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
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. 

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page for more fun:

Or our website:

Or our Messageboard:

Or our Wargames Vault Page:





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. 

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page for more fun:

Or our website:

Or our Messageboard:

Or our Wargames Vault Page:

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.   

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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! 

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

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.

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.

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. 

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! 

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page for more fun:

Or our website:

Or our Messageboard:

Or our Wargames Vault Page:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Wargaming on a Budget- Paper Armored Company

As we approach a climactic final battle on Baron's Rest in Operation: Hemlock, I started to rummage around in my boxes of minis to find out what I had for it.  Initially, I wanted a decent size battle of Rampant Galaxies, but decided by the time I ordered and painted all the minis for it.... well.... I didn't have 3 years to wait for that climactic battle.  Paper flats on the table just didn't seem the part.  So, I figured we will just need a big battle of Rampant Stars instead.  So off I went to see what I had for the Imperial and Ork forces.....

A Conqueror and a Leman Russ on Patrol
That's when I dug out my old Paper Armored Company from Warhammer 40K 4th edition  or so?  I Think it migrated to 5th, but only had a couple outings.  I made it more out of a labor of love.  At the time, I had no money, but plenty of time.  I also had access to a lot of cardstock and a grey scale laser printer.  I designed, modified and built something like 30+ Imperial vehicles of various styles and stripes out of cardstock.  It was enough for about 3 Companies of vehicles using the Chapter Approved Armored Company list in White Dwarf.

Imperial Command Tank variant
Chimera without a turret, hatch Heavy Stubber, and Improved Comms from back in the day

This was a very polarizing army.  People either loved it or hated it.  There was not much inbetween.  There was no doubt, that despite all the inexpensive paper and found materials, that it took a ton of work to build.  Each component required the design work in MS Paint (some were basedon existing templates I had found online, and some I designed myself), coloring in MS Paint, printing, cutting, and assembling.  There was a lot of trial and error to ensure parts fit together properly, but once they did, they were re-usable over and over again so it was easy to expand and build on what was made.
Chimera with dozer blade and Heavy Flamers
Time has caused some wear and tear to the models.  Mostly things like Heavy Bolter barrels, and other small weapon barrels, smoke launchers, etc. However, those small details are easily replaced with white glue.  These models have moved across country three times, but are still in relatively one piece.
Standard Russ- I have a lot of these guys that I did not bother to picture.....

Sometimes, I think about making the jump to 3D printing, but the thought of learning the software, learning the process of 3D printing, the effort of mastery, I just do not think I have it in me anymore.  Around this same time, I also started to learn how to sculpt with GS, FIMO, etc. too.  It is what helped keep my in the hobby when my wallet couldn't.  Now, I just don't think I could muster the energy and time to do something similar with 3D printing, sculpting, or papercraft.


I hope you enjoy the pictures I took as I started planning a big battle for Operation: HemlockMaybe some of these will hit the table again?  Maybe not.....   
Demolisher and Exterminator

Hellhammer.... Just an alternate turret for the Baneblade
Griffon Heavy Mortar takes position behind a rock outcropping

A Hellhound is screened by PDF Armored Cars
which are Counts as Sentinels
Chimera with officer leads a battery of armored Griffon Mortars
An officer directs the placement of the Basilisk with armored crew compartment
A Destroyer Tank Hunter sets up to ambush Ork vehicles
An Imperial AA battery with Hydra and Manticores
PDF Ragnarok tanks protect a pair of Helga transports
Counts as Russ and Turretless Chimeras
PDF Scylla tankettes move to support a heavy weapon position
Counts as Sentinels with armored crew cabs

For those who stuck around to the end, I also have some bonus pictures of an Ork Stompa Tribe I was building but never finished before the bloom of warhammer 40K went off the rose for me.  Not using all those old 40K models is what prompted me to develop the Rampant Stars/Sun/Galaxies series of games in the first place.  

This army was going to be 6 Killa Kanz, 1 Deff Dread, a Big Mek, and a Stompa (Counts as Battlewagon) loaded with Ard Boyz.  Even the Big Mek was being built from scratch in this army.  As you can see, it was never fully finished.  This one also survived 3 house moves so far.... so one day maybe it will actually get completed?  Who knows? 

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page for more fun:

Or our website:

Or our Messageboard:

Or our Wargames Vault Page:

Monday, June 1, 2020

Wargame Design: Solo-Wargaming Scenarios

Since the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing as of this writing, it makes some sense to me to keep writing about Solo-warming.  So far in the series we have talked about gaming the opponent and deployment.  Today, we are going to talk a bit about the value of scenarios in solo-wargaming and how to make them work.  This is not the first time I have talked about scenarios, so you may also want to reference how to use them as a tool for balance, and how to go about designing a historical scenario

The key factor when trying to design a solo wargame is to create surprise for the player!  Typically, in a wargame surprise is created bu playing against another person with their own thoughts and ideas about how to achieve their objectives.  Obviously, in a solo-environment that type of surprise is not possible.  Therefore, the system itself needs to generate the surprise a game needs to be interesting for the solo player.

Scenarios are an excellent way to help add flavor and decision making to your solo wargames.  As the player, you need to balance completing the scenario objectives with killing off all your enemies.  Ideally, you will have to choose between (at minimum) three choices; killing enemies, protect your own forces, or achieve the objective.  These three points should be counter to each other.

Mission Matters
Let's consider the humble Space Hulk game.  There are a variety of missions, of forcing you to move between unknown points of the board while enemy gribblies close in on you from all sides.  This game demonstrates the decision making process for a solo-scenario very well.

1. There is very little chance you can kill all the enemies, since they consistently re-spawn.  Therefore, you need to focus on killing the ones that are a threat to you accomplishing your mission. 
2. There is little chance that all of your forces will survive.  Therefore, you have to decide when and where to sacrifice them for the most benefit.

3. The mission often forces you to go to X location and then Y location so you need to think through the best way to get from A to B with the least amount of distance, chance of encounter, etc. to get there.

You are always balancing the three main choice criteria during a game of Space Hulk.  You should either be killing enemies, protecting your forces, or accomplishing the mission.  There is a constant decision to be made from turn to turn, and decision making leads to fun and replayability.

As you can see, the scenario is the third pillar of the stool.  If there was no mission to accomplish in Space Hulk, you would just castle up in the easiest to defend room and kill genestealers until time ran out.  You can see the value of the mission to force movement and decision making.  However, the mission alone does not drive game play, as it is also impacted by factors such as enemy deployment style and how the enemies act.  Therefore, it is a challenge to think of scenario separate from the overall mechanics of the game.  They must be integrated together.

Anatomy of a Scenario
Here are some key things a scenario must do in a solo-wargame:

1. Force movement
A good scenario in a Solo-wargame must force movement from the solo-wargamer.  The natural tendency will be to castle up and let the enemy come to you.  The scenario will force a player to move, and therefore think about how they are moving and supporting their troops.

2. Time Restriction
Again, the idea here is to add tension to create "race against the clock" situation where you not only have to defeat the enemies, but also time itself.  This will help mitigate castling up, but also forces players to decide if they should detour to destroy a deployment zone or simply bypass it and hope they do not regret it later.  Decisions are the key, and adding time urgency forces decisions.

3. Provides an alternate win condition
Survival is a fine win condition, but that leads to cautious game play.  Alternate win conditions beyond survival is an effective way to force players to decide how much of a sacrifice is the right amount of sacrifice in order to accomplish the mission.

4. Complications
These are elements that make the mission more challenging as play progresses.  This could be as simple as where as enemies deploy, to special rules about terrain, or how players can interact with civilians.  These are little bits of Chrome or game hooks that add flavor but also friction for players to overcome.  They add replayability to the scenario as it won't always be the same mission even though the high level goals maybe the same.

There are a number of way to add complication to a scenario, they may be stated at the beginning of the mission, triggered by certain events, triggered by timing, or triggered by the players themselves.  No matter what type of complication is used, the goal is to add surprise, decision making, and replay factors to a solo-game.

5. Guidelines
Finally, a good scenario helps a player understand what is needed to be successful.  They offer broad guidelines for the player on what is needed to "win" the mission.  Get X number of troopers to Point Y in Z turns.  Now the player has some guidelines on what to do.

6. Opponents
Good scenarios also set-up good opponents.  How they deploy and act is a critical feature of making a strong scenario.  Too many opponents all attacking the same way may be overwhelming, while trickling opponents onto the field may not be challenging enough.  A good scenario creates a balance of enemies to objectives to make the scenario challenging but not impossible.

Scenarios are critical to a successful solo-wargaming experience.  They are necessary to create the proper conditions for game play.  A good scenario will force key decisions to be made, create added play value, and force the player themselves (You) into thinking about how to best balance the needs of the mission, survival of your force, and killing enemies!  Without a good mission, solo-play becomes stale and unrewarding very quickly.         

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page for more fun:

Or our website:

Or our Messageboard:

Or our Wargames Vault Page: