Friday, April 24, 2015

Full Thrust (Lite)

Just a quick update: today I finally had my first test game of Full Thrust, using the "lite" version, which uses a simpler movement system and only features lasers and energy torpedoes. I made some very simple starship counters and a turning tool to help maneuvering.

Surprisingly, the game worked pretty well on a 90cm x 60cm table, even measuring ranges in inches. Granted, there were only three ships on each side (two light cruisers and one heavy cruiser.) This made maneuvering very important and combat quite deadly, as the ships were often close and thus able to fire all weapons at top power.

I will leave a "first impressions" to another time, after I have played the full rules. So far, I can see why this game remains popular among those who like space combat games.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First impressions: Rogue Planet

I picked this up as the "deal of the day" on WargameVault, after reading Brent Spivey's interesting suggestions for solo play in the discussion section of the product page.

Since the book is only 24 pages long, I decided to run some quick tests. I started trying to make a zombies vs. extermination team game. Since there is no way to model units with slower movement (I wanted "classic" slow zombies) they became infected mutants. My two teams were:

4x Infected Mutants (46 points each)
CQ 5 / RAT 2 / DEF 3 / ARM [Group]
Claws & teeth (melee, +1 vs. [Light])

Infected Leader (57 points)
CQ 4 / RAT 5 / DEF 6 / ARM [Light]
Claws & teeth (melee, +1 vs. [Light])
Pulse rifle (+1 vs. [Light])

4x Exterminator (41 points each)
CQ 3 / RAT 5 / DEF 4 / ARM [Light]
Infantry rifle (+1 vs. [Light])

Squad leader (68 points)
CQ 4 / RAT 6 / DEF 5 / ARM [Light]
Infantry rifle (+1 vs. [Light])
Grenade

In the first test match I left out two groups of mutants and two exterminators, just to learn the rules. The game was over in about 30 minutes, and I just had to consult the quick reference sheet for damage effects and counter-actions.

In the second match, I used the entire forces, the battle lasted about the same. The exterminators won both times, although the first match was very close. Lesson learned: groups are very flexible for maneuvering but you should make them very good at either melee or ranged, because they die quite easily and do not provide energy for the team.

Here is an overview of the main game mechanics:

Turn structure is IGO-UGO, but the opposing player might be able to interrupt any action. The game uses a random number of action points per turn, so not all units may be able to activate. Actions include moving (in a straight line, up to a terrain piece), attacking, charging, and using powers or magic. Counter-moves also require action points.

Movement actions have unlimited range in a straight line, unless you contact a terrain piece or other unit. I cannot help comparing this to Song of Blades and heroes, although in this case, it is a little less fiddly (no movement sticks) and gives the game a more "cinematic" feel. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, I could not see any way to make slow-moving units (although it is possible to make faster ones.)

Task resolution uses a unified mechanic, including melee and ranged attacks. In all cases, just one die roll is needed, thus keeping the game simple and easy to learn. Damage depends on armor type and there is a clever system that allows players to spend "energy" to save some units from defeat.

The rules for leader units and their pawns (sidekicks that grant bonuses or abilities to the leader) are very cool and, like the rest of the game, strike a balance between providing tactical choices and fostering narrative in the game.

Conclusion
My first impression of Rogue Planet is: a fast-playing game with many interesting ideas. The short stat line, simple resolution and no measurement are inviting for some "impromptu" playing -- like statting up a handful of toy soldiers and playing on the dinner table, using napkins and whatnot as terrain pieces.

It does have some limitations in modeling units but does not feel too abstracted. The way movement and shooting work makes it necessary to scatter enough terrain pieces to break long straight corridors across the board, although I do not think the board would have to be as closed as in, say, Infinity. One interesting thing is, for the same reasons, board size is not as important.

Given its features, I think I would use Rogue Planet for narrative-inspired games, maybe a series of 4-5 battles chained together forming a story arc. I am not sure I would use it for longer campaigns.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another fold-flat scenario test

Here is yet another test for fold-flat terrain, in this case dungeons or sci-fi bases. The wall segments are simple two-sided strips with a folded base to hold the floor piece. Walls are conected by triangular posts, with small paper clips (in this 15mm scale version).

This is what the pieces look when taken apart:

Multiple rooms can be connected simply by adding more posts and walls. The main problem is finding a better way to fix the floor. Currently, it is held between the triangular posts and the folded pieces of the walls, but this is not very stable.

One alternative might be to simply have a large floor tile and place the entire set of walls above it, instead of having separate floor pieces for each room.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fighter Command: first impressions

After a few quick tests to check if I understood the rules well (especially the rules about sensor range and dogfighting), I went on to run my first game of 5150 Fighter Command. I used MapTool to play the battle, which went smoothly. I also created a basic "framework" for future 5150 Fighter Command games.

[rant mode on]
I cannot say I was impressed by the public release of the Mote VTT. The project owners admitted they changed plans outlined in their crowdfunding campaign and are now focused on implementing a virtual tabletop service. I understand that software projects are prone to miscalculations that increase budget, leading to delays or reductions in scope. The fact remains that Mote does not show any immediate improvements over MapTool. With the recent facelift of the RPTools site and the codebase being available on GitHub, I would recommend MapTool over Mote to anyone interested.
[rant mode off]

My first game used a single flight of two light fighters of the Planetary Defense Force, on patrol looking for pirates. I added three Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) and ruled that only one of them would become a flight of pirate light fighters. Simple and safe but, hey, that was my first full battle.

"Simple and safe," right? The topmost PEF turned out to be the flight of 3 pirate fighters. They closed in and triggered an In Sight test. My fighters launched Fire & Forget missiles, damaging the guns of one of the pirates. However, the pirate leader's countermeasures avoided the missile impact, and it entered a dogfight against my Star. Unloading its rockets and mass driver cannons, it damaged the ship's communication systems. My Star reacted, also dogfighting and firing his two railguns -- but they caused no damage. The pirate leader activated again (all the action so far happened during the movement phase of the turn) and hit my Star's ship again on the comm systems, causing it to explode, however he ejected safely [thanks to the "larger than life" advantage]. Anyway, after this, the battle was over for me.

There is a lot going on within a 5150 Fighter Command game. The turn structure has a bunch of changes from other Two Hour Wargames titles. Although those changes make sense for a starship game, they take some time to get used to. The dogfighting system is really cool, making even very "small" games like the one I played interesting.

I still have to try some games involving capital ships along with fighters, but at least I have already made some tests with two and three-hex long ships in MapTool.

That is all for now. Given the many different ship and weapon attributes (not to mention two distinct ship classes, fighters and capital vessels) the quick reference on this game is quite extensive. Still, the basic procedures (for movements and attacks) have remained simple. With a few more games, I expect to be able to set up and play some scenarios quickly.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A little solitaire adventure dice game

Here is the "beta" version of a solitaire, dice-based adventure game in the vein of Dice of the Living Dead and other solitaire, dice matching games.

Dice Adventures

1) Setup
Pick three different heroes among the following list. You can name them if you like, although they may not survive long. Each class has a different power, which will make sense in a moment.

Bard = may re-roll someone else's die.
Cleric = may change someone else's roll by 1.
Ranger = roll 2 dice, keep lowest.
Thief = gain 1 extra gold if the adventure result is 1-3.
Warrior = may change his die roll by 1.
Wizard = may re-roll his die.

Grab a piece of paper, pen and four dice.

2) Adventuring
Each game consists in one or more adventures (see game modes below.) For each adventure, you perform the following steps:

a) Roll one six-sided die per hero (or two, in case of the ranger.) It is useful to have dice of different colors to identify each character.
b) Roll one six-sided die for the henchman, if available.
c) Use items and hero powers, in any order you wish, as available, to modify dice rolls. Note: when re-rolling due to abilities or items, you must accept the new result.
d) Establish the adventuring result. If all values are different, pick the highest value. If two or three values match, that is the result.

Check the adventure result in the following table:

1 = Major success! One character levels up. Gain 3 gold.
2 = Minor success. Gain 2 gold.
3 = Everyone got out alive. No rewards.
4 = One random hero loses one level. Ignore if all are level 1.
5 = One random hero dies.
6 = Two random heroes die.

3) After each adventure
After each adventure, depending on results, you may level up characters, spend gold and hire new heroes.

Leveling up: heroes start at level 1 and their maximum level is 3. Heroes may use their abilities a number of times equal to their level, on each adventure. For instance, a level 2 Wizard can re-roll his die twice.

Spending gold: you can use gold to purchase items and services. Items are spent on use. You can keep spare gold to spend it later.

Treasure - worth 1 victory point each: 1 gold.
Provisions - modify one die roll by 1: 1 gold.
Magic weapons - re-roll one hero die: 2 gold.
Hireling - roll an additional die, that you can use in place of the result of any one hero. Hireling leaves after the dungeon is finished. You may have at most one hireling at any time: 3 gold.

Hire a new hero: If a hero is killed, you may be able to hire a new one, but check the game modes for details.

4) Game modes
There are three game modes for dice adventures. I would suggest the basic game but the others are available if it seems too easy.

The basic game: In this mode you must face five adventures in a row. When a hero dies, you can simply pick a new one (as long as you keep three different heroes in the party), which starts at level 1. At the end of the game, your score is equal to the sum of levels for all current characters, plus 1 point per treasure, minus 1 point per dead character during the game. Note: the game ends after you level up and spend gold for the 5th adventure, if applicable (but you cannot hire new heroes.)

Hardcore game: In this mode you must also face five adventures in a row. When a hero dies you can hire a new one of a class that you have not used yet, so it is possible that all your heroes die before reaching the end of the game (and in that case you do not score any points.) When calculating score, add 5 points due to playing in hardcore mode.

Hardcore+: same as hardcore, but you must also apply the following modifiers for each adventure. When calculating score, add 6 points due to playing in hardcore+ mode.

1st adventure: no modifier.
2nd adventure: +1 to one die of your choice.
3rd adventure: +1 to one die of your choice.
4th adventure: +1 to two dice of your choice.
5th adventure: +1 to two dice of your choice.

5) Adventuring example

A party with a Warrior, Cleric and Wizard (all of them at level 1) go on an adventure. The Warrior rolls a 3, the Cleric rolls a 5 and the Wizard rolls a 1. Without modifications, this would cause one random hero to die. However, the Warrior uses his ability to change his roll to a 2, and the Cleric uses her ability to change the Wizard's roll to a 2. The final rolls are 2, 5, 2, for an adventuring result of 2. A minor success, and the party gains 2 gold.

The party spends the gold on magic weapons and go on another adventure. This time, the Warrior rolls a 6, the Cleric rolls a 1 and the Wizard rolls a 6. The Warrior spends the magic weapon to re-roll, getting a 4, and the Wizard uses his power to re-roll, getting a 5 (too bad!) Finally, the Cleric uses her power to modify the Wizard's roll to a 4. The final rolls are 4, 1, 4. Nothing gained but, since the heroes are level 1, nothing is lost, either.

Final thoughts

This is something I sketched during the weekend, it has not seen heavy playtesting (but I did play it a few times to try hero combinations and test if it was too easy.) If I were to expand this, I would probably make a small deck of adventures, so that each adventure card had a different adventure result table and possibly some modifiers.