Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brink of Battle: Cops and Drug Dealers

My first game of Brink of Battle was a quickly sketched scenario where a group of regular cops must arrest drug dealers hidden in the slums somewhere in modern-day Brazil. The board was drawn in a single A4 sheet as I am playing at a reduced scale. This let little space for maneuver but I wanted to focus on the engagement between the two groups.

The cops are on the left with blue bases. They are a regular force with one detective (commander, CBT 6, CMD 6, CON 6, marksman, hardened, carrying a shotgun), two veteran cops with carbines and five officers with pistols. The drug dealers are a horde-type force with a drug lord (commander, CBT 6, CMD 6, CON 6, gutshot, inspiring, carrying an assault rifle), one lieutenant (veteran) with a shotgun and seven henchmen with pistols, revolvers and shotguns.

The objective of the drug dealers is to escape through the left edge (with at least 4 units, including the commander) or make the cops rout. The objective of the cops is to keep the drug dealers on the board for eight turns, when reinforcements arrive, or to make the dealers rout, which in this case means they surrender. The yellow areas are houses that have been abandoned while the cops advanced.

In my first game I tried to play offensively with the cops, moving quickly with some of them towards the dealers. This was a bad idea as the henchmen near the gate of the red area moved out and shot them. The cops managed to mount a defense but had some losses and routed by the fourth turn.

In the second game I moved some cops to the narrow alley and put others in the houses. The drug dealers had to move out and try their luck, some of them fast moving and others using move & fire actions. In the end two of them fled but the rest routed.


As I am still learning the game, I simply played both sides in these games, with no other solo adaptations. Each game lasted around 30-40 minutes. The mechanics are indeed easy to use although there are a few bits that may be forgotten during play. For instance, I completely forgot to make weapon checks (to test if a weapon jams or needs reloading) and at one point during the second game I forgot to make a psychology check when a dealer was wounded by a cop.

Creating the forces is an interesting exercise. While it is desirable to keep the combat, command and constitution scores of each unit high, this severely limits what you can buy in terms of special abilities and gear. On the other hand, I feel that I did not really make the drug dealer force a "horde": I should have made many more henchmen, which then would be individually weaker than the cops.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Basic board and minis for starship games

Today I built a simple hex board and tokens to play 5150 Fighter Command (and a couple of other starship games that I have not tried yet.) Later I might play these games in virtual tabletop software, as maneuvering in hex grids works well on them. However, I like to try and learn games on the table. This picture shows the board, overcrowded with all the tokens.

This is a closer picture showing the tokens in more detail. The ones that fit in a single hex are meant to represent single fighters. The others might be used for light or medium capital ships. Each one is identified by a letter and number.

That is all for now... hopefully I will be able to post some actual battles soon...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

First Impressions: Brink of Battle

I recently came across Brink of Battle: Skirmish Gaming through the Ages, a set of wargame rules that has been around since early 2012. It is intended to be a game for small skirmishes -- at most 20 figures per side, individually based -- set at any time from 3000 B. C. to the present day. It certainly is a tall order, something the author Robert A. Faust admits right at the beginning of the book. Mr. Faust also emphasizes that this is meant to be used to play historically-based conflicts, including "what-if" scenarios but no sci-fi or fantasy (a fantasy supplement has been announced.)

In order to accomplish its goals, the game splits history into three periods. The first goes from antiquity to around 1450. The second one goes from that moment (with the rise of gunpowder) up to 1880. And the third takes up from that point in time to the present. The periods determine available equipment and special abilities that the units may possess.

There is a very detailed review of the game at the blog Anatoli's Game Room and I would advise anyone interested to read that post. Rather than repeat those words (with which I mostly agree) I will only comment on a couple of features that got me very interested. First is the fact that the rules were written with tournaments in mind. If, on one hand, this makes them a bit dry to read, on the other hand it is possible to find carefully defined procedures that were intended to avoid conflicts between players. One example are the targeting rules. As a result, the player is given a good framework to get started with setting up solo play house rules. The other feature is the uniform and clever use of a single die roll mechanic and penalty system, complemented by a simple damage system. These make the rules easy to grasp and to remember, with very little need for paperwork and rules lookup.

I still have to play actual battles with this system (so far I have only run very quick tests to learn the rules) but given its features and flexibility, I believe that it will join the set of my frequently-used rules.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Armor Grid in 6mm

This weekend I got around to building some Armor Grid models at 50% scale, putting them roughly at the size of 6mm models. Here is a light vehicle (from the Motor Pool set) and a forest area (from the Terrain Pack.)

Building the vehicle at this reduced scale required the use of tweezers and I had to print it in regular, 90gsm paper otherwise the small paper tabs became unworkable. The terrain elements were printed in 180gsm cardstock.

I say "roughly" 6mm because I do not have many references about actual vehicle sizes in that scale. From the measurements I saw on the Onslaught Miniatures site, it seems that the medium and large Armor Grid miniatures would be about the same size as their tanks.

This light vehicle is about 2cm long and 1cm wide. Here is a picture with a ruler to have a better sense of scale.

I did this both as a challenge and to evaluate the feasibility of making a whole group of vehicles to play Armor Grid, Strike Legion and other games in 6mm scale. Surely, there are metal miniatures at low prices in this scale, but there are still the issues of availability and shipping costs around here. Based on these results, I am thinking about making my own set of simplified models for 6mm.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Using CROM for post-apocalyptic games

In a previous post, I made a short review of CROM from Matakishi's Tea House and commented on its suitability for solo play. Although it was designed to play heroic fantasy adventures, I do not think it is hard to adapt it to other melee-heavy settings. This includes post-apocalyptic worlds where enough time has passed to make most technology lost.

There are no character creation rules in CROM. Instead, they are described as possessing some capabilities, such as ranged attacks or certain magic spells. The rules describe how these are resolved in game. Therefore, I decided to expand or adjust the rules for a post-apocalyptic setting. Here is what I currently use:

Firearms: these ancient weapons use the normal rules for ranged attacks. Pistols and SMGs add 1 special die for this purpose; rifles and shotguns add 2. That is, every turn a figure with a firearm has that amount of bonus special dice to use. These are also the number of extra wounds that may be caused if sixes are rolled. However, after each shot a die must be rolled. On a 1, the firearm breaks. On a 2, it is jammed until the end of the scenario. Firearms reduce cover effectiveness by 1.

Energy guns: these are powerful ranged weapons from before the fall of civilization. Energy guns reduce cover effectiveness by 1. To fire an energy gun, a figure must use pairs of combat and special dice. Therefore, an attack will roll 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 dice at most. If the attack is successful, any 6 rolled on a combat die adds a wound. However, after an energy gun is fired, roll a die. If the result is equal to or lower than the number of combat dice used in the attack, the gun explodes, causing 1 wound to its user. For instance, after an attack with 4 dice, I roll one die and get a 1. Since this is less than 2 (the number of combat dice rolled) the gun explodes and causes a wound.

Psychic abilities use the Magic system from the CROM book. Some sample powers:
Mind blast - a target may defend with any available dice. A successful hit causes 2 wounds and the target is stunned (may only defend for the rest of this turn.)
Pyrokinesis - a target may defend with any available dice. A successful hit causes 2 wounds and a roll of 6 sets the target on fire.