Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Solo play review: No End In Sight

This is a review of No End In Sight, a platoon-level tabletop game for post-WWII conflicts (that may also serve for near-future conflicts) by Nordic Weasel Games. I intend to give an overview of the game and discuss its solo playability.

Rules summary
The game is designed to be played with about one platoon per side, although there are optional rules for playing with less figures, like a squad per side. There are also rules for vehicles, artillery support and aerial support but the focus is clearly on infantry.

Each squad has a leader, and the platoon may have an additional leader too. Game turns involve alternating activation of leaders. A die is rolled to give action points that the leader uses to move soldiers under their command. The same leader may be activated more than once per game turn, but they accumulate stress points. Normally, three stress points are removed each turn but leaders might start accruing permanent stress, that make them less effective.

Troops have three different quality levels (irregular, trained and professional) that are assigned for each squad. These influence their effectiveness when moving, attacking and making morale tests. Small arms, squad automatic weapons, heavy weapons and grenades, as well as body armor are handled in the rules but there are no detailed equipment or weapon stats. Most weapons have unlimited range, except due to intervening cover.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tabletop games and Computer games

I started thinking about this post after my dungeon crawl in Tabletop Simulator. More specifically, I was surprised to find myself thinking of actually manipulating the pieces, although they were only virtual models. I attribute this to the physics simulation (collision detection and simulation of mass) implemented in that software.

At the same time, there are all the computer versions of board games that have been released lately, for computers and tablets. Differently from Tabletop Simulator, they tend to offer a user interface that mediates the manipulation of the game pieces. This article from Edge already discussed those conversions and some implications to the market.

Lastly, this post on Delta Vector got me back to thinking about why I play tabletop war games. That is, since I play mostly solo, why not stick to the vast offer of real-time and turn-based strategy games on the PC? I have written a bit about it before, and my argument was centered on the experience of playing a tabletop game. However, part #3 of the argument (the pleasure of implementation) was weakened by my experience with Tabletop Simulator.

All this led me to ask two questions:
1) Is there something that tabletop war games offer that computer strategy games cannot match?
2) Is it possible to predict that tabletop war games will be converted to digital versions in the near future, much like board games?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Zombicide and solo scenarios

Today I spent some hours playing Zombicide and this got me thinking about solo tabletop gaming scenarios.

One problem that solo games must address is providing challenge for the players, and the solution often comes in the form of unpredictability. In the case of Zombicide, for instance, there are the card decks for zombies and items.


However, there is also the issue of setting up the game, that is, giving context to the action that is about to happen. Many rule sets have generic scenarios (i.e. attack or defend) and some have scenario generators. While useful, these often lack in depth or leave too many details for the player to fill.

This can be a problem for solo gaming, as setting the terrain in a mindful manner implies thinking about the tactics that can be used there. It can work if you want to explore different tactical situations in a given board. If you want to be able to play against the rules, it can feel as you have an unfair advantage.

One possible solution is to look for scenarios built by other people on the Internet. The problem is that in many cases, these will require miniatures, models or terrain that the player does not have.

The interesting thing about Zombicide is that, being a board game with a definite set of components, it is easier to share scenarios created for it. The official site has over 40 scenarios just for the base game and even an application to aid creating new ones.

I do not have any concrete proposals at the moment for this. On one hand, I enjoy the freedom given by tabletop games, i.e. I can set up a board with anything at hand. However, at times I may be stumped at creating any scenario, or may make one that is too favorable for one side.

In the end, I think that the relevant question is: how are other tabletop gamers creating their scenarios for play?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Battlegrounds for MapTool

I have set up a few simple battleground maps for use with MapTool. I used to simply draw a rectangle the size of my desired map but I think that having these templates is a little faster. I started by making a 1200x1200 pixel image in Gimp and playing with brushes until I had a texture that looked like a field of grass and dirt. Then I reduced it to 600x600 pixels. The default scale for MapTool is 50 pixels = 1 square. If I assume that each square has 1 inch sides, then I have a 1' square tile. Finally, I used the "make seamless" filter so that I could use it to build larger maps. Here is a reduced version of the seamless tile:

From that, I built several images for maps of sizes 2'x2', 3'x3', 4'x4', 4'x3' and 6'x4'. Here is an example of use of the 3'x3' map (the tokens were created using Slick's Minis figures so I cannot share them.)

The pack of maps can be downloaded here or on the Downloads section of my blog.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A virtual dungeon crawl

Two Hour Dungeon Crawl, as the name implies, is a rules set focused on "dungeon crawling" as many others around. However, following Two Hour Wargames' motto ("just play the game") it is meant to be played with little preparation and without lots of tiles, props or miniatures.

I was one of the playtesters for this game, so I was already familiar with it as I read the final version. However, there were some changes from the last playtest version that, in my opinion, made the game even more streamlined. After a few quick tests to see if I got everything right, I created my hero and recruited other three members to the party:

Sir Reginald, the knight (rep 5 star), plate armor, longsword and shield.
Gweldyn, the elf warrior (rep 4 grunt), plate armor, two-handed sword.
Bordim, the dwarf soldier (rep 4 grunt), chain mail, spear and shield.
Yelena, the human thief (rep 4 grunt), leather armor, twin blades.

I decided to try the "RPG Kit" for Tabletop Simulator for this game. In order to use the pre-packaged models I decided that the Big Bad would be an orc (as the RPG Kit comes with goblin, orc, troll and ogre figures, among others.) The adventurers are represented by color-tinted knight miniatures: Reginald is red, Gweldyn is green, Bordim is blue and Yelena is yellow.