Monday, January 18, 2021

Wargame Design: High Noon- Cowboys vs. Aliens




I came across some plastic toys from the old Star Patrol line of plastic army men.  There were various manufacturers and from various countries of origin for this line.  The most common and well-known maker was probably Tim Mee Toys. 

They were popular in the late seventies and early 80's as they had a Star Wars "rip-off" vibe to the models.  There was a low rent Buck Rogers/Luke Skywalker model, a knock-off Darth Vader, wanna-be Wookie, a female "Princess" or crewmember at a control panel, and a squared off droid looking suspiciously like a low-rent R2-D2.  Plus, there was F-16/X-wing lovechild.  To top off the line, there were also a couple of random, normal looking astronaut figures.  I am sure many of you had these as a kid or have at least seen them someplace.  



Of course, I naturally wanted to turn them into a Dexterity Game, but ultimately there were not enough "useful" models in the range for me to really make a good, stand-alone Dexterity Game like Total CARnage, Green Army Men, or High NoonThe models in the packaging just did not lend themselves to this idea.  Plus, I only had one package to work with, and did not really want to order more as the trash to useful ratio was pretty low.  

Over Thanksgiving I shared this problem with my younger relatives.  They had spent a lot of time playing High Noon over the Holiday.  They had plenty of ideas on how to add these Space Patrol figures into a Cowboys vs. Aliens scenario for High Noon.   I have to hand it to the kids, they had ingenious ideas!  



For those of you that have High Noon all ready, I guess you could call this a "supplement" to the game!  If you don't have the rules, you should head over to my Wargame Vault page to get them, and then add these new add-ons for your own Cowboys vs. Aliens battles.  

Our first model is the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon/Luke Skywalker wanna-be.  I guess he is supposed to look like a 1950's ray gun wielding space cadet.  That ill-fitting helmet makes him look SO heroic! We decided that he would have the following weapons: 

  • Ray Pistol - Direct, Hand-to-Hand, Rapid Fire                Coin: 2 Nickels

He couldn't shoot as fast as a Cowboy fanning his revolver, BUT he had bigger coins when he did shoot so it would be easier to hit his target!  

If you so desired, you could also choose to give them the "shield/armor" trait to represent a Force Field or power of mystical, cosmic energy, or just advanced armor compared to Cowboy weapons too. 


Next up is our Female Controller and Robots.  I guess this could be a crew member type figure or something similar.  However, it is clear that she is using a computer to do "something" and here is where the kids got pretty creative.  They gave her two different potential ways to use her "computer"

Option #1

  • Orbital Strike- Indirect, Blast                                        Coin: 1 Quarter

In this option, she is calling down fire from an off-board resource like a space ship or flying drone.  This would give her the ability to use "indirect" fire.  The only way to stop the rain of destruction was to take her out!  

Option #2

  • Bomb-Bots- Blast                                                        Coin: Robot Model

In this scenario, the Female Officer was using her console to move about and detonate the square little Bomb-Bots.  They could move like ordinary figure in their turn.  However, in the Female Officer's turn, should could use her action to "detonate" them as a normal Blast weapon.  If she was taken out-of-action, the Robots would also become inactive.  

We also discussed various ways to use the Robots on their own, without the Female Controller.  After all, R2-D2 and Battle-Droids do not need a controller!  Here are some options to make them fun! 

Square Bots Option #1

  • Square Bot- Hand-to-Hand                                        Coin: None

In this case, they are considered to have small shockers/tazers like R2 uses in Return of the Jedi.  They can use these like a Knife or hand-to-Hand weapon in normal High Noon.   

Square Bots Option #2

  • Square-Bot- Protective, Blast OR Area                    Coin: None 

In this Option, the robots are not offensive, but Defensive.  They can choose to project a force field to act as the shield/armor as either a Blast radius around themselves OR as a Shotgun spread in front of themselves.  This gives any model under the effect the "Shield/Armor" keyword for the rest of the turn.                                      

Our next figure is the dreaded Space Knight who totally isn't a Darth Vadar wanna be!  Honest!  This guy could either be a "Big Bad" individual, or a bunch of faceless thugs to an evil warlord!  Depends on how many you have!  Either way, here is what we came up with for these guys: 

Evil Space Knight #1

  • Evil Space Knight: Hand-to-hand                                            Coin: None

Like the Space Cadet, you could also give him the "Shield/armor" ability to represent his magic, space powers, better armor, or just carrying around a force shield.  

You could also say that his "Beat Saber" could send out an electrical pulse similar to many video games.  This would give him the following profile:  

Evil Space Knight #2

  • Evil Space Knight: Hand-to-hand, Area                                      Coin: None
Now that makes them a bit tougher and scarier.  As the Big Bad, you could also give them multiple "hit" that they could get up from where ever they ended up.  Therefore, he might have 5 hits before being taken out!  So, a penny hits him and he flies back two inches.  In his turn, he gets up where he fell and has 4 hits left!  Scary for those Cowboys to face off against him then! 


Our next set of models is the Nottawookie Alien with Rifle.  These guys seem pretty straight forward to us.  They are dudes with rifles!  Not much else to say, and if you have multiples would probably make up the bulk of your "alien" force.  Here was some quick thoughts on them! 

Nottawookie #1

  • Nottawookie: Direct, Rapid Fire                            Coin: 3 Quarters

With Rapid-Fire, if they move they can fire 1 Quarter.  However, if they stay still they can fire three Quarters!  That is some big firepower compared to Nickel and Penny throwing Cowboys! 

To make them extra tough, you could add Hand-to-hand, Shield/Armor, and replace Rapid Fire with Area to make their guns more like Shotguns.  To make them extra tough you could also give them more than 1 Hit too.  You can flavor them to taste depending on the difficulty of the scenario or how many Cowboys and Indians you bring to the table.    


The next batch of models from the Star Patrol set is a weird looking clawed alien with an inverted shell.  I have no idea what to make of these guys.  They are some odd looking creatures, and I am unsure if they are suppose to be sentient aliens, or more like alien animals.  Either way, here is a shot at how to play them.

Clawed Alien #1

  • Clawed Alien: Hand-to-hand, Shield/Armor                        Coin: None

In this scenario, they are more like simple shock troopers that run towards the enemy and attack them up close.  Not much of a threat on their own, but they could be used to mask more dangerous enemies or charge an objective.  

Alternatively, look at those crazy alien eyes!  Clearly, they can shoot death rays!  

Clawed Alien #2

  • Clawed Alien: hand-to-Hand, Shield/Armor, Direct            Coin: Penny

Again, if you want them to seem extra tough against Cowboy weapons, you could give them 1-3 hits for that alien durability.  They will seem almost immune to primitive Indian/Cowboy weapons then!    

Finally, we have the astronauts from an Apollo mission.  I honestly have no idea what to do with these guys.  They look very unthreatening.  Perhaps their suits give them protection and strength?  At a stretch the guy with the portable oxygen tank could be wielding some sort of Area weapon?  Maybe..... The other guy just looks like he should be planting a US Flag into the moon.  We didn't have much for these guys.  We thought maybe they could be objectives for the aliens to try to capture while the Cowboys/Indians tried to protect them.   

So, here is some half-hearted attempts to do something with them.

Astronaut #1    

  • Astronaut: hand-to-Hand, Shield/Armor                                Coin: None

Astronaut #2

  • Astronaut with Tube: Hand-to-hand, Shield/Armor, Area        Coin: None

If you have something better for these guys, feel free to post it below in comments or on the Messageboards.

Final Thoughts

I didn't think these Star Patrol models would be enough for a new Dexterity game, but it sure could be fun to add them to a game of High Noon in some Cowboys vs. Aliens type scenarios.  Give these rules a go and let me know what worked for you! 




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Monday, January 11, 2021

Battle Report- Castles in the Sky- Tropic Thunder

 

Commodore Leftbridge could not believe what his spotters were calling in.  He had to see it for himself.  When he raised his own binoculars to his eyes, he could not deny it.  Seeing was believing.  

Commodore Leftbridge's small command had been cruising the Caribbean on routine patrol.  The usual stuff of rescuing would-be sailors, customs enforcement, and showing the flag with the local British citizens.  The close proximity to French colonies in the region had never really been much of an issue.   They kept to their sky ways, and the British tended to keep to theirs.  

Now however, the Frenchies looked like they were feeling a bit feisty.  The Foreign Office had cabled Leftbridge in Bermuda and let him know a new French officer was en route to station at Martinique.  The cable claimed he was hot-blooded and eager to prove himself.  They didn't say he was a looking for trouble.  

A French cruiser was now flying provocatively close to the Commodore Leftbridge's flotilla.  The question was, what to do about it.

Today's battle report is V4 Castles in the Sky play test.  I am intentionally using asymmetrical forces to see how they stack up against each other.  

Forces

Royal Navy

Arethusa Class Light Cruiser- Command 2  

Bull Finch Destroyer- Command 4

Shah Class Frigate- Command 4


L'Aire National

Gloire Class Armored Cruiser- Command 1


Mission

This is a Raiders mission with the French as the Attacker.  They are attempting to disable or destroy the Arethusa Light Cruiser.  The British are attempting to drive the French attacker away.  This game will last 6 turns.  

Set-up

We rolled for complications and terrain as normal.  Since this is in the Caribbean, it will mostly take place over ocean.  It is a 48MU x 48MU board.  1 MU = 1 inch.  We rolled up no complications.  

For terrain we rolled up an Alt 3 Mountain, two island (land based terrain with no impact), and a cloud bank at Alt 2.  We followed the terrain placement rules to place the terrain with the mountain and one island on the British side of the board, and an island and the cloud bank on the French side.



The British were in a group to the West with the Shah lagging slightly behind moving up the middle of the board at mid-altitude and speed. The French started on the Northeast side of the board, steaming towards the British at full speed and mid-altitude.  



Turn 1: 

 The French win initiative with 1 success, to the British 0.  The French also have 1 Command.  They decide to go first.  

Move: 

The French Captain issues an Full Ahead when the British force is sighted, but the Boiler is not prepared and the ship fails to respond due to a failed Command Check.  

The British Flotilla Commander also sees the French heavy Cruiser and immediately realizes she is out-gunned and out-armored.  The small ships begin to scatter, with the Bullfinch and Shah going up 2 altitude bands to try to get above the fray.  Meanwhile, the Arethusa turns away.  

Battle:

None.  No one has the range. 

Turn 2: 

The French fail to get any Commands this turn, and the British score two successes.  They opt to move first.  

Move:        

The Arethusa drops altitude to gain speed as she speeds up.  The Gloire turns to keep her to the front.  Meanwhile, the Destroyer and Frigate are moving to try and get behind the French Cruiser.  

Battle:

The distances are still too far.  



Turn 3: 

The French win Initiative with 1 success.  They let the British go first this time. 

Move: 

The Arethusa dives towards the clouds for cover.  The Gloire keeps closing the range.  Meanwhile, the Shah goes to Altitude 6 while the Bullfinch keeps cruising at 7 altitude.  They also are closing the distance for a Torpedo attack.  

Battle: 

The British Bullfinch fires a Torpedo Salvo at the French Cruiser.  The Torpedoes race to their target.  Two streak by harmlessly.  One is destroyed by point defense guns, while the last one strikes home.  It manages to detonate on a lightly armored part of the Cruiser and cause a Hit!    

The Gunnery Officer let's the Gloire's captain know that the British ship is in long range.  However, the Captain opts to hold fire until they can get closer.  He wants the first salvo to be devastating.  

The Shah also fires a pair of torpedoes.  1 misses, while the other crashes into the armored belt of the French Cruiser, causing only friction.  



End: 

The Gloire loses 1 point of armor, but a Fire also begins where the torpedo struck!  

The French also had 3 Friction markers, but a good Command roll allows them to shrug off the Friction this turn.  

Turn 4: 

The French score 1 success, to the British 2.  This time, the British make the French go first!

Move: 

The Gloire drops altitude as she tries to bleed some speed off.

The Arethusa makes for the cloud bank, but does not make it in time.  The Bull Finch gets Commanded to Re-load and does so successfully.  She moves towards the French ship.  The Shah also gets to Re-load.  She also tries to keep the French ship in her sights.  



Battle: 

The Gloire's Captain tries to give a Fire for Effect command, but interference on the Telecomm scrambles the order.  Her bow batteries still fire on the smaller, lighter Arethusa, but miss the mark.  

The Shah and Bull Finch fire another air torpedo salvo, but vigilant Point Defense gunners on the Gloire destroy them before they can hit home.  This leaves the French cruiser with 3 Friction tokens.  

End: 

The Gloire fails to put out her fire, and loses another armor point.  She also only manages to remove 1 of the 3 Friction markers.  

Turn 5: 

Both sides score 1 success.  However since the British have far more Command dice they can choose who has initiative.  They choose to move first this time.  

Move:

The Arethusa slows down as she races into the cloud bank and into cover. 

The Gloire is slowed by the Friction, but manages to climb one altitude.  Not as high as the approaching British escorts.  

The Bull Finch Re-Loads successfully and presses her attack.  She is confident she has the height to advantage.  Meanwhile, the Shah gains more speed and breaks off away from the French Cruiser.  

Battle: 

The French desperately try to get targets, but the altitude/size difference is too great and no shots are available.  They are sitting ducks.  

The Bull Finch fires another Torpedo salvo at close range.  The Gloire's Point Defense destroy 1, and 1 misses.  Two more strike the Cruiser, but fail to cause damage to the weakened armor.  



End:

The Gloire's crew manage to get the fire extinguished below decks!  In addition, they quickly batten down and manage to clear the Friction markers on the ship! 

Turn 6: Final Turn

The British score 1 success to the French 0.  They choose to go first this time.  

Move: 

The Arethusa speeds up and dodges away and out of the clouds and away from the French cruiser.  The Gloire continues to slowly rise up, but it can not out maneuver the smaller British Escorts who easily out climb her and stay away from her guns.  


Battle: 

No one has the right altitude or angle to successfully fire on an enemy vessel.  

End:

None

Conclusion: 

The British win by successfully avoiding the French cruiser's guns, while managing to reduce her 2 Armor points!  Jolly good show! 

As the French commander, I was hampered by my very low starting Command rating!  I could not get any of my Commands off, and I failed to put out a Fire in a timely way.  It also hampered my ability to clear Friction.  Meanwhile, the British Destroyer and Frigate commanders were command 4 and were easily able to get their Re-Load Commands for their Torpedo Tubes.  This left me at a huge disadvantage in this battle!  In addition, I simply could not get the right height, speed, or range to deal with any of these smaller ships decisively as the French captain.  

Therefore, the results of the battle were as I intended.  The Escorts could out-maneuver the big ships and still cause enough damage to win.  Therefore, the weaker Escorts still have an important role to play even in a big ship duel!  Plus, big ships alone can not counter Destroyer, Frigates, Patrol Boats, etc.  That means, for a Commander to be successful in negating these threats, you need Escorts of your own.  Taking the biggest and baddest ship is not always the best decision, instead you need a mixed fleet to be successful.  Perfect! 

Overall, I was very frustrated to play as the French Cruiser, but the rules worked as intended.  That makes this a win for the system in general! 

 




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Monday, January 4, 2021

Random- 2020 is Dead, Long Live 2021!


2020 is dead.  Long live 2021!  

Last year was a year, and this year will be another year.  Time keeps slipping into the future.  I have yet to find someone where it goes backwards or even stagnates for.  Time waits for no man.  Insert your other cliche's into the mix here as needed to get the point across.  

Like previous years I plan to create a few goals for the year.  These are not binding, but it keeps me from going off the rails and spending like crazy on the new shiny.  It also keeps me from jumping from project to project without finishing stuff first.  Like I say, to be a Game Designer, you need to have games for people to play! 

Like most years, I am breaking this down into the following categories:  

  • Purchases- Things I spend my money on
  • Painting and Modeling- Things I paint and build to play games with
  • Playing Games- The name says it all.  The games I will play and report on
  • Rules Writing- New projects and games I am working on
  • Miscellany- Other things related to Blood and Spectacles but not the other 4 categories. 
So, with no further ado, let's dive into what 2021 will hopefully bring......

Purchases

My goal is always to have a self-sufficient Hobby experience.  As I have said many times, you can make more money recycling cans than being a game designer, so I am not looking to make a living.  I have a corporate job for that!  However, with your help I CAN expand with projects that motivate you and inspire you in my own gaming systems!  

Creating games requires more than just writing rules.  You need to playtest games, market games, and put pretty pictures into your publications.  These purchases help with that process!  When you make a purchase from Blood and Spectacles, you are helping to support this work.  For that, I thank you! Thank you!  I will keep trying to produce good products for you to have fun with and play!  

So, here is what I would like to Purchase this year.....

  1. Victrix Vikings for my Fury of the Northman Project
  2. DreamPod 9 With the Lightning Mechs for Glittering Void
  3. Tumbling Dice Korean War Aircraft for White Star/Red Star
  4. Oathsworn Starter Bundles A and B for Burrows and Badgers
  5. Stay caught up with the Osprey Wargaming Series
  6. Pick-up Stargrave when it comes out
That's about it for the purchases in 2021.  4 to support projects I am working on, and 2 keep me up to date with trends in the wargaming industry.  

White Star/Red Star using my (in)famous paper templates

Painting and Modeling

One of the reasons my Purchase list is limited, is because I know I can only paint about 100-150 models in a year.  No need to buy more than I can paint!  Plus, going into this year, I have a full size Republican Roman army to paint, so there goes most of my painting time this year!                    

  1. Victrix Republican Roman army for Wars of the Republic
  2. Paint the new miniatures I purchase
That's it!  I will be painting about 60 to 100 Romans so there goes most of my bandwidth for the year!  Therefore, my goals in this area are very limited.  You will be able to keep track of the miniatures I paint in 2021 with my painting tracker on the right hand side of the blog.   


Gaming
The last two years I have been able to get between 12-18 games in a year.  Therefore, I need to keep that in perspective for this year.  I am not going to be setting the world on fire with the number of games I get to play.  However, that doesn't mean I won't get a bit creative! 

  1. Play 4-6 games of Ancients of any system- Heirs of Empire, Men of Bronze, The Games: Blood and Spectacles, or Wars of the Republic will all be acceptable! 
  2. Play 1-2 games for Operation: Hemlock 
  3. Play 2-4 games of my WIP games- This includes Castles in the Sky for Osprey
  4. Get 1 new Non-Blood and Spectacles game on the table
That is only 8-13 games for all of next year.  So, about 1 a month!  Again I am being conservative with my gaming.  You will be able to keep track of the games I play in 2021 with my game tracker on the  right hand side of the blog. 



Rules Writing
I may not be the best or most popular game designer in the world, but I am a very productive one!  I pretty consistently am moving new content to you, the gamer!  I endeavor to continue this trend! 

  1. Complete Castles in the Sky for Osprey
  2. Update The Games: Blood and Spectacles with new photos, art, and resources
  3. Try to get a new work published in a Magazine, Osprey, or through another channel
  4. Move a WIP game to the Wargame Vault
  5. Add a new game to the WIP section
I have several games in various states of WIP from Modern Naval, to Dexterity Games, to Historical, to Gunpowder Fantasy, Modern Horror, and beyond.  The hard part is prioritizing and completing works in a timely manner.  There are so many concepts, it can be hard to get all the concepts into reality!  



Miscellany
These are random elements that apply to running Blood and Spectacles Publishing that I want to continue to accomplish.  Sometimes they are administrative, marketing, or other details that I do not want to lose site of.  
  1. Get a new Blog post up every two weeks, if not every week
  2. Update the Painting and Gaming tracker for 2021
  3. Tie my Social Media, Website, Blog, and Messageboard together for a more unified marketing message
  4. Try to increase my network with other Game Designers
  5. Update my Products on my Website
Basically, keep working on finding ways to improve my "Side Hustle".  


Final Thoughts
In some ways, my goals are less ambitious than last year.  However, in other ways they are more ambitious.  There is much more focus and rigor around completing projects that tie into the growth and development of Blood and Spectacles Publishing as opposed to just MY hobby side of things.  The Purchases are to align around ongoing projects, the painting to support releases, the gaming to market and play-test products, and the Rules Writing to continue to expand my stable of games for you the player.  

2020 was a good year for Blood and Spectacles Publishing!  Here is to 2021 and growing and expanding even further!   

Monday, December 28, 2020

Random- The End of 2020: A Recollection Collection

 


I think that is how everyone feels about 2020!  I am glad it is over, but I don't expect 2021 to start out much different. In some ways, 2020 was good to me as WFH was a big savings on fuel and other resources.  I also feel like I was pretty productive.  On the down side, I was in quarantine most of the year and I actually got COVID despite all of my families precautions.  So, that was not fun.  

Anyway, enough about the train wreck that was 2020 in general.  Instead, we need to talk about Hobby goals for 2020.  As usual, I will be breaking it down into the four categories: 

1. Purchases- Things I spend money on to add to my collection

2. Painting and Modelling- Things I got ready for the table

3. Playing- Games that I played

4. Rules Writing- Games I have built

5. Miscellany- Other stuff that is hobby related

The things I put into the categories at the start of 2020 are not set in stone.  They are guidelines to keep my year on track and to avoid being distracted by the new shiny.  I find it helpful! 

Purchases

Many of my purchases this year were focused on Ancients.  This makes sense to me as I had Men of Bronze come out for Osprey last year, and I have a second book coming out in 2021 called Wars of the RepublicIn addition, I released Heirs of Empire for the Diadochi Wars on the Wargame Vault.  Therefore, I started bulking up my Ancient forces for more Online content to support these releases. 

I also always like to keep my bookshelf of games up-to-date as well.  I also picked up new rules to keep my tool box of ideas current and full.  So, how did it go?  What did I get from my list?   

Here is what I have picked up:

  1. Clash of Spears
  2. Zona Alfa
  3. Gangster Terrain
  4. Blood Bowl Lizardmen
  5. Last Days: Seasons
  6. Reality's Edge
  7. Victrix Elephants
  8. Victrix Cavalry
  9. Victrix Republican Romans
  10. Rogue Planet- This was a bonus pick-up not on my initial list
Thanks to all of YOUR help!  Your support through purchases of Men of Bronze and from my Wargame Vault page has helped me achieve these purchase goals.  Thank you.  

Things I did not pick up this year: 
  1. Victrix Carthaginians/Samnites
  2. Gangs of Rome
  3. Mortal Gods
  4. Oathsworn Burrows and Badgers Bundle A and B
  5. Blood Bowl Chaos Dwarfs
So, there are still some things out there that I wanted to pick-up.  However, I sincerely doubt I will be buying Mortal Gods.  After reviewing the game closer, there are a lot of "Monetized" elements to the design such as tokens, custom dice, unique cards, and dice pull items.  This is not to my design taste, despite hearing good things about the gameplay and decision making in the game.  Gangs of Rome may fall into the same category, but I am less sure about that right now.  Therefore, these may not transition to the 2021 list.  I am not sure yet.  

Also, it doesn't look like there will BE any Blood Bowl Chaos Dwarfs so..... I guess those might not make the 2021 list either! 

Painting and Modelling
2019 I painted over 150+ models, and I felt like that was an amazing success!  This year, I also had a pretty productive year too!  The tracker on the right hand side of the blog helped me keep focused on moving the numbers down.  Twice this year I ran out of models to paint and got news ones just as I finished the last batch.  


So, my grand total of painted models this year is..... 141!  Not as good as 2019 but still a pretty great year!  Especially since a number of these were 60mm x 60mm bases of 6mm models!  Those were a bear to paint, but I still think it was easier than a 15 man 28mm unit..... 


So, here is a selection of what got painted/built for 2020: 

  1. 28mm Greek Peltasts- 10
  2. 28mm Copplestone Casting gangsters- 12
  3. Blood Bowl Lizardmen- 12
  4. 28mm Fantasy- 8 
  5. 28mm Greek Hoplites- 20
  6. 28mm Steampunk- 1
  7. 6mm Bases- 19
  8. Ork Subz- 4
  9. 28mm Greek Cavalry- 10
  10. 28mm War Elephants- 8 minis
  11. Gangster Buildings- 5
  12. Aeronef Fleets- 23 
  13. Battletech Mechs- 9
Last minute Battletech Mechs finished in 2020!

Playing



For being in "lockdown" for much of the year, I got a surprising number of games under my belt.  Most were with my wife, daughter, or both.  However, a few were with my favored Skumgrod or my gaming group.  


I know that COVID killed my D&D campaign, Starfinder campaign, and a Monster of the Week game stone dead.  We tried to migrate to Discord and it just didn't work.  Then, in a lull period we got back together and BOOM, an outbreak in our area killed all our RPGing again! 



Thankfully, I got games in with my Skumgrod early.  Then my wife and daughter filled the gap when we were all stuck at home for long periods of time.  In addition to wargaming, we played card games, board games, and video games too.  My daughter is pretty much willing to play anything as long as I do the set-up and explain the rules.  My wife is much choosier in what she will play and when.  On Thanksgiving I got to play several games of High Noon with the family too.  Do not worry, masks, distancing, and open windows for ventilation were also a part of Thanksgiving too.    


Again, the tracker on the right hand side of the blog helped me keep track of my gaming progress and also served to motive me.  Here is what I played: 

  1. Aeronautica Imperialis- Twice
  2. Wars of the Republic- 3 Times
  3. Aquanautica Imperialis- Twice
  4. Rampant Stars- Once
  5. Men of Bronze- Once
  6. Broken Legions- Once
  7. Turf War- Once
  8. White Star/Red Star- Twice
  9. Rampant Sun- Once
  10. Black Ops- Once  
  11. Heirs of Empire- Twice
  12. Aquanautica Imperialis: Force of Arms- Once
  13. Only The Strong Survive- Once
  14. Castles in the Sky- Once
  15. High Noon- 4 or so times on Thanksgiving

Again, not a bad year for gaming considering all the complications this year threw in the way.  

Rules Writing
Since all I need is a computer, ideas, and time this goal I am usually pretty productive with.  I do not think this year was an exception!  I feel like I got a lot of stuff on paper, especially early in the year when lockdowns were all the rage and employers really weren't sure what they were doing yet.  Anyway, I had a few goals going into 2020: 
  1. Complete writing Wars of the Republic for Osprey Games- Done
  2. Update photos and artwork for Turf War for a Wargame Vault release- Done
  3. Get 1 Game from the WIP up on Wargame Vault- Done.  Only The Strong Survive is there! 
  4. Get 1 new game up into the WIP section of the blog- Done, I have 2 actually



Full points for all those, but that is not all I have done!  Here are some extra points categories! 
  1. Published Rampant Swords on the Wargame Vault
  2. Published Foam Force Five on the Wargame Vault
  3. Posted Heirs to Empire at the Wargame Vault
  4. Tested White Star/Red Star
  5. Playtested AQ: Force of Arms



That means I published 5 games in one year!  Not too shabby.  You should check them out.  I also have plenty more in the pipeline, but there will be more about that in the 2021 Goals post next week!  

Miscellany
This is a catch all term for things that have to do with Blood and Spectacles, but do not fall into the other categories.  Things about blogging, Social Media, marketing, etc.  I pretty much completed all of them but one.  

  1. Post up twice a month- I actually managed weekly! 
  2. More pictures for Instagram- Check my Instagram, I did it! 
  3. Add a Painted Model and Games Played tracker to the Blog- Done and done
The one thing I did not do, was do some work for getting a local Con together.  I did some early work with partnering with some folks that had some experience in running Cons, but then COVID hit.  That completely annihilated this goal.  It had no chance of becoming a reality once the Pandemic started.  

Final Thoughts
To paraphrase Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman......

"You really were a vicious one '2020'.  I'm glad your dead........ I'm glad your dead.  

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"



  

Monday, December 21, 2020

Battle Report: Castles in the Sky- Maiden Voyage


 The Royal Navy had been one of the first of the Great Powers to make use of the Air Screw.  Instantly, all other Navies became obsolete.  The Great Aerial Arms Race had begun.  The British had been at the forefront of this race thanks to their great shipyards and the access to the resources of their empire.  In addition, the Admiralty was always trying to stay ahead of the technology curve.  

The First Lord Sir Jackie Fischer had re-upped the game with the launch of several all "Big-Gun" battleships.  They were heavily armed and armored and were a revolution in the Arms Race.  In addition, the British also experimented with a new class of vessel, the Battle Cruiser.  The Battle Cruiser was intended to act as a faster, lighter ship, but still armed with the "Big Guns".  

One of the first of these was the HMS Invincible.  She was launched in 1907.  The Admiralty had her deploy for a maiden voyage around the Mediterranean with one of the armored cruisers she was to replace, the HMS Shannon.  The Shannon herself was a relatively new ship as well, being deployed in late 1906.  

Their were some scattered eye witness reports that the maiden voyage of the HMS Invincible did not go without incident.  There were unconfirmed and scattered reports by local North African fisherman that the HMS Invincible and her escort had a run in with French forces off the Algerian coast.  

The London Telegraph was unable to confirm these reports independently.  Both the French and British Admiralty and other relevant cabinets have been tight lipped on the subject.  

*************************************************************************

This will be a bit of a maiden voyage for the V4 rules for Castles in the Sky.  They went through pretty complete testing previously as v3.2 and V2.  However, the games revealed some items that I wanted to update.  This naturally led to a V4 with some significant changes.  

I look forward to giving these a maiden run while the HMS Invincible takes a maiden voyage of her own! 

Forces:

Royal Navy

HMS Invincible- Command 2

-Invincible Class Battle Cruiser    

HMS Shannon- Command 4

- Minotaur Class Armored Cruiser


L'Aire Nationale

Saint Louis- Command 2

-Charlemagne Class Heavy Cruiser

Algiere - Command 4

- D'iberville Class Cruiser

Fantassin- Command 1

- Chasseur Class Destroyer

Mission: 

This will be a Patrol mission.  The French have come out to meet the British.  L'Aire Nationale has claimed that the British have infringed on their national airspace off the coast of Algeria.  They demand that the British land and prepare to be inspected.  Of course, the Royal Navy refuses and a conflict is inevitable.  

Set-up:

The Patrol will be played on a 48 x 48 MU board with 1 MU equaling 1 inch. 

The battle is mostly taking place over the ocean, with a bit of coast on the south side of the board the French are coming from.  That leaves two board sections without terrain on the British side.  We randomly roll the following for these sectors and get a land based feature that does not impact play, so we add a sand bar.  The next we roll a  mountain but that does not make sense over the ocean, so we ditch it.  There is no terrain that will impact play. 

We also roll for complications and get none.     

The French are coming from the Algerian coast to the South.  They are led by the Saint Louis at mid-altitude and full speed.  She is flanked by the Algiere who is also at mid-altitude and matching speed.  Meanwhile, the Fantassin is on the far left at high altitude and matching speed. 



The British are on the opposite side, they are "crossing the T" of the French, and moving across the battlespace to start.  The HMS Invincible is leading the way at mid-altitude and speed, with the HMS Shannon trailing and closer to the coast.  They are matching speeds.


  

Turn 1:

The French roll 3 dice (Command Rating of the Largest ship + 1 for having an escort) to the British 2.  The French get 1 success, and the British 2.  These success will also indicate the number of Commands the two fleets can use.  The Brits choose to go first.

Movement:

HMS Shannon increases speed and moves up to try and meet the oncoming French forces.  As she goes up, her increase in speed is eaten up by the altitude change.  The Saint Louis steams ahead, neither gaining speed or altitude. 

Captain Hargrave of the Invincible orders “Come to a New Heading” and scores a success on the Command roll.  He increases speed and turns towards the oncoming French, ready to trade fire.  The Algiere decides to drop two altitude which increases her speed temporarily.  She ends at Altitude 3, and creating distance between her and the St. Louis. 

The French destroyer, Fantassin; increases speed and uses it to climb two altitude. 

Battle:

No one has the range yet, so no combat occurs. 

End:

No action is needed.

Turn 2:

The French score 0 command successes, to the British 1.  The Brits again decide to go first. 

Movement:

The HMS Shannon continues to turn into the French Fleet and speeds up.  The Algiere counters by going even lower, and still moving to give space between themselves and the St. Louis. 

The Invincible tries to go All Ahead Full but fails.  Instead, they increase speed only 1 and continue moving to engage.  The Saint Louis is happy to oblige and looks like they are heading to move between the two British ships.

Fantassin, stays high and fast looking to angle in on the HMS Shannon with a Torpedo shot.

Battle:

This time, the Invincible and Saint Louis have the range!  They decide to engage in a long range gunnery duel.  However, the Invincible’s main gun has a powder cartridge jam in the loader and is unable to fire!  At Long range the ship has only 1 Firepower dice, which it fails to hit with.  This triggered an ammo roll, which the British also failed and jammed their main gun. 

The Saint Louis has no such issues and causes 2 Potential Hits on the British Battle Cruiser.  The Saint Louis has 3 forward firepower at long range, but is firing at a Cruiser class vessel from a Battleship, therefore it is reduced to 2 dice.  Both cause Potential Hits.  Since there are 2 hits it does not cause Friction as that requires 3.  However, we now immediately roll to see if damage was applied by re-rolling the hits and adding the Power rating of the shot, then compare to see if it is over the Target’s armor rating.  1 potential hits is converted to a real hit, and we will determine the damage in the End Phase.   

The Light Battery at long range would have no effect on a cruiser class vessel as it is an Anti-escort gun, this would reduce its 1 firepower to 0.     

The other ships do not have the range yet.   

 


       

End:

The long range shots from the Saint Louis manage to light a fire in the Invincible and reduce her 1 Armor point.  This would be very dangerous for the British ship!

The British repair teams scramble to resolve the jammed forward turret and the fire.  However, they fail at both!  Oh no!

 No other action is needed. 

 Turn 3:

The French gain no successes on 3 dice, and the British gain no Successes on 2 dice.  Their will be no Commands this turn! Since the French have more dice, they win! They choose to go first to press their advantage. 

 Movement:

The Algiere continues to angle low to try and get some sniper Torpedo shots at the HMS Shannon, while the French Destroyer does the same. 

 The British Invincible tries to gain height, and turn to use Broadsides on the oncoming French Heavy Cruiser.  The French seem game and rise to the challenge, moving to parallel the British ship. 

 Meanwhile, the HMS Shannon tries to fall into position trailing the Invincible.   



 Battle:

With the French closing the range, Captain Hollande decides to use his Heavy bow turret on the Invincible, while his port Light batteries try and suppress the Shannon.  He passes a Command Check for Target Priority and relays the orders. 

 The Saint Louis forward Turret fires on the British Battle Cruiser, but the shells fail to find their mark.  Normally, the Saint Louis has 5 Firepower at Medium range, but it is reduced 1 as the Invincible is a Cruiser sized target, and the Heavy Battery is for Battleships.

 However, the Light Batteries still do not have the power and range to even harm the Shannon.

 Return fire from the Invincible’s rear turret fails to find its mark as well. 

 The Algiere launches a barrage of Air Torpedoes at the trailing Shannon.  There are 8 dice in the Torpedo attack!  5 look like they are on target, but the Shannon’s Point Defense crews destroy two inbound torpedoes.  3 are still potential hits, but they are all cancelled out by the Cruiser’s armored belt.  This causes 3 Friction markers on the Shannon!

 The Shannon targets the Saint Louis, but her guns are designed for other cruisers and not Battleship class opponents.  Therefore, at the range her bow, stern, and starboard batteries are all reduced to 1 dice each.  The Starboard batteries suffer from a malfunction, but the bow Battery strikes the Saint Louis.  The joy is short lived as the shell bounces harmlessly off the ship’s armor.

 The Fantassin also fires a torpedo barrage at the Shannon.  This has 4 in it!  The Shannon manages to take out 1 of these torpedoes, and one simply misses.  2 are potential hits and they strike vulnerable parts of the ship due to their high angle approach.  That is 2 Hits for the End turn.   



End:

The HMS Shannon’s two hits peel her armor down to 6, but there is no further damage.  Repair crews also manage to repair the Malfunction in her starboard batteries.

The HMS Invincible’s fire continues to rage and reduces her armor 1 level.  However, fire crews manage to put it out before it can cause further damage.  The Bow Turret is still inoperable. 

The British manage to remove 6 of 7 Friction points off of the Shannon, reducing her to 1 Friction.

Turn 4:

Both sides roll for Initiative.  The French and British both score 1 success, so French retain the advantage.  They choose to go first again.  

 Movement:

The Algiere immediately succeeds at a Reload command to prepare another Torpedo barrage.  The ship then turns to give chase to the fleeing HMS Shannon. 

 The Invincible continues to speed up and makes for the safety of an oncoming squall and then international waters.  Captain Hargrave has her drop altitude to help gain speed. 

The Fantassin speeds up to stay in the race and continue to harass the fleeing HMS Shannon.  However, her Torpedo Tubes are still empty. 

Finally, Captain Mosley commands his crew to go All Ahead Full, and they poor on as much steam as they can!  They also drop altitude to gain speed, but the speed gains are somewhat off set by Friction as the boilers had been cooled by the earlier altitude changes.

The Saint Louis gains speed to try and stay caught up to pound the Invincible.  However, she stays higher to limit return fire.  The two ships prepare to exchange close range fire.


Battle:

The Saint Louis readies her Bow and Stern Heavy Battery turrets.  The height difference reduces their Firepower, as does the scale of the target.  However, at close range there is still plenty of dice!  The broadside roars, and the Invincible takes 7 hits, three are deflected by armor, but 4 more sink home.  That leaves her with 1 Friction markers as well. 

HMS Shannon tries to get some payback on the Algiere, and fires her Stern and Starboard weapons.  However, the Starboard weapons fail to fire again!  One shell from the stern turret pings off the French Cruiser’s armor. 

The Algiere returns fire with her fully loaded Air Torpedo spread.  The Shannon is hit hard again.  Point defense and Armor protect her from a few Torpedoes, but 4 hit home into her weakened armor.

The Invincible fires its Starboard light batteries and the stern turrets Heavy Batteries at the Saint Louis as they parallel each other.  The height saves the French ship from the brunt of the shells, but the Light batteries suffer an ammunition shortage, while 2 shells from the 15 inch cannons ping loudly off the Saint Louis’ armored belt. 

The French Destroyer hangs back and calls in the fall of shot to her sister ship using her wireless.    



End:    

The British have to determine further damage.  The Invincible loses 4 more Armor Points, making her a sitting duck!  Plus, her Rudder is Jammed by the shell fire.  The HMS Shannon is Crippled from internal damage and loses 4 more armor as well!

Captain Hargrave of the HMS Invincible decides to Strike his Colors after failing a check.  Capt. Mosley refuses, even though his ship is crippled. 

The British roll a 10 to remove Friction, so all friction is removed. 

With that, the British decide to call it a game!



Conclusion:

The Invincible and Shannon were escorted by the French flotilla to a French controlled Aeroport in Tangiers.  There they were interned and the crew put under house arrest at a nearby French base.  The accommodations were not 5-star, but they were as good as any French sailor would receive.  

Eventually, the Foreign Office managed to negotiate a release of the two ships back to British authority.  However, it was only after French officials had plenty of time to inspect and document the two ships specifications very closely.  There was also some back room exchanges of money in Switzerland involved.  

Overall, it was an embarrassing start to the Invincible classes career.  Two more hulls had all ready been started in Great Britain, and work did not stop on them.  However, the Admiralty were quick to begin design and production on a replacement class for the Invincible.  

Meanwhile, the French squadron was treated as National heroes in the French press.... for a few days anyway.  The captains were hosted at a State Dinner in Paris.  The Officers were invited to high society events.  The crewmen were bought drinks in North African taverns.  They were convenient props to help unite the people around the glory of the French Republic.  Soon, the French Squadron were back to business as usual patrolling the North African coastline.     

No need to count up the points.  The French convincingly beat the British squadron off the coast of North Africa.  The British took 11 hits to the French 0.  Ouch!  What accounted for such a lopsided Victory?

1.       The British losing their forward turret on the Invincible due to a low percentage shot that they failed to fix in subsequent turns due to poor repair rolls, or needing successes for more pressing issues.  With that turret out of action, there went one of their best hopes for hurting the Saint Louis.  

2. The British got Torpedoed to death!  The D'Iberville is an Air Torpedo cruiser carrier, and it had a Captain with 4 command dice!  Ouch, that means it could easily Re-Load IF the French Admiral had any Commands to give.  The British really did not have a strong counter to this and really could have benefitted from an escort or two instead of another cruiser.  This would have allowed them to use overlapping Point Defense to help defend against the Air Torpedo swarm. 

3. The British did not use their improved speed to get them to where they wanted to be.  The French led with their Heavy, and the British flew straight at it.  Instead, they should have avoided the Saint Louis and targeted the smaller ships.  

Overall, how did the game hang together?  Some of the big changes in the game system were to change how the modifiers work for hitting.  In essence, I stripped out any modifiers that impacted the Target Numbers and replaced them with Modifiers that impacted the number of dice rolled instead.  This worked really well, and was easier to remember.  It also allowed for a greater range of possibilities for the player, but still had an impact.  For example, a low number of dice being rolled tended to cause Ammo rolls.  Ammo Rolls can take a weapon system out of action until repaired.  As a player, you had to decide if the risk was worth the reward.  Frequently, it was not and it was better to get closer. 

I also increased the number of hits needed to get a Friction marker from 1:1 to 3:1 from guns.  This meant long range shooting had less chance of causing Friction than up close work.  Combined with the new Modifiers, it gave the commander's a reason to close in and mix it up!  It also gave a clear role for "Sniper" ships like escorts and cruisers with Air Torpedoes as they can cause Friction at range easier than guns.  Finally, ships were not getting overwhelmed with Friction Markers like when it was 1:1, but it still was a hinderance.  

Finally, some small tweaks like Escorts giving extra Command Dice for initiative, waiting to resolve hits until the End Phase, and Striking the Colors rules all added some more depth to the game.  The old versions had no Morale rules, so the Striking the Colors was a big add that really helps define the "endgame".    

I am not going to break down ship performance yet, since I will need more data.  However, I used a spreadsheet to calculate Operational Values, and it seems to have appropriately costed Battle Cruisers and the D'Iberville compared to other war ships.  That is just on first glance though.  More testing is needed.       

This is Version 4 of the rules, and I think they are well on their way to completion and publication.  However, more Playtesting will be needed.  Excelsior! 



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