Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Attempt at a Campaign System

Due to some good fortune, I will have all of this coming Saturday free for hobby related activity. While I plan to get some painting in and visit some local shops for the first time, I definitely want to game. And, as I mentioned a few posts ago, Featherstone's Solo Wargaming has me itching to try my hand at a campaign.

While I had decided to use Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle rules for the "larger scale" battles, I came across a blog entry over on Axis of Naughtiness that rekindled my interest in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.  So, I've resolved to include some encounters that feature that rule set as well. And, for the first time, I'll add some wonky vehicles to the action (my first piece is made entirely of Sculpey and, though comical, does capture the cartoon flavor of Victorian Sci-Fi as I imagine it. pictures to follow when I finish painting it).

So, I have the rules for the conflicts laid out, but what about the campaign itself?

As my latest attempt to write a set of rules for stand vs stand conflict has shown me, I have a tendency to over complicate things. My rules are simple enough - except that I try to account for every possibility and things slow down as a result. While not terrible, they just aren't as fun as what other rule writers have come up with, by and large. I stand by my various tweaks, but as for wholesale creation, I've got a ways to go.

So, what makes me think I'll succeed in coming up with a campaign system? Boundless optimism!

To be safe though, I will rely on the work done by others and modifying based on my own ideas. 

I decided, for instance, to avoid map making this first campaign and instead, I will use a system similar to the one found in a 2006/2008 post at Saxe-Bearstein.

My modification looks as follows:

Apologies for the lack of quality - I slapped this together between bites of  my lunch
  • Location 1 for each side is where the bulk of their forces are.
    • In my case, each side has a total of 1 battalion of European troops with reinforcements replacing casualties possible.
    • They will have 1d6-1 companies total of Native troops to start and may, if the situation is favorable, recruit more as the campaign goes on.
  • Location 2 is a frontier fort with 1 or 2 companies of troops 
  • The Border Clash area is where the campaign starts - either platoon vs platoon or company vs. company. I haven't decided  yet.
Each game turn = 1 week of game time (I just pulled this out of the air)

After an encounter, move towards the losing army's Location 1. In the event of a draw, each army moves towards its own Location 1.

The green areas labeled E1 - E4 are encounters that do NOT involve the opposing army - or if they do, it will be no more than a squad. I've got a list of the types of things I'm thinking of that I'll post tomorrow, along with my ideas for what constitutes a campaign turn.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Sale Loot

One of the branches of the library system we use had a book sale yesterday. As I had several books to return, I had a good excuse to check out the offerings.

I got there rather late in the day and the tables looked a little picked over. They had the usual abundance of fiction, mostly newer, although some classics.  I tend to steer clear of fiction, old or new as I very rarely re-read it - and lately, other than reading One Fish, Two Fish or Green Eggs and Ham to Young Lord Shadowmoss, I don't read it at all. So, owning it just clutters up my limited book shelf space. , 

After looking at what I thought was all the non fiction, I spied in the corner, by a window, a very limited selection of history books and opposite that, a slightly more limited selection of philosophy (two things I tend to buy at used book stores). I probably could have come away with more, but knowing my reading time is limited and that I still have yet to finish the French Foreign Legion book, I purchased only two.

For a grand total of $3 (U.S.) i came away with:

Battleships of the U.S. Navy in World War II by Stefan Terzibaschitsch

This and the War at Sea starter set looks like a start on a new period/genre of games to me

There are obvious game table implications for the above - not so much for the second title:  A Modern Utopia by H.G. Wells
Can you guess where I got this image?
I just happen to have enjoyed everything written by Wells that I've read, and for $2, I figured what the heck? 

Add stopping for falafel (with 2 extra pita and a side of olives, thank you) at my favorite Mediterranean place in Atlanta, and then later watching Tora! Tora! Tora! on the military channel, and it was a pretty nice Saturday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Well that was ... interesting

Over the past few days I've spent a good deal of time ruminating on war game rules in an attempt to create my own for my Victorian Sci-Fi games where 1 base = 1 unit (figure count irrelevant)- something of a cross between Bob Cordery's various rule sets, as well as Paper Tigers and Song of Blades and Heroes.

There are, without exaggeration, 20 pages of notes and tables and brain storms in my spiral bound notebook. Both last night and tonight I ran several test encounters to explore various ideas.

And in the end, I decided that Mr. Cordery's Memoir of Battle gives me the type of game I'm looking for. My efforts were essentially an attempt to reinvent the wheel. And doing so unsuccessfully might I add - simple situations involving just 2 or 3 units took an over an hour to play out and they weren't very fun at that Far too much dice rolling for my tastes. 

So, there you have it. For my VSF campaign, I'll be using Memoir of Battle.

It wasn't a total loss - I came up with some ideas for campaign mechanisms that I'll write about when I get my thoughts better organized. And, my various "flavor" ideas for different forces can be used as well.

As an aside, and completely unrelated to gaming, I'm writing this from my netbook - before I got into play tests tonight, I replaced the hard disk and installed the netbook-centric version of Meego as the OS. So far, so good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How many figures to a unit?

The other night, I was fiddling around with a gridded surface for wargaming, using 3" grids per Morschauser's own table (as read in Joseph Morschauser's How to Play War Games in Miniature A forgotten wargaming pioneer Early Wargames Vol 3). My goal was to see how 3 or 4 figure units as described in various sets of Bob Cordery's rules looked so that I could possibly field a small VSF action to try out some solo mechanisms.

Ordinarily, I use 10 figure units per various rules, and considered following the Space: 1889 Soldier's Companion suggestion of 8 figure companies (I'm not really concerned in my games with what the number represents - ordinarily I play 1-fig-1-man and treat the 10 as a platoon or squad), but in either case I only have enough to field less than 2.5 units for either the FFL or the Prussians. My goal is to increase the number of units on the table.

Four figures would give me a solid 5 or 6 units a side and 3 could give me up to 8 if I don't care about having a commander as a separate base.
But the aesthetic appeal was lacking - 4 figs in base to base contact in a line fill the entire width of the 3" space - I use U.S. pennies for my bases. It reminded me of someone wearing pants that are way too tight. They were 1/8" away from a muffin-top.
Two-by-two looked better but there just seemed to be too much space. Five looked completely wrong for ordered troops but not bad for hordes of lizard-folk.
Then, by coincidence, there was this post on Wargaming Miscellany Mr. Cordery has gone from 3 or 4 figures to using 6 figure units. If you haven't, go check the battle report out. Then oooh and ahh at the 6 figure units. They look great on the Hexon tiles.

They look good in 3" squares too, as it turns out.

Except, at best I can only field 4 units for each European army that way. Now, I could buy more miniatures I suppose (and, ultimately, I probably will), but I already have around 200+ to paint this year for my various projects.
A workable solution in the meantime would be preferred.

And then it occurred to me: place the figures on a sabot or movement tray that takes up nearly the same space as the 6 figures do:

The picture would be better if I included the entire grid-space

To my eye the 3-on-a-tray works as well as the 6 individually based figures to convey "more men then there are pictured" and even does a better job filling in the grid space.

Here's a sample scene arranged to demonstrate the tray in action:

A Lizard-folk horde clashes with Legion left.

I think this is the way I'm going to go for the non one-fig-equals-one-man battles.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blue Moon Over Kentucky and February Game Ideas

This entry is coming to you from the middle of nowhere in northern Kentucky where we're visiting Lady Shadowmoss's mother for a much delayed Christmas celebration. Unfortunately, Young Lord Shadowmoss has been having more than a bit of trouble falling asleep here and so most of today was spent napping - both us and the baby. He appears to finally be down for the night tonight however, and, as it's extremely late and there's little socializing to do at this hour, I've had a little time to think about wargaming related topics.

Primarily, I've been thinking about what game I'd like to play in February(assuming I can only get in one solo game). 

My initial inclination was to set up a Franco-Prussian encounter with Foreign Legion and my recently completed Prussian infantry. As I mentioned previously, I'm considering a VSF campaign involving these same armies. This would just be a one-off game not part of that campaign since I haven't yet created a satisfying map or settled upon campaign mechanism. It would also be a chance to try out my "flavor" rules for both armies.

The top challenger is a game or two of the old Six Gun Sound (THW) rules for some shoot 'em up fun with my recently completed Old West miniatures. The benefit is that games are quick and require little preparation which allow for some "instant wargaming" (to borrow a phrase from Featherstone). I can play an entire game to completion including setup and cleanup in under an hour. Given the limited free time I (and most of us) have, that's certainly an attractive idea.

I'm sure I'll continue to think on this over the next few week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Surprisingly Good Gaming Related Weekend

The weekend got off to an inauspicious start with both my "smartphone" and my netbook giving out on me. My planned research for information about WWII Pacific land battles came to a grinding hault. Although my phone started working again after a generous application of brute force, the netbook has refused to cooperate as of yet.*

Still, all was not lost: 

  • Finished priming the Japanese forces. I used Krylon spray paint - the first time I've ever spray primed. It's definitely quicker than hand painting on gesso as a primer. I'm not a fan of having to go outside to paint when it's cold though. I may return to hand painting primer for the USMC since we're moving into actual winter here in North West Georgia. 
  • Finally got around to applying basing material (flock and tea leaves) to my cowboys, pistoleros and Prussian infantry. 
  • Finished reading Solo Wargaming 
  • Set to work writing a campaign background for a fictional Franco-Prussian conflict on an island off of the African coast (part of the 2nd Franco-Prussian War in 1886). In addition, I made some rudimentary maps and sketches of land-based steam powered ironclads which I intend to scratch-build to supplement both sides. 

Finally, on Saturday night, Lady Shadowmoss and I hosted our 2nd game night -as new parents we figured game nights are an easy way to do something with friends but not have to worry about a baby sitter.The first time we did this, the focus was on card-based games (Lunch Money, Cards Against Humanity and even some Magic: The Gathering), but Saturday's bill was an introductory adventure for the ExaltedPG (White Wolf ) using pre-gen characters.

All but our GM and 1 player were new to this game and the mechanics - some had played table-top RPGs only once or twice before. Although the GM sent us a pdf of the core rules - he sent it earlier in the day and none of us had a chance to read it until we assembled at our table. 

At first glance, the game system itself seemed little more complicated than I like,  i.e., This Skill + This Skill, + X dice for this modifier, minus Y dice for this modifier = how many dice you roll/successes you need/etc. Being new for most everyone, it inevitably slowed us down quite a bit, but by the end of the session I think most of us were starting to get it.

Regardless, it was a great deal of fun and we were all learning together so no one appeared put-out by it.

Since we didn't make much progress on the adventure properly speaking, and as everyone has enjoyed both game nights we've held, the group voted to make this a monthly event. We'll continue to play out this adventure until it's finished (probably 1 or 2 more sessions) and then we'll switch games and GMs for another one shot.

So, after over many years of not having a gaming group, I suddenly find myself with a group 7 people strong.

Not bad for a weekend that didn't quite start like I had hoped.

*For those who care about such things, I decided to take this opportunity to switch from Windows XP to a distribution of Linux named Meego.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Featherstone's Solo Wargaming

I've heard about this book for a couple of years but hesitated in buying it until recently - it seemed just a little pricey for a relatively small paper back.
But, for Christmas, I received Featherstone's <i>Battlenotes for Wargamers: Solo Edition</i> and I enjoyed his writing style in the introduction enough to push me closer to a purchase. An unexpected gift card from my managers at work tipped the scale.

My new bible
All i can say is, I'm only 3 chapters in but I can't believe I waited this long to get this book!

OK, that's not all i can say.

I've already got a bunch of ideas and inspiration for a campaign using the ideas in just those few chapters.

Presently, I'm thinking it will be a VSF-type conflict involving France and Prussia on a "lost world" island. This should provide plenty of opportunities for my goal of once a month solo gaming, at least until my WWII Pacific Island Assault troops are ready for the tabletop. This has the added benefit that all of the figures are painted up for the most part and won't add anything new to my "to paint" pile (the zoauves and chasserus d'afrique are already there).

But I digress.

This book is absolutely worth the price!

Bonus: Featherstone references chapters in his <i>Advanced Wargaming</i>  (recently reviewed on the Lone Warrior site) several times in these first few chapters. Which, by my reckoning, just serves as further justification for picking up that title as well!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They have arrived!

Thanks to incredibly fast service by ScaleHobbyist.com, my troops for my Great Northern War/Morschauser project arrived yesterday:

Swedish on the left, Russians on the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Some Photos and Thoughts on the First Solo Game of 2012

As I hinted in my last post, I ended up playing this scenario twice

Game 1:

Early turn 1, Corporal Hardcastle sends his men into the village. Meanwhile the German assault gets slowly under way ( only 1 German is able to even move).

Never the less, the Germans have early success.

While a number of Germans made it into the village to attack, the German assault was sluggish at best - this shot is from the end of the game.

Reinforcements arrive! Once again, Hardcastle carries the day. He's already thinking of the custard tart he'll eat back at the mess.

Once again I pushed the rule set too far. With only 10 points of action maximum per side and 2 points required to move through woods and in the village, the German initial wave took forever to make contact. As a result, I had to continuously change the number of turns that I'd be required to hold the village - just to make it feel like the Germans had a chance to win. 

Not to mention, it's very difficult to decide which non-player figure should move/shoot when you can only do so with maybe 25% of the force.

I think going forward I'll use the rules to very small skirmishes - 5 or less figures a side.

I really wanted to try the scenario again - but with some adjustments:
  • Activation - each figure gets 2 cards. For the Germans, since they would be recycling, I would remove the cards from the deck when a figure was removed from the table at the end of the turn in which it occurred. Appropriate cards would be returned to deck when reinforcements enter the board each turn.
  • All of the cards + 1 stop card make up the activation deck.
  • Draw from the activation deck - figure may take one action
  • Stop card ends turn - then reshuffle
  • I decided on 10 turns for the objective
Everything else stayed the same.

Game 2:

Initial dispositions of both sides: British are upper right, while the Germans enter from the bottom of the picture, save one in the upper left woods.

The German assault moves quickly. Hardcastle and Deacon take on the initial wave.

The German forces swing around the southern edge of the village.

On turn 11 the German's capture the village and the British reinforcements fail to arrive. A German victory. But Hardcastle will be back!

This second game moved much faster and was a lot more enjoyable. The activation deck eliminates the necessity to decide which non-player figure is going to act -it then boiled down to doing my best to meet my "opponent's" objective.

Looking forward to playing another game in the near future!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Solo Game of 2012

I wanted to try out Stephen Gilbert's Solo Semi-Skirmish & Role Playing Wargames System without zombies being involved and to try my hand at adapting one of the scenarios from Elves Under Hoof to something other than the North Pole. Since I was off for the New Year's Holiday, Monday seemed like as good a day as any and coincidentally, it'd be a nice jump on my goal for 2012 to play one solo game a month

This is a pulp-y small scale skirmish type game, so if it seems absurd to you that 5 guys can hold a small village from an endless onslaught of the enemy, just roll with it.


You and your brave band of soldiers are to hold a small village until reinforcement's can arrive.

The soloist's side
Four figures to start and a chance for more using a system I first encountered on RPG Laboratory's site.

To check for additional squad members, roll 1d6 and compare to the following table I created to answer my question of "Can I recruit any other figures for my squad?"

1  YES and it's a medium machine gun crew 2 hit points (HP) for loader and gunner

2-3 YES but armed with a rifle and only 1 HP
4-5 NO but +1 HP to any one of my existing figures, my choice
6 - NO and -1 HP to 1 figure in my squad, determined by a die roll

I imagine that a Mythic-like chart, with its possibility for extreme Yes and extreme No would work just as well but I'm fond of the common d6 and not so much the d10.

The Enemy

The opposition starts with 10 figures on the board, placed by die roll. All of their possible entry points (I set up 3) are in cover. To minimize book keeping and in keeping close to the rules as written, all opposition has 1 HP except the officer who has 2 HP.

Before the start of the 2nd turn and before the start of each turn thereafter, roll 1d6 for reinforcements:

1-2 One figure
3-4 Two figures
5-6 Three figures

If there are no figures left for the enemy to place on the table then no reinforcements that turn.

Victory Conditions

Soloist's Side: Hold village for 12 turns (this was my initial guess at a reasonable time frame - that would change once the game got underway and I realized that was way too few Yes, 12 turns was too few.)

Before each turn thereafter, roll 1d6. If 6, reinforcements arrive and the enemy flees the field.

As long as the solo player still has troops on the table in the village and controls a majority at the end of 12 turns, they're considered to be holding it.

The Enemy:
 Capture  majority of village by turn 12. The village in my case is represented by 3 buildings, so 2/3. In lieu of that, killing all of the soloist's forces will do.

Additional Notes

I chose to play the enemy to win rather than develop any kind of AI To keep myself honest, all enemy forces must advance utilizing cover and will fire at any of my figures in sight before choosing to try and enter the village.

Line of sight is limited in the village to 4" or less to reflect that the men would be in buildings, ducking around corners, using walls for cover, etc.

Within 1" of edge of terrain feature can fire out and be fired at by those outside of the terrain feature. >1" can only shoot at enemy within feature.

Everything else would be as written in the rules.

Here's my table and the sleepy village of Cadillac-on-the-Green:
An aerial view of the village of Cadillac-on-the-Green. In the valley far below, there appears to be a cat, oblivious to what was about to take place above. (the grey area beneath the buildings represents the area considered the village)

Coming soon: some thoughts on the battle and a refight

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

Not 5 days into the New Year and I have scrapped my goal of a 54mm Morschauser Horse &Musket game.

With much gnashing of teeth and sleepless nights (OK, not really), and searching for suitable figures in plastic, I realized that if I'm going to do big (as in figure scale, not battalion size) games other than WWII in plastic, I want to do it in the old school way - metal \m/. 

Casting my own would be ideal (I love love LOVE the 42mm Prince August semi-flat molds and their 54mm toy soldier series for late 19th C. imaginations), but it's a bit more than I have time or money for this year given the scope of my two other main goals. Doing this would, however, tie in rather neatly with my goal of playing a Little Wars game in 2013 and so I think I already have my 2013 project picked out.

Still, I wasn't ready to abandon Morschauser and his Horse & Musket rules and so I'll be doing this project in 1/72 plastic instead, with Zvezda's Swedes and Russians for the Great Northern War:

I've ordered one box of dragoons, artillery and infantry for each side - which is enough to assemble each army to Morschauser's specifications with one slight modification (reducing bases per regiment from 5 to 4). While there are several 15mm and 25mm ranges, the Zvezda's sculpts just look so much better to my eyes.

I can't wait for them to get here!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gaming in the New Year

In recognition of our first New Year's Eve with Young Lord Shadowmoss, we opted to stay in - a much different experience than the raging party we went to last year (and honestly I think I prefer staying in). As Lady Shadowmoss had been generous enough to indulge my hobbies by getting me two games for Christmas: Cthulhu Dice and Gloom: The Game of Inauspicious Incidents and Grave Consequences, we decided to break them out after ringing in 2012:

Cthulhu Dice (Steve Jackson Games) comes with 18 "sanity tokens" (What would a Cthulhu game be without sanity loss?) and a special 12-sided Cthulhu die festooned with symbols from the Lovecraft mythos (which may find its way into a solo Cthulhu rpg)

Each player starts with 3 sanity and the symbol rolled tells the players what actions to take regarding the gaining or losing of said sanity. With 2 people, game play is under 5 minutes and requires little in the way of strategy. I imagine there's only nominally more strategy involved with more players, but, that said, the potential for a fun drinking game was obvious to us both and it will be joining me at the next party we host or attend.
The goal of Gloom (Atlas) "is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death." It's a bit morbid as themes go, but both of us appreciate dark humor so we enjoyed it. We even laughed out loud at some of the character descriptions. But that could have been the champagne.

As a bonus, the cards are illustrated with awesome Edward Gorey-like artwork.

Gloom is a card game with a twist- all but the character cards are transparent in the middle. Previously played cards can thus effect the current round. It's actually rather easy to play - after one open-handed practice game I felt pretty confident I understood it. Never the less, because the cards can have some unwanted effects - even though they also bring great gain, each round required thought. It was a ton of fun and we are already planning to play it again.

My only complaint is that I didn't get all four families depicted in the rules, but 2 each of 2 families. I'll be writing Atlas to see if I can't get that rectified.