Monday, May 10, 2021

Battle Report: Glittering Void- ID and Engage


If you are in desktop version, on the left hand side of the blog you will see a WIP section of the blog.  That is where I put various games I am still working on and adapting for play.  Today's game is called Glittering Void and it can be found in that section of the rules.  

The trading contract for the Freehold of New Arcadia will expire and come up for re-negotiation in the next rotations.  Traditionally, these contracts have been held by corporate interests aligned with the New Olympians, and New Arcadia was considered within the New Olympians sphere of interests.  However, the free hold is located in the Asteroid Belt, which the Earth Alliance views at its territory.   

With the contract set to expire, elements of the Earth Alliance have begun aggressively courting New Arcadia.  They have offered lucrative incentives, and coupled them with veiled threats.  In fact, some smaller trading and prospecting vessels from New Arcadia have gone missing in the region.  The Earth Alliance has cited this as a prime reason to change contracts, as the New Olympians have failed to properly protect and enforce the expiring contract.

The powers that be on NeOlympus have deemed it necessary to reinforce their alliance on New Arcadia.  To this end, they have deployed a patrol ship and a compliment of suits to New Arcadia space.  A Carrier arrived and dropped off just such a ship before continuing on its route.  The New Olympian commander on the scene has pledged to find the cause of the missing prospecting vessels.    

 Investigating the last know location of one of these New Arcadian Prospecting ships, the New Olympians had unusual activity on their scopes.  Interference was being thrown out by a large Radiation Band in the area.  Therefore, a patrol of Suits was deployed to investigate further. 


New Olympians

3 Ares Space Combat Suits

1 Ares Space Combat Suit

- Upgrade #2: Dual Heavy Beams


1 Polemarch Suit

- Upgrade- Combat Shield

4 Hoplite Suits

- 1 Upgrade- Rocket Tube

Unknows on the Left, New Olympians on the Right

Of course, today's play test will be featuring my (in)famous Paper Templates!   

I use dice to raise or lower their altitude.  On the table is Alpha, 1 dice is Beta, and 2 dice is Gamma level.  

I also made some small paper circles for future games that will be used to show the direction travelled.  A key part of this game is that you can travel one direction, but face another.  Facing is based on the Front (marked with an F on my templates) and the direction of travel will be based on the triangle on the marker below the template.  Make sense? 


Today's mission is found in the main rulebook.  In this scenario, unknown blips have been detected and combat units have been deployed to identify the unknowns and determine who they are.  You can score additional Victory Points by using your sensors to "ID" a target as well as normal combat processes. 


Today's game will be on a 48 MU x 48 MU board with 1 MU being one inch.  There is a Radiation band that goes across the board at Alpha and Beta level.  This radiation band has been making long range Identification of the unknowns difficult.  It is 12 MU wide and arcs across near the center line of the board.  I am using pipe cleaners to differentiate the edges.    

The Unknowns are on one side of the Radiation band, while the New Olympians are on the other.  All suits are deployed up to 6 MU from the board edge.  The New Olympians are at various altitude bands and speeds.  The Earth Alliance are all at Alpha level and coming on at full speed.       

Turn 1:

The "Unknowns" have more units, so they can activate a unit first.  Each player chooses the Maneuver cards for their suits and marks it on the H.U.D. along with their speed and altitude. 


Both sides speed towards the radiation belt.  However, no one breaches it this turn.  Two New Olympian Suits are above the Radiation Belt at Gamma altitude, but none of the Unknows are there to match them.  


No one has the range for shooting yet.

You can see the height and direction indicators in action!

Turn 2:

The Unknowns still have more Units, so have the Initiative.  


Unknown H3 breaks the Radiation Belt at Alpha.  He is met by A6 speeding up and maneuvering into the belt at Beta, while A7 (with his dual Beam Cannons) escorts him in and drops to Beta as well.  Unknown H4 tries to maneuver into the Belt, but is just shy at Beta Altitude.  

The New Olympian A5 breaks the edge of the Radiation Belt, and he is met by two incoming unknowns at Alpha level as well.  One rotates away from him, while the other stays close by.  A5 is covered by A2 at beta level.  

Finally, Unkown P1 enters the edge of the Radiation Belt and pivots towards A6, both at Beta.  


Unkown P1 has Pilot skill of 4+ and Initiative, so they attack first.  A6 is in the proper arc and medium range. The Unknown hits once, but the New Olympian suits shrugs off the blast with its armor! 

The New Olympians have a higher Pilot skill than the remaining Unknown suits, so they shoot next.  A7 with the dual Beam cannons targets H4 and thanks to Extra Damage blasts the suit into inert junks!  

Ares suit 5 fires on Unknown H2 at range, but the shot bounces off the Suits armor.  A2 fires at Unknown P1 at range, and hits; blasting off the suits combat arm!  Ares Suit 6 does not have the right arc to target H3.  

The Unknowns fire back!  H3 fires on A6, but misses due to radiation messing with his gun sights.  H1 also streaks by targeting A6 and his Mass driver tears into the enemy suit and damages its thrusters.  Despite getting attack himself, H2 is out of range of the attacker! 

Turn 3:

Both sides have the same amount of models, so they dice off.  The "Unknowns" have Initiative.  Everyone chooses maneuver cards.   


Suits scattered as the fighting intensified!  H3 and A7 rocked past each other at Beta altitude.  Meanwhile A6 dodged out of the opposite side of the belt, but facing the wrong way and ending at altitude Alpha.  H1 tried to pursue, but was too slow.  A2 and P1 both ended up going high and breaking out of the Rad Belt, but unable to draw a good bead on each other.  Finally, A5 and H1 got very close and started circling each other at Alpha level. 


P1 gets to try to shoot first, but he has no targets!  

A5 manages to scan Unknown H2 as he lashes out with his combat arm!  He misses!  The New Olympians are our of shots.  

H2 tries to attack A5 back, but fails to land his punch.  H1 uses his Mass Rifle on A7 one altitude up from him.  He snags the Dual Heavy Beamed Ares but not enough to take it out!     

Turn 4: 

The Unknowns continue to have Initiative.  


The two sides are beginning to break apart, and will need to maneuver back in to continue the fight.  However, there may be some opportunity fire.  


A2 fires a long rang beam shot at H1, but misses.  A2 and H2 exchange fire, but fail to find the mark in the Radiation Belt.

Turn 5: 

The Unknowns continue to have initiative. 


H3 and H2 move back into the belt to engage at Beta and Alpha respectively.  P1 also drops back into the belt to Beta.  They are met by A2, A6, and A7 all coming back into the fight.  H1 and A5 are dueling beyond the belt.  


P1 fires on Ares A2 but misses.  

A7 fires his dual Heavy beam Cannons at H3, but some how he flies on through the blast!  A2 also targets H3, and damages his controls! A6 also fires but misses.  A5 fires on H1, and knocks the pilot unconscious with a blast to the cockpit, taking its Pilot rating above 7+ and taking it out of action. 

H3 returns fire on A6 but misses as well.  H5 flies by and fires on A6 and blasts the suit into atoms with his Mas rifle!       


The Unknowns have lost 2 suits, to the New Olympians 1.  The New Olympians also got 1 ID on the Unknowns.

Turn 6:         

This time, the New Olympians snatch the Initiative.  


The remaining Unknowns swarm Ares 2 in the Radiation Belt at Alpha level.  A5 tries desperately to get back into the fight, while A7 is at Beta and can not provide covering fire.  This could be the last firefight of the game. 


A2 gets a clean ID of P1 and H3.  He then fires at the unIDed target.  The close range firepower is too much for the suit, and leaves it drifting lifeless in space. 

P1 fires up close at A2. The close range Mas Rifle fire is enough and totals A2.  From outside of the Rad belt, A5 fires his Beam Rifle at P1, and manages to score a hit that causes internal damage and reduces P1 Thrust by 1.    

H3 no longer has any shots as A5 is too far away and A2 was destroyed.  

Turn 7- Disengagement Turn

The Unknowns regain the Initiative. 


P1 and H3 try to break off back to their home base.  However, A5 goes head-to-head with the retreating H3 at Alpha level.  A7 continues to stay at Beta and try to cover the retreat back to their patrol ship.  


A5 opens fire at close range on H3 and blasts the enemy suit to pieces.  Boom! 


New Olympians win 75 VP to 40 VP.  

Even before the patrol returned, the Intel crew were analyzing the signature IDs sent back to the Patrol Ship.  It was clear that the Unknown Suits that had been engaged were Earth Alliance models, but that wouldn't be enough to pin the missing prospecting craft on them.  The Earth Alliance sold their hardware to anyone with enough resources to buy them.  They could just as easily been pirates, mercenaries, or rebels.  More work would need to be done if the New Olympians were going to prove that the Earth Alliance was somehow involved.  

So, how did the game play.  If White Star/Red Star is intended to make the "flying" part of the game easier, this did the opposite!  You have to carefully use your thrust to rotate facing, rotate direction of movement, AND choose the right Maneuver card to get into a position to use your weapons.  

Thankfully, the 3 altitude makes it mush easier, with most suits being able to shoot up a level as well.  Therefore, the "engagement" radius is pretty large but there is also a lot of maneuver you can do to try and avoid combat for a bit.  It is all about careful planning and the order of activation.  

The Radiation Belt made the fighting up-close and personal.  I reduced the speeds to 1 MU instead of 2 MU per rating (accidentally) and that helped on a 48 MU x 48MU board.  Plus, the Rad Belt slows suits down too.  They could be zipping all over the board otherwise!  I do not have a problem with that!  

The game was supposed to capture the feel of an Anime dogfight, and I think it does that pretty well!  Suits are zipping around all over the place.  Guns are blazing.  Suits can get special damage that impact their performance.  Finally, there were several cinematic moments in the game as Mecha suits fired as they flew past each other and away, they tried to hit each other on a few close passes, and the closer you got the more deadly everything was!  

I want to try playing through it a few more times before I pass final judgement.  maneuvering was a bit more intensive than I normally like, BUT those maneuvers do capture the right feel of the game.  The H.U.D. was also invaluable as an off board tracking system.  I think I might be able to ditch the maneuver cards, but I need to try some non-suit only games before I decide.  The cards seems like they will make non-suits maneuver more realistically.  Finally, there are a couple niggling details to iron out as well just to smooth out play.    

Another W.I.P. game managed to hit the table this year!  I am pretty happy about that! Give Glittering Void a try for yourself, and let me know what you think in the message board.      

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Monday, May 3, 2021

Review: Gangs of Rome- Warbanner/Footsore Miniatures


I picked up the Gangs of Rome PDF during a Black Friday sale at Footsore Miniatures.  I didn't download the PDF until January of 2021, and then I did not get a chance to read and absorb them before now.  Therefore, they have been sitting in my "inbox" for a while now.  

I have to admit, the concept for this game intrigued me greatly.  A "historical" gang fight game set in the Eternal City in the days of the Senate?  Intriguing.  I have always had a soft spot for gladiators and the like.  I knew that gladiators  were often hired out as street thugs and toughs for the favor of their patron.  I had been doing a lot of research on Ancient Rome for Wars of the Republic and The Games: Blood and Spectacles.   The period of the Gracchi brothers and the cold war between the Optimates and the Populares, and even earlier the Plebians vs the Patricians and the political infighting was a source of much interest.  A low-level game to help play out such political turmoil using the ideas of the Roman patronage system and shadow power seemed very intriguing to me! 

In addition, the game promised spectacle!  Rome was the city of Brick and Marble.  It was the growing power of the world, and was constantly growing, building, and changing.  In a way, it was like an Ancient Underhive as it grew larger, more populous, and more divided.  The boards for a game set in Rome promised to be interesting, unique, and dense.  I doubt my wallet or talents could do it justice.  

Finally, I had actually had a similar game in my Concept Folder to build.  I sat on it, as I grew intimidated by the research I would need to do for it.  However, it looks like my hesitation will be rewarded as someone beat me to the punch! 

Let us explore the streets of Rome together! 

From the Rulebook PDF for Gangs of Rome

Prelude to Gangs of Rome:

Before we get too far, I think it is important to discuss the "novel" approach this game planned to take with their miniature releases.  They intended to sell a model that came with a randomly generated card with a name, stats, and bit of information about the fighter such as where they hailed from and what gods they worshipped.  This would also come with 4 Denarii (or coins) that would map to gear in the game, 2 common, 1 uncommon, and 1 rare.  Even if you bought 10 of the same Fighter 5 pose, you could have completely different stats and equipment become available from those exact same models.  

This is referred to as the Hand of Fate in the rules.  In a way, it was like a combination of collectible minis, collectible cards, and blind packs but you knew exactly the sculpt you were going to get.    This was a ..... novel approach.  I feel before I get to far into the game, it is very important to understand this aspect Gangs of Rome and it may shed insight into why the rules are built the way they are.

I will save my thoughts on this business model and product decision to the end as I feel it is separate from the game mechanics themselves.  Lately, I have found that game design and product design are two different sides of the same coin.  

From the Gangs of Rome Rules PDF

What I Liked:

Dice rolling is simple and easy.  You are looking for successes and a 4+ is a success 90% of the time. Each stat is a pool of dice you use for your tests.  Test are either against a target # of successes if unopposed, or opposed with the highest number of successes winning.  Simple and just the way I like my dice rolls.  However, injury removes dice from your pool, so too many injuries may keep you alive but just really bad at doing things! I like! 

On the cards, it states where a fighter is from and who their gods are.  This is relevant in the game.  Fighters from the same place have advantages over fighters from different locations.  They do not block Line-of-sight or movement.  Therefore, if you randomly get a couple fighters from the same location you have a decision about how you want to use them.  This is a simple and elegant little bit of Chrome to bring Strategic choice to your little warband. 

As for the gods, a Model can choose to spend their activation praying to their gods.  They make a roll and a success allows them to gain a bit of inspiration.  They type of inspiration also varies based on the gods that they follow.  Therefore, a model can always try to do something useful whenever they are activated, even if they are not fighting.  

The game use a bank of coins called a Denarii.  You get a collection of Denarii based on the size of your gang, and the rarity of the Denarii you have selected.  These are weapons, special abilities, and equipment that can be shifted around between your gang as the game progresses.  You shuffle the Denarii in an out of your bank as a form of resource management to help off set the abilities of your foe, off set your model's weakness, or capitalize on their strengths.  The bank is also depleted as you use it, and will not recycle until all Denarii are used.  This is one of the unique resource management elements of the game and acts as a deck of abilities and powers you can use and assign to various fighters and swap them around during the game as well. 

The game also assumes that the city of Rome is full of people!  Therefore, there are various Mobs of people moving about that act as a complication, terrain, and more.  The good side is the added value and options these Mobs can bring as they go from ordinary to angry and vice versa.  They can be used as a tactical element as well by forcing them to panic or drawing them closer to you.  On the down side, it starts to make a skirmish game rather model heavy!   

One of my favorite actions is to Blend.  With this you can move up to a Mob Base and essentially disappear into the Mob.  A fighter who has blended may later return to play from ANY mob marker on the board.  This is a great little mechanic!

From the Gangs of Rome Rulebook PDF

What I Did Not Like:

The game uses a blind bag draw system for activation.  This is a perfectly serviceable method that allows for randomization and uncertainty of activation order.  Many games have used it to good effect and it is a tried and true game mechanic.  I personally am not a huge fan of it as I prefer to make decisions that impact order activation preferably on a risk/reward continuum.  I am thinking games like Blood Bowl or Hail Caesar with their push-your-luck method or even The Men Who Would Be Kings  where there is a default action if you fail the activation role.  Even Turf War where you get a base action and then trying to do more risks losing initiative.  

The game has a number of specific actions or combinations of actions.  For example, you can Combat + Move, or Charge Move + Combat; but there is no simple Move + Combat.    Another interesting note is the more wounds you have received, the slower you can move, but charge distance is tied to their fighting score and not based on Flesh.  This feels a bit like a If This/Then That type of rule and the kind of thing I always mess up when I am actually playing the game!     

There are a surprising amount of rules for moving through and over terrain in this game.  Detecting folks coming up a ladder, ambushing them at the top of a climb, cut a rope, etc.  They take up about 2 pages in a 36 page book with a lot of illustrations.  Moving over terrain can require a lot of dice rolling and injury to go from point A to Point B.  I am not sure how I feel about this yet as it seems really cumbersome and full of Niche cases, but I am sure it is intended to add "flavor" or "tactics" to the game.  It just looks hard to remember.  

From the Gangs of Rome Rulebook PDF

 Meh and Other Uncertainties 

The game is played on a 3x3 foot board, which is nice as it will be hard to fill a larger board with the appropriate terrain.  This is a terrain heavy game.  

Similarly to moving, there are also two types of attacks.  Blood that cause physical injury and reduce a foes ability scores is one.  The other is called Brawl and impact a models placement on the board.  The default attack is a Blood attack, but Brawl could be useful for positioning purposes.  Blood is Fight vs Defense, while Brawl attacks are Attack vs Agility.  In theory, I like the idea of the two kinds of attacks as it adds decision making and some tactics, however I feel like other game systems have done it simpler and better.  Specifically, I am thinking about Dracula's America and their "Shove" mechanic.  However, this game system is trying really hard to add tactical depth once melee has been engaged and not be just a stand and roll dice affair.     

If you lose a game, you are required to print and sign a Personal Influence Marker.  This is essentially a campaign point that you can use against this opponent in the future.  You can collect several of them to be raised to the Senatorial class OR you can cash them in and use them for an advantage in the game.  They are a form of very personalized campaign scoring.  I think this could be a hoot in a small gaming group or club, but is a bit clumsy.  The rules require you to make, retain, and hand off these Personal Influence Markers in order to use them.  

The PDF rules I purchased had 3 scenarios included, and index, and a QRS. 

From the Gangs of Rome Rulebook PDF

Final Thoughts:  

CCG, with Collectible Miniatures, meets wargaming.  That is my basic summary of the rules for Gangs of Rome.  Personally, it is not to my taste at all, but I can see its appeal as a "product" to be sold in a package.  After all, you have randomly generated fighter cards and special abilities when you buy a pack.  The game also has extra monetization built in with pebbles, pebble bags, measurement devices and custom dice, which to be fair you do not NEED to play the game.  However, you do need the cards and the Denarii coins that come with the models.  I have no idea how many different common, uncommon, and rare Denarii coins there are.   

It is essentially the X-wing "product" model but with Historical models.  

That being said, there is a difference between "Product Design" and "Game Design".  Game design is focused on the mechanics and choices that players must make in game to successfully complete a game.  In this aspect, there are several design aspects I like.  It is a pretty solid game system that is trying really hard to provide choices in melee and movement.  In some areas I think it is trying a bit too hard, but there are also some nice ideas hidden in there as well.  

If you are wondering what the big draw is mechanically I think there are a couple of ideas:  

  1. Mobs as a tactical and complicating element of the game
  2. Using a "deck" to augment and empower models as a resource and fog-of-war
  3. Injury impacting ability 1 for 1  
To me, those are the big "Innovations" in this ruleset as a game.  

However, much of this game is really "Product Design" and dabbling with new ways to monetize the wargaming hobby, especially for skirmish level games.  In that sense, it is trying to take the successful X-wing model and apply it to historical skirmish.  As far as concepts go, it is not a bad one.  However, I think to be truly successful they would need Pre-painted models and Terrain packs.  In addition, they also need special rules associated with the terrain packs they created similar to Marvel: Crisis Protocol.  

I think I will save further discussion about Product Design vs. Game Design for a different entry.  Suffice it to sat that I find this trend in monetization and product design in the industry to be.... sub-optimal..... for my tastes and preferences. 

Overall, not a bad game but not one I see myself playing due to the terrain needs and the monetization model associated with the game.      

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