Thursday, May 19, 2022

Playtest for Drums Mean Streets Game


    A tense night in Bexley - members of the Blockwatch await the feared invasion of street gangs
The next wrinkle planned for my Mean Streets gang warfare miniatures game was to add a completely new class of character: the masked vigilante. Or - if you prefer - crime fighter....or hero. This is not to be a comic book character of the stature of Thor, the Hulk, or Iron Man. This is more along the lines of the gritty, dark characters from the Watchmen (minus Dr. Manhatten). 

    Brave members of the Bexley Blockwatch gather on Main Street to face off against the street gangs
For those who have played Mean Streets, you know that in ascending order there are troop types known as Wimps (civilians), Punks (ordinary gang members), Warchiefs (second in command of a gang), and Gang Boss. Their base Combat Ratings (CR) are 0, 2, 4, and 6. Well, I planned to make Heroes an "8." Would that break the system? It *IS* a d6 system - mean you roll 1d6 and add your CR. However, there are enough modifiers that it should be mathematically possible for a Punk to win a combat against a Hero. Unlikely, yes, but possible. So, I was eager to see if adding in 8's would break my system, so to speak.

    Sid leads the Indianola Mohawks across Main Street and into Bexley to bust some heads!
The scenario was that three local street gangs had called a truce to invade the wealthy suburb of Bexley (Columbus near East side). It is Saturday night and there is a police convention, with many of Bexley's boys in blue attending. The gangs figure it's a perfect night to invade and put the squeeze on various businesses. The local residents of Bexley have formed the Bexley Blockwatch -- middle aged men armed with golf clubs, pool cues, and walking sticks -- to fight back against the increasing wave of gang violence showing up on their formerly quiet streets. They have gotten wind of the planned invasion and a few brave souls have ventured out to face off against the street gangs.

    The Green Ghost appears and descends the stairs to haunt the plans of the street gangs
The Bexley Blockwatch is outnumbered and outclassed. They are all "Punk" class, with no Warchiefs or Gang Bosses. So, they're doomed, right? The bad guys are going to win, right? Well, my new twist on Mean Streets postulates some determined and frankly pissed off souls wanting to strike back against the hoodlums trying to take over the streets. These brooding men (and women, maybe one day?) have trained themselves to peak fitness. They have no real super powers, but use equipment, martial arts, and even fear to aid their one-man battle against the scum of the streets. I am creating a few new Skills to cover "heroic" abilities, such as leaping off a building and landing on an unsuspecting enemy to make a dramatic entrance (and essentially a double attack, with the unwilling human cushion taking the hero's falling damage).

    Surrounded by four punks, Dark Crusader is battered into unconsciousness
The classic hero is Dark Crusader, who wears a deep purple cape, blood red and gray costume, and has the Blackbelt Skill from Mean Streets. He also has Heroic Leap/Climb (mentioned above, but also allowing scaling buildings at twice the speed and the ability to leap across alley ways from rooftop to rooftop with no Tricky move roll. I also gave him Sprinter from the rules, giving him a 50% faster move. For his miniature, I used a Sgt. Major Miniatures post-apocalyptic figure that I added a cape to with green stuff. I painted his mohawk as part of his mask and think it turned out fairly well.

    The Green Ghost and a Blockwatch member are swarmed by members of the Franklinton Flippos
Another hero who received the Heroic Leap was Green Ghost. I used a spooky, cultist-type miniature I'd picked up at the Guardtower on one of our Saga days. His ghostly green mask and gloves radiates in a haunting way, which along with his immense size, make him a "Scary Mutha" - another Skill from Mean Streets but upgraded for Heroes. Anyone who tries to move into melee contact with Green Ghost or attack him must roll a Morale Check. Failure means the action is wasted.

    The Mohawks enter the Shell Station to knock out some civilians for easy victory points
Finally, the man who has bought the best equipment to augment his hand-to-hand combat skill is Captain Steel. I used a miniature of a policeman in riot gear but painted in metallic colors instead. He carries a heavy steel shield, truncheon, and wears a bulletproof vest reinforced with metal plates. I created a new Heroic Skill called, "Armored/Shield." It allows the figure to roll 2d6 (instead of 1d6) when attacked by an enemy and choose the best result. Note that it does not come into play when Captain Steel is attacking. 

    The Flippos strut through an alleyway headed towards Main Street and a night of mayhem
So, how did the heroes fare in our playtest? Only one hero went down and was knocked out of action -- Dark Crusader began his crimefighting career on a low note. Green Ghost, on the other hand, almost single-handedly held off the Franklinton Flippos. The player controlling him (and his three Bexley Blockwatch extras) was incredibly bold. He had his three Blockwatch members charge across the street the moment any of the Flippos showed their clown-masked face. Green Ghost appeared in the motel across the street, descended the stairs and had to hurry to catch up with Bexley's bold defenders. The Ghost was immediately mobbed by a number of Flippos, but in true superhero style, he knocked out one after the other. When he knocked out the Gang Boss, the clown-faced thugs scattered. At that point, it was pretty obvious Green Ghost had made his mark in Bexley.

    A giant melee breaks out in the middle of Main Street, with Captain Steel inspiring the Blockwatch
A huge melee broke out involving two gangs against the Blockwatch and both Dark Crusader and Captain Steel. Pity the poor El Lobo, the Gang Boss of the Santanas, when he got "ganged up" on by both heroes. It was long before he was face down and out of action in the middle of the street. But the Indianola Mohawks poured in their gang members, too. The fight raged back and forth, and mighty Dark Crusader was pummeled into unconsciousness. I have added a feature for my convention games that if a player's figures are mostly or all knocked out of action, I have them appear on the board as a police car with two troopers. I warned the heroes that these cops don't like any costumed freaks -- whether gang members or illegal vigilantes. Luckily for me, Allen lost pretty much all of his troops and brought the police car onto the table so I could playtest that, too.

    Dark Crusader has joined the huge melee and gang members begin to fall
I had also placed about 20 civilians in the businesses across the street from where the gangs enter. Only the Mohawks made it a priority to send a few punks after the civilians to rack up easy victory points by knocking them out. On the other side, only Captain Steel's player sent one of his Blockwatch members to warn the civilians to flee the buildings and go out the back doors. I told the heroes that the civilians won't move unless instructed by either a Blockwatch member or a hero. One budding Bexley Paul Revere ran from building to building warning the timid civilians to flee for their lives. 

    The Blockwatch member heading into the brewpub is playing Paul Revere and warning civilians out
All six of my players seemed to be having fun. The game moved VERY fast, since I abandoned the Initiative phase for this scenario. Since it is a two side game, I had all three players of one side move, then their opponents, then the first side, and so on. I think quick-moving games are important for conventions, so I was happy this made it go faster than the normal free-for-alls that I run where each player dices each turn for initiative order.

    The arrival of a police car with two troopers prompted most of the street punks and heroes to flee
Who won? Well, the gangs scattered when the cop car's flashing lights appeared on Main Street. The heroes also beat a hasty retreat into the shadows, now that law and order had been reestablished. As the two police officers chased a few gang members, no one noticed two gray-clad figures sneak onto the table. They picked up the unconscious form of Dark Crusader and carried him off-table before the cops returned. Were they saving him? Were they kidnapping him? And what did their gray, ninja-like robes emblazoned with a red shuriken mean? Stay tuned for more episodes of Invasion: Bexley to find out!

    Time for some action! The Mohawks cross Main Street to join the fighting

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Bucknuts Post-Apocalyptic Gang

    The Bucknuts, my newest post-Apocalyptic gang, scour the city ruins looking for supplies
A lot of my post-Apocalyptic groups have very unique looks. Whether the WW I inspired gas masks of F Troop to the cultist-like Blood Brotherhood. I wanted at least one or two of my gangs to look like ordinary citizens armed to survive the Aftermath. So, my 6th and final group (for now) would fit that mold. 

The figure on the left was painted to be the leader - I love how the mirrored red sunglasses came out   
I believe most of the miniatures are 28mm Foundry, but since I bought them at flea markets, I honestly am not sure. I decided to go with an irregular look, but still wanted a unifying theme to them. So, I chose two themes! The first was that all of them are wearing camouflage pants or shirts of some sort. I painted the gamut from urban gray camo to woodland green to modern desert sand. I also threw in some olive drab, too, to give them a look like they ransacked an Army surplus store.

Love how the beer-gutted fig at left came out...just trying to figure out if he should be called Woody?
The other theme, as the title of this post suggests, was an OSU Buckeye one. I gave a few of the miniatures OSU Buckeye caps -- including the black "Woody Hayes" one. A couple also have the bright scarlet shirts on, which of course does wonders to supplement their camouflage! Their tendency to dress in OSU garb has led to their name of the "Bucknuts." I mean, you would have to be nuts to be sporting bright red apparel when staying hidden is a good key to survival in the post-Apocalyptic world!

    I was really happy with how all the camo patterns came out -- I can't even decide which I like best
I picked and chose from the figures I had to make sure these looked irregular -- from the black track suit one sports to the woman wearing police body armor. The ammo pouches and such were painted in a variety of suitable colors, from faded olive drab to tan to dark gray. The metal gun parts are painted with craft paints -- a Gun Metal base color and highlight of Pewter. A medium gray wood color on the gun stocks was also highlighted with a brighter color. All in all, I think this gang turned out good with its mix of military and civilian apparel. 

What's next? I have a handful of figures that I need to get done in time for my events I am running at Drums at the Rapids Friday night and Saturday morning, May 20-21. I'm throwing a twist into my Mean Streets game with masked vigilantes appearing out of the shadows to help the local block watch repel the street gangs. The playtest is in a week, but it is just a handful of figs, so that should be a problem. Stay tuned for more details!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dozen Generals Gather for Saga Game Day

    Bob B's Republican Romans charge into the rocky ground to dislodge pesky Pictish crossbowmen
We had a great turnout of a dozen players for our monthly Saga game day in May at the Guardtower East in Columbus, OH. It was a nice variety of warbands being played, too. We had two Republican Roman armies from Age of Hannibal, Picts and Romans from Age of Invasions, Vikings and Jomsvikings from Age of Vikings, and Byzantines, Poles, and Milites Christi from Age of Crusades. Oh, and even a Skraeling player! Two players were relatively new, as well, so we continue to recruit new blood for our Saga battlefields.

    Front, Mike C's Vikings advance against Dave's Romans, while Lee and Andy maneuver for position
Prior to Sunday, I was undecided about what I wanted to play. The last two times out I had gone back to playing my Moors, but prior to that I had been playing Picts regularly. I even considered trying a new faction from Age of Invasions. I have figures for most of the warbands in that book (no Sassanid Persians or Romans, though!). I considered running Franks, Britons, Saxons, or even Goths. In the end, I decided to stay with the Picts. I am actually glad that I did because Saga gentleman Bob B asked to play me, and he wanted to do 8 points worth of troops. I had 8 points of Picts, but probably would have struggled to field that many points of the others.

    The Romans prepare their battle lines to receive the frenzied charge of the Vikings
Honestly, I wasn't 100% sure I had those 8 points until I pulled the figures out of the box! In the end, I decided to not use a third unit of levy and instead use the Molossians mercenary wardogs, again. This would be the third time I used them, and guess what? In two of the three games I've used them, they have done nothing at all. This would be one of those frustrating times. On the turn I planned to send them in, I actually rolled all Uncommon dice, meaning I could not activate them at all! Sigh. One day, maybe, the pooches will see action. But -- as Aragorn says -- it was not THIS day!

    The armored fist of Bob's Roman army, deployed to strike quickly across the field at my Picts
Bob was playing Republican Romans. He really wants to settle into this army and learn it more, so I was happy to give him a chance. Bob doesn't mind legendary units or mercenaries (and actually prefers using them, I believe). So, he was using Marcellus, "Sword of Rome" -- a legendary warlord that actually costs 0 extra army points. He also fielded the Cretan archer and Thureophoroi mercenaries. In the end, like the dogs, I think this was a bad choice for him. So many of his abilities on his battle board are meant for "maniple" or "warrior infantry" troops and are NOT usable by mercenaries. Similarly, he decided his unit of 8 Roman warrior cavalry was not a good choice. On the turn they charged into contact he had four melee abilities queued up. And because they were neither infantry nor maniple, he couldn't use any of them.

    After turn 1, the Picts are much more spread out than the closely-ordered Roman legion
Bob and I decided to play a straight, Clash of Warlords game since we were doing 8 points and would have enough to manage without adding in special scenario conditions. Bob deployed in a tight block on the right half of his side of the table. I spread out more, using the ruins, rocky ground, and forest as cover for my levy troops. The Romans deployed first, which meant that after seeing me spread across the table, Bob was able to condense into an armored fist facing my left. He would jab quickly with that fist across the table and had me back on my heels reacting to his aggressive attack from turn two.


    Romans are pushing the Picts out of the rocky ground and beginning to shred their left wing
I had deployed my levy crossbowmen in the rocky ground, and moved them up and shot them once at the closest unit of Roman warrior legionaries. Bob cleverly deployed in two ranks with the warriors in front and his double-strength hearthguard Triarii and mercenaries in the back. I played my usual Stalking advanced ability, giving me 9 attacks at +1. From the beginning, it was obvious the rolls might not go my way this day. Needing a 3+, I should have scored 6 hits getting on average three kills. I did get two, but that left the 6-man unit at 4 figures, still generating a Saga die. I declined to shoot a second time, perhaps unwisely, as I didn't want the crossbowmen to be charged with two fatigue markers. I probably should have shot, especially considering how melees were going to go in this game.

    On the table next to us, Jim B (one of the true gentlemen of the hobby) enjoys a game with Karen
In the end, I won only *1* melee the entire game. Bob's saves in melee were above average and mine were phenomenally bad. On one turn, he scored 10 hits. I had played the Feint Saga ability which meant I saved on 4+. I scored ONE saving roll out of 10, instead of the average five. On another turn, my troops were in solid cover AND had Feint played, meaning they score saves on 3+. In answer to the 9 hits the Romans scored, I rolled 3 saves and 6 misses -- exactly opposite an average roll. It quickly became demoralizing for me. If it was a melee, my rolls to hit and to save were poor. Bob's were above average or good -- not ridiculously so, though. However, mine WERE ridiculous. Badly so.

    Picts have lost their left and been driven from the ruins and now struggle to bring up more troops
My Picts didn't give up, though. Despite being pushed out of the ruins by his Triarii and a legionary unit, and despite one of his legionaries eviscerating a larger unit of Pictish warriors, we kept hammering back. And failing. A key moment came when he left Marcellus, his legenary warlord, exposed. I galloped my 4-man mounted hearthguard unit forward and tossed javelins. I played Stalking, which gave me 7 attacks (hitting on 4+). We scored 1 hit. I decided to throw caution to the wind and charged them in. In 12 attack rolls, hitting on 4+ against his warlord, we caused only three casualties. He had one figure of Triarii within range to employ as bodyguards, so the Sword of Rome survived by one casualty.

    Bob's warlord, Marcellus - Sword of Rome, survived two charges that could easily have slain hiim

What's more, I had another opportunity to take out Marcellus towards the end of the game. It was similarly handicapped by poor die rolling on my part and above average saves on Bob's part. Probably the biggest thing that hurt my end game was rolling 0 Rares on my last three turns. What's more, on Turn 4 I rolled all Common dice. On Turn 5, I rolled all Uncommon (that was the turns the Molossians were whining to get into battle but couldn't). 

    End game: the doughty Picts refuse to give up, but simply haven't killed enough Romans
I know this account has focused on my poor die rolling. I do want to point out that Bob commanded a good game. His quick march and attack on my levy crossbowmen by his Trairii (using Quincunx to move up and Pila to throw javelins and charge in) caught me by surprise. And I should probably have used Secret Ways more. Marcellus' biggest advantage as a Legendary warlord is that Pila becomes a basic ability - Bob could load up the dice on it and use it for his charges for his legionaries. However, if I had queued up Secret Ways, my Picts could have scampered off to a terrain piece far away after the javelin toss and not had to weather the charge. My mistake, definitely. I finally had a terrain and deployment setup where I could actually use Secret Wars (the Pictish "teleport") and I had a brain freeze and didn't use it.

    Dan, in orange, maneuvers his Poles, while Jim R and Adrian pause in their match
In the end, I was too willing to sit there and let the Romans come at me and engage my Picts in melee. I should have not relied on the counterpunch and instead maneuvered for my own attacks against his more vulnerable troops. Of course, seeing how the melee dice went (I DID save well against his shooting), it might not have made a difference anyway. One of the humbling things about Saga is that you can give it your best, fighting and scrap the entire game, but if the dice gods do not favor you that day, it will likely be for naught. That said, I had a sneaking feeling today would be a bad luck day. The night before, I had played board games with some friends and won both games. And the weekend before, I had done the same thing and swept the evening. I was due for a comeuppance and the Picts were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Congratulations to Bob! He did everything he needed to not make mistakes that gave me an opening and to command his legion to victory. Ave Marcellus!

    Andy's Republican Romans advance quickly to take the battle to Lee's Milites Christi
On the other battlefields, we were having a lot more close games than mine. Another Republican Roman faction, commanded by Andy S, faced Lee P's Milites Christi. They were playing Battle of Heroes and fought to a 13-12 tie. On the table next to me, another Saga gentleman, Jim B, was using his beautifully-painted Skraeling army in a historical matchup against Karen's Vikings. Their game surged back and forth, with each scoring successes. It also ended in a hard-fought tie.

    Mike S's Vikings advance upon a new and different foe - the Poles!
Fresh off his Saga Ohio podcast interview, Jim R had challenged Adrian J to a battle right away, and the two were the first paired up. Jim R ran his Byzantine army against Adrian's deadly Jomsvikings (that he won the 2021 Advance the Colors tournament with). Jim had some traps in mind to spring on Adrian that he had mentioned in our podcast. However, Adrian is also a wily commander (I put Jim and Adrian as in the top three of Saga Ohio players, skillwise). Adrian was able to surge at the end and the Jomsvikings defeated the Byzantines 25-20 in Feasting and Pillaging.

    An early game view of Andy's Republican Roman legion deployed for battle against Lee's crusaders
Another of our Romanophiles, Dave E, played his Age of Invasions Romans against one of our newer players, Mike C, who was running Vikings. To keep it simple, Dave walked Mike through Clash of Warlords, helping him with terrain placement and more. Dave has probably been playing his Romans longer than any other Saga player has been running their current army. He was able to turn back the Viking onslaught, and triumphed 29-17.

    Another view of Mike C's Vikings and Dave E's Romans closing to battle
Our other relatively new player, Dan N, brought out his Poles, again. Each time, more and more of the army is painted and it is looking really good. The Poles are one of the lesser-played armies in Age of Crusades, and certainly are not a common sight in our Saga Ohio games to this point. As such, Mike S faced a new foe and the newbie was able to turn the tables on the veteran player. The Poles defeated the Vikings 31-18 in another running of Battle of Heroes. 

    8 points of Picts and Romans deployed for battle in a Clash of Warlords
 All in all, it was a great day of Saga. I hope that we continue to grow in this post-Covid return to normal gaming. I also hope that our game days grow even more now that the bumper crop of tournaments has subsided for the moment. I think the next tourney in the Saga Ohio area isn't until DayCon 2022 on Saturday, July 16. Adrian will be running this, so keep an eye on the Saga Ohio Facebook group for more details. I am thinking that I will likely NOT be participating this time at DayCon. I want to run some of my First Command Wargames there, so will have to forego the fun of the tourney this time. 

Otherwise, players interested in tournaments can plan on attending Advance the Colors 2022 in Springfield, OH, on Saturday, Oct. 8. It will be an Age of Melee (all historical periods). Further into the year, I will also run a Saga tournament at Shieldwall Gaming Club's new convention Shore Wars in Mentor, OH (Cleveland area), Dec. 2. It will be a "team" tournament. Players sign up in two-man teams. One member of the team runs an Age of Vikings army, the other runs Age of Crusades. Players will be matched up only against their own Age, and scores will be combined to determine an overall winner. It will hopefully be an interesting take on a Saga tournament!

Until then, make plans to attend Saga at the Dragons Guildhall on May 15 at noon!