Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 Round-Up

Well that was a long and occasionally difficult year. Returning to full-time, non-hobby work; moving in with my lovely girlfriend; a bout of injury and another of illness. Exhaustion about covers it, frankly.

Because of that, I have written very little this year, whether on this blog, for magazines or completed games. I have gamed at least semi-regularly though, and can only thank the players who have put up with my snoozy attempts at tactics. Over these twelve months however, it turns out I have done a lot more work on models and terrain than I realised. Hurrah for Netflix and its continuous play function!

Using my usual 15mm equivalents, I ended up finishing 1480 infantry, 88 cavalry, 2 guns, 67 vehicles, 16 jump-off points, and 217 terrain pieces. Most productive year on record! Of course with them being a series of small projects that could be completed before my patience and energy collapsed, they haven't added up to as many game-able additions to my collection as you might have expected. A little Post-Apocalypse or sci-fi Foreign Legion here, some more Dark Ages there, an extra bit of ACW, AWI or Bush Wars there - even some modern civilians and soldiers for Fighting Season, which I hope to playtest properly in the New Year.

Genuine and total thanks to everyone who I know through the hobby who has kept playing with, chatting to, following and inspiring me. I have been silently appreciative this whole time, and it does mean a lot. Season's greetings to you all, and the best of wishes for 2016.

Coming up Next: Hopefully a lot more games on the blog as I try to carve more playtesting time for a few upcoming titles, both Tactical Two Pagers and more traditionally sized rules. In the painting queue are Communists for modern Africa, a Battle of the Marne project, a whole extra bag of post-apocalyptic miniatures, a Clone army for Star Wars, and air support for my Rebel, Imperial, Clone and not-Tau armies. Terrain-wise, I hope to add to my space terrain, and the ruined city I am slowly putting together for sci-fi/Frostgrave/Post-Apocalypse/maybe-WW2.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Snowy Scramble

Both the cultic Czernovoyksa and the idealistic Rangers have come to an abandoned intersection in search of loot – bullets, tinned goods, fuel, batteries, anything that will soften the hardship of life after the Fall. Without satellite support, they do not know that the woods are crawling with rad-spiders, or that some aggressive locals have expanded their network of fortified farms toward the roadways.

The table before the models showed up.

Rangers: Kane, Pointman, Thumper – Quality 4 Lone Wolves; 3x3 Rangers – Quality 4 Squads
Czernovoyka: Strelok, Blazheny, Posvyashchat – Quality 4 Lone Wolves; 3x3 Upyr – Quality 4 Squads
Kane technically had the Inspiration Leader trait, but I forgot to use it. Thumper had Lethal, but missed every shot. Strelok and Pointman both had Shadow, making them effectively invulnerable to long range fire.

The Game
Both sides entered the board from near the road. Pointman and the Rangers with assault rifles quickly seized a hill to use as a base of fire. The Voyska spread out to search the nearest woods and building, while Blazheny led a fireteam to the crumpled cars at the intersection. They struck gold immediately, but came under punishing fire from the hill. All three Upyr perished before Blazheny could duck back out of sight with the case and then unceremoniously flee for his life (1 VP).

The Upyr in the woods disturbed the rad spiders almost immediately, and it took several turns of desperate AK74 and RPG fire to silence the chittering monstrosities. At that point Posvyashchat (the first to fall) and one other were dead. The survivors made their way to a wrecked car and did find a Loot marker, before Kane and his colleagues took them out.

Slowed by the ubiquitous wire fences, the lead Ranger team took a while to reach the woods, but once there managed to silence the Upyr opposite before waking the spiders. While in desperate hand-to-hand, the Upyr in the abandoned building savaged them with RPGs and rifle-fire, adding to their woes. Eventually one man was dead and two more injured. When they finally escaped, they at least had the satisfaction of knowing that their struggle had not been in vain (2VP).

The men – if they were still men – in that abandoned house had struggled to get in past the boards and corrugated iron in the windows, but once upstairs quickly found a Loot marker. Their RPG gunner was hit by a lucky round, and their retreat with the goods was slow (1VP). Strelok, also wounded in the final seconds of the battle, stumbled across more goods by sheer chance in the dark downstairs (4VP). It really was luck – I forgot I'd even placed the marker there, and wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't lifted the first floor to allow for his injured slowness.

First across the motorway, the rangers who reached the farm found a Loot marker easily enough, but were chased away by locals when their gunfire (vs the Upyr) awakened them. Hopping back over the fence, their skill (Q4 to Q1) was enough to save them from serious harm and spell the doom of the four foolish farmers who had fired on them. It was one of these men who shot the RPG gunner before heading away down the road (4VP).

A discreditable mention goes to Thumper, the Ranger sniper who was very calm and professional in his sneaky approach to the Voyska stronghold, up until it counted. He missed a shot – with scoped rifle! – at close range and was unceremoniously finished off by Blazheny's SMG.

The Rangers advance and spread out.
The Czernovoyska stick a little closer together.

Rad-spiders surround their prey!
Ranger firepower forces them to hunker down in the road.

Final Tally
Czernovoyska: 6 Victory points from 3 Loot markers, -8 from casualties (7 dead, 2 wounded). Total -2VP
Rangers: 6 Victory points from 2 Loot markers, -5 from casualties (3 dead, 4 wounded). Total +1VP

Man of the Match: Strelok, the Czerno' sniper, who pinned down the Ranger base of fire very effectively and caused most of the Ranger's casualties and Fear markers. His Shadow ability means that any successful hit from within cover at Long range adds 2 Fear instead of 1, so he is ideally suited to trapping the enemy in place.

Ranger fire support group takes its position.

Captain Kane and his team advance. Loot found in background.

Metkiy'Strelok takes aim at distant foes...
...while a much closer one sneaks up on him.

Once again, THREAT ran smoothly, even with a three-sided game (Czernovoyska, Rangers, Nuisances). The number of times where spraying ammo wildly led to an awkward need to reload seemed about right, as did the times when men froze up in Fear. The Rangers, bless them, actually had three turns where their entire force was Frozen due to poor rolls at the start of the turn. That said, I forgot to use "blips" and Kane's special rule, so maybe it ran quickly because I wasn't paying attention! It was still fun enough to play merry havoc with my picture-taking, so there's that. Adding Wits checks to navigate obstacles added a pleasant uncertainty to difficult terrain.

Hopefully I will get the mental space to touch up the rules soon, but I accidentally wrote the bones of a new set of space opera skirmish rules during my lunch break on Thursday, so I may end up getting distracted again...

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A Desert T.H.R.E.A.T.

A band of fearless law officers have pursued a gang of merciless thieves to this desolate outpost in the Bone Counties (called the Home Counties before the Fall). Little do they know that these vicious “scavengers” have managed to reactivate a Fallen artifact – a battle tank!

Whitecliff City Law Officers
Captain Ana Kane, Quality 4 Lone Wolf
Two Light Support Vehicles with machine guns, Quality 4 Vehicles
2x 3 Officers, Quality 3 Squads

Bone County Burglars
5 Lone Wolves: Colonel Slaughter, Lucy Thorn, Wolf Arson, Jackson Claw and Madjack “Crazy” Loon, Q3.
13 goons in three Gangs (4, 4, 5), Quality 2.
Fallen battle tank, Q2

Victory Conditions
1pt per dead Law Officer
3pts per Law vehicle destroyed

1pt per scavenger gang dispersed or Lone Wolf killed
2pts per scavenger Lone Wolf seized in CQB
10pts if Fallen tank seized in CQB

Recon Phase & Deployment
The scouting duel ended up giving both sides a sort of “chevron” for their deployment zones. Captain Kane stayed with one of her patrols, and the scavenger heroes also bolstered their gangs – except the Colonel and Madjack. With blips and vehicles deployed, it was time to play!
Infantry are just blips on the radar until they're spotted.

The Game
Yells sounded across the rockfield as the first law officers were spotted. The LSVs roared to life and chugged forward as scavengers – or civilians – ran here and there. The first exchange of fire saw two scavvies go down,

As the two sides began to advance in earnest, the LSVs showed their worth, scything through scavvies with their heavy machine guns – but they couldn't kill Lucy Thorn! With blood on her teeth she laughed as her men died around her, and limped away into the desert. Return fire from heavy rifles in the fort immobilised one of them too. And at the far end of the field, an ominous rumble spurted into life...
An LSV assaults on the Law's left flank.

Lucy Thorn's lucky escape.

The tank appears at the end of the highway.

Accurate rifle fire forced the crew of the immobilised LSV to bail out, halving the patrol's heavy firepower in one fell swoop. Lucky for them – the awakened battle tank's main gun blew it up not ten seconds later. Captain Kane and the other LSV caught Wolf Arson and his men in a deadly crossfire and sent them all to Kingdom Gone.
The first LSV takes a main gun shell straight on.

Jackson Claw and his men fled their little fort, leaving Colonel Slaughter to rage impotently behind them. The surviving LSV dashed into cover, while Captain Kane plotted her next move. The gang they had been sent to catch were dispersed – but now there was a tank to deal with – a tank which had just blown up her second LSV! Things were desperate now. Her patrol was stranded in the Bone Counties with no transport home, and a clearly lethal Fallen artifact in the hands of villains. It was time for an all-or-nothing attempt to seize the tank!

Her decision to be heroic was interrupted by the frothing appearance of Madjack “Crazy” Loon, swinging a serrated knife in her face! Forgotten in the horror of the tank's appearance, this melty-faced madman had been psyching himself up watching his friends die, and was determined to wreak revenge! Although the Captain injured him with her nightstick, he still gutted two officers in the time it takes to draw breath!
Although outnumbered, Madjack is VERY dangerous!

Noticing that Jackson and his men were loitering behind him at the foot of the wall, Colonel Slaughter ran down with his trusty dog to scare them into shape. The tank trundled towards Captain Kane as she and Madjack continued their deadly dance of death. Neither of them could get the upper hand until Kane's surviving bodyguard came up behind him and broke his neck. No arrest was worth the lives of two officers, not out here.

Kane and her bloody-visored officer looked at each other, at the bodies of their comrades, at each other once again, and charged the tank.
We are the Law!
The captain leapt up the titan's armour, ignoring the scream behind her. She unlocked the turret hatch and threw her whole grenade pouch inside. A shot from her peacefinder pistol, a jump to cover, and a super-heated whoosh! blew up through the air behind her. The tank was neutralised.

Things went back to SOP after that. The delta team came in from the right and supported Kane's peacefinder volleys against Colonel Slaughter's counter-attack. Jackson Claw and several known associates perished in a hail of bolts, and Colonel Slaughter fled into the wastes to avoid lawful custody. All that remained was to wait in the hot sun for a helicopter to come and collect the four surviving law officers, and hope that this wouldn't look too bad in her report...

Final Tally
Law Officers: 15 Victory Points. Casualties: six law officers, two Light Support Vehicles.
Scavengers: 9 Victory Points. Casualties: 13 scum, Jackson Claw, Wolf Arson and Madjack “Crazy” Loon (or is he really dead..?). Escapees: Colonel Slaughter and Lucy Thorn.

Man of the Match: Fallen Artifact Battle Tank. It killed two LSVs and a law officer with three shots, and scared the hell out of the Law until Captain Kane took it out with a heroic assault on the hatch.

Once again, T.H.R.E.A.T. played very smoothly. It was the first playtest of the recon phase, which went very well (I think!) and gave a slightly less than conventional deployment zone, which is what it was designed for. The Law's softskins went up in flames before the Fallen tank's B.F.G., which was also appropriate (if gutting). Madjack's monstrously high Vitality, which turned far too many kills into injury over the course of the game, made him quite the serial-killer scaremonger. The great white hunter Colonel Slaughter rolled nothing but 1s all game, so clearly he has an ironic title!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Helo Chase - Weird Modern Dust Up

In a first proper playtest of my new T.H.R.E.A.T.* rules for post-apocalypse and weird modern gaming, the disciples of the dark gods known as the Cziernovoyska came up against the professional scavengers the world calls the Yellowcakers. The Cziernovoyska are better trained and more numerous – but the Yellowcakers came with Jack and Jean, their machine-gun toting MRAPs. In the fight to secure the mysterious contents of a crashed helicopter, who will win out? Sorry about the pictures, I got a bit too caught up in the game to keep taking them methodically.

* If anyone has a good backronym, please post it in the comments! 

Cziernovoyska/Dark Force
3x 3 Upyr (Squads) with assault rifles or special weapons
Metkiy'Strelok, Lone Wolf sniper
Blazheny, Lone Wolf commander
Posvyashchat, Lone Wolf second in command

Captain Reathe, Sergeant Smojke, Ukufa, Qishi & Burne – Lone Wolf characters
Jack and Jean – vehicles

The Dark Force left, with Strelok the sniper in the road.

The right - Blazheny & his team, and the SMAW on the wing.

Main Yellowcaker advance, hooded Qishi in foreground.

Jack the MRAP "sneaking" up the flank...

The game started with cautious advances by both sides. The cream-coloured Jean went on Overwatch, aiming down the road with the GPMG installed up top. The first shot was taken by the Dark Force fireteam with a shoulder-mounted AT, firing at Jack, who was trundling through the woods. The missile sailed past, but unnerved the gunner enough for all his shots to go wide.
The SMAW misses, but barely.

As the sound of gunfire tore through the woods, both sides began advancing in earnest. Qishi, the Yellowcakers' resident mystic, began marshalling his powers for the fight ahead. The SMAW fired again, barely missing Jack and sending the driver into conniptions. Jean opened fire on the sniper who had aimed at Ukufa with her GPMG, and severely injured him, riddling him and the rusty wreck he was using as cover with holes. Jack opened up with his .50 cal, injuring one Upyr and blasting the head clean off another.
Posvyashchat leads his men forward as Strelok bleeds.

A new turn started with Strelok the sniper Frozen in pain. As the firing sounded out once more through the forest, Posvyashchat's team missed Jean with their RPG and took two casualties for their pains. The SMAW gunner finally got his round on target, blowing off Jack's front right wheel and shredding the rear tyre. It was not enough to save them from the Browning's revenge.

Blazheny's bodyguards moved up through the woods to cover his advance on the helicopter. Seeing them, Captain Reathe moved back – so they opened fire on Ukufa instead, emptying their clips at him with fierce abandon. The brave South African slumped dead in the treeline, the Yellowcakers' first casualty of the battle. From his position at the crossroads, Sergeant Smojke opened up at the RPG team with his sub-machine-gun, injuring the gunner with a full clip. This was apparently not a battle for fire control. When Posvyashchat fired back and hit him in the chest, the Dutchman just bared his bloody teeth in a barbaric snarl.
The table, mid game. Lots of wound and ammo markers.

As his men reloaded, Blazheny approached the helicopter's wreckage. Qishi finally got his Oriental sorcery under control, and flooded the minds of Posvyashchat and his injured gunner with primal terror. They would no longer be a threat to his comrades. Even as he did so, Burne – trusting more to steel than sorcery – crept around the rusted out truck to open up on them with his trusty Sterling. Still holding the crossroads, Smojke laughed manically as Strelok sent a bullet crashing through his ribs. By pure chance his return fire caught the Russian killer just above his eye socket, killing him too. Jean's gunner cursed the fact that his guntruck was boxed in by walls and wrecks.

At the end of the fourth turn, Blazheny was in a difficult position. Six of his men were dead and two had fled, leaving just him and his four bodyguards to claim the helicopter's riches for Cthulhu. The Yellowcakers had lost Ukufa and Jack's mobility, but the survivors were closing in (except Smojke, who was too injured to move). Luckily for him, the fifth turn started with Smojke and Jack Frozen and unable to act, cutting down the odds considerably. For his first activation, he used There's No Time!, rushing his investigation to (hopefully) get away faster. The dark gods were smiling on him as his gambit paid off – he found the suitcase that so many of his men had died to protect.

Hearing his savage shout of triumph, the surviving Yellowcakers surged forward, desperate for Ukufa's sacrifice to not be in vain. He emptied his clip at Burne, winging the young Irishman, only for the favour to be returned in brutal style. The suitcase dropped from his limp fingers as a hail of bullets severed his spinal cord. Reathe fired his hand cannon from the woods, felling one of his bodyguards. In the luckiest event in a day of lucky happenings, the return fire from the Cziernovoyska's machine gun got wedged in his armour, his cigarette case, his beret, even his Bible – but nowhere in his flesh.

At the start of the next turn, Qishi proved his worth in grand style. The bodyguards were retreating with the suitcase when he unleashed a psychic assault of terrible power, stopping both their hearts dead in their chests. They fell down, and the suitcase was Reathe's...

Butcher's Bill
Cziernovoyska: Everyone except Posvyashchat and his RPG gunner. Looks like he'll be the new Blazheny if he survives his superiors' displeasure...
Yellocakers: Ukufa dead, Sergeant Smojke severely injured (one point away from death), Jack badly damaged.

Man of the Match
Despite his lame showing in the first few turns, Qishi and his psychic powers were a real game winner. Honorable runner-ups are Blazheny and Smojke for their fearless attempts to further their missions.

The game ran smoothly and quickly, which is the main thing I wanted. I may have to tweak the initiative system however – granted, I rolled high all through the game, but the accumulation of Fear markers slowed very few people down at all, except in the literal sense of their movement. Since the game is based on survival horror video games as much as post-apocalyptic or weird horror movies, I wanted to give Fear a central role in the mechanics, along with rules for ammo shortages &c. It's a pulpy game, but lethal – no human tanks here, just good old-fashioned gritting of teeth and bullet fragments.

As a first outing for the post-apocalyptic scenery and miniatures I've been working on recently, it was good fun. I look forward to honing the rules over the next few months, as well as finishing other gangs of scavengers, veterans, police and mad cultists. Since I'm starting a new job soon, who knows – I may even add in a Reaper Bones Cthulhu at some point...
Quite proud of these, despite the poor calligraphy.