Monday, March 25, 2019

Men of Bronze- All of Your Bases....



One of the core design goals of Men of Bronze was to be model and base agnostic.  That means, I wanted the system to work with any existing Greek Hoplite armies that players may have.  I personally hate all the base/re-basing in historical games to match “game scale” or “time scales”.  I spend way too much time painting, not enough time gaming, and do not want to redo basing all the time to play different games. 

The game mechanics themselves were put together to help facilitate this base agnosticism.  The most obvious way was to make the game a Unit-vs-Unit game.  Actions are resolved by a unit instead of by an individual model.  For example, in Warhammer Ancient Battles, you count up how many models are in base to base, calculate their attacks, and roll dice.  As casualties are calculated, models make saves and are removed when failed.  I.E, your models are the ones pooling their abilities to determine the success of their actions and attrition.  In Men of Bronze the actions are determined by the fixed abilities of the unit and fixed benefits for the supporting units.  There is no individual casualty removal. 

In addition, various key measurements are done by using the leader (center of the unit) as the focal point.  This simplifies and standardizes measuring, ranges, etc.  Therefore, no matter the basing you can easily mark or find the center of the front of the unit.  Basing does not matter.

As a last feature to make the game base and scale agnostic all measurements are in Base Widths.  Technically, a base width can be any unit of measure that the players are comfortable with.  I use 28mm models from Victrix and an Imperial Inch as a Base Width.  Alternatively, you could measure the actual length of the base size you use or the frontage and make those the same as the base widths.  Of course, players could also just decide what they want to use saying it is 10 cm, 150 mm, or whatever they wish.  The key thing is that everyone knows the size of a base width and it looks good to you on the table top. 

With that being said, there have been a few questions about how to do this base agnostic thing with the various armies and basing for armies that exist.  I want to look at some popular basing methods and talk about how to use them in Men of Bronze.           

Single Based Models
As I have mentioned, I tend to use single based 28mm models for my own games and armies.  28mm is what I cut my teeth on as a young wargamer, and despite playing games at different scales this one just appeals to me. 
Phalanx Formation for 28mm, single-based models
To create a unit in Men of Bronze, the easiest way and the method I use is to simply get 10 single based models together.  I put the leader model in the front rank, put two mooks on each side of the leader.  I then fill in a second line of 5 models.  Ta-da!  A unit in Phalanx formation.  I use Victrix 25mm round plastic bases and all the models are based individually.  However, you can use any size base you want, and it can be round or square with no game impact.  If I want a unit in loose formation, I just place the leader model, and make sure all the individual models are within 1 base width, which I have decided is 1 Imperial Inch.   

Open formation for 28mm, single-based models
This means models from Warhammer Ancient Battles and similar casualty removal systems easy to use in Men of Bronze

Multi-Models with Multiple Base Units
A popular style of basing is 28mm or 15 mm models in groups of 4-6 on square or rectangular bases.  The easiest way would be to use 10 bases and split them out like the single based unit, but that is a lot of figures and very few people will probably want to do that!  Keep in mind, a Unit can be any number of bases as it is a Unit-vs-Unit system.  Therefore, you can have a Unit be 1 base or more.  I tend to think 3 bases (so about 12 to 16 figures) make a good unit. 

For a Phalanx formation they can simply be lined up in a straight line, with the middle of the center Unit as the “Leader” or a model in the center base acting as the leader.  If the unit is supposed to be in loose formation a player could simply stagger the frontage of the unit, or separate the bases by up to a base width.  

Many games use 60mm x 60mm, 40 x 40mm or 40mm x 15mm bases.  The easiest base width measurement is 30mm, 20mm or 15mm respectively.  However, you can use whatever looks best to you! 

This makes armies designed for Hail Caesar, Warmaster Ancients, or Impetus rather easy to convert to Men of Bronze.  

From Irregular Wars- Multi-model, multi-based, 10mm
http://irregularwars.blogspot.com/
Multiple Models on a Single base
Players who have long been using WRG, DBA/M, or L’Arte de Guerre systems will frequently have a single unit of 4 to 6 models on a single base.  These are easy to convert to Men of Bronze too.    

Typically, 15mm models for DBA use 40mm frontage with a width/depth of 15mm.  That means an entire unit for Men of Bronze could be on a single base 40mm x 15mm. A base width for measuring distance could be 15mm, but if you do not like the look you could go for something else.  The “leader” would just be the center of the unit’s frontage.  A unit would be assumed to be in Open Order, unless a counter was placed nearby indicating they were in a Phalanx formation.

If you have smaller scale models such as 6mm or 10mm you could stick with the 15mm base width, or adjust it as you so desire.

From Irregular Wars- Multi-model, single-based, 10mm
http://irregularwars.blogspot.com/
Final Thoughts
As you can see, Menof Bronze was built to be scale and base agnostic.  If you have Ancient Greek figures, you can probably play a game.  However, it is recommended that each player use the same basing method and scale to reduce confusion, but it is not required with a suitably good-natured opponent and clear communication.  Each army is about 5-10 units per side, so you can easily stretch your existing Ancient Greek collections for a game of Men of Bronze.         

Monday, March 18, 2019

Battle Report: Operation Hemlock- Aeronautica Imperialis


You may recall, I first got startedin wargame design because I really enjoyed playing in some of the old GW online campaigns. I had fond memories of playing in the Eye of Terror campaign and the Medusa V campaign. Some friends and I tried a small scale community campaign called the Battle forAmmoriss. It was mildly successful and I had a lot of fun with it.

I had created a follow-up mini-campaign called Operation: Hemlock set on the same world as a follow-up to the Battle for Ammoriss campaign. It is kind of hokey, but I want to set most of my sci-fi games this year into this Operation: Hemlock setting. I never really got to use it as a mini-campaign so I might as well use it as a back drop for some gaming! I honestly do not think it is the best campaign document I have done. I have plenty more other, cooler ones for the Airspace Online campaigns for Aeronautica Imperialis. Maybe I will revisit one of those planets some other time.

So, here is some of the game systems I will probably be using and setting in Operation: Hemlock coming up:


As you can see, I plan on playing a diverse set of games to fit into this setting beyond just GW systems. I really just wanted a bit of a placeholder for my games and to give me some context for what story I was working on this year. I might play all of these, or I might play none of these. We will see what my family and group want to play and do.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my first Operation: Hemlock related battle report....


Background
As part of Operation: Hemlock the Imperial authorities launched a three pronged offensive to eliminate the ork threat on Ammoriss once and for all. As part of Taskforce: Chalice the Ammoriss Air PDF and Imperial Navy was tasked with gaining and maintaining air superiority for the campaign in and around the Deff Islands. Commodore Miles of the Imperial Navy was placed in overall command of the operation.

The Deff Islands were a many miles away from the nearest PDF airbases in North Ammoriss. Therefore, Commodore Miles established a number of small Forward Operating Bases closer to the target area, mostly on abandoned or commandeered drill rigs. There he planned to use the larger assets of the Ammoriss Air PDF to spearhead patrols and operations in the approaches to the Deff Islands to isolate them geographically and eliminate the threat of other refugee orks from migrating to the Skarbash's aid.

In addition, he organized a number of reconnaissance incursion into Ork held airspace. The purpose of these missions was to try to locate and fix the Ork air defense and airbase network on the islands. Again, the larger air assets of the Ammoriss Air PDF were used while the Imperial Navy assets were held in reserve.

This is one such reconnaissance mission attempting to penetrate to the Green Zone on Ammoriss.

Forces

Ammoriss Air PDF
2 Sentinel Interceptors
2 Storm Interceptors
1 Watchman

Snaz Boomgobz Air Boyz
4 Ork Fighters

Mission:
Today's mission will be the flight of the Vigilante. The Watchman will attempt to make it across the board without getting shot down by the Ork aircraft. If it survives then the mission is a success for the PDF, if it is shotdown the Orks win. This is a mission and the PDF forces are from the Airspace Rules Compilation.


Set-up:
The Watchman is coming in at high speed and medium altitude, with its escort squadrons on either sides of it at similar speeds and heights.

The orks are split into two groups who are deployed at both table corners. They are both high and mid-speed.

Turn 1:
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The Imperial aircraft start to shift tot eh right, while the Ork aircraft move towards the middle and drop altitude.

Shoot:
None

Turn 2:
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The Watchman and the Storms stay around Altitude 4 to 5 and head right again and Fighta 1 and 2 seem to be tracking with them. Meanwhile, the Sentinels go high and the Ork fightas facing them dive to the hard deck. They will both have a hard time getting into the action later.

Shoot:
None

Turn 3:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Ork fightas near the deck do a hard G-turn and gain altitude in exchange for speed and head for the bulk of the PDF aircraft. The sentinels do something similar but stay at the same height. The Watchman continues to gain altitude to avoid the Ork fighters, but they are closing in and have slipped behind the escort screen.

Shooting:
Fighta 4 opens up on Storm 2 and riddles the airframe with Big Shoota fire. It is our first kill of the day, and the pilot fails to eject in time to survive.


Turn 4:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The orks all turn into the expected path of the Watchman, but the PDF plane is even slower than they expected, and they just barely overshoot and leave it out of range. However, Storm 1 is out of position, and the Sentinels have sub-optimal firing arcs.

Shooting:
Ork Fighta one whiffs gently and sprays Big Shoota rounds right through Sentinel two, easily knocking the plane from the sky, Another PDF pilot goes to their grave!

In return, Sentinel 1 manages to scratch what passes for paint on Fighta 3, and the Watchman misses Fighta 1 with her heavy stubbers.



Turn 5:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Storm and Sentinel try desperately to set-up some kill-zones behind the Watchman to deter an attack, but the Orks are all over the PDF planes. Fighta 1 easily drops into a tailing position on the Watchman.

Shooting:
Fighta 3 sprays Storm 1 and close range, but somehow the PDF plane flies through it unharmed.

The watchman fires on its pursuer, but fails to hit anything. Meanwhile, Fighta 1 lazily takes 1 hit off the big bird.

The return fire from Storm 1 is enough to splash Ork Fighta 3! The Ork fails to eject and is killed.



Turn 6:
Initiative: Orks

Tailing Fire:
The Tailing Fire from Fighta 1 is enough to take down the Watchman plane. However,t eh crew is able to bail out and live to fight another day!



Move:
With the Watchman down, the rest of the PDF simply disengage. The orks give a half-hearted pursuit until the reach the end of their fuel and return home.

Shooting:
None

Conclusion:
Commodore Miles' strategy proved to be very costly in blood and iron. The Air PDF crews and aircraft were ill-prepared for the mission against the Ork stronghold most of the reconaissance craft never returned. Very little was learned from the effort. Instead, Commodore Miles turned to other methods to try to learn about what was happening in the Green Zone.

Worse, a rift began to form between the Ammoriss Air PDF crews and their Imperial Navy counter-parts. It was not lost on them that the Navy fliers had been held back, while the Air PDF did the dying for the past few days. In addition, Commodore Miles instituted a new, rigorous re-training program overseen by the Imperial Navy crews. This was another factor that only increased the rift between the two services as Operation: Hemlock was kicked off.

It has been a while since we played Aeronautica Imperialis. I think the last time was a mini-campaign early in 2018 with Varingyr vs. Orks? Well, my usual scumgrod took the Orks and the proceeded to take me to school.

I had just sculpted and painted the PDF Sentinels and I really was eager to try them out. Sadly, I didn't really have a battle plan for my force, and instead it just got ill used and shot to pieces! The PDF craft are of course underpowered and fragile, but they tend to make it up with some OK firepower and being cheap as chips so I was actually outnumbering Orks. I was rolling plenty of shooting dice when I got in the right position, which was not often enough this game. I couldn't really tell you how the Sentinel did, but the Storm proved itself to be a good close range gunslinger yet again.



Better luck for the PDF next time I guess.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: Maze of Malcor- Frostgrave



The Maze of Malcor is another supplement for Frostgrave.  This is the fourth soft cover supplement for Osprey Games popular fantasy skirmish game.  One of my goals for 2019 was to get my gaming group and family to start a regular campaign for this game system.  Reading the description for this one it mentioned some new rules, campaign, and new wizard types.  Therefore, it made sense to me to pick up this booklet to make sure I had the newest rules. 

The rules have three main components.  The first is the new rules.  The second is the Campaign and the new bestiary to go with it.  The last piece is new wizards and spells of the new magical schools called the Pentangle.  So, let’s dig in and see what terrors this supplement will add to the Frozen City of Felstad. 

Things I Liked
I really enjoyed the new spells and the new wizards.  The new Wizards are not really intended to be “campaign playable”.  It specifically mentioned the difficulty of a wizard maxing out and being able to cast the Transcendence spell since the new wizards have to master more spells than a conventional wizard.  Many of these new wizard types were a combination of existing magical schools in new and interesting ways.  The author is full of fun magical ideas. 

I also liked the new rules for placing treasure.  It seemed to crib from the treasure placement used in the Ghost Archipelago.  You place a central treasure in the center of the board so there is always a reason to move towards the middle.  Other treasures are placed radiating away from it.  This will help cut down on treasure placement shenanigans. 

Things I Did Not Like
The campaign is pretty elaborate and had 12 new scenarios.  The scenarios themselves each use unique new bestiary creatures and unique terrain lay-outs.  Looking at the campaign, it would be quite an undertaking for a small gaming group to get the parts you need to play through it.  It would be a great club project though.

The campaign itself seems like it would be best to play with more advanced wizard parties.  The opponents are particularly tough.  Of course, it could also be played through with multiple wizard bands, and the rules reference this option as well.  In addition, the new rules have a way to start with more experienced wizards.  Perhaps to play through this very campaign. 

Meh and Other Uncertainties
The new rules also include a new experience table, an auto-success/failure mechanic, new scroll rules, and new ways to balance scenarios.  These all seem perfectly adequate and the new Balancing Scenario rules is something that have been needed since Frostgrave came out.  I am glad to see them added but I am unsure how successful they will be. 

The new Treasures are perfectly adequate and have some fun stuff.  The Bestiary also has some fun stuff.  My favorite might be the animated desks and bureaus.  There are even magical items that let you have these furniture constructs join your warbands.  This supplement adds more to the long list of fun treasures and magical items, including scrolls for the Pentangle magic.  However, none of it was really “needed” or add any new dimensions to the game like some of the other supplements. 

Conclusion
Well, I was a bit disappointed with this supplement.  It adds an extra layer and challenging campaign for High-Level wizard war bands.  Plus, it adds “new” wizard types and magic.  However, overall it does not add enough new elements to make it indispensable.  If I was to order the Supplements based on need, I would go with:

  1. Into the Breeding Pits
  2. Frostgrave Folio
  3. Maze of Malcor
  4. Forgotten Pacts
  5. Thaw of the LicheLord


The content that raises this above Forgotten Pacts and Thaw ofthe Liche Lord is the new rules for Treasures, the Balancing Mechanic, and the new magic/wizard types.  If you have a group committed to creating the campaign and they have experience war bands the Maze of Malcor will be a useful and fun addition for them.  If not, it is less useful but does add more Scenarios.  Scenarios are critical for a long lasting Frostgrave campaign.

If those criteria are met then this is a good buy.  If it they are not met, I would get Into the Breeding Pits or the Frostgrave Folio first. 

Note: On a related note, Northstar has come out with some great models to go along with thisrelease.  I am particularly excited by the new wizards, the new constructs, and the female soldiers plastic boxed set.  Check them out.                   

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Men of Bronze- Osprey Games



This blog first got started from a series of reviews for the Osprey Wargaming series made for various forums I was part of. From there, it naturally morphed into a blog on game design and wargame reviews. I had been inspired by such blogs as DeltaVector and By Brush and Sword.

I have long been a fan of the Osprey Wargame Series of books or as I like to call them, the Blue Books. They had a concise 64 page length, a full fleshed out wargame, nice art/pictures, good price point, and often introduced me into a period or style of game I had not played or tried before. Many of them often began with or included some interesting design notes. I always put down a book with a new design idea, appreciation for a period, or some other positive take away. My shelf soon filled with books from this series. It is always one of my hobby goals to buy every new release from Osprey Games in the Wargame Series.

You can look in my Blog and read all about the books in the series. Therefore, it only makes sense that I will also try to review one of their 2019 releases Men of Bronze. This is a game of Greek Hoplite warfare and number 24 in the series. This book will be much harder to review from all of the other Osprey Games books I have reviewed for a simple reason. I wrote it.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, I will still follow my normal approach to reviews on this board and tell you what I liked, what I did not like, and all the Meh and other Uncertainties related to this book. As the author, I was lucky to get an advance print copy, and I will say it has the same great craftsmanship as all the Osprey Wargame Series books. You can expect white space, great Osprey art, and plenty of pictures of miniatures.

So, with my disclaimer out of the way, let's get a closer look at this book and the rules.

Things I Liked
One of the most interesting aspects of the rules is the use of Arete Points, as a way to introduce resource management into the game. These are points that are generated by each unit and placed in a pool for a general to use during the turn. These can be used to do a number of things such as bid for initiative, attempt to interrupt an action, trigger a unit's special rule, launch a charge, or other stuff. This means as units are eliminated, a general has fewer Arete Points to use and must think about think about how and when they are going to be used.

The game is mostly I-GO-U-Go ,but with a twist. You use a Bid of Arete Points to determine who has initiative and gets to act first. However, once a unit acts, the other player can use an Arete Point to try to take the initiative. This can happen as many times as a player has Arete Points. However, taking the initiative is not a given, but requires a roll-off. Whoever maintains the initiative can then act freely with one unit before more Arete Points can be spent. Therefore, players have to pay attention on when the “flow of battle” may shift.

The game has a very simple army composition. Units are abstracted so a variety of ancient Greek units can be incorporated into the game with a bit of creativity. In addition, it has basic army lists and sample lists to get you started right away.

The mechanics are simple and relatively uniform. After a turn or two, it will be easy to remember what to do. Almost all modifiers are bonus dice and bonuses are typically in increments of 2 additional dice. The dice system is simple but effective without a lot of memorization. All pushback mechanics are the same distance.

The game has Designer Notes in it!



Things I Do Not Like
The dice system maybe too simplistic. It doesn't take a math genius to calculate most of the probabilities and outcomes before you engage. You will have a pretty good idea of what each round of combat will end up as, and once you engage fighting you fight until the other unit is destroyed or routed.

There is a system for units to support one another in close combat and in assault. If a unit decides to support, they become “part” of that unit until the fight is done. That means that if you support a weakened unit, you may loose two units instead of one. Supporting adds additional combat dice for attacking and defending but does not change the main units stats in any other way. Therefore, a sloppy support may cost you dearly.

In addition, the order of events for supporting can be a bit unclear. When someone charges your unit, you can choose to support if you are close enough, you seem to be able to charge or move in to support once engaged, or when charging a unit can choose to support the charge if they are close enough. The units then re-align their position based on if they were the main unit, support unit, on the flank, or in the rear. This part can get a bit confusing on the sequence, when dice are added, and would benefit from an illustration of play or some diagrams.



Meh and Other Uncertainties
The game does not use individual model removal. Instead, it is Unit-vs.-Unit and either entire units are removed, or they are still in play. Units do need to be shuffled around to align for combat and support units, flank units, and rear attacks must be set-up into a recognizable pattern for melee. Some folks are not a fan of that approach to melee, and prefer free-wheeling edges and multi-unit combats; but this system has you re-arrange combats into something more orderly.

The game has a variety of scenarios with 6 basic scenarios and 6 “historical” scenarios. I am sure these will not be to everyone's liking. The Battle of Marathon seems particularly abstracted. However, scenarios may or may not have a complication such as night fall, bad omens, weather, or even a herd of goats on the battlefield. These help add to the re-playability of each scenario. They are relatively “by-the-numbers” scenarios. There is no campaign system built into the rules.

There are rules called Morale and Collapse that help determine when a unit is “wavering” which reduces the unit's effectiveness. However, a unit typically does not flee until it has lost too much “Courage”. Once it does flee it may trigger a cascade of wavering or fleeing units. An entire army can Collapse relatively quickly after a key melee is resolved. An Army where many of its units flee or start wavering is in a bad place as they lose units, ability to fight, and Arete Points for special rules. This may not be to everyone's taste as it “reinforces” failure, but it does create a lot of friction for a general to overcome.

Finally, the pictures and rules talk about using individually based 28mm models in units of 10. The pictures have units of 10-15 models on separate bases. All movement measurements are in base widths and the actual size is not discussed. In the opening First Principles the game states that it is base and scale agnostic. However, there is not much discussion on how to use alternate base or model sizes. This is mostly left up to the player.



Conclusion:
If you have played DuxBellorum, Lion Rampant, or others of the Osprey Games in the Rampant series you will see many ideas and themes that are similar in Menof Bronze. The Arete Points have an analogy to the Leadership Points in Dux Bellorum, but with a twist. Using generic measurements such as base widths is also a theme from DuxBellorum. The simplified army building and unit characteristics are similar to Lion Rampant.

However, there are a number of differences that make Menof Bronze unique from those other Osprey Games rulesets. The game has a unique profile for units. The units do not lose effectiveness as they fight. There are no activation rolls. You can see where some of the bones of Men ofBronze pays homage to those other Osprey Games' systems, but branches off to do its own thing with game design and the period.

Overall, I think it is a neat little game. However, I maybe biased!