Monday, October 26, 2009

Into Every Blog, a little rain...

Khurasan Miniatures, a relatively new miniatures company, has recently entered the 15mm SciFi market.

Khurasan offers various “niche” sci-fi models, almost all of it off-beat. Some of these models are very nice – there is a swept-back grav tank that is very nice indeed.

Sadly, Khurasan doesn’t do so well in the field of customer relations, at least where I am concerned, or at least, not in my latest transaction.

After ordering the swept-back grav tanks, I noticed that the turrets were larger than I expected. Not larger than the picture showed, just larger than I expected.

Now, I like a certain “Traveller” look to my sci fi, and as many Traveller fans know, the later tech designs tend to have smaller turrets. Fortunately, or so I thought, the Khurasan website had different turret versions, so I contacted the owner (who doesn’t sign his emails, so it’s either Mike or John, but more of this anon) and asked if I could buy three alternate turrets. The reply, in toto:

“The pieces are not available separately.”

That’s it. Not even a “sorry” to dull the sting. Just a lofty, third person declaration. It’s not hard to surmise that the writer is thinking by the tone taken: “Next time, order the right bloody model.”

Tsk. Playing the blame game lets one party shift the blame and thereby relieve one’s self of any expectation for resolution. It’s best done when you already have your customer’s payment. I wanted to BUY extra turrets I wasn't looking for a hand out.

Also, this is my third order with Khurasan Minis - do I not get a bit of sympathy? A drop? ;) (Apparantly not - so siddown!)

Finally, I keep in mind that while Khurasan is not a big company, the owner has shown little hesitance to post on The Miniatures Page, usually often and at length. I’m not sure why his emails would take a different tone, although the idea that a customer complaint might create an adversarial response does occur.

So, armed with a sense of being slightly “had” (but only slightly - I did receive everything I had ordered - I just wasn't happy with it) I emailed back, explaining my dissatisfaction and disappointment. This resulted in a longer email explaining that all model pieces are cast in a single mold. Since Khurasan doesn’t cast in house, the owner couldn’t send any extra turrets without taking them from those models, rendering them useless.

Fair enough. Especially when you’re paying someone to cast your minis for you. I was a bit more mollified.

Hopefully, after some discussion, I was hoping that the owner might conclude that a little straight talk first is better than cryptic replies. (And if you think “cryptic” is too strong a word, consider how many other ways the question could have been answered (thusly:)

Dear Sir, unfortunately, our casting process does not allow us to sell individual parts at this time. Selling you “bits” would result in severe wastage for Khurasan Miniatures. We’re a small company, as you know, and couldn’t survive that kind of loss.

We do apologize.
The Man With No Name

Certainly a better reply than the first. Although anyone in business will tell you to sign your business emails, at least initially.

However, I then received an email from Khurusan stating that even if asked on the Miniatures Page, the Khurasan Policy (no substitutions/replacements) would still hold. Hey? I had only mentioned that Khurasan should try to keep his direct business emails as conversational (and not clipped and adversarial) as his TMP posts. Clearly, whoever is writing emails at Khurasan isn’t reading them properly, at least not mine.

To my way of thinking, there’s something suggesting unseen stressors at Khurasan Miniatures, and until these are resolved, the jury remains out. Either that or we have someone who keeps a different face on The Miniatures Page than he does in direct email with unhappy customers.

As a post script, the final exchange (aka blowoff) ran thus:

From: Khurasan Miniatures
To: kmfrye
Subject: RE: Notification of payment received
Date: Oct 26, 2009 6:55 PM

Well, whatever you think is best. Happy gaming!


This is a thinly veiled "whatever!" and was in reply to an email wherein I clarified the point about TMP:

KMFrye wrote:
> Mike or Jon(?)
> I'm not suggesting that you would not apply a policy evenly, or make an exception for TMP.
> I'm pointing out that you post on TMP often and at length in a conversational tone, but your personal emails in this issue began terse and off-putting (even adversarial). I would have been less likely to feel badly treated if you'd explained why in your first response.

> Remember, none of us *need* your product, we only *want* your product. That want can change at the speed of thought, and you can have a big impact on what we think by how you talk to us.
> It certainly has on me - I was thinking about placing another order (parasarachnids, artillery tank) but I'm now put off the idea.
> Sincerely,
> Keith F.
> P.S. It wasn't going to be a very big order anyway, and the artillery tank can be represented off-board.
> P.P.S. Not signing your emails is very unprofessional. And evasive.

So, a note to self to beware any further trade with Khurasan Miniatures. I never did have a problem with him, until I had a problem with him. And when I asked for some satisfaction, I got a shirty, adversarial, kinda arrogant (though not really enough to be certain of that last - he might just be that thick) set of replies, which left me feeling…discarded.

Not signing emails – especially business emails – is unprofessional and evasive.

I wonder what Mike or Jon or whomever really is Khurasan Miniatures is evading?…Ω

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Babylon 5 Full Thrust: Earthforce Sourcebook

Meanwhile, in Space, in an altogether different franchise…

Back in the Golden Days of TV Space Franchises. we would gather in a friend’s basement to play war games. But first, we would watch a series that told of the Third Age of Mankind, and a place named


(Cue dramatic music)
My circle of wargame pals have been Bab 5 enthusiasts since the mid 90’s. Me, I liked the pilot, though I must admit to initially only catching the last half. Anyway, we’ve been table-top gaming B5 for a good while.

When an invitation from my friend DJ (in gaming aka Ming the Merciless, and not because he looks like Max von Sydow) arrived to teach the Full Thrust system to his friend, Jay, I decided to teach it using the B5 Earth Force Source Book modifications.

The scenario was set during the Earth Alliance Civil War (and sometime before the episode “Severed Dreams”). An EA Loyalist patrol (commanded by Jay) of two Omega Destroyers and an Olympus gunboat encounters an EA Separatist patrol (commanded by DJ) of two Hyperion cruisers and an old Nova dreadnaught (these are the B5 side, cheer for them!). Each side’s objective was to clear the enemy from this sector (which happened to be the Euphrates Sector, but more of this anon).

BTW, Jay vs. DeeJay? Isn’t that a bit confusing? Such is the tragedy of a civil war…

Turn One: Both task forces began the game at speed 4, representing a normal cruising speed. The Loyalist taskforce enters through the jump gate, accelerates to 8, and deploys fighters. The Separatists also launch fighters. Both sides are evenly matched with fighters - this does not bode well for the fighter jocks.

Turn Two: Both sides fighters flashed forward, and immediately locked themselves into a series of furballs. The Separatists turned to starboard to attempt to keep distance, while charging up the lasers on the Nova. A single flight of starfuries slipped past the otherwise-occupied loyalist fighters to strafe one of the Omegas. The Loyalists accelerated (rather unexpected by both the Seps and the ref, who thought Jay might be more cautious, considering his first game and all…impetuous youth) and by doing so caught the Nova at medium range.

The Loyalist heavy lasers flashed, and an entire damage row disappeared from the Nova. Several lasers fell off, including those charging. Oh dear.

Turn Three: The Loyalist Olympus gunboat had zipped forward last turn, wee little railguns powering up. As the two rough battle lines passed, and pulse cannons exchanged a deadly caress, the Olympus discharged two high velocity depleted uranium sabots at the Nova. One struck, dealing two points of damage, which is really a pittance, unless it leads to a threshold check, which this did. More systems went down, fell off, or were sold off by the PTEN.

Turn Four: The Separatist commander considered that without his main laser platform (the Nova) his two cruisers were no match for the Loyalist taskforce, and accelerated for the jump gate. The Loyalists let them go, having a bigger fish to fry – a 2.5 million ton fish...a place named:

BABYLON 5…(cue dramatic tag music)…

Post-Game Thoughts

It had been about four years since I’d played the Full Thrust/B5/EFSB mod. Back in the day, we had migrated over to this from Babylon 5 Wars, a fun but somewhat slow game from the now defunct Agents of Games. Even back then, we tended to avoid using the elder races, as they were just too powerful for an enjoyable game. For FT purposes, we stick to the Narn-Centauri conflict, the EA Civil War, and some White Star – EA/Shadowtech scenarios.

Due to the nature of the conflict, EA fighters tend to charge into dogfights like English Civil War cavalry rush into melee, thereby removing themselves from the rest of the battle. Ah, this war without an enemy…

Fighters in Full Thrust are too effective as written for use in B5 games, so we usually halve their effectiveness – 1 die attack per two full starfuries. Starfuries are rated as heavy, so they take a hit on a 5 or 6, with a 6 eligible for a re-roll.

The scenario plan actually came from the FT/Traveller mod, Power Projection: Fleet. The PP:F scenario engine is useful beyond measure.

Losing his main laser platform is hardly like DJ on a normal day. Post-game discussion had us agreeing that the Nova should have been kept back, behind the Hyperions. This would have allowed the cruisers to coordinate their fire with the Nova, which could easily have knocked out an Omega Destroyer. Jay’s rapid advance caught DJ off guard – apparently Jay has learned from other games not to let DJ’s battle plans develop.

Upon seeing the miniatures, Jay commented that he remembered the Babylon 5 series from when he was a kid. Saying nothing, I could not help but notice the umbilicus trailing him as he walked about the game table.

Impertinent youth…Ω

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Space Demon MADNESS...

Seems that everyone and his blogger has been fascinated by Khurasan Miniatures 15mm Space Demons.

And I am not immune.

I ordered a set of the Hammerhead/Alien hybrid with an idea to play some scenarios out of the Film "Pitch Black". To that end, I painted four of the demons in a pale sand colour:

(Sadly, my camera isn't quite up to capturing the detail, so I'll have to nick Megz's when she isn't looking. Still, you an see it's a nice mini.)

The second set of four were painted a pale dolphin grey. I couldn't decide which colour scheme best captures the beasts from the film.

In either case, I'm well pleased with the figures, and not half happy with the painted result.

Now to work on some colonists/crash survivors for them to terrorise. Ω

Monday, April 13, 2009

Just Another Bug Hunt…

"5150" from 2 Hour Wargames

This past Sunday, Megz and I had a quiet, post-Easter-dinner game using the 5150 rules. While I’ve read the rules through several times over, this was the first time I was actually using them - to resolve an encounter between a squad of Star Marines and a bug infestation, aboard a derelict freighter.

Using the Traveller Universe as background, the freighter I.S.S. Trope-McGuffin arrives in-system several weeks overdue. She was to deliver an important case of hamdingers to the Viceroy of the planet Torgo X. When she proves unresponsive to radio hails, a squad of marines is dispatched via cutter to investigate and if possible, recover the all-important hamdingers.
Oh, and find out what’s become of the crew. Carry on.

Using a combination of Denizen Federation Space Troops and WOTC D & D aberrations, I set up the Cargo Bay of Doom. One of six red cannisters was marked “hamdingers” and then placed randomly so that even I wasn’t sure where it was. Then, with a clang and a hiss, the airlock door opened and the marines entered.

Each marine was assigned a 5150 reputation of 4, which represents your average military, a jobbing squaddie just trying to get through a sidereal day in an uncaring universe. Reps range from 1 to 7, with 7 being roughly demi-godlike (Alice from Resident Evil 3 springs to mind - as she often does *numnumnums* - as does River from the film Serenity) while a 1 represents a particularly inept, sickly, or aged role-playing gamer type). The lieutenant leading the squad and his sergeant were rated as Rep “5”. The infesting bugs were rated as “4” as they too, were just trying to get through the day.

Turn 1 was spent with the marines advancing cautiously into the cargo bay, led by fire team 3 (aka “The Young Expendables”), while yours truly added to the atmosphere by making alien skittering noises under the table with his hand. Megz doesn’t much like bugs, so I would think my attempts at humour had a soothing effect on her nervous disposition.

Turn 2 was going smoothly – fire team 3 opened their red canister, but no joy. Fire team two entered the next floor tile and thus triggered an encounter. 5150 has a table (5150 has lots of tables, but let’s come back to this, shall we?) that has you generate numbers of xenomorphs randomly. Megz rolled a maximum encounter (and that was the last decent roll she made all night) and suddenly the marines found themselves being charged by large, spiderlike aliens from opposite directions – they were caught in the middle.

5150 has squaddies make a reaction roll as the aliens sped towards them:
“Holy f---, they’re chamax!” someone yelled into their comm unit.

The Chamax Plague, a nasty species of arthropod the size of a great dane, with a mouth like a buzz saw – an hungry buzz-saw.
Reaction dice were rolled.
And everyone froze.
Except the bugz.
Oh bugger.

Xenomorphs in 5150 move at a constant 12”, whereas a human moves at 6” to 8”. You can see the potential for troublesome interactions.

The squaddies of team 3 just stood there as three chamax rushed them from the shadows.
Turn 3 – fire team 3 ran for the stairs to the upper walkway, while team 1 took the charge from three chamax that had rushed out from under the platform. One chamax was knocked back while another took an “Obviously Dead” result. Time to check for where the blood sprays.

“Don’t tell me they have acid blood…” said Megz.
“All right, they don’t, except this one, which does.” Quipped I. Megz was not amused.

The acid blood splashed on the floor harming only the finish (I just can’t have nice things…)

Turn 4. Team 2 was getting frightfully chewed up. The chamax were rated as Rep 4 and “vicious”, which meant that in melee, they are given an extra d6 advantage. A squaddie throws two d6 to successfully roll his rep (or under), while a chamax rolls three dice (including advantage). There isn’t really any “wounded” result in 5150, either a figure is dead, alive, knocked down or out of the fight. (Out of the fight is similar to StarGrunt’s “Incapacitated” – you don’t know how bad it is until a medico looks at it…)

From atop the walkway, a hail of grenades rained down. The way she was rolling for firing, Megz decided a little area-saturation was in order.

Standard grenades in 5150 seem like they’ve been neutered by the game designers, possibly because the rules governing their availability are relaxed – if a squad has them, they have all they need (kinda like the US army – take all you need but use all you take, we’ll make more)… Grenades have an impact of 2, so you must roll a 2 or less for a grenade to be effective once you hit. One more chamax burst, spraying acid blood.

Turn 5 (and wrap) – the grenades had some effect, as did the Eltee and Leading Sergeant entering the mix. The last two chamax died messily. Five squaddies were down, and the marines had only explored two tiles.

Megz was not amused.

Then I told Megz her squad had really been whacked by a random encounter, there were more chamax waiting on other floor tiles.

“How many more of those things can there be?” asked Megz.

“Well” I said “the ship’s probably full of them. The rules say that we roll two d6. You could be outnumbered by two-to-one.” (In my mind, I had already replaced the “Bugs” table with the Xenoform table to avoid the possible outnumbered-four-to-one result…)

Megz was several-light-years-from-amused.

Post-Game Thoughts

“To Hit” in 5150 is non-intuitive. All skill checks are based on rolling Rep or under, but not so ranged combat. You must roll a 10 on a d6 to score a free-and-clear hit (you can roll a hit on an 8 or a 9 , but some cover will negate the success). You do this by adding the firing figure’s Rep. Or not, as the dice would often have it. Little square bastards.

Possibly I’m jaded by StarGrunt and the Full Metal Anorak system, but it would seem to me to be more consistent to adjudicate a hit using the same skill system that REP is based on. Pass 2d6: hit in cover, Pass 1d6: hit in open. This would require the use of a saving throw, which to me seems faster than searching for a chart.

Grenades – I’m inclined to dispense with the “Everyone’s Got the Grenade” rule. With the availability of Litko tokens, keeping track of grenades should be a simple task. In doing so, I’m inclined to give a standard grenade an impact of 3. Or possibly not.

There. Are. Too. Many. Tables…
Or so it seems to me. Possibly we’ll get the hang of it in the next game, as the author often maintains this will happen when posting on The Miniatures Page. We’ll aye see….

Plans for the next 5150 game will involve two sides of opposing sentients, to provide a more traditional feel to the firefight. Probably Imperial Marines vs. Zhodani, sans warbots (since 5150 doesn’t cover bots, just yet).

Right now, the jury still deliberates on 5150. Does it simply read better than it plays? Ω

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And Now, From Space...

Battle of Barnard’s Star
Traveller: Power Projection

This is an interesting scenario taken from an article in JTAS by Prior, Bont & DeGraff*. It has been converted to Power Projection by me, and in so doing a small problem has cropped up, but more of that anon. (*Which, btw, sound like a great law firm. Or laser/lipo surgeons.)

This scenario is based on the Traveller future history of the Interstellar Wars (the same background that has my 15mm Terran ConFed pitted ‘gainst the 15mm Imperials, for those who are keeping track. Anyone? I thought not…)

As I was scheduled to run this at GZG-ECC last month, the various Terran polities were juggled to match up with the Tuffleyverse, but it must be said, the two universes dovetail nicely. (I had to leave the convention early, and never did have the chance to run this.)

The Scenario:
In reprisal for a convoy of Imperial merchants ruthlessly shot up by the Terrans (specifically, the Anglo-American North Atlantic Confederation) the local Imperial governor has sent a punitive expedition to put the wreck on any Terran ships in the Barnard’s Star system. Nations represented include the Russo-Chinese ESU, the French-dominated FEU, and the south-German/Austrian NSL Also representing the Earth is a United Nations Space Agency flotilla of frigates and corvettes.

The NAC, as the party responsible for the shooting spree (this is what you get when you let Brits and Yanks run around space unsupervised) had to stand ready to take whatever the Vilani unleashed, while Europe and Rest of the World happily stood clear to let the Anglo-Americans take a Kick to The Nadlies. The UN squadron, funded by Yankee cash and staffed by Brit mercs also deployed with the NAC.

Turn One: saw the Imperials (played by Megz) make a wobbly acceleration towards the NAC/UN fleet. Megz was learning how to make a vector-based move, which, her being a girl, proved slightly easier than parallel parking. Slightly. The UN/NAC edged forward and loosed their first volley of missiles from the corvettes.

Turn Two: Missiles began to strike their targets (those nifty nuclear-green disks are nukes going up). Two imperial destroyers were damaged, one heavily. A stick of 5 missiles directed at the Imperial light cruiser either missed, were shot down or were blunted by the armour. A direct missile hit on one of the NAC corvettes caused a spontaneous hull breach and the corvette split longwise like a pea pod.
“Uh-oh.” Said the NAC commander, as another corvette lost power and tumbled towards the angry Vilani.

Turn Three:
The remaining NAC/UN corvettes blew up real good. An imperial destroyer also went up. Another stick of six terran missiles converged on what was suspected to be the imperial flagship. They were mostly shot down. With four NAC/UN ships left (one or two with nicks/scrapes from the odd missile) facing an Imperial fleet with three light cruisers and three destroyers, the NAC/UN surrendered. No doubt the Imperials blew them out of space, but we were out of time.

Post-game Thoughts:
This is an odd scenario, as mentioned before, the problem is the Rest of World ships just hanging back, waiting to see what will happen between the NAC/UN and the Imperials. Somehow, I doubt that many gamers are willing to sit for two+ hours, waiting to get into a game. Since the Vilani can’t get all of their victory points by just chewing up the NAC/UN, they will eventually have to engage the Franco-Russo-Chinese-Swabians. My solution will be to break this into a two-session scenario, with the Imperials carrying over any damage/casualties, once they’ve thrashed the NAC/UN.

In the land of frigates, the light cruiser is king. Especially when armed with a royal particle accelerator bay. Any hits scored on the NAC/UN frigates were done by the CL PA’s. (At right, an Imperial light cruiser, with escorts, perfoming a Tokyo Drift. Smug bastards, aren't they?)

I was over-complicating the vector movement. This drove Megz crazy. Heh.

The NAC/UN should have accelerated away from the fight, and not surrendered. Vilani don’t often take prisoners – they foul their own berths, stink up the ship, and complain about the food. Easier to space them. As I mentioned, it was getting late on a Sunday and I was getting tired of making system checks to the sound of Megz and her victory dance. Oh, ohOHoh, OhohOH!

Another option would be to deploy the European Federal States with the NAC, as a gesture of western solidarity, and make the background state that the Euros fired on the merchants, which doesn’t seem likely, unless it was a Sarkozy government. Of course the NAC would stand with the EFS, because the NAC is stoopit, but there you have it.

The idea of the Rest of World, led by the UN, selling the Anglo-Americans out, would feel about right. Ω

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Dinom Channel: All Dinom, All the Time

I think I’ve run this scenario four times, including a playtest. Each session plays differently. At Travellercon in 2008, the mercenaries barely escaped while the getting was good. At GZG-Con the mercs fairly waltzed off the board with their objective, after giving the miners a good stomping.

At Cold Wars, the miners decided to put the boot in.

There’s not much point in going through turn-sequence again: the scenario is set up to follow a certain course for the first two turns. Miners shoot Alpha Squad, Alpha shoots back, APC’s enter and then the fun begins.

At Cold Wars, the mercs entered via the vehicle locks in the south and EAST – hey? That’s different. As a result, fighting actually spilled into Standpipe Park and the nearby Facilities Complex (combined Police/Fire/Emergency Services), which had not happened previously.

With fighting raging across the dome’s full southern hemisphere, the mercs were less able to mutually support their squads, while the miners had more effective units (the technicals and mining-bee) deploying against them . The mining-bee actually engaged an APC with its mining laser. It didn’t matter, the APC destroyed the ‘bee, but it took 2 turns and scared the knickers off the APC crew.

The miners also developed a new tactic – disable the vehicle airlocks. This was enacted by happenstance, as a desperate technical executed a bootlegger turn into the vehicle lock on east Avenue X to block it. An APC fired its support laser, destroying the technical, and the lock was now quite impassible (bet you wish you heard what the vehicle commander said to the gunner when they learned that the west lock was no longer an exit option). Rather like speaking in tongues, it was.

The miners also developed another use for technicals – hunting command air/rafts. Really, the only vehicle they could go toe-to-toe with was the air/raft so a single technical was tasked with bringing the mercenary command air/raft down. Both vehicles were armed with light machine guns, and after an interesting duel the technical had the better of the air/raft.

Suppressed and cut off, the air/raft landed and the miners were treated to the sight of SMS mercenary officers surrendering. “Do NOT shoot them” said the shop steward, “just kick their ass”. Ah, unions.

Capturing the mercenary commander essentially offset the loss of the data crystal for the miners, resulting in a draw, which really is a victory for the miners.

As a postscript: mention must be made of Kinsey’s Rowdies, the denizens of Kinsey’s Drunken Clambo pub at the corner of Ave.’s X and Y (We're Open All Nite). After two or so turns of building Dutch courage, the rowdies attacked the nearest merc squad, which had deployed in the street outside the pub. The ginned-up buggers fought bravely, but were soundly thrashed by the mercs. Limping back to the pub, their leader had a random though - maybe they should have tried shooting the mercs first?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Amber Zone: Crystals from Dinom

We ran the old JTAS Amber Zone “Crystals from Dinom” at Ground Zero Games East Coast Convention XII, using 15mm StarGrunt II and a combination of GZG and RAFM miniatures (vehicles by DLD and Old Crow). Unfortunately, we were in a heavily-registered time slot (or else the ECC participants are getting tired of Traveller-themed games, or else it’s me) and our only pre-reg failed to show. Happily, it was myself and Megz, and we had a grand time playing together.

The scenario begins when a squad of SMS mercs (“SMS” for “Spinward Marches Solutions, LLC"), hired by Quadric Industries, has knocked-over an office full of rebellious miners in order to discover the location of an important consignment of jump crystals, which the miners have hidden. The office has been surrounded by the Dinom Workers Defense Committee (or some-such) and they are sniping at the mercs in alpha squad.

Meanwhile, two more squads of SMS mercs are aboard two APCs, trundling to extract alpha squad, while navigating the airlocks and narrow streets of Medianne, the domed mining centre on the planet Dinom.

Unlike the previous time we played (at Travellercon-USA), the mercs were run by a single player (Megz) and were really able to concentrate on the task at hand: extracting alpha squad.

Turn one: the two squads of miners in the loading zone shot up alpha squad, which returned fire. The relief APCs entered the west and south vehicle locks.

Turn two: the APCs roll into Medianne. The Dinom Workers “boss” calls for a tracked vehicle with mining laser to counter. More alpha squad go down.

Turn three: SMS squad beta deploys to a house overlooking the loading zone, where the Dinom Worker’s forces have been sniping on alpha. SMS squad gamma holds tight as their APC cuts round a corner and comes at the worker’s in the loading area from an opposite angle. The workers are bracketed.

As the laser mining vehicle rounds the corner of X and Y, an APC covering the intersection with its light plasma gun blasts it. The mining vehicle is disabled.

Turn Four: One surviving worker from the mining vehicle stumbles into the pub at the corner of X and Y and riles up the collection of drinkers to defend their dome. Five stumble-bums rush next door to brawl with what’s left of alpha squad. Alpha squad stands fast and repels the attack after two tense rounds of close combat. The rowdies leave their wounded and return to the pub.

Turn Five: Squad Gamma exits their APC and collects the survivors from Squad Alpha. The workers have brought in two police “technicals”: pickup trucks with .50 caliber machine guns attached. The APCs dispatch one while the other fires ineffectively at alpha and gamma squads.

Turn Six: APC #2, carrying what’s left of alpha squad (3 or so mercs with wounded) and a detachment of gamma squad heads for the vehicle lock at the north end of Avenue Y. The remaining technical pursues and avoids a plasma shot from APC#1, which is still covering the intersection of X and Y. The technical gunner fires, hoping to knock out the drives of APC #2, but the fire is ineffective. The APC exits on the next turn.

The mercenaries are successful. The jump crystals will flow, at least for now.

Post Game Observations:

StarGrunt II plays best at the level of three or four squads per side. I’ve seen (and run) games with each player moving a platoon, and it just seems much too slow as a result. For games larger than a few squads, another system, like Striker II, moves faster (and despite its problems, is better suited). Ω

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Return to Agidda - Striker II AAR

This past Sunday saw us engaged in the refight for the power plant on Agidda.

Mark M., Jeff D, Howard F, Megz and K-Traks, were the antagonists, with Megz and K-Traks playing the Terran Confed troops as a change of pace.

The objectives were the same – control the last nuclear power plant on the planet Agidda.

Turn 1 is being referred to as “The False War” since the Imperials tried a repeat of last month’s tactics (they had worked before, which I suppose makes it a tradition, so the Vilani players get points for following tradition). This time the Terran ConFeds had lots of disposable, man-portable anti-tank rocket launchers, a battery of 80mm mortars in supports, also two scout tankettes (think M551 Sheridans) and by turn’s end, the battlefield was littered with burning wrecks, paid for by the Shadow Emperor.

We don’t have many pictures of this fateful turn, because it happened so quickly and we were, frankly, shocked at both the attempt and result, but picture the results of the Gulf War and you’ll have a fair idea.

So the Vilani called a ‘do-over’, which apparently they can do, since they invented it about 4000 BC, and the game was re-set. The ConFeds had one of their tankettes lifted, and the Imperials decided to call in smoke.
I had mumbled something about smokescreens to the Imperial players before the first turn of the False War, but they wanted to see the elephant, which they did, and as fuggly a big brute as can be imagined, it was. This time, they called in smoke from a battery of 144mm battalion mortars about 8km (24 real feet) to their rear.

Fortunately for the Imperials, I had just finished designing a battery of 144mm mortars for their battalion assets two days earlier. With an important assault scheduled to go in, the support REMFs were cooperative (for once) and put down a big cloud of smoke (56cm x 42cm) right atop the main ConFed postion (good calling, Howard…). We had to borrow some sheets of writing paper from someone’s WH40$K collection to simulate the smoke, as I hadn’t yet got round to cutting acetate templates.
With the ConFeds mostly blinded, the Imperial GEVAPCs again shot forward (again, I’ll credit the Vilani for being consistent). The Imps lost one APC to anti-tank rocket launchers (the 2 squads aboard had to make survival rolls and mostly passed), while the remaining two APC slipped into the fogbank.

Mortar shells were dropping around the T.52 PD/FP sled while the T.52 was hull down against the ConFed tankette. The tankette fired first (ConFeds have initiative over Imperials while the latter review their “to-do” lists) and missed both times. Now the 44mm mass-driver on the T.52 spoke, and the valiant little tank was sent spinning to oblivion (fair well, Thunderchild!)…

Meanwhile, in the fogbank, something Not Of This Earth stirred – the Vilani were advancing. One of the APCs loomed in the smoke while ConFed troops scored a ATRL shot on it. The APC brewed up while Imperial infantry made survival rolls to debark. Sheltering behind the smoking wreck, the ConFeds peppered the Imperials with heavy machinegun fire. The surviving Imps returned the favour.

The third APC pressed on, and arriving behind the power plant, proceeded to debark squads while under fire of the ConFed weapons team high atop the cooling tower. They took some hits from a SAW and a ram grenade, then both surviving squads blew the ConFed weapons team away.

Once again, the Terran ConFed was surrounded by Imperial troops, though the ConFed still retained control of the administrative buildings (and, most importantly, the billing records, which Imperial accountants desperately wanted for customer solicitation purposes).

This time, while victory went to the Vilani, it was a closer fight. I called it a marginal Imperial victory, and the players agreed.

Rules clarifications:
Stands may only fire one weapons type, unless they are firing a RAM grenade, in which case, the RoF of the RAM grenade is 1 and the ROF of any remaining weapons are halved, rounded down. (We’ve been allowing stands to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the enemy…)

While Striker II automatically has infantry stands take a hit when their APC goes boom and falls down, I like the survival roll (against their close-range asset) and I think most players will prefer it, too, as it gives them a small measure of control of their stands.

New House rules
1) Time scale reduced from five to three minutes. Movement rates are similarly reduced to 60% of original. Firepower not effected, but see below.

2) A stand declares any special weapons fire (RAM grenade, TAC missile, ATRL) before standard weapons (ACRs and SAWs): this dice comes off of the stands standard weapon RoF (ACR). Thus a stand armed with ACRs having an RoF of 3 may fire a RAM grenade and a TAC missile (both RoF 1) and have a single ACR roll left.

3) RAM grenades only affect the target stand. The burst radius and drift are unnecessary complications. Fiddly: there, I said it.

4) Small arms fire that hits stays on target. we're discarding the small arms "drift" rule as an unnecessary (and fiddly) complication.

5) Stands must target nearest enemy stand unless there is a more dangerous threat (crew served weapon, vehicle, death bot). Self-ordering stands are excepted from this restriction.

Post-game reflections:
Five players are probably too many to run through the level of detail that Striker II involves. I’m inclined to say that four players and a moderator is the working maximum, especially in our case, as we meet on a Sunday evening and most must be in the office the next day.

Striker II, being a grand tactical game, produces frustration amongst old time wargamers and newbies as well, as it flips back and forth between not enough tactical control and too much – movement and weapons is grand tac, while using RAM grenades is more straight tactical, with burst radius proving an unnecessary complication. I suspect this is a result of the second version being assembled by a different “author”, who couldn’t resist adding his own encrustations to an otherwise perfectly fine rules set.

Occasionally I think that playing Striker II is like dating a German girl – no matter how much you may be in love, you never really feel loved back. Ω