Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hallowe'en Zombie Game Battle Report!

Sometimes it's fun to do club games themed around a particular holiday or time of year. Remembrance Day is a good example. This year Hallowe'en fell on Friday and the game on Thursday, so I teed up something appropriate... Urban Zombies!!

Each player took control of 5-8 models, each representing a different faction. US Army, Big Pharma Mercenaries, Management Suits, SWAT Team, Urban Street Gang, etc.   Several objective markers were scattered about the board, representing plague antidote vials, bags of cash, porno mags, etc. and grabbing one of these for your faction gained you a victory point.

There were a bunch of zombie spawning barrels scattered around, too. Zombies would spawn randomly each turn and move towards the closest humans. Zombie kills were tracked by faction and served as tiebreakers in the event of equal VPs scored.

The zombies are the "solanum" type described in World War Z and other genre sources. Basically they need to be shot/hit in the head to be sure of a kill. We use a modified version of GW's Lord of the Rings with some additions for how hard it is to kill zombies (basically either call a "headshot" at -1 to hit, or re-roll successful To Wound rolls) and for automatic weapons.

The Big Pharma Mercenaries spot zombies coming out of the Bank.

Getting closer!!

Here's the SWAT team getting up close and personal with a zombie horde.

Conscripts busily plotting their next moves. We used a card activation system; each player was assigned a playing card put into a deck, and when his card was drawn he took his turn to move or shoot.

Conscript Indo moving his Corporate Suits (Foundry models, below).

Conscript Jim ran the Urban Street Gang (Bobby Jackson's "Thugs" - awesome figures). He was pretty successful in picking up objective markers despite (or because of?) the short range of his gang's weapons.

Here they are sitting on objective #4.

Shotgun template!!!

Travolta lookalike surveys the situation.

Conscript Frederick ran the Mercenaries and they racked up an impressive bodycount.

After eliminating a score of zeds they aimed at a bigger prize - the Corporate Suits.

Conscript Dave had the US Army team that also stacked up zeds like cordwood.

I think the best part of the game was the amount of friendly kills Jim racked up with his homies. They didn't scruple in the slightest at shooting into melees between zombies and their own comrades and invariably, the bullets hit their buddies.

The final standings were as follows:

Dave: 2VP + 16 zombie kills
Jim: 2VP + 2 kills (+2 kills on his own men :-)
Mike: 1VP + 14 kills
Frederick: 0VP + 15 kills
Indo: 0VP + 1 kill (yay!!)

We didn't have any prizes per se but the lads polished off the best part of a box of 50 mini chocolate bars :-)  Each time we play this game we've had a good time. The learnings from this session were that "hits" on zombies that don't kill should knock them back. Cinematic and good for gameplay too. We'll do that next time for sure!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

British WW2 1st Airborne in 15mm

British Airborne platoon & support in 15mm for Chain of Command etc.
Here is a group of British WW2 paras from the 1st Airborne Division in 15mm.  The figures are all from Peter Pig, and they are based for individual skirmish games like Chain of Command, Bolt Action, etc.

"Should only be some light resistance...fellows on bicycles!"
Like so many gamers I enjoy the ill-fated Operation Market Garden as a scenario for WW2 gaming, but this is the first time I have painted my own figures for the setting.  I expect these fellows could participate in some D-day-themed games as well, although I must say I know little to nothing of their role in that massive operation (shameful ignorance) (update to my shameful ignorance - apparently a different Airborne Division was involved in Normandy, not the 1st - see comments below).

Rifle sections, supported by a Bren gun team
The heroic dash and stand at the bridge in Arnhem, and the grinding and futile wait for XXX Corps to arrive in Oosterbeek provide great scenario possibilities.  Dallas was kind enough to let me set one up a few weeks ago with his beautiful 28mm figure collection.  I know he purchased a 15mm SS platoon at some point last fall, so I'm hoping he may paint them up and set the stage for some 15mm games in the future too. 

The two hex bases have the senior leaders of the platoon - I really like how the senior NCO turned out...
There is a full platoon of three sections (well everything but a sniper) and a few extra goodies - another PIAT team and a Vickers machine-gun.

PIAT team on the right and a light mortar team on the left
The basic Vickers team pack from Peter Pig has a three-man crew, but I painted a few extra fellows with Sten guns to go along with them - in Chain of Command these weapons are often a five-man team. 
A Vickers MG team - that will keep Jerry ducking!

Another view of the Vickers team - I will probably have to re-base that near fellow now that I look at this photo...he's an NCO...
The senior officers of the platoon are on hex-shaped bases, while the other NCOs, section leaders etc are on square bases.  Everyone else gets a 20mm round base.  I considered a different shape base for the Sten gunners, but in the end my obtuse aesthetic gaming preferences could only accept so many different base shapes, so we'll just have to squint a bit :) That is the main weakness of skirmish gaming with figures of this size - those fellows with the Stens blend right it in - but I enjoy many other aspects of it a lot, so I'm sticking with it.

Extra PIAT team - such a bonkers weapon, but fun to use in games
Between the Bren guns and the extra senior officer in the platoon this force would actually be pretty nasty on the table in a Chain of Command game - hopefully we can try that out sometime and see for ourselves. 

Another view of the Bren section - two Bren gun teams, would be quite useful in Chain of Command
Painting the camouflage smocks of the paras was not particularly easy, and I can't describe my technique as much more than a few different browns, tans and greens, washed and re-highlighted, in a mushed pattern that on a 15mm size figure doesn't look too terrible.  I don't think I could manage these guys in a larger scale...

Bren section - two Bren teams - lots of firepower!
Once again, Peter Pig provides the best 15mm WW2 figures to be found, and some of the neatest figures generally.  Sometime I will add some more support for these fellows from Peter Pig's extensive WW2 range.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sedition Wars Project - Mini-Update

I did not get into the Kickstarter when Sedition Wars was first offered. So, some of the Kickstarter-only rewards have been hard to find. I was able to buy on eBay a few "Opticamo" Vanguard Samaritans and heroes - think thermo-optic camouflage from Ghost in the Shell.

These are clear resin models, to represent when a figure has been thusly cloaked. In game terms, this costs a Tactic from the Tactics Pool every turn to place the model in Opticamo Mode, but allows the model to activate without triggering enemy Reflex actions, treats the model as if in cover for enemy abilities that rely on visibility, and grants the model a negative modifier to be attacked!

I just finished an Opticamo version of Operator Akosha Nama. It was slightly easier to clean up than the original restic model. I used both super glue and 5-minute epoxy for assembly. Its stock frosty surface looks better, in my opinion, than the clear gloss finish that I have seen used for other clear resin figs.

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I airbrushed zenithal highlights on the lower portion of the figure, using Vallejo Black and White surface primers.  I then laid in thin  glazes of GW Asurmen Blue for her boots and jumpsuit, and glazed both her smock and base with Badab Black. The paintjob also hides the pin I used affixing the figure to its base. The resulting effect simulates Akosha activating her camouflage.

For comparison, here is a photo of the original figure I painted some months ago.

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I wanted something other than just a ghostly figure on the table, and I think the effect works out OK.

There's at least one fan-made Sedition Wars scenario out there pitting a lone Opticamo Akosha against a horde of enemies...

Edited to Add: A solo Akosha scenario, "Cocci", is located here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skin The Cats - A Chain of Command Tank Battle

"I guess we'll walk back to the front lines then..."
Last week was a fun one for gaming.  Not only did we get to try Dave V's cool Death Star trench run scenario for Star Wars, but I was able to test a new Chain of Command scenario with the help of conscript Byron M on Friday. The figures and terrain are all 15mm.

Patrol Phase complete - Byron made me some laser cut wood markers for Chain of Command, and I painted them up; I like the effect
I am a major league tread-head - tank battles are pretty much my favourite games.  Games like "Flames of War" certainly give you a chance to shoot up a whole bunch of tanks in a short game, and that can be fun - a lot of fun - but I am always on the lookout for a set of rules that could provide players with a more involved perspective of tanks and armour without bogging everyone down in needless (and boring) details.

Russian Patrol Marker

German Patrol Marker
With its unique activation mechanics, Chain of Command fits that bill. In the basic/original rules, however, tanks are add-ons to a force, so it could be hard to keep them moving/firing due to limitations on the dice pool - you can only roll so many dice, and activate so much different stuff, at one time. 
Russian Platoon moving out - the fellow with the yellow token has been hit!

T-34/85 deploys in ambush
Enter "Big Chain of Command".  Released earlier this year by the Too Fat Lardies, these slight alterations to their popular new Chain of Command rules  allow for multiple platoons on one or both sides of the game.  It also provides a bit of a quick overview and some extra clarity on how to employ an armoured platoon as an element in the game. This feature immediately drew my attention, and I have been plotting for scenarios ever since...

Fire! I like to use markers to try and show the dust etc. kicked up when these big main guns fire
Byron M agreed to help me test how a tank-vs-tank scenario would play out.  The scenario was simple, set in the late war, Eastern Front, 1944.  A platoon of Panthers, having held the line while others fell back, must now fall back themselves.  Making their way carefully back to the lines, they encounter a force of T-34/85s - battle ensues, each force out to break the other.  I used "Scenario 3 - Attack and Defend" as the basis.

Right on! Panther start to find the range
Byron took command of the Russian force - two platoons of three T-34/85s each.  I played the Germans, a nasty platoon of 4 Panthers.  For ease of play, everyone was rated regular.  Even though no infantry was present, we set up a patrol phase etc. as the jump-off points might prove useful for capture etc.  Byron also suggested a useful rule allowing vehicles in the defending force to attempt to deploy on-table via a jump-off point.  Basically they made a D6 roll to deploy, needing a 4+.  If they failed, they had to wait for another phase and enter along a table edge as normal for vehicles.

Byron's tankers move into the centre of the table
We got our platoons into action in fairly short order - Byron successfully deployed one tank on the table, with the rest rolling on the board.  My fellows entered along the opposite table edge.  A knife-fight with high-velocity tank guns was underway...

A Panther draws a bead from a covered position - this was a lucky cat...for most of the game...

Now THAT is an armour save! How can we lose?
Every luck streak runs out, however...
What I enjoy most about Chain of Command is how the activation system creates an ebb and flow to an engagement you cannot find with a conventional IGOUGO system.  Byron had some good luck initially, knocking the main gun out on a Panther, and generally moving into position.  But his luck on shooting was terrible - he missed something like seven straight shots by a single pip on the dice!

The action develops in the centre
Then momentum switched and went the German way for a few phases. The Panthers started to knock out the T-34s.  After a few phases Byron's six-tank force was down to just two runners. Sounds like an easy victory looming, right?  I had two tanks - the platoon commander included - in great position and they moved into the centre of the table to take the surviving T-34s in the flanks.  It would be no problem at all...

The Panther platoon commander engages targets from the flank - and they burn!

Nice! Flank armour cannot stop 75mm high-velocity shells.  The Panthers have this one in the bag, right?
Er, not so much.  Byron's gunners suddenly found the range, while my dice-luck deserted me.  In two quick final phases Byron's last two T-34s cooked two Panthers (!) and seriously damaged a third.  I went from three runners to one - and it had no main gun! Alas, the fate of many German rear-guards...these panzer crews would be finding their way back to the lines on foot, if they found their way at all...

Russians do not give up...

Hey!!! This Panther is immobilized and takes shock from a point-blank hit...uh-oh...
I quite enjoyed the Big Chain of Command system and really loved this game - it was a very involved and engaging tank battle without needing tons of tanks on both sides.  There are some nice extra details to tank command in Chain of Command, without having too many of them, and Big Chain of Command is a good way to get them on the table. By far this is the most fun I have had with a tactical tank engagement. I hope to tweak the scenario a little bit and try it again sometime soon with the main Fawcett Avenue crew...

There goes the Panther command tank...
Thanks to Byron for serving as guinea pig, and for bringing along some awesome terrain to help the table pop.  That is one key thing for these armoured will want a lot of terrain if possible, otherwise it will be a gun duel at the edges.   On this table we managed to have a mix of fields and towns and things to slow things down that looked OK.

Up next - some painting stuff. And a new scale for me.  Because I'm dumb like that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

JimCon 4 - Death Star Trench Run

As previously reported, JimCon 4 was held this past weekend. Now a fixture of the Winnipeg gaming community, a few hundred people had a fun time playing all manner of board, tabletop, card, and miniatures games. Kudos to the con committee and volunteers for putting on another great event!

Saturday afternoon found Conscript Jim and myself running The Battle of Yavin - The Death Star Trench Run, using the very popular Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game rules and miniatures, and using Dagobah Dave's Death Star Trench Run Mission, available here.

The Conscripts always run newbie-friendly games. Indeed, three of the players were playing their very first game of X-Wing Miniatures!

The players were divided into the following forces:

Gold Squadron (played by Alex)
(Gold Leader) Dutch Vander, R5 Astromech, Proton Torpedoes
Horton Salm, R2 Astromech, Proton Torpedoes
Gold Squadron Pilot, R5 Astromech, Proton Torpedoes

Red Squadron, "A" Flight (played by (Michael)
(Red Leader) Garven Dries, R5-K6, Proton Torpedoes
Rookie Pilot, Proton Torpedoes
Rookie Pilot, Proton Torpedoes

Red Squadron, "B" Flight (played by Natasha)
Luke Skywalker, Elusiveness, R2-D2, Proton Torpedoes
Biggs Darklighter, R5 Astromech, Proton Torpedoes
Wedge Antilles, Wingman, R5 Astromech

Black Squadron (played by Jason)
Darth Vader, Push the Limit, Engine Upgrade
Black Squadron Pilot, Draw Their Fire
Black Squadron Pilot, Wingman

Obsidian Squadron (played by Mark)
Howlrunner, Squad Leader
Obsidian Squadron Pilot
Obsidian Squadron Pilot
Obsidian Squadron Pilot

Training Squadron (played by Jeff)
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot

The Imperials also ran the Death Star's Turbo Lasers: 5 turrets on the surface, and 6 emplacements in the Trench Zone. The Rebels could shoot at the Turbo Lasers, and at 3 Power Nodes, with verying game effects. Any Imperial generic pilot that was shot down just came back in their deployment zone during each turn's End Phase, representing reinforcements.

We made a few changes to the printed mission and rules:
  1. The playing surface area was 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. Both sides' Deplyoment Zones were reversed from the printed materials. The movie Star Wars clearly indicates that the Rebels came in from the east side of the trench.
  2. There was no points limit; each side got the listed forces (we had available some more ships if any more folks had shown up, including Porkins and 2 Red Squadron Pilots, and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon and Han acting as a gunner).
  3. Pilot cards, skills, upgrades, and maneuvers were consolidated onto printed sheets for the players, on which they recorded their Speed and Maneuver each turn. We've found that for convention games this greatly reduces tabletop clutter.
  4. The Trench Zone stacking limit was kept at 3 small ships per side. However, only those ships wanting to fire torpedoes at the Auxiliary Exhaust Port needed to enter in the Trench Zone Entry Area to the south: anyone else (on either side) could drop into the Trench Zone at any point to dogfight.
  5. To indicate performing a Drfit maneuver in the Trench Zone, the player just marked their speed and maneuver on their sheet and added the word "Drift".
  6. Generic Imperial pilots that were shot down were redeployed during the End Phase.
  7. During the End Phase the Countdown Clock was advanced by 1 if during the turn at least 1 Imperial ship was destroyed. Then, the clock's number was subtracted by one as usual.

Each side were assigned forces, and then the players secretly conferred about whose ships would be entering the Trench. 

Below, looking south, the Rebel players moved their ships toward the Trench, under the watchful eye of Jim, who really helped the game move along at a good pace.

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The Imperials then showed up next turn, screaming onto the table at maximum speed.

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Below, looking north, Red Leader and his two wingmen went after a Power Node, also drawing fire away from Gold Squadron's Y-Wings.

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Gold Squadron dropped into the Trench Zone. (I can be seen at the far end of the table, wearing my  "Red Five" tee shirt from

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Meanwhile, at the northern end of the table, Luke and Wedge were shooting up Turrets and Power Nodes. Biggs, bravely drawing fire away from his childhood buddy, paid the ultimate price as he was gunned down by 4 TIE Fighters.

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After nailing a Power Node, Red Leader was shot down by a pair of TIEs on the right of the photo, while his wingmen shot down another Imperial.

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Gold Squadron commenced their attack run, set upon by a pair of TIE Fighters.

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Gold Leader was the first of Gold Squadron to fall. In the backgorund, Darth Vader flies south.

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The slow Y-Wings made their way up the Trench, beset by TIEs and Trench Turbo Lasers. The Imperials decided to keep the Trench Zone guns firing, despite the danger to their own ships. They considered the risk worthwhile.

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Utter carnage as Horton, an X-Wing, and a couple of TIE Fighters go down. The last of the Rookie Pilots also dropped his X-Wing into the Trench Zone.

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Wedge got nailed by a TIE Fighter, then Luke dropped into the Trench; he was too close to fire at the Exhaust Port, but he could lay fire into those pasky TIE Fighters! The Imperials played things cagey, pulling fighters out of the Trench and dropping others in.

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The Rebels were now reduced to only three ships, all of which were in the Trench. The two X-Wings cleared a path for Gold Squadron's sole survivor, shooting down both Howlrunner and one of her escorting TIE Fighters.

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With 3 turns left, and only two ships able to fire at the Port, the Gold Squadron Pilot fired his torpedos. He was only able to take down a single shield!

"Negative, Negative. It just impacted on the surface."

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Luke pulled a U-turn to joust with Darth Vader, who was stressed to the max.

Only two turns left in the game, and only the Rookie Pilot was able to get a targeting solution. Though inundated with shots from 3 Imperials the Force was strong with the Rookie, who evaded every blaster bolt!

With the fate of the Rebellion riding on a single throw of the dice, the Rookie fired...

"It's away!"

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Two Critical Hits blasted through the ray shielding, causing an explosive chain reaction that destroyed the Death Star! I always love games that are decided with the final dice throw.

The following photo is of all the Trench Run participants; from L-R: Mark, Jason, Alex,  Natasha, Jeff, and Michael.

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The Rebel players (Natasha, Alex, and Michael) won the game, and some single blister packs of X-Wing Miniatures that I provided as prizes.

The players seemed to have a fun time. Also, during the game several passersby walked up to the table to watch, immediately recognizing the scenario.


During JimCon I was also introduced to a new WWI air combat game, Dawn of Aces.

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Pilots are based on historical fliers. Each plane has its own control panel, to keep track of damage, ammo expenditure, and fuel use. Players choose from an available pool of manuvers, with speed depending on a coloured rating for each aircraft/engine/ manueverability combo. Players move in random order each turn, with special events also randomly occuring. It is definitely better to move last.

Below are some of the components for the game. The demo planes are all very nice paper models made by the game's designer, Sam.

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Wil ran me through a quick intro game, where my single Albatross DIII went down after a bloody engagement against a pair of Allied fighters. Meanwhile, Sam was at the next table, running a big game.

I look forward to playing this game again!