Friday, February 28, 2014
The club got together again this week for our regular game night. We set up a couple games of Song of Blades & Heroes, and although we weren't running our experienced campaign warbands, it still pleased me to set these games in Qaarra, our campaign world from last summer. So this is session 8, albeit less official than most of our campaign games since we skipped the post-game steps like determining casualties, calculating income and the like. Still, we're building the mythology of Qaarra and that is a good thing.
We set up two side-by-side tables: a windswept wasteland of shattered rocks and stunted trees, part of the Sunderstone Badlands, and the eerie, abandoned village of Windspiel, high on the northwestern coast of Qaarra.
In the Sunderstone Badlands, Terrence's orcs were tasked with retrieving the bodies of two fallen comrades before Tim's nightmarish monstrosities could consume them in a tidal wave of fire, blood and space jelly. Here are Terrence's orcs advancing inexorably across the badlands.
Tim's monsters were freshly painted figures from the Descent board game, and it was really cool to see them on the table. So often these cool sculpts stagnate in board game boxes without ever feeling the soft caress of a paintbrush.
Since their first game ended pretty quickly, Tim and Terrence set up another game, where his orcs were tasked with escorting their rescued buddies across the badlands in a borrowed cart. Alas, they ran smack into Tim's monstrosities and were reduced to a fine red mist.
Across the table, my evil warband (led by Gracklemar the gnoll and featuring more gnolls, ratmen and a nasty troll) encountered Mattias's rowdy band of knaves from the Wyrdwold crowded around a smoky campfire. Here they are, apparently drunk on mead and riding horses around the camp.
Those barrels contained gems and loot from a recent raid, and that was exactly what Gracklemar and his minions were seeking. It was night, so the raid began with stealthy maneuvering. Here the ratman close in on the sentries while the rest of Mattias's guys sit around the fire, oblivious to the coming chaos.
When the alarm went up, the Wyrdwold marauders leapt into action, rallying around their banner to beat back Gracklemar's invaders.
Yep, that standard bearer proved to be a key part of Mattias's victory. Not just another pretty face! In the end, I was able to recover a couple barrels of loot, not nearly enough to win the scenario. My guys looked pretty cool, even in defeat! You be the judge. Here my ratman sneak lurks in a ruined cottage.
And here's a glowering look from my troll as he retreated with the remains of my warband. Don't worry, they'll all live to fight another day.
After that, we switched chairs, shuffled up the terrain and started another game. I was paired with Tim, so we set up a scenario where my ratmen were defending an entrance to their sewer hideout, represented by this low tower. It was surrounded by copses of parched trees.
Terrence and Mattias set up another variation on their "rescue the wounded orcs" scenario, with Mattias's Wyrdwolders trying to haul off the unconscious orcs before their comrades could rescue them. Here's the initial clash.
This scenario ended (as many do in Song of Blades & Heroes) with a gruesome kill by one of Terrence's orc champions. Luckily my camera was there to capture the moment it happened.
Looks like the Lord of Lichens will have to find himself a new horse before the next game!
And here's how my game with Tim finally shook out. This photo, showing my troll beset by fire elementals and star vampires, should give you some idea of my fate.
Yep, pretty grim! My troll scored a lucky hit and prompted Tim's entire warband to rout and run off the table, though. I literally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
All in all it was another fun, flavorful evening of gaming with our favorite skirmish ruleset. The village of Windspiel was soaked through with blood from the recent conflicts, and the Sunderstone Badlands will no doubt be haunted by the ghosts of those who died in its dusty reaches. Just another day in the chaos-wracked lands of Qaarra.
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member
Friday, February 21, 2014
Once again, Josh and I had the day off, and so with snow in the forecast, we decided to sneak in a quick game of Tomorrow's War. We used our previous scenario as the jumping-off point for this battle.
Colony World: Fornacis III
Area: New Tupelov
Following their decisive victory in New Tupelov’s urban core, the Subathi empire has begun redeploying its heavy weapons in preparation for a long-expected seige of the city by Terran armored divisions. Sensing an opportunity, the Thunderbolts mercenary army, operating under its own agenda, has prepared an ambush along one of these resupply corridors, hoping to catch the Subathi off-balance and inflict a devastating defeat. A setback here would give the Terrans an opening for their massed assault -- and it would serve the Thunderbolts’ own strategic purposes.
In game terms, the Subathi empire (represented by Josh's shiny Tau figures) had to escort a deactivated heavy weapon battle suit across a long table into a designated resupply zone on the other end of the table. My mercenary army, Colonel Markham's Thunderbolts, would attempt to ambush the escort and destroy the heavy weapon suit. Here's the battlefield (the bunker on the far end of the table represents Josh's destination):
The big rocky bluff in the center of the table proved to be an interesting terrain piece. It was large enough that it completely blocked line of sight across the table, effectively turning the battlefield into two smaller avenues and forcing Josh to choose a route through the broken ruins of New Tupelov.
(The awesome latex mat is from Zuzzy and I just finished painting it for Josh. Hopefully we'll see it again soon in games to come!)
We added a few new tweaks to this game. Josh kept the initiative the entire game, which meant that my Thunderbolts could only react to his actions as per the Tomorrow's War rules. Also, his Subathi had shield drones that generated a forcefield around his heavy weapon suit. I could target and destroy the shield drones, but that proved difficult and costly as the game wore on.
Josh's opening moves sent his guys around the right flank, seizing some ruins and laying down covering fire with some of his Subathi warriors. These initial maneuvers proved very effective, as it hampered my ability to move across the battlefield and respond to his flanking move. Here are two photos of a typical engagement from the opening turns of the game: my guys moving from cover and getting caught out in the open!
Oh crap! Run guys!
Eventually I slogged my way through Josh's firepower and deployed a couple fireteams on the rocky bluff in the center of the table. These guys spent the rest of the game lurking in the wooded hills, firing on Josh's shield drones as they tried to move across the table with their heavy weapon suit.
Josh's reinforcements arrived on turn 2, and he sent them up the left flank, which I had been busily evacuating so I could focus on the right flank. Oops! I had a couple fire teams on the left side of the board, so I put them into cover in the ruins of New Tupelov and prepared to return fire.
These figures are from Pig Iron's Heavy Infantry range and they're absolutely fantastic -- chunky, mid-tech near future warriors with appropriately sized weapons and a lot of character.
Shortly after I took this photo, a squad of Subathi warriors shot this fireteam to pieces, leaving only wounded, moaning troops lying in the dust. While the battle raged on the other side of the table, Josh sent a squad to capture my wounded mercenaries -- no doubt to give us a reason for a follow-up game! Here's the capture:
Across the table, I was doing a pretty good job of throwing roadblocks into Josh's path. In one notable engagement, he sent a squad of Subathi warriors charging into a mercenary squad that was already weakened by casualties. In a miraculous turn of events, the mercenaries rallied, fought off the Subathi, and proceeded to annihilate the opposing squad to a man.
As the game entered its final turns, I was finally able to shoot down a few of those pesky shield drones, thus exposing Josh's heavy weapon suit.
But my fireteams were out of position and I was only able to get off a few rounds of fire before we reached out turn limit. We actually played 1 turn beyond our limit because it was clear that Josh was on the verge of victory. And indeed, with his Subathi warriors providing covering fire, the heavy weapon suit marched into the resupply zone and secured the win.
Look, here's weapon suit. He's the one with missiles for hands. He's dancin'!
Once again we had a very enjoyable game of Tomorrow's War. With both players now pretty experienced, our games have begun to hum along quite smoothly. Josh and I agreed that the next game would be an all-out assault to free the captive mercs, so stay tuned for that one in the near future!
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member, with photos by Josh
Thursday, February 6, 2014
CSW comrade Mattias, whose grim hunchymen faced off against Pat's dwarves in a Song of Blades & Heroes game late last year, recently published a wondrous two-page supplement that's sure to jazz up your fantasy games. Arcane and Deadly Objects is a random table of wily, vile and downright delicious equipment to use in your SBH games. And if you happen to use another ruleset for skirmish gaming, fear not! You'll find plenty of flavor and inspiration in this trim little supplement. Do yourself a favor and check it out post-haste!
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Since we both had the day off on Monday, Josh and I met up at his house for another game of Tomorrow's War. We both enjoyed our first game back in October and were eager to add some tactical depth to this upcoming game. Here's the scenario we sketched out:
The Slums of New Tupelov
Colony World: Fornacis III
Area: New Tupelov
New Tupelov, long prized for its position overlooking the primary spaceport on Fornacis V, has been the scene of low-intensity urban fighting between the expeditionary elements of the Subathi empire and the Terran heavy infantry. During a brief lull, a squad of heavy infantry was able to deploy a heavy anti-infantry cannon to cover a key approach used by the Subathi to move soldiers and material in and out of New Tupelov. Within days this strongpoint was responsible for the destruction of three reinforced platoons. Subathi expeditionary command quickly drew up plans for a coordinated assault against the strongpoint and the additional Terran squads presumed to be operating in the area. Shortly before twilight, Subathi pathfinders deployed into the slums to find and destroy their well-hidden enemy.
Yes, this is a homebrew sci-fi setting. In my mind it's a non-grimdark, near-future universe where a race like the Subathi (represented by Josh's newly painted Tau) are obviously high-tech compared to the Terrans, which still use advanced slugthrowing rifles and missile launchers and whatnot.
We set up a nice, cluttered tabletop -- a must for Tomorrow's War, because most weapons can shoot the entire length of the table and are only blocked by intervening terrain. A squad of planetary defense militia (represented by ShockForce tac troopers) occupied the central bunker with their heavy cannon. Here they are, peeking out from behind their fortifications.
Nearby I had deployed a few fireteams of Terran heavy infantry -- these guys have better arms and armor compared to the planetary defense militia, so they would be tasked with defending their dug-in comrades as the battle developed. These figures are Warzone plastics with converted heads from Pig Iron.
On the other side of the battlefield, Josh deployed his Subathi warriors. The paint was barely dry on these guys and we were very excited to get them onto the battlefield. He fielded fireteams of warriors, heavy weapon suits, and assault drones.
And with that, we started the game! This was a nighttime raid, so remember to imagine all of this happening on a dimly lit battlefield punctuated by muzzle flashes and explosions.
As we've reported in past battle reports, Tomorrow's War uses an innovative reaction system that allows fireteams to interrupt each other as they maneuver around the battlefield. It's a lot of fun and keeps both players on their toes (even though we haven't quite ironed out all the bugs in the rules).
As Josh committed his forces to assault the bunker, I cautiously deployed my reserves to anticipate his maneuvers. He took note of this and began a series of actions that ultimately outflanked me by the end of the game. Oh well! Here are my guys moving through the slums.
Cover was abundant, and both sides took advantage of the battlefield as they exchanged fire. Josh's Subathi had weaker armor but they were higher-tech, so they had an advantage over the Terran infantry.
In particular, his drones proved to be a bit overpowered. I gave them laser support weapons, which were just devastating against my lower-tech infantry troopers. And the drones were in groups of two, which effectively doubled their firepower. I think in the future we'll give them regular lasers and run them as singles, rather than groups. It was a lot of fun to try out all the rules for robotic drones, though.
We had rules in the scenario that allowed Josh to use his heavy weapon suits to attempt to breach the bunker, and let me tell you -- Tomorrow's War is brutal on troops defending a bunker! They get a nice cover bonus, but the breach attempt counts as an attack so they must make a damage roll against it! Despite that, it took Josh several turns of "knocking on my door" before the whole thing came crashing down around me.
Here's the destroyed bunker.
By that point, my squads had been decimated and Josh was pulling off a very nice flanking maneuver, so I wisely decided to concede. Also, I had forgotten to deploy my orbital artillery (one of the special rules given to the Terrans in the scenario) which no doubt contributed to my defeat. The Subathi empire won the day in the slums of New Tupelov, but the Terran heavy infantry was still a threat!
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
CSW regular Josh joined forces with the guys from Hyacinth Games to host a launch party at the Gaming Goat for the Wreck-Age PDF rulebook. It was a fun day full of gaming, snacks and more gaming. Click here to check out some more photos over on Josh's blog. Look for our official CSW review of Wreck-Age, coming soon!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
At last week's club night, Jon, Tyler and I tried Alpha Strike for the first time. Alpha Strike is the new game set in the Battletech universe, using simplified mechanics and terrain (rather than a hex map) to enable larger battles that play faster than the traditional Classic Battletech rules. Rather than using the usual 6mm Battletech miniatures, we used prepainted 10mm scale miniatures from the Mechwarrior: Dark Age clix game. It's the same fictional universe, but a different game that has since gone defunct (meaning lots of cheap, prepainted minis can be acquired for pennies on the dollar!).
Of course, we rebased the Mechwarrior clix onto traditional wargaming bases. The club bought a huge quantity of these some time ago as an inexpensive entre into mass-scale sci-fi gaming, and they have been used for many different rulesets since.
As it was our first outing with Alpha Strike, we limited ourselves to an 80-point lance (a group of four mechs) per player. Though most Battletech units are available in multiple configurations, we chose the configurations that had the fewest special rules.
We also made a couple of minor house rules. Regarding the rows of trees you can see in the pictures, we replaced the the 6-inch rule for forest cover, instead deciding that if you're adjacent to the trees, you can see through them and be seen (with modifiers, of course). If you're not adjacent, you can neither see nor be seen. We also determined that shooting at someone on the other side of the overpass makes them "obscured." We also decreed that all structures two floors or higher could hide a mech from view.
The card buildings on the layout are free online PDFs, either from Heavy Gear or Battletech, scaled up for Mechwarrior and based on pieces of vinyl floor tile. The roads are painted roofing shingles. The overpasses are from an architectural model board that I purchased at the Games Plus gaming auction. You can see what happened to the rest of the board here.
For our first battle we simply ran a kill-em-all game using the "Standard" level of the rules. My apologies that my Nova Cats (white/grey/gold), Tyler's Nova Cats (white/grey) and Jon's Rasalhague (white/grey/light blue) all have similar color schemes.
Jon proved to be the most adept player, quickly taking me out and nearly defeating Tyler. In the end he and Tyler both lost their last mech in the last turn, so there were no units left on the board! I didn't record a full battle report, but here are some of the battle's highlights, in the order in which they took place.
Jon's Rasalhague enter the field.
The beginning of the end for my Nova Cat Dasher II as it is flanked by a Spirit Cat Marauder II and subsequently takes heavy fire.
Rasalhague Forces cautiously advance through the buildings, making excellent use of cover.
This conservative approach would prove to be a very wise decision, as Tyler and I attacked each other while advancing in his direction. In this pic, a Nova Cat Warhammer IIc takes aim at a Rasalhague forces across the way.
By this time the Nova and Spirit cats had bloodied each other to the point that they agreed to temporarily ally against the Rasalhague forces. Here Rasalhague forces in cover take aim at an advancing Nova Cat Thor.
The Thor is knocked out before reaching the Rasalhague positions.
Spirit Cat Marauder II rains death down from the viaduct.
A Nova Cat Warhamer IIc (ignore the blue Spirit Cat marking, I was proxying...) engages the Karhu.
And dies a turn later, putting the Nova Cats out of the game!
The Rasalhague Karhu proved a dangerous foe as it promptly flanked the Spirit Cat Blackhawk on the viaduct.
A couple of turns later, the only two remaining mechs were a Spirit Cat Cougar and Rasalhague Maurader IIc.
They simultaneously destroyed each other in a blaze of fire at point blank range.
Observations on Alpha Strike
I really like this game. The rules seem sensible, the play is fast, and I'm really enjoying playing in the Battletech universe that I have enjoyed for so long without gaming in (I never played Mechwarrior and don't like the Classic Battletech rules). It's a small thing, but I like that Alpha Strike gives you (free via the online Master Unit List) a premade card for virtually every Battletech/Mechwarrior unit and/or variation, each with its own card.
Though the rules are not technically new -- an earlier version called "QuickStrike" is included in the massive tome "Tactical Operations" -- this is the first time these rules have been available in a standalone book. The result is a game that is fairly easy to learn (we skipped the "Introductory" rules and went right to "Standard" level), but with enough crunch to make a satisfying game.
I'm looking forward to incorporating new units like VTOLs, armored vehicles and infantry, and even at some point trying the "Advanced" rules for things like ECM and special munitions. We probably spent a bit less than two hours on this game, and now that we know how the rules go, I could easily see a two-player game using two or three times as many units on the field and still resolving the battle in the same time span.
As far as complexity, the overall game is similar in complexity to Mech Attack. The units themselves are simpler, but Alpha Strike adds more rules mechanics and special rules. It's more complex than Panzer 8 Sci-Fi, our club's favorite ultra-fast-playing sci-fi mass battle game, but it could probably handle almost as many units on the table, though it would take longer to resolve. The fairly long movement and firing ranges mean that it probably plays best on big tables. Our 4-foot by 3.5-foot space was fine for small battles, but for large engagements, the extra space on a 4 by 6 or 4 by 8 foot table would be ideal.
No discussion of the game would be complete without a brief mention of the book itself. Alpha Strike is beautifully laid, something we have come to expect from Battletech publications. It's full color with lots of pics, diagrams and even some fluff and background. The rules are separated into Introductory, Standard and Advance rules. Also included is a "Abstract Aerospace" game that can be played alongside the game to involve aerospace units and their effect on each other and the battlefield. The game also features a campaign system and some sample unit lists representing some of the major factions in the Battletech universe.
Lastly (and it didn't affect our game) the points system needs some work. The points values for each mech are simply 1/100th the points values that the mechs had in Classic Battletech. Though the Alpha Strike stats are based -- via an algorithm -- on BattleTech values, the resulting points values don't always reflect the Alpha Strike stats. This is not a huge problem for us, but Alpha Strike really needs a points system based on Alpha Strike stats, not Battletech Stats.
I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants a fast-playing sci-fi miniatures ruleset for 6mm or 10mm scales. It's clearly aimed at Battletech players, but the rules and massive list of pre-made units mean that players can proxy any miniatures without much hassle. It's not a "hard" sci-fi game, nor does it feature an abundance of complexity, but Alpha Strike has enough crunch to make a satisfying game. Also, since one book is all you need to play, and there are thousands of unit cards freely available via the online Master Unit List, this might be one of the great gaming bargains of 2013.
-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member