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.