Sunday, April 24, 2016

Four More Against Darkness

I've been having fun with Ganesha Games's latest rules - Four Against Darkness (which I described a couple of week ago). Since then, I've posted a couple of adventures (like this one) on my Tales of the Templars blog.

Of course, being cursed with GADD (gamer's attention deficit disorder) I cannot envision myself being content with adventures in a single genre. Fortunately, I experienced some inspiration from the Rincon de Slorm blog where there is posted a sci-fi themed dungeon crawl using the 4AD rules. Slorm's variant is cleverly simple; keep the rules as is but just change the names of classes and monsters to fit the theme. Even I can do that!

Way back in January, my excursion into skirmish gaming began with a vision - pulp adventures in my 1930s-style, imaginary world of Aetheria. Nothing materialized with this setting because I never found paper miniatures that I liked. Well 4AD has given me the opportunity for a pulp-era dungeon-crawl. To that end, I give you Dirk Daring and his Thrilling Adventures in Aetheria!

Game Notes
Like Slorm, I did not change the rules; I just changed names to fit the theme. Hobgoblins became Imperial Guardsmen, a small dragon became a Dragon-class exoskeleton complete with flame-thrower, and various vermin became guard dogs. Their game stats remained the same.

I did something similar with the classes. Dirk (warrior) became a soldier while Boomer (wizard with fireball spells) became a demolitions expert. I didn't come up with new, formal class names for Sally and Fifi (halfling and elf respectively) but in my mind they were a mechanic sidekick and a secret agent.

I did make some tweaks. Because I could not see pulp-era heroes carrying shields, they lost the defensive benefit. I compensated with extra bandages (healing). For those characters who could use light armor, I assumed they had leather jackets that provided some protection.

Anyway, not only did I enjoy the game, I had fun coming up with pulp-themed translations of the monsters and treasures. As a final note, I think that my experiment showcases the versatility of 4AD and why it has quickly become one of my favorite games.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Air Raid Rules Experiment

After the Battle of Haines City, I expressed my dissatisfaction with my air battle rules. Specifically, units could not stack in a space. As a result, my bombers ended up remaining stationary while the fighter squadrons dueled. I would think that the bombers should continue to approach their targets, running the gauntlet of the dogfights swirling around them.

During the past week (when I wasn't playing Four Against Darkness), I jotted down some ideas for new air battle rules. This morning I did a test battle using a few squadrons per side.

Rules Description
Attacking units are classified as bombers, escorts (fighters that remain in the same space as the bombers) and free-roaming fighters. All defenders are considered free-roaming fighters.

The game turn sequence is simple:

  1. Activation/Movement (attackers first then defenders)
  2. Combat (simultaneous)

Bombers and their escorts automatically activation and move 1 space. Free-roaming fighters must roll for activation to move (using the Song of Blades and Heroes methodology); each successful activation allows them to move 1 space.

After movement, enemy aircraft in the same space engage in combat. Aircraft adjacent to a combat lend support (like DBA). Combat follows this sequence:

  1. Dogfights (fighters vs. fighters)
  2. Attack Bombers
  3. Anti-Aircraft Fire (if over cities)
  4. Bombing
Combat is resolved with opposed die rolls. Losing fighter squadrons are driven off (i.e. retreat) and may suffer damage while losing bombers suffer varying degrees of damage.

Today's experiment focused on activation/movement and dogfights/bomber combats. I don't have rules yet for phases 3-4 of the combat rules.

I liked how the movement rules worked. The bombers moved inexorably towards their target while the defenders frantically tried to intercept them. There were times when the roaming fighters failed activation and ended up sitting in the same space. I could justify it by saying that they were unable to spot the enemy so they were circling around while they tried to get a bearing.

I was less pleased with combat. If you read the battle report, you'll notice that there were only 2 "hits" during the entire game. In most cases, the result was "driven off." It felt more like a shoving match than air combat. I'm toying with the idea of making combat a bit bloodier.

Overall, the attackers were very successful in this scenario. Most interceptors failed to get through the escorts to the bombers. I think some randomness may have skewed the results so more experimentation is needed.

Edit: One other note - These rules were designed for a 6 x 6 grid with squares large enough to fit multiple squadrons. Because my air battle board features smaller spaces, I may need to rethink the spatial relationships. I may allow 2 spaces per move and combat occurs when adjacent.

Raid on Coventia

A Side Show of the Lucranian Campaign

While the Battle of Haines City raged, the Imperials launched smaller raids on other Lucranian cities. Coventia was one of the unlucky targets.

An escorted bomber squadron approaches Coventia while another Imperial squadron flies nearby. Three Lucranian intercept squadrons (blue) scramble.

As the bombers draw closer, a Lucranian squadrons sights the enemy and speeds off to intercept.

The combatants draw closer

But the Imperial escorts drive off the defending interceptors.

Again the defenders lose and the bombers are over the city, dropping their payloads on the unfortunate city.

As the bombers turn for home, the defenders finally get past the escorts and inflict casualties on the bomber squadron.

The escorts rally and drive off the interceptors.

The Lucranians pursue

Again the escorts hold off the attacks and the bombers make their escape.

The successful raid brightens Air Marshal Gruber's otherwise bad day.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Battle of Haines City

Battle 4 of the Lucranian Campaign

After the Battle of Mount Branson, the Empire of the Iron Fist had secured the passes into Lucranian airspace. A flood of Imperial squadrons swarmed over Lucrania, their bombers wreaking havoc on the cities below.

General Lubomire, commanding the Lucranian Air Force, sent reinforcements to cover some of the more vulnerable cities. One of these was Haines City, where Imperial and Lucranian forces collided.

Opposing Forces
Empire - 3 pursuit, 1 attack, and 2 bomber squadrons
Lucrania - 3 pursuit and 2 attack squadrons + anti-aircraft artillery in Haines City

Battle Report
A patrol of Imperial pursuit aircraft advanced toward Haines City, but the defending forces are arriving in force.

The remaining Imperials, including 2 squadrons of bombers, approach the city.

Dogfights begin. The Imperial bombers are stuck in a holding pattern until the fighters clear the airspace.

But an Imperial pursuit squadron is decimated

Heavy fighting occurs over Haines City.

A Lucranian attack squadrons flanks on the left. The Imperials take heavy damage, losing 2 more squadrons.

The Lucranian pursuit squadrons go after the enemy bombers.

Inflicting damage on the invaders.

The Imperial attack squadron made a run for the city but was shot down.

Alone and with Lucrianian pursuers swarming around them, the Imperial bombers turned for home. The battered defenders, glad to see the tails of their enemies, broke off the pursuit.

A few hours later, Air Marshal Gruber read the reports of the action. He looked dismayed. Once again, the Lucranians had thwarted his plans; the Emperor would not be pleased. He would need to make one massive push in order to break the Lucranian resistance.

Campaign Notes
With the Lucranian victory, the victory tally stands at 2-1-1 in favor of the Imperials. There is one more game left; the Lucranians can score a draw in the campaign with a victory in the finale. Will Gruber get his victory or will he face the wrath of the Emperor?

Battle Notes
Today's scenario was # 16 Advance Guard from Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. It features two forces, each heading to occupy a town, running into each other. I modified it a bit. The Imperials needed to bomb the city while the Lucranians needed to prevent that from happening. Other than the city in the middle of the board, the terrain was rolled randomly. The mountains were considered impassable. Planes could fly into the clouds, but like woods in a ground-based game they gave cover to units in them.

I modified the rules slightly. Like my skirmish rules, I made the to hit number = 4 for all attacks (instead of having different target numbers depending on the type of aircraft). To account for the differences in durability, I gave each type a differing number of dice for saving rolls. As I've noted before. it seems easier to remember the number of dice than the number to hit. I don't know why that is, but it works for me. With this change, I'm not sure how to incorporate forced retreats. As a result, I did not use any during the game. Given how the squadrons were all bunched together, it probably would have helped.

This game exposed what seems to me to be a massive flaw in the rules. Currently, I do not allow squadrons to share a space. As a result, a squadron can block an enemy's path. I always justified it by saying that the unit in the space controlled that airspace. Attackers would need to defeat them to take over the airspace. This logic works fine for clashed between fighter squadrons but, I think it breaks down with bombers (shouldn't the bomber "always get through"?). In this game, the bombers got stuck behind the lines of fighters, "circling" while they waited for an avenue to advance. I'm thinking that they should be allowed to continue through the line of fighters (fending off attacks all the while) on their way to their target. I suppose I could model this by allowing bombers to share a space with other aircraft. I need to ponder this problem.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fun Against Darkness

I've been feeling guilty about eschewing miniatures for my virtual battles so I planned on reviving my Aetheria campaign (with a game like this). An injured cat waylaid those plans, but I also got distracted by a new game - Four Against Darkness by Ganesha Games.

Four Against Darkness (4AD) is a fast-play, random dungeon-crawl game that is excellent for solo play. The player (or players) form a party of 4 characters (hence the Four part of the title) that delve into the dark of a dungeon. Character classes are basic (warrior, cleric, rogue, wizard, barbarian, elf, dwarf, or halfing).

What, no paladin?! Heresy I say!
Once you begin adventuring, random rolls determine the rooms, enemies, treasures, etc. Of course, random dungeon crawls aren't necessarily novel, but one thing I found unique was the method of mapping the dungeon. There are several pages of room drawings (like the one below) with the rooms given a numeric key.

A quick roll of two D6s will give you a new room. You map it and then roll to determine its contents. Another interesting facet is the quick-play combat system. Roll D6 + mods greater than the monster's level to get a hit. Minions (weaker monsters) can only take 1 hit so a battle against a horde of them will only take a couple of minutes. Boss monsters have a life pool but even then the fight should go quick. The simple system will allow you to finish a dungeon lickety-split. Another neat feature is that it requires very few supplies. Graph paper and some dice are all you need (although you could use miniatures). Thus, it is quick and easy to play.

This morning, I created a party consisting of a warrior, cleric, rogue, and wizard and began exploring the dungeon.

My party's dungeon
So far, they have chased off some vampire bats and goblins, defeated a troll, found a clue (2 more will reveal a secret of the dungeon), solved a puzzle, a killed a giant spider. There's still plenty more in store. I'll post a complete game report when I finish the dungeon.

According to the rules, one's first game should take a little over an hour and experienced players should take around 45 minutes. In one gaming session, one should finish an entire dungeon. I'm going at a much slower pace. For one thing, I set up an Excel file to handle recording the dungeon; setting up the file delayed me a bit. Also, I am referring to a PDF version of the rules. There are quite a few tables and I find myself jumping back and forth throughout the book. It would be nice if there were an appendix with all the tables in one location.

Another potential flaw is the table-driven enemies. I could see adventures getting a little stale as you keep fighting the same enemies. Ganesha Games have promised expansions, which I imagine will alleviate repetitiveness. Perhaps they'll also add a paladin class.

Nevertheless, this game is great fun. You get the feeling of a dungeon crawl in a fraction of the time (and with the fraction of the effort). I will definitely keep playing, and am looking forward to the expansions.

One blogger mentions a game report contest. I can't find a reference to it on the Ganesha Games site but I'm going to try to enter.