Saturday, April 30, 2011

Real battleship gaming

Speaking of dreadnoughts, how about playing wargames on an actual battleship?  A Texas gamer sent a message to several mailing lists providing notice of an upcoming day of gaming on board the flagship of the Texas Navy, the USS Texas (BB-35), the last of the dreadnought-era battleships.

According to the email, Texas BROADSIDE! 2011 will take place Sept. 24, 2011, and will include:
  • WWII naval and naval-air wargaming, including some of the battles involving the USS Texas.
  • Refighting a naval battle beside a 5-inch 51 caliber naval gun, one of 21 originally carried aboard the Texas in 1914.
  • Much like the National WWII Museum has done with Heat of Battle, gaming in a public setting to both help educate the public and grow historical wargaming in Houston.
  • Wargaming inside the air conditioned Wardroom and Dreadnought Room on board the Mighty “T”.
  • Dining aboard the ship that saw the first at-sea launch of a Sopwith Camel and was the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers.
  • All proceeds to benefit the ongoing preservation of the USS Texas.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Lone Star State, the Texas is anchored in the Houston Ship Channel at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, also home of the memorial to the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

This sounds like a cool event.  I don't know if I'll be able to make it, but I will certainly think about attending.  The organizers are looking for sponsors and people to run games, so check out their website and let 'em know if you're interested.

(Obligatory science fiction reference: the USS Texas was featured in a series of books written back in the 1980s about a refurbished battleship with modern (and futuristic) weaponry taking on the Soviet Union as part of a newly independent Texas.  See The Ayes of Texas for more details.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Scenario: Destroy the Chancellor

Here's another scenario I posted to the Galactic Knights mailing list some years ago that I've cleaned up a little bit for y'all.  It's geared toward six players, but since it's just a set of linked combats, you could easily play it with fewer people.  Any similarity to an actual historical event is strictly intentional ...


BACKGROUND:  The massive warships Chancellor and Noble Knight Prince break out of their home system, prowling the spacelanes looking for vulnerable merchant convoys.  Interdiction Fleet command dispatches several squadrons to find and destroy the marauders before they can harm civilian shipping.

FORCES: This linked series of battles requires six players: one operating the Chancellor and Noble Knight Prince, and five controlling each interdiction group. 
Player A  
  • Super Galactic Dreadnaught (Chancellor)
  • Galactic Dreadnaught (Noble Knight Prince
Player B
  • Galactic Dreadnaught (Heir Apparent): 40 points
  • Dreadnaught (Viscount Admiral): 30 points
Player C
  • 4 Light Fighter squadrons (from off-board carrier Triumphant): 3 points each
  • 6 Heavy Fighter squadrons (from off-board carrier Triumphant): 3 points each
Player D
  • Carrier (Vessel Regal): 25 points & 10 fighter squadrons (4 Light and 6 Heavy): 1 point each
  • Dreadnaught (Notoriety) 20 points
  • Cruiser (City of Steel) 10 points
Player E
  • Destroyer (Horseman): 6 points
  • Destroyer (Disciple): 6 points
  • Destroyer (Warrior): 6 points
  • Destroyer (Tribesman): 6 points
  • Destroyer (Thunderbolt): 6 points
Player F
  • Galactic Dreadnaught (Baron Admiral): 15 points
  • Galactic Dreadnaught (Monarch): 15 points
  • Battlecruiser (Earl Marshal): 10 points
  • Battlecruiser (Southwest County): 10 points
  • Destroyer (Farmer): 5 points
  • Destroyer (Grower): 5 points

SETUP: Each encounter occurs in sequence.  Forces start on opposite ends of the map with a drift of 4.  An encounter ends when Player A’s ships leave the opposite side of the map or if both of them are destroyed.
  • ENCOUNTER 1: Player A v. Player B
  • ENCOUNTER 2: Player A v. Player C
  • ENCOUNTER 3: Player A v. Player D
  • ENCOUNTER 4: Player A v. Player E
  • ENCOUNTER 5: Player A v. Player F
Damage to Player A’s ships carries over to all subsequent encounters.  If one of Player A's ships ends an encounter with an empty missile magazine, that ship may begin the next encounter with a full magazine (this represents bringing disassembled missiles up from storage), but the ships only carry one reload per magazine.  In addition, Player A may replace one destroyed fighter squadron one time for a subsequent encounter (this is a singular event representing the maintenance chief cobbling together working fighters from spare parts and damaged craft--"I need those birds back in the air, chief!").

VICTORY CONDITIONS: Player A gets victory points as indicated for each enemy vessel destroyed.  The other players get victory points equal to the percentage of their own ships/fighter squads that make at least one attack and survive the encounter (a fighter squadron survives an encounter if at least one fighter from that squad makes it to the end of the battle).  If Player A’s ships get all the way to Encounter 5, determine the winner by victory points.  If Player A’s vessels get destroyed in an earlier encounter, that other player is the winner.  If Player A survives all 5 encounters, Player A is the winner.

Has anyone ever played a set of linked battles like this?  If so, how did it work, and what would you do different if you tried it again?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Victory is mine!

... the Victory-class super galactic dreadnought, that is.  To celebrate the new look for the eponymous blog title, I thought I'd share some more photos of the SGDN I recently painted
The ship is mounted on a "Super-Nova" base from Monday Knight Productions.
This massive model consists of 16 ounces of lead, and it's about half a foot (more than 15 cm) long.  It took me a couple of hours to get it painted.
The super galactic dreadnoughts were among the second generation of designs for the Starfleet Wars universe.  They first made their appearance in the Book 2 supplement, which recommends not using more than two in a single battle for game balance reasons.  The Observer's Directory & Identification Manual features diagrams of the ships and their weapons.
Like most of the old Superior Models designs, the Victory's underside is just as detailed as its dorsal surface.  Because I haven't glued the model to its base, I'm able to show off what usually goes unseen on the game table.
These massive ships are also a part of the Galactic Knights game, where their multiple shields, massive armor, and numerous weapons make them a dangerous foe.
I can't wait to see how this plays in a game.  I already have a scenario in mind, but I'm gonna need another player or three ...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Scenario: The Siege of Regulus IV (rules)

The space game was intended for two teams each with a pair of players (see the order of battle here), but because we didn't turn in our writeup in time to get it into the convention program, we were one gamer short for the orbital portion.  Luckily, the single defending player and one of the attackers had played in last fall's game, so they were fairly familiar with the rules.  Once they were ready, I gave everyone the following scenario handout (I only have information on the space battle; for details of the surface combat, check with da Baron):

Surface and Space: The Siege of Regulus IV

After its initial invasion failed, the Terran Transsolar Federation decided to take by stealth what it couldn´t take by strength. On the surface of Regulus IV, a small unit of Terran infiltrators captures the Nova Liberian spaceport for Terran reinforcements to land. Meanwhile, in space, the Nova Liberian revolutionary star guard must hold off the invaders´ transports to prevent more troops from flooding into the capital.


The attackers’ goal is to escort troop ships into orbit so they can land personnel to capture the city and its spaceport (indicated by the red marker on the planet).  The defenders’ goal is to keep the transports from landing.  The longer the defender can hold out in space, the greater the chance of defeating the attackers on the surface.


Prior to play, the attackers write down which side or sides of the board they will enter from and type of formation (line, column, wedge, etc.).  The referee will move the attackers’ transports.
Once the defenders set up their forces, the attackers place their ships according to their written orders.  Defenders have initiative the first turn, after that determine normally.

  • The planet, moon and asteroid block movement and line of sight.  Ships may orbit the planet or moon if they have enough maneuverability available.  The referee will show you how this works.  A transport must orbit for one turn before landing.
  • Transports that reach the planet’s surface can land troops that will affect the surface battle.  Transports cannot land if defenders’ sensors on the ground are operational.
  • A ship in orbit with Heavy Particle Beam Batteries (see rules summary) may perform orbital bombardment during the turn it drifts over the objective.  However, ships may not commence orbital bombardment if defenders’ shields on the ground are operational.
  • Fighters may enter the atmosphere for a strafing run after spending at least one turn in orbit that passes over the objective, regardless of defenders’ sensors or shields.
  • The defender may have planetary defenses available.  If so, they may be used during the firing phase at any target within range and in line-of-sight of the objective.

The attackers win by landing enough troops to capture the city.  The defenders win by preventing the attackers from capturing the city.


Scenario: The Siege of Regulus IV (order of battle)

Here's the order of battle for each side in the linked-table scenario I ran at Chimaera Con.  I intended the scenario for four players, but we ended up with three and it ran just as smoothly, thanks to the skill and the previous experience of two players, who had also participated in the first convention game I ran back in November.  Once again, this doesn't include ground forces, which occupied a separate table.


Red Fleet
  • Formidable-class battlecruiser
  • Ranger-class cruiser
  • Samurai-class destroyer leader
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
White Fleet
  • Formidable-class battlecruiser
  • Ranger-class cruiser
  • Samurai-class destroyer leader
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
  • Swiftsure-class destroyer
Transport Fleet
  • 12 Asimov-class transports (about the size of a small cruiser)
NOVA LIBERIA (defenders)

Team Azure
  • Wyvern-class cruiser
  • Wyvern-class cruiser
  • Aardvark-class armored pursuit ship
  • Aardvark-class armored pursuit ship
Team Ochre
  • Wyvern-class cruiser
  • Wyvern-class cruiser
  • Aardvark-class armored pursuit ship
  • Aardvark-class armored pursuit ship
Team Verdant
  • Wraith-class battlecruiser 
Asteroid outpost
  • 1st squadron (9 Meteor-class heavy fighters)
  • 2nd squadron (9 Meteor-class heavy fighters)
  • 3rd squadron (9 Meteor-class heavy fighters)
I also provided a player handout with the special rules for this scenario.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A tale of two tables

(or: Linked Games at Chimaera Con)
Since I had fun running my first-ever convention game at Millennium Con back in November, I wanted to conduct another game at this year's Chimaera Con.  For a long time, I'd had the idea of running linked scenarios on two separate tables, with play results on one table affecting events in the other game.
I got together with Chip (da Baron), who agreed to run the groundside part using Future War Commander.  I would run Galactic Knights for the topside portion.  The concept was to have space forces trying to land more troops to take a landing area and capital city on a besieged planet.  
Never one to let background material go to waste (it pays to recycle!), I decided to make this game a sequel of sorts to the MillCon scenario.  Here's how the summary read:
After its initial invasion failed, the Terran Transsolar Federation decided to take by stealth what it couldn´t take by strength. On the surface of Regulus IV, a small unit of Terran infiltrators captures the Nova Liberian spaceport for Terran reinforcements to land. Meanwhile, in space, the Nova Liberian revolutionary star guard must hold off the invaders´ transports to prevent more troops from flooding into the capital.
The surface and space battles will take place at the same time on two separate tables. The chance to provide supporting fire like orbital bombardments or surface-to-orbit missiles mean players´ choices on their own table will affect the combat on the other table. Just make sure you communicate with your allies!
From orbit, capital ships could conduct planetary bombardment and fighters could make strafing runs.  From the planet, laser towers could rip anti-starship blasts into space and ECM interfered with ship-to-ground communications.  In addition, massive shield generators protected the city and its emplacements.
(for more details, see below)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's finished!

I spent some time Friday evening painting up the pride of my fleet, the Terran Victory-class super galactic dreadnought.  FYI, I put this model on the kitchen scale before starting, and it weighed in at one pound!

Given the name of my blog, you'd think I would have completed this starship some time ago.  What can I say?  I procrastinate--just like I'm gonna procrastinate now and not put up step-by-step photos of my painting until later... 

But just to show y'all I'm not totally lazy, here's another shot of the Victory, with a Swiftsure-class stellar destroyer for scale:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday HotT Game

I wanted ckutalik of the Hill Cantons a break from his DMing duties, so I invited him out to Casa del Escriba this afternoon for some wargaming. I decided to introduce him to Hordes of the Things.

Although he has some DBA armies, Chris doesn't possess any army for HotT, so I let him chose between Surtr and the Sons of Muspel and the Nightmare Legion. He took the fire giants and won the roll for attacker. I set up the terrain as the defending skeletons.

As you can see from the photo at the top, I once again got really good milage out of my lurker--he took out a beasts element (doubled it!) and then tied up one more for most of the game. Although my opponent had some early losses, he came back to threaten my stronghold and my general. In the end, though, he lost his general and the game:

I almost feel bad for winning against an inexperienced opponent, but I did make recommendations on what to do and what not to do with his elements.  I'm sure (I hope) when (if?) we play again, he will eviscerate my army.  This game just came down to some really good die rolls on my part and some really poor ones on his part, such as when his behemoth attacked my stronghold and got doubled.

Instead of a play-by-play of the game, I've assembled some animated GIFs to show what happened. They're below the jump, so they don't distract people looking at other posts on the blog. Also, since the site I used to create them (Picasion) has a max of ten images per gif, I had to split the battle up into three parts. Have a look, and enjoy the Easter weekend.

(continued after the jump)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another OGRE sighting

I just wanted to point my fellow treadheads to Command Post T.  It's a brand new blog (or an old blog with a new focus) by Toltrin (posting to the blog as HarmlessHamster), a long-time poster to the Steve Jackson Games OGRE/GEV forum.  He started putting up content this month, and there's already a wealth of information for fans of OGRE.   Go check it out, and give the guy some followers!

Speaking of OGRE, here's a shot of the three-dimensional Mk V counter for the upcoming sixth edition of the boardgame. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Song of Stars and Silence

I heard about this a couple of weeks ago, but once again I procrastinated until now.  Turns out Ganesha Games, publisher of Song of Blades and Heroes, is coming out with its own set of starship combat rules. 

Awhile back on that mailing list, the SoBaH author mentioned in passing that his company is working on a generic SF (presumably skirmish) game as well as a spaceship game.  I asked Andrea Sfiligoi for more details and learned the following:
  • each player controls a small force (3-6 ships per player)
  • games last about one hour
  • comes with predesigned spaceships or players can build their own
  • torpedoes, fighters, etc. are represented on the game table
  • combat is two-dimensional
  • damage system kept very simple to minimize use of counters (playtesters used puffs of colored smoke with different colors indicating different damage classes) 
I like the fast play, back-and-forth action, and customizable forces of Song of Blades and Heroes.  I will be interested in hearing more about how Ganesha ports those features into a spaceship game.  No word on what the game will be called, so I came up with Song of Stars and Silence.  What's your suggestion?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Campaign wishes

I want to run a campaign with battles like this on a regular basis.
Part of what makes spaceship combat gaming interesting to me is the backstories of the forces involved and the setting background.  That's why I like running scenarios--it gives me a chance to flex my creativity, and a story gets players more involved in the game than your typical equal-points-start-on-opposite-sides-of-the-map game.

I'd like to take that a step further and run a starship campaign--two or more players who not only have to make tactical decisions during a battle, but also must implement strategic choices amid a larger arena.  Deciding to hold your fire or release all your missiles at the start of the game is one decision point that can draw a player in.  Having to decide where to send your forces (and whether to split them up) to accomplish possibly mutually exclusive goals with incomplete information (if I were my opponent, where would I send my ships?) would also prove challenging.

I'd like to run a campaign where each player starts off with one small ship and can serve as a privateer, pirate, or patroller.  Players would make strategic moves on the sector map, and when two forces meet, they would play it out on the ol' hex mat.  As the GM, I would run "non-player characters" such as merchant ships or enemy space patrols.  Damage would carry over from game to game, making players possibly more cautious with their assets.  On the other hand, the possibility of loot, or capturing ships as prizes, would bring out the risk-takers.  This would necessitate a lot of bookkeeping, but I still think it would be fun.

I'm sure others have thought of this as well, so I'd like to ask readers their thoughts on a starship combat campaign.  Have you tried something like this before?  How'd it work out?  Any suggestions, examples, warnings?  I await your replies.

Opponent's armies: Empire and more

The Grand County of Stirland army includes a Mage Knight dragon.
 So one of the events I participated in at Chimaera Con was the Hordes of the Things Texas Championship.  I brought my own army, the Nightmare Legion, and most competitors had their own figures as well.  However, if they didn't, Blake, the tournament organizer had ten--TEN!--spare 25mm/28mm scale armies on hand.  

The City-State of Nuln has a steam tank behemoth, and snipers (behind the tree) act as lurkers.
I asked Blake how many armies he had, and he didn't even know for sure.  He began some years ago converting his old Warhammer Fantasy Battle Empire minis to HotT, and he's far from finished.  I think he has enough unfinished bases for pretty much every political subdivision on the Empire map, and I saw enough completed elements to fight a sizable civil war using just Empire armies.

The City-State of Middenheim army has two artillery elements.
The griffon rider area hero makes the Grand Barony of Nordland a tough army to face.
He brought armies from five Empire provinces, each with a variety of units.  The most notable to me is the Nordland army with its griffin rider, a Mage Knight prepaint.
I'd never heard of the Grand Duchy of Maroon, but as an Aggie I like the color scheme.
There were also some non-Empire armies, including a force of spider-riding goblins and a behemoth-having chaos army.  Blake also had some semi-historical Picts, as well as good-guy and bad-guy Greek myth troops.
The Spider Riders include two spider-mounted heroes, a flyer, and five stands of riders.
They were some fun armies to look at, and the use of collectible prepaints and craft-store figures gave me some inspiration as well.
The Chaos army includes a lot of GW figures, but the minotaur behemoth came from Michael's.
The Picts have a magician element with them, along with their ogre behemoth.
Good and evil Greek mythology armies--heroes on one side, cyclops on the other, lots of historical figs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

City of the Future (War Commander)

Just a quick post to get back into the blogging habit.  This is a detail shot from da Baron's setup for his Future War Commander game at Chimaera Con.  It was the ultimate objective of the ground portion of our joint scenario, and it was defended with shields, laser towers, and sensors.  Note the use of buildings from Epic 40K, Warmachine, and Monsterpocalypse, as well as OGRE laser towers (not pictured).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Starship combat non-critical hit table

A lot of starship battle simulations ultimately boil down to a war of attrition: your phasers burning through the other guy's shields before his missles pierce your armor.  However, many space combat games have some sort of critical hit system as well--either integral to the game mechanics, like the threshhold checks in Full Thrust, or bolted on as an afterthought like the Galactic Knights optional critical hit table.  This is also known as the Golden BB rule--meaning a one-in-a-million lucky shot can get through and take out your flagship.

Most of the time, though, your shots simply amount to ticking off armor boxes or crossing off systems on your ship diagram.  But there's more to a starship than gun emplacements, engines, and electronics.  When I run my convention scenarios, I like to describe to the players what happens with the non-critical hits, or when someone takes out a cargo space on a transport.  However, it's tough coming up with something on the fly, so I whipped up this table for future reference.

Die roll     Result                                      
01-02        Forward dry cleaners
03-06        Starbord pizza oven
07-11        Arcturan pornography library
12-13        Holodeck
14-16        Shuffleboard deck
17-19        Paint locker (d10: 1-7 gray; 8-9 white; 10 plaid)
20-23        Chief engineer's still
24-29        Video arcade
30-34        Spare dress uniforms
35-37        Septic tank
38-41        Petting zoo
42-47        Swimming pool
49-52        Captain's disco lounge
53-58        Stormtrooper target range
59-63        Aft car rental kiosk
64-69        Are you really reading this far?
70-72        Port sauna
73-76        EVA window cleaning equipment
77-80        Dune buggy garage (lose 1-6 dune buggies)
81-82        Satellite TV dish
83-86        Intellectual property cloakers
87-88        Political officer's quarters
89-92        Internet connection wait, that's critical-roll again
93-94        Make it up your own damn self
95-97        Roll again twice on this table
98-99        Disc golf course
 00          Rulebook destroyed: game ends

Let me know if you end up using this, and how it works out for you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scene from a space battle

Here's a sample of what you missed at ChimaeraCon.  I had over 20 warships on the table--plus fighters and another dozen transports--a planet, a moon, and an asteroid outpost.  Maybe because there were fewer players (3 instead of 8), we got through a lot more turns than in my Millennium Con game. 
Terran warships turn to protect their transports from an enemy battlecruiser emerging from the moon.
I wanted to share some more pictures without doing a full-length battle report.  It was a fun game for the participants, and I had a blast running it.  As always, I learned lessons that will hopefully make my next game even more entertaining.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New moon

What started as a styrofoam hemisphere became a new piece of terrain (pictured above) for my Galactic Knights scenario at ChimaearaCon.  So instead of talking about the game, I'm going to procrastinate and post a step-by-step tutorial for painting a natural satellite for my planet.  First, I primed it gray.
Next, I gave it a black wash to bring out the shadows in the indentations to simulate craters.
It was a little too dark after that, so I drybrushed it various shades of gray.
Then it was too light, so I gave it another wash, this time dark gray, followed by light gray drybrushing.
As seen at the top of the page, the new moon looks pretty good on the table, although it didn't play much of a role once the scenario began.  I'm out of time now, but I'll blog more about the actual game later, I promise.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

ChimaeraCon pictures

So I went to ChimaeraCon this weekend.  In addition to running my Galactic Knights game (pictured above) in tandem with Chip's Future War Commander game (pictured below), I played in some fun games and observed some cool setups.  I will get around to a detailed report later, but for now here are some pics from the game convention:
There was a massive Lego setup right as you walked in the door to the con.

Friday night I played dwarves against the orcs in this 15mm HotT big battle.

This board for Circus Maximus in 28mm scale must have been 12 feet long.

This was a very nice looking board for the fantasy skirmish game Malifeaux.

There was a huge Battletech game using Heroscape hexes for terrain.

The publisher of All Things Zombie ran a scenario using a Hanna Montana mall gameboard.

Sunday was a mass Napoleonics battle using modified DBA.