Sunday, December 29, 2013

Whew, so the year is almost over...

So here we are again, at the end of the year, looking back at what was done and making plans. This year turned out to be quite complicated personally and professionally. In terms of the blog and tabletop gaming in general, I could not spare the required time to start many of the things I had planned.

Fortunately, I have had calm and good holidays and even managed to brush up on some game systems like Shadowsea and Rally Round the King, and solo wargaming books. I am also taking a look at some large-scale battle titles like Strike Legion, Antiquity and Brigadier General.

For the next year, I will stick to the goal set in 2013 and not accomplished, to keep at least some tabletop gaming activity all year round and posting at least once a week. For the moment, I am not laying out any more specific plans than those.

That is all for now, so happy holidays and a great new year to everyone!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blog Necromancy

Yesterday this blog completed three full months of inactivity; more than enough time for most to declare a blog dead. Yet, here I am to set it in motion again, like a necromancer raising a zombie from their grave... ok, not the best analogy (and quite possible tasteless) but it also serves the purpose of introducing the main subject of this post: Gamebook Adventure 2 - Siege of the Necromancer, which I have been playing lately.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A solo-playable game made in Brazil

Earlier this year I invested in a crowdfunded tabletop game project called "Runicards", made by brazilian game designer Rovalde Banchieri. This week I received the game, along with the deluxe game box. Over 440 cards, plus die cut counters, glass beads and two different boards!

For now the game is available only in Portuguese but I do hope that Rovalde's company fares well enough that they try distributing it in other countries. His team did handle the project very professionally.

Runicards can be played as a cooperative adventure for one or more players, which control heroes with various abilities, fighting random monsters until they reach the lair of the main villain. Action is card-driven, there are no dice rolls. After defeating monsters, heroes gain experience that may be traded for items, used to level up or even remove some negative effects from the game. The game also has an "Empire" competitive mode where players fight each other for resources and territory.

Today I played my first few solo matches and I did not even get close to the lair. Solo play with a single hero is really challenging. Now I have to try it in true cooperative play, as well as the "Empire" mode.

Well, this is all for now. Crowdfunding has been very helpful for independent game development, whether it is computer-based or tabletop. Hopefully this will be the start of a new tabletop scene around here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Solo Tabletop Gaming and Computer Games

Recently, I started playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on the PC, and so far it is very good. While certain boardgame conversions have failed terribly, this game delivers an interesting strategic campaign with turn-based tactical battles that remind me of playing with miniatures on the tabletop (note: that is also true of the original XCOM games but in my opinion, the additional abstraction in this more recent version brings it closer to a "tabletop feel".)

This brought me back to wondering why I keep playing solo tabletop games when there are computer-based options for strategic and tactical battles. After all, they do not require physical space, miniatures, and terrain; setup time is minimal; it is possible to stop and resume as one wishes; and while the "artificial intelligence" in many such games are lacking, they ought to be more sophisticated than paper-based alternatives. A similar case can be made for computer RPGs.

Despite all of these good reasons, I keep attracted to solo tabletop games and RPGs. So there must be some fun or pleasure that I get from this activity that is different from computer games. After some introspection, I came up with these thoughts about the subject:

1) Mixing the roles of player and author: Most RPGs and wargames are presented as frameworks to play one's stories and battles, as opposed to the designed experiences of computer games. Besides, solo gaming requires interpretation and customization of game rules to suit my needs. Whenever I am playing a solo RPG or tabletop game, I have the feeling that I am also tinkering or experimenting with the rules and narrative. This activity of simultaneous play, analysis and design is currently my main drive to play tabletop games. I think it is also the reason why, if I am not feeling up to the task, I end up not playing them at all.

2) Ease of use vs. ease of modification: Computer games are convenient to play but not so simple to modify. Mixing a game's set of rules with another one's narrative can be nearly impossible. Although several computer games nowadays provide customization tools, they do not provide the same freedom or ease of use of the tabletop counterparts. For instance, editing a map or script for a computer strategy game still takes more time and effort than writing down some notes and placing terrain on the table -- especially in my case, as I use paper terrain and figures.

3) The pleasure of implementation: The previous reasons mean that I could move to digital tools, playing my tabletop games in MapTool or something like that. However, in my experiences doing so I felt like something was missing. So I think that some fun that I have comes from taking part in the implementation of the game, including the manipulation of the game pieces.

So this is it, from what I can gather from my experiences. Writing this has led me to another question: how much digital technology can I incorporate into my tabletop gaming to make it easier without losing something in the process? Automate reaction systems and random tables? Play on a touch-sensitive tablet?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nine questions in the mutant future - part 1

Since I read JF's post of the 9Qs PDF, I have been wanting to try it. Well, over an year has passed, he released an updated 2013 edition back in March and I still had not played anything with it.

I like post-apocalyptic games and I have a number of RPGs with that theme to try... the problem is that trying two things for the first time at once increases the risk of something going wrong. So I decided go with Mutant Future, which at the same time satisfies my need for some post-apocalyptic role-playing and is based on a very familiar game system.

The PC Party
Characters were randomly rolled using the "roll four dice, drop lowest, for each ability in order" method. I just decided beforehand that I would have a party with a mutant human, an android and a mutant animal. For the character names, I googled "post apocalyptic character name generator" with little hope of finding something so specific... this led me to the Badass Mad Max Style Post Apocalyptic Nickname Generator. Some generated results are bizarre but a few clicks gave me more than enough inspiration. I also used the Universal NPC Emulator to generate some traits for each of them. Here is the party:

James 'Equalizer' O'Neal, Mutated Human (Neutral)
AC 5, HP 73, STR 18 (+3 to hit, damage, force doors), DEX 16 (-2 AC, +2 to hit with missiles), CON 17, INT 13 (+5% on tech rolls), WIL 14, CHA 11.
Damage turning, spiny growth (medium spines, 1d6 damage), ultraviolet vision.
Heavy crossbow, leather armor, long sword, 50 heavy quarrels, backpack with basic items.

Equalizer is a 6' tall bald man with tanned, dry skin. Thick black spines jut out of his forearms and legs.  Despite the scary looks, and the fame gained defending his village, his real passion is in restoring ancient technology. That puts him at odds with scavengers and junk traders, and draws him to the city states of the pure humans. [UNE description and motivations: dignified artisan, overthrow resources, associate with the wealthy, conceive pleasure.]

Artiface, Basic Android (Lawful)
AC 2, HP 50, STR 17 (+2 to hit, damage, force doors), DEX 13 (-1 AC, +1 to hit with missiles), CON 7 (-1 radiation saves), INT 7 (-5% on tech rolls), WIL 13, CHA 14 (-1 reaction adjustment.)
Control light waves, dwarfism (1' tall, -2 damage, -2 AC, +1 to hit), increased hearing.
Chain mail, short sword, backpack with basic items.

Artiface is a very short android, a product of the ancient world. Found and repaired by Equalizer, he has become his loyal companion. He enjoys aiding villagers in improving their living; at times the android will start rambling about "reconstructing the glory of civilization," which is source for amusement, and sometimes trouble. [UNE description and motivations: habitual adept, obtain the world, relate disbelief, produce expertise.]

Bandit Missle, Mutant Donkey (Neutral)
AC 4, HP 36, STR 10, DEX 14 (-1 AC, +1 to hit with missiles), CON 14, INT 5 (-10% on tech rolls), WIL 15, CHA 16 (-1 reaction adjustment.)
Body adjustment (4 times a week), capable of speech, chameleon epidermis, dual cerebellum (+10% on tech rolls), killing sphere.
No weapons, bite attack does 1d4 damage. Beast barding, also carrying provisions (rations, waterskins, rope etc.)

Artiface and Equalizer freed Bandit Missle, or BM for short, from a group of mutants that used him as a beast of burden. Since then, they take the simple-minded, two-headed stealthy donkey along with them to protect him from raiders and slavers. No one is sure why he took that name but he speaks it proudly and spells it that way. BM is fond of roaming the wasteland to learn of stories about the animals of the ancient civilization. [UNE description and motivations: unseemly gypsy, oppress pride, obtain myths, indulge enemies.]

Heroic Motivation
The characters are tied together by their interest in the ancient civilizations and their willingness to travel the wasteland to look for information and relics. Their home base is Crevace, a small village of mutants hidden in the mountains. Therefore, their main motivation is to recover ancient relics, and the opposition are scavengers and whoever might be guarding those relics. A secondary motivation is to protect Crevace from raiders and slavers.

That is all for now. Hopefully I will be able to post at least part of a session this week.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My first game of Swatters

Today I came back to Ganesha Games' Swatters, finished building my simple paper miniatures and trays and played my first game, using the provided solo rules.

The miniatures are some aliens and sci-fi soldiers from Arion Games, which I am using to represent the Marine Trooper, Marine Elite, Grunt Bug and Assault Warrior profiles from the book.

I made up a simple scenario inspired by the Meeting Engagement and Retrieval Mission scenarios from the book. The marines must reach the cargo pod in the middle of the board and spend two actions in a single turn to retrieve some important cargo. Then they must exit the board through the edge they started at.

The rules are based on the "Song of Blades and Heroes" engine, with many changes. Figures are moved as units -- groups of 2-5 miniatures on circular trays (the game recommends using old CDs.) Damage in combat can kill and suppress figures of a unit. Here is a picture of the first engagement in the game. As the assault warriors came closer, the elite marines opened fire killing two aliens and suppressing another two.

Human troops are very deadly at a range, while the aliens are stronger at close combat. In this particular scenario, a combination of starting positions and lucky rolls caused the marines to destroy most alien forces before they could reach them. In the end they lost a single figure.


This playtest game lasted for around 35 minutes. Moving the unit trays instead of individual units keeps the action fast. The "Song of Blades and Heroes" system was well adapted to this larger scale. Since you can remove and lay down miniatures to mark casualties and suppression, the game requires no bookkeeping. The game also includes rules for larger aliens and vehicles, which I still have to try. 

I am also interested in playing humans vs. humans (i.e. ranged vs. ranged) to see how well the system handles that setup. It may turn into another interesting alternative for squad or platoon-level sci-fi battles.

As for solo play, the game recommends having "spawning points" around the board for the aliens to appear. I did not use them in this test game but I will do so in the future. Having all aliens start at a single board edge makes the game too easy for the humans. I might also reduce the amount of "bonus dice" for the humans when playing solo.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Solo Wargaming Guide

It has been almost one month without updates around here!

I have been reading The Solo Wargaming Guide, by William Silvester (Precis Intermedia). This book, which was released in June, brings advice about planning and running solo wargaming campaigns. It also discusses naval and air campaigns and the effects of weather and attrition, including sieges. The ideas are independent of period, although many examples use horse and musket forces.

In my opinion it complements Featherstone's Solo Wargaming, dealing with some similar topics (e.g. war diaries, concealment) but with an emphasis in campaign play and transitioning between strategic and tactical scales for maps, distances and time. I suppose long-time solo veterans might have figured their own systems for these but I have picked up some interesting ideas from the book.

More importantly, reading again about solo campaigns has made me want to try something. I want to start with some small games of Rally Round the King (or maybe Gentlemen Generals) to remember the rules and then create a small conflict between fictional countries to see how it plays out.

In other news I also have been taking some interest in the relatively brief Empire of Brazil (1822-1889) as inspiration for both RPGs and wargaming. It was a time of political instability and social, economic and technological change with lasting consequences. Since I am not much of a historical player, this will probably get mixed with fictional elements but for now I am looking for some history books on the subject...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the games I picked up in my vacation was the recently released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by Reiner Knizia, published by Cryptozoic. The game box said "1 to 4 players," which drew my attention. There are some informative reviews at BoardGameGeek and I thought it would be both an interesting solo game and something to attract new gamers.

Essentially, this is a cooperative game where players roll dice to complete goals on the board. This has led to comparisons with Elder Sign, although I am not sure yet about how close the two games are. Dice may be allocated to goals and unallocated dice are re-rolled once. Players also have two types of cards they may spend to complete goals: company cards represent the dwarves and Bilbo and may be recovered in some situations. Resource cards are gone when used. Failing to complete any goal pushes you towards losing the game. Finishing all the goals on the two game boards, which are played sequentially, is required to win. There is a sizable random element in the roll of dice and in event cards that are drawn at the beginning of every turn but the game still offers significant choices such as which dice to allocate or re-roll, when to spend each resource and which goals to complete first.

My first solo game ended very quickly, as I was too stingy with my resources and lost the game while completing only four goals on the first board. On my second game I managed to get to the second board, but lost the game with two goals to complete. Lesson learned: the card that allows you to ignore an event is a very important resource! I finished my third game, with a total of 18 victory points -- although it felt like I was going to lose again with a couple of goals to complete.

I liked my first solo matches of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It is easy to forget to draw an event card every turn as you are considering your options. Now I have to play this with more players to see how the cooperative aspect of the game works, especially regarding the use of the shared resource cards. I am also curious to see how the expansions will work with the base game.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A quick vacation update

I'm back from a 10-day vacation trip to London, Bath (and also a quick visit to Chawton)... lots of good memories and I hope to go back there some day.

I also managed to visit some game shops (most notably Orc's Nest) so I burned most of my gaming budget for the year in physical products, instead of the PDF ones I can more readily get from Brazil. These include products I learned about through Solo Nexus, like Rory's Story Cubes, Elder Sign and Advanced Fighting Fantasy, along with boardgames like Pandemic (the revised 2013 edition) and Twilight Struggle.

Hopefully, these new toys will push me back into updating this blog :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dino Hunt

Today I picked up a box of the old Dino Hunt game by Steve Jackson Games. Designed as a sort of "edutainment" game for kids, it gets you traveling through time to capture dinosaurs. The cards bring some scientific information about each dinosaur besides its name and picture.

Dino Hunt also includes a solo variant where you try to reach the highest score in ten game turns. Different dinosaurs have varying point values and to capture you roll one die. Roll low and you can have various negative effects. I particularly liked the fact that each dinosaur card has its own table of outcomes for the roll of the dice. So for instance, rolling a 1 for a small creature might just cost a bit of energy, while a large one might end your turn prematurely. You also draw a special card at the beginning of each turn, acting like a random event system.

As I played a solo game, I realized that the mechanics could be adapted to the theme of academic publishing, although I agree with anyone that dinosaurs are a much cooler subject. It is just that the trend to "publish or perish" has been catching up really quickly here in Brazil so I guess I cannot help thinking about it. Instead of a team of time-traveling archaeologists, the player would be the head of a research lab at a university somewhere. Instead of dinosaurs, the cards would represent academic journals, having an energy cost and impact factor. The hunt roll would become the peer review roll... maybe in my next vacation I can sketch something along these lines.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crowdfunding rewards and other updates

About a week ago I got an update from the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls kickstarter saying that some of the rewards like postcards, bookmarks and such had been mailed to the backers. "Oh, cool, in a month or so they should arrive," I thought. Surprisingly, I got them today, twelve days from the postage date!

In other news, Fields of War has released a FAQ for their Border War game, of which I wrote a short review/playtest. The FAQ is written like the letters section of a magazine, which makes it fun to read.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Raptorz

After the conversation in the comments for the previous post, I decided to finish the post about Raptorz that has been sitting in my drafts list for about one year.

Raptorz is a game by Rebel Minis in a partnership with Two Hour Wargames. It is meant to be played with the 15mm figures from that company, but for now I have been playing with MapTool, and also with the pieces from the free Patrol: Lost print and play boardgame. The PDF version (which I own) consists of a rulebook and a set of room and corridor tiles, created by PaperMakeIt.

The game uses some mechanics from other products from Two Hour Wargames. Therefore, people familiar with Rep, reaction tests etc. will be at home. One important difference is the usage of a more abstract movement system, where figures move from section to section rather than measuring inches. Sections can be rooms or corridors and some abstraction must be adopted about them, too, especially when fights happen on narrow corridors.

Here is a shot of a game playing with the Patrol: Lost pieces. Note that in Raptorz, you set up the whole board before play. In this picture, I was using a team of three soldiers: leader, marine with rifle and marine with squad automatic weapon. The dice mark the possible enemy forces (PEFs) and their Rep. I had to decide beforehand which tiles belonged to each of the sectors 1-6 referenced by the rules.

Another shot a few turns later. Up to this point I had met two PEFs but both resolved into nothing but nerves. Then I rolled doubles three times in a row, thus spawning three new PEFs. One of them appeared behind my marines, just as they approached a dead end... talk about ambushes!

At this point, I thought it would be better to start moving back to the entrance, even if I had not scouted the whole map. My soldiers fired at the PEF that had appeared behind them, and it was resolved as six raptorz!

Although my soldiers were able to defeat this group of enemies, they lost one marine in a later battle and eventually were overwhelmed when another PEF resolved as 10 raptorz. Still, a fun game that lasted around one hour.

The rules for Raptorz are only seven pages long, which means you can start playing in minutes. The downside is that the text is very, very concise, and requires some interpretation (which may vary according to the experience of the reader.) For instance, here are the conventions I've adopted:

1. The game states that PEFs are resolved only when they share a section with marines. However, some weapons may fire up to two sections away. Therefore, if a marine opens fire against a PEF, it is first resolved. However, a figure or group that fires when active does not move. Also, if the PEF resolves into raptorz, the whole group may move when next active -- there is no roll to check how many enter the room.

2. There is a recovery table that seems to allow a marine who went out of the fight to regain consciousness. However, it is not mentioned in the rules text. The way I play is, if a marine goes OOF but does not suffer other hits until his next activation, he gets to roll on the recovery table.

3. If a marine is in a Confrontation against multiple aliens, I resolve all of them before carrying out a Fall Back result. If any of the aliens reaches melee range, the marine cannot fall back.

4. If raptorz and marines remain at the same room when a turn ends, I run a new confrontation test when either group activates again. I use the confrontation test #1 if the marines activate or confrontation test #2 if the raptorz go first.


Raptorz is another alternative for a quick and simple solo or cooperative "dungeon hack" with a sci-fi theme. There is room for experimentation -- for instance, trying to add ranged enemies, traps and random events. The room-to-room movement keeps the game fast and allows playing with little regard to scale of miniatures.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What? April is almost over!?

Just a quick update before I reach one full month without visible activity... this month flew by as I am struggling with a lot of administrative tasks, including reports and organization of events.

Anyway, I have been reading Mercenary Air Squadron to try to play a few games, as it seems to have an interesting and different take on solo strategy games. At least compared to the games I know.

I have been preparing to begin my first game with JF's 9Qs, but I still have to organize what I have done in a coherent post.

There is also Larger than Life, the pulp game from Two Hour Wargames. I bought it a couple of months ago, read it all at once and loved every bit... and until now I still have to play a game.

Lastly, I have purchased the new Ganesha Games' Swatters as I was curious about how they would handle groups of figures in larger numbers than the typical skirmish. Since the book includes some advice for solo play, I am in the process of building a simple "playtest" set of trays and figures to play a few games.

So to sum it up: extra work and a lack of focus have resulted in no actual playing lately... hopefully this will change soon.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Test building another modular tile design

Here are some shots of the test build of another tile system, designed to play at 1cm = 1" scale, i.e. printing 28mm miniatures at around 40% size. Each tile is made of a 6cm square glued to a base with some slots, creating a simple slot and connector system.

Tiles are kept together by fitting connectors to the slots...

This results in a mesh of small connected squares.

Here is a shot with some miniatures (from Battle Studios) printed at 40% scale.

At this size, I can fit three tiles per page, meaning I would need twelve pages to make the equivalent of a 3'x3' board. Each tile could be two-sided, to add variety too. I think that for 6" tiles -- to play with 28mm scale miniatures, for instance -- additional slots would be needed to keep the tiles aligned. Also, each tile would require two sheets of paper to build, so I do not think this design would be very good for larger scales.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Warmancers and other figures

Today I finished some figure building during lunch break, including some figures from the Torn Armor set and the eight spellcasters of the Warmancers: Battle Arena set, both published by Grey Matter Games.

Here are the two war golems and one hoplite from Torn Armor. These were the figures used to playtest the game, which is on its last week on Kickstarter. They have mirrored backs but I like the style of the illustrations, and the poses seem to be pretty much the same of the actual 3D miniatures.

Here are the spellcasters from the Battle Arena game. Overall, I think that they have dynamic poses and nice colors -- although they might seem a little washed out in this picture, thanks to my camera. These do have backs but I only realized I did not take a picture when I was posting this, so I might add another image later.

Lastly, here is a "group shot" with all the figures. This time I printed everything at normal scale -- in this case 28mm. I have to admit, no matter how practical it may be for me to play at reduced scales, they look better at this larger size, so sometimes I just have to build some :)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Smugglers in the Dark - part 3

With some delay, here is the last part of my solo dungeon delve. Based on comments on the first report, it became clear that I should define the mechanics for group decision. After some thought, here is the system to be used:

1) I will set the scene based on card drawn, Mythic description chart etc.
2) I will come up with a likely course of action for each character, based on description, and I will test them with the Mythic fate chart. A result of "exceptional yes" will mean that the character will want to stick to their plan, possibly disregarding others' opinions and even taking immediate action. A result of "exceptional no" will mean they will actively avoid that option even if others suggest it. In the case of a simple "no" I will try to come up with secondary plan and test it again. A second "no" means the character has not made up their mind.
3) Based on the results from each character, I will try to interpret the decision of the party. This may require more fate chart rolls if a character tries to persuade the others, for instance.
4) If all characters rolled two "no" results on step 2, the action will be initiated by the NPCs, environment etc. For instance, a trap might be accidentally sprung, wandering monsters arrive, the NPCs start asking questions...

Since I am not very experienced in solo RPGs, I tried to fit most decisions into the "make a common sense question / answer with fate chart" framework from Mythic. I will leave the comments about how it worked for the end of the report:

Ingont woke up to the sound Eryz and Swyem talking. They had built a small campfire and Swyem was making some kind of tea. He had planned to wake up before sunrise and start preparing... Now all this chatter would make concentrating harder, not to mention the risk of drawing unwanted attention. At least Swyem seemed to have recovered, and the blood stains on her armor were the only reminder of yesterday's fight.

The party walked back to the ruins and passed through the entrance in mid-morning. They moved slowly, wary of any signs or sounds of movement, until reaching the point where two corridors crossed. [Party order remains the same: Eryz, Ingont and Swyem. Turns 1 and 2 were spent moving to the crossing found on the previous day.]

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dungeon Tiles and Walls

Today I built some pieces of the Dungeon Tiles and Walls set, created by Eddnic of the Fantasy Paper Miniature Models blog and published by Avalon Games. There are several products for the creation of paper dungeon environments, from flat tile sets to full 3D scenarios. This one offers a lot of flexibility and modularity with the added bonus of allowing all pieces to be stored flat. OK, calling it a "bonus" is unfair as the set was carefully designed to allow this feature -- this becomes evident when you see the flat-folding stairway...

The heart of the set are the pillars, wall sections and door frames, which can be combined in a variety of ways. Most of the building process involves easy cuts with a hobby knife and some folding. The layout of the pieces on the sheets makes the process of scoring (marking the fold lines with a dull knife or ball pen without ink, to make folding easier) the pieces very efficient. The only parts that require glue are a few tabs on the pillars and on the stairway piece. Here are some shots of the built pieces.

The doors are slotted into the door frames, so it is possible to show the open or closed state of each passageway. There are different versions, such as wooden doors and metal bars. There is also a stand-alone door frame model, which could be used just to add some 3D elements to a flat map.

Here is a shot of the separate pieces that I built. It is possible to see a dungeon tile (there are many others in the set), some connectors, which are used to create passageways and bridge rooms together, the slotted pillars, wall sections and doorways. A clever modular system.

And lastly, the unfolded pieces, ready for storage. This shot highlights the simplicity of the pieces, which are easy to cut and build. To be honest, this was supposed to be a test build just to check out the product, but I really enjoyed making these and so I decided to make a post about it.


I love modular terrain systems, and this was the reason I got this product. It proved to deliver what it promised, with easy to build, good-looking pieces that can be stored flat. A friend of mine has been interested in playing some dungeon hacking so I might make more dungeon pieces to use in that game.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Smugglers in the Dark - Part 2

Here is the first report on my solo dungeon delving. You can read about the characters here and the dungeon generation system here. Rules details and other comments are shown in square brackets.

Ingont arrived at the village nearly at sunset, to avoid drawing too much attention. For the same reason, he met Swyem at the closing trading post, not the tavern or her house. Seeing her brought him some joy, mostly from the memories of their childhood, when they could afford to be careless. Swyem told him that she had confirmed the location of the kobold lair, but she could not find anything new about the courier or who could have poisoned him.

On the following day, Swyem and Eryz left in the afternoon, allegedly on a trip to a nearby village. Ingont, who had rented a room at an old widow's house, left again at sunset. The trio met in the woods, halfway between the village and the kobold lair and camped there for the night. The plan was Ingont's to avoid prying eyes from the villagers.

Before sunrise, they left their horses at the camp and walked to the entrance of the lair. Stone steps covered with dead leaves and roots led down into a dark opening. Once inside, they could see that the passage continued ahead and there was a second corridor leading away from the left side. [Turn 1: Entrance to the dungeon. I just rolled a die to find out how many exits there were. Marching order: Eryz leads, followed by Ingont, who carries a lantern, and lastly Swyem. I mapped each explored dungeon area as a 5x5 block in gridded paper.]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Smugglers in the Dark: Dungeon Setup

Here is the card-based dungeon mechanics I will use to continue the Smugglers in the Dark adventure. From a standard deck of playing cards, I will use the following: one red and one black of each face card (jacks, queens, kings) and numbers 2-7. One card is drawn at the beginning of a turn when the party is moving further into the dungeon:

  • Face cards mean that a new room is entered and an encounter happens, focused on a given character, Jack: Eryz, Queen: Swyem, King: Ingont. The nature of the event is defined using the event focus and event meaning systems from Mythic.
  • Number cards require a roll of a ten-sided die. If the result is greater than the card number, the new area is a corridor or passageway. Otherwise, it is a new room, filled according to the "stocking the room" rules on the Basic game.
The number of doors found in a room or corridor, including the one used to enter that section of the dungeon, is given by the roll of one six-sided die: 1-2: 2 doors, 3-4: 3 doors, 5-6: 4 doors. Each door will be locked on a roll of 1-2 on a six-sided die.

The color of the card will be used to indicate the kind of encounter, when applicable. Red cards indicate a conflict of physical nature (combat, obstacles, traps to dodge etc.) while black cards are related to mental conflicts (social interactions, puzzles, traps to disarm etc.)

If the adventurers spend more than two turns in the same location, I will make a check for wandering monsters. For this adventure, the wandering monsters are kobolds, and their number is given by the roll of one six-sided die: 1: a single kobold, 2-4: two kobolds, 5-6: three kobolds. However, for every previous encounter with wandering monsters, a +1 modifier is added to the roll.

After six cards have been drawn, one joker is added and the cards are reshuffled. When the joker is then drawn, the players have reached their objective -- the stolen magical trinkets.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Old Stuff Day: Gaming Scenarios

I came to know of the "Old Stuff Day" from reading a related post by Sean. As I am slowly approaching 200 posts in the blog, I was inspired to take part in this and revisit some older posts. It was only then that I noticed the decline in the number of my posts about gaming scenario ideas.

In 2011, I posted the solo ambush for Song of Blades and Heroes, which is still one of my top viewed posts. The Grey City campaign also featured scenario rules for each of the episodes. The Wasteland Wanderer "combo" of multi-part solo scenario and narrative battle report was an interesting experiment. There was even a set of house rules to add firefighters/EMT to Chain Reaction.

On the other hand, in 2012 there were no scenario posts. I can attribute this to two factors: the overall reduction in number of posts during last year and my shift in focus to the narrative interpretation of battle reports. The funny thing is that I do like tweaking rules systems and even making up my own, as I suspect most solo gamers do, and scenarios and battle reports do not have to be mutually exclusive.

This year I have posted the Alien Bug Safari mini game but at the time I had not even realized the one year gap in such posts. Now that I have, I intend to add some scenario posts to the mix over the year.

I would also like to ask others what they think about tabletop gaming scenarios and house rules. I will start by giving my point of view: sometimes I find it hard to completely reproduce others' scenarios in order to play them, due to terrain and miniature requirements. Still, I like reading them because I often can adapt some idea for my own use -- especially in the case of solo scenarios.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cyber Hero - Jay's Paper Mini

Today I finished the layout and test printing and assembly of Jay's miniature. I have sent him the source Gimp and Inkscape files should he want to do any kitbashing. Here is a 300dpi image of the miniature in different formats.

And here is a shot of the test build... my printer is acting up a little, printing some black lines and spots where it should not... Note: the mirrored version was due to a mistake while doing the layout in Inkscape. The PNG above has all versions with a left cyber arm.

The PDF version can be downloaded from this thread on the Cardboard Warriors forum.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Resistance Is Futile

Being a compulsive buyer collector of rulesets, I recently got some new games. Among them was "Resistance Is Futile" by AGEMA. Previously I bought and played their "Sacre Bleu!" rules which I am very fond of as the chaotic play sequence serves very well for solo (although it might be frustrating when playing against an opponent.) This led me to purchasing other games from the company, despite finding very little to no information about them.

"Resistance Is Futile" (RIF for short) is a set of sci-fi skirmish rules for 15mm or 28mm scale. The 32-page book includes a sample setting called "Sigma-14" and the author encourages players to make their own to add meaning and motivation to their games. The setting is actually an entertaining read, with a good amount of humor mixed with different sci-fi conventions. Take for instance this description of one of the factions:

"There are also within the towns and cities what is termed The Resistance which rejects all forms of government and who are effectively anarchists who love conspiracy theories and trust no-one, including themselves most of the time."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Smugglers in the Dark - part 1

There are several entertaining posts about solo dungeon crawling at Tabletop Diversions and Solo Nexus. While I have played some crawls using Dungeons and Dark Dungeon, with the recent re-release of old Dungeons and Dragons PDFs, I decided to try a little crawl using the Basic Set.

Character creation
The first step was to generate a party. I wanted to have a fighter, a thief and a magic-user. I started rolling the three characters' attributes and then assigned them to a suitable class, with maximized hit points. I then used the Universal NPC emulator (UNE) to create a general description and two motivations for each character. To keep things simple, I discarded one motivation from each, trying to make them consistent with each other. Lastly, I rolled on the Mythic description chart to give them a quirk.

From the results I got, I did not think that any of the characters would be lawful, so I used the Mythic fate chart to answer the question "is the character chaotic?" with a likely chance for each of them -- an "exceptional no" would mean the character actually was lawful. I rolled a 50/50 chance for each character to be male or female and finally, I used this fantasy name generator to pick names for them. These are the resulting characters. UNE and Mythic results are marked in brackets.

Chaotic Human male Magic-user
Few people would be able to guess that Ingont spent the last several years studying in the Academy. The light-haired man dresses like a peasant and seldom talks about magic, carrying his spellbook hidden in a bag. His actions and words are carefully measured to disguise his plotting mind. Currently involved with a secret society, he is tasked with expanding their smuggling routes to the south of the kingdom. [logical herald, maintain contraband, irritatingly nondescript]
HP 3, AC 9, STR 9, INT 17, WIS 12, DEX 11, CON 7, CHA 12
Modifiers: +10% XP
Spellbook: magic missile
Backpack: dagger, waterskin, flask of oil x5, lantern, iron rations x1, 95gp

Chaotic Human female Thief
Swyem is a frail young woman of light and delicate manners. For a few years she has worked for a local trading guild, managing the sale of goods in neighboring villages. Lately, however, she became involved in a smuggling scheme. She is not troubled by exploiting others' weaknesses and needs to serve herself. [habitual drifter, guard deprivation, slowly fancy]
HP 3, AC 7, STR 8, INT 10, WIS 10, DEX 10, CON 7, CHA 11
Modifiers: -1 to hit and damage
Short sword, Leather armor
Backpack: dagger, waterskin, iron rations x1, thieves tools, 4gp

Chaotic Human male Fighter
Eryz thinks that they are out to get him: the village elder, the tax collectors, the king's knights. He only really trusts his half-sister Swyem, who arranges jobs for him to guard or sometimes bully others. Physically, he is not very imposing and may even come out a little clumsy but if you look into his eyes, you can see an eerie fire burning. [fanatic bum, agonize the government, quietly messy]
HP 8, AC 5, STR 11, INT 9, WIS 9, DEX 7, CON 11, CHA 11
Modifiers: -1 to missile fire, +1AC
Sword, Chain mail and shield
Backpack: dagger, waterskin, torches x6, iron rations x1, 50' of rope, 34gp

The story so far...

Ingont, Swyem and Eryz grew up together and used to cause all kinds of trouble in their village. Eventually, Ingont went to study the magical disciplines in the Arcane Academy and Swyem moved to another town, taking Eryz with her. She kept corresponding with Ingont and they started to smuggle magical trinkets in and out of the kingdom.

Ingont paid a visit to Swyem when one of their couriers went missing. She had found out that the courier was poisoned and died in the woods, and a group of kobolds took the magical trinkets to their lair in some ruins. The three characters bought the necessary supplies and are now ready to enter the lair, to recover their "merchandise."

... To be continued.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cyberpunk figure: final version

Or should I call it "release candidate"? Anyway, my scanner decided to work again, I had been slowly progressing over the week, and tonight I finished the line art for Jay's cyberpunk figure. The next step is to add colors and shading to have it finished...
For now I am thinking of dark brown trenchcoat, black (or dark gray) boots, light gray t-shirt, blue pants and white/yellowish hair, roughly like this:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alien Bug Safari

There are many ways to create an "automated" opponent for solo battles. One of them, which is often used for "A.I." in computer games, is based in Finite-state Machines. Dale's post in Solo Battles has an interesting discussion about using FSMs for solo games.

Since last November, when I started again fiddling with behaviors and simulations for my little computer game experiments, I was thinking about trying to use them in solo games but so far I had not done anything about it. Dale's post inspired me to return to the subject and, since I still had some free hours during the Carnaval holiday, I proceeded to make a first test in the form of a simple solo game, presented here.

Alien Safari

After the Bug War of 2200, several planets were left with small colonies of stranded bugs. In some cases they decayed and died off, in others they became part of the ecosystem, turning into predators. Shady travel companies offer illegal "safari" trips to some of these worlds, where the rich and adventurous can have the thrill of their lives hunting these dangerous prey.

Setting up
Terrain: the game is played on a 3'x3' board and the entire board counts as covered in low vegetation. You may place terrain pieces representing woods, lakes and rivers as you see fit.

Your force: you start with three hunters standing in base contact with each other in the middle of one of the board edges. Figures do not have a defined "facing."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

All Things Zombie: Day One

Today I finally played through Day One of the zombie outbreak, after nearly two years since I bought All Things Zombie: Better Dead than Zed (ATZ). I had played single games with these rules before but I had not tried this scenario.

Players are advised not to read the Day One chapter of ATZ until they are ready to play. This was cause for some of my delaying, as I tried to make a variety of terrain pieces (buildings, streets) and miniatures to be ready. Finally I decided to skip preparations and play with very simple paper tokens and pieces of paper for the terrain. An example is shown below, although it is not an actual board used for the scenario.

It worked: although not visually appealing, it allowed me to properly tailor the board for each scenario during Day One. And since you can take a very personal approach to this scenario, it was worth. It is funny to admit but, at one point, I felt relieved with the outcome of one part of the scenario.

Without entering into details to avoid spoiling the fun of anyone who has not played it, I did not survive. At one point I was left Out of the Fight with three zombies nearby and we all know what that means.

In other news, the computer I used to connect my scanner is out of order and I still have to try to set it up on my work netbook. Until I can sort this out, the cyberpunk miniature will have to wait.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Here we go for another mission in the MR-4/76 campaign. The squad led by Alec (from the first mission) is sent to check another zone for a possible enemy base. This time, however, there is no aerial recon and intel is bad...

This is the lovely setup that I rolled for this mission -- and yes, there is a PEF in plain sight right in the middle of the board, since that sector has no cover. The barricades count as cover but do not block LOS. The building markers have three doors each.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A few more sketches

Here is the second batch of sketches... this time leaning a little more towards cyberpunk styles:
I tried to mix some different references from 80s cyberpunk games, sci-fi movies and heavy metal bands.
I might use the character sketch on the top right of the next picture as a starting point for the mini...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Border War

Last weekend I ran a solo playtest of the Border War skirmish rules from Fields of War. Rules-wise, Border War is a game played for seven IGO-UGO turns. On each turn, units may perform one action on their own. They may also perform additional actions as orders from their leader. Other than that, the turn is not structured so you may mix movement and attacks.

Each unit is described by a stat block with attributes like "shooting skill", "power" and "courage." They may also have weapons that modify those attributes and armor that allows for armor saves. There is also a "wound chart" to determine if a hit causes damage. In these aspects the game reminds me of some other game that I would rather not reference. However, in general it seems more streamlined than what little I actually remember of that other game.

Here are the figures I used for this playtest. Border War is about humans from the Dominion trying to take down the settlements that their escaped slaves have built in the Blasted Desert. Not a particularly pretty affair but I suppose war never is, regardless of motives. Anyway, these are PERMES pirates, dwarves and elves printed at about 40% scale. I used the standard stat blocks for Garmarians (some with muskets and knives, others with swords and shields), Dwarves (with axes and shields) and Elves (with short bows and knives) from the Border War rulebook.

Having finished my first read of Featherstone's Solo Wargames, even if it was a little hasty, and given that Border War does not have its own solo system, I decided to incorporate a few ideas into my little battle. First, I split each force in smaller teams and randomized their deployment. In doing so, it was determined that one team with three Garmarian shooters would arrive only at the end of my third turn, and a team of four dwarves would arrive at the end of the enemy's second turn. This is the initial setup for the game.

The first two turns were spent maneuvering for the battle. During the third turn a group of elves attacked the Garmarian shooters to no effect. They attacked in turn, defeating two elves and causing the other two to flee. The human and dwarf warriors also engaged in combat but no one was hurt at this point. Here is a picture at the end of the third turn.

The melee and ranged combats continued during the fourth and fifth turns, while the reserves struggled to reach the battle. Eventually one dwarf and a human shooter were defeated. This is the state of the table after the fifth turn.

By the seventh and last turn, the reserve dwarves had almost entered combat and the human shooters were reaching the range of their muskets. The humans had lost six men for a total point cost of 460 and the slave rebels lost three elves and a dwarf for a point cost of 335. Therefore, the slave rebels won the match.


I found Border War enjoyable. The rules are simple and easy to follow. I had a few doubts but the author has quickly answered them in this post of the Cardboard Warriors forum. If I would have anything to comment is that command range for the leaders seems a little short; often I could not take advantage of the extra orders they were entitled due to this. Still, it might be a matter of positioning my leader in a better way.

The part of the Border Wars rules I did not test was the campaign system, which seems very interesting. It includes experience gain for units, which allows them to improve, as well as an upkeep system that may result in deserters and even mutiny.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

First sketches

Today I made the first sketches and tests for Jay's miniature. I started with some studies straight from Blade Runner.
Many "traditional" 15mm and 28mm use very stylized proportions, around 4.5 to 5.5 heads tall as compared to more "realistic" 6.5-7.5 heads. OneMonk miniatures and, to a lesser extent, Sanity Studios and Darkmook follow this style and I think it makes them look closer to plastic and metal figures and thus, "blend in." I made some studies based on that proportion:
I also did a very quick and dirty coloring of this test pose to see how it would look when printed. This test version has a mirrored back but the final one will have a proper drawing for the back. The following picture should print in the correct size at 300dpi. Note that to assemble the base it is necessary to make one reverse fold in the middle.

Here is an image of the test print I did, along with Grey Matter Games' lizardman to get a sense of proportion. This one is 28mm tall from foot to eye.


These initial studies draw heavily on Blade Runner alone. I am also looking at references from other sci-fi movies from the 80s to get other ideas about clothing, weapons etc.

Jay, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail telling if I am going in the right direction. Note these are just studies so feel free to suggest any changes -- even complete modifications to style, clothing, equipment, pose etc.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fallen Battlecruiser

This is the second battle in my "Hidden Battles of MR-4/76" campaign. A damaged Hishen battlecruiser crash lands in the wastes of MR-4/76. The Star Army sends an advance squad to capture survivors and obtain enemy data modules. [In this patrol mission, I had an investment level of 3 and bad intel, despite having aerial recon.]

This is the initial setup. Debris from the battlecruiser litter the area [I rolled a very cluttered map. The corkboard hills and paper barricades count as LOS-blocking, impassable terrain.] I decided to deploy my squad as two separate fire teams: team alpha on the left has Ian (rep 5 star), Jack, Kyle and Louis. Team beta has Mark (rep 4 ASL), Nathan, Oswald and Peter. All grunts have a rep of 5.

[I also adopted the following house rule: because of the smoke and dust from the crash landing, visibility is limited to 30" away.]

Things started pretty calm, with fire team alpha advancing and fire team beta holding position. While they checked their surroundings, Jack noticed some movement among the debris: the Hishen had pulled together a makeshift defensive position.

Friday, February 1, 2013

And the winner is...

So here is the result of the prize draw for this blog's anniversary. I used the list randomizer from to get the winner.

First, I collected the names of all entrants. Then, just to make it easier to check if I had not missed anyone, I sorted the list alphabetically. I input the list on the randomizer:

Then it was time to randomize the list order. The first name in the new, random order is winner:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revisiting Chronicles of Blood

After playing Dungeons and being satisfied with it, I decided to take a second look at Chronicles of Blood, also from Shane Garvey. Previously, I had dismissed that game due to its use of IGO-UGO turn structure which I thought too simple and flawed. Nowadays, I find it good for solo gaming, especially in large-scale battles, because in this context two of its main flaws are reduced or removed:

a) One of the main problems with IGO-UGO is that one player has to wait while the other moves their forces. When playing solo, this problem is not present, for obvious reasons.

b) The other problem is that one force is able to move and attack without reaction. In my opinion, this does not feel as bad in large-scale battles where things are subject to a good amount of abstraction already. If I can live with units described by rectangular stands, pivoting perfectly around one corner of said rectangles, on a ground scale of hundreds of meters per inch of table space and turns representing several minutes of game time, I think I can narrate IGO-UGO activation.

At the same time, the simplicity of the IGO-UGO turn structure is inviting to solo play as it is easy to add systems like random events and unit activation checks on top of it. So for these reasons I decided to try Chronicles of Blood once more. Since the game recommends a 120cm x 120cm table I am playing at 25% scale, so each regiment is represented by a 1"x0.5" stand. For now I have very simple unit counters, although I have made a couple of nicer prototypes, pictured here with a 28mm figure for comparison.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two Year Anniversary!

Today this blog completes two years since the first post! To celebrate this I am making a humble prize giveaway: a US$15 gift certificate for WargameVault along with a custom paper miniature design, to the best of my abilities, to the winner's specifications. Some of my previous designs can be found here.

To enter this prize draw, just leave a comment in this post stating that you want to participate, until January 31. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on February 1st.

UPDATE: if you are having trouble with the comments system on Blogger, you can also enter the prize draw by posting in this thread on Cardboard Warriors until that date.

Donald Featherstone's books in ePub format

I was not aware that Donald Featherstone's reprints by the History of Wargaming Project were also available in digital format through So now I finally have access to Solo Wargaming and Skirmish Wargaming, and just a few days before my vacation!

The downside to this is that the books are in DRM-protected ePub format accessible only through "Adobe Digital Editions." I hope that John Curry and co. switch to a DRM-less format in the future -- it just pains me to think of all the work in recovering these historical books, just to lock them up behind DRM.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Platform Command test build

Since I completed the hover truck and I still had some free time, I decided to make a test build of the structures. This picture show the results. They are printed at a scale of 39.4% (to play with cm as inches.)

The platforms are designed to be glued to foamboard but at this scale, a piece of cardboard had just the perfect thickness to be used instead. Therefore, I did not have to make any adaptations to the original pieces.

Here is a final picture with the hover truck for scale comparison.