Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year in Review - 2017

How did 2017 go? Let's take a peek at some highlights:

I got off to a fast start with the Six by Six Challenge, quickly finishing Four Against Darkness and fantasy battles with my homebrew rules. Here is an example of a fantasy battle with 3mm troops.

I started experimenting with boxed portable wargames, where everything I need fits into an A4 sized plastic box.

I even applied the portable wargame concept to dungeon crawls.

I did manage to complete some 2mm fantasy armies - Presteria (green bases - inspired by the legendary Prester John) vs. the Swartherians (desert nomads)

Then I went on an air combat kick, eventually adopting Kaptain Kobold's Spandau and Lewis as my go-to set of rules.

In September, we endured the wrath of Hurricane Irma. We were without power for 5 days during the most blistering part of the Florida summer.

Around that time, I started experimenting with various board games. This is Manoeuvre by GMT Games.

In October, I made my own Dracula-themed board game. It is inspired by Fury of Dracula but plays much quicker.

Manoeuvre led me to creating my own block armies. I cut up a Pathfinder battle mat and used dry-erase markers to create a simple, variable battle board.

Then I went on a post-apocalyptic road wars kick, eventually adopting Machinas for my games. This inspired me to watch Mad Max Fury Road, which I had not seen. I tend to agree with this review, even if it is a bit gratuitous with bad language.

Finally, I started messing around with rules for sci-fi bomber runs.

How did I do with my 2017 prognostications?

  • The Six by Six Challenge
    • I completed Four Against Darkness, and 3 miniature games (although 2 were mid-year substitutes)
    • I dropped DC Rivals instead of completing it. I came close but did not quite complete the replacement - Machinas.(I got 4 of 6 games in).
    • I did not dither on deciding the sixth game; I choose Ticket to Ride fairly early. I also only completed 4 of 6.
    • In all, I completed 4 games in the challenge and 32 out of 36 sessions.
  • Portable Dungeon Crawl - As predicted, I have a basic boxed set completed by the end of the year. I am using wood tokens and meeples instead of minis, but the set is functional.
  • A New Army - I did complete a new fantasy army (two in fact). They are my Presterians and Swartherians (mentioned above). It was 2mm instead of 3mm. I also created 2 air forces for battles in the skies of Aetheria (my 1930s-style imagi-nations)
  • Board Game Purge (Not!) - This never came up. My wife is tiring of board games so we did not pick up many new ones this year therefore did not have to worry about storage.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Raider Wreckage

After 4 games of Star Raiders, I have lost 2 ships (both on long raids - Zones 6 and 7).

Here is the latest debacle:

Early on, the raider was swarmed by 5 scout rockets. The gunners managed to destroy 3 and drive off 1.

Later, the raider ran through heavy AR (anti-rocket) artillery, taking out its shields and dramatically weakening the hull. Finally, the hull was breached and the raider destroyed.

I'm still tweaking the rules to improve survival odds. One idea I have is to add a repair phase at the end of each Zone. I may also add escorts, like B-17.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Star Raiders

I've been a a kick lately for bombing run rules that will create a gaming experience similar to B-17 Queen of the Skies.

Rather than replicating World War 2 bombing campaigns, I decided to do a sci-fi version, which I am calling Star Raiders.* This allows me to streamline and simplify without worrying about realism.

I tried 2 runs today.

The first one was fairly easy - a short run to a target 4 zones away. The star raider (i.e. the bomber) only took 3 hits. Unfortunately, its torpedoes were off target.

It seemed a bit too easy, so I tweaked the rules so it was harder for the raider. I then ran a long raid on Zone 7.

Early on, things seemed easy again. There was no contact with the enemy until Zone 6.

Afterward, the enemy flung wave after wave of interceptors at the raider. It managed to take down 6 interceptors.
 (I know, I need to switch to a black board. Next time)

But then some anti-rocket artillery caused damage to the bridge.

And multiple interceptor attacks damaged the rocket engines. This slowed the raider (it took 2 turns to traverse a zone, which allowed for a LOT of opposition

The interceptors closed in for the kill.

After a failed torpedo run (zero hits), the enemy brought the raider to bay in Zone 5. Interceptors brought down the shields and caused a hull breach. The raider was destroyed.

Overall, I am pleased with the rules. They are streamlined compared to B-17 but created a similar experience. At first, the raider was cruising but as opposition stiffened, the tension mounted. By the time engine damage slowed the raider, it seemed like it was just a matter of time before BOOM.

I need to work on the damage rates a little bit, but the basic framework seems functional.

* I'm calling them raiders instead of bombers because they are armed with torpedoes. Because, unlike Star Wars, bombs don't fall in space in my universe. ;)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Kat-huber Line

Played a session of  "On a Wing and Prayer - Bomber Command in the Battle for the Ruhr, July 1943" (an addendum to the updated copy of  Donald Featherstone's Air War Games)

The bombing run was stopped cold when the Germans deployed the Kat-huber line.
Ollie sitting on my bomber
 Eventually, the bomber got through, although it had to shake off a night fighter attack.
Imagi-nation air forces stand in for the Brits and Germans
Rather a disappointing game. Flew through 11 zones with only one attack, which was easily evaded. It needs more action.

Boargamegeek has the charts and rules for B-17 QOTS so I may make a DIY version.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Truck Country

A dead phone changed my gaming plans this morning.
Lately, I've had a hankering for gaming some bombing runs, a la B-17 Queen of the Skies. Unfortunately, I don't have the game anymore. I've been searching for alternatives online. There is Target for Today but it seems pricey. I did find a reference to a set of miniature rules called Target for Tonight but they are not available at this time. By the way, check out this excellent Target for Tonight game report! Then I remembered that my updated copy of Donald Featherstone's Air War Games includes a set of rules called "On a Wing and Prayer - Bomber Command in the Battle for the Ruhr, July 1943," by John Armatys. I got out my planes and then picked up my phone to access the book, only to find that the phone was dead.

OK, on to plan B - MachinasBecause of the dead phone there are no pictures. :(

Game Report
Once again, Conway the courier is being chased by raiders. This time, he is pursued by a pickup truck and a sedan.

  1. Neither raider manages to pass. The pickup shoots at Conway, causing him to swerve, and bump into the pickup. This causes a chain reaction, but all the cars maintain control.
  2. The raiders draft. Shots are fired but miss.
  3. The sedan passes the pickup and lines up a shot on the courier. The shot misses and the sedan drops out.
  4. Conway and the pickup trade shots. Conway's shot blasts into his target's engine compartment. Steam escapes from the hood, and the pickup slows.
  5. An SUV, armed with a grenade launcher, joins the chase!
  6. The SUV passes the pickup and trades shots with Conway. All shots miss.
  7. The SUV and pickup trade positions again. Conway still maintains his lead and avoids the raiders' shots.
  8. The pickup drops out. The SUV starts to zero in on Conway; the explosions from grenades causes him to swerve, but he maintains control.
  9. Another grenade explodes, and again Conway swerves. He bumps into the SUV, which loses control and flips!
With all of the raiders out of the chase, Conway is home free once again.

And that completed 6 by 6 Challenge 5.4!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tweenwater War - Battle of Burkhardt

Battle 3 of the Tweenwater War - Western Front

After his defeat at Fiddler's Bridge, Bluderia's commanding officer, General Cumberbatch, continued to look for a way to cross the Crystal River into Tweenwater. Learning of another bridge, he rushed his troops forward. However, the Redgravians had already crossed the river with the intent to take up a blocking position on the Blulderian side.

Advance forces spy a particularly well-suited hill just west of the village of Burkhardt.

The Redgravians manage to get more infantry to the hill.

Pushing the Bluderian infantry off. However, Bluderian reinforcements arrive.

Now the Redgravians get some cavalry.

The bulk of the Bluderian army arrives. The Redgravians on the hill have been hammering the Bluderian infantry with harassing fire.

Redgravian light infantry (brown) seize the eastern (top) hill and harass the Bluderian reserve artillery (white).

The Redgravian infantry launches an assault from the hill and routs their opponent.

But the Bluderians return the favor. One infantry unit gains a foothold on the hill.

The Redgravians try to drive them off, but to no avail.

And as night falls, the hill remains contested.

Game Notes
  • I should have played Machinas so I could get 6x6 credit, but I wanted to play with my blocks. Thus, I decided to run another game from the Tweenwater War.
  • The game was a draw - so the Redgravians are still up 2-0-1 with 2 battles left in the campaign.
  • The scenario is # 17 - Encounter, from Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. In this scenario, both sides try to gain undisputed control of the hill.
  • Units arrive on the battlefield randomly, resulting in a rather confused affair. 
  • The Redgravians had the early advantage, but could not completely capitalize (bad activation rolls prevented them from assaulting the enemy). Then in midgame the Bluderians received more reinforcements. However, the Redgravians used the advantage of the hill to hold out for an extended period.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


With miniatures, that is.

I know that I once posted about why I like miniatures. Done well, they just look fantastic. Problem is, I cannot do them well. I am an indifferent painter, so my quality suffers and I take a long time. I tried compensating with smaller scale minis (2mm and 3mm) but in my opinion they don't photograph all that well. As a result, I have not been particularly satisfied with my miniature efforts.

Recently, I started experimenting with block armies and have found it surprisingly satisfying. As a result, I built up several block armies (red, blue, white, green, gray, black, brown, and purple). Playing games with these blocks gives me the same visceral feel as miniatures. I'm rolling dice and pushing troops across the board. Furthermore, I find it far more practical, I don't have to make a new army or new terrain if I want to try a different period.

With my block armies I'm set for large battles, but I still don't have a set up for my role playing games. I am thinking of creating some counters using some paper mini files I have picked up. For example, here are two that I use for my Four Against Darkness characters Khamen and Candorra.
The upshot of all this musing is that I'll probably be posting more games with counters and fewer with miniatures in 2018. I apologize if this is less satisfying for readers, but I have to go with what works best for me.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tweenwater War - Battle of Redmead Ridge

Battle 2 of the Tweenwater War Eastern Front

After his defeat at Hartvale, General Spengler regrouped his forces, fell back to a new defensive position, and called for reinforcements. Meanwhile, the Imperial advance continued unabated.

General Spengler takes up a defensive position on Redmead Ridge. The Imperial commander, General Whittelspoon, continues to advance up the road, with his cavalry leading the way. The Imperial artillery is lagging behind.

Regravian reinforcements arrive, blocking the road.

As more Imperial infantry arrive, Whittelspoon decides to clear the enemy from the hill.

Whittelspoon's vanguard tries to take the ridge but is driven from the field. Meanwhile, two brigades of Redgravian cavalry arrive (bottom)

Now Whittelspoon leads an attack on the Redgravian flank, to no effect.

The Imperial artillery finally deploys and begins to bombard Spengler's position on the hill. Under cover of the bombardment, Whittelspoon assaults the ridge.

Only to be routed again! Nevertheless, casualties are piling up on Spengler and the Redgravian infantry has been routed on the left.

 Assault after assault goes in but Spengler's infantry stymies the attacks. Finally, however, it cannot hold any longer and routs from the field. The Imperials hold the hill!

But it is only temporary. Spengler's final infantry unit drives the Imperials off.

As a gloom descends, Whittelspoon realizes he cannot take the hill before nightfall. He withdraws to rally his army.

Game Notes
  • This game was played with my latest DBA-esque horse & musket rules (a partial description is in this post).
  • I will have to post in more detail about the activation rules at a later time. In short, units need to make an activation roll to move or assault. The Imperial army suffered significantly from poor activation rolls throughout the game, which caused them to launch piecemeal attacks on the enemy on the hill. I believe this was a crucial factor in the game. It can be frustrating, and can mess up Neil Thomas's scenario design. Nevertheless, it's not a bad thing from a solo gaming perspective because it adds interesting wrinkles to the story. I may want to tweak the rules to make it easier to move earlier in the game, allowing armies to maneuver into contact and deploy more effectively.
  • The scenario was #8 - Melee from One Hour Wargames. The attackers (Imperials) need to be in sole possession of the hill by turn 15.
  • This was only the second game I played for the Tweenwater War Eastern Front. I started the campaign nearly two years ago but then stalled because I did not have a complete Imperial army.
  • So far in this campaign, each side has won one battle.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Motorcycle Madness

With a little time available this morning, I decided to play a session of Machinas.

I made a couple of rule changes to make it easier for me to run the game solo:

  • I vastly reduced the bonus dice pools. My car started with D6/2 while the non-player cars started with 0.
  • I did not roll a random event for each car. Instead, I rolled one random event each turn, then rolled to see which car was affected.
  • I allowed cars to shoot, even if they did not win a passing roll.
The first two changes limited the role of bonus dice, although they could be decisive if used at the right time. I did not notice any reduction in my enjoyment of the game. The last rule change provided, in my eyes, more action, as cars took numerous pot-shots at each other.

I failed to take pictures, primarily because my phone was upstairs and I was too lazy to go up and get it. The pictures would have been a disappointment anyway because I used my unit markers rather than my wife's Hot Wheels (she reclaimed them).

Here is a turn by turn recap:
  1. Conway is on another Courier run. He finds himself pursued by 2 motorcycles. One passes; Conway tries to shoot him but fails. Another car joins the race.
  2. Conway tries to bash the lead motorcycle but it eludes him. The second bike pulls alongside and unloads a blast at the Courier. Conway fires back. Both miss. The car is drafting in the rear.
  3. Conway shoots the lead motorcycle, causing damage. The car moves up behind Conway and shoots, missing.
  4. Conway bashes the lead motorcycle. It crashes! However, another motorcycle joins the chase. The car shoots at Conway. Conway swerves and bumps into the car. Both maintain control.
  5. The car, equipped with a spiked ram, tries to bash the Courier. Conway manages to avoid his pursuer. One of the motorcycles tries to pass, but Conway holds him off.
  6. One of the bikes collides with Conway. Both swerve, causing a chain reaction! The motorcycle collides with the car. It too swerves, loses control, and flips. The last motorcycle has to dodge the wreck! Unnerved by his nearly fatal collision, the lead motorcycle drops out of the chase.
  7. The remaining motorcycle trades shots with Conway. Conway hits the bike, causing it to swerve. Nevertheless, it maintains control.
  8. More shots are exchanged. The motorcycle loses heart and gives up the chase. Conway is home free!
Six by Six Challenge - 5.3 completed!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Easy Armies

Following up on my experiment with little block armies, I created a new portable wargame kit

It consists of:
  • An 8" x 10" gridded battle mat (cut down from a Pathfinder battle mat)
  • A pack of dry erase markers (to draw terrain on the mat)
  • 2 dice
  • 2 tins with the unit markers
I originally cut my own markers from craft wood, but I was unsatisfied with the uneven dimensions that I achieved. I then ordered some 3mm bases from Litko and painted them up.

 I am very pleased with the Litko bases. They are regular is dimension, in contrast to my misshapen attempts. They are 3mm thick so they have some height and are easy to pick up. Additionally, the sides are a dark brown (burnt from the laser cutter perhaps?). Initially I tried to paint the sides but they did not take paint well. I found that it was just easier to leave them unpainted. Because they are dark, they don't seem obtrusive.

Here are 2 armies - Red and Blue

Rectangles represent infantry, squares are cavalry, and the circle is the general. The square that is half-tan is artillery. My thought is that if the tan half faces the enemy then the artillery is limbered otherwise it is ready for action.

The dots are unit identifiers. Rather than numbers, I marked a dot on the left, center, or right of each base.

So far, I have painted 6 armies and plan a couple more (green and perhaps yellow).

For years, I've been wanting armies for each of the countries of my Francesia imagi-nations, but I never got around to completing the project. Now I have armies for Redgrave, Bluderia, the Empire, Grayrock, and various barbarian tribes that the Francesian powers shall discover on the continent of Rapala. I just need Greenglade and Drakendorf.

I'm still working on rules for this kit.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November Update

Six by Six Challenge
I'm back! Not sure if I'm going to complete it, but I'm giving it a try. A couple of developments got me back into the challenge:

A confluence of factors got me interested in post-apocalyptic car battles. First, Osprey announced the publication of Gaslands. Then there was an intriguing post on the Wargames Website. Alas, none of the rules seemed like they would work for me. Then I remembered Machinas, the subject of numerous wonderful posts by Kaptain Kobold. What interested me in these rules was that cars don't move on the board; instead they move relative to each other. This is a perfect approach for small gaming spaces.

I gave them a try and like them. There is room for some tweaks, but the core mechanisms are solid.

Anyway, Machinas has me playing with minis again. As a result, I decided it would replace DC Rivals on my 6 x 6 list.

Here is what I played in November:
I played 4 games of my pulp sci-fi campaign, but then ground to a halt because the next scene in the Slipstream Plot Point campaign was sooo boring (it's just a straight fight). As often happens, however, game creativity in one area seems to spawn ideas in another. As I was messing around with Machinas, an idea struck me on how to make the scene interesting. I changed it into a dungeon crawl. The Slipstream campaign was back in action.

Here is my November tally:
And with that, I have finished the challenge for Slipstream!

Just a note that FU did not really work for me. They are too open-ended, which may be good for a creative group, but I prefer a bit more granularity for solo play.

I lose 2 games because I dropped DC Rivals but I replaced them with 2 games of Machinas and then added 2 games of Slipstream. That leaves me at 30 games played with 6 to complete in December. A tall order, but I'll be on vacation for the last week of the month. I have a shot!

Super Simple Horse and Musket
My experiments with Manoeuvre (e.g. this) have inspired me to work up some rules for some really quick and simple horse and musket battles. I have been pleased with my early trials, such as this battle.

Unexpected Values
Have you ever bought a hobby item, intending it for one purpose only to find it insufficient. But then you find a new, and even better use for that item?

That has happened for me with the Pathfiinder battle mat.

I originally purchased it for Four Against Darkness using miniatures.

I found it clunky and shelved the mat. Later, it suffered some water damage. I then cut it into 8" x 10" sheets and am now using it for various projects:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Saturday Night Race

Last night we decided to play a short game. I suggested Machinas and my wife readily agreed. I set up a 2-lap race.

I controlled the blue car, my wife took the orange, and the black car was run as a non-player. I roared off to an early lead.

The black cat had his money on the black car.

The cars traded positions throughout the race, On the final curve my wife zoomed ahead,

In the final straightaway, I passed her. The black car also passed her and then tried to get past me. I managed to hold him off for the win.

We did precious little shooting or bashing in this race. I tried to bash once but failed. My wife wanted to shoot, multiple times, but generally failed to win the passing attempt. When she did win, she felt that there was no advantage in shooting. My sentiments as well.

Regardless, she enjoyed the race. And I finished another 6 x 6 game.

SIX BY SIX - Game 5.2