Monday, March 31, 2014

OGRE's missing Archangel mini

This post doesn't have anything to do with Steve Jackson Games' current moratorium on the sale of OGRE/GEV minis.  Instead, it's a look back to the halcyon days of this line of miniatures, when boxed sets sold for under $20 retail. 

Opening up my set of  Paneuropean Infantry from the early 2000s, I found a checklist for all the planned OGRE Miniatures boxed sets.  As you can see, in addition to the North American Combine and PE starter sets, SJG sold twelve boxed sets of NAC minis and ten sets of PE castings.
The company eventually stopped selling these sets, due to economic factors.  While most of the minis remained for sale individually (or returned with the Wave One minis reprint that was a Kickstarter goal), those from Combine Set 9: Laser Towers and Turrets were not available until the recent Ogre Minis Wave Two reprint.  And a couple of these boxes, Combine Set 8: Divisional Assets, and Paneuropean Set 9: Laser Towers and Turrets, were never even produced (although the Combine structures and the Paneuropean lasers eventually appeared last year with Wave Two).
But it's the last item on the checklist that intrigues me: Paneuropean Set 12: Archangel GEV-MCP and Escorts.  The idea for this unit evidently came from the Ogre Miniatures rules, which described this mobile command post as "a conversion of the massive Soviet transport hovercraft."  It had no attack capability, a defensive strength of 2, and a movement rate of 2/1 in boardgame terms.  GURPS OGRE named this vehicle the "Archangel" and noted that there were only six ever built. 
As far as I know, this ground effect mobile command post was never made into a miniature, and I have no idea what the escorts were supposed to be--judging from the points cost, I'm gonna guess it included at least a couple of hovertrucks, along with infantry and GEVs. 

I think such a vehicle would contribute to an interesting game.  The problem is finding a miniature to represent it.  This thread on The Miniatures Page has several suggestions, including using die-cast toys.  I think that's the route I'll go, if I decide to use a GEV mobile command post in a game of OGRE.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Kobold Konventions for HotT

Hordes of the Things is my favorite fantasy wargame, but like any set of rules it isn't perfect.  And while the new edition of HotT (available in the U.S. from this seller) made one major fix that had already been adopted by gamers for years (switching the movement rates for Shooters and Warbands), there are still some minor issues with the game.

Kaptain Kobold is a longtime HotT player whose now-defunct website The Stronghold was the go-to internet site for Hordes of the Things players.  His new blog, The Stronghold Rebuilt, covers HotT and other games.  And over the years, he came up with a few rules fixes or tweaks for my wargame of choice.

These optional rules, which I hereby designate the Kobold Konventions, give Sneakers a much-needed fix, merge Water Lurkers with regular Lurkers, let Clerics move into close combat with Gods, and have Paladins destroy Fliers just like Heroes can.  In addition, they allow elements to spend PIPs on multiple march moves in big battles.  Finally, there is random terrain placement to make the battlefields more tactically interesting.

These options seem like logical, well-thought out adjustments to make the game more playable and to make it adhere more closely to the various fictional sources that inspired Hordes of the Things.  I want to try the Kobold Konventions in my next game of HotT.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Back to the dungeon

For me, running a role-playing game feels a lot like taking a case to trial: I'm thinking on my feet, remembering obscure rules, and trying to juggle a half-dozen events at the same time.  I enjoy that feeling when all is going well--but when things don't go as planned, I start second-guessing myself; wondering what I could have done better. 

This past weekend, the stars aligned and I had folks over to do some more dungeon crawling, two months after my first attempt at DMing the Holmes basic D&D rules.  I had five players this time: Coach, Rickey, John, and Chris took part in the first session, and Chris brought his friend Jon, who was visiting from out of town.  After taking about 60 seconds to roll up a character for the newcomer (a dwarf called Evard Barrelbrain (favorite song: Barrels of Beer)) to join the rest of the group (Fred the fighter, Colnis the fighter, Acronus the cleric and Evaro IV the elf), the adventurers proceeded back into the dungeon. 
Heading down an unexplored corridor, the adventurers came to a room with nightmarish, Bosch-like murals that caused nearly everyone to flee in fear.  I liked the players' creativity in getting past the terror-inducing illustrations: They extinguished their torches and had the dwarf and elf use their infravision to guide the party through the room with the hellish murals. 

They then went through another corridor to a large room, an evil shrine of some sort.  Lured to the black altar on a dias on one wall, waves of palpable evil caused the elf to run from the room as the dwarf (with a wisdom of 3) decided to examine the non-Euclidan geometry carved into the object.  Touching the altar caused three ghouls to appear.  They quickly shredded the hapless dwarf and began feasting on him as the cleric attempted to turn the undead creatures.  Unfortunately, the roll of 10 was 1 shy of what a first-level acolyte needs to turn ghouls.  The rest of the group moved in and managed to dispatch one of the carrion eaters, but the sharp claws and teeth of the remaining pair of undead ripped the two fighters and the cleric to pieces.  The elf, who came to his senses at the base of the stairs to the surface, hightailed it out of there.
A few minutes and a few dice rolls later, Evaro had recruited a new group to tackle the dungeon: the fighter Fred II played by Coach, Jon's cleric Father Pius, Rickey's thief Alaric, and John's dwarf Derric Elderbeard.  Determined to recover the bodies (and loot) of the slain adventurers, they made their way past the fear-inducing murals and back into the shrine.  The chamber now contained four zombies (one noticeably shorter than the others--these were the bodies of the characters; corpses left in this dungeon tend to get up and walk off).  The group stayed in the doorway and used missile fire and flaming oil to dispose of the undead (and any items their former comrades had left on their bodies).  They wisely decided to avoid the evil altar this time.
Heartened by their success, the group pressed on to explore more of the dungeon.  But they made a couple of mistakes: They didn't bother to listen at a door before trying to open it.  And they didn't get it opened on the first try, alerting the five orcs waiting on the other side.  With surprise and numbers on their side, the orcs quickly dropped the dwarf, as well as the elf (who so far had been the longest-lived character of this campaign, if you can call it that).  The remaining three adventurers fled, with the orcs chasing them (I rolled that they would not even bother to stop and loot the bodies of the elf and dwarf).  Luckily for the fighter, cleric and thief, the orcs stopped at the door to the shrine.  Unfortunately for the survivors, the elf had been carrying scrolls of Sleep and Charm Person that the elf made using the Holmes scroll rules.
So the group returned (with Evaro V and Derric Elderbeard Jr.) and took out the orcs with a memorized Sleep spell.  They even defeated some reinforcements, got a few coins from their vanquished foes, and recovered the spell scrolls.  But instead of sticking around to search for treasure (who knows what they would have found), they retreated to the surface.  It was mainly because the players needed to go, so we ended the session there.  Everyone said they had a good time.  So why am I not satisfied with this session?

I'm bummed that there was the equivalent of a total party kill.  Everyone lost at least one character over the course of the day, and one player lost two.  Seeing the dungeon inhabitants take out the PCs so easily makes me feel bad.  Most everyone has at least a 40 minute drive to get to my place, and one guy drove for way more than an hour.  I don't know how much fun it is to put all that effort to join a game and then have your character killed so easily; and I hope I haven't run anybody off.  I didn't think I was running a killer dungeon, and I hope I didn't come across as too much of a dick with my DMing style.  I want my players to come back.

Maybe I should have rolled for reaction from the orcs, even though I figured that when they heard multiple attempts to bash their door in, they'd fight (and I did have some orcs flee after their fellows were cut down).  If there's a next time, I'll try to do better.  I hope that just like players (or lawyers), DMs can learn from their experiences. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Moar buildings!

Because I can't stop impulse buying when I get a new idea for a gaming project, I bought some more Monopoly buildings to use as city terrain on four-inch hexes in games of OGRE/GEV.  These pieces are from the Monopoly: Here and Now World Edition.
I like the different architectural styles of the various houses, which will let me avoid monotonous-looking suburbs for Monopolis.  And the hotels will add to the urban look of my downtown hexes.  Now to get a large hex gaming mat and some separate wooden hexes to mount these buildings.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The suburbs of Monopolis

I'm gonna need more than just office buildings to complete my large-hex city for OGRE, so I acquired several score hotels and houses from various Monopoly games, including a couple of variants. 

The standard buildings from the original game make for some nice, conventional suburbs for the city of Monopolis.  In addition to these plastic pieces, I have some wooden markers as well.  Their slightly different size will add some variation to this bedroom community.
I don't know which version of Monopoly these pastel pieces came from, but they'll make a nice section of town as well, especially once they're painted.  I also plan to mix these in with the regular houses and hotels, for some variety to the 'burbs.  A coat of light-colored spray paint, and they'll all blend together nicely.
And since a lot of the battles in OGRE/GEV scenarios are set in Europe, I figure there will probably still be a few castles around, with some older architecture homes.  These bits came from a Disney edition of Monopoly.  Alternatively, I could plunk one of these palaces in with some other game pieces I've seen on EBay to create an amusement park.
Now I need to order some four-inch hexes, then I can start assembling the terrain for the city of Monopolis.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Hordes of the Things edition on sale

As announced on the HotT mailing list and reported on The Stronghold Rebuilt, the new version of Hordes of the Things is now available.  If you're interested, this version codifies the Warband/Shooter movement swap that's been an unofficial rule for over a decade.  It also has a whole lot of new army lists (as is missing some old ones due to intellectual property issues) and an optional movement system using base width as the unit of measurement. 

Right now, it looks like the only source for this book is Amazon UK.  It's a little pricey for me, thanks to international shipping, but sooner or later I will be purchasing a copy of the updated HotT rules.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Combining GEV scenarios

I had a couple of people over for OGRE/GEV again on Saturday--Rickey, who played last week, and fellow gamer Kerstan.  This time, I wanted to combine two scenarios on one big map.  I set up map G1 for the advanced Breakthrough scenario and connected it to the G2 board for the basic Raid defense, the idea being that once the attackers broke past the defenders on the first map, they would start playing on the second.  Once again, the terrain overlays added to the game, allowing players to tell at a glance that the towns on the Breakthrough map were destroyed and all the bridges were out.
Unfortunately, once we started playing, the attacker only managed a Breakthrough with four GEVs, resulting in a pretty decisive victory for the defender (lesson: don't stack GEVs beneath a howitzer umbrella).  As the follow-on Raid with just four attacking units would have made a quick game--and an unsatisfying one for the understrength attacker--we decided to start the second scenario from scratch, and give the attacker the full 12 GEVs for the basic scenario.
Unfortunately, the attacker had some poor rolls against infantry out in the open.  He was also surprised by some light tanks hiding in the cities where infantry had been concealed in the last game.  The attacker damaged a few town hexes and completely destroyed only one.  While he took out all the light tanks defending the area, those armor units, helped by the infantry and reinforcements, managed to destroy all but one of the attacking GEVs.
We had fun playing, but if I attempt the combined scenario again, I need to give the attacker more GEVs to get off the first map.  Instead of 16 as called for in the advanced Breakthrough scenario, the attacker should have at least 24, and maybe 30 GEVs so that there's something left to conduct the Raid on the second map.  Here's to the next time!