Sunday, November 19, 2017

Machinas Test Drive

After picking up Machinas last week, I've been itching to give it a go. I decided to take it for a test drive this morning. I don't have cars or printed counters so I quickly drew a couple and used my Pathfiinder battle mat for the board.

For both vehicles, I rolled randomly on the non-player tables. The blue car (the good guy) has slightly better stats. (3 Savvy, 5 Tech, 3 Speed vs. 3/4/3). He also had armor-piercing ammo, a roll cage, and a box of nails (which I forgot to use). The black car had spiked wheels but old tires. For the most part, these attributes did not come into play

In my first trial, the raider (black car) tried to pass the Courier (blue). The Courier bashed, and flipped the raider. Game over in turn 1.

The second run was far less interesting. The raider drafted in the first two turns then tried to pass in turn 3. When he failed, he gave up the chase)

Game 3 involved a few desultory pass attempts. After 6 turns, the raider gave up.

My Thoughts
  • In general, the rules are solid. I picked them up easily and was able to speed through the games. In fact, set up was the hardest part!
    • To simplify set up, I am thinking of pre-generating a bunch of vehicles and recording their stats on index cards. If I need a vehicle, I can just pull one out of the pile of cards.
  • For solo play, keeping track of bonus dice seems like a chore. I already made a tweak to the rules and dispensed with initial bonus dice for the bad guys. I randomly rolled to give the good guy between 1 and 3 bonus dice to start.
  • I'm concerned that there might not be enough action. For the most part the game revolved around passing (which I think should really be called maneuvering) rolls. There was one bash, initiated by the lead car. After that, it did not seem advantageous for the lead car to bash so I kept holding off the challenge and waited for the enemy to break off.
    • I'm not sure if the problem was reducing bonus dice. I would think that it would offset. Perhaps I should also start the hero with 0, though that does not seem very heroic.
    • I also wonder if tone is due to these primarily being racing rules with an emphasis on jockeying for position. In contrast, I am most interested in combat.
    • Also, adding more raiders should make things more interesting. However, I wanted to start off simple for my initial test.
  • Despite my concerns, I see a lot of good ideas in these rules. I think I may be trying a bunch of tweaks to spice it up a bit.

Notes on Yesterday's Rules - Combat

Yesterday's battle allowed me to experiment with rules for very quick play battles (I did not time it but I think it took less than half an hour). I'll be posting some notes about them.

There are actually 2 types of combat - harassing and assault

  • Harassing involves artillery (each infantry division is assumed to have attached artillery), long-range musketry, and skirmishing. Harassing fire can occur at ranges of 1 to 2 spaces.
  • Assault involves a division launching an all-out attack on an adjacent enemy position. The goal is to cross bayonets, although it could devolve into close-range musketry.
Harassing fire is not going to break an enemy unit, but it will weaken the target. The commander will ultimately have to opt for an assault to rout out the enemy. An assaulting unit, however, is more likely to suffer casualties. In essence, assault is higher risk but higher reward.

Combat Resolution
Combat is based on the DBA system. I know I've written in the past that I don't like opposed die rolls for horse & musket era combat, primarily because they seem to abstract. However, given the scale of these rules (each unit = a division) then abstract feels right.

I changed the combat results. I did not like the "shoving match" feel of DBA. It just did not seem realistic for one unit to retreat, return to the fray and force its opponent to retreat, and back and forth. Retreating should be a serious, almost decisive, affair. Instead, a unit beaten in combat receives a morale marker. Morale markers make the unit harder to activate, more likely to get beaten in combat, and more likely to rout.

As I mentioned, harassing the enemy is lower risk. The attacker does not take a morale marker if it rolls lower than the enemy. However, there is no chance of forcing the defender to retreat or rout.

Assaults are riskier and deadlier. The attacker can suffer ill effects if the defender rolls higher. Yet an assault is necessary to take an enemy position. In an assault, a roll that doubles the opposition causes the loser to retreat one space. In addition, the retreating unit must make a morale roll to avoid a rout.

In general, I liked how this worked out. Harassing fire weakened enemy units, making them more brittle in later turns. Once an assault occurred, however, units remained locked in combat until a decisive result was reached. This just felt a little more realistic than a "shoving match."

Cavalry in Combat
For much of the horse & musket era, infantry was "Queen of the Battlefield" so I wanted to reflect that. This meant limiting the combat effectiveness of cavalry to a certain extent. I did this with a rule that forbade cavalry from assaulting infantry. However, cavalry can hang around the flanks, providing support to friendly infantry. And if a unit retreats with enemy cavalry on its flank, it is more likely to rout.

These rules did not really come into play in my sample battle because the cavalry divisions found themselves in a pitched melee on the flank throughout the entire battle.

Another feature is that cavalry cannot harass; it must assault if it wishes to engage in combat.

What About Artillery?
You may have noticed that I did not have any artillery units. As I mentioned, artillery is assumed to be parceled out and attached to the infantry. I am toying with rules for independent "grand batteries." They would have a range of 3, but once emplaced they cannot move.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Different

A miniatures game without miniatures!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm experimenting with rules for army level horse & musket battles using blocks. Here is my first attempt.

The forces of Redgrave and Bluderia face each other!
Rectangle blocks are infantry divisions while the squares are cavalry. The circle is the Commander-in-Chief. Each infantry division is assumed to have attached artillery. I am working on rules for grand batteries but they are not ready yet.

 After some maneuvering, Redgrave holds a hill and sends its cavalry forward.

A cavalry melee occurs on the flank. The Bluderian infantry is ordered to advance. The center, hammered by artillery fire, lags behind.
Notice the crosses drawn behind the center infantry. These are morale markers.

Routs! One of the Redgrave cavalry divisions and the Bluderian center rout from the field!

The Bluderian left faces 2 Redgravian divisions. In the face of superior numbers, it routs! The Bluderian commander calls retreat.
If 2 infantry divisions rout, the army is defeated.

I like the look of the game, and found it surprisingly satisfying! I will share rules details later. In brief, I'm using DBA mechanics. Instead of recoils, however, units receive a morale marker upon defeat. Morale markers act as negative modifiers to combat, increasing the odds that a unit will rout.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Some Random Projects

I'm experiencing some GADD (gamer's attention deficit disorder)

More Horse & Musket
While perusing Wargames Vault, I noticed this set of rules.

What struck me was how nice the blocks look, which has rekindled an interest in some generic block armies.

A couple months ago, I read a blog entry where the blogger created a game using colored blocks, like above. Rather than create realistic terrain, he chose to draw it on the board in a way that it looked like a map of the battle. It was really striking. I wish I could find that post again.

Anyway, I'm thinking of doing something similar. I have a Pathfinder battle mat that I might use for my battle board. I have some dry erase pens and can simply draw the terrain.

I just need to make up some blocks, and decide on the rules,

Speaking of rules, I've been jotting down ideas for a set for really quick play battles (15 minutes or so). They are at a high level so each unit is a wing of the army. There will be 3 wings, plus some independent cavalry. I'm leaning toward DBA mechanics. I hope to play test soon.

Lately on TMP and the Wargames Website, there have been a surge of posts about post-apocalyptic car battles, which has spurred my interest. Based on a review, I picked up Broken Axles. After reading it, however, I'm not sure if it will work for my small gaming space (it calls for a 48" wide board).

I have been following Kaptain Kobold's experiments with Machinas, by Two Hour Wargames.

I liked that movement in Machinas is somewhat abstracted - cars move respective of each other rather than across a board. The movement system seems more amenable to gaming in small spaces. So I picked up a copy!

I had been hesitant to pick up Machinas because I am not a fan of Two Hour Wargames. I can't really put my finger on it, but for some reason I struggle to understand his rules. However, having read through it last night, I think it will work for me. I like that it is somewhat abstracted. Aside from the movement mechanism I mentioned, it doesn't track every single weapon carried by the vehicle.

Naturally, I don't like the background and plan to develop my own. I am not interested in racing; instead I plan on running chases. I think I'll have the "good guys" be couriers who travel between the scattered pockets of civilization. They must contend with the denizens of the wastelands who try to stop them.

Now I need some cars. I will probably just use some counters. Nice that Machinas comes with some. Anyway, I hope to experiment soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering Our Vets

Thank you!

Russian Counterattack

With Halloween over, my interest in vampire hunting has waned, but I was hankering for a game this morning. I decided to pull out Manoeuvre and try out the last two armies - Russian and Prussian.

The Rules
I considered experimenting with different rules; this time I pondered using Horde of the Things. But those strength ratings on the counters pulled at me and I decided to use them. So I went back to Manoeuvre's combat rules, which are admittedly very HoTT-like. I rolled a D10 and added the unit's rating.

As you can see from the combat chart, it is difficult to eliminate an enemy (playing command cards make it easier, but I did not use the cards)

I used a somewhat different activation method than before. I would nominate a unit to activate and roll 1 die, trying to score <= their listed rating. If I failed, I would move on to the next unit. Two failures would end that side's turn. It worked well enough.

The Scenario
I decided to use a One Hour Wargame scenario, and chose #21 - Twin Objectives. I made the Prussians the defenders while the Russians attacked. I randomly pulled units from the counter bag. The opposing forces are as follows:

  • Prussians (defending) - 3 infantry (strengths of 6, 6, and 5) and 1 cavalry (str = 6)
  • Russians (attacking) - 5 infantry (str = 8, 7, 6, 6, 6) and 1 cavalry (str = 5)
The map is comprised of 4 tiles randomly selected from the Manoeuvre tiles. There is much more terrain on these tiles than the scenario calls for, which may make things tricky for the attacker.

The Russian objective is to seize the hill (bottom left) and village (top row). The Prussians have a difficult task - they are outnumbered, must hold two dispersed objectives, and have poorer quality units!

The Battle
As the Grande Armee retreats from its disastrous invasion of Russia, the Prussian contingent finds itself beset by the Czar's forces. General Schnapps orders his troops to hold a strategic hill and a small village.

However, Schnapps opts for a forward defense, and moves his troops up. The Russian attack quickly drives the defenders from the hill (bottom left)

The Russian Guards are reluctant to advance against the Prussian Dragoons (the Guards kept failing their activation roll even though they needed 8 or less on a D10!). Meanwhile, the Prussian infantry drives back its Russian counterparts.

The Russians are more successful on the left, pushing the Prussians away from the hill.

But a Russian counterattack routs a Prussian unit.

The Russian inexorably advance!

Although the Russians have taken heavy casualties (many of their units have taken a hit; 2 hits will break the unit) they manage to rout another Prussian unit.

The Dragoons retreat to the village.

And find themselves beset. Meanwhile, the last Prussian infantry routs (left)

And as dusk is falling, the Orlov Regiment drives the Dragoons out of the village!

Victory to the Russians!

Final Thoughts

  • All in all, an enjoyable battle that came down to the last turn. Of course, the Russians may have won more easily if the Guard could manage to activate!
  • And with this battle, I have completed my One Hour Wargame challenge. Over two years ago, I set myself a goal to play all 30 of Thomas's scenarios and this was the last one on the list!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Vampire Hunter

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have been working on a vampire hunting board game. Here is the latest prototype, with map and cards printed on card stock. Soda bottle tops and pennies serve as markers.

The goal of the game is to destroy Dracula. First, you must search for clues (the coins) to his whereabouts. Once you discover his lair, you confront him in epic combat. Along the way, you may encounter Dracula's minions, but may also pick up some useful equipment.

Overall, it has potential, although I think I need to tweak a few areas. Some positives:

  • It is easy to set up - just a board, counters for the players, and 2 decks of cards
  • Game length is short - less than an hour
  • There are some decisions to make - which actions to take each turn, what equipment to use
  • It involves dice-rolling
Some areas of improvement include:
  • Make it a little harder to find Dracula
  • Streamline combat a little bit?
  • Make it easier to heal
Anyway, my wife and I played last night. She was having success finding clues while I kept running into Dracula's minions. I piggybacked on her clues, however, and managed to track down Dracula on multiple occasions. I had worn him down and managed to attack him. With 6 dice, needing to roll 4 or better, here is what I rolled:

I had him! Or so I thought, until he successfully defended.

Later, I had him on the ropes once again but only rolled 2 successes on 6 dice. To survive, Dracula needed to tie my 2 successes, but he had 8 dice. The Dice Fates made up for my previous stroke of ill luck with this roll by Dracula:

 I had defeated the vampire lord!