Thursday, June 14, 2018

HHH Modern Warfare Testing Session 1

I've been busy with creating my own set of rules that bridge the gap between a pure skirmish and mass combat, something that could handle a platoon or so of regular troops, with the possibility of mixing in character (PC) heroes and vehicles or other heavy-hitters.  Tentatively named Heroes, Heavies, and Hordes, my system uses traditional d4-d20 numerical progression.  I've used these rules to play Modern Warfare:  Alien Invasion, Chapters 1 and 2, but I'm still working out the kinks.

I started my first play-test with just the 'hordes' portion of the rules test, trying out the conventional ground combat to ensure that the basics work in this system before adding anything else.  Before I can add superpowered characters, psionic powers, and suits of power armor to the mix, I need to make sure that it can handle modern ground combat.

For the scenario, two squads of US Army troops (total 18 soldiers) will square off against six insurgent sections of seven men each, with the goal of rescuing a downed pilot stuck in an insurgent-controlled area.  Here's the layout:
 US Army fire teams on either side of both of the roads.
 Downed pilot in need of rescue.
 Looking down the road on the right...
 ...and the left.
 An early round of fire knocks out most of an insurgent cell and chases the surviving two fighters out the back of the building
Turn 2:
 US fire team at bottom lands effective fire on the insurgent cell at top center of frame as US forces trade fire, but don't advance very far.

Turn 3:
 Insurgent cell fires on US fire team making a break across some open ground, at far end of shot.  They failed to connect and the Americans capitalized on poor insurgent marksmanship.

 Turn 4:
 Americans in building at left take casualties while dishing out some fire on the insurgents at right.  The green stress markers reduce unit efficiency as they accumulate in the turn.  The orange markers represent wounded troops, the red markers dead ones.

 Turn 5:
Same firefight, reverse angle - US fire team on right, insurgents on left.  The first aid skills of the US troops keeps their casualties in the fight, even if wounded.  The insurgent cell isn't faring as well.
 Same fight, insurgents getting wiped out.
 The insurgents closest to the downed pilot take casualties in a long-range exchange of fire.

 Turn 6:
 The same insurgent cell miraculously administers effective first aid and gets back up to fighting strength.
...and then a lucky grenade launcher shot lands inside the building and wipes them out.
Of the last two insurgents, one is killed by American fire, and the other is no match for the mass of US firepower on the board.
Lessons learned:
1.  I need to settle on a morale system.  As the game went on, I tinkered with different ideas about how to execute it.  The insurgent morale needs to be lowered for factions without leaders.  Leaders will add both initiative and morale bonuses to insurgent cells, just as they do to conventional units, but the insurgents will have lower baseline statistics and need leaders to try to keep up with conventional troops.
2.  I need to finalize my first aid system.  Still playing with how to handle this.
3.  Optics need to cost more.  Right now, rifles have 24"/48"/96" ranges, and the effect of all optics - reflex or magnified - is to double range.  This makes optic-equipped rifles deadly in the hands of conventional troops with adequate marksmanship training, and gives them a marked advantage over the insurgents.  An overwhelming advantage, almost.  At no point did the insurgents ever have much of a fighting chance after the bullets started flying.
4.  Grenade launchers need to cost more.  In Force on Force, they just add another die of firepower.  When you give them a blast radius, a lucky shot can be a game changer as it was at the end of this play test.
Overall, not a bad test of the developing rules, but I've got a ways to go.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Star Wars: Legion Test Play

Went to my friendly local gaming store with the boys recently to check out Star Wars:  Legion.  Here's my brief review based on a test play recreating the Battle of Endor.  The Empire and the Rebel Alliance clash over control of the bunker housing the new Death Star's field generator.

The forces:
- The Empire had two fire teams' worth of storm troopers, a three-vehicle unit of speeder bikes, and Darth Vader.
- The Rebel Alliance had two fire teams' worth of troopers, an open-topped mini-walker (like an AT-ST, but smaller), and Luke Skywalker.

The two sides seek cover and exchange fire.  The speeder bike trio, partially obscured by the tree trunk at left, advances on the Rebel flank.

The Rebel troops exchange fire with the storm troopers.
The speeder bike trio has already been reduced by Rebel fire, and then Skywalker jumps out and cuts down the remaining bike.
Skywalker seizes the initiative and jumps into melee combat with the nearest storm trooper unit, wiping them out.  You can see that the storm trooper team to the right of Vader has taken casualties from accurate Rebel fire.

Skywalker, however, proved no match for dear old dad.  Vader closed the distance and promptly cut Luke down.
Unfortunately for Vader, the rest of the Empire force has been destroyed by the combined weight of Rebel fire.  Now he has to brave the whole weight of Rebel blasters while closing the distance with the Rebel line.
Vader couldn't close the distance in time.  He almost made it, but a lucky streak from the Rebel firing line brought him down.
A quick run-down of my impressions:
- Unit activation runs on different command schemes that let a different type and number of units activate, and in different priority.  I generally liked it, and prefer it to 40k's system.
- The proprietary dice system is apparently a carryover concept from the X-Wing system.  It took a minute to get used to, but I thought it worked well from what I saw.
- The unit types played true to Star Wars orthodoxy.  Vader proved slow moving but a wrecking ball in melee combat.  Luke was more agile and still formidable, but unable to go toe-to-toe with his old man.  Rebels outshoot storm troopers but don't have the same armor and, hence, ability to soak up damage.
- I didn't get a chance to really ring out the possibilities that the vehicles might offer.  The small-ish board meant that the speed and flanking possibility of the speeder bikes weren't really in play.  And they proved surprisingly fragile in the face of Rebel fire.
- I'm not a fan of the scale of the miniatures.  The existing Star Wars miniatures used in the 28mm-ish Imperial Assault are much smaller than the Legion line.  For perspective, I'm of the mind that anything bigger than 20 or 25mm is ridiculous for anything primarily involving gunfire, and the 32mm/heroic scale figures in Legion go well beyond that.  I readily admit that they aren't as complex as 40k minis to assemble, and paint up quite beautifully.  I'm just not sold on the size, and was told that the AT-ST model will be as big as 7-11 Big Gulp cup.

Bottom Line:  While enjoyable and more nuanced than some other sci-fi fire team-based games, I personally didn't care for the large scale of the miniatures.  I don't plan to invest in the system, but won't be opposed to my boys getting in to it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Frostgrave Campaign, Game 3

If this is the first Frostgrave campaign battle report you're seeing, go read the ones for Game 1 and Game 2.

Now that we're all caught up, I'm happy to tell you I played another game against Tony and his Illusionist's band.  This scenario is The Silent Tower, where a three-story tower in the middle of the board and two connected buildings form a magic null-field inside which no magic will work.  Wizards gain extra xp for climbing at least one story within the tower, and a special treasure on the top of the tower is worth three treasures.  Four other normal treasures are scattered around the board.

As a refresher, here's my band:
From left to right, the Apprentice (still needs a name), the Gimp, my Wizard (an Elementalist whom I still try to resist calling Stumpy Gandalf), Erik the Beserker, an Orc Barbarian I hired with the proceeds game 1, Freya, Bobbins the Thief, Callie the Archer, and Dain Deepaxe.

Here's a view of the table from my end.  We didn't have a purpose-built tower, so three structures with bridges between the three structures will have to do.
My Wizard's band at its starting position.
I start off with a move that takes my Wizard up one level.  I probably should have taken him back down one level at this point, haven gotten the xp for going up one level, and put my Wizard back in the fight.
Tony's band, advancing on the far side of the tower.
My archer and Tony's spot each other, and my archer fires an arrow that finds home and wounds his archer.  My Halfling thief is at right, going for a treasure chest.
My Wizard and some of my band advance on the first bridge.
Treachery!  My thug, Gimp, is seized by a Mind Control spell cast by Tony's Wizard.  The d20 represents the value of the spell.  Tony will "cut" his wizard and bleed Health to elevate the effectiveness of his Mind Control spell, a practice which I recommend to those playing Illusionists.
Tony's Hellhound rushes out to combat my archer.
While combat ensues on the ground floor, some of my warband ascend the bridges that lead to the upper levels of the structure and treasure that lay there. 
In a series of exchanges with Tony's band, my berserker ends up fighting against my apprentice.  Damn mind control.
 Massive fight over treasure between my guys and Tony's guys.
 Broader view of the fight.
Final end of the fight.  My Orc defeats my (mind-controlled by Tony) archer.   A pyrrhic victory that crushed much of my band and much of Tony's.
As time went on and the games progressed, Tony's mind control proved more and more effective, as did my elemental blasts.  A well-fought campaign that ended after a few games.  Would love to see a league where I had the chance to play this against more varied warbands in different scenarios.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Covert Intervention Reluctant Heroes 1 Painted

As I said in this previous post, I'm very excited about the forthcoming DEFCON Zero from Covert Intervention Games.  I had previously ordered some of their new miniatures from the Reluctant Heroes line, which features armed civilians.  I think this is a niche within the miniatures world generally, and in 20mm/1-72nd scale particularly, that remains under-resourced.

I've got the Reluctant Heroes 1 set painted, and here they are in hi-res photos to let you zoom in:

I'm impressed with the sculpts, and appreciated the opportunity to have a mini running a pump shotgun wearing a shotshell bandolier - zoom on the 'Back' photo, far left.

Pretty cool minis, which will work into modern pulp, adventure, or zombie settings very well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Frostgrave Campaign, Game 2

I had a great time in the first game of the Frostgrave campaign I'm in.  For the second game, we played a three-player version of the scenario 'Genie in the Bottle,' where a Genie is hidden in one of the treasure chests the three treasure hunting bands are after.

Here's my warband, made up largely of Reaper Bones Dwarves:
From left to right, the Apprentice (still needs a name), the Gimp, my Wizard (an Elementalist whom I still try to resist calling Stumpy Gandalf), Erik the Beserker, an Orc Barbarian I hired with the proceeds from the last game, Freya, Bobbins the Thief, Callie the Archer, and Dain Deepaxe.

The other two warbands (I apologize for not having pictures) belong to Tony, who has an Illusionist band composed of a Cthulu-esque mind-flayer Wizard and undead/creature minions, and Marc, who has also has an Elementalist warband that includes some delightfully appropriate snowman monsters from the movie Frozen.

We started off in three different spots on the edges of the board, with a number of treasures set upon the table among ruined buildings.

My warband started off opposite and in view of Marc's.  I immediately fired off a shot each from my archer and Wizard and took down one of his fighters...
...and Marc's Wizard put up a wall to prevent taking more casualties.
My Apprentice and some minions advance on my left.
Top view.  My band is at bottom left, Marc's on the right with his Frozen abominable snowman, and Tony's band is at the top of the frame.
Marc's snowman, with some of his and Tony's warband exchanging fire through the back side of this shot.
My band changes direction to get around the old hollow tree stump and toward some treasure and Marc's band.
Another top shot.  My band continues to advance from bottom left.
Tony's band advances to take a treasure away.  His Wizard and Apprentice are at the back, his snake woman archer at left, Templar rounding the corner, and a skeleton minion at front.
I continue my advance.  My orc barbarian is rounding the tree stump to take the fight to Marc's band, while my Apprentice runs off to the left for some treasure.
Bobbins, my Halfling thief, is making off with some loot, while my Apprentice is advancing in the background.
The orc barbarian advances, with Dain backing him up.
Marc put up a Wall spell, but the barbarian and Dain advanced beyond it to close the distance.
View from the far side of the table, where Erik has caught up with a treasure-laden skeleton.
Meanwhile, the Gimp has a treasure in hand while the Apprentice advances.  I should note that the Apprentice is trying to cast spells constantly by this point, and steadily failing and bleeding health.

And then, Marc manages to get a thief on top of the tower at center of the table.  He opens it up, rolls for results, and...
The Genie is loose!
The Genie and Marc's thief square off on the top of the tower.
Meanwhile, Marc's archer lands a lucky shot and takes out Tony's Apprentice.
My orc has closed the distance, and Dain is not far behind...
Marc's thief miraculously won combat against the Genie and pushed it back, forcing it to fall from the top of the tower.  Unfortunately, Stumpy Gandalf is the closest mini and will be the next object of the Genie's affections... unless, that is, he can successfully cast a Bind Demon spell.  I was lucky enough to pick up a Bind Demon Grimoire last game, and learned the spell.  I cast the spell and cut myself enough to be wounded, but succeeded in binding the Genie!
Meanwhile, my Apprentice finally succeeded in casting Elemental Bolt, blasting the (now absent) Wizard from Tony's band out of his shoes.
Marc has taken casualties from the Orc barbarian and Dain's assault.
The Gimp scrambles off with treasure...
Before falling to enemy fire, one of Tony's Illusionists cast a mind control spell on Erik the Berzerker, and Freya had to engage him in combat.  This spell has proven particularly meddlesome.
My Orc and Dain continue their combat, now joined by the marauding Genie.
Freya has triumphed over Erik, and now Tony's archer is assailed on three sides by members of my band.
Oh noes!  My Orc falls to one of Marc's band.
Tony's archer finally falls to the combined weight of three of my warband.
There are now fewer opposing members of Marc's band left standing now, but he still has minions carting off treasure chests.
...minions that the Genie, under my control, can chase down.  Here's his last henchman, an archer trying to husband off the last bit of treasure.
...not anymore.  The Genie fires off a missile attack and takes him out.

And with that, neither Marc nor Tony had anyone left on the board.  All treasure remaining was mine by default.

This was a pretty solid game from my perspective.  It turned strongly in my favor when the Genie came under my control.

Post-game report:

The barbarian recovered from his wounds fine, but Erik the Beserker was dead.  I spent enough gold to buy another man-at-arms to replace him.  I managed to gather up 570 gold from the treasure collected and what I had last time, and bought my archer a magical +2 bow.  I secured a potion of healing for the Apprentice, who could have used one this game.  I also raised Health one point, learned Control Undead from a Grimoire collected, and added a point each to the Elemental Bolt, Wall, and Steal Health spells.

Will post game 3 shortly, stay tuned!