Friday, February 27, 2015

Operation Hornets' Nest: Galactic Knights AAR

I've played a number of starship combat games over the past several years--and even co-authored my own rulebook, 5150: Star Navy--but the set of rules that first lured me back into gaming was Galactic Knights. Last weekend I had a chance to play GK for the first time in a long while.

I've had the starting rulebook for quite some time, but I acquired the expansion for the insectoid race, Entomolian Invasion, more recently. This was the first game I played using the new rules additions. My friend Joe hosted the game at his place.

I came up with a quick scenario: A force of Terran Transsolar Federation starships enters an Entomalian Empire planetary system with one large hiveworld, one earthlike satellite, and one airless moon. The attackers' goal is to conduct planetary bombartment on two of the three worlds, but the defenders don't know the targets and start out with their forces spread between the three celestial bodies. Before the Bug player sets up his ships, the Terran commander designates his primary and secondary targets and writes down where and how his attacking ships will enter the map.
Joe chose to play the attacking Terrans, while I was the peace-loving Entomalians.  He brought in two of his capital ships, the battlecruiser Marshall Plan and the galactic dreadnought Princeton, along with three Mars-class starbomber escorts (Patton, Frederick, Yamamoto), on one long edge of the map, headed toward the large hiveworld at the center of the planetary system. His flagship, the super galactic dreadnought Chancellorsville, and the remaining escorts emerged at a corner of the map near the airless moon--their primary objective.
The Entomalians had stationed the attack carrier Regina Apis with one Sting-class starbomber (Penta) and one Louse-class armored pursuit ship (Aspis 1) in orbit around the hiveworld. The Mantis-class dreadnought Prophet circled the earthlike world, accompanied by another SB (Hexa) and APS (Aspis 2). The Roach-class battlecruiser Palmetto and two more starbombers (Blank and Violetta) orbited the airless moon, and the Scorpion-class battlecruiser Chlorotoxin patrolled the middle of the planetary system.
When the Ents saw the Terrans enter the system, they began to break orbit toward the invaders. The Chlorotoxin and the Regina Apis launched fighters against the battlecruiser and galactic dreadnought, while the Prophet and Palmetto fired missiles. The Chancellorsville and the Marshall Plan responded with fighters of their own, while the Princeton unleashed its missile salvoes.
Some Mosquito starfighters attempted to intercept the Terran antiship missiles attacking the Scorpion-class ship, while Terran Meteors added their shots to the stern of the Roach-class battlecruiser.
Some escorts were also set to shoot at each other (with both Ent starbombers eventually destroyed), but first we had to resolve the fighter and missile attacks, which can get complicated.
Luckily, Galactic Knights includes a battle board so players can sort out the fighter and missile and point defense attacks. It makes resolving large furballs relatively simple. Below is how it looked during the action around the Princeton. The Terran starship and fighters took out the missiles but suffered a few hits from the Gnat starfighters--which according to the rules are kamikaze craft that inflict 6 points damage per hit!
Meanwhile, the rest of the Entomalian fleet was closing in order to make use of their gravity guns, which aren't stopped by the Terrans' shields.
The lighter escorts have a much higher thrust rating than the ponderous capital ships, and can therefore get across the board much quicker. However, it takes the same amount of thrust to slow down, so be careful you don't fly off the board!
The Entomalian Barb missiles don't cause much damage, but they do contain a homing beacon that makes it easier for other ships to target a craft that's been hit by them. The Marshall Plan took two such Barb shots, as indicated by the green tokens.
The trio of starbombers attacking the moon (the Ho Chi Minh, the Napoleon, and the Atilla) inflicted some damage on the defending starships and poured some of their plasma torpedoes into the surface of the moon, fullfilling their orders to nuke the world from orbit. The Chancellorsville then approached to add its heavy particle beams and plasma laser batteries to the bombardment.
Speaking of torpedo salvoes, Ent starbombers unleashed their grav torpedoes into the Princeton, destroying the galactic dreadnought.
Moments later, another Sting did the same thing to the nearby Terran battlecruiser, At this point the attackers had just their flagship and one or two escorts remaining.
The Terran super galactic got its licks in against the moon, dealing over 100 points of damage to the unfortuate satellite. However, it took hits from three enemy missiles giving Entomalian attacks a 90 percent chance of success.
We called the game at this point, with the Terrans retreating in disarray: they lost two capital ships and four escorts, while the Entomalians suffered just two destroyed escorts, and one heavily damaged battlecruiser. Operation Hornets' Nest had failed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ogre at Sea: L.C.A.C.

Continuing my nautical Ogre theme, here we have a Landing Craft, Air Cushion for transporting conventional vehicles across large expanses of water to invade the peace-loving city of Monopolis.
This is another 1:350 scale model, this time from MRC's Gallery Models line of kits. The package actually includes two LCACs. They're display model kits, not gaming pieces, so some of the parts are very small and intricate. Still, there's not that many of them, and it didn't take long to put one of them together.
As you can see, like my armored boat, the LCAC also fits well with my metal Ogre miniatures. For those who are unfamiliar with this craft, it's a modern Navy vessel used to bring troops or vehicles from offshore onto the beach.
Like it's real-life counterpart, my Ogre LCAC won't have any major weaponry on board, since it's a transport vessel. It will get a couple of antipersonnel guns, however. Other game stats will be its defense of 2, and its GEV movement rate of 3/2 in water only. Note that the 3/2 speed is for loaded LCACs--an unloaded craft can travel 4/3.
An attack result of X on an LCAC at sea destroys the vessel and any cargo it was carrying. As noted above, the LCAC can only enter water hexes. The exception is that it can move onto a beach to disembark vehicles or troops its carrying, but this ends the LCAC's move for the turn. Units deployed from an LCAC cannot move during the same turn that they disembarked, although they can shoot normally.
An LCAC that moves onto a beach is considered to move into that hex for purposes of overruns. If an LCAC lands on a beach occupied by enemy forces, determine overrun combat as normal against the LCAC, but not its cargo or passengers. If it is destroyed in the defenders' first fire round, any vehicles or troops it was carrying are also lost. After the defenders first fire round, any units carried by the LCAC are deployed and can take part in the overrun, although they may not leave that hex after the overrun is finished.
So what fits into this LCAC, which is smaller in Ogre than the real-life version would be? Pretty much any two indivirual armor units, as you can see from these photos I took while test-fitting the parts together:
You have room to substitute two light tanks for one larger vehicle, for a total of four light tanks, or one heavy and two lights, per LCAC.
This craft can also hold a company of powersuited infantry. That's three platoons of three squads each, which fit comfortable in the LCAC.
It can hold two missile crawlers, which are die-cast toys repurposed for use in Ogre instead of the official, two part miniatures.
The only big vehicle the LCAC can carry is my mobile command post, which fills its bay. Unfortunately for the attackers (but luckily for the defenders), the superheavy is just a little too wide to fit. Same thing with the mobile howitzer.
I may have to grab some more of these, but I think I will wait until I playtest this model first. Anyone want to help?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Ogre unit: Armored Boat

I'm always on the lookout for ways to expand my large-hex Ogre miniatures scenario that I ran at Millenniumcon. I have some more buildings I need to put on bases. I even snagged some terrain items the day the convention ended. And now, my latest inspiration is to add enough water hexes to play some nautical scenarios.
To that end, I acquired this Zvezda plastic model at a local hobby store. It's a Soviet armored boat intended for the company's Art of Tactic World War II game. Since I like to repurpose all sorts of models for my gaming, I'm using it as a conventional naval unit for Ogre.

While the scale of this kit is 1:350 and the scale of the Ogre minis is 1:285, the model itself fits in great with my actual game pieces. On the gaming table, this hunk of plastic will represent a manned boat to patrol the waters off Monopolis. Why? Because that's where the invaders will be coming from in my next scenario.
Since the armored boat is about twice the size of conventional vehicles (and has the weapons modeled on it), I'm gonna give this unit two attacks: one strength 4 at range 2, like a heavy tank, and one strength 3 at range 4 like a missile tank. It will also get 2 antipersonnel guns, like a superheavy. It will have a move of 2 on full water hexes only (no streams) and a defense of 4. That comes out to about two armor units, according to the Cobb GEV unit calculator. Sounds about right to me, but we'll see how it does in playtesting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Gaining followers in Holmes D&D

In the early iterations of Dungeons & Dragons, characters gain followers of some type once they reach a certain level. The Holmes edition of the rules, of course, only takes characters to third level and doesn't mention obtaining followers at high level. Since I like to extrapolate from this version of the game, I want to discuss raising followers according to Holmes basic.

First, of course, in the section on creating characters, Holmes points out that the number of followers is limited by a character's charisma:
A character of charisma below 13 can not hire more than 5 followers, and their loyalty will be luke-warm at best -- that is, if the fighting gets hot there is a good probability they will run away. On the other had, someone with a charisma of 18 can win over a large number of followers (men or monsters) who will probably stand by him to the death.
Next, in the section on nonplayer characters, Holmes mentions letting characters hire "a band of mercenaries" to take part in (and share the loot from) an adventure. He also acknowledges that players may want "a regular entourage of various character types, monsters, or an army of some form." The author then goes on to discuss luring "monsters" (including higher-level men) into service via charisma or charm spell. He adds that surrender may result in service according to the results of the Hostile/Friendly Reaction Table and subdual means an opponent will serve without need of the reaction table.

But what about followers of characters past third level? The monster entries can help.

Take, for example, the bandit. One fourth-level fighting man for every 30 bandits; one fifth- or sixth-level for every 50. Over 200, a one-quarter chance of a tenth- or eleventh-level magic user and the same probability of an eighth-level cleric. If there are 300 bandits, there is a M-U and a 50% chance of a cleric.

And the dwarf: a second- to seventh-level leader for every 40 dwarves.

As well as the elf: one leader (fighter/magic-user, 2-4/2-7 level) for every 50 elves.

Back to bandits: Holmes doesn't explicitly define bandits as fighters, but he gives regular bandit troops shields and possibly chain mail. Since thieves can't use either of those protective devices, we can say bandits are fighters. Further support for this argument can be found in the description of the bandit camp in one of the modules included with the Holmes basic rules, B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. In that adventure, Gary Gygax lists the bandits as fighters or zero-level normal men.

So you've got scores of fighters hanging around with some higher-level type. Why? Charisma. Those upper-level folks must have pretty good charismas scores, and they're therefore able to amass large numbers of followers.

So based on the above, here's one way to go about determining followers when playing with the Blue Book rules:

In addition to hiring non-player characters through advertising, characters with a charisma score of 13 or more can attract followers as they gain levels, since stories of their adventures will draw others to their service. A character that gains such followers cannot add any more to the ranks until reaching the next level, and any followers lost cannot be replaced until the next level.
Beginning at fourth level, fighting men roll percentile dice each month to determine if they attract 30 first-level fighters into service. A roll of 10 or less succeeds, and the character may not roll again for troops until gaining a new level. At fifth level, a fighting man has the same chance of gaining 50 troops. At sixth level and above, the fighter can obtain up to another 50 soldiers (so a total of 130 troops at sixth level, 180 troops at seventh level, and so on).
Starting at tenth level, magic-users have a 5 percent chance per month of gaining 200 troops, increasing by another 100 troops for each level thereafter on a successful percentile roll.
Clerics have the same chance of attracting followers as magic-users, but can start rolling at eighth level.
At second level and higher, dwarves have a 5 percent chance per month of having 10 dwarves (as described in the Monster List) join their cause, increasing by 10 dwarves per level after that.
Likewise, elves who have reached both the second level of fighting ability and the second level of magic-use have a 5 percent chance to gain 10 elves (from the Monster List). This number increases by 5 elves each time the character gains a level as either a fighter or a magic-user.
Well, that's what I came up with as far as mass followers for the old basic game. It hasn't been playtested, as none of the characters in my short-lived Holmes campaign from last year ever made it past first level (and I didn't come up with it till just now). Also, I didn't include any followers for thieves, since I couldn't find anything in the blue book to draw upon for that class. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Some trees and a castle

I recently threw together some terrain for various wargames. Using the remaining greenery from my terrain project for Ogre, I put together a handful of trees or bushes for use with 28mm figures like this Heroscape knight.
I will use them as obstacles/line-of-sight blockers for skirmish games like Song of Blades and Heroes, as well to decorate larger patches of forest or bad going for rules like Hordes of the Things.
Speaking of Ogre, I also had some leftover buildings from my Monopolis city project. I joined three of them together with some air-drying clay to make this piece of scatter terrain for use with sci-fi or microarmor.
Here it is with a Paneuropean G.E.V. for scale. While this structure may seem to small to work with 6mm figures, it scales well with my other Monpolis buildings and will make nice scatter terrain or even a scenario objective.
All I did was press the three castles (originally from a Disney edition of Monopoly) into the clay, The castles had already been sprayed tan, so I just had to paint the clay once it was dry. After that, I added a little bit of flocking to spruce this piece up a bit.
Simple, cheap, and quick--just the way I like to make my own terrain.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A swarm of Gnats

It's been a long time since I worked on spaceship minis, but I finished painting up 30 Gnat starfighters I got from Monday Knight Productions some time ago.
These attack craft will fill out the fighter compliment of my Entomalian fleet for Galactic Knights, Starfleet Wars, Star Navy, and other spaceship games.
These are light fighters, a bit smaller than the Mosquito heavy fighters also used by the insectoid Entomalians. Gnat and Mosquito, of course, are the recognition names assigned to these craft by Terran Transsolar Federation Naval Intelligence. I'm not sure how the Entomalians refer to them.
Interestingly, in Galactic Knights, the Gnat starfighters are kamikaze vessels that destroy themselves as they crash into enemy starships. Guess it's easy for the Bugs to just hatch more pilots.
It's nice to work on spaceships for a change. I'll have to do this more often. I don't need to buy any more starships; I still have some that are unpainted. Should keep me busy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Another attack on Monopolis

Last week I brought my Monopolis setup for Ogre to Dragon's Lair for the Tuesday night game. Five people showed up to play, including another longtime Ogre fan who is new to the area.
I didn't have any river or stream terrain available, so I just set up a city without regard to the map that I used for the Millenniumcon Monpolis scenario. I also brought some new minis: In addition to a couple of extra Ogres for this game, I took my recently acquired truck convoy to use as an objective.
I also gave the option of cruise missiles to each side. They could trade their smaller Ogre for three nukes. While the attackers left their cruise missile crawlers at home and had two cybertanks, the defenders traded in a Mark III for a trio of nukes and set up their stationary missile silos downtown, a block over from their command post.
And of course, the defenders unleashed those doomsday weapons on the first turn. With the gray-clad attackers approaching Monopolis from two sides, the green painted city dwellers sent nukes to the east and west, disregarding the Monopolis real estate on each side. While the attackers shot down one cruise missile, the others proved destructive to both the enemy vehicles and to the defenders' own citizens, wiping out a good portion of the city's buildings, and keeping me busy replacing those town hexes with rubble markers.
Both sides lost a few units to the nuclear blasts, but most vehicles managed to survive unscathed or were just knocked offline temporarily. However, tanks and infantry had a lot less cover to hide in after those mushroom clouds sprouted.
Meanwhile, the two Mark Vs started jousting, with the attacking Ogre getting the first strike. On the other end of the table, the attackers' Fencer B was showering its missiles on defending GEVs and tanks.
At the same time, surviving GEVs worked their way past the rubbled sections of Monopolis, entered the burning city, and made their way toward the defending command post.
The defending Ogre's weapons quickly got stripped thanks to some good dice rolling, and the attackers also shot up the convoy of trucks that was trying to escape.
In the end, the defenders capitulated, with their Ogre eviscerated and most of their other units down for the count. It was surprising that despite the city's decision to go nuclear, the invaders were able to conquer Monopolis.
I told Grant, one of the defending players, that the reason he nuked his own city because he must be getting a kickback from building contractors. He didn't seem too concerned about civilian casualties on his own side. "It's 2085," he joked. "We'll just clone some more people."

I enjoy running my Monopolis game. Even if I do have to start replacing city hexes with rubble on turn 1.