Saturday 31 July 2021

The Saucy Sue in Space (Five Parsecs from Home)

So, I recently picked up Five Parsecs from Home 3rd Edition. I love the digest-sized hardback rulebook. Aesthetically, this is my ideal. This probably stems from getting into sci-fi gaming via Traveller and the Little Black Books in the late seventies and the digest-sized Laserburn rulebook with its supplements in the early eighties.

Better yet, this rulebook really does hark back to the Traveller adventures we had back then. The contents very clearly show a debt to Traveller. I've bought a lot of the Nordic Weasel material along the way and found it interesting, but I always found it hard to read because of the layout. It just did not suit my reading style and made learning the rules harder, which is a shame because the games are just the kinds of things I wanted. This rulebook is a sea change in that. It is easily readable and I love what I have read. I am really looking forward to getting a few games in soon.

The first thing I decided when reading the rules was that they mapped so clearly onto the Traveller background that I would set my adventures in the Spinward Marches in the period covered by the earliest adventures and supplements I owned. This is the first decade of the year 1100 of the Third Imperium. It is a time when things start to unravel culminating in the Fifth Frontier War. This will give me background events to set my own crew's adventures against, and perhaps for them to get involved in. Who knows? They might even change the course of history!

Five Parsecs from Home uses a lot of tables to procedurally generate encounters and worlds. I shall need to fudge things a little so that these results make sense within the Traveller universe. I'll be limiting myself to the Traveller jump technology, so it will probably be a case of checking the details on whichever planet I land on and picking among the various Five Parsecs from Home options for worlds. There will be a fair bit of fudging things and winging it but the tools are all there in the rulebook and it should adapt easily. And, to be honest, that will not be much different from how I GMed my Traveller games all those years ago. It will also be interesting to see if I can deconstruct the original adventures into a series of set pieces with perhaps some procedural dice rolling between episodes. Some of them will probably work better than others for this, so we'll have to see how I go.

The other thing that is fun is to dig out my old Traveller figures. So much nostalgia! And that is despite the fact that some were painted thirty years ago and it shows. I shall have to see about patching up the paintwork a bit here, and it might encourage me to return to some of the others sitting around the house.  I did rebase a lot of them not so long back, so there is that, at least.
The crew of the Saucy Sue

So, on to my team. I mostly diced randomly for them, but did make a couple of executive decisions about their backgrounds to fit the storyline I had in mind, which is based on ideas from the introductory adventure The Imperial Fringe that came with the Deluxe Traveller boxed set. This also meant that I decided to keep my team to just four crew, because the standard Type S Scout/Courier in Traveller has berths for only four crew. I wonder how much trouble they will get in, and how long they will survive. I'll be running them in some test games first to get to know the rules, before starting out in the campaign proper, so there may well be a few games that turned out to be all just a dream.

The concept here is a team that starts with a patron: The Sector Government. This will be an enduring patron who will give the team missions occasionally. I need to figure out how the survey work that the team is meant to do fits in. Not sure how to do that yet, but I'm sure it will become clear as the game progresses. Hopefully, I shall have time to do that before I have to return to work and find myself once more in a different country from my figures.

Nudge Unit 3561

***detached scout team on roving commission***
***assignment: Spinward Marches***
***team assigned to Type S Scout/Courier Saucy Sue***

Commander Eshtovr Vindenes

  • Team leader of Nudge Unit 3561
  • Homeworld: Jewell/Jewell
  • Empath. Psi powers believed inherited from her Zhodani mother. Nothing distinguishes her human father to suggest they come from him.
  • Successful career in Contact & Liaison with specialism in intelligence analysis.
  • Now mustered out but engaged by Senior Scout Administrator Galadden for the Imperial Fringe Audit. Mission to conduct surveys of planets in the Spinward Marches. Secondary mission to nudge societies towards desired future paths.
  • Vindenes is known to be particularly dedicated to the Scout Service and the Third Imperium in that order. Her early upbringing on Jewell was characterised by alienation from both human and Zhodani societies because of her mixed heritage. The Scout Service gave her a home where she belonged and she is fiercely loyal to it.

Supervisor Garth Burnside

  • Security chief of Nudge Unit 3561
  • Homeworld: Squanine/Trin's Veil
  • Standard Imperial human
  • Successful career as security specialist in Contact & Liaison.
  • Now mustered out but engaged by Senior Scout Administrator Galadden for the Imperial Fringe Audit.
  • Burnside grew up in the Feudal Technocracy of Squanine and is known to crave recognition for his successes since leaving there. This has occasionally led to him taking too many chances in the field. Since joining Commander Vindenes' team he has shown more moderation. She appears able to manage him better than many of his previous commanders.

Skilled Worker Shelby Kutts

  • Engineer of Nudge Unit 3561
  • Homeworld: Rethe/Regina
  • Standard Imperial human
  • Undistinguished career as engineer with Contact & Liaison.
  • Now mustered out but engaged by Senior Scout Administrator Galadden for the Imperial Fringe Audit.
  • Kutts grew up in the arcologies of Rethe as part of the underclass in the lower levels Arcology Pinochet XXIII. Although a good engineer, he lacks seriousness and is only interested in the gadgets rather than knuckling down and doing the routine work. His attitude has improved under Commander Vindenes.

W33-b Omnibot 'Weeb'

  • Assigned bot to the Scout/Courier Saucy Sue
  • Standard programming package
  • The Omnibot series is an anthropomorphic general support bot designed for flexibility rather than specialist use.
  • W33-b is usually called Weeb by the crew of the Saucy Sue.
  • Intelligence suspects that W33-b may have gone AI sometime around 1103. This is unconfirmed. Intelligence continues to monitor the situation.

Saturday 24 July 2021

The Thrappled Lemmings and The Infected Trees (Rangers of Shadow Deep)

 "Barkeep, drinks for my companions! It's been an infernum of a day. Oh, spiders, why did it have to be spiders?" Aethelwyrd demanded and complained in equal measure.

The ranger was bespattered with mud and blood and what looked like some kind of noxious ichor. She had a greenish cast to her face that was not normal either.

"Let me tell you the tale," she said, "of how we went in search of your fellow countryfolk, for our bard is still recovering from an encounter that could have been his end." She motioned in the direction of Ash the Scop, who was bandaged and also rather green about the gills too. His hand with the beer tankard in it shook badly, but such was his fortitude that he spilled not one drop.

"We followed the trail from the village to the forest, where we found the remains of several of the villagers we had been tasked with finding. There were several huge web cocoons among the trees. We surmised that the spiders had saved some of your folk for later so we resolved to investigate. As we did so, we heard a ghastly chittering and rustling noise. Spiders as large as horses were descending from trees ahead of us, intent upon saving their dinner."
"We raced forward, their sickening chittering ever around us. A horripilating dread seized us but we bravely soldiered forth for that is our calling. Diarmuid launched a magic bolt and slew a spider while Aelfwynn loosed a volley of arrows to send another to its damnation. We reached the first cocoon and found a zombie within. More spiders approached, emerging from the very undergrowth around us."
"We pushed ever onwards, investigating each cocoon and finding only corpses and zombies until, at last, we found a survivor from the village. He told us that the spider's had attacked the village, and that those that were slain by the spiders soon arose as grim, undead monstrosities. A spider leapt upon this plucky villager, who slew it with his bare hands. Berserk with rage and horror he charged forth, only to be slain in turn by the next spider. Still we fought on. More spiders emerged from all around and new zombies appeared among the trees."
"Alas, Diarmuid Oakstream, our conjuror fell, overcome by spiders, and Ash was struck to the ground unconscious. None of us was unscathed by this point and I could feel the spider's venom coursing in my own veins, slowing me down. Despite this adversity, we drove onwards and burnt the trees where we surmised that the spiders had their nests. Too late we spotted a fifth nest tree, as ever more spiders sought to ensnare us for a late night repast. We had done more than our job by this point and we retreated to bring this news to you. You townsfolk must rally the militia and burn out the spiders lest you too fall to their venom and walk again as hideous caricatures of your living selves."

Aethelwyrd paused for breath and a long draught of ale.

"A toast to Diarmuid the Conjuror. Let his name never be forgotten in the battle against the Shadow Deep."

The Thrappled Lemmings raised their tankards and drank deep of their ale.

"Umm, excuse me." A young man had approached Aethelwyrd as she spoke. "I am Bergsveinn, an Archer of this town. Would you be looking for a new companion now? I realise it may be a bad time to ask, but I think I could be useful to you."

Aethelwyrd looked the pimply, young man up and down. He was unkempt and unprepossessing, but he did at least claim to be capable of using a bow. There was also about him an indefinable air of needing to be out of town fairly quickly that was very much in keeping with the aesthetic of the Thrappled Lemmings.

"Ok, Bergsveinn the Grubby, pay for these drinks for us and let's go. We have another date with destiny at Tor Varden and it cannot wait."

This was another fun scenario. Only two of the companions were put out of action, but sadly Diarmuid the Conjuror rolled a 2 and died of his wounds. Ash the Scop rolled well and returned uninjured. Even with the two casualties, the scenario went quite well. The spiders were numerous but not individually too challenging. I did roll poorly for the cocoons. Three of them held zombies, one held nothing and one held a survivor. The survivor got unlucky with a spider appearing right next to him as a result of an event card, and it ate him. Aethelwyrd the Ranger was the only figure to be poisoned by the spiders and survive. The loss of an action meant that when a nest tree spawned on our start line, she could not get there in time to burn it, so I lost out on the XPs for burning out all the nest trees. My dice rolling was, on average, better than in the last scenario, which was nice.

After a second game, I am very happy with these rules. I like the structure of the scenarios and the pressure that the event cards put on you to keep moving. Weirdly, the d20 rolls which I found too swingy and frustrating in Frostgrave do not feel that way in Rangers of Shadow Deep. I suspect this has to do with me focusing on the story, instead of being competitive and trying to beat my opponent. Still, it works and I am interested in working up some additions to the Rangers AI that might work for NPC warbands in Frostgrave, allowing me to play the various campaigns solo. We'll see if I ever get around to it, or if I get distracted by something else before then.

In the meantime, I need to finish painting the monsters for the next Rangers mission, so I had better get on with that.

Saturday 17 July 2021

The Thrappled Lemmings visit The Deserted Village (Rangers of Shadow Deep)

 The door to the tavern slammed open.

"Ale, barkeep!" roared the ranger Aethelwyrd, "My companions and I have worked up a powerful thirst investigating that village you called us here to investigate!"

"Oh crap," thought the barkeep, "I've only just fixed the place up again after their last visit. And what idiot invited them to come and see what was going on here. I'm going to have strong words with the town council about this ... assuming there is a town by the end of the night."

Ash strummed a chord on his lute and coughed loudly. His finery was chewed and torn and seemed to be covered in rather more of his blood than was wise. He also had a peaky look to him, pale and not quite right. "Ho, citizens of this blessed town, I shall tell you a tale of derring do, the like of which will leave you astounded. A tale of the Thrappled Lemmings who fear no force of darkness and will stand up to any evil, no matter how small or large it is. Never fear, for the Thrappled Lemmings are here!"

"Yeah, right," thought the barkeep uncharitably, "Half of youse look like you can barely stand up at all right now, let alone stand up to anything."

Ash the Scop's commanding voice took charge of the tavern, and even silenced the barkeep's inner monologue. He launched into his tale, which may have resembled the truth of their encounter in limited and specific details, but certainly proved that he was no purist when it came to retelling the truth of events.

As the group approached the village, Diarmuid muttered, "It's quiet here. Too quiet. I don't like it."

He was right. The group gathered in the village square. Around them were bodies lying in the dirt. The villagers had been massacred. Suddenly, they heard chittering noises nearby and from further away low eerie moaning noises.

"Rats and Zombies! Quick, fan out and search for clues, then we can get out of here," commanded Aethelwyrd.

Aethelwyrd and Kalf ran towards the nearest giant rat. It put up a spirited fight that left Kalf wounded, but they eventually dispatched it. Diarmuid and Aelfwynn ran towards the largest house in the village. Spotting a giant rat, Diarmuid unleased a bolt of magical force at it, practically disintegrating the unusually large rodent. Onund ran towards the second largest building in the village. Meanwhile, Ash announced that he was "just going to look over here" and ran off between two nearby buildings. Zombies shambled towards the heroes from all sides.

As the zombies advanced, Onund, so proud of his muscles, tried and failed to force the door of the house he had chosen to investigate.Aethelwyrd rushed to join Ash, seeing a zombie close by. Ash was trembling and froze in fear as he saw the undead horror turn towards him. Kalf investiged a body near the field and found a Philtre of Fairy Dust. He put it in his pouch for later. The other zombies shambled towards Diarmuid and Aelfwynn. Diarmuid fought valiantly but was badly wounded and Ash was seized by terror in the face of the rotting corpses attacking his friend.

Diarmuid soon fell to the zombie's teeth and talons and Aelfwynn recovered his wits to start using his bow but to little effect. Aethelwyrd dealt a fatal blow to the zombie nearest her and raced to help Aelfwynn. Onund finally broke through the door of the building and found a cowering villager within. The others were racing around checking the village out and trying to hold off the zombies as they did. Ash picked the lock of the head house in the village and found a sack of treasure to take with him. But, as the zombies fell, more zombies started appearing.

It looked like the group were going to be overrun as first Kalf and then Ash fell, shortly followed by Aelfwynn. Fortunately, by this point they had completed their recce of the village. Aethelwyrd sounded the retreat as more giant rats and yet more zombies emerged. Pursued by the monsters, Aethelwyrd, Onund and the one surviving villager supported the rest of the group in getting out of there. All the while, Ash complained that he had lost the great treasure he had found.

So, the game lived up to expectations. I consistently rolled quite low, while the monsters scored half a dozen 20s while my group rolled a similar number of 1s, leading to my group going down fairly quickly. We managed to investigate all six clue markers, but suffered from the random events with two characters being seized by terror on the second turn and half of the group now being diseased for the next scenario. I probably made it slightly harder for myself by playing on a table smaller than the recommended size, but it still worked out. At least I lost no one despite four of the six figures being out of action at the end of the scenario. Aethelwyrd is now just five experience points short of the next level. I look forward to seeing how well the Thrappled Lemmings can do next time around.

The Thrappled Lemmings Ride Again - Rangers of Shadow Deep

"A pint of your finest ale, barkeep," slurred the rosy-nosed elf as she staggered up to the bar, obviously three sheets to the wind already.
"Make that four," piped up the skinny human behind her with a glance to his two other companions to assure himself that they would order their own drinks.
"Ah, shite," muttered the landlord to herself, "it's the feck'n Thrappled Lemmings."

Her heart sank as she contemplated the plain, or minimalist, as she liked to think of it, tavern interior, which she was certain would soon be redecorated beyond recognition. She knew who the Thrappled Lemmings were, and she knew that their 'help' often left everyone around them considerably poorer and frequently homeless.

"Never fear, dear barkeep," announced the stout warrior who stood behind the others, "the Thrappled Lemmings are here to investigate your mysteries and to make you safe. We just require a little refreshment before we embark on our latest foray against the Shadow Deep. After all, we have to slay our thirst before we can slay the monsters!"

The Thrappled Lemmings are one of the most infamous ranger groups in Alladore. Led by Warrior-Scribe Aethelwyrd Hawksfield, the group is always willing to run to the fray. In her quest to rid the world of evil, Aethelwyrd is supported by Aelfwyn Swiftshot (archer), Diarmuid Oakstream (conjuror), Onund Clovenshield (man at arms), Kalf Longsnake (man at arms) and Ash the Scop (rogue).

It's not that the group starts fights everywhere they go, but fights just seem to follow them around looking for an excuse to happen. It might just be bumping someone's drink, or Ash singing the wrong song in the wrong town. Whatever triggers it, there seems to be little that can prevent a simple trip to the local tavern turning into a massed brawl whenever the Thrappled Lemmings hit town.

I've been looking forward to trying Rangers of Shadow Deep for some time now, but have not been in the same country as my figures for all of this year. I managed to get this group and the monsters for the first mission painted when I was home last Christmas, but I did not have time to fit in a game. It's time to rectify that situation while I can.

I'll be playing in 15mm because it fits the space I have right now and plan to play using 'hinches' as my measuring standard. This is something that I first encountered on the Command Decision forums. Instead of halving or measuring in centimetres, each inch is reduced to 2cm, approximating 2/3 scale. My 2'x2' gaming board thus becomes, in scale, 30"x30". It's fractionally too small for the first scenario of the first mission, but I think that will benefit the monsters more than my team. I am not certain how it will look on the table, but it should reduce the movement of my figures sufficiently that they do not look like they have jetboots on. I chose this option because the footprint of many of my terrain pieces just seemed too large if I simply halved movement and ranges or converted every inch to cm. I may change my mind in future based on how this looks in my first few games.

The two Viking man-at-arms figures are part of a huge pile of Two Dragons figures that I bought in the nineties. Many of these are actually painted(!), and these two required little fettling other than sorting out chips in their paintwork and rebasing them. The Elves were new to me but I managed to put paint to metal when last home and am quite pleased with how they look. Definitely good enough to hit the table. So, let's see what happens when they actually face the bad guys. I suspect ineptitude and chaos will be fairly evident, but you never know.

Elf figures: Ral Partha Europe (originally Demonworld)
Viking figures: Two Dragons (now available from Caliver Books)

Friday 16 July 2021

Fistful of Lead: Starfighters! - First Game

I finally find myself in the same country as my figures for a wee while, so I thought I should do something with them. I recently bought Fistful of Lead: Starfighters! on Wargamevault and thought it looked like good clean fun. So, I read the rules, which was a novel thing to do before a game and then I created data cards for some of my Brigade Models starfighters based on their stats in Squadron Commander: Reheat. I thought this would prevent me from creating near identical starfighters for both sides. I set up a standard encounter battle between the Bwendi Aerospace Patrol and an Albion flight. As anyone who has read this blog will know, the poor Bwendi Republic is constantly having to deal with incursions by the evil Kingdom of Albion, who are so ill-mannered that they do not use saucers with their cups, but drink their tea from mugs instead. What is worse, those mugs often feature decoration in the form of scurrilous propaganda and libel against our glorious president for life Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus LVII.

The Bwendi force defending near space over Ztumsia Nova comprised four light but agile fighters perfectly optimised for dogfighting. Although comparatively lightly armed, these nimble craft were expected to be able to outmanoeuvre the three heavier Albion medium fighters with their much heavier payloads and greater armour.

The Bwendi flight comprised two lead pilots and their wingmen. Flight Officer Bravo Zulu of Pigeon Squadron was an ace with years of experience behind him. The rest of his flight were well trained regulars with some experience of mixing it up with the Albion spaceforce.

The Albion flight comprised three medium fighters led by a spaceforce regular, but one of their wingmen was a rookie.

The game was a fairly simple exercise in learning the rules, so I did not try to do anything fancy with the scenario or asteroid terrain or anything like that. In Fistful of Lead: Starfighters! initiative is determined by playing cards. Each player gets one card per starfighter and the initiative ranks are counted down from kings to twos (aces are wild). When the countdown reaches a card you have, you must play it, assign it to a starfighter and act with that starfighter.

Three Albion medium fighters (top) approach four Bwendi light fighters (bottom). The pale squares are missile markers heading towards the Albion fighters. Apologies for the washed out photo taken with my ancient phone.

The Albion pilots got the bounce on the Bwendi pilots and opened up their throttles to get into range, but failed to do so on the first turn. This brought the Albion force close enough for the Bwendi ships to manoeuvre into range and launch a salvo of missiles at their enemies. After that, the Bwendi starfighters consistently got the initiative. The Albion starfighters were able to shoot some of the incoming missiles, but they lost two of their ships in the process, barely getting a shot off thanks to superior Bwendi technology and shoddy maintenance by the Albion Erks (ground crew). Unfeasibly high damage dice rolls and failed shields rolls meant that the Albion force was quickly reduced to just the rookie remaining.

The rookie launched a full salvo of missiles at Flight Officer Bravo Zulu, who was unable to evade and had to eject just as the missiles reduced their craft to its component elements. The remaining Bwendi pilots turned their blasters on the rookie immediately and blew it apart. Once more, superior Bwendi technology and piloting ensured victory for the BAP pilots, and a Search and Rescue ship was able to recover Bravo Zulu in their escape pod. They live to fight another time.

I enjoyed this quick solo playthrough. I think there is a good game here. It has no pretensions of being anything other than Hollywood and that suits me nicely right now. I look forward to the time I can go head to head with a human opponent though. In the meantime, I shall have to look to the scenarios in the game and think up some simple way of randomising slightly how pilots act based on their circumstances.

Monday 5 July 2021

Nano-Towton for Basic Impetus

It's been a long while since I posted anything here. This is mainly because I have had my head down working on my next book which should be published in January 2022. There will be more on that another time. The lack of posts is also largely because of a lack of gaming since I moved to Norway in 2021. All my gaming stuff is still in the UK, and circumstances have prevented me from shipping a load of it over here. Hopefully, that will be sorted soon, but we shall have to wait and see. Anyway, here is an older post from one of my other blogs. I felt it needed updating and reposting because I noticed today that the links to the order of battle and original rules are broken. Here is the original post followed by the order of battle and my notes on refighting the game, just in case you want to be prepared for some outdoors gaming next winter.

Back in the winter of 2010/2011, while we were preparing to refight the Battle of Towton with a ridiculously large number of figures, I decided I needed some fresh air, so I took a small contingent of the figures I had painted outside into the snow and sculpted the terrain for a game. I used the original Basic Impetus rules and originally posted on The Rather Large Towton Project blog. 


No time to refight the battle with 20000 or more figures? Not enough space? You need new, improved Nano-Towton(tm)! Nano-Towton uses amazing miniaturised technology to permit you to refight the battle of Towton in an area as small as 2' x 2' (600mm x 600mm). The idea is that you can have some semblance of a refight using armies of only around ten stands each in a short space of time. I chose to do this with Basic Impetus because they are free and I prefer them to DBA.

The Armies

Lancastrian Main Body: 2 Men at Arms, 2 Billmen, 2 Archers, 1 Borderers

Lancastrian Ambush Party: 1 Billmen

Yorkist Main Body: 2 Men at Arms, 2 Billmen, 4 Archers

Yorkist Reinforcements: 1 Billmen

The numbers above were stands in my game. They could be units if that is what your rules use, or even individual figures if you want to turn the whole scenario into a skirmish game.

Terrain and Deployment

Each army starts on a hill, on opposite sides of a valley. There is a wood on the Yorkist left flank and the ground slopes down to a stream on that side of the table. The Yorkists may not deploy in the woods.

In my game, the Lancastrian army had a frontage of 30cm. The Yorkist army had a frontage of 24cm. The game was played in a 2' x 2' area and the armies deployed on hills 20cm from each other.

20cm is the maximum range for longbows in Basic Impetus, so you can adjust this to suit your rules.

There should be space on each flank for the Lancastrian ambush and Norfolk's arrival.


Wind and snow flurries reduce the range of Lancastrian bows by 1d6cm, diced for each turn. Historically, the Lancastrians are supposed to have shot off all their arrows without hitting the Yorkists because the weather was against them.

Other rules

  1. Dice for Norfolk's arrival from turn 3 onwards. On a die roll less than the current turn number, Norfolk will arrive on any die roll less than the current turn number. It should take the Lancastrian army about four or five turns to reach the Yorkist army, and you can adjust Norfolk's arrival with this in mind.
  2. The Lancastrian ambush party is in the woods and will spring the ambush on any turn they roll less than the current turn number.
  3. The Lancastrian army is not allowed to advance until they have won the initiative. From that point on they may manoeuvre normally. This includes the ambush party moving.
  4. The Lancastrian player has a -1 penalty on their initiative roll until they have won the initiative. After that, this penalty does not apply.
This gave a decent game for me, but you may need to adjust this to match your preferences and rules.