Thursday, June 23, 2011

Playtesting small boards on MDRG

I got some time today to playtest the suggestions to better accomodate my Mutants and Death Ray Guns skirmishes in 2'x2' boards with 28mm figures, as I'd like to do for the Wasteland Wandering scenario. For these tests I used a board with only three terrain pieces and two warbands of three figures each -- not very different from the encounters I expect to have in the scenario.
Each team has a mutant with a Long-range weapon that grants +2 to combat, a human with a Medium-range weapon that grants +2 to combat and a robot with Heavy Armor and no ranged weapons. The idea was just to get a general feel for the options, not to test extreme cases (like all melee vs. all ranged, for instance.) They were deployed within 1 Short from the board edges.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wandering the Wastes

Recently, some people started talking about Mutants and Death Ray Guns (MDRG) on the Cardboard Warriors Forum. This was the game that won me over to skirmish gaming and since I haven't played it in a while, this made me willing to go back to it. Then I read Glenn Williams review on a game called Space Infantry and was interested in the game's structure as a series of encounters. Granted, this is done in other games (for instance Larger than Life, from what I've read of the description, or Chronicles of Arax, although in that case the encounters do not use miniatures) but when I read about it in that review, it got me back to the random encounters in Fallout -- probably because I was thinking about MDRG.

Those random encounters happened as you crossed the wasteland from one settlement to another. Some were good, many were bad and then there were the (relatively) rare special encounters. So why not create a custom MDRG solo scenario that plays like a series of random encounters while traveling from one place to another?
One thing I found interesting in the random encounters from Fallout was that the maps were small. You didn't have much room to run or hide and often the action started right away. I want to preserve that characteristic, so I'm looking at encounters played on, say, a 2'x2' board for 28mm figures. The problem is that with a smaller board, morale checks may end the encounter too soon. So instead of using the standard morale rules, I'll adapt some of the fear mechanics from Fear and Faith. This way, most of the time figures that fail their morale checks on one or two dice will have to move a shorter distance and will not be allowed to leave the map, but they may be knocked down or even become transfixed in the process. I'll have to see if this works.

Well, for now I'm starting to write down the scenario rules, which will be posted when a first draft is ready.
[Edit: following a reply from Andrea Sfiligoi on the Song of Blades discussion group, I'll try using a rule where figures that fail a morale check run for cover instead of the board edges. Only figures already in cover that fail a morale check try to flee tha map.]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Industrial zone

Since I play mostly solo and I have many modern/sci-fi 28mm games on my "review playlist," I decided to build a reduced-scale industrial zone board. Basically, it uses TopoSolitario's industrial zone terrain, IKubes and containers, plus some models from Dave Graffam and Finger and Toe. Everything is printed at 50% scale, including miniatures, so in the end I have a 2'x1.5' board that I can use as if it was a 4'x3' table -- as long as I divide all lengths by two (or measure things using "half inches" instead of inches... it wouldn't be hard to create a measuring tape for this, heh.)
Even if I didn't have the space restrictions to set up a 4'x3' table (and store all the models afterwards) this mini-board will be very practical for solo play. The board folds in half and all the buildings and minis will fit in a single small box. It's easy to reach any point of the board or even spin it around.
I still have to make a few more buildings to be able to have many different configurations on the board, as well as more miniatures. The ones shown in these pictures are from Slick's Miniatures (NCC ODAT troopers) and OneMonk (TerraForce Elite Marines and Urban Ops Veterans.)
Why have all this trouble instead of simply using 15mm miniatures and terrain? Well, the 15mm minis that I have (in paper or metal) use plastic round bases that are about 20mm in diameter. It would be OK to improvise with them halving distances, but when you consider scale, that would be the same as playing with 28mm miniatures with 40mm bases -- far larger than the usual 25mm and possibly enough to make the rules feel different. More than that, however, I've been wanting to build a board with TopoSolitario's terrain for a while, and this was a good excuse...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sidalis IV: After the Bombs

After I found out that I had misunderstood the rules for reactions in groups (especially the Received Fire reaction tests) I wanted to play another game of Chain Reaction 3.0. This was an opportunity to have another scenario of the War of Sidalis IV.

At the beginning of the Sidalis conflict, the local Terraforce commander needed to optimize the use of the few available resources to halt the NovaCorp operations. He ordered the use of the available star cruiser for orbital bombardment of some key military installations (wisely saving some bombs at that moment.) After a site was bombed, a small "sweep team" would be sent in to gather intelligence, destroy any remaining operational facilities and arrest any survivors.

Camp Zetarr was a small maintenance facility but the Terraforce command believed it could serve as a relay point for supplies between other bases. A single high-energy orbital bomb was deployed on it and then a team of six soldiers was sent to scout the area.

I set up a 3'x2' board as shown in the following picture. The green areas at the corners are impassable terrain. The ruins block line of sight and have a Defensive Value of 3. The patches of rubble count as rough terrain that slows movement but does not provide any concealment.
For simplicity, the NovaCorp soldiers are all Rep 4, carrying pulse rifles (using the semi-automatic rifle stats). The Terraforce sweep team consists of these six soldiers:

Friday, June 17, 2011

USE ME in PDF format

Just found out that the USE ME rule book has become available in PDF format (actually, since May 27th or so) from the website. Even though I already have the printed version, I bought this to complete my digital collection of rules (and hoping that they will publish other titles like Flintloque in PDF too.) The download includes an electronic version with bookmarks and color pages, as well as a printer-friendly black and white version.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Akula's Zombies

Next up on my games playlist is Akula's Rules: Skirmish Edition (a.k.a. Total AR:SE), a two-page set of rules for survivor vs. zombie battles that can be downloaded from this site (by the way, Akula's main blog also contains some impressive miniatures, terrain and other models.)

As the rules are only two pages long, I feel that anyone interested is better served by getting the PDF rather than reading a review, so I'll go straight to the play report. However, I'd like just to note a couple of things:

1. The game uses a mixed activation system based on cards. A common set of playing cards can be used, although a set of custom cards marked with "survivor," "shambler," "tank/fast," "horde" and "end of turn" can make the game go even faster. It's not hard to create your own with a bunch of index cards.

2. Part of the reason the rules take so little space is due to the omission of several concepts or rulings that experienced wargamers may find "common sense," along with others that will require tinkering before play. As a result, newcomers to wargames or miniature games may find this game a little hard to understand. Examples of this are the firearms and melee skills mentioned in the rule without further details. It's up to the players to determine how the skills are assigned to characters.

Foamcore finally!

I've finally got some foamcore, and found out it's called "papel pluma" here in Brazil. I got it as a very large (about 1m x 1m) sheet 4mm thick. So now I can finally try to make the foamcore miniature bases that some people on Cardboard Warriors use. I cut some 1" square bases with a slit across the middle, based on Okumart's instructions in the Whiplash Trigger sets. The minis fit very well and the base remains relatively flat. Then I tried applying some green paint to them, and here's the result.

I still have to try printing some textures and gluing to the foamcore, as well as cutting the bases in hex or octagon shapes, but at least now I have the material.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Printing on photo paper at home

I found a package of "semi-glossy" photo paper for a reasonable price (about US$0.65 a sheet) and tried to print some miniatures on it. As expected, the ink takes longer to dry, so to be safe I left them drying for a whole day. I tried cutting a mini but noticed that I was still smearing ink when pressing it down for the cuts. After that, I applied two light coats of spray sealant and left them to dry for another day. I was afraid it would smear the colors, but there was no visible effect. The following picture shows a comparison between the minis printed at the photo kiosk (on the top row) and the ones printed at home.
It is possible to see that the ones printed at home look "watered down" as if I had run the picture through a filter to increase brightness, although I certainly didn't do that. Also, for some reason there is slight shade of blue over the whole miniatures, something I can't notice when printing on regular paper. Anyway, the miniatures still look good, although not as good as the ones printed at the kiosk.

As an added bonus, the back of this photo paper takes glue a lot more easily than the other one, so I was able to apply a thin layer of PVA to glue them, and now I'm letting them dry for yet another day. After everything is properly cut and ready to play, I'll post new pictures of them...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Goblin Lake

Last night I played "The Goblin Lake," a solo adventure included in the free "sampler" of the Tunnels and Trolls RPG from Flying Buffalo. From what I've read, this free edition contains a subset of the core rules -- enough to understand how the game plays and to try some solo adventures. Even though this game is probably older than me, and I have been trying several RPGs through the years, I still hadn't experienced Tunnels and Trolls, so here are my first impressions.

The system
The game system has some features that are usually associated with more recent narrative-driven games, such as a uniform task resolution mechanic and a fast, abstract combat system. On the other hand, it also has some "old school" elements such as rolled character attributes and "shopping list" character inventory, complete with an encumbrance system.

I found the combat rules especially interesting. Close combat is simultaneous, and with a single check it is possible to determine if either fighting character gets hurt and how much damage they suffer. Damage is subtracted from the target's constitution attribute or monster rating, which has the effect of weakening monsters as they take damage. Each combat round lasts for two minutes in the game world. The result is a freeform, abstract combat system that may not appeal to everyone, but certainly gives a lot of freedom for narrative interpretation. Instead of describing exactly what you want to do, then check for success, you can simply state who you're in combat with, and narrate the results. Defeated a foe in a single round? That surely sounds like a "critical hit," even though there are no rules for such events. Speaking of which, this system can be very deadly, specially for unevenly matched opponents.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: Chronicles of Arax

Today I tried the game Chronicles of Arax -- more specifically, version 1.2 of the rules. The core rules are available for free through digital download stores such as RPGNow, and many add-ons are sold separately. As with other free products, I'll start with a short review of the book (since others may download it to check for themselves) followed by a playtest review.

Content: The core rulebook of Chronicles of Arax is 17 pages long. You get five pages of rules, two pages on the included hero class, the Adventurer, a quest and tables on artifacts and relics. Enough to evaluate the game and feel if you like it or not, and with some replayability.

Presentation: the book includes a cover simulating a leatherbound volume. The text is laid out in two columns in A4 page format with tight margins, meaning that people will likely have to scale it down when printing. There are some grayscale fantasy illustrations throughout the book. They have different styles and look very nice, although some of them are there more for the mood than to illustrate some part of the text. All things considered, an effective and good-looking package. The only thing I'd change is the use of color to distinguish descriptive text from the rules in the encounters; maybe using another font, since the rest of the book doesn't use different colors or require color printing.