28 January 2015

Star Fleet Battles - DANGER ZONE!

The Space Cadets gathered for their monthly Star Fleet Battles exercise on Sunday afternoon. We had an extra help out as well, James who I play Shipwreck and other games with from time to time. He assisted David when Dave had to run an errand mid-game.

Our theme for the day was "Fighter School." We each put together a good-sized fighter group and split into teams - Bill and Mike (Fed and Kzinti) versus David and me (Lyran and Orion).

A large planet - Omicron Persei VIII - dominated the center of the table. Bill and Mike, the red-shirts, plot evilly.

Some stolen F-18s launch drones right from the get-go.

The two sides close. Lots of drones in flight, lots of confusion.

A pair of Z-Ys watch drones go past towards the Kzinti swarm.

A trio of Orion F-18s fire off three dogfight drones then turn tail back behind the planet to break any lock-ons. Shifty bastards, those Orions. Meanwhile, the Lyrans were having a hell of a time with the Feddies and Kzintis.

At this time there was a massive table-quake when James' hands misfired. It was pretty fucking tense for a few minutes, but we were able to recover after about 15 minutes using photos. We all had a laugh once things were sorted back out.

The reds laugh and James was forced to keep his hands in his pockets for the rest of the afternoon.

Orion Z-Ys pop off some more drones - these were targeted on the Kzinti TAAS shuttles - their good ones.

More drones are sent towards the Fed F-18s bringing up the rear of the alliance formation.

This was the last "action" pic I took. The Lyrans were wiped out. I think I got two kills - a HAAS and a TAAS and David/James killed an F-14(!) and I think a HAAS. We got handled big as shit. My Orions didn't take any losses but gave us a great jump-off point for the next game. I do try to stay in character when I play Orions - skulk, take cheap-shots and get away with your ship intact if possible! Allies are only allies while they're in front of you...

Our Captains...

The battle was a hoot. Lots of paperwork, lots of accounting, lots of smack-talk and plenty of blow-up crap. As I said earlier, it gives us a great follow-up opportunity for a couple of scenarios. We're all familiar with the ins and outs of fighter play and drone combat now and I don't think any of us will be hesitant to use them in later games.

26 January 2015

Dystopian Wars - Coconut Wars Continued

Ziggy just got his Australian fleet in the mail yesterday. He texted me with a taunt which I gladly accepted. I hadn't had much opportunity to sink Aussie ships and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We played 1000 points - I used my Blazing Suns, consisting of:
1 Battleship w/ Shield Generator and one escort
1 Carrier w/ 1 escort
2 Support Cruisers (rockets-a-go-go)
3 Gunships
4 Mini Robot Subs
4 Corvettes

The Royal Australian rabble:
1 Battleship w/ 3 escorts
2 Monitors
2 Sub Tenders
3 Merlins
4 Frigates
4 Hawk Rotors (or whatever the kangaroo farmers call them)

My mission was to sink 50% of the enemy fleet including all large and massive enemy vessels. Easy! He's only got one!

Deployment. At this point, things were going really well for both of us.

 The Monitors hit a support cruiser hit off the bat, fouling its rudder.
But the Japanese rocket cruisers are not impressed and proceed to rain fire down on one of the distant sub tenders. The stuck cruiser was fortunately pointing at a target.

The sub tender was having a terrible first few minutes.

The Frigates prove that it's better to be lucky than good and crit one of my gunships, causing a Weapons Damage crit.

The big fliers ease forward. Two of the Australian frigates have been knocked out and the other submarine tender takes a crit from the gunships' rockets. The other tender that was heavily damaged earlier was finished off by the battleship's rockets.

No explanation needed.

Some torpedo bombers make it through to the carrier. Solid AA and CC, combined with some very bad rolls from the Australian player results in only one damage on the big ship.

My corvettes shoot up the side of the board and show how it's done. Another crit to the beat up monitor.

The battleship gets a good crit on one of the scout rotors.

And then the Zariganis speed forward and hose down the two rotors which failed their attempts to get back into the clouds.

Merlins cruise around looking for targets.

My two remaining gunships (towards the left) were healed by a 60-point TAC card - Battlefield Repairs I think.

Those gunships sent a volley of rockets at the damaged monitor. Crit, magazine explosion, oh shit. The corvettes were wiped out and the healthy monitor took a double-crit. Hahaha! Best shot ever, except for the own-goal on my 'vettes.

The beat-up monitor was finished off by my carrier. The Australian pocket battleship "crossed the T" and unloaded on the Kiyohime. Call it a crit and a navigation lock. Feh.

The mini squidbots jump the almost dead sub tender and send it to meet Davy Jones'.

The photographer forgot what he was doing and missed some awesomeness. The first wave of Crocs boarded the carrier and were wiped out, but the carrier was left with only one AP. The second wave boarded and whiffed badly. My single AP held up and ran off the aquatic boarders!

I think this is the start of turn 4. The scout rotors would smash up my battleship pretty good, leaving it with 2 HP, a broken shield generator and damaged weapons. Feh.

The icing on the cake. The HMAS Botany Bay sent its assault marines to capture the Lucky Dragon and they successfully Prized it for a nice 360 points. Ugh.

We called the game there. I wasn't close to killing the Aussie battleship and Zig was very close to killing mine. Final score was 770 (AUS) to 560 (EBS).

Unusually, Zig's dice rolls were very good. He had bad rolls mind you, but not at critical times - four ones in a row for instance when trying to get his scout rotors to climb into the clouds after playing a card that let them succeed on 2+. His shields were reliable for a change. He won initiative every turn. The group of four scout rotors were a major bitch to deal with and as it turned out, I completely failed to deal with them. I spent too much effort on the sub tenders and monitors and no where near enough on the battleship which was my mission. I think I was mentally defeated at the outset - usually my rockets are totally ineffective against Zig's British battleship + escorts group. Australian escorts are nowhere near as good as their British counterparts and I probably could have scored some early hits to take some starch out of the ol' PBB.

We both had a good time and I'm looking forward to another go at the Australians. Ziggy likes them and I think they suit his play-style a bit more than the Brits he's been pushing for two years. He likes getting up-close and personal and I think the British are better-suited for a mid-range torpedo and gun fight.

21 January 2015

StarDust Ground - Introduction

As you probably know, I've been working on a new set of game rules recently. They date back to last summer and are a result of my aggravations with other game systems. StarDust Ground is intended as a 15mm Company-level miniatures wargame. Company-level is probably a bit too large - more like a couple of platoons along with some tanks, etc.

My goal was to create a wargame that meets the rather strict criteria I look for in a game:
1) No fiddly mechanics. Ideally short die-roll sequences should determine outcomes.
2) Quick play. This kind of goes back to "no fiddly mechanics." Movement rules, combat rules, morale rules should all be easy enough to remember without having to refer back to a rulebook.
3) Fun.

So what did I arrive at? I took the best bits of all the other games I've played and re-assembled it as StarDust Ground. Chain of Command, Flames of War, Dystopian Wars, Battletech, Warhammer 40K, Space Marine, WarZone, Modern Spearhead and others have all contributed to SDG. Long-time readers will remember my starship combat game StarDust that I rolled out early last year. SDG follows a similar design ethic and has resulted in an equally good game.

Details, you want details... well, I've decided to use Flames of War-sizes bases for the models. They are nearly perfect for 15mm gaming and look nice. Squads are typically composed of two medium stands and often will have a small stand attached with a special weapon - maybe a missile launcher or automatic weapon. Other special units will also be on small stands such as leaders, medics and snipers. 10-12 medium stands and 4-6 small stands of infantry is enough for a good game. That'll give you 5 or 6 squads. Add a few vehicles for variety. Generally speaking artillery is off-board so you can always add a bit of starch to an army that way without spending any scratch.

Squads activate individually and each side alternates activations. As squads take fire or hits in close combat, they lose effectiveness and will need to seek cover and rally to regain their usefulness. Some types of troops like the space bugs featured in recent battle reports ignore hits they've received until it has reached a critical point - they are "mindless creatures" after all.

One of the toughest part of coming up with a game like this is producing stats for troops and vehicles - especially when you're limited by your selection of toys. I've certainly had fun buying more miniatures in the interest of making a more complete game! Most of the obvious tropes have been covered - grunts, elites, space bugs, robots, close-combat focused troops, ranged-combat focused troops. I've worked out vehicle rules for all sorts of vehicles - jeeps, tanks, VTOLs.

Something I've been sure to account for is weather conditions. We tend to only ever play games during clear daytime conditions and that won't be the case with SDG. If you've ever played Blood Bowl you'll be familiar with checking the weather before the match. Ditto for SDG - it could be a snowy blizzard or a sand storm. Either way, if is isn't clear daytime conditions, foul weather or simple darkness is going to change things considerably.

So, what have I got left? I still have one army that has not gotten any table time yet and it needs a shakedown. I'd like to put some scenarios / mission together to include with the rules. Beyond that, I can't think of anything lacking at the moment.

SDG will be ready for its first public outing at Gnomecon!. I'll be running demos from 5-9pm Friday evening, March 6th. Hopefully I'll have the rulebook presentable by then - I've had so much other crap going on recently that perfecting that book seems more and more insurmountable every time I think about it. I'm at 18 pages right now and that doesn't include the QRS, unit stats or counters and I haven't done any example diagrams. Putting the final product together into a single PDF that you aren't ashamed of is a lot more challenging than you'd think.

Be well!

18 January 2015


I made some good progress on the Invaders yesterday, although I'm really starting to hate the spindly legs of the Tripods - particularly the small Tripods.

The swarm thusfar...

Zig and I also had another StarDust Ground playtest. It was more of a scenario balance test than a game mechanics test. Regardless, it was a fun game and I took some pics. No full AAR this time.

I drove the bugs this time. I had a long slog going across the table length-wise but also had plenty of cover.

The first evac chopper arrives.

My bugs make contact
And make short work of the humans.

The second evacuation craft arrives. Things are getting dicey for the Red Guard now!

The last Red Guard squad tries to hold out!

But is beset by the horrific space-worms and wiped out.

Game over, man! Game over! Zig did manage to evacuate six stands - not bad. A third load of troops would have been difficult given the situation.

Ziggy didn't realize he could have moved his guys out to the islets off the shore - I should have explained that a bit better. I'm still left with a couple of questions in my mind about the scenario, but it worked pretty well as it was. I'm still very pleased with the game system itself and don't need to make any adjustments to the rules based on the results of the game! That's very positive.

16 January 2015

Boring Old Update...

I've just been doing some assembly and painting this week. I got really off task early when I traded in my Infinity figures to the LGS for store credit. I ended up with the Dystopian Wars Invaders box set and still have some credit. One thing led to another and now instead of being a good boy and working on the French Air Fleet, I'm working on DW alien ships.
That escalated quickly...

The box was missing legs for one of the small tripods - Spartan is sending replacements. Yay! Mike also has an Invader fleet; we're looking at a Invaders vs Earthling event for Gnomecon. We need to work out details but the idea sounds fun.

More 15mm Sci-Fi playtesting Saturday then X-Wing on Sunday. Be well!

11 January 2015

15mm Sci Fi

My wife was kind enough to help me play-test my 15mm Sci-Fi ground combat rules Saturday evening. The rules have gone through some major revisions since the first game, months ago. The changes have been effective, as far as achieving my goals of quick-play, simple mechanics and fun. I think they're getting close to being "done."

Last night's game featured my wife running a horde of space bugs (see Starship Troopers) versus the stout infantry of the Red Guard commanded by yours truly.

Our initial setups. Many of those hills are either recent creations or re-treads done this week.

My boys get the festivities started by blasting away at some distant flying bugs.

I'm starting to think I don't have enough guns for all of these critters.

At the end of turn 1, the bugs were almost upon my troops and I'd made almost no progress in thinning the herd.

Turn 2 starts out well, the nearest squad of flying bugs is destroyed in a hail of gunfire! 

But the other group of fliers descends upon my squad between the hills.

On the other side of the hill, the squad with the missile launcher wipes out the elite Orange bugs. 

My squads over by the village start to feel the heat from the quick-moving Blues.

Turn 3 begins with the big bug spewing bioplasma towards my squad with the missile launcher, killing a stand.

The squad over by the farm, all the way to my left wipes out a group of Blues!

But  the rest of my line is engaged with the horde. Crunch time is now.

And by the end of turn 3, the entire swarm is within striking distance of all of my troops. 

The squad all the way on my right is in deep kimchi, and the guys on the hill to the left are about to be in it too.

My left flank isn't much better off.

And then the second wave appears. This is going to hurt.

Turn 5 begins with my right-most squad being eliminated. Boooooooo...

But my left flank squad eliminates yet another squad of the enemy. These guys are turning out to be real bug-smashers!

Bugzilla claims another victim.

Turn 6 and the Exterminators finish off yet another squad of giant space critters! 

 The large squad on the hill is now being munched on by three enemy squads!
And it doesn't turn out well for our heroes.

The way it wrapped up. The outcome wasn't in doubt.

The game ran very well and I found a couple things in need of clarification / rewriting. I've re-done the Close Combat mechanics four times and now I'm very happy with the Close Combat system, except that it isn't as deadly as it should be. Melees were a bit of a slog; it was a bit difficult to kill stands in CC, but that's a simple fix which I've already implemented. It didn't help that my wife's close combat dice rolls were miserable - 80% 1's and 2's. When she'd throw a 5+ her bugs did what they were supposed to.

The scenario itself was never intended to be balanced. It was an experiment to see how long the human force could hold out. I think they did OK. They were able to handle the first wave and probably would have seen them off entirely. Wave two really screwed things up and gave the bug army the upper hand.