Monday 23 May 2011

2-4 Thaumont 1000AC - On to Threshold

It is almost midday by the time the group has strapped Breccia to Pushka and loaded all the gear up. Still, the sun is out now and the world looks fresh and new after the storm last night. Battered but still alive, the group sets off along the Windrush Road. The road is muddy but passable and makes the journey through the forested hills much easier than it might have been. At one point it runs right alongside the Windrush River, which runs from Lake Windrush, beside Threshold, all the way to the sea in the south.

The route from Verge to Threshold:

The journey is uneventful and the group arrives at the gates of Threshold in the early evening. The palisade around the town stands ten feet high and is of rough-hewn logs, as is the gate. Wooden towers dot the wall at regular intervals and surmount the gate. You can see guards stationed in the towers. There are also guards on the gate. The gate guards are polite but insist on the group giving up all weapons bar swords, staves and daggers. Lacrimos and Miroslav must hand over their axes while Elias' crossbow is also taken. Each of them gets a receipt for the weapons and will be given their weapons back upon return of the receipt to the gate guards when leaving town. The guards are in talkative mood, presumably because it has been pleasant weather and a quiet day for them. They talk about the town and fill in some of the main details about the place (Click here for background to Threshold)

Once inside the town walls, it is time to find an inn. The guards have suggested that the group try Janacek's Inn, which is a mid-range inn in the Old Town with not too many bed bugs. At 6 crona per night for a double room, it should at least be affordable. The rooms are private, unlike cheaper inns, where accommodation is often just one large dormitory with space for a bedroll on the floor. The inn also has stabling for Pushka which will cost 15 kopecs per day. Since you intend to stay for a week, it is possible to book a weekly rate, which is slightly cheaper than the daily rate (35 crona per week for a double room. 9 crona per week for stabling).

The group heads for Janacek's Inn and books two double rooms for a week, initially. By sharing, the group is able to split costs and save money so this appears to make sense until Breccia begins to complain that sharing a room with Lacrimos is causing him to lose too much sleep. Apparently Lacrimos snores loudly enough to shake the walls of the room! The inn is clearly popular with local adventurers and mercenaries, as well as the less well-off merchants. There are not huge numbers of these, but the few that are there in their battered leathers with notched swords by their sides seem to have seen a fair bit of action. Despite this, the inn is a quiet place. Troublemakers are encouraged to take their trouble outside by the bouncers Jan and Hus, twin brothers with broken noses and bulging muscles. The proprietor, Janacek himself, is a talkative fellow, who likes nothing more than to discuss what his clients have been up to, while the food is wholesome pottage with bread and is more than adequate for the money.

In one corner of the inn is a notice board with adverts for jobs on it. Many of these are for caravan guards and some are more dangerous jobs that the very skilled or desperate might apply for.

The group rests up for the first two days, slobbing out in the common room of the inn or sleeping in their own rooms. By the end of the first day, Elias is back on his feet at last and everyone is feeling a lot better. By the end of the second day, the group is all fully recovered, with only scratches showing where they had been bitten, stabbed and slashed before. The whole group is now ready to explore the town or do whatever they need to do.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Threshold, a logging community on the frontier

The original Traladaran name for the village of Threshold is Vatresh, the name being replaced by the Thyatian conquerors in AC 910. Many of the Traladaran locals still refer to the town by its original name. The Ivanov family were once the major Traladaran noble clan of the area but now Baron Sherlane Halaran rules the area.
(click picture for larger image)

Threshold is a frontier community on the Windrush (Wufwolde) River near Lake Windrush. Originally a simple logging community, it has grown into sprawling settlement of nearly 5000 people since the coming of the Thyatians. Despite its large population, Threshold is not a squalid, crowded town due mainly to a law passed by Baron Sherlane Halaran that forbids any building to be built within 50' of each other.

On arrival in Threshold visitors are asked their profession and business by the town guards, who also explain town rules and regulations. Directions will be freely given and any illegal weapons will be confiscated, with receipts given for their return upon departure.

In the centre of Old Town is the Town Hall, a very large building used for storing confiscated weapons, town meetings, public declarations, trials and entertainments.
Outside the town walls there is a fishing village half a mile away from town and a large logging community encamped on the east side of the River Windrush.

There are six districts in Threshold - Docklands, Fogor Isle, Old Town, West, North and South.

Fogor Isle is the seamy side of town and is not patrolled at night. On the north end of the island is the blackened ruin of the Old Mill, burned 15 years ago. The building often becomes infested by giant insects and has to be cleared periodically.
Tarnskeep is a small sturdy fortress located approximately half a mile north of town, the home of Baron Halaran.

A dam across the mouth of the lake keeps large boats from travelling upriver while a weir is present that can be opened to allow lumber to float downstream.

Friday 6 May 2011

2 Thaumont 1000AC - Spider venom

Breccia reckons his odds and then springs forward to attack the spider. As he does so, he yells at the top of his lungs, "BIG SPIDER, POISONOUS!" The shout reverberates along the hall and stops Lacrimos and Miroslav in their tracks. As they turn, Breccia is thrusting at the spider with his short sword. It chitters madly and dodges out of the way of the thrust, darting in to try to bite Breccia, who manages to dodge too. 

Lacrimos immediately breaks into a run and heads for the chamber where Elias lies helpless. Miroslav turns and sprints towards Breccia.

Breccia tries to hit the creature again but it dodges his clumsy swing once more and sinks its fangs deep enough that the blood spurts down Breccia's arm (6 damage). Breccia's shout of pain echoes down the halls of the tor.

Miroslav redoubles his efforts to reach Breccia.

Wiht pain lancing up his arm and blood spurting down it, Breccia struggles on. Gritting his teeth, he steps in close to the spider and thrusts hard. His sword slices into its lower mandibles and out of the top of its head. The spider slumps to the ground and twitches uncontrollably for a second and is then still. Breccia steps back, breathing hard. By the time that Miroslav reaches him twenty seconds later, the spider is dead and he is trying to bandage his wound.

In the light from Miroslav's torch, the pair can see that the room is covered in the half-eaten corpses of rats and that the spider, although large, seems emaciated and ill-fed. A whole dwarf must have seemed like a feast to such a creature.

Seeing that Breccia is still mostly in one piece, Miroslav begins to search the chamber. It is singularly lacking in anything but bits of rats and rocks from the ceiling and walls. There is no treasure and no spider eggs are to be found either. One can only surmise that this poor male spider became trapped and has had to live off anything else that got trapped in here.

Lacrimos bursts into the chamber where Elias lies unconscious muttering about rats in a garbled and feverish manner. All is peaceful there.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

Breccia bravely tells the others to return to Elias while he scouts the area. His infravision works better without the interference of other light sources, so this may be a sensible move. While they return the way they came, Breccia looks around. Ahead he can make out a room and the cold stone of a large table in its middle, with a cold figure or carving atop it. He can smell bits of gold in the dust around the table. As agreed, however, he sneaks down the longer chamber through ancient dust and bits of stone. Within five minutes he has reached the edge of another, smaller room. The floor of the room is covered in small lumps making an uneven surface. Bending down, Breccia investigates and realises that they are the corpses of rats. He is about to step further into the apparently empty room, when a shape detaches itself quietly from the shadows, emerging out of a previously unseen hollow in the floor. A giant spider! And not 15 feet from Breccia!! 

So this is what the world looks like through infravision!

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Squadron Commander: Reheat - First Impressions

Rules: Squadron Commander: Reheat
Producer: Brigade Models
Type: 1/300 starfighter combat

Squadron Commander: Reheat is a reworking of Squadron Commander 3600. The rules are available as a free download from Brigade Models so the first thing to say is that the price is right. Apparently there will be a printed edition that includes points, campaign stuff and other bits not included in the pdf. The pdf edition of the rules contains the basic rules for play and the stats for the existing range of supporting miniatures so you can get started immediately.

The Rules - Table of Contents
Game Set-up
Sequence of Play
Resolving Damage
Damage Control
Leaving the Battle
Starfighters and Missiles
Squadron Generation
Designers' Notes

So, how does this game play?
The game shows its hex-based origins very clearly and is written as if the default position is to play on a hex grid. They also include a section on playing without a hex grid (read 1 hex as 1 inch and measure appropriately). We played without a hex grid and it works absolutely fine. The only thing we thought would come in handy was a turning key to help fighters turn, because turns are measured in increments of 60 degrees exactly if playing on hexes or up to 60 degrees if not. I shall get around to making one of those at some point soon.

Each fighter has its own data card with all the information on it and space for writing in its missile payload, damage received and current speed. The data card contains most of the information you need to play the game and is probably the main reason why you would not field a vast number of space fighters in this game. We're not sure on practical maxima at the moment, but the starter sets are a good clue to a base game size (two flights of four fighters on each side).

Normal movement is in straight lines or turns of up to 60 degrees. You set your speed at the start of the turn and then move when your turn comes. You have to move a set distance in a straight line, based on your speed and manoeuvrability, before you can turn. There are also options for side-slips, hard turns and barrel rolls if you want to get fancy. Fighters also have acceleration and deceleration limits so you do not have a totally free choice of speed.

Sensors are used to identify enemy fighters and can also be used to scan the enemy for damage or other information. Normally you cannot view enemy data cards and this is how you would find out just what damage has been done. Of course, fighters also carry jammers so your scanner has to beat the enemy jammer before you can get a lock and find stuff out. This same process is used for getting a lock on the enemy to fire missiles at them.

Fighters all carry cannon. This is a generic term for blasters, lasers, etc. Cannon are fairly short range and cause less damage than missiles but there are fewer ways to avoid cannon shots, so it probably balances out in the long run. Fighters can also carry missiles. The basic fighters may carry one missile per hardpoint with fighters having either two or four hardpoints. To fire a missile you need to get a lock on the enemy fighter. Once the missile is launched, the enemy fighter gets to drop decoys if it has any and use ECM to divert the missile before it hits, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop missiles, which might make them seem not much use. On the other hand, they have longer range than cannons and do a heck of a lot more damage when they do hit.

Some fighters have shields. These prevent a lot of damage completely and can recharge between turns. Other fighters have more armour, which reduces the amount of damage taken but does not completely stop it, unlike shields. It's a trade-off in design that played a large part in our game. A lot of games just give the figures damage points that are reduced when they are hit. SC:R uses a system of critical hits instead. This results in components of the fighter getting damaged or damage being taken to the structure of the fighter. If the structure is reduced to 0 then the fighter is destroyed. You can also cause a nice fireball by hitting critical components. This makes the game very interesting, because reduction in capability is not incremental. You either have a system or you do not. The number of critical hits inflicted is equal to the damage done divided by the armour rating of the fighter. So, as you can see a heavily armoured fighter will take fewer hits, while one with shields will take more hits once its shields are gone but no hits up to that point.

One final point to include is that you also roll for pilot skill and abilities before the game. Pilots can start with weakness such as being poor with scanners or strengths like being a Marksman. Presumably in the campaign game pilots can improve in skill and skills. That would be really cool.

The question is, how does this all work in practice?

Our Game
We decided to just play with two fighters on each side. I chose my Hornisse Interceptors while Steve chose a pair of Folgore multi-role fighters. My ships carried lots of armour but no shields while his had shields but little armour. I think it would be fair to characterise my fighters as great lumbering brutes, whiles Steve's were lighter, faster, stealthier and better in almost every respect except armour and ability to absorb damage.

We rolled for set-up and it turned out that my lumbering brutes had got the drop on the Eurofeds (Steve rolled a 1 and I rolled a 12). We deployed behind him, trying to get in close enough to tail him, but his fighters, being more agile and faster quickly turned around and were speeding towards us. Each of us tried to get position on the other but it was not going to work so we wound up in a head-to-head pass. As the fighters flew into range, my two ganged up on one of Steve's. There was a brief exchange of fire that stripped Steve's fighter of its shields and then I launched a couple of missiles right at him. He wanted to do the same but unfortunately I had shot his missile racks off that turn with my other fighter. His ECM failed to stop the missiles, but his decoys did take one of them out. Still, that was enough. Twelve critical hits later his pilot had ejected and the fighter was a brief fireball in the firmament. Steve's remaining fighter then came in to try its luck. One shot caused my rookie pilot to lose control of his craft as Steve did some damage to the main structure but the veteran pilot on the rookie's wing then fired a blaze of blasters at the Eurofed machine and blew it to pieces with a reactor hit. Job done, my boys went home to a well-earned cup of tea.

We enjoyed the game. It was nicely crunchy, allowing for a small game that is still engaging. The critical hit system and the design of the two fighters is sufficiently different to require different tactics, which is great. The game play went smoothly enough. There were questions about the rules but we were able to resolve them based on my incessant interrogation of the chaps at Brigade over the past week on their forum.

If starfighters is your thing then I would recommend downloading the rules and giving them a shot. I really like the fighters from Brigade too, so buy them while you are at it! :-) I am now looking forward to more fighters for my faction, although I am tempted to buy a flight of the AmRep ones for an elite squadron. I am also hoping that the published rules are not too far off because they should include a points system, a design system and a campaign system. Then it will be time to add SC:R to our Bwendi versus Albion campaign properly.