Monday, April 16, 2018

Wargame Design: Movement can be Cool?


Frequently, when I am designing or working on a game one of the least exciting of the 4Ms is movement.  I would spend a great deal of time thinking about the Melee, Morale, or Missiles but very little on Movement.  Most of my effort was put into activation and turn sequence.  However, now I see I may have been trying to use activation/turn sequence as a way to bypass a potential core issue with movement itself.    

I tend to take Movement for granted, and instead use the basic Movement stat and a measuring tape to call out the distance.  That is what I have grown up with and what I am most familiar with.  For years I took it as a no-brainer decisions and something I did not even think about.  However, my mind has been opened up on this subject recently, and I feel like Movement may now be the new hotness for everyone to explore and play around with. 

So, what caused this big change in my thinking?  I mean, I have done movement related gimmicks for games like Total CARnage, Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve, and Redline before.  However, the first two were for purpose built dexterity games, and the third still uses the base Movement stat and Measure as the base.  Instead, I tried to make movement interesting by tackling activation/turn sequence or looking at the interaction between maneuver and firepower.  I also tried to make movement interesting by using a “Unit Leader” mechanic similar to Chosen Men where the movement and measuring is all done form a leader model and the rest just kind of “fill in” from there.  What opened my eyes was going back and reassessing the FlightPath system from Wings of War and X-wing fame and looking at how other games have utilized similar ideas, and then diverged from it. 


The FlightPath system essentially allows the player to choose from a series of templates which then dictate the movement path that the models follow.  Besides X-wing you can see this mechanic in many other games, but especially Fantasy Flight Games miniature games.  They also used it in Rune Wars.  To me, this method makes sense for some flight and sailing ship games as those types of genres tend to use fixed turn radii and travel distances. 

However, how would such systems apply to other genres?  I had two places that I looked first.  Initially, I looked at a tutorial for the game Tanks!  A Tank also has limited turn radius and travel distances, but has more ability to back-up, traverse terrain, use a turret, etc.  How did they tackle it?  Well, the template was used to measure distance, and then at the end of the template, it could be adjusted, and the final position of the vehicle just had to touch the template somewhere on the tank. 

Then I looked at Mercs.  In this game, each model had a stat card, but the stat card also was a tool for movement as it had various arrows on the card that you could align the model with and move to the opposite arrow on the card.  A movement and a stat card in one. 

Curious, I then started to cast my gaze further afield.  I found a number of new and interesting approaches to moving beyond the movement stat and measure with ruler model.  I saw movement sticks- Of Gods and Mortals, Fistful of Kung Fu, and Song of Blades and Heroes- which essentially acted as templates for movement.  I also saw the use of playing cards as a measuring tool such as Kobolds and Cobblestones and Pirates of the Spanish Main. 



The biggest innovations I found were with Rogue Planet and Squad Leader.  In Rogue Planet everything either was not measured or was only measured with a few fingers.  Squad Leader had infinite move as long as you were going from cover to cover.  Squad Leader is not a new game by any means, but this method had eluded me for so long.

The most interesting aspect of Squad Leader is that your opponent can interrupt your movement as a form of Overwatch.  Thereby movement is a permissive aspect of the game where a player can move as much as they want between cover until an opponent stops them.  This reminded me a bit of Force-on-Force but even that had a measured movement range. 



These “Discoveries” rekindled my interest in Movement.  For many years, the basics of movement in my mind were static.  I never questioned my preference or even looked beyond it.  However, my base assumptions around movement as its own set of mechanics has been static.  I encourage you not to make the same mistake as me. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Random: Painting for 2018 Goals

Last year, my 2017 Goals for Painting were not met.  For 2018, I decided to scale back my painting goals to something more managable.  I really scaled it back since I did not expect to have much time to paint.  My peak painting season is typically Novemebr through March.  This year, that did not happen do to pesky "Real Life" commitments getting in the way.

This blog is primarily about designing and playing wargames.  However, part of what makes wargaming a unique experience is the tactile and visual spectacle elements.  That is what drew me to wargaming in the first place.  It is no secret, I am not a great painter and do not really enjoy it much.  I am not above using paper templates in place of miniatures.  However, when I do have models I typically do not play a game with unpainted models.  It is a wierd quirk.  I am fine using paper templates or toys, but if I am playing with wargaming models I want them painted!

So, to that end I have been doing a bit of painting.  Let's see my progress.

You may recall these two models that I picked up when I purchased Pulp AlleyThey are a Red Queen and D.A. Thompson model that I intended to use in Turf War, Mad Dogs with Guns, Pulp Alley, or even Strange Aeons



I managed to get paint on them.  Nothing spectacular, as I am not that good of a painter. However, they are now ready to hit the tabletop.


Besides these two, I also painted up some Mobile Artillery for All Quiet on the Martian Front.  These had been sitting in the silver and unassembled on my desk for sometime.  I think since late 2016!  They finally got a coat of paint.  


My main base coat of dark green went dry so I had to make do with some other colors.  However, you can see that they turned out just fine after some Dark Tone washes.

Finally, I also went back to some of my Crusader Gladiators.  I had been putting them off for sometime as I don't like painting horses.  The chariot horses did not turn out great, so I put off paintingthe Equites on horseback for a long, long time.  Probably longer than the Mobile Artillery even!  However, now that they are painted, I can use Equites Gladiators in The Games: Blood and Spectacle games.  That will be fun! 

They have a mounted and dismounted version now too.  I actually painted the dismounted guys a long time ago to act as Damnati and Noxi models too.  For Gladiator games they will prove versatile, plus I can use them as a Sons of Spartacus faction in Broken Legions.


I really need to stop taking iphone photos from my basement at night and expect them to come out!  These are a pair of Retarius and a Noxi for my Gladiators.  They are also from Crusader.  The Retarius with the iron mask... I actually have no idea what he is.  He doesn't have a net and he doesn;t have a trident... so I think he is something from the movie Gladiator with Russel Crowe i.e. some made-up Hollywood gladiator type.   

That actually sorts my 2018 Painting Goals plus a few models more!  Wow, anything else I paint is gravy!   
  

     

Monday, April 2, 2018

Random: Green Army Men- Kill'em All and Destroy the Objective

My daughter and I had some time to kill after work and we decideded to play Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel ResolveThe games is very simple to set-up and play and we managed to play 2 game sin about 20 minutes.  Then, it was time to go and our busy life was back in full swing!

I didn't keep careful notes of all the events, but I did keep track of some highlights.

Forces:
Choosing armies was really easy.  I asked if she wanted to be green, grey, or tan soldiers.  She opted for grey and I opted for green.  We then reached into the bucket and pulled out 5 guys a piece and looked at what they were armed with.

Team Grey:
1 Sub-machine gun armed soldier
1 Grenade armed soldier
2 Rifle armed soldiers
1 kneeling rifle armed soldier

Team Green:
1 Sub-machine gun armed soldier
1 Bayonet and rifle armed soldier (Man I hate that pose!)
2 Rifle armed soldiers
1 Shotgun armed soldier

Overall, it was a good mix of weaponry types to try out.

Deployment:
We set-up in alternate corners of the table.  For terrain we placed a stapler, tape dispenser, a coffe mug, and a disposable coffee cup.  We were playing on a  standard sized table so probably 3 feet by 2.5 feet.

The Battles:
With that, we played a Kill'em All scenario first.  We just wanted to get familiar witht he game and the basic mechanics.  It took us very little time as the game is very intuitive.  One thing that happened a few times in this game is that the movement penny flick would hit a guy.  Per the rules, that would take out both players models!  It actually ended up as a draw because the two final guys ran into each other during movement!



The second battle was a Destroy the Objectie mission.  We used a big cardboard coffee cup for the objective.  I was the attacker and managed to reduce the Objective down 5 hits.  However, I ultimately lost as all of my guys were killed.  The final guy was taken out by a direct hit froma  grenade the knocked him over.  Ouch!




Here are a bunch of random pictures for that battle too.

Final Thoughts:
That was quick, brutal, and fun.  I look forward to playing it again, and I am sure it will be a hit with my family over Easter holiday.

You can pick up a copy for yourself at the Wargame Vault here!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Wargame Design: Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve- Dexterity Based Combat

Around Christams 2016, my family holiday was playing a lot of Flick'em Up! by Z-man Games with my family and their kids.  This was an eye-opening .  We were having tons of fun and flicking stuff all over the place.  The next year in 2017, we played a ton of Total CARnage.  This was a car combat game based on flick and dexterity mechanics after playing Flick'em Up!  Again, a great time was had by all!

Right afterwards my daughter challenged me to make another dexterity based game, but using plastic, green army men.  She wanted it ready by Christmas 2017.  Well, I didn't hit her deadline but I did get it done for her!

I present to you; Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve
 

The goal of this game were the following:

1. Create a game using plastic Army Men
2. Resolve all actions using Dexterity based resolution
3. 1:1 Terrain
4. "What You See Is What You Get" gameplay
5. No specialized wargaming components
6. Simple and basic resolution
7. Use only found materials
8. Fast, simple, and furious games
9. A game for almost any age or experience level


This is intended to be a simple and straight forward ruleset for playing dexterity based wargames with newcomers to the wargaming hobby.  Instead of the usual tools of the trade like Dice, Rulers, Miniatures, Scenery, etc. it is intended to use everyday items and found materials to play fun, fast, and tactically challenging games using found items and ordinary plastic toy soldiers.  The rules are scale and model neutral and dispenses with the usual concepts of ground and time scale and other intricacies.


I started wargaming when I was a youngster, about 10 years old.  However, I frequently did not have the scratch to buy “real” metal models.  Therefore, I used what I had.  What I had was lots of cheap, plastic toy army men mostly made in Taiwan, Korea, and China.  Soon, I was using those to stand in for more formalize models to fight battles with the early rulesets I could get my hands on; including the works of Featherstone and Grant from my local library.  Ever since those days, I have yearned to build a game that only uses plastic army soldiers.  

I look forward to hearing about your adventures on the kitchen table (or anywhere really) of battle with your plastic army men.

You will be able to find this game at the Wargames Vault here.  





Monday, March 19, 2018

Battle Report: Men of Bronze- Battle of Cius- Ionian Revolt


Herodotus tells us a great deal about the Ionian Revolt.  Ionia was Greek colonies along the coast and edges of Turkey that had been captured and absorbed into the Persian Empire around 540 B.C.E.  In 499 B.C.E the Tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras; failed to capture the island of Naxos.  This left him in a bad political position with his Persian overlords.  In a desperate bid, he decided to stir revolt amongst his people against the Persians.  This led many other local cities to cast off their Persian based Tyrants and replace them with Democracies. 

The Ionian Revolt had initial success in 498 B.C.E. when the allied Greek forces (including Athens, Eretria, and Ionians) managed to successfully attack Sardis.  Sardis was the seat of a Persian Satrap and one of the personal enemies of Aristagoras.  However, this minor victory was soon off-set by the Battle of Ephesus where Persian cavalry chased down and defeated the Greek forces. 

Despite the loss, the revolt spread further.  It spread to the Hellespont and Propontis.  The city of the Carians also joined the revolt.  In addition, Cyprus also revolted.  Persian rule was in danger across the region, it was only a matter of time before the might of the Persian army would respond. 

In 497 B.C.E., The Persian King had three generals appointed to put down the revolt.  The three Persians (Daurises, Hymaees, and Otanes) divided the area into three partitions and attacked.  Their attacks spread across the region.  The battles and sieges for this period are largely unknown, with only a few details of the battles coming down to us from archeology and Herodotus. 

Today’s battle will be one of those lost battles.  Hymaees marched to the Propontis and attacked the city of Cius.  Historically, he took the city.  However, no details remain.  Below I will be fighting a battle between the Persian general Hymaees and the defenders of the City of Cius.  For the purposes of this battle, the citizen militia has come out of the city to fight off the Persian force.  

The Forces
No details remain for the fall of the city of Cius.  We only know that Hymaees took the city with his army while his fellow Persians attacked in other areas.  Therefore, I will be using some standard armies from the Greek and Persian lists.  The exact details of the true armies are not available. 

Greeks
3 Militia Hoplites
2 Peltasts
1 Archer Unit
1 Psiloi

Persians
3 Archer Units
3 Drilled Infantry Unit
1 Psiloi

This is equal points in the system and should prove an interesting game. 


Deployment
This battle will be on a 6x4 board with both forces deployed on the long table edges.  The Greeks on the North side with the Persians coming from the South.  The Western edge of the battlefield is anchored on a river.  The Eastern edge has the ruins of a temple sacked by the marauding Persian recon troops.  The river is Dangerous terrain while the temple is Difficult.   
Greeks to the Left
 The Greeks of Cius to the North have anchored there right flank to the river.  They deployed across the battlefield in a battle line 6 base widths in.  From right to left the units are; psiloi, archers, the 3 militia hoplites in phalanx are the core, then the 2 peltast units deployed across from the temple.  The Persians face off against the Greeks also anchoring their left flank on the river banks.  They are deployed alternating archers and drilled infantry, with the Persian right being anchored by Psiloi light troops across from the temple.   
Persians to the Right.... caught in the middle with you

Turn 1:
Both sides begin with 7 Arête Points.  That means no one will have an Arête Point advantage to begin with.  The Persians bid 3, while the Greeks bid only 2.  The Greeks wish to hold back and possibly use their Move and Shoot abilities later in the turn.

The Drilled Infantry by the temple race forward to try and get the better ground.  Seeing the Persian strategy, the Greeks decide to try to interrupt to get their Peltasts moving to the temple and try to beat the Persians there.  The Greeks win the roll-off.  Some Greek Peltasts rush forward towards the temple ruins.  The Persians challenge for initiative using an Arête Point, and this time they win it back.  The Persian psiloi move ahead.  The Greeks again use Arete to try to steal initiative back from the Persians in the race to the temple.  They win the roll-off again.  
Peltasts make for the Ruined Temple
With their key units on the left in position, the Persians decide to let the Greeks continue to see how their battle plan unfolds.  The Greeks press forward their full moves across the front.  This leaves the light troops slightly out in front of the Hoplite center.  The Greeks wanted to use their Arête Points to move and shoot, but the Persians letting them maintain the initiative has left them without targets.  

The Persian forces also move forward.  Their archers begin to pull ahead of the infantry, causing a slight checkerboarding of their lines.  However, they have no units to Move and Shoot with either. 

Turn 2:
Both sides still maintain 7 Arête Points.  Both sides consider their initiative bids.  The Persians do not think they can beat the Greek Peltasts into the ruined temple but if they get their first, they will be hard to drive out.   The Greeks bid 3, and the Persians 2 this time. 

The two sides close in- Greeks Left, Persians Right
As expected, the Greek Peltasts get to the temple and use an Arête Point to Skirmish through the difficult terrain.  The second Greek Peltast unit follows on the outside of the temple, but since they touch the terrain they must spend an Arête Point to skirmish.  However, they are still considered in cover.  The Greek player pauses to see if the Persians will interrupt, but they decline the bait.

The Ionian commander now feels confident that his left flank is secure in the temple.  His right begins to castle up, with is archers moving forward to engage the Persian archers next turn, while the Hoplites approach. 

The Persian holds his Arête Points for potential re-rolls.  The Persian archers on the left and center move forward to get in a shooting duel with the Greek archers next turn.  The Drilled Infantry stay ready to support them if they get charged.  The far right begin to refuse their flank, and try to draw the Peltasts out of the temple to attack. 

Turn 3:
This turn will probably have first blood.  Both sides have 7 Arête Points, and choose their bids.  Persians bid 3, and the Greeks 2.  The Greeks think they can use Move and Shoot this turn and hold a few back.  The Persians want to use their Archers first. 

Since units can move, shoot, or fight; the Persian archers in the center start the shooting.  The initial Persian barrage reduces the Greek Archers 4 Courage!  They are turned around to rout!  Seeing this, the Greek player decides to try to interrupt and get some revenge!  The Greeks lose the roll-off, and the Persians keep the initiative. 
Greek on the Left, Persians the Right

The Persian Archers on the right open fire at the Psiloi by the river.  The second barrage is not as effective as the first and the Psiloi are reduced 1 Courage, and pass their Discipline check.  The rest of the turn, the Persians simply re-dress their lines. 

The Greeks take over, and immediately the psiloi on the Greek right charge the archers on the Greek right.  This takes 1 Arete Point, and the Persians spend 1 to Evade.  The psiloi spend 1 more to pursue.  And catch the archers.  The two units both take 1 Courage loss in the melee, but the Persians spend 1 Arete Point to re-roll a Discipline Dice and pass the check.

The Greek Peltasts spend the last Arête Points to skirmish through the ruins.  However, they can not move and shoot due to having no Arête points left to do so.  Two phalanxes press forward, whiel the third is hampered by the Greek Archers.

In the End Phase, the Greek Archers flee the field and force the Militia Phalanx behind them to pass a Collapse test.  The Phalanx passes. 

Turn 4:
The Greeks get 6 Arete Points and the Persians 7.  The Persians bid 3 Arete to Greek 3.  The two sides must roll-off!  The Greeks win.

The Greeks start by having the left most Militia Hoplite Phalanx charge the Persian Drilled Infantry.  However, the Persians use an Arête Point to counter-charge!  The two units clash in the center of the board, and the Militia loses 1 Courage, to the Drilled Infantry 2.  They are both at 3.  Both sides pass the Discipline check.  The Persians are pushed back 1 bw.    

The Persians decide to steal the initiative with an Arête Point, and win the roll-off.  The Persian Archers on the right fire into the oncoming  Peltasts and reduce them 1 Courage.  The Persian psiloi also attack them, but fail to cause any wounds with their javelins.

On the left flank, Drilled Infantry charge in to support the Persian archers with the Psiloi.  The combat is brutal and short.  The Archers lose 1 more courage and begin to waver, but the Greek Psiloi is destroyed utterly. 

The Persian Archers in the center and the Drilled Infantry on the right reposition themselves to avoid charges and support the attack.
 
The right most Greek unit declares a charge at the flank of the Persian Drilled Infantry.  However, it fails to come into contact with them!  This leaves them in Open Formation and wavering! 
Woops!  
Greek Peltasts in the temple fling javelins at the Persian Psiloi, and reduce them 2 Courage and wavering.  The others struggle out of temple grounds and fire at the Persian Psiloi as well, causing them to route.                   

In the End Phase, the Persian Psiloi and Greek Psiloi fled the field.  No one failed a collapse check.

Turn 5:
Ionian Greeks get 5 Arête Points to the Persian 6.  The Persians bid 4 to the Greek 2.
Greeks to the Left, Persians to the Right
The Persians immediately declare a charge from their drilled infantry on the wavering Militia Hoplites.  One of the advantages of being an Open Order unit is the maneuverability, and it pays off here as they pivot and charge.  The attack is pretty powerful, and reduces the Ionians to 2 Courage, and the Persian Infantry to 4.

The Greeks then manage to steal the initiative and declare a charge on the Persian archers with the Peltasts.  The nearby Persian Drilled infantry decide to support with a flank attack.  Both units are reduced to 1 Courage, and this could sweep up the Persian Drilled Infantry now, since there was not a decisive victory. 

The Greeks use their last Arête Point to move the second Peltast unit from the ruins.  The center Greek and Persian melee has no decisive results.         

Turn 6:
Both sides get their arête Points at Greek 5 and Persian 6.  The Greeks bid 2, while the Persians bid 0. 
Greeks to the Left, Persians on the Right
The Center Greek phalanx, breaks into open formation, and joins the melee on the Greek right.  Despite the help, things did not go the Greek way, as both sides lose a point of Courage, leaving the Greeks unit at 1 Courage!   The Persians try to steal the initiative, but fail.

The Greek Peltasts charge into the center melee!  Here things go better for the Greeks, and the Persians use two re-rolls to Reduce the Greeks to Courage 2, while they have 1 left! 

The big melee on the right reduces both units to 0 Courage,a nd the Greeks lose a Skirmisher unit, to the Persians Drilled Infantry and Archers. 

The wavering Persian archers is rallied back to normal.  Both units declare a charge into different scrums to help support next turn.  On the left, it does nothing.  However, the charge into the center melee reduces the Greeks to 1 Courage! 

Turn 7:
Like ancient battles are likely to do, they have devolved into 2 big scrums in the center.  Neither side bids any Arête to go first.  They want they re-rolls instead, both have 4. 
Two big Scrums and everyone is all mixed up! 

The Persians on their left flank taking on the Open Order Greek militia hoplites with archers manage to crush them!   They are routed.  In the center, both Greeks and Persian flee the field at 0 Courage. 
That left the batter Persians on the left flank masters of the field of battle.  ! unit of Drilled Infantry at 2 Courage, and 1 Unit of Archers at 2 Courage. 
All that remains...

Conclusion:
Today, I wanted to make sure that Archers were a viable choice and that an Archer heavy force could defeat Hoplites.  Doing the math, the Hoplites would have armor 3, and Archers have 4 shoot dice, so it would be tough for them to scratch the Hoplites.  The Ionian Revolt seemed like a good place to start as it was Greeks vs. Persians. 

My findings were that the Archers are better matched up against auxiliary troops, and then used to bolster the Drilled Infantry in combat as a support unit.  By using clever placement and effort, you could use the archers for Flank Charges and support.  The other way around, with infantry supporting the archers did not work as well.  A situation where an archer unit was facing off against a Hoplite unit would be a severe mismatch for the archers, even at range as they would only get 1 shot before being charged.  Elite and Drilled Hoplites would be an even more hopeless situation.    

Another finding, one of the key things to recall in the game is that a unit can only shoot, move, or fight.  Therefore, if you choose a unit to fight they can only do it once.  If other people join the battle after the initial unit has fought, the rules are not 100% clear on how to handle that.  That is something I will need to edit before May. 

I am still not finding Unit Collapse being an issue like I expected it to be.  Most units, even Discipline 2 can pass the Collapse test.  However, placing the test after Arête Points are discarded reduce the impact of re-rolls to the result.  That is good.

Overall, this was another historical battle where the Persians won.  The key moment was the failed charge by the Militia Hoplites that forced them into open order and wavering.  That was the key engagement of the battle and swung it to the Persians.

 With their field force destroyed, and Persian reinforcements closing in the City of Cius wisely surrendered.  Propontis was secured and Hymaees prepared to support his fellow general’s in crushing the Greek revolt in Ionia. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Warhammer 40K: 8th Edition- Games Workshop


One of my goals for 2018 was to play a game or two of Warhammer 40K 8th edition.  I have been playing various shades of Warhammer 40K since Rogue Trader days.  I played 1st edition, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th edition; before finally dropping out of the rat race that was Games Workshop edition changes.  I just couldn’t keep up anymore and found myself exhausted.  Half the time I was actually playing some bastardized hybrid of Warhammer 40K editions: 1-5; as I misremembered rules and stats and ended up with some amalgamation of rules instead. 

However, I had heard some good things about these 8th edition rules and I figured why not?  I have tons of models just sitting around.  I mostly use them to play Rampant Stars, Tomorrow’s War, Konflict 47, Starship Troopers, or whatever other Sci-fi games we want now.  I figured it might be fun to use them in the actual game universe they were intended for!  Plus, some of my old gaming buddies who had fallen away in the past, wanted to try it to get back into Warhammer 40K.  Who was I to argue, I would love to get back together with them and play some games.  With that, I let my buddy cobble together some leftover marines to field and army of Dark Angels to play.

The new rules are only 12 pages of quarter sheet rules in really small font.  Does this mean the game is more streamlined than ever before?   Let’s find out.  This will not be an exhaustive and definitive review of all the changes, for that you will need to go somewhere else. It is the snap judgements of a veteran player after a few games.
    

Things I Liked
They finally got rid of Template weapon and guess range weapons.  If I had a dollar every time that became a point of contention during a game, I would still be able to buy a new Warhammer 40K army!  Instead, weapons have a certain number of hits or random number of shots.  No templates.  That sped up play a lot. 

Next, they got rid of the Armor and Armor Penetration process for vehicles that had been with the game since late Rogue Trader days.  Instead all units simply have a Toughness.  Damage is resolved by a dice roll of Strength vs. Toughness.  Once a vehicle was reduced by a certain number of wounds, it would impact the ability to fight.  This was a much smoother system than the old Armor Penetration and Vehicle Damage tables.  However, each vehicle has a unique table, which is bad.   

Morale had also been simplified.  It reminded me a bit of Dragon Rampant where a failed morale test just caused additional wounds on the unit.  This represented soldiers running, becoming ineffective, or hiding.  Medium sized units seemed to be impacted more than larger or smaller units, but overall still an improvement.  Much easier to figure out and determine than fallback etc. 

Many people hate it, but I still kind of like the Hit-Wound-Save model.  This is still the core of the game system for mechanics.  I like it as it allows the opponent to do something other than just remove models.  They made some tweaks to the Save mechanics where everyone has an armor save and weapons have save modifiers that reduce it.  Many units also have an additional invulnerable style save that they can take and the player must choose which one they are using, but most of the time the answer is a no brainer.  I prefer this method to the 4th and 5th edition AP system.



Things I Did Not Like
Some key, core components are still problematic for me.  However, I don’t think they will ever “change” as they are integral to what makes Warhammer 40K, Warhammer 40K.  The first and biggest issue is still the I-GO-U-GO nature of the game.  I do not think I-GO-U-GO is inherently bad, but at the scale and size of a game as you are being asked to play in Warhammer 40K it is tedious.  I basically spent long periods of time watching my opponent do stuff and commenting on what they were doing.  It felt like I was a commentator at a Football game, who could only talk about what was happening instead of playing.  I would prefer to have had some way to react.  The Overwatch system allows some limited shooting when charged, but it was very unsatisfying.  Basically, I just stood there and watched.  This could be greatly improved with some sort of alternating activation of units, and then being able to use “Command Points” to either interrupt or chain activations.  However, that would take the game so far away from Warhammer 40K that it might as well get a new name.  Ultimately, this made the game very dissatisfying to play.    

The other big drawback to the game is simply that it has no unified system to do stuff.  The Hit-Wound-Save system is to roll a d6 and beat a Target Number established by a table.  That is the bulk of the system.  However, morale is completely different you roll 2d6 and try to beat a stat with some mods.  Sometimes a weapon gives multiple hits, other times multiple shots, and other times it is roll a d6 and consult a chart.  The core rules are better at this, but the simple rules bloat of Warhammer 40K with all the factions and gear means that it very challenging to know what does what without lots of looking at books, cards, etc.  Overall, this lack of a unified system to do anything means you are looking at rules all the time, even if you are relatively proficient with the 12 page base rules. 

On a related note, the sheer vastness of Warhammer 40 with all of its various factions is itself annoying.  Players want their factions to do special and unique things.  Therefore, the designers are coming up with hundreds of different ways to “skin a cat” to make that ‘unique” faction experience.  This leads to rules bloat and If This/Then That rules.  Beyond this, some of the other rules are nitpicky. 

I also am not a fan of the random charge range.  To me, this adds just one smidgeon more to luck than I would prefer, in an area where I would prefer skill and judgement.  Commanders need to know how far a unit will move, and randomizing that in the charge seems a bit odd to me.  It could be argued that instead of the skill of judging distance, it changes the skill to judging probability.  However, Poker does judging probability better and you do not need expensive 3D models to play it.  It makes more sense to me that a tactile pursuit like wargames would benefit more from spatial skill than probability skill.  I would tolerate random charge moves if randomized movement was fully integrated into the game with a base movement and a variable add-on/subtraction to move/charge distances.  However, now this is just a special mechanic because it can be special!  On the other hand, I also do not like it when units can just do whatever you tell them, and this at least adds a bit of mystery to whether the charge will succeed or not. 



Meh and Other Uncertainties
Hand-to-Hand is needlessly complex.  A game of units should not be so overly concerned with who can attack who in hand-to-hand and in what order.  In addition, shooting is also similarly nitpicky with who can see what and where true Line-of-Sight matters.  It is still a bit easier than previous editions as you can split fire and do some other interesting things.  Warhammer 40K should really adopt the leader model approach like Chosen Men to streamline moving, shooting, and hand-to-hand.

Psykers are back and have their own phase.  They can theoretically do psychic powers, shooting, and hand-to-hand all in one turn.  I imagine this will only get more and more abusable as more powers get added to by various factions.  Otherwise, they were just a bit of chrome add-ons for flavor.

There are some core scenarios in the book to help players get away from Kill’em All style missions.  That is good a thing!  They also did a lot of work with deployment zones and setting up the game to try and keep it replayable and avoid falling into the samey-samey mission/deployment zones all the time.  That was a big improvement.  These rules are only part of the larger rulebook and not the 12 page booklet.  However, the deployment zones, along with who goes first, and scenario objectives should allow a lot of variable games to be played.  You can even try to steal first turn, but it is a simply die roll with no risk/reward for trying to steal it.    

Games Workshop also added Command Points to the game.  These allow you to trigger special abilities or re-rolls.  They add a bit of resource management to the game that was sorely needed for an added layer of decision making.  All armies get a few base commands, and as your codex comes out you get more.  It is only a matter of time before those will get ridiculous and way out of balance.  However, I like the initial idea a lot. 

 Conclusion
It looks like Games Workshop actually woke-up and took a look around at the rest of the gaming industry and decided to try and compete a bit with modern designs.  I applaud their efforts to try and streamline and modernize their core game.  Ideas such as Command Points, removing Templates, and consolidating Stat lines are great strides forward. 

However, there are still some design decisions at the core of the game that continue to make it unappealing to me.  Lack of a coherent system and the I-GO-U-GO turn sequence combined with the game size (# of Units being played) is unattractive to me.  There were just long stretches where I as a player was not making any decisions, only reacting with dice rolls.

Will I play this again?  Probably.  Some of my old buddies are jumping back on.  However, I image that as more Codex and rules come out it will turn into a bigger train wreck as it goes.  I remember the days of playing Warhammer 3rd Edition with the Ravening Hordes black and white army lists.  That was an effective and streamlined game that I could finish quickly at reasonable points.  However, once more Army Books were released it became more and more of a tangled mess.  I expect 8th Edition to be no different, and the few Faction specific books I have looked at have not made me feel any better. 

I have been on this merry-go-round before, and I got off.  I am not eager to get on it again.  I am definitely not spending more money for another ride.        

Monday, March 5, 2018

Battle Report: Aeronautica Imperialis- Pitched Battle on Tokokai-5

A roar went up around Tokokai-5 as hundreds of engines roared to life. The walls defending the Ork fortresses across the planet had been breached.  The Varingyr immediately launched their armored assault forces towards the breach.  The Flayer-kin, either due to their war cunning or desire to fight; raced out in their crude buggies to do battle before the walls.     

The Feral Orks of Tokokai-5 had built their crude fortresses and settlements atop the old mine heads of the Tokokai Clan.  The Tokokai Clan’s allies from Irongard had arrived in orbit to establish if their Oath Brothers were hiding deep within their mineheads from the Ork invaders. 

A swirling battle erupted for control of the breach ensued.  



Forces
Varingyr Clanguard
Overlord Airship
-          Additional Weapon Load 3

3 Strike Eagle
-          Additional Weapon Load

Iron Eagle
-          Additional Weapon Load

Feral Ork Defenders
2 Flak Wagons

2 Waaagh! Bommaz
-          Additional Weapon Loads

 2 Fighta-Bommaz
- Additional Weapon Load

Mission:
This is the Pitched Battle scenario from the Airspace Compilation.  In this mission each player sets up 10 vehicles on the board, at least 18 inches in from their edge, and 6 inches away from any other edge.  Victory points are only earned by destroying ground targets. 

I thought about sculpting up some ground units for this battle.  However, but the time I sculpted up and painted 20 ground targets, it would have been 2019!  Instead, we opted to use some All Quiet on the Martian Front markers instead. 

Set-up:
This battle is using the same board as the previous battle to represent the Varingyr armored forces trying to push through the breach created by the Warlord.  Rocks and the wall are all Altitude 1 so collisions/crashes can happen. 

The Ork ground forces are set-up as the orange blast markers, while the orange circles are Varingyr ground forces.  The Orks have cleverly placed their ground targets where they can be protected by their ground defenses.  The Varingyr are in a semi-circle beyond the Ork forces, but close enough where we might get a few low altitude tangles.  

The Varingyr aircraft are in two packages.  The north package is the Strike Eagles coming in hot at altitude 1, ready to strafe.  The other is the Overlord escorted by the Iron Eagle.  It is at mid-altitude as the Zeppelin ability will allow it to drop easily. 

The Ork Fighta-bommas are lined up to give the Strike Eagles some issues while they attack ground targets too.  They will be covered by the Falk wagons.  The Waaagh! Bommaz are looking to hit the fringes of the Varingyr ground forces. 

Remember, points are scored for taking out ground targets, and not enemy aircraft.  However, if you take out enemy strike fighters, they can not hit any ground targets!  

   
Turn 1:
Initiative: Varingyr

Movement:
Both sides move towards the battlespace with speed.  The Orks look like they will be over the target zone next turn. 

Shooting:
None

Turn 2:
Initiative: Orks

Movement:
Waaagh! Bomma 2 overshoots the nearest Varingyr tank, but proceeds forward towards the oncoming Varingyr forces.  The rest stay in formation, and it looks like they will go head-to-head but eh Orks are much higher. 

Shooting:
Waaagh! Booma 1 strikes first and drops two bombs on an enemy tank, causing 1 point of damage!  Not enough to destroy it. 

Strike Eagle 1 fires his rockets and Mag-cannons at an Ork truk and manages to reduce it to a single point of damage remaining as well.  Strike Eagle 2 opens fire and destroys an ork War Wagon in a similar barrage!  While Strike Eagle 3 misses its ground targets.   

The Ork flak wagons do not have the range yet. 



Turn 3:
Initiative: Varingyr

Movement:
The Varingyr continues to press forward on the attack, with the Overlord trying to provide some air cover.  Meanwhile, the Orkaircraft streak over the Varingyr lines to bomb there targets.  As Fighta-bomba 1 turns over the front lines, Iron Eagle 1 swoops in on him to attack.  Also, the Ork Ground Defenses are now in range. 

Shooting:
In a moment of self-preservation, Srike Eagle 1 opens up on the nearest Flakwagon, and hits it for 1 damage.  It is still functional! 

Fighta-Bomba 1 drops his Bomb payload on a Varingyr tank and obliterates it. 

The Overlord uses a broadside of Mag-cannons to pepper Waaagh! Bomma 2, who manages to fly through the storm of shots unharmed.  He dropped a payload of bombs behind him on a Varingyr tank as well.  However, the little tank was made of sterner stuff and survived with 1 point of damage. 

Strike Eagle 2 and 3 open fire on two separate targets with rockets and mag-cannons, but only cause 1 hit.  Meanwhile, Figha-Bomba 2 and Waaagh! Bomma 1 unload thwi paloads, and destroy 1 tank and damage a second.     

Flak from Ork Ground defenses spray the Strike Eagles, causing Strike Eagle 2 to start blowing smoke. 

Finally, the Iron Eagle swoops in and fires on Fighta-bomma 1.  2 Hits but no damage. 


 Turn 4:
Initaitive: Orks

Movement:
The Varingyr Strike Eagles continue towards the wall, but their main armaments are out, all they have left are nose mounted mag-cannons for strafing.  The Overlord moves low to use its strafing weapons on the ork vehicles left. 

Meanwhile, the Ork Fighta-bommas wing over to get their rokits into range.  Waaagh! Bomma 2 turns back to follow the frontlines, while Waaaagh! Bomma 1 misjudges a power dive and crashes into the ground taking the pilot with it. 

Shooting:
Ork Ground defenses spray skyward but fail to connect.  Varingyr Strike Eagles also fail to connect with their Mag-cannons on ground targets.  The Overlord’s broadside fails to damage the war truk on the ground, and some Hearth missiles reach out and damage another Ork vehicle but fail to destroy it.



Turn 5:
 Initiative: Varingyr

Movement: 
The Varingyr strike crast try to spin around to re-engage, however Strike Eagle 2 is too close to the wall and crashes, killing the crew.  Meanwhile, the Orks swoop down around the battlefield and attack targets of opportunity.  The iron Eagle tries to chase down Fighta-Bomma 1. 


Shooting:
Fighta-Bomma 1 fires his quad big shootas and tears apart an all ready damaged Varingyr tank. 

The Strike Eagles use the last of their Mag-cannon ammo on two ground targets but fail to damage them. 

The overlord opens fire on multiple targets and manages to send 1 Ork War Wagon to Gork N Mork.  Ork Ground Defenses are unable to harm the big ship.  In addition, Fighta-Bomma 2 fails to hit Strike Eagle 3. 

Waaagh! Bomma 2 hits a ground target for 1 damage.  Then, Iron Eagle 1 manages to snag Fighta-bomma 1 with Mag-cannon shells and cause him to blow smoke. 


Turn 6:
Initiative: Varingyr

Movement:
The Strike Eagles move to disengage since they are out of ammo.  The Overlord tries to turn to use its broadsides on the Ork vehicles.  Meanwhile, the Iron Eagle tries to chase downt he Fighta-Bomma 1.  Fighta-Bomma 2 half loops to get back into the battle, and the Waaagh! Bomma comes in low to strafe more Varingyr tanks. 

Shooting:
The Overlord manages to smoke an Ork ground vehicle with its broadsides at mid range.  The Waaagh! Bomma’s big shoota shells ping harmlessly off the side of the Varingyr Tank. 

Both sides half inflicted 3 destroyed vehicles.


Turn 7:
Initiative: Varingyr

Movement:
The Strike Eagles get to the board edge and head back to base.  Next turn will be a disengagement turn.  The Overlord drifts up and over the Ork wall.  Meanwhile, the Ork Fighta-bomma and Waaagh! Bomma overshoot their targets as they are going way too fast.  Fighta-bomma 1 turns back sharply and lines up on aa Varingyr tank, while the Iron Eagle stays in pursuit. 

Shooting:
Fighta-bomma 1 needs 2 hits to damage and win the game and is lined up on target.  However, Iron Eagle 1 gets to fire first due to initiative.  He rolls 6 mag-cannon dice for 2 hits, and rolls for damage…. He gets 1 6.  Fighta-Bomma 1 is knocked out of the sky!


Turn 8- Disengagement Turn
Initiative: Orks

Movement:
Fighta-Bomma 2 tries to do a high G-turn to strafe a tank, but just overshoots and gets an Iron Eagle on his 6 for his efforts.  The Waaagh! Bomma has better luck, and finds a damaged tank in his sites at medium range. 

Shooting:
The Waaagh! Bomma needs to get 1 damaging shot to win the game.  He lines up and rolls his dice.  3 hits.  He needs 1 5+ to damage.  He succeeds and blows the Varingyr tank sky high. 

The Iron Eagle does shoot up the Fighta-bomma, but causes 1 hit.  The grot in the turret misses his return shooting. 

With that, the remaining aircraft head for home. 


Conclusion
That went down to the wire, but ultimately the Orks win this scenario by dusting 4 Varingyr tanks to 3 Ork War Wagons. 

Let’s talk about some of the aircraft performance.  The Strike and Iron Eagles are very underwhelming overall.  They do not have much punch.  Perhaps I should have gone with different weapon loads for them.  The Overlord did fine, but I definitely picked the wrong weapon load here.  It is not maneuverable enough for forward firing rockets and Hearth Missiles and once I was out of the combat zone, I could not bring it around fast enough.   On the Ork side, we are having a hard time using Ork Rokits as they were getting way too close to the targets and then could not use them!     

Meanwhile, both of us had issues flying today.  We both lost a plane to bad flying.  He power dived into the ground, and I crashed into a wall!  This whole mini-campaign was characterized by some bad flying.  I guess terrain can still matter in a flying game, if it involves lots of ground targets.  That made it a bit more cinematic. 

Overall this campaign was a Minor Varingyr victory.  The Warlord Super Heavy was the star of the campaign and allowed for the Varingyr to win the 2nd and 3rd scenario.  The Orks won the first and last battle.  Overall, a pretty balanced campaign tree.

After fierce street-to-street fighting, the Clanguard managed to batter their way into the feral ork settlements.  Once inside the perimeter, Engineers from the Guild were able to verify which settlements were built on Varingyr ruins.  If it was a pure Ork settlement, the Clanguard fell back and let the fleet bombard the Ork settlements into oblivion. They were then re-routed to support their fellows around active mineheads. 

Where Engineers found Varingyr relics they pushed forward to locate access points to the Tokokai Clan mines.  Once there, they set up a perimeter and the Engineers began to re-active the ancestral spirits to open the mine heads.  The Clanguard of Irongard were able to send in reconnaissance teams into the Tokokai mines to locate their old allies.  Instead, they found nothing but abandoned and ancient tunnels.


Unable to locate any Tokokai Clan members alive, Azoki Helmsward called off the attack.  Using air cover and select orbital bombardment, the Clanguard was recalled back to the fleet.  The War Council was saddened by the discovery that their old clan allies were lost to them.  Instead, Azoki marked the planet for later re-conquest by the Helmsward Clan.  Her fleet turned to explore the next former Tokokai Clan stronghold.  Tokokai-5 was lost…. for now.