Monday, July 13, 2020

Battle Report: Wars of the Republic- Battle of Scarpheia


Shortly after the Fourth Macedonian War, the Greek Acheaen League rose up against Rome.  This war was one of defiance after Rome's high-handed treatment of the League during the 3rd adn 4th Macedonina War.

The Roman's took hundred of hostages from the League and refused to return them or even entreat the ambassadors sent to secure their release.  In addition, populist generals were elected to the Achaean League leadership on a platform of reforms and taxation that would be counter to Roman interests.  Finally, Rome's efforts to reduce the size of the League by severing several cities and limiting the size of the League.  These three issues were politically unbearable to the Acheaen League and war was decided upon.  

It is unlikely that the Greeks had any hope of beating the Romans.  After all, the Romans had just defeated the much larger Macedonians and the Seleucid Empire.  However, it was a war of defiance.  It is best known for two key battles, the Battle of Scarpheia and the Battle of Corinth.  There may have also been several smaller skirmishes that were unrecorded.

The outcome was the total defeat of the Acheaen League.  As punishment, Rome complete destroyed Corinth, killed all the men, and sold the women and children into slavery.  All of the cities wealth was looted and sent back to Rome.  The Greeks were no longer a force in the Eastern Mediterranean after this cataclysmic defeat. 

We know nothing about the Battle of Scarpheia except that it happened in 146 BCE between the Romans and the League.  Rome won the battle and it is beleived the Greeks took heavy losses, but there are very few sources on this particular battle.  That is what makes it so interesting to us as wargamers!  It gives us free reign to play as we wish!

Forces

Roman Triplex Acies- Praetor Matellus
1 Skirmisher
1 Triarri
1 Principes- Praetor
2 Hastati

Rival City-States- Critolaus of Megalopolis
2 Drilled Hoplites- 1 with General
1 Militia Hoplites
1 Light Infantry- Peltasts
1 Archers
1 Skirmisher- Psiloi

The Acheaen League will be represented by my Men of Bronze Corinthian army.  Sadly, for this playtest, the Romans will be my famous Paper Templates.


Set-up
This was completed using the rules laid out by the rules in the booklet.  The board is 72 x 48 MU with an MU being 1 inch.  The board was divided into 6 grid spaces and terrain rolled and placed using the chart.  The Players took turns rolling and placing terrain, with the player being able to place the terrain anywhere they wished in the grid square.

This system led to the following set-up.

Grid 1 is the Roman right, 2 Roman center, and 3 is Roman left.  Grid 4 is Greek left, 5 is Greek center, and 6 is Greek right.

Grid 1- No terrain
Grid 2- 2-level hill
Grid 3- Grove of trees
Grid 4- Stone walls
Grid 5- Stone walls
Grid 6- Swamp or spring

The Greeks place the supplies 12 inches in from their board edge and across the frontage of the army.  1 by the swamp, two in the open field, 1 inside the stone walls, and 1 in the ruins.

The Romans deploy from left to right as Principes, Hastati, the skirmishers on the hill, Triarri on the opposite side of the hill, and then the Hastati again.  The Greeks facing them from right to left are, Drilled Hoplites, Drilled Hoplites, Militia Hoplites, Archers, Light infantry (Peltasts), and Skirmishers (Psiloi)


Mission
We again followed the rules found in the Wars of the Republic rules and determined the mission and complication.  We got the following:

Rome as the Attackers
Raze and Loot scenario
Complication is Bad Water

Turn 1:
Both sides are distributed their Commander's Gaze tokens for the turn.  The Romans have 6 and the Greeks have 7 tokens.  The Greeks bid 4 Commander's Gaze, while the Romans bid 3.

Greeks move out first.  The Archers clamor up and over the stone walls into the abandoned corral.  Militia Hoplites in Phalanx march forward towards their objectives.  The Romans try to interrupt, which is successful.


The Romans pay a Gaze token and the Skirmishers rush to the edge of the hill at full speed.  The Hastati on the Roman right are in open order and move in front of the Triarri.  The Roman forces on the left move up freely and in their Legion formation.  The Romans are content and turn control back to the Greeks.

The League continues their early deployment.  The Peltasts use a point to Skirmish and move into the ruins with the supplies.  The Drilled Militia on the Greek right moves up on Phalanx, while the second one breaks into open order and also moves up.  Finally, the Psiloi on the left use the last Greek Commander's Gaze to skirmish into the ruins as well.


Melee:
None

Turn 2: 
This time the Greeks bid 5, to the Roman 3 again.  Greeks win again.

The Greek right phalanx marches up and secures the supplies.  The Romans try to interrupt, but fail this time.  The Greek Peltasts use Commander's Gaze to skirmish and go to the edge of the ruins to defend the supplies there.

This time, the Romans successfully interrupt.  The Roman Hastati on the right form up in Legion and march towards the ruins.  The Skirmishers also pay a Gaze and move down the mountain and into the field, threatening the Militia Hoplites and Archers.

The Greeks interrupt successfully.  The Greek Archers struggle over the wall of the corral and secure the supplies inside.  The Psiloi in the ruins take up positions to support the Peltasts.


The Romans interrupt again and take over.  The Triarri march up behind their Hastati screen.  On the Roman left the Hastati pause as the Principes move ahead of them along the line.  The Romans are satisfied and let the Greeks take back over ot finish their activations.

The Militia move up and secure their supplies, staying in Phalanx and facing the Roman skirmishers.  The Drilled Militia in Open Order move up and stay in Open Order.

Melee:
None

Turn 3: 
Everyone still has their full Commander's gaze as no one has lost a unit.  The Greeks bid 0, and the Romans bid 2.  Romans get to go first.

The Right Hastati move up towards the ruins.  They are followed by the Triarri.  The Hastati on the Roman left then use the Legions maneuverability to shuffle across and behind the advancing Principes.


The Greeks use a Gaze and successfully interrupt the Romans.  the Greek archers open fire on the Roman skirmishers but fall just short of the target.  The Light Infantry in the ruins have the same issue as their Javelins fall far short of the Roman advance.  The Drilled Greek Hoplites in Open Order charge out towards the Roman Skirmishers, but fall short and start to Waver!


After this string of failuers, the Romans try to interrupt, but fail themselves.  The other Greek Drilled Hoplites use Drilled to slide to their right to try and cover both supply caches.  The Militia Hoplites stay right where they are. Play turns back to the Romans.


The Principes keep moving forward with the Hastati behind them.  The Skirmishers throw their javelins at the oncoming Drilled Phalanx who failed their charge.  Even with two re-rolls they fail to injure the wavering unit.

Melee:
None

Turn 4: 
Greeks bid 4 and Romans bid 4.  It goes to the roll off!  The Greeks win and their general breathes a sigh of relief.  He uses a Gaze to Rally the Drilled Hoplites, forms them into Phalanx, and then charges them into the skirmishers.  They are so close, the Skirmishers do not even bother to try and Evade.

The Romans then interupt.  The Principes declare a charge and surge forward using the last of the Commander's Gaze.  The Drilled Phalanxx has not Commander's Gaze left, so do not counter-charge.  However, the Principes JUST fall short and fall into open order and start to waver!  Concerned the Hastati move up to follow.

On the Roman right, the Hastati move up towards the ruins, but do not charge yet.  They do not want the slippery Peltasts to evade them.  The Triarri break into open order and begin to swing off to move towards the archers in the corral.


The Greeks take over.  The Greek Drilled Hoplites can not charge, so just move into contact with the Principes.  The Peltasts toss Javelins at the Hastati closing in on the Ruins but do nothing but anger the Romans.  The Militia Hoplites break into open order and dash to support their comrades fighting with the Principes, leaving their supplies exposed to the Roman Triarri.


Melee:
The Drilled Hoplites simply explode the Roman Skirmishers, who quickly re-think their life choices and turn to flee.

On the flank, the other Drilled Hoplites and the Principes get in a vicious fight.  The unorganized and reeling Romans fight hard, but unsuccessfully.  The Drilled Hoplites reduce them 2 Courage for no loss and push them back just shy of the Hastati marching up from behind.  That mis-timed charge was costly for the Romans!

End:
The Roman Skirmishers are routed, but this is witnessed by the Triarri.  They easily pass a Courage test. 
   
Turn 5: 
The Romans have lost a unit so are down to 5 Commander's Gaze to the Greeks 7.  The Greeks bid 3 to go first, eager for their victorious Drilled Hoplites to get the drop on the Roman Triarri.  The Romans bid 0 and hold onto them for charges and combat re-rolls.  The Greeks get to go first. 

They start with their victorious Drilled Hoplites breaking into Open Order, lining up on the Roman Triarri, and then reforming into Phalanx again.  Surprisingly, they opted not to charge as they did not judge the distance correct.  The Militia Hoplites move in on the Principe/Hoplite battle but also decide not to charge judging the distance to be insufficient. 

The Greek Light Infantry and Archers fire on the Hastati but fail to do anything to them.  The Greeks are content and let the Romans take over having spent 5 Commanders Gaze so far.  The Hastati outside the ruins spend Commander's Gaze and charge into the Greek Light Infantry.  Immediately, the Greek Skirmishers decide to support their fellow Greeks. 


The Hastati on the other side have a tough decision.  Should they support the badly injured Principe and risk being swept away if they lose?  However, without their help the Principes will be destroyed for no gain.  Plus, they need to strike before the Militia Hoplites get there.  Ultimately, they decide to charge in a desperate gamble. 

Finally, the Triarri square up on the Drilled Hoplites and charge them.  The Drilled Hoplites decide to counter-charge the Triarri.  The two groups clash with a huge clang of metal on metal. 


Melee:
The Greeks decide to start with the Triarri battle.  Neither side opts to use re-rolls and the pushing and shoving causes both sides to lose 1 Courage.  The Greeks have to use a re-roll to avoid Wavering!   

Next, the Greeks go to resolve the battle at the ruins.  The Hastati charge which allows them to use their Pila.  However, the difficult terrain forces them out of Legion, just as the Greeks hoped.  Both sides are reduced 1 Courage, with no re-rolls being used.  However, the Greek troops begin to Waver against the fierce assault, even after using a re-roll!  That leaves them with 0 Commander's Gaze. 

The final Melee has the Principes with Hastati support suffering a Courage loss, but forcing the Greeks to lose two and pushing them back.   

Turn 6: 
With almost all forces engaged, no one bids for Initiative.  The Romans win the roll-off.  They have no moves as everyone is in a Melee, so play goes to the Greeks.

The Greek Archers clamber over the walls and charge into the side of the Roman Triarri for a Flank charge!  The Militia Hoplites also charge into the Principe Melee on the Flank.  Things look bad for the Romans there. 

Melee:
Both sides have equal Commander's Gaze for Re-rolls.  The Romans decide to finish the Principe battle first.  With a desperate push the Principes fight on, but ultimately their Courage breaks and they are routed after reducing the Drilled Hoplites to 2 Courage left. 


Next, the Romans wish to fight in the Ruins with the Hastati.  The Greeks use three re-rolls and reduce the Romans 2 Courage, even against the Wavering Greeks!  The Romans would not have benefited from additional re-rolls.  However, the Greeks lose 1 Courage in the Melee.  The Hastati are pushed back from the walls of the Ruins. 


Against the Triarri, the Drilled Hoplites and Archers fight valiantly.  The Romans begin to waver after both sides suffer 2 Courage loss.  Copious amounts of re-rolls were used by both sides.   

Things look bad for the Romans! 

End:
With the Principes and Hastati routing, on the Roman left it triggers collapse tests.  The Triarri decide to call it a day and break off.  Seeing this the commander of the Hastati on the right decides it is better to retire and live to fight another day!

Conclusion:
We had an "ahistorical" outcome this time as the Romans are sent packing by the Greek forces! 

The deciding factor Melee of the battle was the failed charge and the inability of the Drilled Hoplites on the Greek right to counter-charge due to lack of Commander's Gaze.  This short charge caused the entire flank to get crumbled on the Roman side as they lost the protection of Legion! Even support from their Hastati back-up was too little and too late. 

However, I think this game was actually lost in deployment.  The large two-tier hill in the middle forced the Romans to split their forces.  Plus, the Objectives were evenly spaced where the Greeks could easily get them and hold them.  Once the Skirmishers in the center were routed, the Hoplites had exposed Roman flanks to exploit!  Secondly, I had the a great defensive position to fight from on the Greek left.  Legion is a strong formation for Hastati BUT it is better at "sticking" than it is at driving home an assault.  Once they had to break formation the Hastati did not have the hitting power to drive out the Peltast and Psiloi on their own.  The Principes or Triarri were needed on that flank to clear out the ruins.

The Bad Water complication played no roll.  The Raze and Loot scenario was critical to the Greek success.  The Romans essentially were forced to come to the Greeks, negating some of the Romans defensive abilities. 

Overall, a fun game.  Twice the Romans have tasted defeat.  Once against Gauls and the second time against Greeks! As an opponent, I think I have the measure of the Romans as an army.  Break them out of Legion with terrain and force them to attack and they have a tough time overcoming their foes.  If you have to go to Romans, they are very tough nut to crack and will whittle you away to nothing.         




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Monday, July 6, 2020

Random: 2020 Half-Way Goal Update!


So far 2020 has not been like anything that I expected it to be.  I expected a vast nuclear wasteland, or to be living in a giant dystopian city, I thought we would be on Tokyo-3 by now!  That is what my childhood had prepared me for?  It did not prepare me for the dystopia that we actually have!  Pandemics, riots, political chaos..... I guess it is a good thing I have wargaming to keep me going! 

Last year, I tried a different approach and focused on goals by Period.  I decided not to be doing that this year.  I placed my goals into a series of categories instead of by genre or period.  Those categories are:

·         Purchase- This is goals that require me to spend my hard earned bread, cash, grip, money, coin, etc. 
·         Painting and Modelling- Here is the section of stuff I will want to paint up or build up
·         Playing- This section will be for what I intend to put on the table for 2020
·         Rules Writing- Here are my goals for writing and creating games
·         Miscellany- This is for stuff that falls into the realm of Blood and Spectacles but doesn’t neatly fit into a category

I laid most of my goals out in a different thread, so there is no need to rehash that post!  If you want you can go back and read it for yourself.

So, let's find out what we have accomplished so far.....

Purchases
This year, I expected to buy a lot of stuff.  Thanks to your support via the Wargame Vault, I have been able to make progress on this front.  Not as much as I had hoped.... but progress.  Thanks for the assist on this one guys!  I have been able to get the following from my list:

1. Clash of Spears
2. Zona Alfa
3. Gangster Terrain (3 Shotgun houses and 2 store fronts) 
4. Blood Bowl Lizard Men
5. Last Days: Seasons
6. Realty's Edge




There are still a lot of ancients left to buy.  However, I think I cleared some space in the painting Queue for them so I can probably start buying some Romans.  

That leaves to buy:

  • Victrix Elephant
  • Victrix Greek Cavalry
  • Victrix Republican Romans
  • Victrix Samnites/Carthaginians/Italians
  • Gangs of Rome
  • Mortal Gods
  • Oathsworn Burrows and Badgers bundles A and B
  • Any new Osprey Blue Books
That still looks like a long ways to go on the buying front.  I have a feeling some will slide into next year!



Painting and Modelling
Last year, I painted over 150+ models.  That is probably a record for me, and I doubt I will be getting anywhere near that this year.  However, a man can dream can’t he? So far I have painted up 75 minis or bases.  Not bad.  

I finished my two Greek Men of Bronze armies- Corinthians and Spartans


Spartan Army

Corinthian Army

Paint my 6mm Baccus Successor Armies- I have enough for two armies of Heirs to Empire!



Finish up my loose Gangster Models from Copplestone casting- I only have 5 left




Complete a set of Scorpion Drones for All Quiet on the Martian Front- Not Started

Paint my Purchases for Use- Painted up my Lizzies!


Playing
This year, in half a year I have managed to play as many games as I did all of last year!  Plus, i have the beginning of a variety of games.  I just need to finish them off on the table.

  1. Broken Legions- Played
  2. Wars of the Republic!- Played a couple of times
  3. Men of Bronze- Played it! 
  4. Operation: Hemlock- Got those in too!
  5. Play a New Game- Watch this space for the battle report! 
Broken Legions

Wars of the Republic

Men of Bronze

Aeronautica Imperialis

Wars of the Republic


Wars of the Republic

Rampant Stars

Turf War


Aquanuatica Imperialis

Rules Writing
Typically, this is one of my more productive goals for the year.  Last year was a pretty good year for me on this front, and I hope to keep expanding on my successes.  I always have various projects on the go, and this year I have a few deadlines to hit!

1.       Complete writing Wars of the Republic for Osprey Games- Sent to the Publisher!

2.       Update the photos and artwork in Turf War for Wargame Vault- I have the models and terrain now.  Just need to take the photos and make the updates! 

3.       Get 1 game from the WIP section to the Wargame Vault- I finished the rules for Glittering Void, but I really need some better pictures before that is ready for prime time. 

4.       Get 1 new game into the WIP section of the blog- I actually have 4 games I have been working on: Under the Martian Yoke, White Star/Red Star, Homer's Heroes, and Aquanautica Imperialis: Force of Arms.  Two are up in the WIP Games section for you to review. 

White Star/Red Star Playtest

Miscellany
This is stuff I want to do for the Blood and Spectacles publishing, but don’t really fall into other categories. 

1.       Get 1 new blog post a week- So far I am on track! 

2.       Take more photos for Social Media Marketing- Check my Instagram! 

3.       Add a games Played/Models Painted Tracker to the Blog- In web version, look at the bottom right hand side, below the WIP games!
4.       Do preliminary work for organizing a local Convention for 2021- Covid absolutely killed this one!  No  progress. 



Conclusion
There is an update.  Like usual, it has been a productive year writing games but it has also been unusually productive with gaming and painting too.  I have a strong start to 2020, but I expect the Apocalypse to arrive and ruin the second half from a wargaming perspective.  I mean, it is an election year!  I hope my progress so far is enough to carry me through the end of the year.

Good luck to all of you out there! 





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Monday, June 29, 2020

Review: Blood Red Skies- Warlord Games


Via Boardgame Geek

I downloaded the rulebook for Blood Red Skies for free from the Warlord site.  I had been pointed to these rules as I was working on the rules for Glittering Void at the time.  One of my readers thought that my struggles with altitude bands in a space mecha game could benefit from reading these rules and seeing what I learned about air combat rules and how they applied to Space Mecha.  Perhaps they were trolling me because they thought my rules sucked!  Who knows?  I guess I got the last laugh because I downloaded them and have read them.  He who laughs last laughs best!

When I was a wee lad, I used to love to watch a TV show on the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) called Piece of Cake.  It was a show imported from the BBC to the states and consequently had strange viewing slots, so I often would only catch bits and pieces of it.  The movie was about a British Spitfire Squadron during the Battle of Britain.  I wish I could still find it on YouTube or somewhere as I would gladly watch it again.  I have never been able to see it again so if you know of it, have a link, etc. please leave me a comment!

Piece of Cake kindled an interest in World War II, and the air war in particular.  The jargon, the tactics, the personalities, and of course the amazing planes.  Granted, it is not a topic that I have exhaustive knowledge on, but it is an area of interest to me.

Anyway, this game was written by the (in)famous Andy Chambers.  You may remember him for writing the rules for the Starship Troopers game.... and maybe some other smaller game systems here and there.  He was/is a pretty well known name in the wargame industry and fits pretty well with the stable of ex-Games Workshop writers that freelance with Warlord from time-to-time.

I am a huge fan of Warwick Kinrade's Aeronautica Imperialis rules that were put out by Forgeworld.  He was a near contemporary with Andy at GW.  It is also a fighter plane game, but one using 40K universe aircraft.  Everyone knows that 40K aircraft are basically WWII fighters and bombers... IN SPACE!.... so it will be an interesting contrast.  I am also familiar with Check Your 6, X-wing, and Wings of War to contrast the rules with. 

I only have the core 16 page rulebook and not all the fighter stats and pilot stats.  However, after reading and absorbing the game, I think I have a pretty good feel for the rules and how it plays.

Let's clear the runway and get up and at 'em then!  Piece of Cake!


via Warlord's Site

Things That I Like
The win conditions for this game are not necessarily based on shooting down enemy planes.  Instead, it is based on morale, and morale is recorded using Boom tokens.  A Boom token is given when a plane is shot successfully, even if they are not destroyed or shot down.  Of ocurse, you get more if they are shot down.  If you have more Boom Tokens than planes at any point, you lose.

The core rules are Stat of the Pilot + Features of the plane = how many dice you roll.  You are looking for a Target Number of 6 to earn successes.  The more success the better.  This set-up allows for differentiation between pilot skill and plane features.  Therefore, pilot and machine counts when you play the game and allows you a lot of space in between for customization of aircraft types.  Pilot skill and aircraft performance is also used to determine who can act first.

Shooting attacks allow both players to participate.  The plane shooting makes dice rolls based on pilot skill, and the defender makes dice rolls to avoid getting shot up.  This allows both players to participate instead of one just dying.  This also allows some room to add in special rules for head-to-head shooting and deflection shots.  These rules naturally make these types of attacks less enticing, so you want to try to position your plane to avoid them.  This is a nice bit of design that encourages the right period "tactics" but does not force them on you.

The turn sequence is broken down in a few different ways, but the core is:

1. Shoot
2. Move
3. Take an action

This is nice as the Pilot Actions allow you to make some decisions besides simple move and target priority.  These actions include shooting more, outmaneuvering an opponent which can give them a penalty, or trying to improve your place in the turn sequence later, make a flying maneuver to enhance/change distance moved, etc.  They are nice elements of decision making without giving up core actions like moving and shooting.

Finally, the rules for Tailing are natural and again encourage you to use the proper tactics such as a wingman, without forcing you to do it.

Oh look, a Korean War version!
Via the Warlord Site 
Things I Do Not Like
This game uses a very abstract method of determining energy vs. altitude vis-a-vis maneuver.  Many aircraft games use various height bands, thrust changes, set maneuvers that modify your speed or altitude, etc.  This game dispenses with and abstracts most of this detail using a completely different system referred to as Advantage.

This system is the main gimmick of the game and is integrated very closely into the games workings.  Players are constantly moving or being forced to move between Disadvantaged, Nuetral, or Advantaged states of play.  All planes in the Advantaged state get to move through the turn sequence first by order of pilot/machine performance.  Various maneuvers change the state of the aircraft between these three levels.  Planes can only shoot at planes that are within 1 Advantage level so Disadvantaged planes can never fire on Advantaged planes and vis-versa.  Climbing, Outmaneuvering, Tailing change the Advantage state of the target planes.  Only planes at Disadvantage can be shot down, the rest can be shot at but only to earn Boom Tokens.  Remember, a Boom Token is a morale measurement not actual damage necessarily.

These advantage states greatly streamline play and speed up the game.  However, it also forces the game into a very abstract air battle.  In play, they have some aspects of altitude in other games, but also adds an abstract element of pilot space and timing to the game.  If you can handle/want this level of abstraction then you will be fine.  I had some trouble adapting to it since it is very different mechanically than other aircraft games I have played.

Finally, the game is supposed to use custom dice, but only one facing matters on them in the core rules.  You can use ordinary d6 just fine, but proprietary dice make money so..... let's put them in! 

Meh and Other Uncertainties
Now, I only have the core rulebook.  Therefore, I have no idea about the scenarios, different aircraft stats, pilot upgrades etc.  There is space in the rules for this type of chrome and I am sure it is there, but I can't really review what I can't read/see.  Therefore, I don't have much else to say.  I found the core rules fell into Things I Liked or Things I Did Not Like.

The very PDF I downloaded
Via the Warlord Site
Conclusion
This is an innovative take on aircraft combat.  I am very glad that I downloaded the rulebook and took a look at.  Ultimately, if you can handle the abstraction inherent in the rules then you will probably be all set to enjoy it.  The rules work to foster the proper tactics of the period well.  The mechanics are streamlined, easy to figure out, and intuitive.  Resolution is pretty quick.

Despite all these positives, I am just not ready to buy in to the abstraction of the game.  I LIKE altitude bands, maneuver cards, and thrust ratings!  Why, because it allows you to emphasize maneuver in a way that ground or naval combat just can not bring to the table.  To me what makes air combat interesting is the Maneuver vs Firepower element and the trade-offs you have to make.  The game has abstracted maneuver to such a degree that I am unsure if it will deliver the type of game experience I personally will find satisfying.

I can see the appeal, and recognize the elegance in the design.  It has done a lot to "modernize" the air combat game.  However, I do not think it is for me, and that is okay. 






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Monday, June 22, 2020

Wargame Design: The Soul of Your Game


I reviewed Ash Barker's game Last Days a few months ago.  In that review, I make a passing reference to the books foreword.

I love it when a game has designer notes. Ash has a nice forward that lays out what he was trying to accomplish beyond the 4Ms of the game. It is only a few pages long, but those few pages were excellent in describing the type of game we were getting into, and were good food for thought for other aspiring game designers. The way he establishes what made skirmish games so appealing to him was clear, and his taste and design aesthetic was clearly laid out. Kudos to Ash!

You can read the rest of the review at your leisure, but today I wanted to go back and take a closer look at this section of the book.  As we all know, Ash Barker is a bit of a celebrity in the wargaming world due to his very successful and fun YouTube channel.  There he shares and reviews a lot of games.  He has been active in wargaming for a long time, and Last Days is not his only rules.  However, in the Foreword to Last Days he lays out some thoughts about what makes a wargame, but especially a skirmish game successful.

In this day an age, many people are trying to create their own skirmish games.  They are struggling with the 4Ms, massaging their concepts into workable games, adding chrome, activation methods, how to make Tactical play, and much more.  Therefore, I thought it made a bit of sense to dig into what he wrote and talk about some of the key concepts as they are relevant to all those aspiring wargame designers out there.   

 

The Soul of Your Game
I do not know the number of game reviews I have read that say.... "The game is well structured, cleanly written, and the rules are well laid out"  Wow, what a ringing endorsement.  You know what else is well structured, cleanly written, and well laid out?  The phone book... makes you want to rush out and find one for a good read through!  A game is more than the sum of its parts.

A good game is more than a set of mechanics, resolutions, and mechanics.  Ultimately a game is supposed to be fun.  Therefore, after reading through and looking at your own game, what experience do you walk away from the game with?  What did it make you feel?  Was that the experience you wanted it to have?  Those in-game feelings are not going to be generated on their own.  The mechanics need to lead you to those emotions.


Think of it as series of equations:


  • (Mechanics + Decision Points) = Outcomes 
  • (Concept+ Game Play Experience) = Emotional Investment
  • Outcomes + Emotional Investment = Fun!


This blog has talked a lot about mechanics, generating decision points, game structures, etc.  However, those are only one side of the equation.  They are the side that generates Outcomes.  The other half that we talk about a bit less is that Game Play Experience.  I.e. how does the game make you feel the way the concept of the game is supposed to make you feel?

The Game Play Experience is the Soul of the game.  Mechanics, Decision Points, outcomes are the physical body.  In my own series about wargame design the mechanical elements that are discussed use the body as a metaphor; Activation is the nervous system, Dice Mechanics are the muscle, etc.

This other side of the game is the soul of your game.  It is where the emotional investment is.


How do you create Emotional Investment in a Game? 
Ash has a list of a few things that he has named and that are is touch stones in game design.  I have a few of my own as well.  It is these pieces that will help create the right soul of your game.

1. Replayability
These are the elements of the game you have added, so no one is playing the same game twice.  This can be complications, scenarios, wandering monsters, win conditions, events, etc.  They are things that take what the player thinks they know about the game... and changes them up, flips them over, or turns the game inside out.  Therefore, you can play the game millions of times, but it is never the same game.

2. Mood Setters
These are mechanics or rules that are simply in there to help fit the right feel or concept of the game.  They vary based on the game you are trying to make, but some rules are designed to evoke the right "feel" for the concept and to be able to get into the head space of the models in the game.  An aerial game should feel different from a land based skirmish game..... how?     

For example, in a horror game you need it to feel horrifying.  How do you do that?  Fear checks?  Escalating tension?  Blind reveals?  Injury Charts?  Loss of control?  Low likelihood of success?  That is up to you the designer.

3. Big Reveals
The Big Reveal is what the models get at the end of the game.  Do they harvest abilities, stat increases, and loot OR do they wind up crippled, destitute, and hungry?  It really depends on the feel of the game and how you reward outcomes in the game.  However, players will be looking for these "Big Reveals" through the use of a campaign system, in game mechanics or even simple victory conditions.   

4. Story Boards   
This is where a game can become larger than the sum of its parts.  Stand alone games can be linked into a larger narrative of events.  Each game, each turn, each element of the game are a series of events.  How do these events play into the larger game or campaign?  Can they be linked into a narrative to "tell the story" of the game or campaign?   

For example, Did Sergeant Wilkins stand at the old farmstead slow the oncoming tide of enemies long enough for the rest to escape?  Did the destruction of the units at the Battle of A mean that the Battle of B Squared had to be fought?  Did Johnny dropping his gun mean that the team had to break into the sporting goods store and secure a new one?


Final Thoughts             
None of these elements are particular to Skirmish wargames.  However, it is easy to see how the "campaign elements" encouraged by skirmish games tick these boxes off much easier than other types of games can.  However, all games need these types of elements to build the soul of the game.  The best games build these elements into the "meat and potato" mechanics that take place turn by turn.  Without them, you have a series of operational instructions more akin to a phone book than a game. 




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Monday, June 15, 2020

Operation: Hemlock- Aquanautica Imperialis: Bombarding the Ork Camp


The Orks attempts to leave the Green Zone and infiltrate Baron’s Rest have been largely suppressed.  However, a sizable Ork force had managed to establish itself on Baron’s Rest before Imperial troops could get to the island.  It was only the Orks lack of co-ordination that allowed the PDF defenders of Taskforce: Sword along with the Camp: Hope(less) Militia to rally and hold them at bay

For the most part, the Ork invaders were still mostly scattered warbands.  However, they were beginning to coalesce around a main camp at the base of Look-out Pointe at the southern tip of the Baron’s Rest island.  Taskforce: Thorn had been relatively successful fending off the Ork naval forces and kept them from reinforcing the Ork position on Baron’s Rest along with the aid of Headman Hondo’s Syndicate. 

General Kurtz, the overall commander of Operation: Hemlock; ordered Vice-admiral Travers of Taskforce: Thorn to relieve the pressure on Taskforce: Sword on Baron’s rest.  PDF naval forces were to enter the waters off Look-Out Pointe and bombard the Ork camp.

As a result, Vice-Admiral Travers organized a squadron designated Divine Fire to conduct the operation.  The warships were expected to encounter resistance from Orks surface batteries, sub-surface combatants, and from the air.

**          **          **          **          **

This battle will be another Aquanautica Imperialis battle in the Operation: Hemlock campaign.  The Imperial Ammoriss Naval PDF will face off against the Ork Kill Fleets.  I will again be using paper templates to allow my opponent and I the widest selection of forces when playing the game.   

Forces:
Ammoriss Naval PDF
Wraith of Humanity- Ascendant Class- 350 Pts
Duke of Iron- Resolute Cruiser- 250 pts
Governor Trevalios- Steadfast Cruiser- 150 pts
Spear 789- 2 Constant Escorts- 150 pts
Hunter 789- 1 Hunter Sub- 125 pts
95th Imperial Navy Fighter Squadron- 2 Thunderbolts and 2 Lightnings- 70 pts

Total= 1,090 pts

Ork Kill Fleet
Da Bloo Fort- Big Dakka Boat- 195 pts- 3 Power Fields
Kil Ammer- Big Dakka Boat- 190 pts- Smokescreen, Ram
Boom Booma- Big Karrier Boat- 175 pts- Fighta-Bommerz
Krazy Ivanz- 4 Drilla Killa- 200 pts
Dok Surprize- 2 Boiler Boatz- 150 pts
Gobstrukz Raiderz- 1 Sneaky Gitz Sub- 150 pts

Total= 1, 060 pts

Mission:
This is a variant bombardment mission as found in the scenario section of the Aquanautica Imperialis scenario document.  The north side of the board will have a coastline with a large mountain which represents Look Out Pointe.  Clustered around the base of the mountain will be 10 individual targets that represent the Ork camp.  Each has Armor 5+ and 1 Hull.  The Objective is to destroy as many of these as possible.  If 6+ of the targets are destroyed, the Imperial forces win.  If fewer than 6 are destroyed by the end of the game the Orks have won.  The game lasts 6 turns.

Set-up:
The scenario indicates the most important landmarks of the northern shoreline, Look Out Pointe and the Ork encampments to bombard.  However, there is also some small islands dividing up the shoreline.  It is a bit of a confined space for a naval engagement the waterway will eventually lead into the shallows. 

The Orks are deployed with their Big Dakka Boats coming from a cove and screened by some small islands.  Outside the cove on the opposite side of the islands is Krazy Ivanz Drilla Killaz.  Further up the shoreline, the Boom Booma is by the Ork camp and screened by Dok's Surprise Boiler Boatz.

Divine Fire is coming in from the Southwest corner.  The battle line is lead by the Governor Trevalios , followed by the Wrath of Humanity, Spear 789, with the Duke of Iron taking up the rear guard.  

The subs and the Imperial Navy Fighter Squadron are set-up in reserve.


Turn 1:
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Kill Hamma decides to go Waaagh! speed and shoots to the center of the board barely missing an island.  The rest of the fleet is more restrained, with the Escorts and Boom Booma actually going less than full speed.

The Imperial forces also move forward to engage.  The Constants try to get a bead on the Da Bloo Fort for a long range torpedo attack.

The Subs and Imperial fighters stay in reserve.

Battle:
The Ork aircraft scramble from the deck of their carrier and make for the Imperial battleship.  Imperial Point Defense gunners grimly man their stations, hoping that their fighter support gets there soon.

On the left Imperial flank, the Duke of Iron and the Constants pop torpedoes towards the Da Bloo Fort.

End:
Fighta-Bommerz continue to close in on the PDF targets.

The PDF Torpedo barrage races into Da Bloo Fort.  The Ork Point Defense guns begin to spray Dakka everywhere, and manage to tag 2 of the fish.  2 miss, and the last 2 are scuttle by the ships Power Fields.

Turn 2: 
Initiative: Imperial PDF

Move:
The Governor Trevalios leads the way and steams into the Fighta-Bomma swarm.  Her PD gunners manage to down a squadron or so of aircraft.  However, the Big Hamma decides to Waaagh! again and crashes straight into the PDF cruiser at full speed!  The PDF Captain sees the danger and gives the order to Brace for Impact!  There is a powerful head-to-head crash that buckles steal and armor plate.  The Governor takes 1 damage, while the Big Hamma takes 2.  The two ships are entangled.


The Orks are ready and swarm over the bow of their ship in a boarding attack.  The rmapaging Orks manage to destroy more of the ship and reduce the Imperial ship 1 more Damage.

Drilla Killaz also Waaagh! and find their way to Ram the Duke of Iron!  The quick craft manage to dart in before the crew can Brace for Impact.  The Orks lay out 15 hits on the Imperial craft!  All four Drilla Killaz are also destroyed in the attack, with 1 sinking immediately.  However, the Duke of Iron is effectively crippled in the mass attack as well.  She takes 7 damage and is reduced 1 only 1!  In addition, she takes massive casualties and is reduced to 1 crew.  The remaining ships are all entangled.


The Wrath of Humanity steams forward, as the Constants move to screen her from Da Bloo Fort.  The Boom Booma and the Boiler Boatz hang back as a defensive screen.

There is still no sign of the Subz or Imperial Fighter wing.

Battle:
The battle got desperate pretty fast for the North Ammoriss Naval PDF.  The Captain of the Wrath of Humanity gave lock-on orders to Da Bloo Fort and opened fire with a broadside.  The Ork Kaptin roared for his boyz to Brace, and they promptly do.  However, the firepower of the Imperial battleship overwhelms the last Power Field and blasts into the ship.  The ship takes 2 damage from the attack and is out of Power Fields.  The Wrath also fires her forward Torps at the Boiler Boatz in the distance.

Da Bloo Fort fires at the nearby Constant escorts, but the shots miss the small, swift torpedo boats.  The Constants manage to re-load their Ordinance while under fire.  They also send a barrage of Torpedoes at the enemy Boiler Boatz while their deck guns spray Da Bloo Fort with no effect.

End:
Imperial Torpedoes race in amongst the Ork Boiler Boatz, there crews braced as best they can.  The Point Defense gunners fail to find any of the fish.  They leap out and explode, with 4 torps finding their marks.  The Boiler Boatz are reduced to floating wreckage.  Two torpedoes streak past looking for a new target.  They find the Boom Booma and attack.  One is taken out by a eagle-eyed gunner, but he second strikes home and damages the Ork carrier.   

Meanwhile, the Ork Fighta-Bommerz swoop in on the Wrath of Humanity.  PD Guns spray the air as the Ork craft dive in on the target.  One squadron is destroyed on the approach, but enough get through to unload on the target.  Ork torpedoes and bombs hit the human battleship, but they do nothing but leave ugly black stains on the hull.  2 squadrons need to head for home after using their bomb loads, but two stay in play.

The entangled ships drift.  Meanwhile, 1 Boiler Boat explodes sinking the other hulk.  In addition, one of the Drilla Killaz slips beneath the waves.

4 wake markers are also removed.  This leaves two on the Duke of Iron, and a bunch where the Boiler Boatz used to be. 


Turn 3: 
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The Kill Hamma and Governor Trevalios Disentangle themselves and back away.  The Boom Booma tries to go around the center battle, but the PDF Constants move to intercept her.  Da Bloo Fort starts to circle around to the rear of the Wrath of Humanity who powers forward, her PD guns taking out another group of Fighta-Bommerz.

The Ork Sneaky Gitz coming to a firing depth to finish of the Duke of Iron.

Battle:
The Constants and the Ork carrier re-load ordinance. 

The Imperials have the Initiative and the Constants decide to fire Torpedoes at the Boom Booma Ork carrier directly in front of them.  The karrier goes on Brace for Impact, as their PD guns miss the incoming torpedoes.  All four manage to find the target and detonate.  However, two of them only cause superficial damage, while the other two strike home.  In addition, a spray of fire from the Constants' deck guns causes additional damage.  The hits are enough to cause Critical Damage on the Boom Booma!  Her rudder is jammed, and a Fire breaks out in the hangar bays.

The Boom Booma's front guns spit return fire at the Constants, and one of the brave little escorts is left as a burning hulk.

The Wrath of Humanity fires at the Kill Hamma to her bow, and opens fire with her forward turrets and Torpedo tubes.  The Ork ships fails to Brace as she recently freed herself from the Governor Trevalios.  The smokescreen and the bolted on armor plates do their job as the battleships guns fail to cause significant damage!  The Torpedoes also miss the target. The Wrath also fires on the Da Bloo Fort with her rear turrets.  1 shot finds a weak point on the Ork Krooza and hits hard.  The Ork ships Rudder is jammed.   

The Sneaky Git fires a spread of Torpedoes at the severely damaged Duke of Iron.  The crew manage to brace, but it may not be enough.  Point defense guns miss the fish, and three detonate on the side of the crippled warship.  However, they hit the armored belt and fail to cause further damage.

The Governor Trevalios fires her forward guns at the Kill Hamma in front of her.  The Ork krew takes the brunt of it as they are too busy manning their weapons to fire back.  A shell manages to blast away portions of the superstructure and damage the Ork vessel.  The Orks respond with a barrage of their own.  The Human crew of the Light Cruiser fail to Brace, and two shots explode into the ship.  The Light Cruiser is crippled from the hits and reduced to 1 Damage left.  Worse, and internal fire starts deep in the hull.

Side cannons from Da Bloo Fort rake against the Wrath, but only ping loudly off her armored belt.

The Duke of Iron manages to swing her turrets and fire a crippled Broadside at Da Bloo Fort.  This also manages to cause a single hit.  This hit causes a fire in the engine room. 


End:
The Torpedoes from the Wrath find a new target in the Boom Booma.  They snake past her PD but fail to find the target and streak past into the shoreline.

The last Figta-Bomma squadron in the air circles back and attacks the badly damaged Governor Trevalios.  However, vigilant Point Defense gunners blast the Ork planes from the sky as they approach.

The entangled Duke of Iron and Krazy Ivanz escorts drift towards the Sneaky Gitz.  The hulked Constant drifts towards the Boom Booma.

Both remaining Drilla Killaz disentangle and sink beneath the waves.  The Constant Hulk explodes harmlessly and sinks as well.

10 wake markers get removed.  5 remain on board where the Boiler Boatz sank and the Drilla Killaz sank.  There are none on any ships.

The Governor Trevalios is unable to get the fires on board under control, and the Captain orders all hands to abandon ship.  She is a flaming wreck now with 0 Damage left.

The Ork Meks on Da Bloo Fort manage to put out the fire quickly and at the expense of a few Grotz.  The Rudder is still jammed.  The Boom Booma manages to quench the fires in her hangar bays, but her Rudder is still jammed.

Turn 4: 
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Boom Booma goes Waaagh! and rams right into the last Conast, turning it into a Hulk and taking no damage.  However, she is entangled now.

Da Bloo Fort tries to slow to stay in the battle, but her busted Rudder means she is out of position.   The Duke of Iron limps after Da Bloo Fort, partly to escape herself and partly to chase her down and shoot at her.

The Sneaky Got Runs Silent, Runs Deep and leaves the board.    The AN Hunter comes to firing depth with a shot at the entangled Boom Booma.

The ork Kill Hamma was waiting, hoping to get a ram attempt at the Wrath of Humanity, but it doesn't look like movement is going to work out that way this time.  She turns back towards the Ork encampment to try and stay relevant to the battle.

The Wrath of Humanity orders All Ahead Full to try and get into firing range before it is too late.  Finally, Lightnings and Thunderbolts from the 95th Fighter Wing deploy from Orbit into a location where they can move to targets as needed.

Battle:
Fighta-Bommaz swarm from the cleared decks of the Boom Booma and 4 squadrons attack the nearby Wrath of Humanity.  The Point defense guns take out 2 incoming flights, but two get past.  However, their bombs miss the target.  1 remains in play while the other returns home to re-arm.  This attack is supported by port cannon fire that goes wildly astray.

The Duke of Iron chasing Da Bloo Fort opens fire for effect.  With Bracing, only 1 shell manages to hit home.  It reduces Da Bloo Fort a further Damage point.  The Ork return fire is ineffective.

The AN Hunter fires her torpedoes at the Boom Booma.  The Ork carrier takes out 1 with Point Defense, but otherwise the krew fails to Brace.  1 detonates agains the side of the Ork vessel, while the other misses and hits the island beyond. The explosion manages to rip through the forward gun deck, killing crew and dismounting weapons.  The damage is enough to cripple the carrier.     

The Forward guns of the Wrath of Humanity fire on the distant Ork encampment.  A shell lands amongst the makeshift building and detonates, causing some damage.  Grotz and greenskins begin to scurry around for shelter, instead of watching the sea battle in the watch towers of their forts.

The rear batteries swing to port, and fire on the Boom Booma.  However, the Ork Krew managed to take shelter and avoid serious injury or damage.

End:
The Ork Fighta-Bommer remaining swings back around and tries a bombing run on the Wrath, but doesn't survive the Point Defense fire to even get a shot off.   With the last Ork aircraft down, the 95th moves to try and escort the Wrath to her targets.

The Boom Booma and Constant drift towards the shore line.  The Governor Trevalios beaches her burning wreckage on the nearby island.  She might be recoverable at a later date.

The entangled Constant explodes against the hull of the Boom Booma causing massive casualties amongst the greenskin crew.  The Governor Trevalios sinks into the shallow water off the island, sticking her good into the muddy bottom.

3 Wake Markers are removed.  That leaves 2 on the Wrath.

Meks aboard Da Bloo Fort manage to get the rudder unjammed with liberal use of Grot Oilerz.  However, Meks on the Boom Booma fail to fix an of her critical damage, perhaps as many were cuaght in the Constant's explosive blast.

Turn 5: 
Initiative: PDF

Move:
The AN Hunter fails to reverse engines as the drifting Boom Booma gets too close.  She tries to turn away, but instead collides with the Ork ship and sinks beneath the waves never to return to the surface.  That was embarassing!

The Boom Booma slowly smashes through the rough water and moves straight ahead, away from the shoreline and the Ork encampment.  Meanwhile, the Wrath of Humanity drives forward, and begins to swing her guns to bear on the Ork base.

Both Big Dakka Boatz make Come to New Heading orders and try to swing back into the battle.  Da Bloo Fort is severely  out of position thanks to a bad rudder.  She is also being shadowed by the heavily crippled Duke of Iron.

Finally, the Sneaky Gitz come to firing depth in the rear arc of the Oomie battleship, hoping to score some cheap stern hits with a torpedo barrage.

Battle:
The Captain of the Wrath wishes to finish the mission and go home, and orders his crew to lock-on.  However, plowing through the choppy water throws off their calculations and they fail to do so.  The ship opens fire anyway.  The Macro-cannons and Las-Batteries reach out towards the shore and pummel the Ork encampment.  It takes 6 more damage, reducing it to only 3 left before it is destroyed.

The Kill Hamma fires everything it can after the swift course change, but it is not enough and all the shots fly wide of the PDF Battleship.

The Duke of Iron fires what she can at Da Bloo Fort.  Two more shells strike home on the Ork vessel and cripple her too.  The Duke has been steadily wearing down her foes despite being hit hard early.       
In frustration, Da Bloo Fort fires on the grounded Governor Trevalios and hits her for more damage.  She is now at -2.  One more and she is overkilled and completely obliterated.

The Sneaky Gitz try to barrage the Wrath of Humanity with torpedoes, but fails to reload ordinance after their last shot at the Duke of Iron.  D'oh! 


End:
The 95th Fighter Wing races toward the Ork encampment to attack it.

12 Wake Markers are remove, so none are left on the board.

The remaining Meks on the Boom Booma manage to reseat the forward gunz, and fix the rudder!  She is still crippled though.     



Turn 6: Final Turn
Initiative: Orks

Move:
The Boom Booma tries to make for the safety of the open ocean in her crippled state and avoid any PDF ships.  The Duke of Iron and Da Bloo Fort continue to chase each other around fruitlessly.

The Wrath of Humanity continues to sail forward to finish destroying the Ork Encampment, but the Kill Hamma has its own plans and Waaagh! rams into her side.  The Kill Hamma takes 3 damage, and the Wrath takes 2 damage!  However, Ork warriors also swarm aboard the Wrath intent on killing all the Oomies they can find.  It is a bitter fight, but the Orks manage to damage more of the great battleship and start a fire before being forced back.  It is not enough to cripple the Big battleship. 



The Sneaky Gitz also trail the Wrath looking for a shot.  However, they again fail to re-load torpedo tubes.

Battle:
Despite all the mayhem on deck, the Captain of the Wrath orders to Lock onto Ork Camp at Look-Out Pointe.  This time, the gunners align their targetters properly.  They are given the order to fire, and open up their full Broadsides.  The Ork camp simply crumbles in on itself under the bombardment and is almost completely obliterated and overkilled.

Da Bloo Fort and the Duke of Iron trade shots, with a Ork shell bouncing off the Duke's armored hull.  However, two more detonate in Da Bloo Fort, tkaing her down to 2 Damage left.  The Ork Kaptin turns his ship and heads for the safety of the shore gunz in Da Green Zone.

End:
Nothing much left to do.

The 95th Fighter Wing manages to drop some extra ordinance on the ruins of the Ork camp and bring the total damage up enough to "overkill" the camp and totally destroy it. 

Conclusion:
The North Ammoriss Naval PDF have managed to completely eradicate the Ork Camp at the base of Look-out Pointe.  Victory to the Imperium.

Admiral Travers watched the battle unfold thanks to a relay link from the Imperial Navy warship in orbit watching from above.  The Imperial Navy deployed towards the end of the battle, no doubt to scoop up some of the glory after his sailors had taken all the risk.  He knew relations between the PDF and the Imperial Navy boys weren't great, and that little stunt wouldn't help relations at all.

He sat back in his command throne and read as the Wrath of Humanities after action report started to stream through a secondary data relay.  It wasn't good.  There were significant casualties and extensive damage.  The Duke of Iron would be out for refit the rest of the war.  The Governor Trevalios was a total loss.  The Wrath of Humanity herself would require significant repairs.  

Despite all of that, Divine Fire had accomplished its primary mission.  The threat to Baron's Rest from further Ork incursion was severely curtailed.  From here, it would be up to Taskforce: Sword to sweep the rest of the island.  

Now, General Kurtz and the rest of the Taskforce commanders could start thinking about the invasion and pacification of the Green Zone.         

That was one of the first times I have gotten a Battleship on the table.  I am not sure what to think.  It did its job, but I do not think it was overpowered at all.  It lost 5 of its 12 hits, and the rest of the fleet was devastated.  The Imperial Navy aircraft were next to useless and not worth it this game.

The Ork Kroozaz are tough to kill as they have a ton of Damage which means they are resilient and can fix Critical Hits easier.  Ramming was very destructive in this game, which I have not seen in previous games.  I also completely botched how Power Fields worked.... woops! 

Overall, another fun game! 






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