Sunday, 31 January 2016

A bit of this, a bit of that...

Introduction

I've been working away on many projects recently, without really concentrating on any one.  Sometimes I'm finishing off a model that has languished for too long on my paint table, sometimes I'm producing more figures to extend an existing project and some of my output is for new settings that I haven't yet gamed.  Judge for yourself; here's an eclectic collection of models; the only thing they have in common is that they have been completed recently!

The Deora


First up is a card model: this is the Hotwheels "Deora" from Dave's Card Creations.  Whilst the kit is based on a toy, it does represent a futuristic design from the 1960s.  As such, I thought it would be ideal for my long-awaited Captain Scarlet game, though it could also be used in Star Trek or any other 1960s Sci-Fi or Spy-Fi setting.

Note that I've scaled this model up a bit from the downloaded pattern.  I can't remember how much, though I think my version is between 10% and 30% larger than the "out of the box" model.  Also, I've added treads to the wheels to strengthen them, though this isn't visible in the picture above.

Denver


My second offering is "Denver", from Reaper Miniatures.  He's described as a zombie survivor and is clearly based on the character of Columbus from the film "Zombieland".  I've tried to paint this model as he appeared in the movie, though I don't recall him having any luggage there.

Note that Reaper are known for their considerable variations in the size of their (human) miniatures.  "Denver" is bigger than average; I had to place the model on a 30mm base rather than my more normal 25mm.

The Master


Moving on, this is a model of "the Master" from Doctor Who.  The Master has had almost as many different portrayals as the Doctor himself; this version comes from the rather poor 1996 Doctor Who movie where he was played by Eric Roberts.

The model is from Black Tree Design (for some reason, their current website is now "eorbis.co.uk"; this is not a misprint).  As well as a renegade Time Lord, I could see the figure being used as a futuristic VIP, a cult leader or a modern wizard.  Use your imagination to come up with other ideas!

Water Elemental



Next, here is a water elemental, also from Black Tree.  He/she is a single-piece casting and is a very large lump of metal!  For all that, it's a simple piece to paint; I used a base colour and a lot of dry-brushing.  I wonder if I should have picked out the eyes in something different, though?

The water horse is intended for games of 7th Voyage, where it could be part of either heroic or evil casts, or indeed just a hazard of the scenery.  Jason and the Argonauts, beware!

Snow Leopards


To finish, I've just completed a pair of snow leopards for Frostgrave.  The one in front is from Black Cat Bases (although it is described as a "panther" there), whilst the other is from North Star's official Frostgrave range.

All Together


It can be difficult to judge the size of a model from a single picture, so I've included a group shot as well.  From this last picture, you can see just how big is the water elemental.  Note also that "Denver" looks similar in height to the Master, but remember that the former is bending forward whilst the latter is standing up straight.  In reality, Denver is quite a bit taller than "regular" 28mm figures, though not impossibly so.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Tesserae Incident: Part 2 (the Game)

Introduction

Last week, I described my reworking of a scenario for Full Thrust: The Tesserae Incident.  It's basically a Klingon commando raid on a secretive Romulan research base.  Initially, the attackers have overwhelming force, but the defender's reinforcements arrive steadily; how much time can the attackers afford to retrieve the secrets from the installation?

As I see it, the Klingons have a number of key decisions that they need to take early on:
  • The Romulan plasma torpedos are nasty, area-effect weapons but they can be degraded with concentrated firepower.  Will the fleet split up and try to pre-position itself to attack any Romulan ships that uncloak?  Is it better to split up and limit the number of ships that could be hurt by a single weapon, or should the Klingons stick close together, guard the assault carrier and try to shoot down any incoming torpedoes?
  • How much should the Romulan base be bombarded before the commandos assault it?  Too little and the base's point defences and security troops will still be at full effect; too much and there may be no loot left for the commandos to retrieve.
  • The assault shuttles can carry either marines or loot.  How many should be assigned to each function?  Too few marines and the klingons won't capture the base - but there's no point in taking the research centre if the attackers cannot then retrieve anything of value.
For the Romulans, these issues arise:
  • Should any of the early reinforcement ships drop their cloaks and appear on the table?  It might provoke a Klingon response and distract them from their task, or it might just sacrifice the Romulan ship.
  • Assuming that the Romulan fleet wish to uncloak en-masse, in which turn should this occur?  Too soon and they might be outnumbered; too late and the Klingons will have accomplished their task and be heading for outer space.
Here's how it went when we played the game:

Turn 1


In our game, the Klingons decided to come in at high speed (typically 16" or so).  Shuttles were launched and the warships surged forwards.


There wasn't a lot for the Romulans to do on turn 1, but I realised with delight that one of the enemy frigates was just in extreme range for the base's heavy beam battery.  A runaway series of '6's ended up causing 9 points of damage to the tiny ship which was completely vapourised [in Full Thrust, a beam weapon that rolls a '6' not only inflicts damage, but also gets to roll again].  So, a bad omen for the Klingons, or just an extremely lucky shot?

Turn 2

The Klingons continued to approach at high speed.  Anticipating a bombardment, the base switched on its Reflex Field (thus prohibiting it from shooting).  However, the attackers also held their fire...

Turn 3

An ever-increasing number of "blips" was beginning to worry the Klingons,  Romulan reinforcements were arriving, but there wasn't much the attackers could do about this except carry on with their plan.

The main event of turn 3 was the ground assault on the Romulan base as the troop-carrying shuttles arrived at their destination.  Here's how it went:
  • 12 Klingon shuttles (loaded with 10 squads of commandos) stormed the base.
  • 3 shuttles from Red Group were shot down by point defence fire.  Remaining = 9 shuttles, 7 commandos.
  • The survivors all attempted a combat landing on the base.  Red Group touched down successfully, but Blue Group suffered a disaster.  One shuttle clipped a hill when making a low approach; it somersaulted and exploded.  2 other shuttles attempted to avoid the flying wreckage and instead collided with each other [of 9 dice thrown for the 2 groups, 3 came up with a '1' - an appalling result for the Klingons].  Remaining = 6 shuttles, 5 commandos.
  • The 5 Klingon assault teams engaged the 5 base security squads.  Honours were even and 3 of each fell.  Remaining = 6 shuttles, 2 commandos, 2 base security.

Turn 4


Still there were no Romulan ships on the board, though there were blips all over the place.  The assault on the planet was taking too long (and the outcome was too evenly balanced).

In an act of desperation, the Klingon battlecruiser "Relentless" fired everything it could as it flashed past the planet at high speed.  The base lost one living quarters (and the associated scientists), but more importantly the volley knocked out all of the facility's fire control systems and killed one base security squad.  At least that was very much in the Klingon's favour!


Things looked better for the commandos now that they had a 2:1 advantage in surviving troops.  However, the Romulan commander (i.e. me) then played a Vengeance! event card.  Sadly, even though the last base security squad fought with redoubled strength, they didn't manage to do more than trade losses with the Klingons.  Result = 6 shuttles, 1 commando squad left.  No base security remaining, so the last Klingon assault team captures the base (just)!

Turn 5


As the Klingon ships executed high speed turns away from the planet, the Romulan fleet decloaked!  The defending ships were travelling relatively slowly, hoping to sandwich the invaders in the middle of the table.  Whilst that wasn't quite how it turned out, they were still fairly well positioned.



Realising that the Romulan cruiser "Dragon" was perfectly positioned to attack his assault carrier, the desperate Klingon played an event card on her.  Normally, this card ("The engines willnae stand it!" would be used on a friendly ship, but the Klingon was hoping that the Dragon would break down.  It was an interesting gambit, but it wasn't to be; the Dragon's chief engineer was too canny to over-stress his engines in this manner.



The Klingon ships took evasive action, but it wasn't enough.  The Dragon's plasma torpedo just clipped the Ragnarok (the assault transport) and rocked the vessel.  Damage was severe, including a warp core critical hit.  Before damage control teams could react properly, the Ragnarok blew up in a spectacular display of pyrotechnics!

Turns 6 and after

The Klingons were in real trouble now.  Their battlecruiser (Relentless) had flown off the table; it's high speed and relative lack of maneuverability meant that it couldn't turn tightly enough to stay in the battle.  Even though the 6 assault shuttles left the planetary base full of captured equipment, technicians and documents, the loss of the troopship meant that they would find it extraordinarily difficult to escape.


Events were played on the Romulans whenever possible, at least until the Klingon player ran out of cards, but they only slowed down the inevitable end.



Finally, the Romulan battlecruiser Consul torpedoed the last remaining Klingon cruiser.  Although the Valhalla survived that attack, she was very heavily damaged and didn't have any realistic chance of either escaping or of fighting back.  We played another turn after this, but it was obvious that the Klingons could do nothing to change their fortunes.


Final results

  • Romulans: only minor damage to any ships.  Research base heavily damaged and sabotaged.
  • Klingons: Valhalla (CA), Ragnarok (assault carrier) and Victory (FG) destroyed.  Relentless (BC) and Warrior (FG) escaped.  6 shuttles still at large and filled with important data about Romulan weapons research, though hiding in a system deep in Romulan space.

Conclusion

Could the Klingons have won this scenario?  The game went quite heavily against them, yet they did suffer some bad luck:
  • The flak from the base was probably average, but the shuttles' combat landings were spectacularly bad!  Had more commandos made it into the base then the Klingons might have captured it a turn earlier; this would have made their escape more likely.
  • The plasma torpedos performed well above average (again!  I'm beginning to wonder if the Romulan's secret weapons research is really about increasing the yield from a torpedo, rather than anything else).  In particular, the troop transport was horrendously unlucky to take a double threshold check from 1 torpedo and thence pick up a critical hit which resulted in her immediate destruction!  Had she survived, albeit damaged, the game might have ended very differently.
  • The Relentless couldn't manoeuvre enough to stay on the table; she was travelling too fast to turn in time.  That's not really bad luck, but rather a misjudgement on the part of the Klingon player.  Had their most powerful asset still been around when the ship-to-ship combat began then the Klingons might have put up a better fight!

So, could you do better as the Klingon?  Would you have changed the force composition (perhaps having 2 smaller assault transports might have worked better)?  What changes to tactics might have improved their odds?  I'd be most interested to hear your thoughts - and I'd be absolutely delighted if anyone else also played this scenario and reported their results!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Tesserae Incident: part 1 (the Scenario)

Introduction

Some of you with long memories might remember a game of Full Thrust in which a Klingon fleet investigated a secret Romulan research base: here.  This game was played 2 years ago, almost to the day and I thought that it was high time we gave the Klingon fleet another chance (it was hammered in the previous game).

However, rather than replay the game exactly as we did in 2014, I thought that I'd change the scenario around a bit.  Rather than having a small Romulan force already on table, we'd have a much larger Romulan fleet arriving slowly over time.  This would give the Klingons an advantage early on, but they'd have to move quickly to achieve their objectives or risk being overwhelmed later on.  Additionally, I thought that this would be an excellent testbed for my half-baked revision of the Full Thrust boarding rules.  The original rules for marines are extremely basic; it has long been an intention of mine to experiment with something slightly more detailed.

The Scenario


So, the Klingons have to raid the planetary research base, steal whatever data, materials and personnel (scientists, technicians) they can and then make their escape before the ever-escalating Romulan response becomes too much for them.  Sounds simple, right?

Well, standard boarding (using transporters, short range pods or similar) in Full Thrust requires the attacker and the defender to match both speed and heading (to within 1 point of each) and to be within a fairly short distance (6mu, from memory).  This is so difficult to achieve as to be effectively impossible if the target is mobile; it's hard enough even when the defender is a stationary planet!

To overcome this difficulty and give them a reasonable chance of success, the Klingons have been given a fast attack transport equipped with assault shuttles capable of ferrying a generous complement of marines.  These assault shuttles are detailed in the Full Thrust: Continuum supplement, though I've modified some of the rules for their use here.

Forces

Klingons


  • Ragnarok: assault transport/commando carrier.
  • Relentless: battle cruiser
  • Valhalla: heavy cruiser
  • Warrior and Victory: frigates
This adds up to around 800NPV, excluding the assault transport (which the Klingons get for free).  The Relentless and Valhalla are capable, fast ships though the frigates are pretty useless.

Romulans



  • Farside Base: military research station.  The "secret weapon" developed by this base is a reflex field, as detailed in the Full Thrust rules.  As well as the weapon, the base has 2 "P" passenger/living quarters for the research scientists & technicians and 4 "H" holds for their materials, workshops, computer banks and data archives.
  • Consul: battle cruiser
  • Dragon: heavy cruiser
  • Decurion: light cruiser
  • Lorica and Pilum: destroyers
The Romulans have about 1200NPV of ships (plus the base, which is free).  They outgun the attackers by about 3:2, though this is tempered by the fact that their ships arrive piecemeal and over a number of turns.  Fortunately, all the Romulan ships have cloaking devices and so early arrivals can hide until the fleet is ready, rather than risk being annihilated one-at-a-time.

Victory Conditions

The Klingons must capture the base and carry off research material.  There are a maximum possible of 7 points worth of such loot: 1 for parts from the reflex field generator, 2 from the "P" crew quarters and 4 from the "H" laboratories and stores.  Loot can only be captured if the system hasn't already been destroyed in the fighting!

Each point of loot is a full assault shuttle load or it can be transported as per the standard Full Thrust rules.   It must be taken to a warp-capable ship which must then escape in order for it to be counted.

Obviously the scale of victory is from 0 (the Klingons fail completely) to 7 (total Klingon success; every loot point retrieved).  All else, including casualties, is really secondary to this!

Deployment

Klingons

  • The Klingon fleet is placed 48mu (4') away from the planet (i.e. outside of weapons range) at any speed and heading desired by their commander.  We used a 6'x4' table; the Klingons were allocated one of the short table edges as their deployment zone.

Romulans

  • The Romulan fleet is divided into 5 groups as evenly as possible and each is assigned a unique number from 1..6 .  Note that since their are 5 ships and 6 groups, one of the groups will be empty.
  • At the start of each of the first 6 turns, the Romulan player rolls a single dice and receives the group with that number as the turn's reinforcements.  If the group has already been used as a reinforcement then the player re-rolls until an available group is received.
  • Once the reinforcement group is known, the Romulan player rolls for its entry point.  This should be the centre of one of the 3 "non-Klingon" table edges.  On arrival, reinforcements may have any desired initial speed; their heading is directly towards the table centre.
  • If the reinforcement ship is to remain cloaked (including the group without any ship in it) then a suitable blip should be placed at the entry point and the Romulan must write orders for as many turns ahead as the ship will remain cloaked, as per the standard Full Thrust rules.
    The Klingon player may know that "group 4" has arrived, but will not know the composition of group 4 until it uncloaks.  Obviously, for the empty group any such orders will be a blind since in all likelihood it will never uncloak.
  • Otherwise, if the reinforcement is to be uncloaked then the model should be placed directly at the entry point.
On average, Romulan forces on the table will have achieved parity with the Klingons by turn 4, but they might be lucky and receive heavy units early or they might be unlucky and only get small ships by then.  The Klingon will have to guess when (and where!) the Romulans will appear, whilst the Romulans will have to plan for the uncertain location and timing of their reinforcements.  Should they try for an all-out uncloaking & assault for turn 5 (say), or is it worth having a smaller number of ships uncloak earlier?

Special Rules

Assault Shuttles

  • Unlike in the Full Thrust: Continuum rules, my assault shuttle can be reused - if they survive!  They can therefore be used to lift off marines as well as captured loot after an assault.
  • Each assault shuttle can carry 1 marine or 1 unit of loot (captured personnel, secret parts, data crystals or whatever).
  • When making an attack, the shuttle squadron(s) are moved into contact with the target.  The defenders may fire point defenses and class-1 beams as normal.
  • Shuttle which survive point defense fire make a combat landing on the target.  This is a dangerous manoeuvre, so a dice is thrown for each shuttle: any score of 1 or less and the shuttle plus anything it was carrying is destroyed.  Modifiers: take the thrust rating of the target away from the roll [note that this makes assaulting anything other than the slowest freighter or static base a very risky plan].
  • Once an assault shuttle has landed on the target, any marines it is carrying will disembark and fight the defenders.

Threshold Checks

  • If a ship or base takes a threshold check whilst hostile shuttles and/or marines are present then make rolls for each of these as well as for the defending ship or base's systems.  Firing on a ship that has an internal battle going on is just as likely to hurt the invaders as it is to hurt the defenders!

Marine Combat

  • Once per round, during the final phase (just before making threshold checks), all marines will fire at any enemies who are within the same ship or base.  To resolve this, roll 1 die for each marine and calculate the number of casualties as if a beam-1 was being fired at a level-1 screen.  In other words, a roll of '5' causes 1 casualty, whereas a roll of '6' causes 2 casualties and a re-roll.
  • As an extra rule, not needed for this scenario: if firing on lighter forces (such as civilian freighter crews) then treat them as an unscreened target.  If firing on better trained and equipped troops (for example, regular army in armoured battle suits) then treat them as a target with screen-2.
  • Re-rolls don't count as penetrating in the same way as beam fire against a ship, so the target's "screen" class remains the same.  However, if any further enemy squad is hit on a re-roll then the ship or base takes 1 hull point of damage as well.  Note that the re-rolls should be made even if all enemy squads have been eliminated, just in case such structural damage is caused!
  • Whilst an assault is in progress, the defenders still control all systems on the ship or base.  The fighting occurs around the perimeter, not on the bridge!
  • If at any time all the defenders are eliminated and at least some attackers remain then the base or ship has been captured.  Generally speaking, weapons, propulsion and other systems will be unusable by either side from that point on in the game (the defenders may have sabotaged them or installed lockouts, the controls could have been too badly damaged in the firefight, or perhaps enemy systems are just too alien to operate in the heat of battle).  Specific scenario rules may sometimes override this.

Coming soon in part 2: how our game played out => HERE!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Acquisitions & Assault Craft!

Introduction

This post is going to be a bit of a mixed bag, seeing as it concerns gaming past, gaming present and gaming yet-to-come.  Mind you, the "past" and "yet-to-come" parts are very near term, so I think that my feeble attempt to draw an analogy with a great work of literature had better stop there.  If you don't understand what I'm talking about then don't worry!

Gaming Past


It's now well past Christmas and this is probably quite tasteless, but I still haven't gloated over my loot.  For sanity's sake, I've omitted the presents of socks and other clothing; this is just about those items which are games-related.  So:
  • Lion Rampant: given to me by my brother, who believed (I think) that this was a set of rules specific to the Scottish Wars of Independence.  It's not, but the gift is still very welcome anyway.  I've read the rules through, though I have no immediate plans to put on a game (but I could, right?)
  • Frostgrave figures: 4 assorted blisters.  I've started to build and paint a few of these already.
  • Captain Scarlet (the entire collection): Yes!  More Gerry Anderson goodness, inspirational to gamers and model-makers alike...
  • 3 dice bags, hand made by my loving wife.  This is possibly the most touching present I've had in a long while and they'll be very useful.

Gaming Present


Both of the items in the picture above arrived in the post on Monday this week.  But here's a problem: which should I read first?!
  • Thaw of the Lich Lord: This is the first expansion/campaign book for Frostgrave.  I missed out on the pre-order campaign which delivered a month or two ago, but decided to buy this with some Christmas money from my in-laws.  The new spells, magic items and creatures are interesting enough, but what has really caught my attention is the large number of imaginative new scenarios.  Many of these require some exotic terrain model as a centrepiece, so it's a good excuse to build some really good pieces.  Or to plan to build them, at least...
  • 7TV, 2nd Edition: Yes, I got my copy of the new 7TV boxed set - this time I was signed up to the relevant pre-order campaign.  So, now I've read the books, looked at the cards and thought for a bit - what setting shall I play first?  I'm tempted by Captain Scarlet, Doctor Who and Star Trek, for starters.  These are all areas for which I already have miniatures (not always painted, mind).  Ah, what to do?

Gaming Yet to Come


I've just finished off these models, intending to use them in a game of Full Thrust in the next week or two.  What are they?  Well, the models are (I think) Imperial bombers from the Battlefleet Gothic range.  However I plan to use them as generic assault shuttles for any fleet that needs ground attack capabilities.  I'll design an SSD (ship status display) for a commando carrier or assault landing ship - call it what you will - and these will be the small craft that ferry the troops to the ground and provide air support thereafter.  Or at least, that's the idea.  Stay tuned to hear about the game when/if it happens...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Batrep: Playing for keeps!

Introduction

Last time, I described how I had scratch-built some magic portals.  These are needed for the Frostgrave scenario "The Keep".  Just before New Year, we had a chance to play this game with 4 players.  So, did the portals make a difference?  Read on to find out...

The Wizards

"Mysterio the Soothsayer" (me).  Even with some new hires, this band is smaller than I'd really like.

"The Great and Magnificent Peltar" (Enchanter, AH).  A newcomer relying heavily on soldiers with big, chopping weapons

"Baryn the Timeless" (Chronomancer, Steve).  An all-goblin warband with 4 thugs and 4 archers.

"Malcolm Firestorm" (Elementalist, AD).  The highest level (5?) wizard with the best equipped group.

So, we had 2 newcomers in this game (SteveH and his son, AH); I was scraping the barrel a bit to fill out their warbands, hence the various shapes and styles of the figure bases.

Setup


The heavily-ruined keep contains 4 portals.  These are all that remain of the building's magical transport system, but they have degraded with age and lack of maintenance.  If anyone stands on a portal then they'll be sent to one of the 4 portals at random.  A wizard who does this (once) will earn a modest number of experience points.

The Game



The game started predictably (if somewhat boringly) enough, with Firestorm's crew advancing and throwing bolts of magical energy at everything they could see.  Initially this was very successful, with both Ellie (the apprentice) and Firestorm himself scoring long-range kills on enemy soldiers.


Soon, all squads were advancing rapidly and trying to collect the treasures that were near them and contest those which were slightly further off.  A couple of notable incidents were:
  • Ellie, Firestorm's apprentice, tried to summon a demon.  In the past, this squad has dismayed and terrified opponents by successful magic in this area, so the rest of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when the spell failed.  However, A. then revealed that one of his soldiers had a "demon in a bottle" potion; this was deployed immediately and the resulting demon charged straight into the line of goblin archers.
  • A wandering owlbear appeared after someone picked up a treasure somewhere.  It came onto the table near Peltar's group and immediately attacked Nemo, his apprentice.


Things weren't all going Firestorm's way, though.  One of the goblin spellcasters (I forget whether it was the wizard or the apprentice) threw a handy grenade spell over the ruins into his apprentice's squad.  Most of the soldiers were saved by their armour, but Ellie, the apprentice, was knocked out.


Not only that, but the goblin archers recovered from their surprise over having a demon attack them from behind.  With a shout of "Get it, lads!", they all piled into the monster and pulled it down, though not before taking some wounds in the process.


Meanwhile, some of Peltar's halberdiers rushed in to help their beleaguered apprentice.  However, despite wounding the owlbear grievously, the enraged creature proceeded to chew through the humans after another.  This probably wan't helped by one of Mysterio's archers firing multiple arrows into the melee on the basis that anything he hit here was good!


Peltar, fed up with having his soldiers smoked by Firestorm's bolts, cast a Wall of Fog between the 2 parties to block line of sight.  As he did this, a new threat appeared behind Firestorm's party: a pair of ancient zombie warriors appeared close to the larger squad.

Those of Firestorm's second squad who had survived the Grenade spell now attacked Baryn's goblins.  The fighting here was intense and bloody as the goblins fought tooth and nail, but they were steadily cut down, apart from one desperate goblin who fought 3 humans to a standstill all on his own.

On all sides, some stout soldiers were dragging away chests and sacks of treasure, just to be on the safe side.


Incredibly, the shambling, fragile zombies laid out 3 of Firestorm's best soldiers before the wizard himself returned and incinerated one with mystical energy.  However, the elementalist was now badly hurt himself, reduced to 1 hit by a combination of miscasts, cutting himself to power spells and the odd arrow.


In the north, the last of Firestorm's warriors fought the last of the goblin soldiers.  In the interests of fair play (!), Mysterio cast a Blinding Light on the nearby goblin apprentice; all he could do was stagger about, disoriented, until the knight finished him off too.


After finishing off Peltar's apprentice and his bodyguards, the badly hurt owlbear staggered on.  It encountered one of Mysterio's soldiers in the rubble and charged at him angrily.  The fresh soldier hit the poor creature a hefty blow and killed it before it had a chance to strike him.


Eventually, one of the wizards stepped experimentally onto one of the magic portals.  I was beginning to think that this would never happen!
  • Mysterio was transported instantly to another location, though sadly this was nowhere near any action.
  • Firestorm, badly hurt, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and slunk off.
  • The goblin wizard, Baryn the Timeless, slew Firestorm's knight and then also decided to leg it with his last minion and some treasure.


Finally, all that was left on the table was Peltar, Mysterio and a couple of their bowmen; everyone else had fled, had left the table carrying treasure or was dead.

The 2 wizards advanced on each other, whilst their 2 archers exchanged futile arrows.  Their leaders flung magic at each other: Peltar's Steal Health struck home, but Mysterio's Blinding Light was resisted.


Despite his initial success, Peltar was afraid that the more experienced Mysterio would soon conjure up some more potent spell.  Rather than risk this, he strode forwards and smote the soothsayer an almighty blow with his staff.  Mysterio fell like a log and lay on the ground, unmoving.

At this, Mysterio's last archer turned and fled.  He was too smart to think that he could win when outnumbered 2 to 1!

Final Results

  • 4 treasures to Peltar.
  • 4 treasures to Mysterio.  Wizard badly hurt; must pay 100 gold or miss the next game.
  • 2 treasures to Firestorm.
  • 2 treasures to Baryn.
For the most part, casualties survived and recovered; there were relatively few dead.

Conclusion

This was an exciting game with some interesting use of magic.  Having said that, the previously-established wizards were notable for trying pretty much the same tactics as before.

I was disappointed at the various players' timidity in trying out the magic portals, but maybe this wasn't surprising.  After all, with 3 hostile bands, the odds of landing in the middle of a group of enemies was quite high!

Wandering monsters were infrequent, but performed well beyond expectations!  The owlbear (using the stats for a regular bear) and the pair of zombies between them accounted for 5 soldiers and an apprentice.  More to the point, they completely changed the outlook for the bands that they attacked.

Finally, beware goblins in numbers.  They may look weak and timid, but if they can swarm you then they'll tear you apart!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Making Magic Portals

Introduction

It may have become obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I've been interested in Frostgrave for some time now.  One of the things that I like about this game are the many & varied scenarios that are contained within the main rulebook.  Most of these scenarios require some special terrain and I've seen a number of other model-makers & gamers write about how they make such pieces.

One scenario ("The Keep") describes a ruined building where the internal magical transport system is still working - at least, after a fashion!  By standing on one of the magic portals, a wizard could be transported instantaneously to a different portal and could gain much-needed experience from the travel.  Alternatively, it might not work at all, or it might deposit the sorcerer in the middle of an enemy warband!

This scenario seemed too good to miss, since it provides a great opportunity for mayhem.  I decided as soon as I had read it that I needed to construct some of these transport portals.  I've not come across anyone else's versions, so I had to start from scratch.

The Magic Portals

2.5" ring glued to a 2.5" disk of thick cardboard
In "The Keep", portals are described as 2" circles (i.e. about 5cm).  I started to make my versions by cutting out 2.5" rounds of mounting board (thick cardboard).  Every second such disk had the central 2" removed thus leaving it as just a thin ring, which was then glued to a complete disk.


"Stone slab" markings added
Once the glue was dry, I used a triangular needle file to mark out different stone slabs on the upper surface.  I added a few cracks and slabs with broken corners, just to break up the monotony.


Undercoat, wash, drybrush
Painting was very simple: I sprayed my portals with grey undercoat, coloured them with a dark wash and then drybrushed the edges lightly with pale grey.  Nothing to it, really.


Add snow & grass, then varnish
Further detail was achieved by the addition of a little static grass growing out from the cracks & gaps between the stones and some snow (baking soda/sodium bicarbonate).  The disks were then sprayed with anti-shine varnish.


Add the magic circles
Now comes the funky bit.  To make it into a magic portal, I gathered some suitable patterns.  I found the version I liked by searching Google images for "psychedelic swirl" and downloading some of the results.  I printed my favourite onto paper and cut out a circle from that.

As an optional extra, I also cut out some circles of the same size from clean plastic packaging (fruit punnets, if I remember correctly).  These transparent disks would help to protect the printed paper design as well as making it more reflective & therefore more "mystical".  If I could have found some "cloudy" or translucent plastic then I might have used that rather than the see-through stuff that I had available..


4 finished magic portals
The paper pattern and the plastic covering disk were glued in place - I used just a bead of glue around the edge, rather than putting any on the image itself.  I did need to weight down the centres while the glue dried, to keep everything flat.


And there we are: 4 magic portals, for very little effort and virtually no cost!

With a change of colour/texture for the outer rim and a change in pattern for the paper insert, it would be just as easy to make sci-fi transporter pads, missile silo doors or any of a number of other items.  Of course, this would be much easier if the mounting board was available laser cut to shape!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Battle Report: Tarzan and the Nasty Nazis of Doom

Introduction


I have been itching to try the Pulp Alley rules for quite some time, but this project finally reached critical mass just a few weeks ago as I painted some more of my pulp Nazis.  I now had enough to form a decent league; other figures could be pressed into service for other leagues as well.

As a boy, I can remember watching Tarzan films on the television on (I think) Saturday afternoons.  These were re-runs of old, Johnny Weissmuller movies and I can't remember a whole lot about them - except that I was enthralled!  They had lost civilisations of Amazons, dangerous wild animals, wild, dangerous scenery, nefarious white men & natives and (on one occasion, in a story from 1943) Nazi paratroopers.  It was inevitable that my first pulp game would involve at least some of these elements, if not all at once!

The opportunity to play a game arose during the Christmas holidays, when my friend Steve visited for the day.  Not only that, but he brought his son (AH); my own son (AD) wanted to join in too.  So, our first venture into Pulp Alley would be a 4-player game.

The Players

It's just as well that I had prepared 4 starting leagues!  So, we have the following (note that some leagues don't add up to 10 levels of characters; this is because such groups have perks instead):

Tarzan's Jungle Alliance (me)


Tarzan's group all have the animal trait, which means that they have no shooting ability at all.  On the other hand, that gives them extra powers in other skills (mostly, but not entirely, melee).

The Snake Cult of Hanash (Steve)


These guys have a charismatic leader with hypnotic powers, a monstrous, intelligent pet, a sharpshooter, a stealth specialist and a grunt.

The Reich's East Africa Exploratory Force (AH)


The Nazis are strong with ranged firepower, including machine guns and grenades.  They also have a brawling specialist and a cunning second-in-command.

Sir Henry Curtis' Safari (AD)


Sir Henry's Safari has 2 excellent shots, a couple of colourful supporting characters and several all-but-useless ascaris.

The Scenario


We decided to play the "Smash and Grab" scenario; nothing too fancy for our first game.  There would therefore be 5 plot points; a major plot point in the centre and 4 minor ones placed elsewhere.  It would have been much better to give these objectives full descriptions and (ideally) proper models or counters, but this was lost in the excitement of setting up our first game.  So, instead of plot points such as "the jade amulet of Horus" or "the lost explorer, David Vitalpebble", we just used small, brown, perspex ovals.  Sorry - we'll do better next time, I promise!

The table was set up with the ruins of an ancient city buried deep in the jungle; certain areas were designated as "perilous" or "extremely perilous".

Starting initiative was determined randomly, then leagues were placed on the owner's preferred side in initiative order.

The Game


In the north-west, several enthusiastic ascaris (Safari) rushed forwards, only to be gunned down mercilessly by the Nazis.  Cover wasn't even considered and trying to solve plot points seemed to be secondary (remember that these 2 "shooty" leagues were both being controlled by 13 year old boys).


Elsewhere, low-level minions didn't fare very well either.  One of Tarzan's apes attempted to solve the plot point near the ruined baths, but couldn't pass the required Challenge and perished in the fetid water.


Another simian attempted to slow down the Cultists' advance southward, but the giant snake scared it to death without even pausing for breath....


...whilst on the other side of the baths, Tarzan wrestled with a cultist for possession of the major plot point.  It wasn't much of a fight, though: the jungle lord swiftly knocked out his level-1 opponent.


So, after 2 or 3 turns, this is how things stood:
  • The Nazis and the Safari were blazing away at each other; both had taken casualties (though the Safari suffered more losses).
  • Koko the gorilla (Tarzan) successfully claimed the plot point near the baths which had killed the smaller ape.
  • Tarzan and Caesar were working on the major plot point in the centre of the table.
  • Ernst (Nazi) and Nadeem (Cult) were having a private little war over the plot point in the top, right hand corner, pretty much out of sight of everyone else.

Koko the gorilla attempted to make a run for it with the solved plot point and was intercepted by the cultists' snake.  In a brutal melee, the gorilla was wounded, but I decided to use his Savage skill to continue the fight in the same round.  I thought that I would have the advantage by playing a Warmed Up card, but it turns out that the giant snake was just getting started too.  After a flurry of action cards, Koko went down and out of the game!  The snake grabbed the plot point and made off with it.


In revenge, Tarzan charged at Al Masudi, the cultist leader.  The dark priest's Dread Gaze and Intimidating skills meant nothing to the Englishman, who proceeded to pummel the enemy boss to the ground.  Honestly, normal men just shouldn't go mano a mano with Tarzan; he wrestles lions and crocodiles for fun!


In the other corner, the Nazis and the Safari kept shooting at each other.  Casualties were mounting, though the Safari's wounded tended to stay down and the Nazis often just got back up.  At least Sir Henry had recovered a plot point; now could he escape with it?


Ernst and Nadeem's private feud continued.  Neither could gain the upper hand, as each time their opponent was knocked down, he would just get up again.  This was still a stalemate at the end of the game.


Finally, at the end of turn 6, this is how things stood:
  • Caesar ran off with the major plot point; the Cult's sharpshooter was (just) unable to stop him.
  • Tarzan grabbed a minor plot point in the dying moments of the game.
  • Al Masudi, the Cult leader, crawled off the table, bruised and battered but still defiant and plotting revenge.
  • The Cult's snake made off with the plot point that it had taken from Koko the gorilla.
  • The remaining Nazis (apart from Ernst, who was still wrestling with Nadeem) piled into the last of the Safari.  By this time, Sir Henry was badly hurt and only had Lady Constance to support him, so things looked grim for them.  Technically, Sir Henry did have possession of a plot point at the end of the game, though.

Conclusion

Oh, wow - this was an exciting game!  I'm sure that we stumbled a bit over the rules and probably got some things a little wrong, but overall it worked very well.

There were a few private disappointments for me: nobody tried to go through any of the perilous terrain, though with 3 other players all poised to play challenges on them, perhaps that's not surprising.  Also, several interesting skills such as Koko's Shock roar or the Panzerbot's Burst Fire were never used.  But that just leaves me wanting more; we'll have to play this again!

Final Scores:

  • Tarzan: Gains: 1 major and 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Koko and 3 chimps KO.
  • The Snake Cult of Hanash: Gains: 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Al Masudi battered; Saeed KO.
  • Nazis: Gains: - .  Losses: Johann KO
  • Sir Henry's Safari:  Gains: 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Quartermain, Goode and 3 ascaris KO.  Sir Henry badly hurt.