Dec 012010
 

So, Ivan already went nova and posted about our recent Warzone matchup.  Figured I’d jump in and give my own impressions of the game and what we’re planning to do in the future.  I’m also going to ramble on about the design of this site and how I want to change it.  First up is the fun gaming stuff.

Warzone: First Impressions

I have to say that I had a lot of fun playing Warzone.  Ivan did a great job showing me the ropes and even though our terrain setup was very ghetto and ad-hoc it still added a lot to the game.  I was coming into this with very limited wargame experience:  I’d played a few matches of other games and a bunch of D&D Minis back in the day.  I’m not exactly a newbie to the whole thing but I’m not an old grognard, either.  For me this game hit a really, really sweet spot.  I had a wonderfully good time.

I loved troop deployment and the simplicity of the system.  We were using the old 1st edition rules and I was surprised at how fluid and useful they were.  Everyone is rolled on a d20 and the mechanics were simple (roll under target number).  I felt like it was a good mix of player skill, luck, and good models.  So far it’s probably my favorite wargame system I’ve played.

Our setup and the miniatures that we used were very much ad-hoc.  Ivan had a box of miniatures and we just tossed ’em on the table with some blocks of carving foam I keep intending to turn into actual terrain.  It was a little tough keeping track of exactly who was what but we did all right.  Didn’t turn me off and it showed me that if you really just want to wargame you can make do with paper togs and some soda cans.  You don’t have to spend money if you don’t want to do so.

But I want to spend the money.  I’m kind the stereotypical “poor artist” of our bunch, but I still really enjoy my hobby.  Seeing those sad little unpainted guys on the table just instilled in me the burning desire to assemble and paint a really wicked looking army.  Playing with unpainted guys is just bad mojo in my book, plus it’s a betrayal of my artistic integrity.  After all, its the perfect melding of my artistic and nerdy tendencies.

Even beyond the armies is the terrain.  This is where I really start to get excited.  I took a lot of sculpture classes (I can still throw a good pot on the wheel) and I love working in mixed media.  Wargame terrain is like the ultimate in nerdy mixed media.  You take a block of foam, some old bits and bobs from SCRAP and then paint it all to look like some old building.  I’ve been meaning to do some terrain building and I think that Warzone might be the kick in the pants I need.

My Army

Now that I know we’ll be playing some more Warzone I think it’s time I started looking into building a good general purpose army.  After a lot of talk and some research I’ve decided to use the Imperial Guard from Warhammer 40K as my Capitol army stand-ins. Cadian Army Shock Troops will be representing my light infantry and regular grunts. I like the sculpts and the price is definitely right. Plus plastic figures are really easy to model.

Catachan Jungle Fighters will stand in for some of the more special armies. Namely the Sea Lions, Desert Scorpions, and maybe even Free Marines. Again, they’re plastic and cheap on the budget. The real wallet killer is gonna be the Kasrkin Squad standing in for my Free Marines and Heavy Infantry. The sculpts are utterly awesome but I think I’ll be asking Santa for a generous gift this year.

Those will be my base guys. Eventually I plan to add in a few command squads (both Cadian and Kasrkin), a few snipers, and maybe even some Jungle demolition experts. Though in the beginning I’m just going to start with the Cadian Shock Troops and the Catachan Jungle Fighters. I figure early on the jungle fighters will work for light infantry and the Cadian’s can play heavy infantry. The rest I’ll figure out as a I go along.

Website Stuff

So, the site is really red, huh?  While I like the clean simplicity I’ve simply grown tired of the look I have going on.  Part of my long periods of silence has been me trying to figure out a new look.  I’m finally getting close to something I really like and I hope to have a new look for the new year.  I probably won’t get it up right at the new year, but by the end of January I should have something that’s less rage and hunger inducing.  I hope.

Nov 272010
 

Capitol does not have quite the range of units that Imperial or the Legion boasts, but they have a lot of interesting tricks available.

The key benefit over other armies is rapid deployment. A lot of the Capitol units have unique deployment methods, whether it is infiltration (free marines and desert scorpions), parachute insertion (rangers) or the helicopter deployment that all units can utilize. Each of these have some measure of risk involved but it means it is very hard to keep a Capitol player away from where he wants to go.

This is combined with rapid moving units, such as their light vehicles and Martian Banshees and you have a quite mobile force on your hands.

The main weakness of Capitol forces tends to be that their lack hard hitting close combat troops. While they have some, like the Sunset Strikers, close combat tends to be more of a backup plan, than deliberate policy for Capitol. As such, some units like Sea Lions and free marines carry Punisher blades for backup. Examine carefully if the situation warrants a close assault, but be carefull as you may easily get overpowered by an opposition better equipped and prepared for it.

Equipment wise, Capitol equipment is generally solid, combining decent damage, range and accuracy. Don’t neglect the general armoury for additional weaponry, particularly for heavy damage output.

An army is led by great men, and there’s a fair share of options. Uniquely, only a few of the Capitol hero models require their respective squads to be fielded, thus you can easily have, say, a Free Marine hero even if your squads are all basic infantry. This gives some good flexibility, and lets you bolster your force easily.

None of the Capitol hero models are single man death machines but you have a lot of flexibility. There’s no less than four personality models available, each of which lends unique options as well. While the use of personalities should be a rare thing, they give you some fun options and can really raise the oomph of your force.

Nov 272010
 

So unfortunately official Warzone figures can be hard to find.

Prince August in Scotland still has some in stock but they are getting fewer and far between. So it is time to start looking for substitutes out there:

Luckily human scifi figures are easy to find in 28mm. It’s just a question of finding figures that match well.

When looking for a proxy figure, I’d worry less about looking exactly like the figure in question, and more if it has the right “feel” to it. What’s important is that it looks like a Bauhaus Blitzer to YOU.

So let’s look at this by army:

Capitol:

Capitol are likely the easiest as they are basically just soldiers. The cheapest option is the Cadian Shock Troops from Games Workshop. Very reasonably priced plastic kit, easy to pose in a variety of ways, and if you pick up some spare weapons from somewhere, you can create a good variety of figures.

http://www.craftyspot.co.uk/images/cadian%20shock%20troops.jpg

For some of the more specialized troops, you’ll want to look around. Free Marines could be done cheap with Catachan Jungle Fighters, especially if you could find the older metal figures

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_wRZ1N9p2Fyg/TIJDd3-QbxI/AAAAAAAAAMI/En-Ay33eTJw/s1600/Oldschool+models.jpg

There’s also an excellent Vietnam war range from TAG that can do well for a lot of Capitolian grunt types, like Sea Lions.

http://www.theassaultgroup.co.uk/store/home.php?cat=21

The same manufacturer also does modern day american infantry, which would be a great fit for Desert Scorpions.

Heavy infantry might be represented well by the Pig Iron System Troopers

http://www.pig-iron-productions.com/system-troopers-c-11.html?zenid=2efd78cc5b7d18611cd29dadf305e2f1

Overall, as a Capitol player, you are well served by the market, as there’s a wealth of stuff out there. For units like Martian Banshees you may have to get a little creative, the same going for the vehicles, but the results will be a unique and interesting army, at a pretty low investment.

Nov 262010
 

Back in high school, Warzone, the Mutant Chronicles wargame, left a big mark on us. It was the first game to show us a different way of doing things compared to the Games Workshop stuff.

So today, we had 2 games of Warzone, one Bauhaus vs Capitol and one three way battle with the Dark Legion.

A few observations:

Flamethrowers are wicked (very high damage, no attack roll, can roast an entire squad).

Violator blades and chain rippers are equally wicked (sweep attacks hurt grunts bad, and 2 wounds per hit means grunts are unlikely to survive)

Large dark legion creatures that are strong enough not to need to brace their weapons are deadly.

There really never was a superior squad turn sequence to the Warzone one. Everything just feels so fluid and natural: Everyone takes their actions, one trooper moving, aiming then firing while another is “rock n roll” with his MG for 3 actions.

Even big beefy heroes can be brought down by a determined volley of rifle fire.

From a collecting / hobby perspective:

Highly customizable armies

Very cheap entry cost. 12-14 models for a 500 point army. Maybe twice that for 1000 points. An initial investment of 30 dollars or less.

Welcome to the warzone maggots. Hope you survive!

Here’s a picture of our ghetto terrain setup.

Ghetto Warzone Terrain

This is what happens when you don't have fancy terrain.

Nov 242009
 

It’s almost the end of the year, and I’d like to talk a little about the past, present and future of FAD.

These rules have been around for 7 years now. They began as hastily written comments on a notepad, after playing and having my mind blown by Stargrunt II.

The things I knew I wanted, when I started the project was this:

Suppression should be automatic.

Only 6 sided dice.

Combat should be squad based.

The core mechanics would be roll 2 dice and pick the highest or roll 2-3 dice and see how many score over a certain target number.

With that in mind, the original game came into existence. My friend Paul liked it and gave some feedback, and I proceeded to talk it up a little on theminiaturespage.com and the old GW fan site Portent.net. As time went on, I realized that I had struck something that people actually took an interest in. I saw threads where people asked for advice on a rules set, and people I didn’t even know would suggest FAD. I googled it occasionally and found it mentioned on forums and websites I had never even frequented.

As time went on, I even learnt that people had run games using FAD at a few conventions across the world. That blew my mind.

Yeah, it’s nowhere near the popularity of games like 5150, Stargrunt II, Warhammer 40.000 or any of those. The twohourwargames yahoo group has 3600 members and multiple posts every day. The FAD group is fairly quiet and has just shy of 500 members. But it’s something I had never anticipated or experienced before.

Now it’s November of 2009, and FAD4 has been out for a good while now. So what is lying ahead of us all?

First and foremost are a few projects that have been in various states of development for the past year. We have a lot of little additions to the core rules (night fighting, more traits, some clarifications of points that could be clearer, that sort of thing) which will eventually become FAD 4.3. I don’t think there’s any chance of having this done by December so expect something in the first half of 2010.

We have been working on a campaign setting as well (Cyberia) which will give a “out of the box” option to people who don’t want to fiddle with designing their own units from scratch. There’s also work on a WW2 and possibly modern day options. These are propably more distant projects though.

One thing that have been churning in my head lately is the idea of having money go into, and come out of, FAD. I am not talking about making the game commercial only (I watched my old ww1 rules Trench Storm whither and die from that decision) or making a living off it. Let me explain:

There’s a lot of things I think could be achieved with a bit of cash. A few include:

Commissioning artwork, writing etc: This is by far the biggest one. We’ve been extremely lucky in having some very talented volunteers provide us some great art to use. However, volunteers are subject to the randomness of life, and are motivated mainly by interest and passion.

Being able to have some artwork commissioned for FAD products would give us another, additional source of material. It could also go to additionally reward and motivate people who have volunteered their efforts.

It would also permit some additional incentive to prospective rules writers who may otherwise be disinclined to spend hours developing a rules supplement.

Advertising: I would like to do a bit more work advertising (and thus paying money into supporting) popular tabletop gaming sites like theminiaturespage.com and rpg.net. Having some cash flow would allow for that, as well as give FAD some additional exposure.

Miniatures: This is faraway and expensive idea, but having a range of miniatures developed for FAD would be pretty cool.

Conventions: I’d love to have something setup where we could showcase FAD at conventions, and possibly provide some stuff for that, such as freebie print copies of the rules or whatever might be the case.

Cooperation with a miniatures supplier: This talk has come up before, and at least one supplier showed interest, however the arrival of my son into this world made me unable to follow through on this. I am however very interested in having some cooperation with manufacturers of scifi figures, particularly some of the small-scale operations. This would enable us to provide FAD stats and points values ready to use, and give them more exposure and advertisement, while giving FAD more exposure as well.

There’s other incidental expenses that could occur as well, such as server space if we move to our own server, website maintenance and whatnot.

So where does money for these ideas come from? Well, it can come from my pocket. I generally can’t really afford that, and I’d love for FAD to sustain itself.

I am also not keen on the idea of selling PDF’s. Anyone can develop for the game, and that is how it ought to be. So if I sell a supplement on urban warfare, and another guy does it for free and his is better, nobody will buy mine, and for good reason.

The core FAD products should be free and readily available.

Printed copies: An option that will almost certainly be used is to offer the printed version of FAD through a print-on-demand service such as lulu. Last I checked the cost of a book of this size would be about 10 dollars, so it could sell for a few bucks more. Based on polling on the yahoo group and comparing to existing products, most people are willing to pay 12-15 dollars for a game of this size.

This would not change the fact that it’s available for free, and there’d be no “exclusive” version. It’d simply be a service to people who prefer getting a printed, spiral-bound copy, rather than dealing with pdf’s and printing it themselves.

Ransom model: Those who play RPG’s may be familiar with Greg Stolze’s ransom model. You offer up a game or supplement and set a ransom. People pledge whatever money they feel is fair. When the ransom is met, it’s made available for free to everybody. This avoids PDF piracy, and nobody pays more than what they want to. If the ransom isn’t met, the money either never gets deducted, or is donated to charity.

Donations: Asking for money is basically begging, and in addition to being distasteful, people aren’t inclined to give money just for the sake of doing so. In the past when the topic of commissioning artwork came up, a few people showed an interest in donating towards that, so its conceivable that specific expenses could receive some funding through donation.

These are all ideas I have been mulling over, and I am still trying to lay out the best path to really push FAD forward into the spotlight more, and capture more ground.

Lastly, I’d like to put out a call for support and aid. I am at a spot where I have projects that I think FAD needs, but I do not have the luxury to work on all of them myself. I need people who are competent designers and tinkerers, creative writers or just plain thinkers, who may be willing to pitch in for some specific projects.

I’ll put forth more specifics, but the two main projects are: FAD WW2 and help with the Cyberia setting. I have two people lined up for the latter, but I need more, to really make progress in a reasonable time.

It’s been a strange and amazing 7 years, and I’d like to thank all of you out there for everything you’ve done. Here’s to another 7 years of fast and dirty wargaming

Ivan – authordude

Aug 092009
 

So this kicks off the WW2 rules quest.. what will hopefully become a series of blog posts about ww2 wargaming, as I and my friends go through a ton of wargame rules, analyze and talk about this, and test out the same scenarios with each system.

The series will cover both commercial and “freeware” rules.

The first on the list is Landser, which is free from the yahoogroup located at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Landser/

This is a first glance before putting the rules to the test. The rules are short and compact: Only 4 pages in total and only covers infantry combat (which is all I am interested in, generally). No army lists are included, though the downloaded included separate PDF’s covering US, German and Soviet squads. The game is aimed at about a squad on each side.

Turn sequence is a straight (I go, then you go). When its your turn to go, each figure can perform one action, such as moving, hiding, firing etc. Its possible to fire on the move, but at very low accuracy. There’s a fair number of actions, and I like the inclusion of a hide and sneak option, though I’d prefer an alternating activation sequence

There’s not much in the way of command/control. Figures can move off as they see fit, and there doesn’t seem to be any particular benefit to the squad leader.

Combat looks very quick and dirty. You roll to hit, and then roll for effect. Automatic weapons get a template, and there’s rules for the most common weapons types (various machine guns, grenades and rifle grenades). As an interesting touch, most hits will simply force the target to hide, causing a suppression effect.

If you do get wounded, the wound may be light or heavy, and each has a small chart to roll the actual effect. Very nice touch as it gives a good range of possibilities. As it reads, it looks like long range fire will be relatively safe but can easily disrupt a squad, while an MP40 at point blank range is bad news.

Morale is simple. Once 2 men are dead, you test morale with a D10 against the number of men left. If you fail, you break off the fight. Its unclear if you are supposed to test once, every turn, or every turn you take an additional casualty, though the latter makes the most sense. This “break point” increases for more determined or well trained units.

National traits are briefly discussed in the separate PDF’s. Soviet soldiers cannot fire on the move, while Germans and Americans can only assault if a leader does so.

Fielding most infantry types should be relatively easy, though I did not find rules for the Sturmgewehr and no distinction between self-loading or bolt-action rifles.

Overall, Landser is nothing anyone havent seen before. It is however a nice, quick and effective skirmish game, with some fun touches to it. I definately look forward to playing it, and I could see this little freebie becoming a recurring game at my table.

Jan 172009
 

A long time ago, there was only wargames. Then people starting experimenting with things, and we got results like the Braunstein games, and eventually Dungeons and Dragons.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Through the years games have straddled the lines. Examples of wargames with RPG elements include Inquisitor and many of the offerings from twohourwargames (Nuts, 5150, Chain reaction etc). Examples of RPG’s with wargame elements are most strongly represented by D&D and Warhammer FRP.

For our current roleplaying campaign, I tossed around a lot of ideas, and my initial thought was to use a wargame set to run a roleplaying campaign. We’d have rules for the tabletop combat, and then just roleplay through the “talky talky” scenes. In the end, we settled on GURPS, since it has a very strong tactical combat aspect, but if we run a large battle, we may switch the mechanics to resolve that.

In the upcoming session, the two players are respectively the sergeant and corporal of a French infantry squad near the Franco-German border in 1940. They’ve been sent on a routine patrol to check out a bridge in the area, where they’ll be attacked by a German patrol.

The interesting part will be that this will be run using GURPS rules, but with miniatures and terrain set up (if a bit primitive looking, as I only have so much time to prepare), and conducted as a tactical battle, in the vein of a proper wargame.

The players will have to issue orders to their subordinates (8 squad members in this case), and may have to endure those orders being misunderstood or not carried out, based on morale and leadership tests. All aspects traditional of a wargame. Simultaneously, they will be able to act independently, come up with ideas and implement them, and act “outside the box” in the manner of an RPG.

Nothing about this is truly new, it’s existed for years, but I think the core of it, is something that is too often overlooked in roleplaying games. Plenty of games use miniatures and tactical movement, but they often omit the things that wargames have done for years: Opportunity fire, morale, the uncertainty of whether orders are carried out, the importance of leadership. We have to go back to Megatraveller before we see those things making an appearance and that’s been how long?

I often get asked why I don’t like D&D, since I like tactical combat so much. My response is twofold:

A: Swords and spears don’t interest me, rifles and tanks do.

B: D&D has good tactical combat in the sense that it’s fun and is pretty much a game in itself. But it doesn’t have plausible tactical combat. When I play, I want to think about whether I can place my machine gun in enfilade, whether my men will be able to hold the line, whether my ambush will work, NOT whether I am placed in the right square to get a +2, or how these three powers will interact with each other.

And that is where we can turn to wargames, to find solutions to those problems.

Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the situation, and how they react to the fog of war of not knowing where the enemy is, until they are actually observed on the table.

Oct 132007
 

I imagine this will end up running as a series of articles on the blog. If its gets to any reasonable point, it can be compiled in a nice PDF.

I think the optimal number of formations is 3-5. More than that, and it gets very sprawling to manage. Less than that, and too much can hinge on each portion. Each formation can contain multiple elements as long as they are fairly coherent.

Military doctrines carry this out. If we look at ww2, a squad leader has typically 9-12 men, grouped (on paper anyways) into 2 or 3 teams. A platoon commander has 3 squads, plus supporting weapons, a company commander has 3 platoons, plus support, and so forth. Now, Glorantha is not WW2 (riflesharp?), but the logic remains, because its tailored to what a person can comfortably command.

A big focus in Glorantha is the personalities and heroes. These are the people that interact with the world and represent their cultures. It follows that a logical army setup is something like:

Great Hero + retinue (1 unit of elite troops)

Hero + followers (2 units, maybe 3)

Hero + followers (2 units, maybe 3)

Auxiliaries (healers, sages, camp followers and assorted hooligans. Possibly “youngbloods”. Young and inexperienced heroes eager to please themselves)

Each hero is directly in command of their associated units, providing them with leadership benefits and direction. Units loosing their hero will either look to the great hero, tag along with anyone that seems to have an idea what is going on, or simply revert to very basic reactions. Fight a nearby enemy, run away or stand around untill either of the other 2 responses occur.

An individual unit will be comprised of 3 to 20 indiduals, each represented by 1 figure. Im imagining most units wont range much over 10, except for very large forces, or low class units (trollkin, rubble runners and various other rabble). Since we’re dealing with loose units and warbands, rather than compact massed formations, troops will generally operate in a dispersed fashion.

Core classifications will be Morale and Readiness. Additional traits will be covered later.

A units Morale can be qualified as either Shaky, Steady, Determined or Reckless.

A units Readiness can be qualified as either Reluctant, Hesitant, Prepared or Eager.

Morale is a units tolerance of hardship, as well as how dedicated they are to their objectives. Readiness quantifies unit training, aggression and will to fight. While many units will be rated equally in both qualities, its entirely possible that ratings could differ. A village militia might rate as Determined in protecting their homes, but are also Hesitant, due to poor training. Elite mercenaries that are retreating from an unsuccessfull battle are great troops, but not willing to die.

Troop dispersion is 1″ between each model for Reluctant troops, 2″ for Hesitant, 3″ for Prepared and 4″ for Eager troops. Units dispersed further than this at the end of the turn must test morale.

Heroes are free to move as they please, but to control a unit, must remain within 6xdispersion distance. Thus, a Prepared unit is considered in command if within 18″, while Reluctant units has to remain within 6″ to be in command.

Oct 082007
 

Usually I tend heavily towards historical or science fiction with wargames. Fantasy warfare mostly doesnt feel very interesting. It either becomes gimmicky, or ends up being a badly written historical set with lightning bolts.

However, a thought has been churning in my head, after seeing lots of cheap 1/72 scale Ancients (celts, romans etc) plastic figures at the local gaming store.

Wargaming in Glorantha
The tentative goals (and I’ll most likely end up writing this one from scratch) are:

  • Plays with a range from 10 to about 50 or 60 figures
  • Command&Control rules for units
  • No requirement to move in fixed formations, though common soldiery should fight in loose units.
  • Combined arms.. the rules should support a variety of activity.. slings, archers, melee troops, pikes, magic and monsters
  • Heroes can make a difference and impact, but are not impervious.
  • Cultural and doctrinal differences affect gameplay.
  • Focus on morale and training.
  • Magic is present and available, but fairly low key (mostly… A sunspear to the forehead can settle things nicely.)

There are some decent fantasy wargames out there, but nothing that seems to fit the ticket. So we’ll see how it comes along.