Monday, 25 May 2009
Tusk - Tusk is a game of mammoth and dinosaur hunting from Irregular Miniatures. I have some 19th century types and some dinosaurs left to paint. I painted the mammoths and cavemen ages ago and am waiting for Steve's tribe to appear, now that I am an expert mammoth hunter in the solo game. As far as I know, Steve has made no progress on painting his tribe yet.
English Civil War - I need an army to oppose my ECW Parliamentarians (boo hiss!) so I should maybe crack on with the Royalists (hussah!). They are prepped and waiting to be painted but keep getting shuffled to the back of the queue.
Great Northern War - I still need to base the rest of my Swedish army and I need to base all of my Danish army. I have a Polish army to paint. I suspect that I have rather a lot of figures left to paint for my Saxon army too. Rebasing all of the Danes and the Swedes would be a useful job and deserving of victory points, even if it is not painting figures. After all, it is preparing them for use however you look at it.
Seven Years War - I have Prussians and Swedes waiting to be painted for this war and am keen to give them an outing at some point. On the other hand, they are not prepped and we have no immediate plans to play the Seven Years War, beyond those vague plans that have wandered around in my head for the past ten years.
World War Two - I have Russians and Germans waiting to be finished off. I plan to sell these armies to fund new purchases that I feel the need for, so perhaps I should focus on painting these and getting them on EBay to earn my victory points.
What does the crowd think? Any preference for what you would like to see featured on here? Or, should I jsut follow my whims and see what I can get painted in the month according to what I feel like painting? As long as I paint around £4o worth of figures then I have earned my 2 victory points, so does it matter what those figures are?
Saturday, 23 May 2009
The good thing about the Khemru is that they actually have a multiplicity of uses. They can be Broo in Runequest, Beastmen in Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures, or Beastmen in any other system that uses Beastmen. These particular figures will feature in our Wargods games, and will almost certainly make an appearance in our pulp games too. I can envisage using them in Larger than Life, possibly featuring as the villains on my Larger than Life blog at some point, or as a lost tribe in .45 Adventures, or even in Broadsword Adventures. Perhaps I need to give some of them ray-guns so that they can feature in a Fantastic Worlds game too. Now there's a thought ...
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Imperial Commander is a set of rules for massed skirmishes of around 50 figures per side. IC is the big brother of Laserburn and is also the rules set that grew into the monster known as 40K. In these rules your figures are organised into squads, usually of around 5 troopers. You can have heroes and leaders in the game and there is some room for vehicles too, but it is primarily an infantry-based game. Most of the vehicles that feature in the game will be APCs and possibly the odd jetcopter or two. The action is fast and furious with troopers being killed fairly easily if they get hit. Pity the guys with no armour at all!
First player moves
First player moves again
First player tests morale if the casualty threshold is reached.
We chose 750 points of troops each and played a straight encounter battle with the aim of driving off the enemy force. We each had a heroic leader in overall command of our force, but neither of our heroic leaders actually did more than wander around in their impervious energy shields. So much for being heroic. I had equipped my troops with jumpacks, so they were bounding forward like so many demented grasshoppers, while the Albion Defence Force trudged forward through the mud. This meant that I was able to occupy the buildings in the centre of table while Steve was still advancing through the woods on his side. Nevertheless, he still scored first blood, while my return fire resulted in a broken weapon that never got fixed for the rest of the game.
At this point the Bwendi Knights flew forward in their jetcopter and deployed by aerial assault (jumpack deployment from a hovering jetcopter) to win the battle for my side. Steve's leader had rallied two of his troops, who would therefore continue to fight normally. The Knights piled in and killed these two in no time at all. At this point we called it a day and the Bwendi Knights retired undefeated once more and returned home for tea and medals all round.
Friday, 15 May 2009
The rules are fairly simple. Each player takes turns in activating a unit, which then gets two actions, such as move twice, move and fire, dig in and fire, etc. By alternating activation, both players are kept involved all the time. Your overall commander is important in this game, because he is the only one that can rally your troops, and he can also pass off actions to units so that they can activate more than once in a turn.
The system itself is based on opposed dice rolls for most combat actions and dice rolls versus a target number for other actions, such as morale tests and attempts to communicate by radio. Combat seemed to involve a lot of dice rolls. There was a dice roll to hit, a dice roll to convert a hit to a wound by beating the opponent's armour and a dice roll to determine who in the squad had been hit. This was fairly clunky, but it was not particularly slow, once we got to know our own forces and the rules better.
Instead of dice roll modifiers, SG2 uses different die types. Thus, if you suffer a penalty on an action, you use a worse die type, while a bonus gives you a better die type. The dice used range from 4-sided to 12-sided with a d8 being the average. Rolling high in this game is good.
So, enough about the system, and on with the game. We began by randomly drawing troop quality and leader markers to determine how good our troops were. I drew two good leaders and two average leaders, with one elite squad, two regular squads and one green squad. Not too shabby at all. Steve's leaders were all average, but he received one elite squad, one veteran squad, one average squad and one green squad. This was shaping up to be interesting.
The modern battlefield is an empty place
This photograph shows the situation at the end of turn 1. We played the Recon in Force scenario from the rulebook. Each side gets a platoon and is tasked with scouting out the enemy and driving them from the field. At the start of the game we deployed our troops using markers. Mine were red, while Steve's were white. The goal is to reveal all of your opponent's markers and then shoot them to bits. Before the game began we both rolled 1d8 to determine how many dummy markers each of us got. We then moved all of our markers onto the table on Turn 1, at which point, each of us was allowed to nominate three of our opponent's markers for removal. I chose three on my right flank, which cleared it of markers, leaving me free to advance. Steve chose a selection from across the table. We were not allowed to know which of our opponent's markers we had removed, so there was some serious uncertainty going on. All that time painting figures and we began using markers instead! As it turned out, Steve had managed to remove two dummy markers and my green squad, while I removed one dummy marker, his elite squad and his regular squad! Now that was good luck.
As we manoeuvred, it became easier in some cases to identify dummy markers, but neither of us was willing to drop cover so that we could start making observation rolls to spot the enemy. Well, not for a while anyway. Then Steve revealed a marker to try to spot some troops in a building. He failed, moved on and tried again successfully. He told me afterwards that he had genuinely thought it was a dummy!
He spotted my regular combat squad and his command squad was caught at point blank range out in the open. It was going to be an absolute massacre. How could I fail? Well, I did. I managed to suppress his command squad, who promptly recovered and shot back. I lost one trooper wounded and one killed despite being in hard cover. Aargh! Still, I got my own back fairly quickly as my troops kept their morale and kept shooting. We started to whittle his command squad down slowly. Then I revealed my own command squad in the fields behind his, who started up a crossfire that eventually annihilated his troops.
In the meantime, our other markers had been busily manoeuvring some more. I revealed my elite squad and spent ages trying to spot his markers with them. Obviously my elite troops were too busy posing to spot anything because it took them more than several goes at everything. I think these guys could not have spotted the broad side of a barn from the inside. In fact, they were not very effective at anything much in this game.
With his command squad dead, Steve revealed his green squad and came to do battle with my already battered regulars. We took out his SAW gunner, but were quickly reduced to a single stand, who understandably started running away. My command squad then started plinking away at his greenies and failed to hit anything. I swear that most of my troops were firing blanks in this game. On the other hand, his greenies had their eyes in and were shooting straight. I lost a man killed from the command squad and their morale went down a little. In the meantime, my elite troops had finally spotted and removed the last of Steve's markers. They turned around and started strolling back to the main fight.
The game finished with my command squad plinking away at the remnants of Steve's green squad, who were holed up in a ruined building. There were bodies all around that area and it looked a bit like Rorke's Drift. There were four green troopers in the building doing a very good job of fighting off my own soldiers as we called time on the game. I think that weight of numbers must have told eventually, but given the way my dice were rolling, I am not actually convinced that would have happened. Hopefully my elites would have sorted out the greenies, but who knows?
The system worked well and actually flowed better than the rulebook reads. There were few rules questions or problems with interpreting them. The only problem we had was time. We had played for two and a half hours when we called it a night. That is really the time slot we have available for gaming and we had not reached a proper conclusion by that point. Still, the game was great fun and we both had a good laugh, so we shall try SG2 again some time. First, however, I need to introduce Steve to Imperial Commander and Beamstrike.
Monday, 11 May 2009
The cast of characters and opening scenes have now been posted with daily updates to follow until the scenario is completed. Depending upon the results of this test, available time and my own personal inclinations, I may continue these adventures with more stories.
Thursday, 7 May 2009
There are effectively three parts to the rules.
The first part of the rules deals with character creation. All characters are defined by their Reputation (Rep), which may range from 1 to 7. For a look at Rep and how it works, check out Chain Reaction 3.0 from TwoHourWargames, which you can freely download from their website. In addition to this, Larger than Life adds three skill areas; Brains, Brawn and Bravado. One of these will be your primary attribute and any skills you have will be at full Rep, while skills in other areas will be tested at half Rep. This takes your characters further into role-playing territory than most other TwoHourWargames rules go.
Your group will be led by a Star, representing you. The Star has a number of advantages that other characters do not have. These include:
- Free Will - the Star may choose how he reacts under certain circumstances (other figures must roll);
- Star Power - the Star uses this to try to reduce any damage received, making Stars much tougher than others;
- Cheating Death - the Star may cheat death, although this does reduce his Rep for future games; and
- Larger than Life - the Star may not be killed by figures of lower Rep than them.
The villains get their own versions of this and rules are included for creating the chief villain, his femme fatale and henchmen as needed.
The second part of the rules covers campaign play. The Star starts at home and is given a task, which might involve rescuing someone or recovering an object or just plain thwarting the villain. Like a film, the action moves from scene to scene with the Star and his loyal cohorts trying to extract the information they need to find the villain and beard him in his lair. You roll to see where you need to go and how you get there. Then you find out if an encounter occurs en route and resolve it of there is one. Then you try to find the clue and extract the information. This last process involves rolling against a randomly determined difficulty factor. It is possible that the villain can turn up and corner you while you are looking for clues, or that you can have other encounters with the locals along the way. There are army lists in the rules that cover a variety of different types of encounters and others are downloadable from the TwoHourWargames Yahoo group. Successfully completing each scene leads to you eventually finding the villain and going to the final showdown. The final showdown is the only time that you are guaranteed a figure game.
The final part of the rules covers setting up figure games and playing them out. It includes rules for generating the basic terrain of the area, the number of opponents that your group faces based on the total Rep of your group and the combat rules. These systems are fairly standard for TwoHourWargames and you can get an idea of how they play out by looking at Chain Reaction 3.0 or Chain Reaction: Swordplay. The basic mechanic involves rolling a number of dice equal to your combat skill, modified by circumstances, and trying to score more successes than your opponent. As I wrote earlier, check out the free rules from TwoHourWargames to see how these systems work.
That covers what the rules contain to some extent. So, the question is: how do they play?
We started a story tonight. I umpired the game and made all the non-player character rolls, while my friend, Steve, took the part of the good guys. His star was a PI employed by a wealthy benefactor, who was sent in search of an object. The rules did not specify what this object was, but we worked out that the villain was a Native, so it was probably a tribal artefact. Presumably the PI's wealthy benefactor is a collector of such things. The PI set out in search of information. He was chasing a variety of people that might be able to tell him where to find what he was looking for and his Interrogate skill came into its own throughout this. We went through twelve such encounters with varying success. By the end of the evening, the PI had found 4 clues, not nearly enough to find the villain. His final encounter was a failed attempt to find someone that could tell him where to look. He ran into a young lady with three soldiers in tow, who shot him and his friends up before capturing them all. The rules include a section that abstracts the escape process. We rolled this and all of the good guys escaped to continue their search. We finished the session at that point.
Characters in this game are interesting. I like the need to choose primary and secondary skill areas. It gives figures different areas that they excel in, so even your Star can be outshone by his Co-Star at times. The character creation process is fairly simple, although I had to search a bit in the rulebook to follow the process through. Still, it worked and with the characters created the game play can get moving.
The campaign system is quite heavily abstracted and requires a fair bit of imagination and input to flesh out the encounters. By making them into rolls against a difficulty factor, the basic elements of the campaign have a fairly plain flavour. This process can also drag on a lot if you follow the system slavishly as written. This does not necessarily make for a good face-to-face system. On the other hand, if you have the time to invest in it, and want to write up the story as it progresses, this system will work very well for solo play. I certainly intend to try solo games to see if the campaign system has more interest. It will probably work quite well for me in that regard because I enjoy creating the story. However, we did not find it that engrossing for our face-to-face game.
The miniatures system is typical of TwoHourWargames and I like it. I like their rules and the way they work anyway, and this system does not disappoint. I particularly like the idea and implementation of Star Power. It gives a cinematic quality to the action that makes me want to quote Monty Python's Black Knight. You can try the system for yourself with the free rules I have mentioned before, so I shall not comment too much on this aspect of the rules. I like it and it works for me.
The rules are put together and written quite well. We had to flick through the rules quite a bit to check some things, but overall they work well. A few points were not particularly clear (e.g. how you resolve finding a clue with people; the table is under the objects section) but overall it was clear enough. Having a fair bit of familiarity with the TwoHourWargames paradigm probably helped too.
The system has a lot of potential. I think that the campaign system in the rulebook is likely to work best for solo play. I also think that the numbers needed to reach the final showdown are too high based on how our game worked. As it stood, we needed ten successful clues to stand a chance of reaching the villain with the Rep4 PI. Given that we had played through twelve attempts to find clues and only obtained four of them in the space of two hours, the game would have dragged on a bit too long. Reducing the numbers by about 5 would probably be a suitable solution for us. That would mean a minimum of five clues and an average of eight to reach the final showdown.
Another, probably better, approach for face-to-face play would be for one player to script the story, including encounters and deciding the results of success and failure. This might work well using a system where the player has to win a set number of games to reach the showdown. While this is more like a traditional wargame, I think that Larger than Life could benefit from such an approach under some circumstances. I think you could use the system in the book to help generate these games but I am not yet convinced that it will work for competitive play.
Leaving aside my concerns about the campaign system, once you get to a figure game, the system works really well. Battles are fast and furious and great fun. You can get quite a few played in a typical session and characters do not always react the way you would want them to. This makes them act more like real people, which I really like.
Overall, I don't think this is the best system from TwoHourWargames. The battles are great fun but the campaign system lets it down a bit for competitive play, although it is good for solo play. If you are going to play solo, I would recommend these rules to you. If you want to play games against your mates, then the campaign system can be used to generate games, but I would not use it exactly as written. As such, I would recommend the rules, but with reservations.
I shall certainly be playing Larger than Life again and experimenting with what works best for me. The beauty of them is that the system is simple enough that you can tinker with it without breaking it. There is also fantastic support from Ed at TwoHourWargames on the Yahoo group, which is a major advantage. Ed responds to all rules queries quite quickly, which is brilliant and really helps.
You can buy Larger than Life from TwoHourWargames and it is the Featured Game for May 2009, so you can get it a bit cheaper right now. It is certainly worth a try, despite my reservations. I shall certainly do so, and I shall write up my experiences on this blog when I do so to see if my opinions have changed.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
I am a fan of his games and have played in several play-by-forum games, so I was well chuffed to get this magazine early. If you are not sure what a play-by-forum game is, then check out the Rattrap Speakeasy and have a read through the games that have been played there (there are sections of the forum for PBEM games where these take place). Anyway, back to TEQ 1. I only have the pdf so cannot comment on print quality, but will focus on content because that is what is really important.
What do you get for your money?
The pdf is a 56 page document, with a colour cover. In total there are 52 pages of content with black-and-white illustrations or photographs throughout.
The contents are as follows:
What is the New Commerce-verse? (Article) by Richard A. Johnson
The Gargoyle and the Adventure of the Monk's Eye (.45 Adventure Fiction) by Pete Murray
Sgt. Grant vs. The Oni (.45 Adventure Scenario) by Pete Murray
A Murder of Ghouls (.45 Adventure Article) by Joey McGuire
Feasting Ground (.45 Adventure Scenario) by Joey McGuire
The Curse of the Red Shirt (Article) by Marc Anderson
Building Jungle Terrain with Grimm (Article) by Markus Kaufmann
The Chronicles of Star Command “ Crash of the Red Eagle" (Fantastic Worlds Solo Scenario) by Marc Anderson
The Beast of Gevaudan: A History (Article) by Pete Murray
The Beast of Gevaudan (Gloire Scenario) by Mark Costello
The Art of Improvisation by Richard A. Johnson
Market Day (Broadsword Adventures Fiction) by Ryan Flessing
The Flaming Cliffs of al-Mahal (Broadsword Adventures Scenario) by Richard A. Johnson
So, you get some fiction to help get you in the mood for the games and to get the juices flowing. The fiction is fine for what it is. The quality of writing is generally acceptable to good and I enjoyed reading all of the stories, although I would not really have missed them, were they not there. That said, they do help to build atmosphere and there are scenarios in them, should you be inspired enough to write them.
The articles are an interesting mix. Grimm's article on building jungle terrain is appropriate because one of the scenarios (Sgt. Grant versus the Oni) takes place in the jungle and most have rural settings with lots of trees. The trees that the article describes look fantastic, although I suspect that I would not really have the patience to build an entire table worth of them. The other articles discuss the Rattrap approach to designing and linking their games; approaches to giving even the spear-carriers, the "red-shirts", some character; and archetypes for ghouls (flesh-eating, degenerate humans) in .45 Adventures. The Art of Improvisation article is particularly good. It provides sound advice for those putting on games about how to be flexible with your scenario and emphasises that the point of the game is to have fun.
Then we come to the meat of the product: the scenarios. I shall not give too much detail about the scenarios; you will need to buy TEQ to get the full skinny on them, but I hope I provide enough information for you to judge their interest for yourself. I shall also give my impression of the scenarios based on reading them through. I have not played any of them yet but will add additional comments and battle reports as soon as I do.
Sgt. Grant versus the Oni
This is a Weird War Two scenario for .45 Adventures pitting two characters against each other. It comprises three separate episodes. In the first two episodes, Sgt. Grant tries to find and recover details of the Japanese Oni super-soldier project and the means to defeat it before the final climactic showdown in the third episode. The final part of the story sees Sgt. Grant trying to escape the area before the artillery strike that will sterilise the island. He is hindered in his progress by the Oni, who is trying to kill him. The situations look interesting and I would be fascinated to try this game out. I have also been considering other theatres of war where it could fit in. Sgt. Grant could be replaced with a British Commando Super Soldier, for example, and his enemy could be a Nazi Super Soldier. As such, it should take very little work to make the scenario fit the figures you already have. I am looking forward to trying this one out.
This is another .45 Adventures scenario. It is set in the prohibition era and features a gang of bootleggers taking on a gang of ghouls for control of the cemetery. This looks like a bit of a slug-fest with ghouls popping up all over. While simple, it should be a fun scenario to play through too.
The Chronicles of Star Command "Crash of the Red Eagle"
This features Betty Steele, one of Star Command's finest. Her ship has crash-landed on an alien planet and she must survive and find a way to escape. This is another one that comprises three separate episodes. It features security men galore, all dying in different ways, a bug-eyed monster (well, it will be when I play the scenario) and, of course, Betty Steele. I love the look of this scenario, but I felt that it was let down by the descriptions of victory conditions, which were a little confusing on reading through them. That said, I suspect that setting up and playing the scenario will clarify this for me. I should also point out that the scenario allows for the main character to be one of your own creation rather than Ms Steele herself, so you are not restricted in terms of figures.
The Beast of Gevaudan
This scenario is apparently based on real happenings in mid-18th century France. The article that accompanies the scenario explains this background; beast(s) that preyed on and preferred human flesh stalked the countryside for several years until one was finally slain by a silver bullet. Shades of chupacabras and black beasts of Bodmin if you ask me. The scenario is for Gloire, Rattrap's swashbuckling adventure rules and is designed to be played with the Among the War Parties expansion for those rules. I have a copy of Gloire but have not actually played it so I am more likely to adapt the scenario to suit Broadsword Adventures instead, especially since I have not bought Among the War Parties yet. That said, this could be just the excuse I need to buy Among the War Parties and paint my Seven Years War figures to use with the scenarios.
The goal of the players is to lure the beast into their traps and eventually kill it over the course of three episodes. The first scenario involves questioning a local peasant woman, while fighting off hordes of gypsy thugs that are trying to kill her and driving off the beast itself. Success in this scenario will aid the players in the next. I particularly liked the use of an event deck for the scenario. Each turn a card is drawn that helps to drive the story and determines when the thugs and the beast turn up. many of these are dramatic weather cards, such as a bolt of lightning out of the blue that signals the possible entrance of the Beast. I think these cards will really help the atmosphere of the game.
The second chapter of this story sees the players using the victory points earned in the first scenario to buy traps, with which to wound or even kill the Beast. The players spend their points, lay their traps in a dark defile between two large hills and then try to lure the Beast into their traps, thus making it easier to kill in the final chapter, where they stalk it to its lair and the final showdown occurs.
I would say that this is probably the best-written scenario in the book. I love the atmospheric nature of the encounter cards in the scenarios and the nature of the scenario is enticing.
The Flaming Cliffs of al-Mahal
This is the final offering in TEQ 1. It is a Broadsword Adventures scenario in one episode. A unit of Ibyssian Lion Guard have been sent to the cliffs of al-Mahal to hunt a vicious creature that lives there. The scenario is set up for solo play but there are notes on how to adapt it to multiple players. It reads like a fairly simple dungeon-crawl scenario and looks like fun to set up and play. I shall probably try this one out first because the set-up is simple (a cave complex) and I like the fact that the creature you are hunting is randomly selected so replayability ought to be good. Of course, my Ibyssian Lion Guard are more likely to look like Vikings, because that is what I have!
Overall, I think this is a very good package. The scenarios all have a fair bit of mileage in them and I would be very happy to play all of them. The most interesting of them is probably The Beast of Gevaudan but the others are still good scenarios. I like the inclusion of solo scenarios too. This helps players without opponents get started playing these games and provides for those times when you just feel like setting something up quickly and having a go.
Although there are nominally five scenarios in TEQ, in fact three of those scenarios are multi-episode mini-campaigns, so effectively you get eleven scenarios. Using my standard conversion rate (the beer value) that amounts to around 15 to 20 hours of game play for $6 (pdf cost) or about £3.50, so for less than the price of three bottles of real ale (an hour or two at most to drink) you get a lot more entertainment. Add in time spent reading TEQ and planning the games, and the entertainment value increases massively again. Therefore, on a value for money basis, I would highly recommend this collection to anyone that already plays Rattrap Production's games. If you don't play any of them, why not? More seriously, if you do not play them, but are interested in pulp skirmish then this could provide good fodder for your imagination and the opportunity to adapt the scenarios to your own needs. If you are only interested in one of the Rattrap titles and really have no interest in the others, then I could see the appeal being more limited, but there may still be ways to make the scenarios fit your needs, or they could spark your imagination in other ways
The only really negative point for me was the number of typos in the text. There were not a vast number, but I noticed more than I think should be present in a publication. In a couple of cases the wrong word had been used (eminent instead of imminent, for example). None of these typos really matter, because they do not create difficulties in understanding the scenarios but I am picky and noticed them.
Overall, I liked this product. I am a fan of the Rattrap Games anyway, so that may colour my judgement, but I think that there is a lot in here to fire up your imagination, even if you do not play any of them. I can't wait to get started actually playing the scenarios and shall report back once I have done so.