Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What Project Next? Post-Apocalyptic or Gangs Warfare?

The two rules sets and periods that I am deciding between: post-apocalyptic vs. urban gangs
About a month or so ago, I was fairly certain that the next project that I would be painting up would be post-apocalyptic. I even had a rules set that I hadn't played, but my friend Jason of Miros Games blog had and recommended. However, we playtested the Tribal skirmish rules, and I liked them. Even more, they had a supplement which covered gang warfare, and I felt that fit perfectly for the feel of the rules. I love the 1980s movie "The Warriors," and thought that'd be an incredibly fun and visually exciting game.
If I go post-apocalyptic, I already have F Troop painted up (from Sergeant Major Miniatures)
So, now I'm in a quandary: which project do I do next? Trying to do both means it'll take forever to get either on the tabletop. I know that I have my Ghost Archipelago games that I'm still running, but I think seeing concrete progress towards my goal will keep me motivated. Maybe setting them out, side by side, will help me make my decision. So, here they are: Across the Dead Earth by Dead Earth Games vs. Brutal: Close Up and Personal Combat by Mana Press.

Comparing the Rules

First off, I have both already in PDF format, so no knew rules purchases will be necessary. The Dead Earth rules were a free download off of their website, while for Brutal I paid $10 each for the Tribal base rules and Brutal supplement. Both seem reasonably well thought out. Across the Dead Earth has a detailed world of post-apocalyptic Britain you can use (though I'd likely change that to Ohio). Brutal gives you a number of periods to choose from, including Gangs of New York (more for a century earlier than the period I want to recreate), Pulp superhero, Renaissance Italy, London gangs -- you name it!
If I go with urban gangs, I already have this group of Kung Fu Fighters from Mega Minis painted up
Both are man-to-man skirmish rules. In Brutal, the ordinary rank and file are in bands of five figures, while the heroes are individual. In Dead Earth, all figures are individual. The average player force in Brutal is about a dozen figures -- or at least that is the size of games we've played. The forces are much smaller in Dead Earth, with the sample groups shown as five figures. All are detailed characters, so it doesn't seem like they're supposed to die very often. You can customize heroes in Brutal, but the character generation (and advancement) system in Dead Earth is much more detailed. There is technically not a campaign with experience point generation in Brutal.
The Blood Brotherhood are an argument to go for post-apocalyptic and Across the Dead Earth rules
I have not played Dead Earth, but it appears that characters shoot or melee and if they cause a hit, the target must make a saving roll. If failed, they are out of action, but can be revived by a medic. They can also be "finished off" by a player in base contact. In Brutal, warrior figures take one wound each and there is no saving throw. Leaders and Heroes take significantly more, and are intended to be able to take on warrior bands of five on their own. It would be easy to consider "dead" figures in Brutal simply knocked out, and returning in subsequent games.
All shields and weapons are separate, and I have PLENTY more, so this could be the core of an exotically-dressed gang
My thought is that Dead Earth is going to play a lot like Ghost Archipelago, with bands of characters out hunting treasure and gaining experience. Brutal plays more like a skirmish game, with more tactical level decisions than role-playing like decisions to make. Which has the edge? Not sure. I'd say a slight edge to Brutal as I have played it and enjoyed it. Just as importantly, so has my Sunday night gaming group. I think Dead Earth may simply feel like Ghost Archipelago in a post-Apocalyptic world.

Comparing Figure Availability/Cost

In the beginning, I thought this category would be a slam dunk for Dead Earth. This past summer, I purchased a couple dozen Foundry figures to supplement the handful of post-apocalyptic Sergeant Major Miniatures figures I'd been collecting. What's more, I have two groups painted up already -- the Blood Brotherhood and F Troop. No figure conversions would be necessary. I have an interesting variety of miniatures on hand. I just need to paint them.
With separate shields and weapons, these Foundry figures could easily be jeans-wearing street toughs with crow bars, chains, bats -- you name it
For a Gangs of New York period, I went through my figure collection. Pretty much all my Pulp and post-apocalyptic figures which could be painted up for it have firearms -- which is a no-no in gang warfare (except there are really cool rules for their use and subsequent arrival of the police). Upon closer examination, and including my Dark Ages figures, I was able to piece together a half-dozen interesting gangs -- Asian Kung-Fu fighters, turbaned SE Asian or Middle Eastern types, a Celtic "Sons of Alban" gang, and others. Plus, I have access to more Foundry's Ancient German line at $1 a figure. They have lots of guys wearing pants with open hands for chains, crow bars, clubs, ball bats -- whatever. There would be a lot of modification, and I would need to find a source for (or hand create) gang warfare melee weapons. If the variety sounds too weird, remember the movie that inspired me -- there were gangs in mime face paint, fancy top hats and suspenders, a gang in baseball outfits -- you name it!
The sheer variety and color of various unique gangs on the tabletop is an argument for the Brutal rules
So, which will be easier? The edge goes to Dead Earth here, obviously. Fewer figures to paint (5-7 per player), and everything is all purchased.

Comparing Terrain

Since most of my players know that going overboard on terrain is the way I roll, I think this is an essential consideration. For Gangs of New York, I have been steadily expanding my 28mm modern buildings for my Wars of Insurgency games. I recently finished four Sarissa two or three story city block buildings. All of these would port over easily to this game. And as I collect more for one period -- like the Factory with Office and two stores I have on my desk now -- I accumulate more for the other. A miniature cityscape always is an eye-catcher on the tabletop, so the games will look really cool, I'm sure.
More of F Troop
For a post-apocalyptic world, I could always use the same stuff, but it won't look degraded and ruined, as people will expect. I honestly have very little for this. I would have to scratch-build or buy ruined buildings if I wanted it to have the proper flavor. So, that would mean a lot more terrain creation and collection. Advantage goes to Brutal here.

Comparing Long-term Campaign possibilities

This was discussed a bit above under Rules. However, to restate, Dead Earth is already set up with skill advances and an experience point system. Players can easily see their characters advance and get better as we play more games. I know this is important to some. For Brutal, this would have to be created. However, I think a "controlling turf" possibility would add a competitive dimension that perhaps wouldn't exist as much in Dead Earth. The accumulation of Honor is a key part of the game in Tribal/Brutal, and in fact determines the winner of each scenario. This could make it easy to create a simple "league" or campaign for control of the city (whether New York or Columbus, or whatever).

Of course, the Street Wars line from Funky Skull game would be the ultimate figs -- but at more than $4 per fig, they are out of my range for fielding multiple dozen figure gangs!

So, despite the rules being in place, I call this one about even. It would be very easy to give players more Honor to create their gangs as the campaign progresses.  Looking back and tabulating the categories, each side period had a clear winner (figures for Dead Earth, terrain for Brutal). Each had one that was a close call. So, I think I figured out why I'm torn on this decision. The advantages and disadvantages are pretty much dead even. I think it is simply going to come down to which I am more excited about: adventuring in a Mad Max era wasteland, or kicking some butt in the urban jungles of the 20th century? Hopefully, by my next post, we'll know which I have decided upon!

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Viking Hall Burning - no! Two Hall Burnings!!

Viking warriors fights their way to the door of their Jarl's hall and kick away the incendiaries to rescue their chieftain
I was intrigued by the last time we played Tribal a couple weeks ago. I'd quizzed the players and they seemed interested in giving the game a go, again. Only one player didn't like it, but he's like the Life Cereal Mikey and doesn't like anything...ha, ha! Seriously, most had tweaks they might like to see, but were willing to try it again.
The Viking raiders cheer as they set fire to the barricaded doorway, trapping the rival Jarl and his family inside
I was debating between two periods to use the rules for. Seeing as how they had an expansion called "Brutal," which dealt with gang warfare on the dirty streets of New York City or otherwise, I was thinking that would be an appropriate use for these rules. I also have always thought about Mayan warfare representing the "Flower Wars," with the goal to kidnap prisoners and sacrifice them.

The Raiders deployed in an arc to prevent the Rescuers from getting to the barricaded, on fire, doorway
I wanted to be smart, though, and playtest the game again before I went all-in and started buying or painting figures. I have lots of Dark Ages figures, and one of the periods they suggest for Tribal is Viking warfare, so I decided to host a Hall burning. Or more properly, since there were seven of us, TWO hall burnings. I set up one 4-player game and one 2-player one, to also see how it works in a multiplayer mode. Both would have a Jarl's Hall being raided by a rival. The raiders had struck at midnight while all were asleep (except for the guards on duty, which they killed off-screen). They piled wood and straw, barricaded the door, and were going to burn the hall down with the Jarl inside, ala The Last Kingdom, for those who have seen it.
My six players testing the Tribal rules again, the 2-player game in front and the 4-player behind
The attackers (or Raiders) would set up within two card lengths of the bonfire in front of the door. The defenders (or Rescuers) would either march on board from any edge they chose in the first turn if they showed up in clear, or arrive in one of the patches of woods on the second turn. For the four-player game, they would draw for initiative each turn, with no consideration of whether they were Rescuer or Raider. This meant the turn order did not alternate, and one Raider turn could be followed by the other Raider player, if the initiative worked out that way.
The 2-player game's climax was a duel between opposing Leaders - one a valkyrie-esque Brunhilda
Since there were seven of us, I did not play and instead was the GM. The Rescuers objective was to fight their way to the door and spend three turns kicking the flammable material away from the door to free the Jarl and his family. The Raider objective was to frustrate that, and of course, kill lots of the enemy. We went with the same size forces as last time, with each player controlling a Leader, Hero, and two Warrior units. We didn't use any skills. I figured if this playtest went well, we could start using those, too. We also played the rules as written, with none of the suggestions my players had about the Panic rules, which they said they weren't crazy about after I pointed out we did it wrong in our first game.
The Rescuers seize the doorway and face off against enemy before beginning to kick away the incendiaries
The games went well, with two new players who had not been present in the initial run-through two weeks ago. Everyone said they enjoyed them, and gave a thumbs up to my pursuing this as a project to run. In the two-player game, the new player was the Rescuer and succeed in driving off the enemy and saving the Jarl. Mike W triumphed over Mike S, who continued to have questionable card draw luck. In the four player game, it took quite a bit longer. By the end of the game, Allen's Rescuer command was totally eliminated (hmm...that happened to him last game, too). Joel's was battered, but grossly outnumbered by the combined Raider forces of Keith and Brian. The players decided to call it and declared it a Raider victory.  One crispy Jarl, with a need to select a new one from among the surviving settlement members.
The Raiders in the 4-player game surround the Jarl's Hall as the entrance begins to burn
So, I guess this means I'm cleared to get ready to use the Tribal rules, with Brutal supplement, for a new project -- gang warfare in NYC, ala "The Warriors." I went through all my 28mm figures from my Pulp, post-Apocalyptic, and even Ancient ranges, and picked out gangs of a dozen or so. As bizarre as the costumes were in the movie "The Warriors," I feel pretty confident that most figure choices and modifications I utilize will fit the theme.
The panorama as the Rescuers arrive and the battle rages around the burning hut of the Viking Jarl
Of course, I DID say I was starting my post-Apocalyptic project, using the Across the Dead Earth rules. Hmmm. Maybe I need to do a new post where I talk my way through this choice...
Rescuer Allen, left, decides upon a card to play in the tensely-fought, 4-player game

Allen's Hero blows upon his horn to summon aid as Keith's warrior unit attacks him in the outskirts of the woods
The card-play aspect of the Tribal rules hits home with the tactical sensibilities of our gaming group

The 4-player battle rages across the board, with heroes and leaders suffering wounds and warriors slain
At this point, the sole surviving Rescuer from the 4-player game (Joel) decides that retreating to fight another day is the best option when presented with a losing hand

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Trying Tribal

Iroquois vs. Huron in a playtest of the Tribal skirmish rules
 Mike Stelzer had lent me a copy of a new set of skirmish rules that he'd purchased called "Tribal" (downloadable on Wargame Vault) It is meant to reflect primitive warfare -- with combatants in small warbands more concerned with honor than enemy body count. After reading it, I encouraged him to run a game of it for us on Sunday evening. Mike agreed, and decided we would fight an early battle between Iroquois and Huron tribesmen before the arrival of gunpowder.
One of my units of Iroquois warriors advances, hunting for their Huron enemies
One of the interesting things about Tribal is that it uses no dice. As I am known as a rather shaky dice roller, this intrigued me. Instead, each player uses their own deck of cards to provide the randomization. In the back of my mind was the fact that, in my trips to Vegas and playing friendly poker with friends, I don't have the best of card luck either. I put that aside, and brought along a box of my Native Americans with hand weapons or bows.
Two lines of Indians -- ancient enemies -- advance to engage each other
Mike gave each of us a Tribal Chief or leader, a Hero, and two units of five warriors. There were six of us present. Allen, Brian, and myself played the Iroquois, while Steve, Mike S, and Joel played the Huron (Mike didn't say that -- I just decided it..ha, ha!). I was matched against Mike S, while Joel would fight Brian, and Steve battled Allen. Essentially, we ran it as three separate one-on-one games on the same tabletop.
A battle rages on the right flank, as Brian's tribe begins to slow push back Joel's
Each player draws from his deck as many units as he has (four for us, as the Hero and Leader are separate units). As you can imagine, the higher cards are better in melee. So, when I drew a slew of high cards for my first movement, I had a bad feeling. I wasn't the only one doing that, and it was only the first turn, so I still had hope that I might do better at cards than dice. Units/Heroes/Leaders can Walk, Run, or Sprint. The playing card itself is the measuring stick, with the short side being a walk, the long side a run, and two long sides a sprint. In addition to the length of the card, the figure also moves its base depth. You place the card against any figure of the unit and move it to the other side of the card. Simple, easy movement rules.
One of my units of Warriors advances to engage a depleted enemy unit
It took us a couple turns to close with each other. I decided to keep my Hero and Leader back behind the warrior units to maybe dash in and finish off a unit the warriors had damaged. Heroes take 5 hits, and Leaders 6. Individual warriors take only one hit. That is kind of the crux of the combat system, too. You fight five "exchanges," drawing one card for each warrior or wound available. A unit that has lost figures draws only as many cards as it has figures/wounds. So, if a fresh unit of 5 figures is fighting one that has only 3, the players do the three rounds of combat (exchanges). After that, the player who is out of cards draws off the top of his deck. This prevents the player from planning ahead.
I couldn't believe it when I drew this combat hand for one of my Warrior units (note the Ace already played - I received a bonus sixth card because Mike's unit had to Sprint to reach mine)
I guess that is one thing I liked. You could plan the order to use your best cards. Plus, each suit has a different combat effect. Winning an exchange with a black cards causes a hit or hits, while winning with a red card causes no hits, but allows you to affect the next exchange. There is even a difference between Spades and Clubs, as well as between Diamonds or Hearts. The unit that charges in has "Initiative," which means they get to see which card their opponent plays in that exchange first.  So, it is good to have the initiative, so you can play just enough to beat your opponent, or if you have no chance of beating that card, throw away one of your low cards against it. The winner of an exchange takes the initiative for the next round.
Mike's Hero faces off against my Leader and two warriors remaining from a battered unit
My skirmish with Mike began with one of his units of Warriors charging mine on my left. I drew decent cards, and killed two of his, while losing one. Whoever wins the most of the five rounds of exchange wins the combat. Losing units back off a Run distance. Mike S then charged in with his other unit of warriors against my warriors on my right. That was when I drew the magic hand. I was shocked when I saw it -- mostly all high cards and mostly black (which meant we would be killing their figures). It was a slaughter, and Mike's entire unit of warriors was slain.  He followed up that charge with his Hero against my same unit, causing a few casualties, and forcing them back. I think a better rule than all losing units withdrawing one Run would be to have them fall back the number of wounds they lost. Or at least the difference between the two.
If I thought my battle against Mike S was bloody, Allen and Steve were soon down to just 3 figures between them
Mike took the advantage for the next few combats, but I continued to wear him down. In the end, he had only his wounded Hero and wounded Leader left against my equally wounded Leader and Hero and three of my Warriors. He decided discretion was the better part of valor and withdrew from the field.
My Hero reinforces a warrior unit that has driven off an enemy unit, but lose one of its number
The Honor system didn't really seem to work for me. It is supposed to force sides that lose all honor points to surrender or run off. Each of us began with 4 honor, and earned more when we won a combat, and even more when we destroyed an enemy unit. No one ever got close to running out of honor. For example, I had 14 honor at the end of the game, while Mike had 7. On our side, Brian and I won, while Allen lost to Steve. So, we counted it as an Iroquois victory. Perhaps we did something wrong, but the Honor seemed to do little other than keep track of who won the battle.

It was a good time, though. I enjoyed the tactical decision making each combat exchange picking which card to play. Winning with red cards allow you to affect the subsequent exchange. You can change the suit of either your card (Hearts) or your opponent's card (Diamonds).

There are optional rules with Skills for units and leaders/heroes. I'd be interested to try it again. It seems to have a number of possibilities. Will I use it for Native American warfare instead of my own Song of Drums and Tomahawks system? Definitely not. It is very generic and doesn't have the flavor I feel Song of Drums has for the period. But who knows? There might be another gaming period it would work well for...say, Conan the Barbarian? Hmmm....

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Advance the Colors 2018 purchases

My newest-painted Sarissa Precision 28mm MDF building is the green one that is second in line
As always, prior to a convention, I set myself a difficult deadline to achieve. I was very happy with the Sarissa Precision MDF buildings I had purchased from Wargame Tools LLC at Historicon. Terry, the owners, is a great guy, and was very helpful in acquiring some more similar ones to ship to me. So, three new buildings show up in the mail in the weeks leading up to Advance the Colors 2018. I was determined to finish them in time, and I did. Juuust barely. Here are pictures of the final one.
Close up of the gray-green building I scrambled to finish in time for the convention
I went with a pale green color for this one - another two-story row building. It is amazing how just by changing how I paint these -- along with the various designs for the windows and doors on Version A, B, C, D, etc. -- they look different. First, I spray-painted the building black. Next, I gave it a base coast of a very light, pale green craft paint called Sagebrush Green. Next, I dry-brushed it white, finishing it off with a black wash. The trim was painted in a brighter, Kelly Green.
You can see the green color better in this photograph
Due to time restraints I did not put a tiny roof structure to show where the stairs come out. It is just as easy to tell the players there is a trap door or something. Of my four Sarissa buildings, two of them have scratch-built roof structures. If I do any more, I will certainly add these. I like how it also individualizes them. I found a new use for the Woodland Scenics mixed gray ballast that I use to texture the roofs. It allows the roofs to be use as dice rolling trays! I put a coat of white glue and water over the ballast (which is glued in place by full strength white glue), so I don't think it will damage or dislodge any of the gravel.
I like how all of these Sarissa Precision city block buildings have a side door
Finally, I got all four buildings out and took a couple pictures of them lined up as a street. I really like how they look all together in a row!
The downtown city street of my 28mm MDF buildings
Since I had scheduled myself to run my Wars of Insurgency game four of the six gaming slots over Friday and Saturday, I had little time for anything else. I briefly perused the other vendors (my own First Command Wargames was attending as dealer, too, carrying Acheson Creations products). In the end, the only things I bought were items I had set aside from Bryan Borgman's Acheson products when sorting them at my house before the convention.
This pack of six chimps was exactly what I was looking for!
I had been looking for more chimpanzees, and when I saw the package of chimps in the Primaeval Designs safari animals line, I snatched the one and only pack of them up immediately. I also grabbed a Bengal tiger, though he had quite a few of those in stock.
I love this waterline resin casting of this sea dinosaur
 There was a resin sea monster - doubtless a dinosaur expert would be able to identify it -- rearing up above the water surface that I could not resist adding to my collection of monsters for Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago. The final purchase was a bunch of Acheson Creations pieces that I will paint up as order markers for Wars of Insurgency. I hate the brightly-color poker chips I've been using and have been scheming to replace them for awhile. Maybe I'll get that done now that the convention is over!
I think these Acheson pieces are designed to be bases for miniatures, but they'll make excellent order markers
I will do another post with my favorite pictures from my "To Kill A President" game using the Wars of Insurgency rules that I wrote. Looks for that soon!
The First Command Wargames vendor tables at Advance the Colors (with Acheson Creations products from Bryan Borgman)