Saturday, February 27, 2016

Another Virtual Experiment

After my enjoyable experiences with virtual skirmishes and a dungeon crawl, I decided to try my hand at a large-scale battle (and in my terms, large scale is using One Hour Wargame scenarios and army lists).

My first mission was to build the virtual board. Once again, I did it in PowerPoint and created a 6 x 8 grid. Initially, I was going to use Google Earth images for the terrain. I planned to use Junior General top-down paper minis so I thought that realistic terrain would clash with drawn miniatures. I opted instead for more of a toy soldier terrain with images of items that I currently use for my games. The ground is a picture of olive green felt. I made woods from a picture of a Scott's scrub brush. Using Paint, I cut out an irregular shape. Similarly, I cut out a shape from a picture of greenish cork board for the hills. Finally, a picture of blue acetate became a river. Here is the set up for my test battle.

As mentioned, my initial plan was to use Junior General top-down miniatures. However, I had issues scaling them down to a size that fit my squares. They turned out looking like black blob, and I could not distinguish colors to tell one side from the other. Eventually, I opted for basic geometric shapes from PowerPoint.

Below are the 2 armies on the board, ready for a battle in medieval Francesia. (Note that this is not a particular scenario. I just plopped some terrain and troops on the board then went at it.) The Redgravian army (yellow and red) consists of 4 units of heavy infantry, a warband, and a cavalry unit. The Imperials (gray and blue) muster 4 heavy infantry and 2 archers.

The units are functional but not as attractive as I'd like. I saw some pictures online where someone created a virtual battle using photos of actual figures. I may do that with my troops.

As the battle progressed, I used virtual tokens to indicate the action. Blood spatters indicated hits, crossed swords showed units in melee, and white dotted arrows represented archery volleys.

 The battle broke down into 2 distinct combats.

  • On the right, 2 Imperial units held the hill against an onslaught of Redgravians
  • On the left, the Redgravians advanced between 2 woods towards a lone hill

 The Imperials held the hill on the right but the Redgravians broke through on the left.

The victorious Imperial infantry advanced to the left to aid its beleaguered comrades

But ultimately they were whittled down by the combined attacks of 2 Redgravian units.

I reached 15 turns at this point so I called the battle in favor of the Redgravians.


  • The virtual tabletop has a definite advantage in set up. It is far less effort than setting up actual miniatures.
  • Additionally, I can leave the battle set up over multiple days. This allows me to play a turn here and there as time permits.
  • Moving the pieces is actually more difficult in my virtual tabletop. Actually, moving is not a problem but it is a paint to rotate the units. Because I used shapes, I have to go to the image menu and select rotate to change directions. I think it may not be a problem if I use pictures.
  • I love the look of the battlefield but the units are lacking. I'm thinking of photographing actual miniatures.
  • I am slightly dissatisfied with my grid. A 6 x 8 grid works great for my skirmishes, but I much prefer my portable wargame's 6 x 9 grid for larger battles. I break it into 3 sectors of 3 squares each then randomly allocate units to a sector.
  • Nevertheless, the experiment has promise and will continue.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On Virtual Skirmishing

Over the last month I have been experimenting with sci-fi skirmishes. I don't currently have figures or terrain so I have been playing the games on a virtual board, like this:

However, I stated that I wanted to transition to a real board. To that end, I recently purchased a cork board and gridded it for use in skirmishes.

I have a bunch of sci-fi paper miniatures files. I planned to print them out for use on my new board. But then I discovered that our printer is on the fritz so I have no way of printing them out.

Interestingly, I'm not that disappointed; I am actually enjoying the virtual board. I tried a virtual board before for horse and musket battles but was not satisfied. Yet these skirmishes seem to work great on a virtual board. It's easier to set up (in fact, I usually set up the scenario during the week and then play the game on the weekend). Furthermore, I don't have to worry about painting, printing, or storage. I am so satisfied that I now plan to continue these virtual skirmishes for the time being.

In fact, I am considering converting some of my miniatures projects to a virtual board! I've been thinking about it and am wondering if my aversion to the horse and musket virtual game was due to the units. I either used blocks or front facing figures. Now I think that top-down blocks may work best. I started putting together some medieval top-downs. We'll see how that goes.

Does this mean that I am done with miniature wargaming? Who knows where my GADD will take me? I just know that the virtual board has increased the number of games I've been playing.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Virtual Fantasy Dungeon Crawl

I've been having so much fun with my sci-fi skirmishes on a virtual board that I have been pondering extending it to other periods. Today, I started messing around with a virtual dungeon crawl.

Here is the dungeon map. I kept it small on purpose. My characters have only discovered 2 rooms so far. The Templar cross identifies where the party is.

Here is a small room. Rowan (a paladin) and Jacor (a cleric) have just defeated 2 goblins.

Here is a corridor. Again, they tangle with goblins. The beam coming from Jacor is a holy power that allows him to smite enemies. It acts like a ranged attack.

And now they are in a large room with acid-spitting worms. Jacor has taken a hit. I changed how I represented his holy smite, making it easier to position on the board.

So far so fun. I'll ultimately post the game report on Tales of the Templars.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Space Escape Rules

I picked up Tales of the Space Princess a few years ago.

While I have never run it straight as written, it has influenced much of my sci-fi gaming. One aspect of the rules that I have found inspirational is the "space battles" section. Now these are not large-scale epic battles with dozens of ships. Instead, they are simpler affairs where the heroes are trying to escape from the dark lord's lair while pursued by a few elements of his fleet, much like the Millennium Falcon's escape from the Death Star. This seemed like such as neat feature that I have incorporated it into my RPG rules, and now my skirmish rules as well.

Last week, I described the beginning of a skirmish adventure with my heroes Kate and Kip. They are trying to escape from a space station rife with Imperial troopers. Today I finished their adventure (report over at Tales of the Templars). Today's episode featured a space battle akin to those outlined in Space Princess. Here's a sample (I used my virtual board again).

Kate and Kip in trouble.
Notice the status display in the upper right
The turn sequence works like this:

  1. Navigation check - The heroes try to prepare their jump. They need 4 successes (over multiple turns if needed) to jump.
  2. Engineering check - Heroes make repairs or try to provide extra power to systems.
  3. Pilot check - The heroes' pilot tries to outrun or outmaneuver the pursuers. The enemy will also roll pilot checks. If the heroes get more successes they can increase their lead over the enemy; if the enemy is more successful it will draw closer.
  4. Gunnery phase - the opponents shoot at each other.
I track damage for the heroes using the status display. Hits can damage the hull, engines, or weapons (with resulting penalties). I don't bother with such details for the enemies. I just track hits with each hit causing an across the board penalty to all systems (yes, I'm unfair to the enemy).

Overall, the rules worked well. I definitely felt suspense as it looked bleak for Kate and Kip early on. I changed the pilot rules on the fly. Initially, I rolled a pilot check. A success would give a bonus to the movement roll. I then combined the pilot and movement rolls together. It streamlined the game but I may still tinker with the rules. Initially, a successful pilot check allowed the heroes to "escape" (add to their movement roll) or evade (add to their defense roll). When I combined them, I allowed the player to allocate dice to escaping or evading. It turns out that I always threw my full dice allocation into escaping. Their does not seem to be any motivation to evade. I'll have to think about it.

Nevertheless, it was a quick and enjoyable scenario. What a great way to end a mission!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sneaky, Sneaky

I started another adventure with my sci-fi secret agents, Kate and Kip. You can find the report on my Tales of the Templars blog. Here is the link: Part 1 - Sneak Attack!

Here is a preview
Imperial soldiers block their exit.
How will Kate and Kip escape?
And a few notes:

The Adventure
I rolled on my random adventure table (shown here) and got a 613 - Escape from a Spaceship while opposed by Invaders (additional roll resulted in Imperials). For narrative purposes, I decided to change spaceship to a space station.

I then rolled randomly on the tables below to determine how long the adventure would last.

Board 1: 1-5 = continue to next board; 6 = complete
Board 2: 1-3 = continue to next board; 4-6 = complete
An adventure will never go beyond board 3.

In this case, I rolled a 3 for board 1, so the adventure would continue. I actually rolled a 5 for board 2 but decided to add a third board as an experiment (which I will describe in a later post)

Given the scenario, it seemed logical for the heroes to try to reach their ship at the docking bay. I then decided to set board 1 as a series of corridors with board 2 as the docking bay itself. I also wanted to experiment with ship vs. ship rules, so that became board 3.

I designed part 1 primarily as a means to experiment with stealth rules. The twisting corridors gave the heroes a chance to sneak up upon the enemy. When moving, a hero rolled a number of D6s equal to their Stealth rating. Any enemy within 4 spaces would then roll D6s equal to their Defense. Successful Defense rolls negated successful Stealth rolls. If there are any successful Stealth rolls remaining then the enemy does not notice the hero. The enemy gets bonuses to Defense if the heroes are in direct line of sight (because of this rule, it is crucial to know the enemies' facings; the blue triangles indicate this). The heroes can improve their odds (by reducing the number of Defense dice) by moving less than their full movement allowance for the turn. Until heroes are detected, the enemy will move randomly.

Spoilers! You may want to read the game report first
I gave Kate and Kip 3 Stealth dice (equal to their Attack dice). Because the soldiers had only 1 Defense die, the heroes had a decided advantage. Combined with the rule that allowed a sneak attack with a successful sneak, the soldiers never knew what hit them. Actually, the first soldier did detect Kate but Kip sneak attacked him. I arbitrarily ruled that he the attack would occur before he could sound the alarm. Kip took him out so the heroes remained unnoticed.

Despite the unbalanced nature of this scenario, I feel that the rules worked. To make things more interesting, I may reduce Kate and Kip's Stealth dice to 2.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on Skirmish Rules

Because the adventures of Kate and Kip are taking on a nice, rpg-like narrative, I decided to move their game reports to my Tales of the Templars  blog.  I recently ran a new adventure, Against the Antares, which you can access with these links:
Here is a picture to whet your appetite

And here are some thoughts on the games.

Although the rules are simple, I am really enjoying the games. The odds are stacked in the heroes' favor but the games have created some good narratives. The second encounter was a very tense affair, with the fate of Kate and Kip hanging in the balance until the very end!

I want to develop some rules regarding sneaking, stealthiness, and going unnoticed. At the beginning of Part 1, Kate and Kip are casually strolling through the terminal, hoping to make it past the bad guys. I was unsure how to resolve this. Initially, I used their attack dice (3) as a proxy for their stealth. The problem was that it seemed too easy; they got at least one success each turn and a fight seemed too easily avoided. I re-set and rolled only 1 die. Both characters failed miserably on their first turn, and the fight was on.

Now I am thinking I should have stuck with 3 dice but have the enemies roll a "defense" to determine their response. If they negated all the successful stealth rolls, then they would become aware and hostile to the heroes. I'll have to experiment.

Meaner Thugs
So far in my games, run-of-the-mill enemies (which I've called thugs or mooks) are rated as 2/1/1 (attack/defense/wounds). For Part 1, I intended to add a couple of harder enemies. One was supposed to have an extra attack die while another had more defense. I forgot to use them that way, so they were all 2/1/1 for this scenario.

I remembered to use the meaner thug in Part 2. Pug, Captain Mal's right-hand man fought with 3 dice. It turns out that he never managed to wound his target as Kate used cover to save her from damage.

Another rule I've been considering is out of ammo. My idea is that a roll of 2-3 ones (depending on the figure's base attack dice) results in it being out of ammo (or perhaps a jam instead; that way I can extend the time scale and assume that figures reload during their turns as appropriate). An out of ammo or jam result forces the figure to spend an action reloading or unjamming their gun. I just forgot to use it in both sessions. Perhaps it's more trouble than it's worth?

The Virtual Board and Paper Miniatures
I've played around with virtual boards before but hadn't been satisfied . However, I am really enjoying the virtual boards for Kate and Kip's adventures. Although I ultimately want to use actual miniatures, the virtual board is a great way to get in a game when I don't have the physical components.

For my skirmishes, I am leaning towards using paper miniatures. I started following Fantalonia and I must say that I like the look of his paper mini games.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Adventures of Kip and Kate

The Next Mission
The adventures of Kip and Kate began as an experiment using my latest skirmish rules (based on the Mice and Mystics board game). But they have taken on a life of their own and I plan to continue to play out games using them.

I have developed a table to determine future adventures.

Space Ship
The Law
Seedy Space Port
1.       Pirates
2.       Gangers
1.       Ice
2.       Jungle
3.       Desert
4.       Mountain
5.       Normal
6.       Exotic
1.       Imperials
2.       Brainiacs
3.       Robots
Attack / Defend
Moon or Asteroid
Other Scavengers

For their next adventure, I rolled a 326 - they need to destroy something at a seedy spaceport while opposed by other scavengers. I decided that they would attempt to blow up a rival's ship.

This mission left me a bit uncomfortable. I prefer my characters to be unquestioned "good guys." I'm a paladin at heart, after all. So I decided to change their backstory. Kip and Kate are actually agents of the Federation, the united government of many planets that spans half the galaxy. Our heroes operate in a fringe area of the Federation, where the law is more an oft-ignored suggestion. They pose as independent salvagers while they secretly combat the forces of anarchy and evil. If they ever have run-ins with the Law (enemy # 1) then they will tangle with corrupt officials in the backwaters of the galaxy.

Given their new backstory, their next mission takes on a new light. The Other Scavengers have been smuggling and secretly abetting the evil Empire that borders on the Federation. Kip and Kate plan to stop them by sabotaging their ship.

Stay tuned. I'm going to play this scenario this weekend.