Saturday, December 31, 2016

My entry to the 6x6 Challenge 2017

So, it seems my expectations of getting back to the world of gaming in September were optimistic, and here we are at the last day of the year. This time I am not making a review post. Instead, I will be skipping right to 2017 with the 6x6 Challenge.

I found out today, through Shaun's blog, about the 6x6 Challenge by Kaptain Kobold: pick six games, play each six times through the year and blog about these plays. After months of inactivity, I expect that this provides motivation to get back to some miniature gaming in the next year.

My chosen games are six titles that I have not played yet (or only tested a bit.) Two are not miniature games, but are dedicated solo games:

1) And a Bottle of Rum (Two Hour Wargames): some time ago, I got the bundle with the Free Ports expansion, so this includes all things pirate. Sea battles, exploration, skirmishes, large battles. I have a number of ship tokens and pirate paper miniatures that may be useful.

2) Clash on the Fringe (Nordic Weasel Games): a game about space adventures and exploration, including campaign and solo rules. I wonder how I have not yet played this, since I mostly play sci-fi skirmishes.

3) Mercenary Air Squadron (Victory By Any Means Games): a solo strategy game about leading a group of mercenary pilots, making profits and upgrading equipment. I have meant to play this a few times but always stop at the preparation.

4) Morale Napoleon (Two Hour Wargames): a game of large Napoleonic battles, a bit scary to me as I do not have any experience with that period (and very little experience with historical wargaming.) Still, if things get too complicated, I can play the "alternate universe" card and get things done regardless of proper uniforms!

5) MOTH - The Ion Age (Alternative Armies): a miniature game of sci-fi battles. It comes with its own setting and forces, but seems flexible enough to create variations. It seems to share some rules with USE ME, which is a system I like.

6) Star Trader (Zozer Games): a solo strategy game about managing a trader starship, using the Traveller RPG rules. I read and played a bit with the Traveller rules, and I expect that this game will give some structure to play solo with them.

So that is it, the clock starts ticking in a few hours (in my timezone) and even if I cannot play each of these games six times, trying them all will be great anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back to the world of gaming!

The last months have been really busy, but now I am finally getting back to miniature gaming. I have a number of Osprey wargames to read (bought in a Bundle of Holding offer), including In Her Majesty's Name and Fistful of Kung Fu.

I have just noticed that Tabletop Simulator now supports figurines with fronts and backs, so I might have yet another use to the large number of paper miniatures I have been buying (and not always printing) over the years.

By the way, I would really love to try it with HTC Vive to see how close it gets to the actual tabletop experience. Has anyone tried it yet?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Blast Pistol

It seems shaking my habit of buying rule sets is harder than I thought, as I have added a few to my collection, including Blast Pistol. This is the new game from Nordic Weasel, and intended for quick pick-up games in sci-fi settings.

One interesting thing about Blast Pistol is that it is published as a "living rules system", meaning it will be updated as time goes. Right now the rule book is very bare-bones, and I would normally be wary of this proposition (having purchased rules that were later abandoned in a bad state by other authors). However, considering how Five Core has evolved in a relatively short time, I think it will work well.

Right now, Blast Pistol is a very simple rules system, with an alternate activation turn sequence in which players select and activate a number of units at a time. Miniatures are single based and grouped into squads or act as individuals. There are some unit templates for squads, heroes and vehicles. The writing is clear but since the document is very concise, it requires attention. For instance, in my first read I was hunting for the definition of damage in vehicles, which is presented in a bullet point on the section about big models.

As a pick-up game, battles are played as meeting engagements, fighting four turns and counting how many points in units each player has destroyed after that. Here is one simple example with balanced forces: on one side, three colonial militia squads, a gunsliger and a hero (302 points) against 3 precursor squads (300 points).
Board setup: a virtual 4'x4' table with some obstacles. Precursors at the bottom of the image, colonial forces at the top. The grey patches are rock formations that are impassable and block line of sight.
Turn 1: the colonial forces go first but don't kill anything. The precursors cause damage to one of the colonial militia squads.
Turn 2: colonial forces keep advancing and the hero and gunslinger move. In the exchange of fire, both sides lose some units.
Turn 3: the colonial forces move to a position where they can fire more effectively, but miss most shots. The precursors are then able to shoot back and cause lots of damage. Two colonial squads flee the battlefield.
Turn 4: the precursors defeat the gunslinger and hero. The last colonial squad only hits one enemy. The game ends with a clear victory for the precursors.
After this battle, I played again two more times (that is the beauty of a virtual tabletop: you can set up a scenario, save it and then quickly replay it several times.) On the second, the precursors won by 146 vs. 120 points (point costs of defeated enemies.) The third was also won by the precursors, 210 vs. 120 points. I guess the terrain favored the longer range of the precursor weapons, although I also had some terrible rolls for the colonial forces.

These are only my first impressions, as I have not tried battles using vehicles or other big models. I also want to try other board sizes and setups. So far, it seems to work well for quick games. Based on the rules for activation and morale, I think smaller squads (of 4-5 troops) are better than larger ones.

There are no solo rules, and I do not think this game is aimed at solo play. That said, I think it would be simple to adapt the solo rules from Five Core or No End in Sight if one wanted to.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The ruins of Algor'nas: a 4 Against Darkness adventure

I picked up 4 Against Darkness (by Ganesha Games) a few weeks ago and played my first adventure this weekend. My party of four adventurers consisted of the following, in marching order:

Stegmo: level 1 warrior, equipped with light armor, mace, shield. Carrying 1 bandage. 7 life.
Kernas: level 1elf, equipped with light armor, sword, bow (default). Spells: blessing. Carrying 1 bandage. 5 life.
Abugol: level 1 wizard, equipped with a dagger and spell book. Carrying a lantern, 1 bandages and 10 gold. Spells: 3x fireball. 3 life.
Sharnas: level 1 rogue, equipped with a sling (default), dagger, light armor and lock picks. Carrying 1 bandages, rope and 10 gold. 4 life.

The entrance to the dungeon was a large room with two doors and a poorly lit corridor. Before trying the doors, the adventurers decided to move down the corridor. They found a closed door and beyond, another room with an alchemist in it. They did not have enough gold to purchase the strange potions he had, and so he moved on.
Starting a dungeon. I opened the provided graph paper template in Gimp and scribbled the rooms there.
They opened the next door to find a weird bug-like creature with four claws, dripping a green goo from its mandibles. "Iron-eater!", Stegmo shouted and leaped at the creature, hitting its head with his mace. Kernas hit a weak spot of its carapace with an arrow, and Sharnas exploded one of its eyes with a good sling toss. The monster dropped to the ground. After the fight, Kernas found a magic sword that somehow was not eaten by the monster. [Besides finding the treasure, Kernas gained a level.]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Five Core Expanded Steatlh Rules

A while ago, I posted about Black Ops and it was fun playing stealth missions with that system. Afterwards, I bought Five Core Field Guide, which has a number of optional rules and extensions to the Five Core rules. One of the most interesting is the expansion for stealth missions, which was also incorporated into Five Core 3rd edition.

The expanded stealth rules include more detailed rules for patrolling defenders, distractions and stealth kills. Here is a battle report using them with "basic" Five Core 3rd edition rules.

In this battle, the infiltrators, set up on the left, must contact the small building guarded by the defense forces and make a task roll to plant explosives. The following picture shows the table setup. The red dice are patrol points. The two chainsaw-wielding soldiers in front of the building are static sentries. The rest of them may move between patrol points.

Game setup
One fire team of the infiltrators moved through the woods while the other waited in cover. The patrolling sentries started moving towards the other patrol points.

Let's get moving.
One of the infiltrators created a distraction for the closest sentry (marked with the green die), allowing the other two to run behind the other patch of woods. However, the noise from running caused another sentry to cross the woods and find them. The sentry raised the alarm and the stealth segment was over.

What's that noise? Surprise!
One of the infiltrators fired at the sentry but missed. From this point on, it took a few standard Five Core turns (with only one rolled fire fight and no scurry turns) until the infiltrators were pushed away from the map.
A few turns later, only the infiltrators in the ruins remained.
The infiltrators in the ruins still tried to make another push, taking cover behind the hill, but when they got closer to the building, the rest of the defenders had already taken positions to suppress any attempts of getting closer.

Compared to Black Ops, the stealth rules in Five Core are less complex but also result in a fun game. I have the impression that in Black Ops it is more difficult for the defenders to raise the alarm. Maybe this is because that game is noticeably inspired by "stealth-action" video games, so the focus is in smaller, elite infiltration forces that try to keep hidden until the end of the mission.

In Five Core, it seems to me that stealth will play a part in initial infiltration and positioning of a strike force. In particular, I am interested in trying a few more games between evenly matched forces, to see if stealth can compensate for the positioning advantage of the defending force.

There are no specific rules for handling the sentries in a solo stealth game using Five Core (or at least I could not find them), so here are my house rules:
1. Spread patrol points to make a large triangle on the board, with one patrol point near the defenders' edge of the table. Number the patrol points: the one closest to the defenders' edge is #1, the others are #2 and #3.
2. Roll a die for each patrolling sentry. On a 1-2 they will make a circular route around the patrol points. On a 3-4, they will move back and forth between points #1 and #2. On a 5-6, they will move between points #1 and #3.
3. Roll another die to define direction of patrol. For circular routes, even means clockwise and odd means counter-clockwise. For linear routes, even means the sentry starts moving towards point #1, and odd means they start moving towards the higher-numbered patrol point.
4. Deploy the patrolling sentries within 8" of the edge. Sentries in a linear route should be placed as close to halfway through the route as possible. Sentries in a circular route should be placed near patrol point #1.
5. When a patrolling sentry moves, they will approach a noise marker if it is closer than the next patrol point on their route. Afterwards, if there is no contact, they will resume their route.

It might be possible to fine tune these house rules by taking into consideration the level of aggression of the defenders and other factors.