Monday, August 26, 2019

Battle Report: Rampant Stars- Operation: Hemlock


Today we will be playing a game of Rampant Stars set in the Operation: Hemlock setting I devised for the Warhammer 40K universe, but not using 40K rules.  


The Ork migrations to the Deff Islands had caused them to naturally overflow from the Green Zone. As a result, Ork mobs began to make land fall on Baron's Rest. At first, in a series of skirmishes, the PDF forces near Camp Hope(Less) were pushed back, and the refugees were evacuated deeper into Imperial territory. In their place, PDF Troopers from Taskforce: Sword moved into the camp.

With their initial advances successful, the Orks gleefully pushed forward looking for loot and slaves. Forward elements involved fast moving truk and buggy mounted boyz. They raced tot eh entrances of Camp Hope (Less) in an attempt to break through the human defenses and blast past them. However, PDF mobile elements were ready to meet them.

Forces

Ammoriss PDF Forces:
Regular Mounted Command- PDF Command Squad
Regular Mounted Effectiveness Rating: 5 Points: 5 (6)
Move Command Assault Defense Shoot Armor
10 3+ 3+ 5+ + 2
Traits:
Blast- 1 Reduces cover from shooting by 1
Leader- Free

Ragnarok Tank
Regular Infantry Effectiveness Rating: 10 Points: 3 (10)
Move Command Assault Defense Shoot Armor
1d3+3 3+ 3+ 4+ 3+ 4
Traits:
Big Brute- +4
Heavy Weapons- +4 Each hit causes potential 3 hits
Slow- -1

Regular Mounted PDF Troopers
Regular Infantry Effectiveness Rating: 5 Points: 5
Move Command Assault Defense Shoot Armor
6 3+ 3+ 4+ 3+ 1
Traits:
None

Regular Mounted PDF Troopers
Regular Infantry Effectiveness Rating: 5(10) Points: 5 (9)
Move Command Assault Defense Shoot Armor
6 3+ 3+ 4+ 3+ 1
Traits:
Big Unit- Doubles starting effectiveness rating

Total Points= 30

Ork Hooligans
Regular Mounted Commander- Trukkerz
Regular Mounted            Effectiveness rating:  5(10)                          Points: 5 (9)
Move    Command           Assault                 Defense               Shoot    Armor 
10           3+                           4+                           5+                           4+           2
Traits:
Big Unit (+4)- Double Units initial Effectiveness Rating
Leader (Free)

Irregular Mounted Troopers- Speederz
Irregular Mounted Effectiveness Rating: 5 (10) Points: 4 (8)
Move    Command           Assault                 Defense               Shoot    Armor 
10              4+                           4+                           5+               4+           1
Traits:
Big Unit (+4)

Irregular Mounted Troopers- Bikerz
Irregular Mounted Effectiveness Rating: 5 Points: 4 (7)
Move    Command           Assault                 Defense               Shoot    Armor 
10              4+                           4+                           5+              4+           1
Traits:
Rapid Movement (+1)- Move 1d6
Squad Support (+2)- 1 hit counts as 2 hits

Irregular Mounted- Kartz
Irregular Mounted Effectiveness Rating: 5 Points: 4
Move    Command           Assault                 Defense               Shoot    Armor 
10              4+                           4+                           5+             4+           1
Traits:
None

Hooligan Band- Stomperz
Irregular Infantry             Effectiveness rating:  10                                Points: 2
Move    Command           Assault                 Defense               Shoot    Armor 
6              4+                           4+                           5+               4+           1
Traits:
None

Total Points= 30


Mission:
Rampant Stars uses a a random mission generation system rolling a 2d6. Today we got, Forced Entry as the Orks try to blast their way into a side entrance into Camp Hope(Less).

However, missions also have complications and locations. These can also be randomly chosen or picked. Today we picked: Heat and Dessert/Ice World to match the setting of Operation: Hemlock.

This will impact the play of the game Heat reduces the number of times you can Move/Double Time in a row.

Set-up:
The board will be a 6 by 4 board for today's battle. The terrain was placed relatively randomly across the center of the board. The gates to the camp were placed in the center of the PDF board. 


The PDF placed across their side of the board the Helga mounted Squad of 10, then the Flat Bed Helga with 5 was in the gates. Next was the Helga APC command squad. The final unit was the Ragnarok battle tank to anchor the right flank behind the power station. The Orks had the Kartz on their left, then the Stomperz, then the Speederz, Trukkerz, and Bikerz.


Turn 1:
The Orks try to move out across the front with Move orders. However, the Speederz hesitate and fail to move up. The PDF Ragnarok and Command squad move up to engage the enemy, while the rest stay put due to orders.

Turn 2:
The Stomperz push ahead on foot, looking to storm the gates. The Kartz and shaken behind difficult terrain, they maybe having some mechanical issues. The Trukkerz slow their advance and take ineffective potshots at the Ragnarok across a sand dune. The Bikerz also slow their approach to fire on the tank, causing some slight damage.

The Ragnarok fires on the Bikerz, and takes out two with a flurry of battle cannon and heavy bolter fire. The Helga Squad and Flat Bed squad are both shaken by the sudden intensity of the fighting. Meanwhile, the Command squad digs into cover behind a rock outcropping.



Turn 3:
The Kartz again stay shakened. However, the Speederz rally. The Bikerz settle in and open fire on the concealed tank and fail to cause more damage. The Trukkerz change their shooting to the command squad and tag one of the troopers. The Stomperz keep moving forward, but slow their pace enough to kill a Helga trooper.

The Ragnarok returns fire on the Truckerz, but fails to find a mark through the tight cover. The Helga troopers move up and fire on the Stomperz, and reduce them two troopers.



Turn 4:
The Speederz finally get moving and try to move an shoot, but are out of range of the Ragnarok. The Trukkerz fire on the Command Squad and whittle them down further. The Biker inch forward firing at the tank and fail to cause more damage. The Stomperz move up between a rock formation and the center mountain of slag.



The PDF responds with the Helga troopers firing on the Stomperz with minimal effect. The Flat Bed squad moves to the entrance of the camp and blocks it. Meanwhile the Command Squad is shaken. The Ragnarok fires at the closing Bikerz and reduces them to two bikerz left.



Turn 5:
The Kartz have been immobile and shaken the entire battle, and stay that way. The Truckerz and the Speederz try to move and shoot, but the terrain foils their efforts. The few remaining bikerz again target the hull down tank for little effect.

The PDF decide to act decisively this turn. The Command Squad rallies. The Ragnarok fires on the Bikerz and finally wipes them out with a blast form it Battle Cannon. The Helga squad charges the Stomperz, with their APC leading the way and laying down cover fire. The Orks fallback from the attack, but both sides take casualties in the close range fire fight.



Turn 6:
The Trukkerz see the Helga squad as a new threat and gun them down with help from their truks' weapons. The Stomperz move around towards the gates at full speed. The Speederz again are shaken as are the Kartz.


The Ragnarok moves in on the center of the board and fires the Trukkerz with little effect tanks to terrain. The Command Squad moves up into cover again. The Flat Bed squad drives into the Stomperz firing at will. This routs the Ork Stomperz.



Turn 7:
The Speederz rally, but the Kartz fail to rally. The Trukkerz fail to take out the PDF Command Squad.

The Flat Bed Squad moves back to cover the gates. The Ragnarok and Command Squad fire and whittle away the Trukkerz.


Conclusion:
The Orks decide that they can not get to the gates and fall back. The PDF let up a cheer as the greenskins fall back. Camp Hope (Less) has been secured and the retaking of Baron's Rest has begun!

Cololnel Brusilov of Taskforce Sword let out a sigh of relief at the news His troops had managed to hold the line. Now, it was up to his colleagues in the other taskforces to keep the Orks from crossing the narrow straits from the Green Zone. His command bunker at Grig's Landing was buzzing with activity, but he flagged down a subordinate to create the communique for the other Taskforces.

The next key to the campaign on Baron's Rest would be to start to push the Orks back. Most of the air assets were assigned to Commodore Miles of Battlegroup: Chalice but Brusilov had managed to get some strike aircraft assigned to him. Now, he could use them to harass the Orks as they fled back towards Look Out Pointe. In addition, Vice-admiral Travers of Thorn would need to keep new Orks from arriving by sea. Operation: Hemlock still had plenty of fighting left in it.

Another quick and decisive game of Rampant Stars. I purposely changed up both armies for this battle to play around with different forces. I wanted the Orks to be faster, and I thought they had a good chance when the Forced Entry mission got rolled up. However, my opponent played a bit conservatively as she was very concerned about the firepower of the Ragnarok. As a result, they failed to consistently push towards the objective. They were also hampered by some poor Command rolls, with the Kartz completely out of the game.

My mounted PDF troopers did their job today and I had much better luck with the dice. The Ork Stomperz did not have any assault upgrades and my professional soldiers managed to push them back in two key close assaults. Overall, I felt confident after Turn 5 that I could hold. Overall, a quick game that took about 90 minutes to set-up, rejigger army lists, deploy, play, and pack away. Good fun.

You can get a copy of Rampant Stars at my Wargame VaultPage.


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Monday, August 19, 2019

Battle Report: Aquanautica Imperialis- Operation: Hemlock



Sea birds squawked as they trailed behind the warships. They hung in the air and lazily flapped their wings as the swirling air currents easily held their frail bodies in the sky. Captain McIntyre reflected on how his forebearers had used sea birds to indicate the presence of land nearby. As he turned to the west, he could see that the ancient wisdom was correct, a hazy shimmer indicated that the Deff Islands were in the far distance.

The Augur operators signaled the XO, and he checked in on what they were seeing. The crow's nest buzzed the Watch Officer with a report. Captain McIntyre pulled out his monoscope and prepared to scan the horizon. The XO and Watch Officer had a quick conference, and then the XO approached.

Captain, look-outs have verified augur reports of unidentified craft off the port. We can not be positively identified. However, NavComm North does not recognize any friendlies in the region.”

Captain McIntyre put his scope to his eye and scanned to Port. He quickly saw the hazy outlines in the distance, “It looks like they are steaming for the Deff Islands?”

Our look-outs are reporting the same. Permission to treat them as hostile and move to intercept?”

As Captain McIntyre watched, the vessels began to change course. It was clear they were re-setting an intercept course. The Watch Officer's comms buzzed to life.

Jochim,” the Captain used his XO's given name, “I think the decision has been made for us. Sound battlestations.”

The XO nodded and the Watch Officer hit the alarm klaxon. Red lights began to flash across the bridge and the nearby hallways. The ugly outline of the enemy ships closed in, their ungainly outlines becoming clearer. Captain McIntyre estimated that they would be in combat range in less than an hour. Considering there location in relation to the Deff Islands, it was clear these were Ork refugees moving to join their comrades.

Greenskins,” The Captain spat the word.

** ** ** **

Today's battle will be a game of Aquanautica Imperialis between the North Ammoris PDF and the Ork Kill Fleets. I decided to not use my miniatures but instead just use paper templates. This allows me and my opponent to have a wide ranging fleet list.

Forces:

North Ammoriss PDF

Prince of Fire- AN Dependable- 250 pts
St. Augustine's Lance- AN Reliable- 250 pts
Spearfish 345- 2 Constants- 150 pts
Lancer 512- 1 Protector- 75 pts

725 points



Ork Kill Fleet

Def Blasta- Big Dakka Boat- 150 pts
Snazz Uge Ship- Big Dakka Boat- 150 pts
Ugbad's Rammaz- 4 Drilla Killaz- 200 pts
Runteez Tubz- 5 Grot Kuttaz- 100 pts
Red Top- Grot Sub- 50 pts
Sprinkler- Grot Sub- 50 pts

700 points

Mission:
Both sides are intent on destroying and killing as many of the enemy ship's as possible. The fleet that reduces the enemy the most Hull points is the winner. A straight up battle.

Set-up:
This battle is being played on a 4x4 foot table. There are a couple spots of shallow water in the center of the battle space. In addition, a platform Rig is on the Eastern edge of the battle space. The Orks on the Northeast corner and the PDF are in the South center of the board for deployment.


The Grot Subs are in reserve. The Grot Kuttaz are screening the larger Ork ships. However, the Drilla Killaz are in the wake of the Big Dakka Boatz to protect them as they close. The PDF have the escorts on the flanks with the cruiser's in the center.

Turn 1:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The orks choose to use their Waaagh! Ability an go all ahead full across the board. They are eager to smash through the Oomie fleet and get to Da Deff Islands. They speed across the board rapidly.

The Ammoriss Naval PDF are less than excited to see the Orks steam across so quickly. Both of the Cruisers use Come to a New Heading Orders to get their broadsides out. The Protector stays with them. Meanwhile, the Constants move up cautiously and pivot for a Torpedo barrage.


Battle:
The Ork big ships open fire with their bow gunz, but are out of range. Their shots fall harmlessly short and churn up the water.

The Reliable's cannons miss, but St. Augustine's Lance manages to sink two shells into the Deff Blasta. The Constants send their fish in the water to try and break up the Ork fleet.

End:
The Torpedoes move up into the path of the Ork fleet. They will have to choose how to deal with them.

Turn 2:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Grot Kuutaz try to turn and go across the shallow ground to attack the Constants. However, three of the 5 run aground due to poor seamen ship. They are effectively destroyed and stuck there.
The other Orks watcha nd laugh as the grot's feebly try to abandon ship, re-float their ships, or just stand around gibbering at each other.



The tow larger ships need to thread their way through the shallows, and do so. They also seem to clear the torpedoes. The Drilla Killas move up as slowly as they can, but may not be able to avoid the fish.

The Imperial cruiser's continue to try to skirt around the path of the Ork big ships to use their broadsides to good effect. The Protector stays with them, watchful for Grot Subs. Meanwhile, the Constants move up to engage what's left of the Kuttaz.

Battle:
The Kuttaz manage to fire on the Constants and take out one of them. The other Ork ships fire wildly, but are still out of range. However, the big boom of the gunz is very satisfying to them.

Meanwhile, the Imperial cruiser steam up on the Def Blasta and pound it with shell and Las-Batteries. Despite bracing,t he ship takes a beating down to 5 DP left. One more hit and she will be crippled. The lone Constant takes out a Kutta with her weapon battery.

End:
The Constant's torpedoes streak through the Drilla Killa squadron. Poit Defense fires, but misses. Three torpedoes streak past and continue on their way. However, one detonates against the side of the Ork vessel and turns it into a flaming wreck.

The hulk of the Drilla Killa drifts and grounds in shallow water. Meanwhile the hulk of the Constant and a Kutta also drift away and then sink. The wake markers from the sinkings are quickly removed.

Turn 3:
Initiative: Imperials

Move:
The Constant rushes past the Grot vessel and moves to get behind the Ork fleet. As the St. Augustine's Lance turns around the shallow water, the Grot Kutta picks up speed and sails straight into her bow. The Imperial cruiser smashes the smaller craft into kindling, but the hull gets stunk on the front of the Cruiser and entangles her.


The collision forces the Prince of Fire and Protector to try to avoid the tangled debris. Meanwhile, the Snazz Iuge Boat uses Come to a New Heading to try and chase down the Imperials. The rest of the fleet clears the shallows. A Grot Sub is sighted by the Constant.



Battle:
St. Augustine's Lance locks-on and fires a broadsie at the Def Blasta. She braces and her crew scatters to cover, but it is not enough and she is reduced to 4 DP and crippled. Stern fire fromteh Princ eof Fire clatters off the Big Dakka Ship's hull.

The Grot sub fires on the last Constant, and finds her mark. The escort is destroyed.

End:
The remaining three Constant torpedoes leave the board.

The Constant drifts and explodes. The entangled Kutta and Reliable cruiser also drift.

Turn 4:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Grot Sub uses Run Silent, Run Deep and leaves the board.

The Big Dakka Boatz fail to come to a new Heading and keep trying to chase down the Imperials. However, due to the entangled wreckage, the Prince of Fire uses Come to New Heading to trya nd turn about and do battle. St. Augustine's Lance fails to become disentangled. The Drilla Killa move up to prepare for a ram attempt, and barely avoid grounding themselves.

A Grot Sub come sot firing depth behind the St. Augustine's Lance, as the Protector is way out of position to defend her.


Battle:
Finally, the Def Blasta is in range of the Prince of Fire and opens fire with her reduced firepower front guns. They manage to strike home, and reduce the Princ eof Fire 2 hits, and knock out her forward weapon battery. Despite the damage, she Locks-On and returns fire. A shell and Las-beam cut inot the Ork ship and reduce it to only 2 hull left.

The Drilla Killaz fire their weapon batteries at St. Augustine's Lance, and cause one hit. However, it starts a dangerous fire on the ship. In return, the Reliable cruiser's big guns make short work of the escorts and destroys them all in a barrage of accurate shellfire.


A torpedo from the Grot sub is spotted and destroyed by PD gunners on the Reliable cruiser.

End:
One of the damaged Drilla Killaz drifts into the Def Blasta and reduces it another Damage Point, down to 1. They are now entangled. St. Augustine's Lance drfits closer to the mining platform.

Luckily, the Kutta entangling the Reliable cruiser slips off the ships bow and sinks. Another Drilla Killa also sinks.

All wake markers end up being removed.

The Prince of Fire quickly clears the jam on her forward weapon battery. However, due to all the action, the fire teams are not able to respond in time on St. Augustine's Lance and she loses one more Damage point.

Turn 5:
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The Prince of Fire is in trouble as the Orks can not get a 1-on-1 ship to ship fight between her and the Snazz Big Boat. She is damaged, bu the Ork ship is not. The Reliable tries to maneuver between the drill rig and the shallows to be able to finish off the Def Blasta. She is tailed by a Grot Sub.



The Protector is way out of position.

Battle:
St. Augustine's guns roar to life, and the Def Blasta is reduced ot a smoldering ruin and wreckage with 0 Hull remaining.

The Snazz Big Boat fires while the crew of the PSDF ship brace for Impact. The shells whine and clang off the PDF ship, but one manages to hit near the screw and damage it. She is down 1 Hull to 5 and her screw is fouled slowing her down.

Her return fire is weakened, but it is effective as a shell finds its mark and a las-beam cuts intot he Ork ship, starting a fire below decks.

The Grot Sub fails to load ordinance.



End:
A Drilla Killa explodes as the wreckage of the Def Blasta and a Drilla Killa drifts.

The Prince of Fire repairs her screw, the Snazz Big Boat puts out her fire, but he St. Augustine's Lance continues smoking.

Turn 6: Final Turn
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The Prince of Fire maneuvers to stay in the battle. However, the ork Kaptin declares a Ram, and Waaagh! Right into the side of the Cruiser with a satisfying Kerrr-runch! Unfortunately, the Ork ship wa sthe one that buckled and took 2 damage, while the PDF cruiser managed to brace and absorb the hit in her armored belt.



However, Ork warriors swarmed forward across the deck, to be met with Point defense cannons and naval armsmen. However, the brave defenders are pushed back into the hull with heavy casualties.

The St. Augustine's Lance slowly sails away, hoping to help with her rear arc. The protector tries to cirlce back to get the grot sub off the Reliable cruiser's tail.

Battle:
None as the Grot Sub again failed to reload ordinance.

End:
St. Augustine's Lance final manages to put out her on board fire.



Conclusion:
The Orks took 23 Damage
The PDF took 8 Damage

Looks like the Ammoriss Naval PDF managed to push back the Ork ships heading towards Da Deff Islands.

Captain McIntyre finished typing his formal report in the handheld. He reviewed it breifly one more time before sending it down with the Watch Officer to the Vox Room.

The Orks had been defeated and driven off, with heavy losses. Looking at other reports, Ork naval reinforcements had been stopped by other taskforces as well. It looked like Taskforce: Thorn was doing its job. Now the Orks will need to get their reinforcements from elsewhere.


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Monday, August 12, 2019

Battle Report: Aeronautica Imperialis- Operation: Hemlock


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.

Prior to Operation: Hemlock; Warboss Skarbash had operated a rather large fleet of submarines for piracy and smuggling. This fleet had been a thorn in the side of the Ammoriss Naval PDF for decades. Now, with the defeat of the Warlord Gark's forces in the Alset Mountains the refugees were fleeing to Da' Deff Islands anyway they could. The easiest way to slip past the blockade was to sneak by it in a submarine.

Therefore, Commodore Miles in support of the Naval PDF had been using his PDF forces to patrol the approaches near Da Green Zone. These patrols were often intercepted by Ork fightas looking for a scrap whether an Ork sub was in the area or not. These patrols were difficult and challenging operations that had high casualty rates for the Ammoriss Air PDF and led to increased animosity with command especially after the failed attempts to Recon the area earlier.

However, General Kurtz cited these patrols as vital to the success of the Operation as, “Every Ork killed at sea was one less Ork to fight on land”.

Forces

Ammoriss Air PDF
2 PDF Skyhammers+ Weapon Loads (Special Depth Charges per the scenario)
2 PDF Storms
2 Sentry+ Weapon Loads

Snaz Boomgobz Air Boyz
3 Ork Fighters
3 Grot Buzza

Mission:
Today's mission will be the Ocean Recon scenario. The PDF Sky Hammers are equipped with special bomb loads for destroying submarines instead of their normal bomb loads. This mission and the PDF forces are from the Airspace Rules Compilation.

Set-up:
Per the scenario, the Ork player rolls 2d6 and places 6 tokens on the board to represent the possible location of the Ork sub. Once revealed, I will use an Aquanautica Imperialis model to represent the target.



The PDF craft are coming in on a short board edge with the Sky Hammers and a Strom ins package at each enbd coming in low and slow. The 2 Sentry are high and in the middle.

The Orks come in as a big mob at medium speed and the center of the board. However, one grot Buzzer is out wide on each edge and relatively low.



Turn 1:
Initiative: Imperials

Move:
The PDF is confident in their plane and everyone just flies straight forward.

The Orks also press forward to try to cover their potential sub locations. They spread out to cover the board, while Fighta 1 goes up to challenge the Sentries..

Shooting:
None, no one has the range yet.

Turn 2:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The two forces come head-to-head and neither side seems to shirk from getting into the thick of a furball. The higher altitude Sentry's try to dive in on the approaching Orks on the East side, but poor power dives leave them in awkward positions. Meanwhile, the Storms and Sky Hammers look ready to trade shots with the approaching Ork craft.

Shooting:
In an act of self-preservation, Buzza 3 opens fire on the PDF Storm 1, and a spray of wild shots manage to hit something vital and sends the plane spiraling into the sea. The pilot fails to eject in time.


Sentry 2 fires on Buzza 1, but fails to get a telling hit with his weapons. In return, Buzza 1 opens fire on Storm 2, and a spray of bullets takes out my second PDF craft. This time, the pilot ejects safely.

Sky hammer 2 tries to spray down Buzza 1 but misses.

Fighta 2 eagerly blasts away at Sentry 2 despite a bad angle. There is enough lead in the sky to bring down the light interceptor. This time a big shoota bolt catches the pilot in the head and the plane slowly glides down into the ocean below.



Turn 3- Disengagement Turn
Initiative: Imperials

Wow, three planes down in 1 turn, and it is disengagement turn all ready. Ouch.

Move:
The Sky Hammers push to their initial target points, and discover that there are no enemy subs at those co-ordinates. Meanwhile, Ork aircraft scramble around to turn back into the furball.



Shooting:
Buzza 1 takes some potshots on Sky hammer 2, but only serves to convince the pilot that it is time to bug-out.

Sentry 1 takes a long range Sky Strike missile shot at Fighta 1, and it burst near enough to cause the Ork craft to blow smoke, but not down it.

With that, the two sides break-off and head back to their own air bases to re-arm, refuel, and count up the butcher's bill.

Conclusion:
That was a quick dogfight. To misquote Admiral Beatty at Jutland; something seems to be wrong with our bloody aircraft today! I forgot how fragile PDF planes are and how much firepower Ork fightas can put out up close. I would have done better trying to avoid a scrap and sneak past them. However, I am unsure if that would have worked much better. That was a turkey shoot as PDF planes dropped with almost every time my Skumgrod picked up the dice.

Commodore Miles reviewed the days action log. Too many planes were lost for little gain. Morale in his PDF air crews was all ready low, and further pointless losses would not help them perform better. The Orks seemed to be replacing aircraft faster than his boys could shoot them down. In addition, he could not report to his peers that the channel between the Green Zone and Baron's rest was secure. It was only a matter of time before Vice-Admiral Travers and his Naval forces demanded a crack at securing the area.

Meanwhile, The PDF scouts reported additional Ork reinforcements landing by submarine and Mob boat on the shores of Baron's Rest. Despite ground successes there the PDF couold not hold is more Ork reinforcements kept surge into the area.


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Monday, August 5, 2019

Wargame Design: Trying to Create Balance


Balance is one of the most challenging aspects of wargame design. It is frequently an area of contention between players and causes friction within the gaming communities. I personally think this topic and HistoricalScenarios are the most difficult aspect of wargame design to get right. Therefore, let's take a closer look at the process.


Perfect Balance
Many gamers will bang on about the idea of “Perfect Balance”. The idea is that any unit of a given points cost can perform just as well as any other selection of the same points. Quality can off-set quantity, damage output can be off set by damage resistance, speed can be off set by control, etc. Essentially, perfect balance would be that two players could choose any options they want and their abilities would off set enough that the game would still be completely fair and even. Only the skill of the two players would impact the outcome.

Many beginning game designers think balance, army lists, and points is simple algorithm or code. Once you crack the code and create the perfect formula then all units will be balanced. They spend a lot of time considering points scales, skill levels, damage output, special abilities, and hundreds of other factors. They make elaborate spread sheets and calculate various variables. They spend hours mix and matching and testing these variables against each other.


Unicorns and ROY G. BIV
To quote the famous philosophers They Might Be Giants, “You'll never see a unicorn, but you can see a rainbow. Inside every Rainbow is ROY G. BIV!”

Perfect balance is the unicorn. It does not exist. No matter the system you put in place.... someone, somewhere will break it. Someone will tell you how wrong you are. Someone will tell you all the flaws in your logic. A wargame has too many variables a game designer simply can not control to build and implement them into any magic formula. Some examples of uncontrollable variables include:

  • Variability of Terrain- No one has uniform sizes and types of terrain. I may have lot's of hills, while someone else uses all ruins.

  • Model Availability- Players have all sorts of different models to play with. As the designer you can not control that.

  • Player Skill- Some people are just better at calculating risk and odds on the fly than others. Some can judge distances really well.

  • RNG- The Random Number Generators designers build for can be imperfect tools.

The list can go on and on. These can not be planned for in any formula. Some games can control these variables better than a free form tabletop wargame. For example, board games can set the “terrain” and provide a set group of models. Card Games can control the RNGs much better. The fewer variables, the closer you can get to “Perfect Balance” however no game controls all the variables. It is impossible.

On the other hand, there are tools a game designer can use to simplify balance. These are the ROY G. BIV. In the song, you can see ROY G BIV inside every rainbow as ROY G BIV is just an acronym for the color spectrum. IE, the tools game designers use the ROY G BIV of balance is Points, Army Lists, and Scenarios.



Points
In the olden days of wargaming yore, there was no such thing as points. Wargames were firmly based on actual historical encounters. You see wargaming was originally serious business. Military and General Staff Colleges used wargaming as a way to test doctrine, theory, and teach officers. Therefore, armies and forces were not balanced in anyway. Instead, players were expected to research what forces were actually at the battles and provide them some sort of stats to match their performance on the field.

Eventually, some bright spark decided that limiting yourself to only historical match-ups was kind of limiting. They wanted to see what would happen if alternate units were present at the battle. Would it change history? To help facilitate these “what if” encounters some system was needed to provide relatively even levels of troops on the field. Sci-fi and Fantasy wargames only added to this momentum to create some way to measure the effectiveness of units and allow for matched play on a relatively fair playing field.

I am not exactly sure of the timing or the creator, but eventually points became a way to balance armies and forces against each other. Granted, it is not the only way to do it. Some games use scenario specific forces, others allow a structure based on role, or others allow selections based on an order of battle. However, points has become the most popular method.

What are points? Points are an arbitrary value placed on units, models or equipment designed to model their effectiveness on the tabletop. Players can then add up points from a force to a set level. In theory, two forces of equal points have the same on table effectiveness.

Army Lists
In days of yore, army lists were simply the actual units in the battle gamers were trying to play. However, games of today people want to play what-if scenarios, different scales, sci-fi, fantasy, and other non-historical encounters. Therefore, Army Lists were created to allow players to make selections for their army or force within the boundaries that the game allowed for. They help folks understand what is or was available to the forces they are trying to represent.

Historical games try to match closer with what units may or may not have been available at a given time or place. Sci-fi, Imagi-Nations, or Fantasy have no such limitations. However, players typically do not have free reign to choose whatever they want. You know some cheeky git would choose to bring an omnipotent being or a nuclear ICBM to a street level game. The Army List is an attempt by the game designer to put boundaries on what players can and can not put on the table to play the game within the parameters of the rules.

Now, these lists are simply guidelines. Players can always do what they want with the rules. After all, they are their rules. The dirty secret is that these lists are not mandatory to play the game.


List Building
List building is taking army lists and point values and using them to construct a force to play on the table top. In theory, every point is of equal value and the list lets you know how much units are worth. List building is simply assembling all component elements of a force and finding out their total cost and aligning it with your opponent.

However, here is another dirty secret of wargaming. List building is a hobby in and of itself. It is a statistical method to try and get the most in game value out of every point so that you can build a list of units that is superior to any other similarly pointed list. It is essentially looking for a method to exploit the the guidelines the games have placed on units for advantage and many players LOVE this aspect of wargames.

Scenarios
One of the best tools to create balance is in strong scenario design. The number of Wargame scenarios are finite. There are only so many objectives that can be completed. However, there are enough variables you can add together to create a distinct set of win conditions that any game can have a different wrinkle. The more variable elements you enter the exponentially more the scenario changes and avoids being “same-y”.

Good scenario design in the core rules will help add variation to scenarios. However, these elements are actually in opposition to Points and Army Lists for creating balance. Points and Army Lists are pre-planned items. The Scenario adds unplanned elements to a battle. In essence it helps create Clausewitzian “friction” that helps off-set any potential list advantage. A player needs to create a well rounded force to potentially handle what any particular scenario may throw at them, therefore good scenario design helps balance out potential army builds and acts as a counter to list building.




Playtesting
Once you have built your Points, your Army Lists, and your scenarios the only way to test them is with playtesting. You can read all about that process in a different blog post. You are looking for where imbalance exists between units, especially ones that are theoretically equal.

Conclusion
There is no such thing as perfect balance in a wargame. There are too many variables that a designer can not control, and should not try to. Instead, there are a set of tools you can use to try and get your game closer to being balanced, and these tools are the building blocks for balance. If you use Points, Army Lists, and Scenarios properly you can set the right tone for games to be played in a balanced way. Varied scenarios are best way to offset listbuilding, while list building is an important method to attract players and put some parameters on game play.

However, if someone wants to break your game and its balance” system they can and will be able to find it. Like a designer can not account for all variables such as terrain, models available, imperfect RNGs, etc; the number one thing variables is the player themselves.



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