Friday, November 30, 2012

More Tens

Those of you that are just here for the 10mm figures can rest assured that we're not done with those.  Tonight I finished painting up my son's Sand Raider infantry pack.  These are Dream Pod 9 figures for the Heavy Gear game.  Darned if I can find a link or even remember what they are called on the package.  My son wants to use them as alien planet local tribesmen...sort of a Red Fremen style guerilla force.

These stand taller than the Pendraken figures that make up the bulk of my forces, approximately 12mm tall to be a little more precise.  To level the playing field a bit, I've left off the washer bases.  That way their heads reach about the same height.  They are meant to be mounted three to a hex-base, and fielded in four base units.  They'll be single mount infantry in my game, same as the rest of the figures.

I can't imagine I'd use these guys for skirmish gaming - Heavy Gear is a giant fighty robot game where these guys play a limited role - there just isn't enough variation in figure to be able to use them for Tomorrow's War without modifying a bunch of squad support and heavy weapon guys.  This is part of the reason I'm bumping up a step to 15mm gaming.  I haven't been at this very long, and already feel that I've done everything I can with 10mm.

Fire Up the Joan Baez

Yep.  This bad boy is going in the spaceship, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Furniture

Various bits and bobs slapped together make a mighty fine med-tank.  This is the first piece of furniture for what my daughter has taken to calling my space-doll-house.  ("But Daddy, it has a kitchen and everything!) It's not a doll house, it's miniature wargame terrain, and they aren't dolls, they are action figures.  Sheesh.
You probably recognize the black base; it's just a standard hex-base for 28mm miniatures. The clear tube is the top from a hairspray bottle, the vertical tubes are spaghetti noodles, and the yellow bit is the cap to a superglue bottle.  I've been generating a lot of those lately.  It would be nice to leave the clear plastic unpainted, but I'm not sure how well that's going to work out.  Do I spray coat the whole thing and scrape off what I don't need, or skip the spray coat and just basecoat in black with a brush?  Any advice from you folks about in internetlandia?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still in Virtual Orbital Drydock

It's interesting how one design choice leads to another.  The bridge of this ship is calling out for a Tardis-style control panel in the center.  That sets the theme and we're off and running with the circular wall motif on the bridge.  It might not be bigger on the inside, but this ship owes a little something to the Doctor.  Which bothers me not in the least - this thing should have homages to at least five classic sci-fi franchises by the time it's done.
The ladders are zip-ties cut to size and glued next to each other.  The notches that go zip when you use these should look like hand and foot holds after painting.

The kitchen is coming along.  It still needs a few free standing pieces of furniture, but those will have to wait until the initial paint job is done.  There just won't be any way to paint the fridge and cabinets with tables and chairs in the way.

Last shot of the night.  One thing I noticed in my research on sci-fi interior design is that you've got to have really wide molding on the floor.  The pipes and ducts are optional, but you don't see a lot of walls joining floors at a ninety-degree angle.  My version is cardstock, bamboo skewers, and the smallest pipes are spaghetti noodles.  Hopefully, the paint will seal that up and keep it from attracting bugs and such.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time to Vent

The good ship Everything needs a way to move air around for the meat sacks that pilot it.  The things that eat the meat sacks that pilot it also need a way to move around unobserved.  The meat sacks that pilot the ship need a way to move about for those all-too-often times when the bridge is commandeered by hostile forces. It's three, three, three problems all in search of the same solution - vents!

Rich gamers buy fancy pants vents precast by one of the many fine wargame companies that do such things to separate us hard working types from our well deserved money.  Those of us among the hoi polloi make do, as in most things, with cereal box packing.  I carve a square out of said cereal packing, and then a whole slew of strips the same length as that square and about 2mm wide.  Glue those strips in place, slightly overlapped just like vinyl house siding, and it looks like a directional vent.  Here's three thousand words worth of explanation:

1. Just the square.

2. Slight diagonal overlap.

3. All done but the painting.
The ship has five of these installed, and each will be painted with a different identification number, 1 through 5, stenciled on it.  That's a game decision that comes into play during certain scenarios.

Anything that goes into a vent this turn, pops out on the next turn at a random vent.  Roll a d6 and that's the vent you drop out of.  A 6 means you are lost and have to wait until the next turn.  In cases where the model really knows the structure of the ship (like the Chief Engineer) the character in the vent may have the ability to bump the result up or down one notch.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Beautiful Asymmetry

Yesterday we talked about the three different styles of stairs.  Today I want to talk about why I didn't just use one template.  It all comes down to asymmetry.

Asymmetry is important from a gamesmanship perspective.  If all three sides of the rocket are identical, that limits the tactical possibilities.  You need to give players those choices between alternate routes, some faster than others, some with more cover than others, to keep them on their toes.  When there's no difference between right and left, the choices don't matter as much.  If the right path is more direct, but heavily guarded, now you've got to balance factors.

This also gives you more scope when it comes to designing scenarios.  If you place that goal point behind a choke point, you get a different game than when you put it somewhere with multiple routes of entry.

In the case of the stairs, the solid staircase blocks off a potential ladder down to the ground floor of the rocket (in this case, the engine room).  There won't be a ladder down on the right hand side of this picture, either.  That forces the little dudes to cross over to the back side of the rocket if they want to get into the bottom room on this picture.
Note also that there's one door on the top level shown in the photo.  There's a great big hole in the floor blocking the front room from the back left.  To get to that room in the back left, you've either got to run around through the door on the right and the back right room, or climb down to the small landing on the left, around the wall, and back up the ladder on the other side.  Going left takes longer.  Going right exposes you to enemy fire while you sprint around the level.  Those are choices that matter, and those are the kind of choices you want players to have to make.

The solid staircase also makes a nice little hidey-hole for tribbles, and you only really need one of those.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Theme and Variation on Stairs

Among other things, I'm thankful for all of you who check in and make this blog worthwhile.  I've been in a gaming drought for a while, and this helps me feel like a member of the community.  I'm also thankful to live in a time when it is so easy to find so many different figures from so many different small businesses.  This morning I ordered two sets of figures for Major Tom's Spaceship from three different manufacturers on three different continents.  To a guy who cut his teeth on mimeographed* house-rules that's pretty amazing.

Here's the lazy man's way of building stairs:
1. Two bamboo skewers cut to size and glued in place.
2. Build the treads like so. One 2mm wide glued to a 5mm tread.
3. Glue the treads in place as shown.  This preserves line of
sight, and you can even wedge the little mans in place.
Figure for scale.
That's two of the staircases.  I also made one ramp (shown in the back right), and one traditional staircase.  It loses a little consistency, but the ramp provides more cover, and the stairs just plain look cool.  I think so right now, anyway.  I may go back and change it to make all the stairs the same, just to keep the retro-vibe going.

*Note to the under 30 crowd - Google it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spaceship Detailing While You Wait

These photos may not look all that different from yesterday's, but they show a three-hour effort to seal up and streamline Major Tom's Rocket. A whole bunch of cereal box cut into 5mm side strips have been plastered to every piece of exposed foam-core to allow for spray painting this piece without melting it.

The start of rocket pods have been added to the bottom-most level as well.  I've got a lot more pieces to add to these (tops of dishwater detergent bottles) to make them look more rockety (rocketish?), but those will have to wait until after the first paint job. In fact, this is one piece of terrain that is going to require careful planning.  I've got a lot of ideas for furniture, but I can't put any furniture in until after I detail the walls and floors.  Just like a real rocket.
The nice thing about this style of construction is that you don't have to get every joint perfectly lined up.  You can always cover seams with piping and detail, as I've done with the long greenish pipe in the corner.  That pipe is covering a gap of about 2mm that no one will ever see.  I'm much better at covering mistakes than avoiding them, so you're going to see a lot of piping in the corners of this project.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Calling Major Tom

It's time for a big reveal of a little ship.  My latest and greatest project was partially inspired by the guys over on pimping Pocketmunda and partially inspired by the pictures inside the Starship Marine rules (pdf warning).

What you're looking at here is a starship that cost ten bucks to put together.  Two five dollar pieces of foamcore gave their lives to make this dandy little piece of gaming terrain.  It stands just a hair under 21" tall, so it should fit into a standard 40 quart plastic tub.

The original plan called for the walls and floors to snap together and come apart for ease of storage and transport, but the the 120-degree angle between wall pieces didn't turn out right.  (No compass and no protractor make Warren a dull boy.)  In order to get everything lined up right and sturdy enough for game play, I had to glue the whole shebang.

That figure standing over on the left hand side of the small middle floor is a 10mm Pendraken space minotaur.  But as a space minotaur, he stands roughly 15mm tall.  Convenient since this will be a 15mm terrain piece, and I don't actually have any 15mm figures yet.

The plan calls for a bridge on the top level, engines and a storage bay on the bottom floors with couches, gardens, TVs, a kitchen set, and all sorts of sci-fi-ish goodness sprinkled throughout.  Wish me luck - I'm gonna need it to keep my gamer ADD at bay.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Project, New Scale, Old Habits

It's time for a new project, and maybe a new scale.  The size and cost and ease of storage of the 10mm boys is great, but there are a lot of fun little 15mm troops out there, too.  Most of the games I play are more skirmish and having banged my head against the Tomorrow's War wall for long enough, it may be time to move up a notch.

I should probably at least finish painting the 10mm figures I have, but what's a wargamer without some unpainted lead, right?

So here's a sneak peak at the next big (15mm) thing from your host:

One piece of foam core, sans terrain.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

FUBAR Ruminations

Woah, four posts in four days, this blog just might be back.  It's amazing how much more time a guy has when he's not coaching his daughter's soccer team to a league championship.  That's right, I know how to coach soccer - the secret is inheriting kids from other coaches who know what the heck they are doing.

Same scenario. Different rules.  Different results.
This weekend, our first game of FUBAR pit two evenly matched forces in a fight for the mining station.  The humans consisted of roughly 25 Veteran troops backed up by three 2-man HMGs and a sniper team.  The lizardfolk had 20 infantry and 5 cavalry at their disposal.  For the purposes of learning the game, we classified the cavalry as vehicles armed only with a single HMG.  In both cases, we used units of roughly 5 men/lizards with the snipers operating alone, and the cavalry split into two units of 2 and 3 lizards.  Aaaaand, fight!

We spent a fair few minutes hashing out what the rules mean by ‘unit’.  In retrospect, it doesn’t really matter from a balance perspective.  Large units means more guys sitting around when they fail to activate. Small units mean that you always have at least a few guys doing something, even if they aren’t as effective as the big groups when they do act.

To big for infantry, too small for vehicles.  Time for Rule One!
We treated the cavalry as vehicles, but it felt wrong.  They were too tough to bring down, and the idea that they have more armor in front is a bit silly.  In retrospect, I’d treat them as vehicles except that every hit should be classified as against the rear armor (roll twice and take the higher result).  That makes them more fragile than tanks, but keeps them fast and dangerous.

We also had a talk about what the lizard-mounted guys were armed with on a personal basis.  He sweet talked me into allowing them to have assault rifles, when I figured the little blue shlubs would be hard pressed to work a big cannon with one strapped to their back.  Not a big deal, but something that should be worked out on both sides before the game starts.

With this experience under our belts, we're amped up to try the bug rules from the "Generic Sci-Fi" one page supplement.  It looks like they'll handle very different from standard troops.  That's another thing that felt off with our test run - the lizards didn't feel alien enough - but that's a function of using the rules in as vanilla a fashion as possible to get a handle of things.

Next time will be different.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

These Rules Are FUBAR

Last night, the boy and I headed down to the weekly game night and threw together a quick test drive of the FUBAR rules.

For those of you who don’t know, FUBAR is a free, one-page, sci-fi set of rules from Gawd ‘Elp Us Games. As a one page set of rules they are reasonably complete, with all the standard rules for initiative, activation, movement, firing, melee, and morale. It uses a bit of a hybrid game turn with elements of IGO-UGO and action-reaction. Whoever wins initiative activates units by beating a target number based on troop quality – better troops are more likely to activate. When a unit fails its activation, that unit goes onto overwatch, and play passes to the opposite player.
Like this, only bigger.

Firepower is resolved in the standard manner – roll dice for each little man (with extra dice added for squad support weapons), and each die that beats a target number (modified by things like aiming, troop quality, and cover), hits a figure.  Any hit figure that doesn’t make an armor save is hurt.  Sort of.  The first few wounds suppress a figure and left over ouchies eliminate a figure.

The deal here is that each suppressed figure in a unit makes it harder to activate on their next turn.  If your unit fails to activate, your suppressed figures stand back up, but that unit is stuck on overwatch for the turn.  As a result, choosing between suppression and casualties gives you the choice protecting your men and making it more likely that your unit does what you want them to do.

As a one-page rule set, there were a number of issues that cropped up during play for which we had no real answers.  All we could do was use common sense and roll a die.  Although, to be honest, I wound up giving the boy the benefit of the doubt more often than not cause I’m just that kind of Dad.

Let’s leave more detailed discussion of the rules for another day.  The take home message here is that the rules are light, quick, and easy, and we’re looking forward to more games.  Now that we’ve resolved the bulk of the drudgery of the rules, we’re eager to put them to use with more sophisticated scenarios and asymmetric forces.

Next time, I’ll bore you with the stuff that won’t make a lot of sense if you’re not familiar with the rules.  Promise.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Free To A Good Home

And by free, I mean "you pay shipping."

I've got half a box of 2omm plastic militia types gathering dust in my bits box.  Long time readers may remember them from the Car Wars project.  I hate to throw them out, but I'm too lazy to even count them, let alone do anything with them.  If you want 'em, leave a post below - we'll work out some PayPal hoo-hah, and you've got em.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MegaDungeon Assault

Saturday night seven brave souls set out from the village whose name we forgot and couldn't find because I lost the wilderness maps to make a second assault on the Temple of Evil contained within The Dungeon.  Two new hardy adventurers joined in the fun, a pair of elven sisters seeking the Lost Tribe of Elves somewhere in a hidden vale to the north.

On their way to The Dungeon, they camped for the night, only to be ambushed by red robed cultists.  After dispatching the cultists, as seen here...
...they cleverly took their robes and unholy symbols, the better to sneak into the Temple of Evil.  With only six robes, one adventurer (Frodo the Hobbit), played prisoner.  This time, the pesky orcish guardians charged 5gp for passage for all of the "cultists" wink wink and a whopping 100gp for the "prisoner" wink wink.

So the party barged into the Temple and marched straight up to the head of the temple, a bald man who had put the smack down on them last go 'round, and promptly beat the holy living heaven out of him and the rest of his cult.  Feeling smug bout killing most of his lackeys and capturing him, they set about exploring the massive main hall, only to be ambushed by two gargoyles.  A long fight won through smart tactics and the clever use of archers left them with only a little time to gather up as much loot as they could carry and scoot back to the main entrance where the perfidious orcs charged them yet another 100gp for safe entry to the surface.

Only once they were outside did they realize that they forgot to take the Temple leader with them.  They know next time that he'll be ready for them, but they've got enough gold to help ease their worries...

Man, it's invigorating to play D&D with 13 year olds.  You forget about all the stupid things like consistency and cleverness and just roll with the fun.  Yeah, we've got a party with Frodo, Gandalf, Pierce and Annie (from the grossly under-rated NBC television show Community) and Katniss Everdeen.  So what if it isn't wholy original?  It's adventurous and silly and lots of fun.