Monday, March 30, 2015

Fighter Command: first impressions

After a few quick tests to check if I understood the rules well (especially the rules about sensor range and dogfighting), I went on to run my first game of 5150 Fighter Command. I used MapTool to play the battle, which went smoothly. I also created a basic "framework" for future 5150 Fighter Command games.

[rant mode on]
I cannot say I was impressed by the public release of the Mote VTT. The project owners admitted they changed plans outlined in their crowdfunding campaign and are now focused on implementing a virtual tabletop service. I understand that software projects are prone to miscalculations that increase budget, leading to delays or reductions in scope. The fact remains that Mote does not show any immediate improvements over MapTool. With the recent facelift of the RPTools site and the codebase being available on GitHub, I would recommend MapTool over Mote to anyone interested.
[rant mode off]

My first game used a single flight of two light fighters of the Planetary Defense Force, on patrol looking for pirates. I added three Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) and ruled that only one of them would become a flight of pirate light fighters. Simple and safe but, hey, that was my first full battle.

"Simple and safe," right? The topmost PEF turned out to be the flight of 3 pirate fighters. They closed in and triggered an In Sight test. My fighters launched Fire & Forget missiles, damaging the guns of one of the pirates. However, the pirate leader's countermeasures avoided the missile impact, and it entered a dogfight against my Star. Unloading its rockets and mass driver cannons, it damaged the ship's communication systems. My Star reacted, also dogfighting and firing his two railguns -- but they caused no damage. The pirate leader activated again (all the action so far happened during the movement phase of the turn) and hit my Star's ship again on the comm systems, causing it to explode, however he ejected safely [thanks to the "larger than life" advantage]. Anyway, after this, the battle was over for me.

There is a lot going on within a 5150 Fighter Command game. The turn structure has a bunch of changes from other Two Hour Wargames titles. Although those changes make sense for a starship game, they take some time to get used to. The dogfighting system is really cool, making even very "small" games like the one I played interesting.

I still have to try some games involving capital ships along with fighters, but at least I have already made some tests with two and three-hex long ships in MapTool.

That is all for now. Given the many different ship and weapon attributes (not to mention two distinct ship classes, fighters and capital vessels) the quick reference on this game is quite extensive. Still, the basic procedures (for movements and attacks) have remained simple. With a few more games, I expect to be able to set up and play some scenarios quickly.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A little solitaire adventure dice game

Here is the "beta" version of a solitaire, dice-based adventure game in the vein of Dice of the Living Dead and other solitaire, dice matching games.

Dice Adventures

1) Setup
Pick three different heroes among the following list. You can name them if you like, although they may not survive long. Each class has a different power, which will make sense in a moment.

Bard = may re-roll someone else's die.
Cleric = may change someone else's roll by 1.
Ranger = roll 2 dice, keep lowest.
Thief = gain 1 extra gold if the adventure result is 1-3.
Warrior = may change his die roll by 1.
Wizard = may re-roll his die.

Grab a piece of paper, pen and four dice.

2) Adventuring
Each game consists in one or more adventures (see game modes below.) For each adventure, you perform the following steps:

a) Roll one six-sided die per hero (or two, in case of the ranger.) It is useful to have dice of different colors to identify each character.
b) Roll one six-sided die for the henchman, if available.
c) Use items and hero powers, in any order you wish, as available, to modify dice rolls. Note: when re-rolling due to abilities or items, you must accept the new result.
d) Establish the adventuring result. If all values are different, pick the highest value. If two or three values match, that is the result.

Check the adventure result in the following table:

1 = Major success! One character levels up. Gain 3 gold.
2 = Minor success. Gain 2 gold.
3 = Everyone got out alive. No rewards.
4 = One random hero loses one level. Ignore if all are level 1.
5 = One random hero dies.
6 = Two random heroes die.

3) After each adventure
After each adventure, depending on results, you may level up characters, spend gold and hire new heroes.

Leveling up: heroes start at level 1 and their maximum level is 3. Heroes may use their abilities a number of times equal to their level, on each adventure. For instance, a level 2 Wizard can re-roll his die twice.

Spending gold: you can use gold to purchase items and services. Items are spent on use. You can keep spare gold to spend it later.

Treasure - worth 1 victory point each: 1 gold.
Provisions - modify one die roll by 1: 1 gold.
Magic weapons - re-roll one hero die: 2 gold.
Hireling - roll an additional die, that you can use in place of the result of any one hero. Hireling leaves after the dungeon is finished. You may have at most one hireling at any time: 3 gold.

Hire a new hero: If a hero is killed, you may be able to hire a new one, but check the game modes for details.

4) Game modes
There are three game modes for dice adventures. I would suggest the basic game but the others are available if it seems too easy.

The basic game: In this mode you must face five adventures in a row. When a hero dies, you can simply pick a new one (as long as you keep three different heroes in the party), which starts at level 1. At the end of the game, your score is equal to the sum of levels for all current characters, plus 1 point per treasure, minus 1 point per dead character during the game. Note: the game ends after you level up and spend gold for the 5th adventure, if applicable (but you cannot hire new heroes.)

Hardcore game: In this mode you must also face five adventures in a row. When a hero dies you can hire a new one of a class that you have not used yet, so it is possible that all your heroes die before reaching the end of the game (and in that case you do not score any points.) When calculating score, add 5 points due to playing in hardcore mode.

Hardcore+: same as hardcore, but you must also apply the following modifiers for each adventure. When calculating score, add 6 points due to playing in hardcore+ mode.

1st adventure: no modifier.
2nd adventure: +1 to one die of your choice.
3rd adventure: +1 to one die of your choice.
4th adventure: +1 to two dice of your choice.
5th adventure: +1 to two dice of your choice.

5) Adventuring example

A party with a Warrior, Cleric and Wizard (all of them at level 1) go on an adventure. The Warrior rolls a 3, the Cleric rolls a 5 and the Wizard rolls a 1. Without modifications, this would cause one random hero to die. However, the Warrior uses his ability to change his roll to a 2, and the Cleric uses her ability to change the Wizard's roll to a 2. The final rolls are 2, 5, 2, for an adventuring result of 2. A minor success, and the party gains 2 gold.

The party spends the gold on magic weapons and go on another adventure. This time, the Warrior rolls a 6, the Cleric rolls a 1 and the Wizard rolls a 6. The Warrior spends the magic weapon to re-roll, getting a 4, and the Wizard uses his power to re-roll, getting a 5 (too bad!) Finally, the Cleric uses her power to modify the Wizard's roll to a 4. The final rolls are 4, 1, 4. Nothing gained but, since the heroes are level 1, nothing is lost, either.

Final thoughts

This is something I sketched during the weekend, it has not seen heavy playtesting (but I did play it a few times to try hero combinations and test if it was too easy.) If I were to expand this, I would probably make a small deck of adventures, so that each adventure card had a different adventure result table and possibly some modifiers.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Playing Firefight 2.0 solo

Firefight 2.0 is a skirmish game by Alternative Armies. Players control teams of four soldiers on a map made of various tiles and obstacles. Movement is grid-based and actions are resolved using an interesting dice-rolling system.

Some time ago I purchased the pack with the rules and tiles. Although I wish I had the official miniatures, so far I have been playing with paper miniatures. The book includes two solo scenarios where the player faces automated turrets and mines. I have found that this game works very well for solo play due to some of its features:
- To perform any action, including movement, the player must roll certain values on the dice. This adds uncertainty to the game.
- Any attacked character that has not acted may immediately react to being attacked. Likewise, opportunity fire is available if the active character enters line of sight of an enemy.

I have found this game very good to play quick battles. The only house rules I use are:
1) The human player is always the attacker in the mission.
2) The human player has the initiative in all turns, and must choose to move first.
3) To keep things simple, the Medical Aid action is not available for anyone.

For enemy behavior, I have adopted these guidelines:
1) Remember that the enemies are the defenders, protecting some objective or preventing the player units from escaping the board.
2) Attacked enemies will choose reaction fire if they are at least in light cover, otherwise they will dodge out of the way if possible.
3) Whenever possible, enemies at least in light cover will attempt opportunity fire against targets moving in the open or under light cover.
4) After the human player finishes, enemy units will activate, from closest to farthest.
5) Enemies out of cover will choose melee, move and fire, assault fire, or move (towards cover) as their action, depending on available targets.
6) Enemies in cover will choose aimed fire, move and fire, assault fire, move (to pursue enemies if they are getting away), or stay frosty as their action, depending on available targets.
7) Enemies will pick a target that results in the greatest number of dice to roll. That includes objects, if applicable.

For a quick game, pitting a single team against an enemy team plus a couple of turrets and air mines tends to work well. Even light turrets have significant firepower, and mine explosions add some chaos to the game.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Adapting paper miniatures for plastic bases

Recently I saw a post (on a Facebook group about board game customization) about making custom Zombicide miniatures. Essentially, the idea is to add a regular sheet of paper in between the front and back of the miniature before cutting. It is a good idea to lightly brush each piece with a glue stick to prevent them from sliding while cutting. This produces a template in the exact shape of the cut mini, which can be glued to a piece of thick cardboard. After cutting it (and peeling off the template) you get three pieces: front, back and the cardboard filler.

In the original post, the resulting miniature was glued to a large coin, but I decided to try this technique to slot the miniature in a plastic base. It worked very well, the mini becomes very sturdy and can be easily removed from the base.

There is some extra work of cutting the thick cardboard, but I think it is worth it, especially for use in RPGs (or board games) with only a few miniatures. I think this could look good with either white or black edges, for 28mm miniatures.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fantasy miniatures made in Brazil

A new crowdfunding campaign has been launched here in Brazil for a fantasy skirmish game and accompanying miniatures. The creators are Riachuelo Games, a small local company that has been making wargames and miniatures in small production scales for a while. Here is a teaser video that shows some of the miniatures and sculpts:

The Fields of Gore system is relatively simple, at least in the preview rules that have been released (files here, in portuguese only.) Game turns are split into Initiative, Action and Combat phases. The Action phase is split in three sub-phases: movement, ranged attacks and spellcasting. The order of these is determined by the player who won initiative. In each phase (and sub-phase), one player acts with all their miniatures before passing control to the next one. Combat resolution usually involves rolling two dice. For ranged attacks, one die is used for a to-hit check, while the dice total (in both melee and ranged) is used to check armor penetration. Basic units have a single hit point, while some heavy units and heroes have more.

This is something big around here. Currently, modern board games are becoming more popular, and local companies are releasing new games and translated imports. If this campaign is successful, it might spark more interest in miniature gaming too.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Back to playing Combat Cards solo

Following my first experiences with Torn Armor, I have been looking back at some game rules that can also be played as something between miniature and board games. Two of them are Combat Cards and Firefight 2.0, which I'll write about later.

In my opinion, Combat Cards is attractive to solo players due to small space requirements and easy set up. Previously I wrote my first impressions after playing the free "Bug Hole" scenario. Here is a picture showing the zombie survival scenario in MapTool using only a 16x16 square grid. Based on these two solo scenarios, I wrote a few thoughts about solitaire Combat Cards.

In keeping with the free solo scenarios, I have decided to play Combat Cards solo mostly in defensive scenarios, where I need to defeat invaders or hold for a given amount of time. This may be somewhat limiting but, especially when played on a grid, it works like a fast-playing mixture of miniature game and board game.

It took me a while to realize that I could also use assault actions to move infantry units (even if they were not actually ending their move in close combat with an enemy.) Previously I was tinkering with the idea of allowing any card to be used to make a unit perform a Very Short move.

The free solo scenarios only allow Creature or Swarm enemies, so that they do not have available ranged attacks. I have tried adding also Infantry enemies representing "spitter" bugs or "puker" zombies up to a 1:2 ratio in their forces (subject to point limits.) On the enemy turn, they will perform a firepower attack if possible, or make a very short move as usual. This has worked well, adding to the challenge without need for extra rules to control the enemy. This also makes other actions, such as Dig In and Conceal, more useful.

I usually play according to the original rules, so on my turn I can either play actions or discard. Using the updated rules (according to which you can do both in the same turn) makes the game move faster but also makes it a bit easier. I have been fiddling with the following alternative rule: on each turn, you play what you can, discard the rest and draw a new hand (so you can use situations on the enemy's turn.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

First impressions: Torn Armor

Having played a couple of "test games" just to get a feel for the rules, I cannot help comparing Torn Armor to Zombicide. Both games have good production values, and place themselves somewhere in between miniature games and board games, presumably to cater to a greater audience. They also use similar solutions:
  • area-based movement, thus avoiding measurement;
  • unit and equipment cards, for ease of setup and reference;
  • simplified action resolution mechanics;
  • maps or tiles for table setup, avoiding the need for crafting or buying terrain pieces.
While Zombicide is a scenario-based cooperative game (although Season 3 added the option to have competing teams of survivors) Torn Armor is a scenario-based competitive game. The rule book has a collection of scenarios meant to be played sequentially to form a small campaign. The provided set of maps allows for the creation of many more scenarios.

Force creation is point-based: players have an amount of gold that can be spent recruiting pre-made units and buying equipment and spells. There are three types of units, infantry, assault and heroes. Heroes may act alone or attach to infantry units. There are no rules for the creation or modification of units but I guess enterprising players might use the provided units as a reference when creating customized ones. The game comes with one unit card for each unit type, even when there are enough cardboard miniatures to make two units. Therefore, players may need to create additional cards to track their units.

From a mechanics standpoint, Torn Armor uses relatively simple systems, which in my opinion fit with the fantasy theme and the overall sense of this being a "light" wargame. Turns are played with alternating activations, and each activated unit may perform up to two actions. Attacks involve rolling a number of dice per figure. Dice are color-coded with different levels of efficiency -- for instance, white dice have one face showing a "hit" result, green dice have two "hit" faces and so on. The number and type of dice per figure will depend on the weapons of the attacking unit and the protection of the defender. Cover allows for "saving rolls" against hits. Some units require tracking wounds and ammunition.

I believe this game may be playable solo, although it will require some thought, based on the scenario, to define which units should be activated first, what actions should they prioritize and when to use limited equipment and spells. In any case, this has made me think again about miniature/board game "hybrids" that could be set up and played quickly solo.

To sum it up: Torn Armor feels like a "light" wargame and I hope I can use it to present miniature gaming for people used to board games. Those are my first impressions, and I might add more after I have played with friends.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Origami Dice

This is not something new, but I only learned about it a few days ago as I looked for print and play games. How about creating custom dice made of origami parts? They are quite fun to make and also very sturdy. Here is the BoardgameGeek topic where I learned how to make them.

This seems to be a variant of the Sonobe modular origami units that are used to make many different shapes (here is another link showing how to build the modules.)

I have created templates for Five Core, as well as scatter and decision dice. They can be found in the downloads page. The templates were based on the blank template made by Daniel Ajoy and the images were obtained from

Note: It is important to use thin paper to build these dice, as they require quite a bit of folding. I have found two approaches for assembling the six modules into the die:
1) Make an open box with five of the modules. Connect the tips of the tabs of remaining module and the box and slowly push them together.
2) Make two box pieces with three modules each, then connect them together.