Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Star Wars and Samurai

There's been a bit of a lull since my last post. 

Since the Force on Force game at Guildford I've re-played the scenario in a game vs my son, who to be fair can usually kick me all over the park! The results came out much the same... a bloody tussle between both sides before the Rebels nicked the trucks and drove off into the sunset.  As he pointed out [not entirely unreasonably!] the forces need a little bit of tweaking for it to be a more balanced scenario and certainly the rebels preponderance of RPGs needs reducing.  Possibly because of that the game [and round 1 at Guildford] ended with burning vehicles everywhere... I really haven't got the hang of them!

Since then I've also played a very enjoyable Star Wars themed game of Stargrunt.  I last played these rules a few years ago and, despite some of the mechanics remaining a bit murky, they do seem a good rule set which reflect well games where there  are very different troop quality and tactics.  In this case the solid, reliable drilled forces of the Empire vs the rather flaky Rebels.  We decided to approach the game using 'historically accurate' tactics for the Stormtroopers [I know!].  In true George Lucas style this meant marching steadily towards the enemy in the open while failing to shoot anything... I like to think I played [and lost] with a lot of authenticity!!!

Keeping up the Star Wars theme...

Periodically I've mentioned how my son and I have been dabbling with Role Playing Games.  So far we've rediscovered AD&D [...ok...], Call of Cthulhu [... very good...] and Space Opera [...good, but long winded...].

Recently we came across adverts for the latest Star Wars RPG game, Edge of the Empire from Fantasy Flight Games.  There's been a Beta set of rules kicking around for a while which had passed me by and I discovered the new 'proper' rules were about to be released.  In a moment of madness I ordered the rulebook [not cheap although comparable with other RPG rules it seems].  The book itself is pretty hefty at 440 odd pages long and is a really nicely produced tome.

Character generation is pretty straightforward... choose a race, choose a class, allocate points to skills and buy equipment.  There are 8 races to choose from [including Wookies and Droids] and 6 classes, each of which has specialisations.  The emphasis seems to be on creating a game that is 'cinematic' in the way the story unfolds which is true to the films and suits the type of game I like.  The setting is during the 'proper' Star Wars films and events take place just after the destruction of Death Star I although I think people have set games in the earlier Episode I-III setting.  The game also includes some really nicely produced background fluff for the SW universe and rules for starship combat which I haven't got round to yet but which again appear to be very 'cinematic'.

The defining feature of the game [and the one I'm still trying to get my head round!] is the range of special dice which are used.  There are a selection of opposing dice which are rolled in order to succeed in actions.  At a basic level these are opposing skill rolls based on skills and characteristics but extra factors [and dice] can then be added in or upgraded or downgraded to reflect things like environmental factors [a passing cloud over the moon casts a deep shadow...], setbacks [... a twig snaps under your foot...], etc.  The resulting pool of dice give an indication of whether the character has succeeded but qualify that so that the result may mean, for example, an action succeeds but raises suspicion and so makes it harder for following characters.  There are a whole load of factors involved here and it does potentially seem overly complex but it does allow for the GM to give his or her own interpretation to the dice and use these to steer the story.  There are also Destiny Points which allow players and the GM to directly change results [... naturally it's all down to the Force]... the neat feature here is that if the player uses a Light side point to positively influence  a result, this is then changed to a Dark Side point which the GM can then use to bugger things up so there is always a balance.

I'm still trying to work out how practical this dice system will be in practice.  We haven't actually played through a scenario yet but have tried out a few examples to try and get it straight in our heads and it does feel as though it could work once you get into the swing of it.  This does mean, of course, that you need to shell out for some special dice with appropriate symbols on them.  The rules do give a method of using ordinary polyhedral dice and there is a download available to print stickers.  Inevitably though its easier just to buy the special dice!  There is also an App available for your tablet or iPhone which is actually quite neat and can also roll dice for the Star Wars X Wing game as well as 'ordinary' dice.

the SW dice App

FFG appear to be planning a whole range of supplements for classes etc but there is also, as you'd ecpect, a whole load of stuff appearing online to add to the game, including extra races [Ewoks... boo!...and Jawas...yay!!], scenarios etc.

It's probably still too early to say if this is 'the' SW game but there are some interesting mechanics which could work if they haven't made it too complex [and I say this as someone who liked Space Opera :)  ] but even so, the book's a very nice thing and would appeal to Star Wars fans generally.

Giving in to temptation....

At some point I plan to review the list of projects that I produced at the beginning of the year but I already know I've failed miserably to stick to a plan [like that's going to surprise anyone who knows me!!].  My latest moment of weakness...apart from the Edge of the Empire rules... has been pre-ordering the new Ronin Samurai skirmish rules from Osprey and 2 of the factions from North Star.  Yeah... like I really needed to dabble in something else!! 

My son has also pointed out that I got really frustrated trying to paint Samurai in 15mm so how is it going to be any easier in 28mm?  I'm hoping it will be but I have a feeling I may have set myself up for a fall!  Of the sets I've ordered are monks so at least there will be lots of Saffron Robes instead of intricate lacing!!!

The Bushi and Sohei factions which I've rashly pre-ordered...will I never learn!!!!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Grand Theft Merrostan

Another game of Force on Force this week.  I've always tended to work through scenarios from the FoF books but this time decided to use my own.  I continued with the Imagi-nation setting of Merrostan [so called because the club is based in Merrow] following the game we played a few weeks ago.  Partly this is because I've always been slightly squeamish about playing games set in ongoing conflicts... I know this doesn't bear too much close analysis but there you go!  It also allows me to play fast and loose with force composition and get out the random collection of vehicles and kit from my AK47 games

This weeks game pitched Merrostani Government troops against the brave fighters of the Merrostani People's Liberation Front (MPLF).  Both sides had learnt a truck carrying a valuable cargo had been abandoned in an isolated village and dispatched troops to secure the prize.

The village centre

Although most troops were evenly balanced, the Govt Troops were slightly better armed and had brought along an uparmoured Hummer and a Panhard armoured car for support.  The MPLF were a bit more varied with a steadier hardened cadre accompanied by 2 BTRs (clearly some dodgy deals going on between Russia and Merrostan!), and a poorer quality section (but with high morale) and a couple of Technicals.  Anthony and Martin took the Govt side while Steve and I were the plucky rebels , with me commanding the poorer quality hordes.

In order to prevent either side making a rapid move in turn 1 and nabbing the truck, I restricted moves in the initial turn to tactical... assuming that everyone was cautiously approaching the town in case of ambushes.  After this cautious start the MPLF seized the initiative and advanced on the left side of town.  Steve pushed the first BTR ahead of the infantry where it almost immediately fell victim to a well aimed AT round.  Undaunted he repeated this with BTR #2 which escaped with 'only' a knocked out gun.  Steve's infantry meanwhile cautiously advanced through the buildings on the edge of the village. 

The BTRs come under fire

Over on the other flank I'd quickly established that my infantry really were pants.... it's surprising how significant a single die shift can be!  My technicals, inspired by Steve's BTRs' bravery, advanced and paid a similar price, coming under heavy fire from Govt troops in buildings on the other side of town.  My squads and theirs exchanged fire repeatedly with the MPLF slowly being eroded by the superior gunfire from their enemies but at least they were tying down several units who were being distracted and using up their reaction fire dice.

The Technicals charge out and  fail to learn from the BTRs example!

Having lost most of our vehicles and all of our vehicle mounted firepower, Steve decided on an unusual tactic... ramming!  His mobile [but gun-less] BTR raced through the village and crashed into the rear of the Panhard.  Having established that there weren't any rules to cover this we agreed that some damage was possible if the Panhard failed to react and get out of the way.  Both the Armoured Car and the infantry squad failed to react [presumably baffled as to what on earth the driver was doing!] and the infantry had to draw a Fog of War card which caused a random casualty on the unit. In the excitement of the crashing APCs one of the infantry leaned out a little too far from his rooftop position and fell to his death!  After all that the Panhard was fine, if a little dented!

Crunch!  There goes the no claims bonus!

A second FoW card led to the adjacent Govt unit being overcome with a sense of dread... probably caused by seeing their friend plummet to his death!... and sheltered in a clump of trees, refusing to advance any further.

By now the firefight on my flank was slowly wearing down my troops although there were still enough to cause the Govt troops problems although they were also fairly intact.  In the village centre the fight had turned into a close range fight with squads on both sides being knocked down in rapid succession.  The Hummer had also come under sustained fire from several squads who failed to knock it out but did disable it's HMG and forced it to retreat.

As the evening was drawing to an end it looked as though things were going to end in a stalemate when Steve revealed his cunning plan... the crew of the knocked out BTR had been skulking in one of the buildings since the early part of the game, keeping their heads down and chose their moment well.  They sprinted out and into the truck, tearing off down the road to safety and victory and leaving everyone else staring at each other across the town centre, slightly confused about what to do next!

So a narrow victory for the MPLF.  As always we forgot several useful and/or important rules, despite having written up a checklist for each player of 'things we usually forget'.  We did remember to draw Fog of War cards [thanks to Steve's reminders] but forgot that we could use Suppression fire and smoke which might have been a useful tactic for my poorer quality militia.  We also really didn't get the hang of vehicles [or at least Steve and I did... Anthony and Steve seemed to be managing fine!].


Saturday, 6 July 2013


I had the pleasure of taking part in a great pirate game this week, courtesy of Giles and his Shed. A very detailed report can be found here....

Shed Wars

...suffice to say that my Redcoats under the command of Col. Billy Smart didn't exactly cover themselves in glory but at least overall we managed to drive the Pirate Scum out of the town (even if the Governors daughter and her impressive hat did go missing during the chaos and were last seen sailing off in a Pirate ship!)

A great evening and many thanks to Giles for hosting and organising.

Friday, 5 July 2013

10 000!!!

Unbelievably I seem to have reached 10 000 views!

Small fry compared with many of you Blogging giants out there but given that I started this last November assuming no one would really be that interested, I'm pretty chuffed!

Many thanks to everyone who has popped in over the last 8 months


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Angels 20

I was never a huge fan of the Axis and Allies collectible miniatures games. I don't have a particular problem with the concept of random box contents but I've never been sure it works for something like WW2 games... the Star Wars boxes worked ok as you could field a random assortment of Rebel Scum and Imperial Heroes [it's obvious where my sympathies lie!]  but I could never get my head round the idea of fielding a motley collection of tanks and vehicles from various nationalities.

On Monday though we played the Axis and Allies Angels 20 game, using the starter set.

This was released last year but passed me by completely. The started set contains 6 pre-painted planes [Me 109s, Spitfire, Hurricane and Me110 amongst others] which unusually come in 1:100] scale.

We played out the initial scenario matching a pair of Me109s against a Spitfire and Hurricane.  Each plane has their own specific rules and bonuses, reflecting the plane and pilot quality.  We played out the scenario 3 times but sadly in each game Anthony [who's game it is] blew me out of the sky.  I had stubbornly stuck with the Luftwaffe in each game, determined to try and improve my performance but although I managed to take out the Hurricane, the Spitfire managed to shoot down both Me109s in each game!

A Messerschmit about to bite the dust!

The angled bases give a really good effect
of climbing and diving planes

The rules give a fast and easy to pick up game which is ideal for a club evening.  Personally I prefer Bag the Hun which is the best Air war ruleset I've seen but the game is perfect as an occasional filler.

The models are really nice with good paintjobs and detail.  They come with very neat flight stands which pivot, allowing you to angle the planes up or down or to bank.... this is reflected in the rules where position can give bonuses but commits you to climbing or diving etc in the following turn.

My immediate reaction was... oooh... why haven't I got some of these for Bag the Hun!  Then I remembered the box full of 1:300 planes that I already own and for once, reason and common sense kicked in!  Of course there's no guarantee my resolve will hold out!!