Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For the Love of Campaigns...

For most RPGs, the word "campaign" either means the GM thinks he has a story that just must be told, or he has actually has enough consistent players to link more than one adventure together.

For miniature wargamers, although the consistent players might be an appealing reason to run a campaign, the main reason is "I have a ton of shit for this game, I might as well use it."

As great as a tournament army for 40K might look, can that stability/balance/power gaming be continued battle after battle? How often can you play the same game over and over again?

The first campaign that we pondered was the Battletch campaign rules that were in Dragon Magazine. They had their faults, most importantly requiring a map from a Star League book that was out of print before the issues even came out, but they were comprehensive. Resource management, production, transportation, and deployment was all included, and that was all before any battles could be fought. The only problem we had (besides the lack of the map), was the lack of minis, and by the time we (read: Wooly) accumulated our vast collection, real life kept us to holiday and convention supergames, rather than a weekly "Battletech night." To be honest, I picture the campaign like one would play a 70's super-wargame. Thousands of chits and five hours of paperwork to deliver gasoline to the front... maybe by week five we could conduct some combat.

As much as I poo-poo 40k and Fantasy Battles, Mordheim and Necromunda had some of the best skirmish campaign rules that I've found. I greatly enjoyed the campaigns we ran at Griffon Games. Throw in a few optional rules for some weekly flavor and we kept it exciting and interesting for the smallest warband or the largest gang. Mercenaries and warband growth allowed a player to take a modest initial purchase and slowly expand on it, great for both the player and the store selling the product.

For Gnome Wars, I'm trying to find a mix between the complexity of B'Tech and the intimacy of Mordheim. The Wishing Well Campaign we started with was simply playing the scenarios out of the rulebook, and building upon them. As the Germans continued their rampage into Swiss territory, I started adding units to the Germans (Cav, the Witch) while the Swiss were missing figures, but fighting from heartier defensive positions. At the end of the campaign, the Germans had a toehold in the Swiss mountains if we run a mountain campaign, Field Marshall Steven von O'Hara was lauded as a hero (and might be responsible for a new Spring offensive), and the Scottish Highlanders were looking much more favorably towards the Germans than their traditional Swiss allies.

I've harped on the Tanga campaign long enough, but I needed to run it to see if the other Skirmish Campaign/Elite books were a worthwhile investment. I'm definitely looking into using an expanded version of World War I: Rommel's Route to Verdun for the previously mentioned Spring offensive.

That won't mean we'll be leaving Africa for good. As the Germans are the dominant colonial power in my version of the gnome world, I'm working on that "Chicka Zulu" game for South Africa, there can be some battles on the Sudan and Ethiopia, and if Lon would ever release Aussie infantry, I might ponder a "Roo Wars" campaign, loosely based on the Boer Wars.

Of course, I still have my eye on "The Ham Fighter Revolution", a campaign on Maximillian in Mexico, and I could easily convert some WW2 scenario books into Gnome Wars era battles.

Finally, if "A Very Gnomish Civil War" is well received, I might have to pick up its inspiration and write out the specifics for others to play.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

The Jagermeisters defend vs Les Eclairieurs du Legion Chocolat Suisse

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Apathy of New Releases (May 2011)

The third week of April snuck up on me, so I was suprised to see GTM #135 available already. Perhaps with the announcements this month for the the 30th Anniversary CoC book and OGRE-sized OGRE anything else is anti-climatic.

I'm going to go off format this month and jump around a bit. Certain things deserve more than a quick blurb.

First off, there's nothing in GTM this month that I would pre-order. A couple things caught my eye, but I'll get to them.

The very first thing I see on the first page of listings were a couple of different LED mini-flashlights. Seriously? I know gamers are in the dark about a LOT of things, but stock them in a store? To make things stranger, the items are listed at PI (Please Inquire), which means the store will get them at a higher cost than their regular discount and will make up their own price. I want to see a display of those bad boys, maybe at a store with nearby steam tunnels.

Next, Chaosium is releasing the Miskatonic University Handbook in hardcover for $42.95. Why? The MU Handbook is a decent book, with lots of good material for a Keeper to use, but why reprint it in hardcover. The mind boggles.

Are you a Cultist looks to be coming out in July. It sticks to the theme of Are you a Werewolf/Vampire/Mob Snitch games, games you could play without any printed materials! At least with The Great Dalmuti they produced a "family-friendly" version of Asshole.

Mongoose released a Judge Dredd minis game? when? why?

My final observation is from WotC:

IKUSA BOARD GAME - Sweep Across the Land and Secure Your Empire! It is the sixteenth century in feudal Japan, where war rages across the land. Amid the chaos and conflict, you have risen to power as one of five warlords mighty enough to conquerand control the whole empire. Your victory depends on how expertly you extend your domain while defending it from your enemies. Send your daimyo leaders, samurai, and ashigaru warriors into battle to seize new provinces and lay siege to castles. Spend your hard-won treasury on building fortifications and bolstering your forces with ronin and ninja. Prove thestrength of your strategy, defeat your rivals, and earn the exalted title ofShogun! Scheduled to ship in July 2011. $80.

Does this sound like Shogun/Samurai Swords to you? If it does I may actually get giddy.

Now, the Viscount's "Cool but I don't have the cash" list:

  • Atlas Games: Cliffourd The Big Red Dog. Ken Hite is at it again, adapting the Dunwich Horror to a classic children's book.

  • Kittens in a Blender card game - Save kittens from an obvious fate :$9.95

  • Villans & Vigilantes Rulebook $16.95 and adventure Intercrime Hostile Takeover $9.95. Wow, V&V back in print. There may be hope for civilization.

  • I have been hearkening on Dust Tactics as the game my imaginary store would currently support. Finally, something has come out for them that intrigues me. American and Axis walkers are coming out, they look decent, and my thought was, "Would they fit a gnome? A new boxed set with more scenarios, tiles, and info is coming out.

The Store List:

  • A new WoW TCG expansion

  • 2 3rd party pathfinder books

  • Black Curse (The 40k chaos rpg). A wee bit ouchy at $59.95

  • Kenzer is releasing a 3rd printing of Aces & Eights and the much awaited one-volume Hacklopedia of Beasts. For all the whiners who complained about 8(+) hacklopedias of monsters at 20 bucks a pop can now get all the "serious" monsters in one fell swoop for $59.95. I didn't mind picking up the Hacklopedias each month back in the day. A $60 outlay focuses more on the quality of the physical book than the contents inside.

  • Mongoose has two new traveller books, plus one for paranoia!

  • 4 products from Paizo.

  • WotC has a little variety this month for a change. There's the previously mentioned Ikusa board game, D&D - Champions of the Heroic Tier HC, and the silliest thing of all, a Magic: Commander boxed set. Commander is the "official" name of multi-player Highlander (only one of each card can be played). Why they needed a boxed set for this, probably has something to do with "revenue streams"

  • Heroclix is releasing a Thor boxed set, pretty late after the movie.

  • And I'm not talking about the Smurfs' releases, although if they eventually release some inexpensive Smurf homes, I might become interested in that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Historicon rolling snake-eyes at VFCC

I did get some updated information about the VFCC Casino fiasco. Looks as if the VFCC managed to "update" the agreement just under the wire. Construction of the casino has already been started and it looks as if HMGS will be out 34,000 sq ft of convention. The VFCC has been "gracious" enough to accomodate the con with other meeting rooms, etc...

What does this mean? As the email from HMGS alluded, "the show must go on." Maps will be better detailed so one could traverse the maze which is VFCC/Scanticon/Radisson. GMs will be forced to carry their stuff furth (my personal worry, I just want to know where I can unload and where I need to go. Since the Duke doesn't have his own corner this year, that spot can be considered a gain or acceptable loss, depending on the construction.

Still, the sky is not falling. Even if they ran games at the Radisson's pool, the walk would be less than one at Origins or GenCon. There was no need for the masses to get worked up about what could happen, it was the job of the HMGS BoD and ConOps to be able to adapt to the fluid situation of the casino license. When the news feel on April 1st, they went over the options and got information out, at least to HMGS members via the yahoo board. Could have been better, but now we know.

Perhaps the only benefits is if we force our fellow wargamers to actually walk, the next generation won't need as many scooters to transport their fat asses.

(Legions of Steel) Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!

After a long, long wait via the US Postal Service, I finally have a copy of Planetstorm in my possession: I only got a very quick perusal of the book, but a couple of things stick out. First off, despite the subsection "a" writing style of the rules, the rules are only 30 pages of large text. Everything else is army lists, weapons stats, pictures, and flavor text. Now, you could argue that weapon stats are part of the rules, but let's be honest: If you know the rules, the special rules are secondary or superfluous to gameplay . Second, although the tabletop rules are slightly different than the underground rules, all figures are represented inside. So why are Alien Sourcebooks for basic LOS going for $15-25 to start?

Of course, it's also been quite awhile since I read the flavor text for the color panels. It was a nice reminder just how evil the Machine version of me is. It will be a nice read down memory lane as little Amelia refuses to sleep through the night.

Cthulhu ate your brains... and he wants your wallet too...

I admit that I don't use Facebook to its full gaming potential. I have only a select group of companies that I follow for updates. I argue that if companies would actually update their Facebook walls, I might be more inclined to "Like" more companies.

The only company that does a spectacular job of this is "All the King's Men Toy Soldiers LLC." Ken Cliffe has done a phenomenal job posting painting updates, figure development, and most recently posted in regards to new scenarios on the website for the Battle 1812. Check them out, drool at his stuff, and give me a bag of money and tons of time to purchase and paint more troops.

That being said, I was absolutely flabbergasted Saturday when Chaosium made not one, but THREE posts on its page.

First was Mythic Iceland for BRP (Basic Role-Playing). I haven't decided to delve into BRP, outside the fact that it's CoC's system, with a number of refinements/bells and whistles. They do use "gigantic" in its description, and most things Icelandic are pretty freaking cool. Check it out.

Second was Cthulhu by Gaslight (3rd Edition?). Role-playing in Victorian (1890's) England. There are enough fictional characters associated with mystery and horror in that era, throw in some Cthulhu Mythos for even more fun. Scheduled for late summer release. $28.95 Finally, the Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Edition will be available late summer as well. This will be a red leatherette edition of the current 6th edition rules. It will look great on my bookshelf next to the 20th Anniversary Edition, and other quality books like Aces & Eights. Only $64.95, which means after five years, you can trade it for a small car payment if you needed the money.

Oh well, that's $100+ (when you calculate shipping from CA) of Chaosium product I didn't expect to spend this year. Wouldn't be great if there was a local game store that I could order this from so they could get paid too?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chicka Zulu!

I ran some errands this morning with Maja and we ultimately ended up at Michael's. I missed their $5 birdhouse sale a few weeks ago, and was looking at Easter clearance. I think I found the jackpot. I present to you the Chicka Zulus, just over a buck a box: From memory, I believe I picked up enough of these little guys to run any Zulu battle, although I may hit them again tomorrow to clear them out of the pink chicks, who could be used as Zulu rifles, or any other twisted idea I might have.
A size comparison between the chicks, a Swiss blunderbuss, and a Eureka Teddy Bear

(Gnome Wars) Battle of Tanga #2 - Leuwan's Holding Attack

Special campaign rules can be found HERE

November 3, 1914, 0500, northern slope of Longido Mountain

Back on the northern slope, Swiss Major Leuwen was ordered to assult the fortifications surrounding the northern wells, acting as a holding attack. It was hoped that this assault would distract the German forces enough to prevent them from reinforcing the Germans at Lt. Colonel Dykstra's main attack. The units had trouble navigating the heavy brush as they neared their objective, and the Germans actually began firing on the troops before they could be organized for a proper assault.

The Swiss are spread out against a vast no-man's land

The Germans at the top of the mountain are ready for target practice

Order of Battle

Germans: Steve and myself again

Orders: Force the Swiss off the slopes (any elevated terrain)

1 unit (Green Germans)

1 unit (Grey Germans)

1 Light Machine Gun

German Variable Attachments (d20):

  • 1-3: 2 snipers from the main unit, deployed within 24 inches of the brush line

  • 4-9: Teddy Bear Askari unit

  • 10-17: 1 unit (Purple Germans)

  • 18-20: Heavy Mortar

Swiss: commanded by Nichols and Scott again

Orders: occupy the three German trenches

1 unit (Red Hats)

1 unit (Swiss Engineers)

1 unit (Swiss Rangers)

1 unit of Sikhs (following the poor morale rules from part #0)

Variable attachments:

  • 1-10: 1 Irish unit

  • 11-14: Nothing

  • 15-19: Offboard artillery

  • 20: 1 unit of Teddy Bear Askari and roll again!

SPECIAL RULE: The rock walls on various levels were impassable areas of terrain. They blocked line of sight for any unit not in direct contact with it. Troops could occupy the area below them represented by the loose stones and be considered in heavy cover. However, the units firing out of that area did so at a -2 penalty.

Turns 1-3: The German right flank was held by the Grey Germans in a trench that was 24" closer than the other fortifications. However, the Swiss' meandering in the heavy brush negated the opportunity to concentrate their forces on that flank. The German heavy mortar arrived at the last second to support the units and hellfire rained down upon the Swiss, causing significant damage to the Engineers and the densely-packed Sikhs. Just as German rifle fire began to wittle the edges of each unit, a loud angry cheer could be heard from behind the Swiss. With the artillery lost in the brush, a group of Irish, orginally hired as laborers, had been organized to bludgeon the Germans for fun and a healthy bonus.

The Red Hats are gunned down, but the Sikhs keep charging forward

Turns 4-7: The Swiss units, save the Red Hats, charged hard towards the trenches. The Red Hats decided that the best course of action was to fire their blunderbusses at the Germans, halving their movement through the open area. When the Germans had their chance, the return volley created many wounded, but not enough to overwhelm the competent St. Bernard medic! Panic then spread along the German center, as it was discovered that the German light machine gun was already out of ammo!

One of the machine gun team members runs back for more ammo!

The lack of oppressive firepower from the center of the battlefield renewed the Swiss spirit as the gnomes pressed forward:

The Swiss Rangers reach the trench, the Irish right on their heels.

The Rangers tried to flank the German trench with limited success. The Red Hats' recovery seemed to force the Green Germans out of their cozy trench to deal with them, but rather, the riflemen forced their attentions on oblitering the remaining Engineers. Heavy mortar fire throughout the game had made the engineers paper-thin, so a few well-placed shots forced them to rout off the board.

Turns 8-11: The valiant Swiss assualt had stalled on most of the board. The Red Hats and Green Germans were trading shots under heavy cover, with little effect. The Sikhs, the only threat to the German center failed a mandatory morale check and routed, even though the member of the machine gun team had yet to make it back with the replacement ammo. The German right flank then became a house of horrors. The Swiss Rangers finally made it to the Grey German trench, and the Ranger NCO was raring for a fight. the Ranger NCO slew three Germans in hand-to-hand before they even knew he was in the trench! Sergeant Schnitzel, the German Non-Com lead a brilliant counter-attack, shooting two Swiss and pistol whipping another before taking a cowardly pick-axe in the back. With only a freshly commissioned lieutenat to lead the remaining Greys, not even the arrival of some German peasant infantry from the Greens could hold off the devastating onslaught of the Irish.

The Irish killed the Germans to a man and took the trench. With ammo finally arriving at the light machine gun, a heavy mortar waiting to acquire a new target, and the Green German rifles ready to counter-attack, Major Leuwen wisely gave the command to fall back, keeping the Germans engaged long enough to prevent their use as reinforcements during the main attack.

Per the orders for each side, scenario #2 was a considered a draw, however in points it was a solid German 35-23 victory. The Swiss wisely called retreat before things got worse point-wise, while most of the Swiss points came from the the savagery in the trench that annihilated the Grey Germans to a man. Both sides were very happy with their variable attachments. Two perfect shots by the mortar when it needed a 6 to hit on the first two rounds started the inevitable collapse of the Engineers and Sikhs. The Irish were just what the Swiss needed to take the trench and rattle the Germans (as if the machine gun being out of ammo wasn't bad enough).

In the campaign, winning this scenario gives that side some crucial advantages to reinforcements in the final three scenarios. Alas, I play in a group that is fortunate enough to play a lot a draws in their games. Great for self-esteem, horrible for campaign games.

Historically, it was Major Laverton who commanded the British holding attack, but I figured a less-British name was required for the Swiss. The British failed to take the German positions and completely withdrew back to their base camp. The staunch German defenders were actually only 45 askaris with two machine guns who never played a role in reinforcing the main attack.

Current campaign score for Longido Mountain: Germans 59, Swiss 54.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh where oh where will Historicon go?

Don't fret, people, the write-up for Tanga scenario #2 is in the works. I just don't have time to fight with Bloggers wonky formatting. So instead, here's a quick rant.

With the Baltimore fiasco largely behing us, the elections for HMGS underway, and most people going to Historicon reserving rooms, submitting games, etc, the next Chicken Little moment is "Where will Historicon be held in 2012?"

Recently, the courts rejected appeals against a casino license for the Valley Forge Convention Center, site for Historicons '10 and '11. The VFCC has been awarded a licenese for 500 slots and roughly 50 table games. The Chicken Littles are worried that (a) we won't have sufficient space for the convention, (b) the casino will price the convention site out of the HMGS, and (c) where else can we go?

For starters, (a) 500 slots and 50 table games doesn't take up a large amount of space, even with added restaurants and facilities. The convention space will still be there, with room to grow unless they run Flames of War, Games Workshop, and Magic tournaments simultaneously.

(b) While I'm not naive to the idea that the investors who obtained the license ultimately want to expand the casino, this does take awhile, and I can't imagine how many more organizations they will attract with slots, outside the perinnial favorites of the Rod and Gun and Toy Soldier shows. And eliminating the convention center outright would negate the argument that the VFCC is a "resort destination" as per their application.

Now (c) provides a tricky situation. To find a site bigger than the Host, without too many added expenses is tough. The Baltimore Convention Center is now out of the question, but it was a nice end result of a ten-year growth plan. It exceed our current needs. New Jersey? Lots of union sites, which would add even more expenses onto the dealers who defray a good chuck of the site expenses to begin with. The two sites with the biggest appeal on TMP are Hampton Roads and the Fredricksburg Convention Center, both in Virginia.

I am sorry to my fellow wargamers who do make the trek past the Mason-Dixon line each time they go to a convention, but there is no way in Hell that I'm driving 5+ hours south, in the middle of Summer, to push lead across a table. I admit that I'm in a convienient location, roughly two hours north of Lancaster. It's great for a day trip or a full weekend, just far away enough to forget about family issues, just close enough to rush back if something happens.

Five hours plus? I'd rather spend that time visiting friends in western PA, family in Vermont, or better yet, make if seven plus and I'll go to Origins in Columbus, Ohio! People were worried about a loss in attendence from the northern states with the move to Baltimore, let's just slap and extra two hour drive on that, and let's see if the Southern Gentlemen make up for the yankees unwilling to add two "driving days" to their weekend.

On a more positive note, my wife asked me about my conventions for the Fall. It looks as if we should be open for Mepacon on November 11-13, and Fall-in! on October 28-30. In fact, the Missus wants to go down to Lancaster, with children, as her birthday present. That means I get gaming Friday and Saturday, and we'll drive back Sunday morning. Not as awesome as a full week in Lancaster during July could be, Dutch Wonderland, the Amish, and lots of museums, followed by a con, but I could always rent a local hotel's conference room for a few semi-private games.

Monday, April 11, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Battle of Tanga #1 - Assault on the Wells

For explanations on special rules for this campaign, please see THIS.

November 3, 1914, 0500 hours, SW slope of Longido Mountain

As Swiss forces were concentrating their forces on the heavily defended north face of the mountain, Captain A.C. Bekker led a few units of the 189th Swiss around the base of the mountain to seize vital wells on the southern side. Unfortunately, they stumbled upon a work detail from the 11th Field Company, commanded by Lieutenant Erdmann. The 11th had been sent out to repair telegraph lines which giraffes had recently brought down. Upon recognizing the troops as Swiss, Erdmann ordered his men to open fire.

Initial Set-up: All three German units are in the far right corner

ORDER OF BATTLE Germans: Commanded by myself, and "Field Marshall Steven von O'Hara"

Orders: Drive all Swiss off elevated areas of the board

1 Full Squad (Purple Germans, they have no medic)
1 Partial Squad (Grey Germans)
1 Partial Squad (Green Germans, ditto)
1 Light Machine Gun

German Variable Attatchments (d20) 
1-3: Additional LMG
4-9: Remainder of the Grey Germans as turn 3 reinforcements
10-15:Teddy Bear Askari Unit
16-19 Remainder of the Green Germans
20: Remainder of Grey Germans as part of initial deployment and 1 additonal roll

Swiss - Commanded by Brian Nichols and Scott Birkner

Orders: Occupy the second and/or third tier of elevation at the end of the scenario.

1 unit "Red Hats"
1 unit "Swiss Engineers"
1 unit "Swiss Rangers"

Variable attachments (d20):
1-11: 1 unit of Sikhs "Primed for Death"
12-15: 2 Swiss rifles from any unit may start the game hidden on the second tier of elevation
16-20: "Santa Effect" On turn eight, four figs from any one unit return to play and deploy at the edge of the Swiss tree line.

SPECIAL RULE: The rock walls on various level were impassable areas of terrain. They blocked line of sight for any unit not in direct contact with it. Troops could occupy the area below them represented by the loose stones and be considered in heavy cover. However, the units firing out of that area did so at a -2 penalty.

Turns 1-3: The Grey and Green Germans worked their way down the second tier to engage at the advancing Red Hats. The Purple Germans worked their way through the thick brush of the third tier to defend the center of the battlefield. As the Swiss began to emerge out of the lower brush, a week Sikh was heard behind them. On turn 3, the remainder of the Grey Germans moved through the brush to bolster the empty right flank. Pot shots were taken at great distance, causing little damage.

The Germans try to flush out the Red Hats

Turns 4-6 - The Swiss Engineers and Rangers scrambled to the cover of the rocky outcroppings and hunkered down. The German machine gun managed to pick off a good number of straglers, but the medics were able to retrieve and revive most of them.

The German left flank was the site of most of the combat for the entire game. The Grey Germans traded ineffective shots with the Red Hats, however the Greens became focused on the rampaging Sikhs. Each traded closing shots, but the Sikhs disdain for Western medicine meant the Greens would recover their losses, while the ill-trained Sikhs started losing men and morale.

The biggest blow came on turn six, as snipers from the Engineers began firing at the exposed Grey German leadership. A few lucky shots and Lieutenant Erdmann (and his NCO) were down!

Down goes Erdmann! Down goes Erdmann!

Turns 7-10: Although the medics were able to revive both leaders, the Swiss seized the moment. The faltering Sikhs had enough intestinal fortitude left in them to march forward and slice the Green Germans with a swath of lead. The Red Hats then charged around the outcropping and a bloody melee ensued with the Greys.

The Aftermath of a Melee Round, Pre-Medic Phase

With the help of some very competent (re: lucky) medics, the hand-to-hand combat grew more and more vicious. Even the arrival of peasant infantry from the Greens couldn't turn the tide for the Greys. Lieutenant Erdmann was again on the cold mountain, this time gasping his last breath. The Greys here and on the far side of the battlefield routed, the Greens were just a step behind. Complete and total Swiss victory was there's for the taking!

Wait a minute, has anyone seen Captain Bekker?

The bodies of Captain Bekker and his trusted non-com were discovered underneath the other corpses of the carnage. Without any leadership, the Red Hats immediately routed.

The Purple Germans left the safety of the high brush and descended the moutain in order to fire a hail of bullets at the Sikhs, the only unit left on that flank. It only took one barrage to break them as well.

The Engineers and Rangers Charge the Machine Gun
Turns 11-12: Finally, the Swiss Rangers and Engineers sprung into action, climbing over the top and charging the machine gun emplacement. The Engineers did considerable damage to the Purple Germans with rifle fire, and with no medic, the unit wilted away.

The machine gun team did its best to hold the mountain, slaying five Engineers, but the constant barrage of rifle fire finally did them in. The Wells of Longido Mountain were officially under Swiss control!

With game one under our belts, I am very pleased. Although the German variable unit simply held the flank, the Swiss roll was instrumental in them achieving victory. When calculating scores per the campaign rules, I noticed some possible discrepancies in my conversion. With the Swiss achieving their objective, the final score was Swiss 31, Germans 24. Each side gets 5 points for achieving their objective, and one point for each enemy figure KIA or captured. Routing figs don't count (neither do downed figs when the unit routs, just figures removed after the medic phase.)

When looking at the scenario, as written for a straight WWI game, the maximum number of Germans on the board (with a LOT of luck) is 57. The max number of British? 30.

I estimate that we had 50 Germans on the table. We had more than 75 Allied units on the table! Given that, Allied victory should have been a lot easier than it actually was. Truth be told, if commands had switched and Steve and I had control of the Engineers and Rangers, they would have rushed the third tier before the Grey German reinforcement could have made it out of the brush. With only a light machine gun and weakend units, the assault should have been overwhelming.

But that is why you play the games...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Battle of Tanga #0 Prologue

The Denizens of Africa Frolic Before Battle

We successfully got TWO scenarios of the Tanga Campaign done this Sunday! Despite a no-show by Nate, I did have Steve, Nichols, and Scott show up to get this shin-dig going.

We are using the Skirmish Elite - Tanga 1914 campaign set-up. The initial five scenarios involve the British attacking the German garrison on Mt. Longido. The scenarios are well-designed and allow for variable additional units to maximize repeat play. One time a side gets an extra unit, next a pair of hidden "skirmishers", next time off board artillery. Each game can have drastically different factors affect play.

Of course, we're playing Gnome Wars, so the British are replaced by the Swiss, and Askari troops are replaced by Teddy Bears.

In the real world, the British used a two pronged simultaneous attack to invade the colony of German East Africa. Ground forces would cross over the border from British East Africa (modern-day Kenya) and either defeat or detain the forces defending Longido Mountain, part of the range that includes Mt. Kilimanjaro. At best this force could seize essential wells on the mountain, as well as the local rail hub. The second attack would be an amphibious assault outside of the port city of Tanga. If both attacks were successful, the British hope to have the two forces connect via the rail line and work their way south to conquer the rest of the colony.

In the Gnome Wars world, things are not much different. After the previous Wishing Well campaign, the Swiss and Germans are definitely at war, and it has begun to spread around the world to their colonies. Gnomish Africa is a land of many exotic sentient species, as well as a land of opportunity for ne'er do wells like the Irish and Scottish Highlanders looking for the better life.

In this part of the world, the Germans hold a distinct advantage in the public relations war. They have a very good working relationship with the native Teddy Bear population, and have a well trained and well paid army of these creatures at the ready. These Teddy Bear Askari are poor shots, but ferocious in hand-to-hand combat, and rarely waver when faced with adversity.

The Swiss have focused primarily on mining prospects in the colony, so they have largely ignored their Teddy Bear population. They have sent over numerous units of Sikhs to help with colonial defense, but they have adjusted poorly to the climate and morale is tremendously low. The Irish immigrants working the mines have been used for defense and local law enforcement, sometimes as mercenaries, other times as conscripts to the Swiss Army.

There are also some special rules I've implemented to follow troop morale, enviroment, and to adapt to the special rules Gnome Wars has:

*All figures upslope are fired upon as if they had light cover, if other cover modifiers come into play, this rule is ignored.

*Melee is fought in the two-round format.

*A Swiss alphorn must be playing for any unit to advance. Each round a unit must roll a d6. If a 1 is rolled, the alphorn stops playing and the unit can not advance unless another has made their roll earlier in the turn.

*In mountainous scenarios, Swiss may only tunnel on the same level of elevation.

*Machine Guns make a roll on d6 after they are fired. On a 1, the machine gun runs out of ammo and a figure must run back to "base" and resupply. On a 6 the gun jams, and the team must spend the next turn clearing it. They then roll another d6, and so long as a 6 is not rolled, the jam is cleared and can be fired the following turn.

*Sikhs for the duration of the campaign are of such poor morale/discipline that they must remain in base-to-base contact at all times. They can not volley fire, and are subject to morale rules with a starting break number of 9.

For each scenario, I'll do a separate post for each after-action report, and provide the Gnome Wars conversion to troop selection and the variable forces available. Please be aware that the terrain is crude, but quite effective, and that numerous units may have partial base coats, if just a primer coat.

And no Fisher-Price leopards were harmed in the playing of this campaign.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Tanga Prep

This Sunday I'll have four players to start up the much-ballyhooed Tanga 1914 campaign. If we're lucky, we'll be able to speed through the first two scenarios.

Between being a full-time dad and, well, being a full-time dad, I'm absolutely amazed at what I actually managed to accomplish in the past two weeks. The terrain boards are adequate, although I did have to snag up some extra insulation for the elevation of the mountainside. Trenches and hills need a little paint to finish them off. Painting figs, outside of the previously shown Highlander, has been base coats, and if I can can the Sikhs and teddy bears done (yes, teddy bears) with a base coat, I'll be escatic. I will be very glad if I afterwards, I can get around to touching up the Red Swiss, finishing the Engineers, and completing the Swiss Rangers before April for Historicon. Then I can focus on building!

The toughest part hasn't been the painting. Heck, my players would be happy to play with unpainted lead. The toughest part has been going through the campaign book and balancing out the sides with the figures available. There are no "squads" of 8 soldiers in Gnome Wars, just 320 pt units, and with healing rules the way they are, a few lucky rolls and a squad of gnomes could charge up the hill after being decimated a few times over and just revived by a St. Bernard. I'll take my chances with larger units and few medics. If I do want to do squad action, I am picking the figs from Brigade anyway.

Each player will be getting their unit's sheet, heavy weapons, if applicable, and a sheet of campaign rules. Basically the short version:

*Melee will be two rounds, not to completion.
*Swiss alphorn rolls will be enforced. Tunneling is NOT permitted. up or downhill
*Sikhs have poor morale and is reflected on there weakened stats.
*Machine Guns have a roll for both jams and ammo
*Teddy Bear Askaris are somewhere halfway between the regular Sikh stats and the weakened Sikhs in the campaign. They have reduced range (24" max), but they are monsters if they can charge at least 7" into melee.

I have some terrain painting to do Saturday, a lot of cleaning in the garage, and maybe I'll get to another couple figs. I can't wait to see if the Swiss are better than the British were in the engagement.

Friday, April 8, 2011

(Nostalgia) All this lead is 'ettin to me...

I've always painted in spurts, which has led to accumulations of minis which ultimately I purge for no good reason. In April of 2000, I wrapped up "The College Campaign" at ESU. Although I plenty of material to keep it going indefinitely with an evolving cast of characters, the characters (and players) were iconic enough that I wanted to end this chapter in grand style.

Through the Summer, we at Griffon Games were ramping up the release of 3rd Edition, and I was pondering the next step for the Georic Campaign world. With just the release of the Player's Handbook, I realized 3e was not for me, so I turned into a more thematic direction: High Fantasy mixed with Pulp using Masterbook.

Please don't laugh.

I said stop it!

I wanted to emulate the action-packed TORG game I had seen at local conventions. Carboard figures for the villans and real minis for the characters were more for placement than for tactical wargaming. So I began painting at the store during slow times. Mike had left a crate of paints in the storage closet, and I snagged a few more to fill in the gaps. Many figs were absolute crap. Many were painted up solely to cover all the characters in The Sceptre of Amun-Ra from Journeys Magazine that I wanted to start the campaign off with. Truly, this one is my pride and joy from that experiment:

This is the Ettin from the 1999 WoTC mini line. It is only one of two minis that I successfully used Games Workshop's Dark Flesh paint. Lucky for my future gaming group, the store closed, I got a "real" job, and Hackmaster came out the following year. The minis still came out en masse for the first three or four sessions and the ettin made his only appearance when I ran "The Ettin's Riddle," one of the free adventures WoTC released to promote 3e. It sucked, and the ettin has been sitting in a mini case ever since.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

(D&D 4e) We have met the enemy, and it kinda sucks.

I had the good fortune to be invited to my buddy Steve's 4th Edition game this past Saturday. The game was all the way down in Pottstown, but I didn't want to give up the chance to game AND see my other friend Nate as well...

Even if it was 4th Edition.

Now, before I begin with "the hating," I was forewarned on the drive from Steve's to Pottstown that the group was green, not so much like unripened banana green, rather a banana tree seed that had been recently planted. Fourth was the chosen game because (a) some players actually owned those books and (b) it was in print and readily available.

Steve was DMing the game at their monthly meetings until the regular DM, Jeff, could spend time to focus on it again, hopefully in the summer. Including Nate and myself, there were seven players, and the game was restarting with brand-new 3rd level characters. As my entire history with this edition involves me reading the PHB and DMG cover-to-cover in a Barnes and Nobles, I chose Miles, a Human Knight as my character. As a 2nd edition era player, things hadn't changed much, just... different. The computer program everything was printed from was nice enough to add all the bonuses for my melee and missile attacks and them boldly on the center of the first page. What made me take pause was the page and a half of "action cards": special class/race/level abilities, instead of just being listed on the character sheet were designed to be cut out and played as appropriate. Luckily many of mine were battle actions and stances I could declare for bonuses, as well as my magic items. Pity to the monk who had twice as many, or the deluge of cards each spellcaster had. I'm assuming after a high enough level, using cards becomes prohibitively complicated and the sheets are printed out to avoid referencing the books.

The set-up for the game was nice and just a step beyond generic: We were all in the employ of, or indebted to a certain lord that sounded like he was more Godfather than Lord of the Rings. We had to visit an abandoned temple to hire a guide to lead us across the border in an enemy territory. There was more, but since we didn't get that far, I'll skip it for now. A handful of us were given secondary/personal goals to accomplish, if possible. I didn't ask if this was part of the game system, but it felt like a nice touch to flesh out the new characters.

Here's where everything fell apart: in five hours of playtime, excluding dinner and set/clean-up, we got through TWO rooms. The group is full of rookies, but these are rookies who understood movement, shifts, and standard/minor/free actions far better than I did and it took forever. To be truthful, my "tank" actually avoided a full frontal assault on archers, drakes, and bandits to flank the enemy, cause, truth be told, I've played these games long enough to not do something that stupid. There was just the right amount of rookie cooperation (re: none) and the convoluted combat probably ran twice as long because of it, but in the Basic/1st/2nd edition block of D&D, this would have been a half hour fight, with mediocre characters winning the day with perhaps a casualty. In this scenario we had two PCs dead, two revived from near death, and the rest of us were forced to use multiple "healing boosts" just to stay upright.

The second room went much smoother, but still complicated. My knight decided to lead the group further into the temple, to avoid another foolhardy charge. Unfortunately, the orc and his kobold minions in the room were waiting for us. Again, the party cohesion evaporated as I took the brunt of the orc and kobold slinger attacks.

Sidetrack: I've loved kobolds ever since they were lovable dog-men instead of draconian humanoids. I've played the in the LVGA classic: They're Only Kobolds by Joe Ward. I've run them like little ninjas, and I've run them as lovable misunderstood critters. Fourth edition turns them into dragon-wannabe midgets from hell. As if the sling bullets with an appropriately increased damage rating weren't bad enough en masse, now they readily possess glue pots and incendiary pots. Now, I have used incendiary devices with kobolds, but that was only for warren defense. Kobolds openly using these items and fighting to the man? Perhaps it's the new rules, perhaps it's Steve, I don't know.

After we assessed the damage, we realized it was after 9pm, and with a two hour drive on my part, we departed. Rant On: When I ran the Hackmaster version of G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain, we had six PCs, two PC proteges, and an NPC torchbearer royally screw up their stealth and be forced to fight a running battle against hobgoblins, ogres, and giants in the lairs beneath the great hall. Piles of humanoids fell, dozens of heroic actions occurred, and yet the combat itself concluded in just over two hours.

Now I can't tell you how many squares Fonzie Schlepprock shifted to avoid an attack, or if Cecelia Darkspruce needed to use an action point to heal the magic-user, but I do remember three brave gnome titans wading through the unwashed hordes to save their friends, rid the kingdom of their problem, and get them to begrudgingly become an ally against The Master. And that's HACKMASTER, with a twenty point HP kicker and standard damage. Fourth edition jacked up the hit points and damage and it still feels slower.

Now, will I join in again if invited? Absolutely. Beggars in my situation can't be choosers and a game is a game. I enjoyed playing Miles, who I used my freshly painted Scottish golfer for the mini. The group dynamic is similar to my high school group, although the Charles archetype is more personable, and the Wooly archetype is still named Brian.

Now if I can only teach them Hackmaster. Or Talislanta. Or Gnome Wars.

Friday, April 1, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Scottish Golfer sans Mortar

I had a great day of painting figs with my daughter Maja. Now I don't recommend letting a 2-year old paint your "No-nos," but she did a decent basecoat for some packmules I'm still working on. Mind you, one of them is orange, but hey, they are for a Gnome Wars Tanga scenario. When she was fingerpainting, I'm very proud to say she refused to actually use her hands with her fingerpaints and preferred to use a brush to produce her masterpieces.

It's only taken me seven months into "my" year to paint a mini, but here is the Scottish Golf Mortar, without his trusty golf bag and tee:

Tiger Woods y'all...

I also got the flocking down for the boards for the Longido Mountain portion of the Tanga Campaign. Well, sort of. I think I only snagged one insulation board and most of the scenarios will need another sheet or two. Multiple levels on a 6x8 board is a bit labor intensive. I'll probably snag up another sheet tomorrow (thank God they're cheap).

One thing I did discover was that you need A LOT of tan static grass to cover a surface versus green. I hope it all stays put.

This week's project: Painting the edges of the foam board brown, putting together some rock walls, and assemble some trenches with just a piece of 1" x 1/2" wood and some craft sticks, but no dirt berm.