Sunday 28 February 2010

Chaos in Cairo versus .45 Adventures - Pulp Deathmatch

Chaos in Cairo (CiC) and .45 Adventures (45A) are both pulp skirmish rules aimed at similar periods.

Chaos in Cairo
CiC is focused on battles in the streets of Cairo between four different types of warbands. It features archaeologists and mummies, both of which are pretty much self-explanatory. Then there are the Servants of Set, evil humans that are often twisted caricatures of humanity as they have meddled with That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know. Finally there are the Swords of Ra, a group of Bedouin-like warriors, who seek to prevent the secret knowledge of ancient Egypt from being taken by anyone (think the black-clad types that fight the Set warriors in The Mummy Returns). Each warband consists of characters (the heroes) and henchmen (groups of lesser humans). You can also recruit special characters, some of which are unique. Typically a warband consist of around 5 - 10 characters and henchmen.

The system uses goal rolls to determine success or failure. Each character has stats and skills that tell you how many dice to roll when testing. Each roll of 4+ is a success (a goal). You are either rolling to beat a task number, or another character's goals. In the former case, you succeed by scoring as many goals as the task number or more. In the latter case, the player with the most goals wins. The system is simple and elegant, using around 3 to 7 d6s for each roll. This system is used for everything from combat to jumping ravines.

Speaking of combat, characters in CiC do not get killed directly in combat. They can be knocked out once they run out of hits, in which case a doctor or character with medical skills can revive them. Once knocked out, you can administer the coup de grace to them, which renders them permanently out of the fight. Character death is dealt with in the post-battle phase. You roll to see what effect being knocked out has on a character. There are penalties on this roll if they have suffered a coup de grace, so it is more likely that they will die permanently in this case. This is only really relevant to the campaign game.

The game is geared towards campaign play and warbands are designed with that in mind. You can easily play one-off games if you want by agreeing how much to spend on each warband and rolling for or deciding on a scenario, but some of the skills that characters have are more suited to campaign play. Six scenarios are provided in the rules and each has three sub-plots that can be used with it. In campaign play you roll for scenario and sub-plot, play the game, roll to see the effect of being knocked out after the battle and pay for the upkeep of your warband. Characters can gain experience and become better or they can die and be lost permanently. You can earn more money and recruit new characters or henchmen during this phase.

Chaos in Cairo provides all the rules you need to get started with a campaign. The scenarios are given a little flavour by the sub-plots but are fairly generic. On the other hand, preparation is kept to a minimum, which gives you more time for playing.

.45 Adventures
45A is a rules set of another colour. Characters in 45A are graded according to their skill level. There are 3 grades of character, with Grade 1 characters being the spear-carriers. Grade 2 characters are the sidekicks, while Grade 3 characters are the heroes. Each character has skills, as with CiC and a set of stats but there the resemblance ends. Characters in 45A have hit locations, unlike CiC, and each hit on a location degrades the stats associated with that location. Thus, head hits reduce your Brains score. This means that characters slowly become less able as they take damage, until they are knocked out, while in CiC, characters are at full ability until they are knocked out. Typically, you will field 3-6 characters in 45A.

Instead of a handful of d6s, 45A uses 1d10 to resolve tasks. You are either trying to beat a standard target number of 10 or your opponent's die roll. You add your stat and skills to the 1d10 roll to see if you succeed.

45A generally uses more detailed scenarios than CiC. Instead of generic scenarios, the rules include a number of more detailed and specific scenarios. This really points up the major difference between the two rules sets. CiC encourages a more generic style of play, while 45A encourages you to write and develop scenarios that are suited to the characters you have created. The basic 45A rules do not include campaign rules, but these do appear in the later supplements, providing a framework for stringing your scenarios together and a system for improving your characters.

In my opinion, both games are great and each plays sufficiently different that I am happy to play either. So, that leaves me wondering which I should recommend. Well, that depends upon what style of play you want. Both systems work well but in different ways and both really have a different ethos behind them.

CiC offers a single package that gives you four warbands, six generic scenarios and a campaign system. It is focused on 1920s Cairo so you need to be interested in that if you want to play the game as written. If you want to play using this system but with different character types or warbands, then you will have to put a bit of work into your games.

45A offers a broader framework with more character types and greater freedom for creating your group. It does offer most of the pulp archetypes so you could play gangsters or archaeologists, but there are no supernatural elements in the core rulebook. 45A also focuses more on tailor-made scenarios and it encourages this style of creative approach. I have always felt that 45A wants you to put time and effort into making your terrain before the game and rewards a more creative approach.

When coming down to choosing between the two, I am hard-pressed to specify a preference. Both rules sets offer fun games with a different flavour. Each is simple to get into because of the low number of figures required. Really it will come down to what sort of game you want to play. CiC is slightly more generic in approach, like a more typical skirmish wargame, while 45A feels more like a light RPG in scope. Personally, I shall continue to play both for the different experience that each provides. If you prefer a single rules set with a generic approach then I think CiC will suit you better. If you want ot put a little more effort into your games and adopt the light RPG approach then 45A should suit you better. Or maybe, like me, you should just get and play both. After all, you can use the same figures with each.

One Night in Cairo - A Chaos in Cairo Battle Report

It was a dark night on the streets of Cairo and few were abroad. Cordelia Case, Action Girl(tm), was grateful for this. Her sources had told her that a Shard of the Nameless One had been recovered by an Arab labourer during a recent dig and hidden in a relative's house. She had also heard that her arch-nemesis, Tutancomein, was hunting for it too. She rousted out her companions and headed for where rumour told her that the Shard was. As she approached this small suburb of Cairo, she realised that the evil mummy was already there too. This time he appeared to have a human guide with him. So that was how he had learned so quickly of this Shard! (Click the pictures for larger images)

Steve took a Mummy Warband while I took an Archaeologist Warband. We rolled for scenario and got 'The Package'. There would be six packages on the table.. One contained the Shard, but we would not know which one until the end of the game, so we needed to collect as many of the objective markers as possible. For a sub-plot we rolled The Traitor. One of us would receive an additional figure, but if we ever rolled no successes for initiative then the traitor would join the other side. We diced and Steve got the extra figure.

Cordelia and her companions advanced quickly towards the buildings where the Shard might be hidden. A shout from her left told her that her brash American companion, Colin Fraser, had found a package that might be the Shard. Fraser was a useful man to have on an expedition, not too bright, but good with a gun and his fists.

Fraser ran from the building with the package as Professor Bartholomew Bennett, Cordelia's research associate, found another package. Randolph Dacre, the expedition's backer had also found a package by now. He ran from the building where he had found it and passed it to the Professor. With both packages, Bennett headed for home. The others could deal with the situation that was developing. There would be fighting soon, because the mummies were closing on the heroic archaeologists of the Riverview Antiquarian Expeditions Society. The professor was not so handy in a fight, so better that he get the packages home and start checking them out.

Dacre and Fraser advanced to join Cordelia and Geoff Grimes, the final member of the team, just in time for Dacre to help Cordelia knock out one of the mummies that had shambled forward faster than its fellows. Grimes had climbed to the roof of a nearby building, from where he had a good field of fire with his rifle. He also found a package on that roof, which was an added bonus. Stuffing it into his pocket he began to lay down covering fire. The fight now developed in earnest. Fraser blased away at the shambling henchmummies with both pistols. Cordelia ran up behind them and blasted them with her shotgun. The mummies were soon a pile of rotting wrappings on the floor. Meanwhile Dacre shot down the human traitor, serving the mummies for his own profit and to the detriment of all humanity. Unfortunately, some of the other mummies had found more packages and were escaping with them. Time to give chase.

Cordelia and Dacre chased after them and were soon engaged in a close combat that saw the pair of them knocked out, but not before wounding the one remaining mummy. Geoff took aim and finished it off with a shot from his rifle. The silence that suddenly broke out was deafening. The remaining mummies had fled with their packages. All that remained in the streets of Cairo were the unmoving bodies of the wounded. Geoff moved forward and helped bring round his companions, more worried about helping them to safety than dealing with the mummies and their human stooge.

With the group home, they checked their packages and found the Shard. Success! They had won, but at a cost. Cordelia would be bed-ridden for a while (casualty check resulted in her missing the next battle), while Dacre was limping badly (-2" movement during next scenario). They hoped that the mummies would also have suffered equally (as it happened, Steve permanently lost a couple of henchmummies, but all of his character mummies will be present unhurt in the next scenario. Boo!). At least Cordelia would have time now to focus on her next action-packed book. The night's adventure had the makings of a great story and she was sure it would sell well.

The scenario played quickly for our first playing of Chaos in Cairo. It was very enjoyable and the only thing that we changed was the Coup de Grace rule. We agreed not to use it because of the increased possibility of permanent character death, which was just as well. Had we used it and had Steve had time to do so, Cordelia would have been dead dead dead, and, if I recall correctly, so would Dacre. In terms of experience, Colin Fraser gained enough to gain Combat Attack as a new skill. The others all gained some experience and should see advances after their next battle, if all goes well. Our next game will feature the Servants of Set (me) versus the Swords of Ra (Steve). Next time I get to be evil, bwa ha ha ha ha! I think that we shall be playing this system quite a bit more.

Monday 15 February 2010

V-Day - Painted Vikings!

Peter Berry of Baccus sent me some pre-production models of his 6mm Vikings the other day, as I posted earlier. So, my first priority was getting some of them painted and here they are. This is a stand of armoured Vikings. I apologise for my painting standard, although I blame the photographs too because the close up images show every single flaw. I reckon the figures still pass the 3' test quite adequately though. Click the pics for larger images.

Saturday 13 February 2010

V-Day Part 2 - 6mm Vikings

Peter Berry at Baccus 6mm has made me a very happy man today. I returned home from delivering flowers to other people only to find something far better on my own doorstep; a small parcel from Baccus. Within lay two packets from Peter's forthcoming 11th century Viking range. These are pre-production models and they look rather tasty to me, but that means that we still need to wait before the general release.

The bags were labelled Armoured Viking Heroes and Unarmoured Viking Heroes (or words to that effect). Each consisted of 20 heroic Norsemen with spears and 4 command stands with semi-circular banners. They really are very fine figures and I can see them having greater utility than just the specific period they are designed for. After all, one bearded, spear-bearing Dark Ages warrior looks very like the next one. I can't wait to see the full range and had better start saving right now.

My apologies for the quality of the photos; my camera seems to be having a problem with white balance at the moment. Still, you can click on the pics for larger versions and should be able to get an idea of the glorious Viking-filled future that awaits us all. Excited doesn't even begin to cover how I feel about this range.

Armoured Viking Heroes

Unarmoured Viking Heroes

It's V-Day (that's Vikings Day)

I have been meaning to finish tarting up my 15mm Vikings for use with Basic Impetus for some time now. I have had many of these figures since the early nineties and first used them for DBA 1.0 and DBM. As a result of their age, they are looking a trifle battle weary and could do with a spot of R&R to recover. I have not had time for that yet, because of other commitments (see my Towton project blog for more details of that). Nevertheless, I did get around to rebasing the Vikings and that has improved their look no end. One day soon I hope to redo their shields and repaint the chipped areas on each figure too. Still, even now I reckon they are ready for battle. I suppose I had better paint up some opposition for them soon! (click the pic for a larger image)

Thursday 11 February 2010

Against the Ungeheuer - A Broadsword Adventures AAR

Carmen, the buxom daughter of the landlord at the Fang and Flagon had been captured by Ungeheuer! The regulars at the Fang and Flagon were horrified but endowed too well with a sense of self-preservation to go up against such fearsome monsters, so it was up to the newly arrived adventurers in town. Two of them looked fresh out of the warriors guild, while the other two were battle-hardened and scarred, clearly veterans of many fights. The promise of gold and free ale was enough to pique their interest, so they set out on the trail of the monsters and soon arrived at the entrance to a large cave. (click the pictures for larger images)

The area was strewn with chewed bones and remnants of equipment from previous adventurers that had dared to enter this place. It stank too, foetid and warm. Bravely they moved into the gloom within, pausing only to light their lanterns. All was quiet to start with, but as they explored the caves either side of the entrance, a shuffling gait was heard coming from deeper within. Soon a shaggy monstrosity was sighted by one of the younger warriors. He grasped his spear more firmly, sweat breaking out on his forehead in his nervousness at his first fight.

As the monster came towards him, he cold see that it was still drowsy from its last meal and sleep, but that did not stop it from letting out a howl of fury at this intrusion. The warrior, undaunted, charged forward, thrusting with his spear. The point took the monster in its eye and travelled on up into its brain. It stared disbelievingly at the puny-looking warrior, before slumping to the floor in a pool of blood and brains, dead.

More howling was heard from deeper with the cave and a new threat could be seen lumbering towards the adventurers. The monster's mate was furious at the treatment meted out to her companion and was clearly out for revenge, her gaze focused on the gore-encrusted spear of the young warrior.

As she attacked, the warrior was able to fend her off, and then he counter-attacked, deftly manoeuvring her around so that his companions were now able to surround and attack her too. She roared in pain as weapons stabbed at her and flailed around, desperately trying to hurt her tormentors, but the end was not in doubt. Soon she fell with a dozen cuts to her body and a sword in her head.

With the monsters dead, the adventurers were able to search the caves in peace and soon found Carmen alive and unharmed. They returned home in triumph.

This was a fun little scenario from the rulebook that went particularly easily for Steve's adventurers. He had two Grade 2 characters and two Grade 1s. In Broadsword Adventures, there are three grades of character available. Grade 3 is a bona fide hero, Grade 2 is a stalwart adventurer and Grade 1 is cannon fodder. Imagine my chagrin then when my first mighty monster was attacked by a Grade 1 spearman and slain instantly with a blow to the head! Bah!! Well, thought I, the second monster will at least take one of them out. I shall be revenged!!!!! With the first monster spotting the adventurers, the second one was no free to act. I rushed her to one of the interior cave mouths, thinking to use the narrow opening as a way to hinder the adventurers. Unfortunately the same devilish spearman as killed the first monster won the melee round by a large margin and was able to use his skills to swap places with her, turning her around and getting her surrounded by the enemy. In Broadsword adventures, certain skills give you combat manoeuvres like this that you can use. I then proceeded to try to hit the adventurers and failed miserably, while they cut holes in the monster's hide. The end was really not in doubt. Steve's dice were hot, and mine were ice cold. All in all, it was a great game. The scenario was simple but we wanted to learn the differences between BA and our more usual fare of 45 Adventures, so that was not a problem. We both had fun and Steve went home with a huge grin on his face, having won a game, so we can definitely account this one a success. Time to prepare the next scenario.

If you want to check out Broadsword Adventures, you can download the demo rules free from the Rattrap Productions Speakeasy. The download is in the Broadsword Adventures download section and includes the scenario that we played plus some characters for it.