everything went wrong for me
We quickly reset the game and let Cameron take the coalition forces versus Jenn and I. Cameron then proceeded to play MUCH better. It helped that things were going very well....he even managed to score a 'operator' team of doom. With just about the best characteristics you can get, and grenade launchers (underslung) for each they were killing a squad a would have been more if we bothered to attempt to react to them at all. Instead we would focus fire all our insurgents at the weakest team to try and wipe them out.

I sorta wonder if the operator team should have had that many support weapon dice....the original force on force card pack (not the enduring freedom scenario book one), the operator card doesn't have them with support weapons.....maybe tweaked to better reflect the killy-ness appropriate to them?

At the end of the day, however, the insurgents managed to inflict sufficient casualties to take the victory again. This scenario seems incredibly challenging to win as the coalition. Apparently Cameron had already tweaked it to be easier for the coalition already. The best I can think of is that the coalition should immediately flee the area to the dust off point and ignore the's worth 5 points. If they can do it promptly enough they will score points and deny the insurgents. Seems a bit cheesy, although it's probably easier said than done.

Over on Big Force on Force (LINK) I was reading an old writeup that mentioned that fighting insurgents with TQ d8/ morale d12 is hell.....well even TQ d6 and morale d12 was pretty rough.We suggested that the next edit include reducing the insurgent morale to make them more likely to pin as a result of received fire.

As to the mechanics:
In a assymmetric fight (regulars vs insurgents), the regulars always have initiative. They choose what to do, and the insurgents merely respond. After the regulars finish, if any insurgents haven't blown their actions, they get to move/fire.

Movement is set distances and is either tactical or fast. Fast movement can't enter buildings and decreases fire power slightly. If you are carrying wounded I'm not sure if that slows you or not. 

Firing is announced and the two sides dice off on troop quality to see who goes first, so it's possible to be the phasing side, targeting a unit, and still get hosed with gunfire first. Because other fireteams in view can also try and react to the firefight you get a multiple squad resolution in determining who fired first at whom. Overwatch adds a bit more to this, but mostly they get to pre-empt certain things/go at the top of the firing queue. Cameron used little arrow counters to help sort this out.

With insurgents they can only react/fire once. Regulars can react as many times as they want....but lose a die of firepower each time. It seems to me that a regular vs regular game would be a lot slower/more confusing with all the extra firing activations. A reaction can also be movement, although I don't remember that occuring more than once (probably used more as you get a handle on the game system).

Troop quality and morale are based on different sized dice (similar to star grunt), with the higher die belonging to better troops. A 4+ is considered a success, and often you need to roll more more successes than failures to do certain things (like pass morale checks for getting shot).

When you botch reaction rolls, you pull a fog of war card, which adds interesting little events to either side. Guns jamming, good/bad positions, sudden increases/decreases in troop quality/moral, appearance/disappearance of assets (like drones, or the operator squad Cameron got...then lost). Helps shake things up a bit.

I was quite intrigued by the game and am looking forward to trying it again. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for.... Echo, Resounding

Although technically labelled An Echo, Resounding I figure I can shoe horn this one into E.
Echo, Resounding is a fantasy RPG toolkit for sandbox gaming. It's published by Sine Nomine Publishing, the same person/folks who brought Stars without Number (available for free download!).

Sandbox gaming is my favorite type of gaming. While it does help having a larger setting that players can be somewhat familiar with, the ability to drop in concepts, villains, move towns, and events around without having to consult and work with the 'Canon' of the 'official' setting is fantastic. It's particularly helpful to not have to listen to Mr. Encyclopedia tell you why that doesn't work, or to simply be vague on the official setting and need to consult published material.

Sine Nomine has designed many of their books around the central idea that you will be making up your own sandbox to play in, within a larger setting they define (loosely). Typically the mechanics they offer up are tags and a framework to help get your creative juices flowing to create points of interest within the campaign. More on this later.

Echo Resounding is listed as a labyrinth Lord compatible product, but it would easily port to most fantasy systems (requiring either dropping or modding a few less critical parts). They offer up an example sandbox, the westmark, with a map and 40 locations of interest, each with about a 1/2 page writeup. The  sandbox is placed within the 'Red Tides' setting, another one of their published products (which I've picked up as a result of getting Echo, Resounding) but again, you can read between the lines and largely use this product (even the sandbox) with almost any fantasy system.

Sine Nomine suggests that pre-planning should largely only be done if you like that sort of thing. By minimizing the work done to create your setting you are unlikely to get frustrated if your players avoid your mapped out areas, and/or you will avoid rail roading them into those areas.

You start by creating a map and then seeding if with population centres, ruins, resources, and lairs. You then name these spots and add tags/traits (with a large number of tables and traits provided). Obstacles for each area are then generated/added, which explain why the particular location hasn't become an empire/isn't harvested fully/hasn't been resettled.

Ruin: ancient armoury, buried treasure, commanding location, forgotten sorceries, great art, rich resources, pre-exile relics (and another 5). Obstacles include: monsters, angry dead,sinister cult, disputed possession, ancient curse, inaccessible (+6 more).

Given that you match 12 options with another 12, you have a basic 144 tags sets that can start to fire your imagination. Some are obvious tropes, forgotten sorceries with sinister cult, but what about the great art with angry did that come about?

The next step is the Hall of Infamy, which is a great mechanic. The author points out that you shouldn't suddenly hear about the famously evil dragon/liche/whatever when you reach 10th level. Where was he before, why no rumors or legends? Arch villains should be present from the beginning but utterly untouchable by low powered adventurers. So he suggests a hierarchy of evil, with a roster. You place the arch enemy up top and work down. It's easier to down power villains then up power them, so you start the arch villain at the level you think you will let your players reach eventually (level caps are your friends here in my opinion).

In like Flynn has modded this whole process for creating traveller sectors, which was a pretty fascinating read. First post is here.....follow the tags for more reading.

Another feature of the rules are for the players building a domain, taking over that village/town and building it up. Protecting it from raiders, recruiting allies, facing enemies etc. With the sandbox created at the beginning, everything is in place for it to happen.....yet if the players don't care about it you haven't invested extra work. Another feature of sandbox gaming is that players can go where they want.....but the risk is on their head. They need to quickly learn to recognize hazard and learn when to walk (or more likely run) away. 

All in all, I found this to be a great product. Printed copy available for 20$, pdf for half that. On drivethruRPG.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for..... Disposable Heroes & Coffin for 7 Brothers

This morning I received a yahoo group message from Iron Ivan, makers of the Disposable Heroes & Coffin for 7 Brothers (DH&C7B) rules, with a link to a AAR for the system. It similar confirmed that this was a great topic for the day.

Disposable Heroes is a ruleset from Iron Ivan for WW2 for small unit skirmish with the possible addition of some (few) vehicles. I originally became interested in it (in a vague way) when I was following the Kokoda campaign being run over on Doc's Art of War blog. It's helps that there were gorgeous tabletop layouts and some prime pictures (even Photoshopped at times). It's not often you get to see gaming with the japanese facing off against enemies in the jungle. All very cool. Some of the things that popped out for me in the write ups were:
Doc's art of war. Nice Jungle!
- a very bloody game, lots of figures falling, lots of morale checks
- snipers taking out leaders and being difficult to spot/return fire on
- some type of spotting rule (including some mechanic for hidden units)

 Unfortunately the Kokoda campaign seemed to run out of steam and the posts trickled away. Later I stumbled across a soviet afghanistan writeup using DH on Dr. Merkury's blog. Dr Merkury has a large number of write ups for DH using different era's and modules.

Speaking of which, there are numerous modules for DH. In many sense they are the 'army lists' that allow you to create somewhat balanced forces (as the system has a points value included), but the books also include era/geographic appropriate special rules that affect the core system. Modules include many for WW2, but also a french/indian war (this very ground), zombies (no room in hell), pulp (where heroes dare), rhodesian bush war (Man among Men), Vietnam (long road south), and Modern (seek out, close with, destroy).

The basic rules:
1/. Players dice for initiative, the winner activates a unit (activation is move, fire, close combat), then the opponent activates.
2/. A unit is a section of a squad, a support team, a vehicle
3/. Movement: 3 modes: sneak, maneuver, run. Has effects on shooting and distance moved. Sneak does not provoke snap fire (a type of opportunity fire by the enemy).
4/. Firing: approximately 1/2 of a unit can fire. Rolls are based on a d10. There is an accuracy roll to hit, followed by a second roll (antipersonal for infantry) to kill those hit.
5/. Morale: there is pinning, falling back and routing. Morale checks on a d10, modified by the cover occupied, the leaders Guts value, and the morale modifier of some weapons (i.e. a flamethrower is more scary than a machine gun which is more scary than a pistol).
6/. Vehicles: Need to acquire targets before they fire at them. There are armour values versus an antitank value to check for damaging hits. 3 zones: turret, hull, tracks/tires.
7/. Additional rules for spotting, hidden, artillery, air strikes, and more.
The basic rules include point values for German, US, Soviet, and Commonwealth troops in WW2.

Seek out, close with, destroy
This module is intended for modern conflicts. It adjusts some of the basic rules:

1/. Command and Control: Rather than every unit activating during a turn, there is now friction which requires the player to decide who is important to activate. A certain number of tokens are generated depending on the size of the force and the Guts of the commander. These tokens get spent, with units further from the commander requiring more tokens (1,2,or 3) to activate. Just shooting can be achieved with a discounted (-1) rate.
2/. Fire doctrine: There are some rules for forces that have different weapon capabilities/troop training. They largely affect the morale modifier of weapons, making it easier for the superior force to pin and force failed morale checks.
3/. Equipment: expanded rules for grenades (smoke, defensive, offensive), body armour, increased spotting for artillery, night vision equipment, NBC gear, and Anti tank missiles.
4/. Aircraft: slight changes for aircraft, new rules for helicopters.
The module includes point values for Falklands conflict (UK and Argentine), as well as Somalia (Militias vs Rangers/Delta force).

The soviet module is a free download called: By the Knife. You can peruse it yourself here.

Here are some of the comments by players of the system.

From todays AAR: Sound officers call
Suppress the Enemy:  This mantra of the modern military professional holds true in DH, and, as it turns out, the "grim darkness of the far future where there is only [Disposable Heroes]"  3 and 4 man fireteams are efficient especially if you have a light support weapon, but if you can't combine your firepower with quick, aggressive action, you've relegated the battle to 2 sides taking pot-shots at each other until someone wins.
When 1 team suppresses for a turn or 2, send another team around their flank or in their general direction.  Their teams will inevitably fire on your advance unless you can cover the ground quickly, with supporting fire.

My rule of thumb would be to have the entire squad (2 teams) fire for 1 turn, then send a team in next turn.  I'll have to try that next game.

Go Big, Go Fast, Go Early: My blood pact troopers in little teams were no match for a heavy crew served weapon with a ROF of 5 and a morale modifier of -3.  Moving out with the entire squad not only increases your assault chance for success in the advance, but ensures you have enough bodies for the inevitable close combat to follow.

Dr Merkury
The game lasted about 1.5 hrs and ended with the Soviets in a little better condition. There were a lot of Muj suppressed on the table and losing their leader meant less activations in the Point Blank system. The Soviets took some losses too, but their training gave them a greater tactical flexibility by way of more activations and better morale.

All in all a fun game, I like how the mechanics of the game allow individual actions and you see a tactical choices being made by the players. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for.... Cameron's Tiny Men

At the risk of this being a bit of a cop-out post, C is for Cameron's Tiny Men.

Cameron is one of my nerdtime friends. I first met him in the local  game store playing flames of war a number of years ago and our gaming group has grown over time. One of the best parts of table top gaming with Cameron is that he is a super prolific painter, and tends to accumulate both sides of a force so he can host a game. I've tried out more systems, and played more games that he has hosted than I've ever probably ever played at my own place.

He's very open to trying almost any game system and experimenting with new ones a couple times even if the learning slope is pretty steep. I must say that what I've found I like in a game system seems to align with things he likes.....not sure if this is a case of independently discovered, or highly influenced (in this case I'm being influenced). The important values are around friction (your troops don't always do want you want them to do/it's hard to activate them), random/semi-random ordering of who goes next (activating units by flipping cards, or the ability for the turn to suddenly end without all units having acted), and fog of war (imprecise knowledge of troops versus the omniscient 100ft general).

It's sorta annoying being friends with numerous people who paint much better than you. On one hand it's helpful when you need to consult on recommendations for color, or products, or how to deal with that damned yellow color. On the other hand...gah! All their stuff looks better than yours. Bah. (EDIT: putting in the pics I ripped off his blog reminds me of how great his stuff ends up looking. The plaids on the 15mm warriors are sick).

Additional awesome-ness is that Cameron has a pretty sweet camera and light box and is able to document what he has painted (and often played). This has some great results for his sparse blog posts....lots of eye candy that is original work.

Anyway, big props to Cameron's blog and his gorgeous pictures.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for ....Bones

As, no doubt, many are aware, Bones is the reaper line of miniatures that are cast in a polymer. I recently was told by a friend that they don't even need priming....although this is currently second hand info to us, rather than first hand use. It does however go with their 'ready to paint right out of the package' info point.

The biggest draw on the bones is the amazing value they offer. Check out the current availability here.
What is amazing to me is that they range from 1.99 to 5.49, even for the slightly larger than human sized monsters. A unicorn is 2.99. I've had a bones blister of kobolds (ordered with some lead to test it out) staring at me for months and months. The casts look pretty crisp, only small mold lines which I'd expect would be easy to remove with a sharp blade. It'd be extra informative if I could compare the lead to the bones......

.....and I will. Some of the lead I ordered happens to parallel what will be shipped to me in the next couple months with the Bones kickstart I signed on for. I really ought to have titled this post under 'W' for "WTF have I done?!?!?" There is a disgusting number of figures headed my way. I expect to cast off quite a few just as things I'm not interested in, but's crazy.

One of our regular gamers in our space 1889 campaign used to manage a brick and mortar games store. He figures this reaper project is going to shake up the miniature industry. After all, how do you compete with this price point and huge range of sculpted minis? Reaper has managed to convert an obscene number of their figs to the new process, and more importantly is they have gained the infrastructure to do all their figs this way.

The latest tidbit that escaped was that there are even CAV (battletech esq) figures done up in the bones polymer now. A few comments on the page I saw suggested that these are better looking than a bunch of the battletech mechs, and much easier on the wallet. I love the look of Otherworld miniatures classic D&D figs, but the prices are brutal. Given an option between even vaguely similar miniatures and you'd be hard pressed to go with the lead. Certainly you can be in love with certain sculpts....but I'm sure volumes will suffer. The other conjecture was around whether Reapers kickstart had sucked the oxygen out of the room....did the mass vacuuming of gamers dollars affect purchases elsewhere? It's hard to say. I, myself, am more interested to see if the sudden appearance of termite mound sized piles of minis ends up reducing sales as gamers are forced to find new space and/or stop getting new stuff under duress from their partners (and/or physical limitations of space).

I leave you with a picture of the 'basic' vampire backer level....this doesn't even include options you can add (and I picked up a few). For more pics, go here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for.....Afghanistan

I'm going to attempt the A to Z blogger challenge. I have fairly low expectations of success, given it's a busy month, but we'll see what we can accomplish.

A is for area I hope to get to game in the future. My interest is more in the Russian invasion, rather than the more current fighting that is happening there now. To be honest, it seems like not much has changed in the the many fights that occur in the country.

The exact plans are a little vague at this point, but I have recently acquired some of Eureka's modern soviets....close enough I expect to the kit used in the 80's...especially at 15mm. I expect I'll test force on force as a rules set, but I hope also to try Disposable heroes, there's a soviet afghanistan supplement that I've downloaded off the yahoo group (By the knife).

More importantly, perhaps, I've got a number of books to chew through.

An overview of the afghan country and history. Picked up from a friend when he moved I've yet to get through more than the first chapter. Definitely on the to read list though.

Two great books on the war. The first, the bear went over the mountain, is soviet tactics in Afghanistan. It's quite interesting in that it's a translation from a book written by the Kiev institute, with the translators adding a commentary after each scenario/vignette.

I managed to pick up the follow up book this Easter weekend from Powell's books in Portland (largest independent book chain in north america!). The translator from the first book went to interview Afghan Mujahideen about the war and their point of view of the conflict. Unfortunately I've gotten the re-skinned book, named Afghan Guerrilla warfare, the original is a much more interesting title: The other side of the mountain: mujahideen tactics in the soviet-afghanistan war. From what I can tell, the content is identical.

 This is the typical picture that accompanies a scenario/vignette. I suspect that for gaming it will be invaluable for setting up interesting scenarios to play out.

I'll try and milk this topic for some more A to Z goodness this month!

Osric: Cleansing the hobgoblin lair (11)

We have finally started a game session at the opening to the crypt of Kas the bloody, in a position where we aren't already totally worn down. Amazingly enough we seem to be kitted up to clear this bastard dungeon and have the people power to do it. A big boost in group power came from the hiring of our two new henchmen (archon the disgruntled dwarven cleric, and Jane the impressario illusionist) followed by the windfall profits (in gp and xp) from the winterwolf pelts.

We launch into the first level of the dungeon expecting an easy walkthrough (as we have a truce with the goblin king on level 1), alas it was not meant to be. The gygax dungeon ecology has been disrupted with an opening of an ecological niche previously held by bandits and goblins. We are ambushed by bugbears, with nasty orange hair with highlights. After our first battle against a pair of ambushers, Jane clones up 6 illusionary bugbears via improved phantasmal force, and uses them to trick the next set of bug bears in the old bandits lair. As they rush out to join their 'compatriots' in 2:1 battle, the illuionary force falls back behind us, and proceed to moon the newcomers and mock them. This doesn't do a lot for their morale.

You are getting distracted.....very distracted

We continue through level 1 and encounter another group of bugbears by the goblin tribe room. It turns out that the goblin king has been kept in a cage and poked with sharpened wood sticks and methodically starved. The goblin assasin (whose name escapes me right now), has been sneaking food to him, and reporting on his crafty kills. He has managed to prevent one group of bugbears from disrupting the seals on the liches room. Thanks goodness for small mercies Jenks (and myself) breathe. A final group of 12 bugbears lurks in the room of the flying dagger. Once again we use the illusionary force to coax them out into battle. Archon thunders out a stirring dwarven chant that impedes our enemies and boosts our own abilities. Jane after getting her illusions to 'can-can' dance for a bit, proceeds to cast hypnotic pattern and traps a fair number of enemies in a stupor. As their compatriots force their fellows gazes down and away it drastically speeds up our fighters work in chopping them down.

A relevent point to be made now would be that Bugbear treasure sucks. Primarily coppers and silvers. Nowhere in line with the risk involved in killing these bastards. This was observed early by the GM and I heartily agree.

A rest break is arranged to heal up, and refresh spells and then we descend to level 2.

We still have 3 major choices down here. The dueregar zone, the hobgoblin cavern, and the mysterious floating skull that demands a magic item to pass it. We decide the hobgoblins are probably a good group to wipe out, as they've been reduced a bit, and are highly aggressive. On our way to the cavern we find that the fungus farms of the goblin tribe are heavily overgrown, and the fungi mutant dog corpse has spawned a strange, rapidly expanding patch of eyeball fungus (eyeballs on stalks.....creepy).

In the main tribe area Jenks spots an invisible deuregar sentry and manages to charm him as he slinks off to the South. He explains the groups presence away as a lost bet that requires him to swim in the Otaygh cesspool to the West, and to please not mention it......terribly embarrassing and so forth. We manage to extract some very useful information from the guard:
- The deuregar number: ' a few score'
- The floating skull marks the start of an undead area that is a type of laboratory for the liche. Apparently a necromancer prowls the area as well.
- Approximate2-3 dozen hobgoblins.

Eventually he notes that his relief is coming soon and we better bugger off. We do so and sneak to the final door that seperates us from the hobgoblins. Dan the fighter breaks out his hand drills and quietly drills a peep hole that lets us view the massive chamber. We can see hobgoblin fighters, females and youth going about their activities of daily life, as well as about a half dozen human slaves....some we recognize from compliments! A massive bronze gong on a wooden frame stands on the far wall, and we seem to recall hearing this alarming in the past when we were chased. As we stand about discussing how we could shut this thing down before it makes sound the view point is obscured.....

A yammering small hobgoblin child is playing on the other side of the door and is excited by the individuals on the other side. The guards nearby who throw open the door are slightly less impressed. The alarm is briefly sounded by a female before Jenks manages to warp wood the structure into uselessness. Interestingly the hobgoblin non combatants promptly start covering the fire with leather blankets and such.....apparently word of the pyrotechnics trick of Jenks has spread.

Once again Jane breaks out hypnotic pattern to our benefit. As the few who managed to resist start to break the hypnosis of the others we play a close game of trying to halt the chain reaction. We are lucky/successful and manage to clear out the room, although the non combatants have fled to the south.

Our 6 rescued human slaves inform us that there are some fungus farms to the south and what sounds like a bastion/treasure room. Even more interestingly there are stairs that descend deeper into the depths.