Monday, April 28, 2014

Labyrinth Lord (5): The Call of the Deeps

The players explored map. Tracing paper from the master map
#5 Dry weather and water rationing continues at Brunberg. The delivers of water have continued over the last week, funded by diligent scavenging along the strand. Rumours of a delegation from the Shogunate arriving in Whiteport are brought by uncle Chu. The lord Oda Nobunja has brought 2 dozen red jade templars with him. One of these templars is Hojo Soun, the very lord of the village the PC's escaped from (including all the villagers) and Elrond stole his armour. A very deep stain upon his armour. Already some questions have been asked of refugees from the Shogunate. Chu asks where the group is from and is told Xian. When he suggests that they keep an eye out for the refugees in order to collect the reward, Elrond slaps him and tells him that they will not sell humans to the shogunate.

Zander continues to be haunted by dreams of underwater and has now been caught sleep walking towards water. Elrond takes it on to ensure he is wrapped in bed sheets to prevent this. Bruno too has noticed strange goings on, with a barely audible whisper heard when he is in the grotto of Brunberg.

Moshii or andrew. The player didn't say...
Elrond and Zander visit the hag Moshii and her fresh husband Andrew, who continues to lose weight and looks haggard, although spots a large goofy grin and hints at salacious nights. Moshii agrees to honour their deal and teaches Elrond and Zander a new spell, Refulgence of Sagacity. While the tutelage occurs, Wendyberg and Bruno investigate the grotto. Wendberg is unable to detect the whispering Bruno notes, but at one point she notices a glowing mark upon his forward. Casting detect magic she can see the sigil of Jangaru upon his brow. The grotto faintly glows all over with magic as well. None of the other villagers sport the mark, but hurrying to Moshii's she manages to spot the sigil on Zander, as well as a general mark of enchantment upon him. Interestingly the hags hut as well as the tea service tray have the mark of enchantment as well.

Back at the village a bountiful harvest of fish has occurred. A never encountered type has schooled in great numbers and been pulled in and harvested. A small bladder contains fresh water as well. A celebration occurs. During the feast Zander goes to the grotto and take a long piss into the waters. Watching the patterns in the water he suddenly sees a vision of being underwater with a loud crashing voice he doesn't understand demanding something of him. He feels it comes from the west and great rewards will come to him. He suddenly comes to, grasping his nether region too hard. His candle has burned many inches down. As he emerges from the cave into the village the lack of sound worries him. The villagers and PC's are all motionless lying upon the ground, stiff. After panicking for a bit he manages to detect the breath of Wendyberg. He mutter's “sorcery” before marking his forhead with the sigil of Jangaru. The roaring voice returns and Zander stumbles off towards the water.

Wendyberg and others had been consuming the fish stew when suddenly wracked with stomach pains. The village was stricken with paralysis. After a long period of time Zander appears, checks on her, mutters 'sorcery' marks his brow and stumbles off towards the ocean. As the villagers recover mobility, one observes wryly, why they didn't test an unknown fish before devouring it in a massive feast. Wendberg follows Zanders footprints allow the wet sand towards the west until an incoming tide defeats her tracking and she returns to the village to sleep.

Zandar finds himself emerging from a haze and overlooking the alluvial muckrakers delta. A single hut is lit and he approaches it. As the door opens he begins an evangelical tirade against the muttering old man in the shack. He works a charm person spell into the tirade. Despite his deep trust in Zander the old man declares that the cult of Jangaru is bad and into human sacrifice. It certainly yields material rewards, but at what cost he asks, he is clsoe to shuffling off this mortal coil and fears for him soul. He breaks out a small icon to Keega, the green mother of transformation and endings, and they both say prayers to one of the 9 immortals until they pass out. In the morning the old man offers Zandar 3 gp as material goods seem to be swaying him from the 9, Zandar instead gives the old man some money and heads to white port to find a cleric to the 9.

Bruno and Elrond set out to track down Zander based on Wendybergs report. As they head to the delta a 2 person boats hails them. Again attempting his sleep trick Elrond creates a disaster. One sailor passes out on the tiller, and as the boat swerves the boom smashes the other over board. The ship immediately founders on the prevalent reefs that surround the isle. Bruno shucks his armour and swims effortlessly to the boat and hunts for the sunk man. After escaping an undertow he spots more of the creepy structures, like the watchtower seen in the river, far underwater. Bruno pulls the one survivor on the boat to the shore. The sailor notes he thought that Elrond was from the shogunate, and questions him about the hell king worship. Elrond quickly loses patience and threatens the man into declaring his undying worship of the maker, before quickly sketching out some of the prayers and restrictions. The man, dubbed with the new name Sho-ol, leads the duo to white port before making good his escape.

Wendyberg casts purify on the fish and watches as a small portion of them wither into black scabs. It's discovered that a part of the swim bladder isn't completely removed with gutting and likely the source of the paralysis. The villagers cut out that portion of un-purified fish and continue to dry the rich bounty of new food.

Zandar finds a small shrine to Keega in whiteport, with an old man who begs and lights incense tending to it. He prays for hours and the old man approaches him to commend his piety. Under questioning the old man tells Zandar that any priest of the 9 would help such a pious follower of Keega, but the city has driven out the truly holy. He suggests he travel 2 days inland following the river to Otanu, the city where the old faithful of the shogunate still keep the faith of the 9. He councils Zandar to steer wide of the cursed city of Zushi, where a dark terror stalks the broken streets. As Zandar bounds to his feet to make best time his exhaustion over comes him and he passes out crashing to the floor.

XP 500

Friday, April 25, 2014

Trumpeter Salute 2014

Oooops, A posting that got highly delayed.... I managed to attend the local trumpeter salute at the beginning of April. I managed to get in 3 play sessions before life scheduling and fatigue knocked me out. I managed to hit 2 of the games I was interested in trying out.

Full Thrust I had experimented with once before and was interested in seeing if I was playing it correctly. The host was using the basic book, basic rules, so no damage control, and the 'cinematic' movement. Considering I had tried with the vector movement, this was MUCH easier to understand. While I didn't get the insight I was hoping for, it does seem that it is probably a case of insufficient returns for the increase in difficulty.

We manage to start play immediately on time, and finished in an hour. Great stuff. Another session was finished in the same play period while I wandered off to join a friend at another table.

Here is the basic setup. 4 klingon type vessels (3 destroyers with torpedoes and a frigate (or something like that) vs 3 large transports, 2 destroyers (without torpedoes), 1 frigate. The mission of the klingons is to destory the transports before they escape without losing more than 50% of their force.

The feds were speed limited to begin with, but I chose a high closing speed (14 inches or so) to try and maximize turns of fire. Unfortunately I mis-gauged the second turn of closing and as I attempted my turns (hoping to be in behind the feds) I ended up right in front of them. No torpedo shots, and a whole lot of damage. Immediately one of my destroyers on the top of the photo lost it's fire control and was useless (he hastened away in later turns).
I manage to get my frigate behind the fed line, and have gutted one merchant, and knocked out the jump drive on a second. The fed frigate is beating my frigate up badly.

The destroyer to the top misses it's torp shot (the only one for the game), while the one to the left is trying to slow enough to get some shots.

The last tranport loses it's jump drive to a lucky critical. I've lost another destroyer and my two remaining ships are pretty hurt.

I manage to destroy the fed frigate, but the combined fire of the fed destroyers manage to kill my last destroyer near the top centre of the picture. This brings my loses over 50% and I mis the win and get a tie. A nice quick fun game.

I was plagued by failed threshold checks on my fire controls. I think without that I would have done much better (and had more torpedo shot options). I suppose it was balanced by some lucky threshold losses to the transports jump drives.

My biggest problem was some poorly planned turns and the closing distance that didn't quite work out. I think if I closed just a bit fast (or slower) it would have been better.

Friday Game 2 (same time slot)

My friend had been intrigued by this second game as it had both British redcoats as well as lizardmen. A space 1889 type adventure against Venusian lizardmen for sure! Given my participation in a long ongoing space 1889 rpg I was very much interested. Checking the handbook later it appears this used the 'Battle for Empire' ruleset. Lion against the Lizard "General S Steele attempts to link up his Canadian Brigade with a British Brigade. A jolly good victory against the lizards is expected. " The minis looked cool, the batle looked functional with some cool bits, and the GM had a great pith hat. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately quite a bit. The GM vanished from the table for the first hour plus. I finished the full thrust game, and he still wasn't around. I disappeared for about 20 minutes to make some phone calls, and when I returned the setup was just finishing. This game a bit under 90 minutes for game play and a conclusion. Iffy stuff.

The British columns were coming in from two corners. The lizardmen started mostly set up and on blinds, with a column of crack troops (mostly mounted) coming in as a reinforcement column. The orders were to stop the British from sacking the village. I rather enjoyed that the lizardment were on blinds to start with, although it wasn't very well explained (ie at all) when they'd come off the blinds, or what visual sighting was through the 'woods'.

Working with Brian's girlfriend, we decided to load one flank up with the fake/spoof blinds to try and slow them down while we would overload the other flank (Brian's side) to crush each column in order. A winning plan for sure. It worked quite well on the delay side as the GM shook out his troops all along the line and took the bait of the fake blinds. He actually said I didn't think those guys were fake. Mwuahahaha.

 To the right we can see the wood molding as blind markers. Brian advances from the right. The centre group of markers are our cavalry and temple guard racing to further overload the right. On the left is a second (real) line of defense, while offscreen is the other Brits.

Unfortunately, the lizardmen were not really up to snuff for attacking rifle armed opponents. It seems overly challenging to get a flank charge, even when well placed, and the traitorous lizardmen askaris of the british fought well and held up our troops.

The GM basically handed us a cheat sheet for fuzzy wuzzies and stated that lizardmen are basically the same. A very thin reskinning, although they got a bonus when attacking humans in melee. I'd have preferred this to be hidden better, if not adjusted slightly. Given the near parity of forces, I think have lizardmen that contact humans should move like a buzzsaw through something soft and gooey.

The GM also seemed to need to consult the book a lot, and the cheat sheet was fairly lacking in useful info, more tables that you use when you already know the rules. A quick off the top explanation of some game concepts would have been great.

Near the end of the game the Brits on Brians flank are coming under bow fire from entrenched lizardmen. Their flank on the hill is engaged by 2 lizardmen melee units.

Meanwhile on the under-defended wing we see a cavalry force swinging wide to potentially threaten the flying column of lizardmen. 

In the background their entire force has shaken out into a line to attack the two swamp areas. Only one of which holds ANY units (and only 1 plus a leader which were driven away by gunfire & bayonet). 

 The fateful failed charge by the lizardmen. Some more clarity about spotting ranges, and the potential to fail to spot would have been helpful for Endie and myself to juggle the delaying action.

I question whether the spotting was arbitary, or merely seemed that way. 

I think based on our (time limited) poor performance, that there would indeed have been "A Jolly good victory against the lizards". I think this was more determined by the relative strengths of lizardmen vs redmen though. Either the forces needed rebalancing, or a mechanic to recycling lizardmen into the fray would be necessary.

The GM was limited in his lizardmen collection, as they are long out of print and bought off another gamer. Recycling dead troops would allow over coming this without denuding the british of too many troops. Perhaps less troops overall would yield a result in a shorter time period.

Some promise in the game, but a disappointment to be sure. Hard to judge the rule set at all.

I leave the reader with some fun pictures of the lizardmen leadership (left), and the cavalry that never made it off the blinds. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Alpha Stike First Game

My second day at the 2014 trumper salute I hit one of the games that has been on my list to try for a number of months, Battletech Alpha strike. One of my gaming friends, Brian, and I have been playing Battletech on and off for the last year. It's quite fun with small numbers of mechs and we were getting in some of the Sword and Dragon campaign book battles in. Unfortunately he have now hit the point where the number of mechs required has jumped from 4 to a side to 6 to 8. These are also weighted towards heavier mechs. The small battles consume our time allotment, and neither of us are in a position to leave the game set up for long enough to finish it a week plus later.


Alpha strike has been touted as a fast play version of Battletech. The scenario set up was two clans forcing fighting for some esoteric point of honour. I'm not up on the fluff, and I suspect our tactics of focus fire violated the warrior ethic, but meh, it's a demo game.

One of the big pluses in my mind is that the range bands of mechs have been set are regular distances 0-6, 6-24, 24+. The damages from all weapons are subsumed into a single damage value delivered in each range band (which can vary). I.e a mech could do 2/3/1 over the short/med/long range. Overheating allows for boosting damage at the cost of speed AND a to hit penalty. If you don't fire or are in a lake you get to reduce your heat total (which ranges from 0-3).

Also very convenient, and definitely a step of abstraction, is that the to hit modifiers for movement of the target are based on their top speed. You ALWAYS get the modifier unless you specifically go stationary (as opposed to not moving where you are considered to scuttle around a bit, but don't move meaningful distance). Stationary figs get a bonus to hit what they shoot at; bit of a risk/reward option there.

Damage is abstracted to armour and structure boxes. Once you start taking structure hits you roll for possible criticals (which are very likely, though not guaranteed). CASE still protects against ammo explosions. There are a number of special abilities which reflect various equipment, and sometimes weapon loadouts (ENE means the mech uses only/mostly energy weapons so is immue to blowing up from an ammo hit).

The Game:

 I missed taking shots for the couple turns of the game. I forgot and it played quite fast. Our force of 5 mechs kept to the centre and advanced under the cover of the hill. In the distance we see 2 mechs at 12 oclock which are the heavy scary mechs (a dire wolf and something i forget but was roughly described as the scariest mech there is). Meanwhile we traded shots with the mechs on the rise to the right. The smaller fast scout mech was basically impossible to hit and was needling damage off us. The larger mech I think got cocky and moved up beside it. 4 mechs that couldn't hit the scout decided to shift targets and quickly gave us our first kill.
 Another angle of the same turn I believe.

 We continued to push forward over the hill and through the forest. I believe one of our mechs went down, tying the game, but we quickly iced the ?Mad cat? at 1100 oclock hiding behind the brown mesa on green hill.

My fellow gamer moved his mech into the water of the x lake (so known because it's easy to cross *rimshot* hehehe). This way he boosted the power of his shots every turn with overheating. Meanwhile the two scary mechs (Direwolf hiding behind the green hill at 2 oclock). were paring us down steadily. One of my own mechs was a couple points from being destroyed and I have no idea why none of our opponents thought to do it. They seemed fixated on the other mechs for some reason, despite being told it had no armour. A mistake that would cost them.

 We rush forward (although my crippled mech continues to hide in the trees) and assassinate the 'scariest mech'. The now open shot from the direwolf destroys my mech with a lucky critical. We are now 3 vs 2 mechs. The Thor and the Gyr hawk rush the direwolf, ignoring the lighter enemy mech that came up to support mr scary.

The direwolf was successfully killed, but the gyrhawk and thor were killed shortly after by the damage the direwolf did (shooting I believe is simultaneous) and the lighter mech (name escapes me). At this point my crippled mech is hiding in the woods trying to hit the damned fast mech racing towards him.

What follows is a comedy of errors as the two mechs swap initiative back and forth and scuttle around for FIVE turns unable to roll the mediocre numbers needed to hit their opponent and finish them off (both were one hit from dying). On the last turn I go stationary, get the kill, and suffer a kill in turn. A TIE! How wonderful. I'm pretty sure the other players were getting a bit irritated waiting for the resolution, but all stayed around as it just didn't take very long to play the 5 turns (1-2 minutes a turn I'd guess). This in my mind is pretty high praise indeed.

The whole game took 1.5 - 2 hours I'm guessing. This included some explanations, some drooling and staring at mini's deciding what to do and who takes what, etc etc. I think if everyone had been considering what they were going to move next while the opponents moved and rolling faster it could have gone 25% faster. Zoom zoom!

I was sufficiently happy with the system to pick up the rulebook at trumpeter. While you can order the 'ad hoc' cards off rpgnet, which are about 40 mechs on nicely printed cards, all the stats for every mech is on the Master unit list (both for classic as well as alpha strike). It's unfortunate there isn't an easier way to print them , but they came as jpegs, so some sort of graphics program to resize and get more than one on a sheet of paper is necessary for the time being.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Axles and Alloys: First Game

One of our regular gaming group found a wonderful set of rules on the interwebz. It borrows heavily from Full thrust game mechanics, so there is some simultaneous plotting (of speed only), weapons hit on 4,5,6's (with slight modifiers for the targets speed), and damage is spread into rows that result in threshold checks for all your components at the end of each row. For extra fast play, one of those components is the gas tank which results in instant destruction if it fails its threshold check.

A few of our gamers have gotten excited and heavily modified some hot wheels (and other) cars. My bitz box came over for the evening to be raided by the crew for more weapons. I expect we'll see some additional creations in the coming weeks. 

 Vehicles can be small, medium, or large, which determines their top speed, number of turns they can make per round, advantage in a ram and number of weapon hardpoints.

Weapons include light and medium guns, light and medium ram plates, flame throwers, and a heap of dropped weapons (mines, spikes, oil, smoke, and napalm)

We started off entering the open table spread eveningly. Players move from top speed to slowest. Max firing range is 24", but mostly it's 12".

Firing can occur whenever you want (unless you've lost control) interrupting other players freely. You can only fire a weapon once per round though.

Turns can occur at the beginning, middle, and end of the move. You turn up to 45 degrees and then dice to see if you skid when you turn (faster speed more likely). If going at least 13" (I think), you can intentionally skid/drift; you turn more than 45 degrees and roll for the distance you roll distance you skip. All skids occur in the direction you were moving prior to turning.

Possibly the most important thing to remember is that if you hit terrain you die. Immediately. Also, when rammed, the losing rammer (a competitive die roll based on size and presence of ram plates) will spin out 1d6" and on a scatter die. This could take you into terrain and kill you as well.

Cameron's bus immediately went hunting for Mattie's winged VW. With a medium gun he could reach out 24" with a single die to attack.

 Most of the rest of us were closing without much in the way of attacks occuring. As Cameron raced around this rock feature, Mattie managed to drop some mine templates right in front of him. Due to the drift he had started it was going to be hard to miss the templates.

 The rod rod on the right had 2 medium guns to the front and had done some damage to Bryans saw van. The fire truck (grey) had managed to miss constantly with it's shots (In fact, I managed to roll 3 or less all night long, until a threshold check on my gas tank rolled my first 6 and promptly destroyed me).

In the top left you can just see the templates on the ground. The school bus clips one, but passes the roll to avoid the mines. Much like car wars, mine fields aren't a guaranteed hit (but do lots of damage when they explode).

 Meanwhile the saw van had rammed the Fire truck to good effect, heavily damaging it. After a ram the loser is spun out 1d6" in a random direction (note the scatter die on the table near the decorative crashed car). It then loses it's next turn. Finally when it can go again (starting from a speed of 0 + acceleration, which generally means last in a round) it can start shooting again. Losing a ram is BRUTAL. 

 Turning from the purple VW, the school bus cuts right and manages to smash into the damaged Saw Van, due to it's loss of speed from the ram (the winner has his speed halved). The poor saw van spins out in front of the school bus, which has just enough speed remaining to hit it again. First kill to the school bus. To be fair, Bryan rolled pants on both ran rolls.

 The fire truck fails to set the purple VW on fire as it's up to 8", and the hot rod is swinging around to get on the school buses behind.

Cameron lets off a cloud of napalm in such a way Ryan's hot rod can't avoid next turn. The fire truck releases a swarm of spikes, hoping to hem in the on coming school bus as well.

 The school bus uses up it's final shot with it's medium gun at short (12") range getting to roll 2 dice (instead of 1). It rolls a 6 and a 5, causing 3 points of damage, pushing the firetruck into a threshold check. First 6 of the game for me on my gas tank blows me up. Thankfully I block the gap and the School bus has to hang a righ.

 I had to leave with my ride at this point. The report I received later was the hot rod caught on fire, but was extinguished immediately. The hot rod was rammed to death by the school bus shortly there after, and somehow the purple VW caught fire with napalm and the driver was burnt to a crisp (failed threshold check).

 It took a bit of time for of the less frequent wargamers to grok the rules, but we managed to play a 5 player game to conclusion within about 2 hours. This included some setup and yacking on a friday night after a work week, so obviously these are fast play rules. This is a great game hiding here. I would imagine this would be an easy one for a rolling start where latecomers race onto the table with a fresh car and start fighting immediately. Two thumbs up.

Cameron over at Cameron's Tiny Little Men has some better pictures then me.