Sunday, November 20, 2016

Inglorious action for British in Sails of Glory

My sloop leads the British line into action -- or would have, if my co-commanders had their way (I was much to clever and deferred that role to the larger frigates!)

We had a guest GM for this evening's gaming, Ferkin, who wanted to introduce us to Sails of Glory. This is age of sail version of the popular Wings of War card game, with plastic ships and large wooden ship templates, but much of the basic mechanics being very similar. It was a small ship battle for 7 players. The French had 3 frigates, while our British side had two frigates and two sloops. I trust that Ferkin balanced the engagement, but I know my sloop was vastly inferior in its ability to take damage compared to the larger frigates. For example, it took only 1 hit counter to eliminate one of my ship's hull/gunnery boxes, yet the Frenchie that I was tangling with took 4 hits per box.

Age of Sail action on a Sunday evening using Sails of Glory

No surprise that Allen and I, controlling the sloops, hung on the edges of the battle plinking away at the enemy. Well, I hung on the edge and Allen -- after taking a couple splintering attacks from French frigates -- just hung out on the edges and did little else. The result was the French did a good job of ganging up on the two British frigates, particularly the one belonging to Mike S. He stayed in the center and mixed it up with Steve and Keith's ships, while our other British frigate, captained by Joel, helped me against Mike W's Frenchie frigate.

My British sloop gets a bow rake ("What? Rakes are an advanced rule...?") on Mike W's French frigate

In the end, we lost both our frigates, but both sloops would have gotten away. We did force Mike W's frigate to strike its colors due to crew loss. However, there would be no way for us to take its ship as a prize, as we had to flee the scene to save our smaller ships.

The brave British frigates try to pierce the French line, while my sloop at bottom turns away to stay on the edges of the fray and avoid slugging it out with the larger enemy

We played just the basic game, and it was a good time. Ferkin says he'll add in some of the advanced rules next time. It was a nice change of pace, and the "Wings of War" systems translates well to age of sail combat, I felt.

Ferkin (in purple cap) shows us how it's done in Sails of Glory

Another view of the brave, but ill-fated attack by the two British frigates on the French line

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Swatters -- Bugs Attack the Earth in 1950s!

Keith checks the rules for the new Ganesha Games set "Swatters" -- a Starship Troopers vs. Bugs style game

We tried out a new Ganesha Game called "Swatters" -- meant for Starship Troopers vs. Arachnid Aliens. Keith had an interesting twist on it, placing it in the 1950s with a Bug invasion of the Earth (explaining all those flying saucers and the Roswell incident). He used his ample supply of plastic insect figures along with 15mm WW II miniatures for the humans, tossed them on flocked CD movement trays, and boom! A new chapter of our history (well, alternative chapter...) was gamed out on the tabletop.

My UN Marine force of 4 squads supported by heavy weapons

Since it was our first time playing the game, we did a few things wrong (of course). It happens with every rules set that you miss subtle rules. And of course, we had no real idea what the proper force matchup should be. As it was, the game was heavily weighted in favor of the humans -- despite the equal points. In my opinion, a successful bug assault on heavily armed humans requires more experience than our first-time players could pull off.

Allen's armored force of two tanks and power-armored infantry (experimental 1950s version, of course!)

We had 3 human forces -- my UN Marine force of good quality infantry, each squad supported by a heavy weapon such as a grenade launcher, rocket launcher, etc. The armored force, which consisted of two tanks and a power-armored squad. Finally, there was the militia force, controlled by Joel, which was the only force which sustained any significant losses. Allen controlled the armor and I controlled the UN Marines. We both whacked the bugs handily -- me shooting them down at range and Allen repelling all of their desperate assaults on his tanks. As it turns out, that was one of the things we did wrong. Tanks should NOT cause melee damage against a bug assault.

The bug force arrayed against me -- warriors, giant bugs, and flyer bugs

Nevertheless, we liked certain things about the rules and will doubtless play them again. For a more detailed look at the scenario, read Keith's report on his blog: Swatters Game Report - Orcafinn's Basement

The bug forces advance!

For me, I'll just let the pictures tell the story!

My Marine force begins to gun them down at long range

The armored force boldly advances, while my troops move up to support
The Warrior bugs swarm a tank!
Only to be blasted away by the resolute UN armored force

The battle between bugs and humans rages across the board

The bug commanders, Mike S, Tom, and Steve seek a way to break the stout human defenses

They gang up on the Militia force on the left and score their only successes of the battle
Will that lead to success against the human center and right? The bugs throw everything at the tanks, but fail

The UN infantry holds steady and continues to gun down the bugs, until their force gives up, and scuttles back to its holes

But Keith says they'll be back again, and with the what we learned in this playtest, perhaps the next bug assault will prove more menacing and deadly...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest, Turn 10

The Beaver Wars playtesters gathered for one final time at the party room of a local pizzeria

Our final turn of the Beaver Wars campaign began with two tribes, the Shawnee and Neutrals, within one point of each other. There was an outside chance the Mohawk, at 3 points back, could make up enough points and win. It would take the perfect combination of battle results, though. However, I was surprised by the card play, as none of the top three tribes chose a high War card, which could enable them to control which opponent they were matched against. Cleverly, the Neutrals played the highest ranking Hunt card which automatically meant they would likely pass up the tribe in front of them in the standings for Beaver Pelts obtained.

Shawnee hunters meet an attacking Miami warparty at the ford of a river

This was the first turn where any of the tribes played Reward cards that affected the turn order. The Shawnee played a “Prophecy of Dreams” card which allowed them to switch out their card. The Seneca played a “Deceit in Council” card which allowed them to switch positions with a tribe immediately in front of or behind them in the attack order. When it was all said and done, the cards played and choices by the highest ranking War cards resulted in the following battles:
  • The Honniasont (in last place) attacked the Neutrals (who were in 2nd).
  • The 6th place Miami attacked the 1st-place Shawnee.
  • The 8th place Susquehannock attacked the 3rd place Mohawk.
  • The 4th-place Seneca attacked the 5th place Kickapoo. The Kickapoo player was feeling ill the morning of our meeting, so my 7th place Erie tribe stood in for them.

The Mohawk player (in red) advances his braves to attack the Susquehannock invaders

What had happened was that the lower-ranking tribes had all individually attacked the front-runners, meaning that none of the top four were going head-to-head. As GM, I was kind of hoping they’d be matched up against each other — especially since I knew that the Neutrals would make up a point and enter the battle phase of the turn tied with the Shawnee. It also meant the leaders were facing slightly weaker opponents, as tribes with more Scenario Victory Points (SVPs) can buy more upgrades to their figures — allowing them, in essence, to field more points worth of troops.

Facing a counterattack by Neutral tribe warriors, Honniasont youths scurry to answer the summons of their warchief

What’s more, the battles were a clean sweep by the higher ranking tribes. All four of our top finishers ended up winning a Major Victory in their final battle. Speaking from the Erie’s point of view, it was not because my opponent had an edge in upgrades, though. In fact, I felt my Erie were in total control of the battle and well on their way to defeating the Seneca. My opponent became desperate and charged two braves to attack my entire war band, one of them contacting my chief. In an astounding series of die rolls (not the first time it had happened in the campaign to me), I managed to lose four straight melees even though I held a significant edge in each. My chief was killed, crippling my force and giving the Seneca the momentum and ultimate victory.

Seneca horse thieves attempt to rustle some stock belonging to the Erie tribe

The Honniasont gave the 2nd-place Neutrals a run for their money, too. One more lost brave would have forced the Neutrals check morale — quite likely scattering their force, fatally. However, they killed a Honniasont youth to force their opponent to check morale first. This resulted in too many Honniasont fleeing, and the Neutrals prevailed.

The Seneca player attempts a desperation attack on the Erie defenders who are gunning them down from a cornfield

I counted up the points and it ended up being an exact tie! The Shawnee and Neutrals ended up with the exact same total in Prestige Points (which essentially tracks the number of Major or Minor Victories, and Minor Defeats). The Shawnee had the edge in Beaver Pelts, while the Neutrals had the lead in SVPs. Out of a maximum 30 possible points, both tribes score 25.5! AS GM, I offered each the chance to battle it out in a final rubber match, but they declined. They declared they would share control of the Ohio Valley and its rich hunting lands.

More Seneca race to attack the Erie defenders as they shoot out at them from the edge of the cropfield

The players said they enjoyed the campaign quite a bit, and were completely happy with the format and logistics. I have decided to tweak the way Beaver Pelts were awarded in the final rules, so that the campaign will play out similarly whether there were a large number of players or just a handful. Most of the suggestions my players made over the course of the campaign were on how to make scenarios more balanced. This led to me continually tweak individual scenario setups and victory points. By the end, we had played 10 turns with 8-9 players, meaning The Beaver Wars in Ohio generated 40 battles. We met about once a month, and it took us about a year to playtest those 10 turns. You can see the final standings and individual statistics at the end of this post.

The players gather around the final battle of the campaign, as the Neutrals player, left, desperately tries to retake his village from a Honniasont raid

With this playtest, the rules are essentially complete. I will now begin assembling them and rewriting them into a rulebook. It is my hope that they will be available by the beginning of the 2017 — if not before. I hope everyone enjoyed reading about the fun we had during our playtest. I will post here when the rules are available. Thank you for reading!

The Honniasont answer the call of their chieftain and battle the Neutrals mightily, finally falling to the superior foe

Victory Points
Tied 1st
25.5 points
Tied 1st
25.5 points
20.5 points
16.5 points
14 points
12 points
11 points
7 points
3 points

PRESTIGE POINTS (Battlefield Victories)
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
25 (8 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
25 (6 MajV, 3 MinV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
18 (5 MajV, 1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
18 (4 MajV, 3 MinV)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
11 (2 MajV, 2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
8 (2 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)

Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
Erie (Mike Demana)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)

Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
Erie (Mike Demana)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)