Monday, March 31, 2014

Something Strange is Afoot in Skalafell

On Friday night, I ran another session of D&D b/x for my girlfriend. This time, I ran it via chat - as we live about 800 miles apart and her internet connection isn't capable of dealing with Skype or Hangouts.

Her goal is to make it to Gorgoroth and adventure in the dungeon beneath Trelleborg, like the meetup group at my FLGS. I told her earlier in the day that there was a potential adventure in Skalafell but that she was by no means required to go on it, and that we could RP the trip up to Gorgoroth (by my calculation it's about 5 days from Skalafell, meaning lot's of opportunity for random encounters). 

After a night of celebrating with the villagers, who had given her the nick-name of "Ghoul-slayer", Fjörgyn enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Queen's Cauldron. An errand boy interrupted her meal with a request from Sister Rebecca to visit with her at the shrine of the Forgetful Bear to discuss a matter of some importance. 

She accepted the offer and Sister Rebecca* revealed her suspicions about a plot involving cultists spotted by Old Man Alfarinson, the released ghoul Fjörgyn had slain, and a girl who went missing just yesterday. Fjörgyn, adventurer that she is, decided to look into it (her exact statement was "Of course I will. Robed men chanting around a fire will always intrigue me!")

Before continuing further, she re-hired Zelligant, who required armor and a weapon before agreeing, but that was with the additional stipulation that he would join in combat. He also suggested his cousin Thora, the one eyed jester, as a suitable hire, allegedly handy with a weapon.

The party made their way to the dilapidated incense smoke filled shack of the odd-ball Old Man Alfarinson (something of a witch doctor mountain man hermit type) to get directions to the abandoned shrine where he had seen the cultists. 

Having gotten what they came for, and forgoing further questioning, perhaps due to the incense haze, Fjörgyn and her merry band got straight to it. 

Located among ancient burial mounds, the shrine was largely overgrown, although the vines did not cover the floor and, in fact, bore evidence of having been cut back. The secret door down was thus easily found, and after some discussion over who would go in first, Fjörgyn led the way down into the darkness.

The steps led down into a room, populated by one ugly mother of a beast - a beaked bat face furry ant-like thorax, human fore-limbs, giant bat-wings [see Realms of the Crawling Chaos]. Thora, who had moved up to fight alongside Fjörgyn was rewarded for her efforts by having a major artery severed by the crushing beak of the night beast. [She had all of 2 HP. A sneeze would have killed her.]

Zelligant seemed to grow a pair [after last session, I was ready to deem him a coward but the dice surprised me, rather than running away, he rolled a 12 and passed with flying colors], and joined the fray, but Fjörgyn, although she took damage for nearly half her hit points, managed to kill the foul beast before he had to demonstrate any possible ineptness.

We ended the session there, as she had work in the morning.

*I try to make use of just about every name I've seen in the various rulebooks. Sister Rebecca, Black Dougal, Silverleaf, etc.

Rising Sun: Operation Watchtower: The Brush Patrol

Last night, I decided to play the 2nd scenario in Rising Sun: Operation Watchtower from Britton Publishers using World War Risus.

Historical Background

While the first scenario was the ill-fated Goettge patrol, this one was a lot less grim:
 "To verify the strength of the Japanese in the region, another patrol is sent out on 19 August. This patrol is led by Captain Charles C. Brush, and although its primary mission is reconnaissance, it has sufficient combat power (64 Marines) to take care of business. As it makes its way toward Koli Point, it stumbles upon a large party of Japanese laying communications wire."
Set up

In game terms, 2 weak platoons of 2 sections of US Marines each are moving single file down a dirt path, and come across a 2 section platoon of Japanese. 

To simulate the single-file requirement, i decided that the 1st US platoon would start on the table but the 2nd could only move on once the first had left them enough room. This would entail using some of 1st platoon's HQ for its own actions, something I've had do to very infrequently in previous games of World War Risus.

There's a moment when the Japanese don't realize that the approaching soldiers are American before the fire fight begins. In game terms, I decided I would roll a Japanese unit's Combat Effectiveness, and on any success they would id the Americans and could attack the following turn.

The USMC objective is to eliminate the Japanese patrol before it exits the board. The Japanese goal is to get at least one unit off the table, regardless of condition. For MicroMelee, the game is limited to 4 turns. Having no idea what that equates to in World War Risus, I opted for 8 turns.

Since the whole thing takes place in thick jungle save for a winding dirt path (it's really hard to do a winding path with 2' x 3" strips of balsa) I just opted to leave the trees off the table entirely. 

This would prove to be a wise decision, as documented by the photograph below:

Pumpkin feigning surprise that I'm taking her picture.
Each base represents 1 section, while each lone figure represents a platoon HQ.

I gave all units +2 dice when receiving fire as if they were in hard cover. 

The Game

The Japanese won the initiative and the lead section identified the Americans right away, and so they could attack/react on the 2nd turn.

I was able to advance my 1st platoon up and out of the way on turn 1, except the HQ was blocking the 2nd platoon when the turn was over. 2nd platoon wouldn't be on the table until turn 3.

By then, the Japanese had one unit nearly off of the table, and only poor activation rolls kept them from exiting for a few more turns.

Shooting was largely ineffective due to the thick vegetation. 

Scoring any damage was neigh impossible, but I also tested my new modification for requiring a morale check any time a shooting unit scores a success, even if the target scores more successes.the morale check came into play. Unfortunately against my own Marines - one section failed their morale check, rolling 0 dice. They lost a morale die, were pushed back and pinned. 

When I finally scored a hit on one of the Japanese sections, I thought I might be able to stop them, but it wasn't to be. Every time a Japanese unit took a morale test they passed by 2 dice or more! 

The game lasted 6 turns before the first Japanese unit made it off table. 


I really like World War Risus - as a solo player, it provides plenty of monkey wrenches to inhibit bias. It also provides some interesting decisions when it comes to allocating successes. Most of all, I can actually remember the rules since I wrote them.

Pumpkin expresses her dissatisfaction with the Marine performance by beating the officers with a tape measure.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tinkering with World War Risus

I am approaching the completion of the 1st ready for public viewing draft of World War Risus. But, what kind of solo wargamer would I be if I didn't constantly tinker with rules?

Last night, I wanted to try out some modifications to World War Risus, including using the Deadly Combat rules in the Risus Companion and some kind of "lucky shot" rule (not the same Lucky Shot rule from Risus itself) that would allow an AFV to be knocked out of the fight with one attack.

Deadly Combat did make things move a little more quickly in the damage department - it does away with both adding pips (per Risus) or counting 5's and 6's as I had written the rules originally. Instead, highest die wins. If it's a tie, the side that rolled the least dice wins, else it's actually a tie. 

Simple enough, but as written, World War Risus gives a bonus for outscoring the target by 2 or more successes (2 CE dice are lost, as is 1 morale die BEFORE the required morale check is rolled, which can result in a further loss of morale). In the heat of battle, I forgot why I had included that rule to begin with: I wanted a way to speed things up just a bit.

Using the Deadly Combat rule would do that anyway, as more attacks would result in damage, forcing more morale checks, so the "2 or more" rule would not be unnecessary.

An American (minor) Victory:
They didn't secure the bridge in 8 turns,
 but the Germans were whittled down to a StuG and an HQ unit.

As for a lucky shot rule, there were two now:

1) For an attack that succeeds in damaging an AFV (i.e. causes the loss of CE cliche dice), roll a number of dice equal to the number of the attacker's successes minus the number of the target's successes. If the total rolled >=10 then the AFV is destroyed. 

2) Infantry Rifle units and HMG/MMG units may fire on AFVs. If the attacker scores more successes than the target, the target takes a morale test. 

The first allows for an infantry anti-tank weapon or an ATG to take out an AFV in a single attack, provided the attacking side scores at least 2 more successes than the AFV. In the playtest, this situation never occurred. The bazooka team was firing at the front of the StuG where the armor is thickest and had little chance of success.

There is a Lethal Risus rule over on Risusverse that is expressly written for one shot kills. If the attacker's total is at least double the defender's total then the defender rolls their cliche vs a target number (TN) 10. This would probably work well if I was still using traditional Risus combat.

The second item addresses something Stu Rat mentioned in the comments on my previous post on World War Risus

People like to survive and will do what they can to drive off the enemy, even if it's an AFV that they can't damage directly with their weapons. It seemed to me that they're just hoping to cause the AFV's crew to second guess their course of action and perhaps panic. In World War Risus, that's a morale check. 

This happened twice during the playtest, and both times the StuG made its morale check successfully, despite being down 1 die due to a previous hit by the bazooka team. 

I don't think that's any reason to condemn the rule - the saves were quite lucky. More importantly, I liked that my rifle unit had a chance to do something useful against the AFV, while the bazooka unit tried to maneuver close enough to take another shot.

Finally, it occurred to me that a unit will more than likely be reduced to 0 CE dice before their morale is reduced to 0. That means a unit generally has the will to fight right up until they can't.

I'm not sure I like that. 

So, the next time, I'll require a target to take a morale test anytime an attacker has at least 1 success, regardless of how many successes the target has. Another alternative might be to have the morale check not count successes, but roll against a TN 10 instead.  

I'm OK with either, because unlike Combat Effectiveness, there's no Risus "death spiral" inherent in the morale cliche; a leadership roll can improve morale.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dungeon of Tropes

On Saturday night, I had a chance to run a session of Moldvay Basic for my girlfriend. It was her first experience playing d&d, and since she was playing a single character, I was careful to stock the dungeon in such a way that survival was possible, although not guaranteed.

I opted not to use Solo Heroes because I think it changes the nature of the game in a way, that while pretty cool, is not the same experience as playing the game as written.


Fjörgyn (E:1) ventured out of Hedeby on her way to Gorgoroth* and the dungeon beneath Trelleborg. In the town of Skalafell, she caught wind of a story of a mysterious death, the victim found dragged to a set of steps leading down into the earth in a hillside nearby. Thinking there might be some treasure within, she opted to explore.

Before tacklin that task, she hired two locals, Grungo, the lovable lumberjack, and Zallifax  Zelligant the dutiful tailor.

Grungo bought the farm about 2/3s of the way down the stairs into the dungeon, when a shrieker started, well, shrieking which drew a giant crab spider to the scene. After failing to sink its mandibles into Fjörgyn's plate mail, it turned on the unarmored hirelings and Grungo's leg was severed, cutting an artery. His death was swift. 

The spider died moments later; Fjörgyn had her first kill - an adventurer was born. 

A magic mouth on a statue told her to leave but she paid it no mind and the dark warning etched on the wall behind it was treated as so much spooky bravado.

Still, as she explored, she carefully spiked doors open to make a fast escape possible.  And when she came across a magic pool, she wisely avoided drinking from its tantalizing Caribbean-blue water. Lady Luck was in her favor as she crossed a trapped threshold and neither she nor Zalligant Zelligant triggered the spiked/crushing ceiling trap .

A rickety bridge across a vast chasm caused some hesitation, but onward she pressed, and she found the bridge was, in fact, quite capable of sustaining her and her porter/torch bearer. At the end of the bridge were the ornately carved stone doors of a burial vault.

Heavy though they were, Fjörgyn was able to open them, and the pair slipped into the chamber of red painted walls. A mural of a bearded man summoning the elements adorned the wall behind a large marble sarcophagus, which was surrounded by glyphs and runes on the floor and covered with painted sigils. 

It seemed the inhabitant of said sarcophagus was in no mood to be disturbed, and while Fjörgyn explored the room, the ghoul set upon her.

As an elf, the ghoul's paralyais inducing attacks were of no concern for her, but Zalligant Zelligant pretty much peed his pants and tried to run. Unfortunately for him, the heavy door, which had closed behind them, slowed his egress.

By the time he got the door open, Fjörgyn had slaughtered the ghoul handily, suffering only a minor wound in the process. She severed the head with a mighty stroke of her sword, sending black dust spurting from it, a plume of powdered ancient blood.

The head was stuffed into her pack as proof of her accomplishment and several chests around the room were her reward.

In one of the chests, she found a still beating human heart. Unsure of its value or meaning, she tossed it into her backpack, along with the head, just in case it had any value. The others contained gems and jewlery - enough to live comfortably for a time, or perhaps, purchase a horse to ride to Gorgoroth if she chose.

On their way out of the tomb, they encountered a gnome, one Rupert Winklebottom heading down the steps, but Fjörgyn warned him it was dangerous. He thanked her and out he went and on his way. 


the map
It was a short adventure of tropes for a new player to explore.

Seeing her concern over things experienced players would breeze past, was refreshing. It was rewarding to see the genre classics have their intended effect rather than the jaded "seen it, killed it" they often have on people who have been playing the game for a long time. She had a good time and we plan to continue playing, so I would call that a success.

*Gorgoroth is the base town in the open-table campaign I'm running at my FLGS.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Trelleborg Session 2 : Ponderings

For the 2nd session of my dungeon crawl campaign at my FLGS, I had 8 players show up, two had come to the first session and 6 new people.

That is probably the largest group I've ever sent into a dungeon (by 1 person), and it was a learning experience.

Lessons Learned (from both sessions):
  • Using the start time for character generation is a fail.
    •  People who want to roll up characters, new players or existing, should either do it at home, or come early.
    •  Otherwise, pre-gens. I don't want to penalize anyone, but the start time should be for actual adventure.
  • Photocopies of the equipment list is a must. 
    • Actually, I should photocopy the entire char generation process summary (it's less than a full page of instructions in b/x. I forget the page number) and prepare it as a hand out for new players and for those without the rule book.
  • As I did for the one shot games, bring a hard copy of the Wampus Country Fantasy Name Generator. Most people have an idea of what class they want to play. Few have any idea about names.
  • If the PCs don't want to talk to the monsters, the monsters can talk to the PCs. Perhaps this will slow the killing machine?
  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Bring a snack.
  • Don't forget smells and sounds in addition to sights.
The biggest issue is that eight PCs skews the numbers I've generated, both in terms of creatures encountered and treasure XP generated per character. 

On the one hand, it makes sense, the lower XP per character makes up for the reduced risk of the large party. On the other hand, it penalizes players for wanting to play when everyone else can, by delaying advancement beyond Moldvay's recommended 3 to 4 sessions until 2nd level, by several sessions (at 1 session a month planned on average, PCs might not advance until sometime in the summer at this rate).

There's also the complication that I don't know how many players will actually be there each session, never mind which players.

I'm hesitant to adjust treasure and number of creatures encountered on the fly, at least as it pertains to rooms - wandering encounters are generated on the fly, let the dice fall as they may. Mostly because, if they had fewer PCs, say only 3, I'd leave the encounter as is, and make them find a way around it that didn't involve charging headstrong into combat.

Adjusting for a larger party that week almost sounds like a variant of "my precious encounter" to me or Challenge Rating/ Encounter Difficulty levels.

Maybe I am better served using my own XP method - the one I have used solo and with small groups? It would be a lot to track for a large party, but some of it could be dished off to the players. The core mechanism rewards exploration and discovery, followed closely by class abilities.

I need to think on it more before the next session, scheduled for mid-April, and then present it to my players if that's the case.

Monday, March 17, 2014

World War Risus : Some Thoughts and Pictures

World War Risus had its first real outing yesterday.

My prior games have all been played with top-down flats on my desk with rather uninteresting meeting encounters, simply to test mechanics; this time, i broke out the toy soldiers and an honest to goodness scenario. Using the table layout from this Tabletop Teaser from 1978, I decided that my objective was to capture the bridge, not blow it up, which meant dislodging the opposition, with 8 turns to do it.

I played on my bed and surprisingly, Pumpkin was OK with this.
At first my intention was to play a fast game using Featherstone's simple WWII rules from his War Games: Battles and Manoeuvres with Model Soldiers, but it seemed like I should give my own rules a chance in a real game.

As I saw the scenario, I had a weak company consisting of a company HQ, two platoons, a heavy weapons section (bazooka) and an MMG section. The enemy would have 1 AFV, 1 scout vehicle w/MG and 1 weak company consisting of 1 company HQ, 1 Wehrmacht rifle platoon and 1 SS rifle platoon

All but the company HQs and the SS platoon were rated 3 dice for all three cliches. The SS platoon had a CE of 4 and a Morale of 4, while the HQs were 4 all the way across.

According to my World War Risus rules, each platoon should have had a separate HQ, and each section should have maneuvered individually. 

However, perhaps because I was in Featherstone mode when I set everything up, I continued to think of the platoons as single maneuver elements of 5 figures each, rather than as 3 elements + HQ element. 

This sped up the game a bit because it eliminated 3 sets of Leadership rolls per platoon (1 for the HQ and 1 for each section, normally), as well as movement and individual actions for 3 elements per platoon. It also felt and looked "right" to me.

I just really like my trees.
What I realized, after I was done playing, is that, mechanically, for those following along at home, I was basically playing a World War Risus platoon HQ with 2 sections, with 2 company support sections.

A brutal melee handled very close to standard Risus, meaning either side could lose a point of CE each round.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize, I'm not sure it matters either way. They could have been squads, but I thought of them as platoons without individual platoon leaders represented, but they could have been two companies of a battalion for that matter. Just like Featherstone and other old school rules (as I mentioned here).

I've thought about this and it seems to me that just treating them as units, without worry to organizational level, makes it feel more game-like. It's one of the things about G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. that I like - that sliding-scale zoom (I keep meaning to play a WWII version of G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., note to self).

This was also the first outing where I worried about movement distances but that was easily resolved using Featherstone's simple WWII rules.

Armor rules, which I had barely thought about yet, were quickly determined using THW's Nuts! 2.0. With the values there for front, back and side armor, I determined that a bazooka was +1 die weapon against armored vehicle, while a StuG got +3 defense dice for attacks from the front, +2 dice on the side, and +1 die for the rear. 

The scout car would get +1 defense die because I assumed it was moving quickly unless otherwise noted and that a rifle platoon could attack a scout car by targeting the occupants, whereas the bazooka section could target the car itself or the occupants.

One of several attempts by the bazooka section to knock out the StuG. Only one hit made it through, although it did reduce the effectiveness of the StuG a bit.
The StuG also got +2 dice for its gun when attacking (MMG or main gun wasn't relevant to me). 

At this point, I thought, "Hey, I could still win this."
I have no idea why I thought that; that LMG team is part of an SS unit firing safely from cover in the village (the rest of the figures fit in the house).

Using the cliches as I have for infantry, it means it takes 3 hits to knock out an AFV, but I  kind of like that (at this scale, assuming a company battle, it's probably a troop of tanks). Still, I may look into the Lucky Shot rule in the Risus Companion (I think it's in there) just to make single shot knockouts a possibility.

After the StuG unit eliminated the last of my remaining rifle unit on turn 8, the company commander ordered the bazooka section to fall back. The day was lost.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheap and Easy Ruins + Some Infantry

Continuing the project I began here, I coated two of the styrofoam-chunks-on-CD bases with black acrylic. 

Problem: The paint easily scrapes off of the CD surface.
Solution: Spread PVA (polyvinyl acetate. I used regular ol' Elmer's white glue) onto the CD, and let dry. THEN paint black on CD. Works like a charm.

Last night, I dry brushed with some light grey craft paint, and then an even dryer brush of the same paint but with white paint added (50/50).

Those cat hairs are not on your screen. Trust me.

I'm pretty happy with them, although they do not at all fit my usual style. It seemed silly to throw out the sytrofoam when my housemate had so much of it for free. I could probably cover a 3x3 table easily with the amount I have, maybe more.

I think, with the outer smooth level picked/scrapped/broken off, they could possibly make decent bocage as well. I have a definite "toy style" idea for that already, so I will likely stick to ruins.

Also pictured are the four Toy Soldiers of San Diego US infantry I have completed, so far, to go with my Britains. 

They were coated with PVA for primer, painted (mostly Vallejo, some craft), and then coated with PVA again for protection. I'll probably still hit them with Dulcoate - some pooled PVA in deep crevices got kind of shiny.

I dry brushed their bases to get them to match the Britains bases - not something I'd have done ordinarily, but they do blend in pretty well.

World War Risus: Part III - Initiative and Activation

(this is the third part of a mini mini- series)

Activating a Unit:

I like wargames where it's not a given that your force will do exactly what you want when you want it. It also seemed to me that knowing how much, or even whether, a unit can do anything should be less of a function of who's turn it is, and more of a function of the unit's leader.

When i first started down this path, i was thinking of something like Donald Featherstone's 10 figure companies, where the company HQ and platoon HQs are abstractly part of the group.

In my case, I was imagining 9 figure platoons - 3 figures per section, without any specific representation of the HQ. But that didn't really jive with my design goal, which was to achieve a game where leadership plays an important role.

And so, the platoon and company HQs found their way onto the table, with the same 3 cliches as the squads.

After several test games, I found myself bouncing back and forth between two methods of activation: one is a variant of the "pips=commands" approach using successes instead of pips (call this Method 1), and the other is what I describe as top-down-distributed-success (Method 2).

In Method 1, only a portion of a side's units will even get a chance to act in any given turn, barring some fantastic dice rolling. In Method 2, every unit rolls its leadership dice, so although they may not all get to take any action, the odds are higher that any given unit will do something. It does, however, take more dice rolling to determine who will do what.

Either way, at the start of a turn, both sides roll for all of their company HQs. The side with the most total successes goes first. Keep track of the successes rolled by each company HQ as they need them for activation.

Method 1:
A company HQ can use the successes for its own actions (see below or it can activate one platoon HQ or one squad in line of sight, per success. A platoon HQ may be assigned more than one activation. It is possible some or all platoons will not be activated.

For each activated platoon HQ, roll the platoon HQ's leadership cliche and count successes. They may use the successes for their own actions, or activate as many squads under their command  as successes. If there are more successes than squads, more than one activation may be given to a squad. It is possible some or all squads will not be activated.

At the squad level, roll the squad's leadership dice and the number of successes dictate how many actions the unit can take. It's possible that an activated squad still doesn't do anything.

Any unit that receives more than one activation, completes the 2nd activation only after both sides have finished the 1st activation for all units which were activated. Those with 3 actions, wait to complete the 3rd action only after both sides have completed all 2nd activation, and so on.

When all activation are completed the turn ends.

Method 2:
A company HQ can use the successes for its own actions or distribute the success to any friendly unit under its command.

Each platoon HQ rolls their leadership cliche and counts the successes, including any it received from the company HQ, and can use the successes for its own actions or distribute the successes to any squad under its command. 

At the squad level, roll their leadership cliche and count the successes, including any it received from the company HQ and/or the platoon HQ. The successes are used for the squads actions and cannot be distributed further.

When all units have completed their activation, the turn ends.

Actions and their Cost:

Actions include: Move, Shoot, Rally, Close Assault, Spot (for artillery). More can obviously be added.

Each turn, the first action of a given type, e.g. Move,  costs 1 success. 

Successes not used are lost. There is no saving of actions for later.


My US MMG section with the By the Book NCO, rolls their 3 leadership cliche and gets 3 successes. They opt to move, and then fire at an enemy unit. The 3rd action is unused.

Each additional attempt of the same action during a single activation requires 2 successes be spent, not one.

For example:

My US MMG section with the By the Book NCO, rolls their 3 leadership cliche and gets 3 successes. They opt to fire 2x and have used up all three successes (1 for the first shoot action, and then 2 for the second shoot action)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

A few weeks/month ago, I stumbled on a paper craft site that had a paper evergreen tree design, designed to be printed and cut on one of those automatic doo-dads (yes, doo-dad). The pieces were then assembled - the automatic cutting doo-dad presumably makes the pieces uniform so the edges match up.

The result is something like my Seussian trees, but with a much simpler assembly.

Then, a serendipitous acquisition of a discounted pack of shades of green cardstock at Michael's set the plans in motion: i would use my mechanical cutting doo-dad, i.e. scissors, and attempt to replicate the idea.


Dawn patrol.

Just what I wanted!

What the above picture shows is 3 different trees, made by three different methods. And I have tried many more. I'm not uber-concerned with ratty, not perfectly aligned edges (from wargaming distance they aren't noticeable) but I am looking for a faster method to make each tree, so I can really crank them out.

As an aside, the great downfall of the craft foam Seussian trees is how long they take to assemble.

One method I hit upon, that seems to work well is illustrated below:

Here is a real-life example:

 At first my plan was to use it as a simple triangle, no "boughs."

If this was a mid-century modern wargaming setup, maybe that would be fine, but to me it looked like a paper airplane on end.

So, a few snips of the mechanical cutting doo-dad and voila!

They mix in well with my craft foam trees, so I haven't lost that effort. At minimum, I'm shooting for a dozen trees, but two dozen is probably ideal. 

At 1-2 sheets of cardstock, depending on the width, I can make something like 50-100 trees, at a cost of $0.03 usd  to $0.06 usd, per tree!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

World War Risus - Part II

Welcome back, soldier.

Here we're going to talk about using the cliches in a game. Think of this as a working draft, rulings not rules, etc.

(this is the second part of a mini mini- series)

Using the Cliches

General note:

In order to keep things moving, especially since I almost always play solo, rather than summing up cliche dice when they are rolled, I opted to count 5s and 6s (this idea is borrowed from Risus Skirmish, but also lines up with more traditional wargames). 

A 5 or 6 is a "success."

Let's start with the easiest use of cliches (as in, easiest for me to decide upon). Please note, this is out of order in relation to some concepts - don't worry, in the end, I'll make it all nice and neat and presentable.

Ranged Combat:

The attacker must have Line of Sight (LOS) to the target.  Units have line of site to the far side of a terrain object but not through one. Other units, friendly and non-friendly, block LOS. (Pretty much taken from Risus Skirmish, which I believe gets this from Crossfire)

Roll the Combat Effectiveness cliche (CE) of the attacker adding weapons modifier dice if any.

The target rolls their CE + cover modifier (if any) + armor modifier (if any)

Compare successes, if the defender wins or it's a tie, the target then rolls its Morale cliche:

  • If no successes, it is forced back 1 move and is pinned.
  • If 1 or more success it carries on normally
If the attacker has more successes, the defender loses 1 die from its CE cliche, regardless of how many successes the attacker rolled - which is pretty much inline with standard Risus.

The target then rolls its Morale cliche:

  • If no successes, it loses 1 die from its Morale cliche, is forced back 1 move and is pinned.
  • If 1 success, forced back 1 move and pinned.
  • If 2 or more successes, carries on normally.

Shooting Modifiers (infantry):

  • +1 - better weapons - MMG/Lt Mortar
  • +2 - HMG, Artillery, Flame Throwers, Infantry anti-tank weapons
Defensive modfiers:

  • +1 - Concealing cover - woods, rough ground 
  • +2 - Heavy cover - building, ruins, thick woods, etc. 
Optional, and recommended, rules: The above work OK, but they can take some time to play out even a small combat. The rules below speed things up considerably.

If the shooting unit exceeds the target's successes by 2 or more then the target loses 2 CE dice. This makes some weapons, like HMGs and artillery, much more dangerous.

Also, one thing I've noticed in my play testing thus far has been the general lack of impact of the Morale cliche, so, if the shooting unit's total exceeds the target's successes by 2 or more then the target automatically loses 1 die from its Morale cliche (and then uses the new value to roll its Morale cliche test as above).


****This is in need of more testing but here it is for now****

Occurs when two opposing units are in base to base contact.

In order to move into melee, the active unit must score at least one success by rolling its Morale cliche. If failed, no movement occurs and no further actions can be taken this turn.

If a unit is being charged, it also rolls its Morale cliche dice and if no success, falls back one move.

If contact is made, Treat as a normal Risus combat between two characters, using the CE cliche of both sides. There are no modifiers for cover for either side. 

The losing side is removed from the table(CE is 0. In a campaign game, there may be survivors, they may have fled, etc. In a one-off, dead dead dead.)

Wounds/Damage/Loss of Morale:

If a unit reaches a CE of 0 dice  it is no longer combat effective. It may be that everyone is dead, or just a few are, or that they're exhausted from the experience, shell shocked, etc. It is removed from the table

If a unit reaches a Morale cliche of 0, the unit will flee the field or surrender.

Cliche Dice Recovery

Unlike in Risus, units do not automatically gain all of their cliche dice back when the combat ends. This is a wargame and, generally speaking, the whole thing is a series of combats. 

CE dice represent permanent loss for the duration of the battle, with the following exception: if the winner of a melee lost any CE dice during the melee, they may regain 1 CE die at the end of the turn (as opposed to just the melee).

Morale dice can be regained if a unit leader spends an action rallying the unit. (Spends an action? You'll have to wait until next time)

Recovering Morale Dice

Roll the Leader's cliche dice, if they have any success, increase the Morale cliche by one die, not to exceed the value the unit began the battle with.

Optional rule:
Roll the Leader cliche vs the unit's Morale cliche. If the Leader cliche scores more successes, the unit gains back 1 Morale die, not to exceed the value the unit began the battle with.

Or, use the optional rule above, but allow a unit to increase its morale beyond the value it began the battle with to allow for a truly motivational leader.

Next Time, the thing that gave me fits but I think I have resolved to my satisfaction: Activation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Upside-Down Flintrubble Bubble Cake (Not Really)

I found myself with an abundance of packing Styrofoam (the bead-y kind, not peanuts or anything) and I knew that I would do something with it, I just didn't know what.

That was, until I saw this video from TheDungeonMasterG on making "no-trouble rubble."

He makes a pretty small disk to mount the rubble on, but he's working with 28mm minis, I'm working with 1/32 figures. So, CDs it is!

I'm clearly not done yet (painting black and grey/white dry brushing remain), but you can get the idea:

The wooden "beams" are fireplace matchstick pieces

I suppose if I was playing a Stalingrad scenario or something and snow was on the ground, these would work as is. 

In retrospect, I'm not a huge fan of the round basing for the rubble,but I have a ton of blank CDs I'll never use for anything.

World War Risus: Part 1

This was inspired by the artwork in Risus.
Impressed? You should be.
I've had NO formal art training!

I thought about buying Crossfire, or A Leader of Men, or Blitzkrieg Commander but then thought, hey wait a minute, I can just write my own game. Of course, I still might buy one or all of them when all is said and done, but it never hurts to try. 

Actually, that's not true, it can hurt a lot, but not in this particular situation.

My goal is to be able to play a platoon or company level game, but not at a 1:1 ratio - something more abstract, be it 1:3, 1:5, or 1:10, and something more about leadership, morale and training than about weapon types, armor thickness, etc.

I've long had a fascination with Risus: The Anything RPG, although I've used it rarely. Risus Skirmish has also interested me, although, that, too, has seen little use on my part. I figured now was as good a time as any to rectify the situation and the concepts from which these guidelines spring can be found in Risus.

Unlike any other system I've seen, Risus explicitly states that you can create stats for a city, a planet, a ship, a gang, a person, all using the same system. It inherently supports the idea that a character does not correspond to an individual person, which will work perfectly well with assigning stats to a section/squad of infantry or to the crews of a unit of vehicles.

The Basics:

Ground Scale: What?
Time Scale: Seriously?
Figure Scale: Whatever you want. 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, up to 1:10/12 i guess (which covers most nations, in terms of max strength of a squad/section).
Basing: Whatever makes you happy. FYI, my figures are all individually based.

The focus here is on units. I don't care how you represent them, but they should be thought of and moved as squads/sections.

Again, the idea is that this is a higher level we’re concerned with and not with what Smith is doing, or whether Wesson has the grenade or not, but whether the section is combat effective, if it’s still on the field, whether the leader is getting them to do anything, etc.

Similarly, weapon types only matter in a broad sense.

Defining Your Sections:
Because Risus is generic, and the players generate their own stats (called Cliches in Risus-speak), it accommodates whatever concepts you think define the character. In this case, what I think define a section in terms of the soldiers themselves.

Like Tunnels & Trolls, Risus has the unfortunate reputation for being "not serious", and thus only good for "not serious" things. Both are deeply wronged by that mistaken conclusion.

Still, I enjoy the sometimes goofy multi-word cliches, and so I started with cliches that were in the typical Risus mold to define the unit in game terms. 

For example: 

Veteran US MMG Section Fighting for Mom, Apple pie and Kid Brothers Everwhere(4) [in Risus, the number in parentheses indicates how many d6 are assigned to that cliche]

However, looking at that, you can see that there are multiple concepts rolled into that cliche. And that works in an RPG where you want to justify why you can use this or that cliche to do something. But a wargame, typically, has a far more limited choice of activity a character/section can engage in and situations that might be encountered.

The other issue is, in Risus, damage in combat is removed from a cliche. Taking to heart that 3 dice for a cliche indicates a professional, a single hit (which isn't necessarily a soldier killed) would immediately turn a unit into something less effective in all areas.
And, that might be true often, but it doesn't seem always true, and certainly isn't the kind of game I want to play. I rather like the idea of a shot-up but inspired unit with a strong leader that keeps fighting against impossible odds.

So, naturally, I split the concepts apart to make them more atomic:

Veteran US MMG Section(4)
By the Book NCO (3)
Fighting for Mom, Apple pie and Kid Brothers Everywhere (4)

Now, that's more like it. 

I know about the unit's leader's ability, the unit's motivation/morale and their combat ability (at this point, weapon type is wrapped up in the description of their combat training and ability, just hold your horses).

This looks a lot more like a traditional Risus character with multiple cliches, but, this is clearly more than the usual 10-dice build. I believe that when a concept ceases being useful, discard it, so I immediately dropped that convention.

It also occurred to me that I'd probably spend too much time coming up with cliches every time, so I have the following boring ones to use in a pinch (the descriptors of the dice values comes from A Leader of Men):

  • Combat Effectiveness() where 2=Green, 3 = Average, 4 = Veteran, 5 = Elite, etc. This reflects the units training and combat experience and also the general combat health of the unit, and measures how well the troops can do what they are asked.It makes no mention of weapon types!
  • Leadership() where 2= Poor, 3= Average, 4 = Above Average, 5=Exceptional, etc. This is simply how good the a leader is at motivating units to do something.
  • Morale() where Low Morale(2), Determined(3), Aggressive(4) , Fanatic(5). Essentially this is how willing the troops are to do what they are asked.
I prefer the more light-hearted cliche descriptions, but the three boring descriptions capture what's essential and should form the basis of any wordier concepts.
Next time, I'll look at the game turn and how the cliches come into play.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

TSSD US Soldier to Lead W. Britains into Battle

On Sunday, I had the brilliant idea to test the use of white glue as a primer on plastic figures, and what better place to try it than with my TSSD US infantry. I was smart and chose just one.

The undiluted glue went on easily enough, although it was a little bit of effort to get it into all of the cracks and crevices. When dry (nope, sorry, no pictures), it gave the figure a sheen of protective PVA. 

Monday night, I decided to paint the figure, start to finish. The paint went on easily and, once dry, seems to stick well. When it's wet, well, it definitely came off more easily - every time I accidentally brushed against a wet part, the paint came off right down to the PVA. 

It only took the bulk of the night to learn that lesson. But he's done now, and I'm rather happy with him. I think a protective PVA top coat is probably in order.

Here he is, with a Britain:

Are you sure this is Utah beach?

A more "serious" composition:

Only tangentially related: about two weeks ago now, I decided to switch up my setup once again. 

It will be hard to be more low budget than this: the surface is a 3' x 4' Elmer's brand tri-fold display board (corrugated cardboard), the forests are construction paper and the hills are scrap cardboard. 

Don't worry, I'm not giving up on my Seussian trees (although I may try a new paper tree), I just didn't feel like carrying them downstairs when I played this game of Nuts! 2.0:

My squad in the foreground. Russian PEFs clumped to the left. 
OK, that Russian horde looks a touch ludicrous in that little patch of forest, but it was still fun!
I realize this is very much a love it or hate it affair. 

Me? I love it!

This actually looks a lot like I had been picturing my ideal setup in my head. Not a thing realistic about it - it screams "game with toys." And that's pretty much what I've been striving for. 

The hills are what make it for me I think; they are completely absurd. I think when the trees are in place, it'll be even better.

It took me awhile to get here, but I got here!