Monday, July 31, 2023

Prison Cell Block & Research Facility

    My Woodford - Prison Cell Block MDF building from Warcradle Studios that I constructed
A few years ago on a trip to St. Louis, I picked up an MDF building on a visit to a local gaming store. It was from Warcraddle Studios "Red Beam Designs" line, and titled Woodford - Prison Cell Block. It looked like the perfect thing for a Pulp or Modern game, kind of a combined research facility and row of prison cells, to my mind. What dastardly experiments were carried out there on the unfortunate detainees? Of course, I had to buy it and find out...ha, ha!

    Research facility section -- note the safety and research science posters I glued on the painted walls
Well, I finally got around to constructing it because I felt it would be the perfect building for the next chapter of my post-Apocalyptic campaign. Not to divulge too much, but such a combined research and detainment facility is the planned the centerpiece of that scenario. This was the first building I would be constructing from this company, so I was curious to see how it stacked up against Sarissa Precision (where most of my buildings are from) and TTCombat (which I had built one or two from).

Top view of the L-shaped building with the research facility on the left and prison cell blocks on right
It seemed to go together as easily as most of the Sarissa Precision buildings. I used tacky glue to affix the floors, walls, door frames, etc., together and they seemed to bond the MDF well. The thickness of the pieces seemed about the same, too. One interesting aspect was the building came in two parts, creating an "L-shape." The longer section of the "L" contains what I termed the research facility part. The shorter part contains three cells and a hallway outside of them. I was possible to glue the two halves together, but the length and width of the building would be huge! It simply would not fit in any of my 13" square carrying boxes. So, I decided to leave them as two separate pieces, and simply slide them up against each other on the tabletop.

28mm police officer patrols the corridor outside the 3 prison cells - what is inside, hidden by the walls??
That was when I discovered the most surprising thing about the Woodford - Prison Cell Block. There was no roof! The building came with no MDF piece for the roof, which is the first time that has ever happened to me. All of my Sarissa Precision buildings come with a roof, as did my TTCombat ones. Very strange! Upon looking at the image on front of the package, I admit that it shows the building roofless. I had assumed that was so you could see how it was divided into hallways and rooms, though. So, a warning out there to anyone seeking to buy a Warcraddle Studios building: Make sure you know if it is has a roof or not!

Patterned paper I cut into shape and glue into place as floors for my MDF buildings

I used my standard method for painting up and tricking out my MDF buildings. After constructing it, I spray painted it with Krylon Matte black, and followed that up with a 50/50 mix of acrylic black paint and water. I painted the interior walls of both building sections first. I then did a dry brush of a lighter color, followed by a black wash to dirty it up. Next, I cut out pieces of patterned paper for the floors. I purchase these at Hobby Lobby where there is a huge variety of textures, colors, and styles. I used a gray concrete looking sheet for the cell floors and two different patterns that looked like linoleum flooring for the hallways and research facility rooms. 

    Painting the windows is the most "fiddly" part of this building - here a guard hears a strange noise...
I also created images of steel doors in Photoshop and printed them out on my home printer. I used images I found with a Google search and then modified them a bit. Once all the doors, walls, windows, and floors were done, it was time to move on to the outside. I decided to go with a couple different texture looks for the exterior walls. There was a small lower row of rectangular stones that I painted gray and used as a stone base. Next, I did a tan-colored stone effect for the main surface of the walls. This facade has fallen away in some places, exposing a stucco like surface, which I painted in a different color.

    Sandbags atop the cork roof give the building a militarized and forbidding look
As if all that wasn't enough, I glued on a decorative wooden beam separating the top from the bottom sections on the exterior. I painted that green to match the two latticed windows. I used that same medium green for the trim around the doorways. Each of the doorway areas came with an upside down "U" frame which I think was a really nice touch in the design. Otherwise, doors in MDF buildings can look somewhat 2-dimensional. I know that on other buildings I have even added in a frame to give it a more 3-D look. 

    Exterior close up, with the tan stone, exposed stucco where the facade has fallen away, & green trim
Once the exterior was painted, I washed it more darkly with the same black wash. I then took an X-acto knife and scraped off a line of the paint to attach the green wood trim sections. I wanted to expose the raw wood so that the surface had something to adhere to on the model. I hoped this trim would make it "pop" a little, adding in another 3-D element. I was really happy with how the exterior looked. My dry brushing of the interior section of each incised square in a lighter, highlight color came out relatively well, I think. 

Since this building houses detainees, whether experimented upon or not, I figured the doors had to be fairly heavy duty. I painted the outside doors a base steel color and highlighted them with streaks of pewter color. I also did the handles and bottom of the window grills in pewter, as well. Above the individual prison cell doors I added in a sign, "Cell Block A," etc. Some of the interior doors I decided to use a printed doors, such as those for the prison cells below.

The doors, which are simply printed out on paper and glued over the outline incised on the MDF
That brings me to the posters. I like to create posters in Photoshop to decorate my MDF buildings. I think it gives them a nicer, more lived-in look -- without going through all the expense and work of painting up interior furniture for each of them. Maybe one day I will have the time to add desks, filing cabinets, etc., to this and my other MDF models. Until then, the posters will have to suffice. For these, I emphasized a lot of "Safety" posters, along with a good mix of Science-themed ones for a research facility section.  To add an ominous tone, I put in one urging visitors and workers to be prepared to "Run/Hide/Fight"! For these, I simply created the image in Photoshop and send it to my Word Processing program to arrange multiple images on so that with one page I can print multiple posters, doors, etc.

    Another look at the exterior and the scratch-build foam board covered with cork paper roof
At this stage, the building itself was done -- except for the roof. I went back and forth about what material to use for the roof. My first thought was black foamcore -- but I was worried that whatever surface I put on it would cause warping. I considered MDF and styrene plastic, too. I didn't have a large enough sheet at the time in my possession for either material. MDF and styrene would likely not warp, but would be much heavier than the foamcare (which I DID have in my possession). So, I made another trip to Hobby Lobby for inspiration. While looking at the different textures and patterns of their paper, I found one style they had that was actual thin cork with an adhesive backing. The cork surface's mottled brown look would match the exterior of the building, I thought. Plus -- attaching paper to the foam core would not cause warping. 

    This sprawling L-shaped building actually went together and painted up fairly easily
Was this the solution? The 12"x12" sheets were not large enough for the whole roof, though. I figured that if the seams looked bad, I could make a thin concrete "rib" out of bass wood and glue it atop the roof strategically to hide the seam. I also wanted to put in square strips of bass wood as lugs to hold the roof in place so it didn't slide around. That part was done easily enough and the roof fit snugly atop the MDF building. I cut the cork paper so that about a 1/4" would wrap underneath the roof, covering the "foamy" edge of the black foam core. Unfortunately, the adhesive backing wasn't strong enough to hold the paper to the foamcore for long. So, I ended up having to press them back into place and then paint with tacky glue where the cork and foam surface joined. This seemed to hold it much better.

Since it is a prison of sorts, my plan was to line the roof with sandbags. However, I didn't have enough pieces, so will be getting a friend to 3-D print me some. I will paint those up when I receive them and glue them atop the cork roof into place. So, technically, the building isn't truly complete. However, it is close enough to take pictures of and post on my blog!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Clifftop Battle - Song of Drums and Tomahawks at Historicon 2023

Huron raiders lead women and children captives north to Canada after their attack on a Seneca village
Most people remember the climactic skirmish on the clifftops in the movie The Last of the Mohicans. So, it was only natural that when I first got into the French & Indian War, that I'd want to re-stage that fight. I created a scenario actually using Magua, Hawkeye, and their companions and ran it years ago for Cold Wars 2015. When deciding which scenario to run at Historicon 2023, I decided to bring that one back out. Well, a version of it, that is! I didn't include the heroes, but instead players represented either Huron raiders leading away captives or their Seneca men attempting to rescue them. In fact, this scenario, Clifftop Battle, will be in our upcoming scenario book which is entering its final editing stages.

    Overhead view of the board for the 'Clifftop Battle' featuring my scratch-built cliff sections
Another reason that I wanted to bring this battle back is because the scenery is gorgeous. I feel it is perhaps some of the best that I have ever scratch-built. I created my three cliff pieces by using two different sizes of wooden boxes turned upside down and glued to styrene plastic. The cliffs were covered with pine bark which actually looks very realistic depicting a rocky cliff. For anyone interested in doing the same, I followed this series of steps:

  • Dry out the pine bark in the sun thoroughly
  • Glue it to the surface (I used Tacky Glue) and fill in whatever gaps between the pieces with Woodland Scenics ballast
  • Thoroughly spray paint it black
  • Brush paint it with a mix of 50/50 acrylic black paint and water, so it seeps into crevices
  • Dry brush it in 2-3 shades of either gray or bleached brown
  • Seal it thoroughly with clear coat

    Huron warriors leader their captives along the clifftops back towards their villages in Canada
I looked for my blog post on creating the cliffs, but I must have done them before I began this (relatively) newer Google Blog. So, don't bother searching Lead Legionaries for it -- sorry! Anyway, I really like how these cliffs turned out and they are always nice eye candy when you're trying to attract people to your table. And since getting people's attention was kind of the whole point of our First Command Wargames visit to Historicon, the Clifftop Battle was on!

    The way was long, rocky, and hard for the captives, who were suffering and exhaused
In this version, Huron warriors have raided a Seneca village while most of the men were out hunting. They captured a number of women and children and headed north across the mountains towards Canada. They plan to adopt them into their tribe to replace losses from the unending tribal warfare. The returning Seneca hunters discover what has happened and race to catch them. Using pathways unfamiliar to the Huron, they send one party ahead to cut off their march while pursuing with the rest of their force. When the battle begins, one Huron party including four captives is on the tall, center clifftop section and the other is behind it. Their goal is to make it off the opposite corner edge and off-table. The mission of the Seneca is simple -- rescue their women and children!

    Shots ring out, echoing from hillsides -- the Seneca rescuers have arrived and are attacking!
As I mentioned in the previous post, all four of our events were completely full with 8 players (four each in Clifftop Battle and four in Attack on Fort Michilimackinac). Since I was running the fort scenario, I didn't get to see much of the action in the four runnings of this skirmish. I heard everyone had fun -- which is the main point, of course. Also, the running score was fairly close. The Huron won twice, Seneca once, and they tied the fourth time. The only tweak we made over the course of the games was to allow Seneca Player One to move first before Huron One (followed by Seneca Two and finally Huron Two). Jenny said this really tightened the scenario up even more. I'll be sure to make that change in the scenario book, too -- although we have played this one a number of times, already. 

    Seneca rescuers have freed two of their women from their ropes and prepare to lead them to safety
Both sides have important tactical decisions to make. Once the Seneca catch up and force battle, they need to decide whether to focus on freeing captives or killing Huron. On the other hand, the Huron need to decide how big of a rearguard to leave to delay the Seneca and how big of an escort to send ahead with the captives. Too small of a rearguard and they will be overwhelmed. Too big and Seneca can race ahead and steal away women and children from their string of prisoners.

    The steep terrain hampered both the Huron raiders and the Seneca rescuers
The game had a suitable climactic finish in our final running. Four friends signed up to play and they were quickly lubricated with the white man's "fire water." War whoops were let out and dice rolls were celebrated -- exchanging historical Indian high fives...ha, ha! It was obvious they were having an absolute blast. Poor Phil Viverito's players gaming his World War I trench game did not seem as thrilled as the volume steadily escalated during the evening! Still, sitting down with friends, rolling dice and having fun, is the core of what we do as wargamers. It warmed our hearts to provide the opportunity for fellow gamers who would obviously go to their rooms razzing each other about each other's successes and failures.

    A string of captives descend the cliff path nearing the board edge -- their hopes of rescue dashed!
All in all, Jenny and I had a great time running Song of Drums and Tomahawks at Historicon. If you are interested in a quick, fast-moving set of skirmish rules that are easy to pick up...and ahem, obviously fun...I recommend them highly. Of course, the fact that I wrote them along with my friends Keith and Mike has NOTHING to do with that at all! At only $15 a print copy, how can you go wrong?

    A close up of my native women figures with one brave escorting them along the path

Some photos taken by one of our players at Historicon, Charles Sherrange

    Seneca warriors race to catch up with the Huron rearguard and exact their vengeance

    High above the forests below, Huron raiders lead their captives along the cliffs
    A desperate struggle ensues at the exit from the cliffs between Seneca and Huron warriors

    Massed on the cliffs, the Huron warparty readies itself to repel the Seneca attack

Monday, July 24, 2023

Using Song of Drums and Tomahawks to Restage the Attack on Michilimackinac at Historicon

    A flurry of combats rage throughout Ft. Michilimackinac, as the Ojibwe & Sauk seek to take control!
Unlike last year, when the whole First Command Wargames crew went to Historicon, this year only Jenny and myself were able to make the journey. To simplify things, we decided to run just one of our rule sets - Song of Drums and Tomahawks. Not only was it our first rules set we published (partnering with Ganesha Games), it is also probably our all-time best seller. Plus, the American frontier setting fit with the convention's theme. 

    A birds-eye view of the layout of my take on this Michigan fort during Pontiac's Rebellion, 1763
I chose two 4-player scenarios to run side-by-side. I wanted them to be highly visual, but adapt well with either the full four players or also with just two in case we didn't fill up. I need not have worried about the last consideration, as all four of our events had the maximum eight players. I was pretty happy about that, especially since my name as a GM is somewhat unknown outside of the Ohio area. Jenny was listed as GM for two of the four events, and her name would naturally be even less well known. We were full, though, and had great players for all our games.


Gate tower sentry looks on in horror as Indians stream through the gates & execute their ruse
The first scenario we were hosting was the Attack on Fort Michilimackinac. This occurred in 1763 during Pontiac's Rebellion. The local Ojibwe and Sauk tribes were upset with the British, who had taken over control of the area after their victory in the French & Indian War. A grand conspiracy was organized by multiple tribes and the Ojibwe and Sauk scored one of its most memorable successes. The Indians arrived at the fort under the guise of peace, saying they wanted to trade. They also staged a lacrosse game on the grassy area in front of the fort, inviting garrison to come down and watch. At one point during the game, the ball was tossed over the ramparts into the fort. Naturally, the players streamed after it.

    A British officer stands firm, ready to meet Indians sprinting up the tower ramp with his pistol
Once inside, the Indian women stood up from where they had been trading and opened their bulky robes. Concealed inside were knives and tomahawks that the lacrosse players grabbed and began attacking the garrison. The ruse was a brutal success and more than two dozen British soldiers were killed. For my re-staging of the attack, I gave the two Indian players identical forces of nine figures each. One figure would be the leader and eight rank and file braves. Of those, the chieftain and three braves were assumed to have tomahawked a soldier and seized his loaded musket. In addition, the Indian players would take their turns first, followed by the British. This was to represent the shock and surprise of the attack. 

    Success of the attack often depended on the initial accuracy of the British soldiers on the palisades
Meanwhile, the two British players were each given an officer armed with a pistol and six soldiers with muskets. Since the attack was unexpected, they had to first deploy all figures spaced apart from each other (Short distance, in game terms). A maximum of half of the figures could be inside the four buildings or towers. Their advantage was that ALL British figures began the game with a loaded firearm, while less than half of the Indians did so. Most of the Indians would be forced to enter melee, which is of course riskier than shooting at someone from a distance!

    In a short time, both British and Indian dead or wounded littered the ground inside the fort
My Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules are meant to be a simple, fast-play skirmish set using only six-sided dice. The way the rules work out is that if two rank & file troops are fighting each other in melee, with no tactical modifiers (like defending an obstacle, extra enemies in contact, etc., each will roll 1d6 and add +2 (the figure's Combat score). Doubling an enemy wounds them and knocks them out of action. Beating them on an even die roll knocks them down (which makes them easier to kill in follow-up attacks), while an odd number recoils them away one base depth. However, shooting at an enemy with a musket at short range adds an additional +2 for the attacker. So, potentially, before rolling their die, the Shooter is already up +4 vs. +2. Of course, cover and other shooting modifiers can adjust those numbers, too. So, you can see why I gave the British fewer figures -- they would potentially have more deadly musketry attacks.

    Fighting was desperate & hand-to-hand inside Ft. Michilimackinac, once the muskets were fired
How did the battles turn out? Great -- and fairly even! I ran the fort scenario and Jenny ran the Clifftop Battle (which I will talk about in the next post). On Thursday, the British won the first battle in the morning, while the Indians won the evening battle. On Saturday (Jenny and I played in the Saga tournament Friday), the Indians won the first game while the second one was locked in what I called a Draw. The players felt the Indians had a slight advantage. However, comparing the number of loaded muskets the few remaining figures on each side had, I think the British could easily have driven the Indians from the fort.

    Indian attackers took advantage of the ramps that led up to the corner cannon platforms
The Indians actually begin deployed inside the fort at the start of the game. I have half a dozen casualty figures littered near the gate entrance to represent the initial, shocking moments of the surprise attack. All Indians deploy within one Long distance of the gate, limiting them to a relatively small semi-circle. The more successful Indian players began their first turn firing off their capture muskets at British sentries who were out in the open on the palisade platforms. Those who tried to eliminate sentries deployed in positions of hard cover ended up fruitlessly wasting their musket fire. Also, the more aggressive Indian players were with their braves armed only with knives or tomahawks, the more successful they tended to be. Moving into contact with a British sentry and locking him in combat, meant that not only could he not be shot by that soldier, he couldn't be targeted by his fellow garrison members either.

    Another closeup of the Ojibwe and Sauk boiling through the gate in the initial moments of the attack
The more successful British players began in good cover, taking advantage of the towers as well as the log piles, buildings, etc. They immediately targeted the closest Indians, scoring initial successes to even the numbers. One of the things about my rules is that players are constantly called upon to make decisions. When a player is activating a figure, he must choose to roll for 1, 2, or 3 Activations. If the figure is within the leader's command range, he succeeds on a 3+. If outside, rank and file succeed on a 4+. The risk part of the rules is that if you fail with two attempts on a single figure, your turn is over. We call it a "crap out." Any unmoved figures lose their chance to act. 

    Cannon platforms were the scene of many bitter struggles over the course of four, hard-fought games
Obviously, you could roll only one dice for all of your figures until your final figure (when you roll 3, because your turn will be over anyway after this figure is finished). However, this very conservative path means you are often activating far fewer times than a player rolling for two or three. I advise players to prioritize. Which figure is the most important one to activate? Has your leader been knocked down? Activate him first to keep the enemy player from launching a killing blow before he can stand back up! Are any of your figures in contact with enemy they have knocked down, and can finish off by simply beating and not needing to double them? Prioritize those, as well. And finally, remember figures within range of your leader have a 2/3's chance of success to activate, while those outside have only a 50%. Many a player has unwisely chosen to begin with those out of range and lost their turn throwing poor activation dice.

    A look at the two games, side-by-side, set up and ready for its next batch of players
The players picked up the mechanics quickly, as usual. Once the game begins, I typically assist them in calculating their factors for the first couple shots or melees. After that, I go into teacher mode and ask them to calculate it for me, checking to ensure they have it right. Not far into the game, I hear the players talking to their friends excitedly about how these simple mechanics work really well. They begin to ponder taking the rules engine and applying it to another period they play.


    Released in 2014, Song of Drums and Tomahawks is still First Command's all-time best seller

We sold all but one of the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules sets we brought with us. The rules were carried in the Exhibit Hall by Brigade Games and (I believe) On Military Matters, as well. I know they sold copies, too. So, I felt happy that the game was popular with my players. There were a lot of cinematic fun moments, too. One particular British soldier in the final game we nicknamed "Badger" for how fierce he was when knocked down. He would lose his even-up melees against Indians, only to time after time defeat the enemy who followed up to finish him off. Thursday night was a blast when my friend Jason and his two high school age kids played. Lillian did the same thing, over and over. She won at least four combats in a row when she was on the short end of a +4 vs. +1 disadvantage. Killing a rival player's miniatures is always a visceral thrill in a wargame, but the taste is that much sweeter when it is your Dad, sister, or brother! I commiserated with the Indian player matched up against Lillian as he was being hit doubly by the wargamer's maxim of "not rolling dice against women or children."

    Here is a link to my 2014 blog post about building the Acheson Creations frontier fort
The Acheson Creations fort looked great, as it always does, on the tabletop. I got lots of nice compliments about the terrain and the miniatures themselves. Most are from the old Conquest Miniatures line, and I spent a lot time detailing them with tattoos, bead work, and more. It was fun to run my first published rules, again. I had been running my gang warfare Mean Streets rules, as well as my Wars of Insurgency modern Africa game much more, of late. Historicon was a nice blast from the past and let me remember how fun of a game it is to run. 

Next up will be an account of Clifftop Battle. If you have seen the movie The Last of the Mohicans, then you have an idea for my inspiration!

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Thracian Warlord & More Rhomphaia Men

    My third batch of Thracians using 28mm Crusader Miniatures (purchased from Badger Games)
I continue to work on my Thracian army for Saga: Age of Alexander. Normally, the last thing I do for any new army is paint the warlord stand. However, I was tired of using my Roman warlord as proxy for this army (which IS about half done, now). So, I decided to paint up the last of the rhomphaia men and the warlord. I've also decided to take a pause on playing the Thracians at our Saga game days to get some practice in with my venerable Welsh army. I will likely be playing it in the next two tournaments I take part in.

    A look at the shields of this batch, which includes the warlord stand & five rhomphaia men
The only assembly necessary for these Crusader Miniatures Thracians (which I bought from Badger Games) was epoxying the shields on the arms and giving the warlord his spear. I particularly liked how many of these Thracians have their left arms extended to make it even easier to properly center and affix the shields. As readers of my blog know, I prefer metal miniatures over plastic kits with all of their heads, arms, and torsos that require assemblage. I am getting a bit better at using super glue recently, but still not enough to want to have to glue a whole army together. Give me the heft and weight of metals any day! 

    Almost no assembly required -- the wicker crescent shields were the only thing I had to glue on
I started my usual way on these figures: white priming and then painting the skin. I use ordinary white craft paint to prime figures with a thick, stiff brush. Next, I paint all of the flesh areas with craft paint flesh. The color I use is too pale for my liking, so I put a Terra Cotta colored wash over the skin afterwards once it dries. The next step is the artistic step, in my opinion. I grab a ballpoint pen, survey my paint rack, and select the colors for the figures tunics and cloaks (if they have one). I write these down on the cardboard square I temporarily base my figures being painted upon.

    The pastel colored tunics and cloaks of the Thracians all received a dry brush highlighting
After painting the base color for all of the tunics, I do a dry brush of a lighter version of that color (usually the next day, after the acrylic paint has had a chance to "shrink wrap" onto the figure). Then I follow up with the cloak color, and dry brush it the next day, as well. Okay, I lied. This NEXT step is truly the artistic step for the Thracians. I sit down and plan out the cloak pattern for each of the figures wearing cloaks (six of the eight in this batch). I will physically draw a sketch of the pattern on the cardboard square, with notes on what colors I will use. 

    So far, I am a big fan of how these geometric patterns are coming out on my Thracian Saga army
On about half of these patterns, I used micron pens. The rest were done with a brush. I am really happy with the way the cloaks on my Thracians are turning out. The micron pens (I buy the Sakura brand from Hobby Lobby, and my favorite pack contains six "Earth Tones"). However, I recommend getting an even smaller tip black mircon pen, too. It is very useful for the tiniest detail work or outlining a shield pattern. Some things I find easier to do by brush, though -- such as borders on cloaks or evenly spaced lines on particularly rippled cloaks. Cloaks with deep folds make it difficult to fit the nib of the micron pen all the way into. Of course, none of these details would be possible without my lighted magnifier that I hold the figures under while painting. My eyesight simply isn't what it used to be for finer details, and I depend on it regularly.

    Several angles of the warlord stand - note the severed heads on the standard & ground in front
For the warlord, I decided to forego giving him a dog or other animal on his base, like I often do in Saga. I liked the standard bearer figure on foot (with its two severed heads suspended from the pole). I also decided to use one bodyguard type figure with a rhomphaia, in addition to the mounted general. This would give me a total of three figures on the warlord's base, which is what I like. Also, if I use one mounted figure and two foot figures on a warlord base, I can legitimately claim that stand as either mounted or foot! I will usually use him as mounted with this army, but there may be opponents where I would prefer him to be on foot. This way, I paint up just one warlord and use him for both options. 

I painted the warlord in more of a Greek style rather than one of the tribal Thracians. From recent excavations of the tombs of Thracian kings, they would often imitate Greek dress and fashion.  In hindsight, I wish I had put more effort into his horse rather than giving him a boring white one. Sigh. I do like the severed head on a post and helmeted head leaning against it, though! I've had these painted up ever since my Roman army, but decided the leader of Thracian tribesmen would be the perfect general to use it on!

So, what's up next on my painting desk? I actually assembled an MDF building that I will need for the next post-apocalyptic scenario. It is black primed on my desk and I should begin painting the interior walls tomorrow. I also have some more wrecked cars I picked up as part of a Terrain Crate pack that I want to squeeze in between more batches of Thracians, too! So stay tuned -- it is summer and I finally have time to work on my hobby stuff!

Monday, July 3, 2023

Searching an Abandoned Army Base

    F Troops arrives at the abandoned army base to begin its exploration into the mystery
Our Sunday evening gaming crew got together to play out the fourth installment of my post-apocalyptic campaign. Each player has their own gang of survivors, and most have been steadily using their Renown Points earned to add skills and traits to their crew. Some, in particular Mike S's Bucknuts, are proving even more effective and deadly than they were at the start of the campaign! The scenario for this game was that the survivor gangs had each heard that a nearby army base had recently been abandoned.

    A shot of the base before the start, showing where each survivor gang would come on
Each gang had sent a scout to spy on the base from afar, and all groups received similar reports. The base had indeed been abandoned - there was no movement, and no signs of life. There were clearly indications that a battle had taken place. The quonset huts were riddled with bullet holes and the perimeter chain link and barbed wire fence had been cut and showed signs of forced entry. The players' scouts all surmised that it was NOT an attack by the Machines. There appeared to be no signs of heavy artillery or high caliber weapons -- only small arms. The Machines would certainly have brought heavier weapons in their assault, if it had been them. Each gang outfitted a party to unravel the mystery of who the attackers were, and hopefully to scavenge some useful military equipment, food, or supplies.

    Daffid and Yoav of the Followers of the Dark Prophet enter the base and take cover
Players had four members of their survivor gang arrive at the edge of the table, two on each long sides of the base, one on each short side. Their arrival locations corresponded to a place where the fence had been either cut or physically forced inwards. Gang members entering through those places wondered what could have bent the aluminum bars inward. It must have been very powerful! I was playing my Green Dragons, and we had chosen to bring along our leader Ting, specialist Wang, Quon, and recently-upgraded Bao. He had been practicing with the assault rifle and ammo the Green Dragons had brought back from the second scenario. 

    Wang of the Green Dragons dashes up to the fence, and quickly surveys the buildings beyond
Wang dashed up to the fence, quickly surveyed the sandbagged positions, supplies, and quonset huts in front of him for signs of activity. Seeing none, he ducked through the cut section of the fence, and darted between the two closest quonset huts, seeking cover. Bao crept into the twisted remains of a burnt out vehicle for a firing position to cover him. On the left, Quon entered the woods to keep an eye on the Nightstalkers. On the right, Ting crept into the woods to take a position to observe the Bucknuts. He cursed them as he caught sight of them. Those country bumpkins were the bastards that had killed Chen in the last scenario!

    Gunfire erupts as the Blood Brotherhood catches sight of the Followers and opens fire on them
All along the perimeter of the base, the other survivor gangs were making their way inside. To the Dragons' left, the Nightstalkers entered in force -- all four darting inside, two creeping inside the first quonset hut. Wang could hear them moving things around inside, searching for valuable equipment. He darted along the path between the huts and took cover besides a stack of spare tires and other equipment. Gunfire rang out, and Wang ducked down even more. Bullets began to tear through the tires and boxes near him and he huddled into a ball, hoping that whatever was inside was solid enough to stop the bullets. He peeked over the top and saw it was indeed the Bucknuts who had been shooting at him.

    Daffid goes down wounded, as the gun battle with the Blood Brotherhood intensifies

Outside the fence, Ting had opened fire once he could make out the form of the Bucknuts' leader, Coop. The woods and the target's good defensive position prevented his shots from having any effect. Coop sighted along the barrel of his assault rifle and fired off two bursts at Ting, forcing him to dive for cover as bullets hit all around him. Coop shouted, "Green Dragons - we weren't trying to kill your man in town, last time! We were shooting at the dogs!" The Bucknuts' leader paused to make sure Ting was listening. "Truce? Let's see what happened here first, and we can settle our differences later." Ting wasn't sure he could trust them, but he knew they all seemed to be much heavier armed and equipped than his men. He shouted okay, then called out to Bao to relay the information to the others.

    A third survivor gang joins the battle as F Troop arrives and begins shooting at both the other two
The shouting was immediately drowned out by the staccato booming of gunfire from the other side of the base. The Followers of the Dark Prophet had entered near the front of the base, immediately taking up cover. Moments later, the dark red robes of the Blood Brotherhood slipped around one of the quonset huts and opened fire. Gunfire rang out back and forth. Daffid of the Followers slumped to the ground wounded, and Brother Intensity cried out and fell beneath the pile of supplies he was sheltering behind. Bursts of automatic gunfire rang out as the two sides fired on each other. The Followers' leader Solomon motioned one of his men along as he crept along the side of one of the quonset huts. The two quickly disappeared inside.

    Wang takes cover from the Bucknuts fire, but also has to worry about the arrival of the Nightstalkers
The gun battle at the front became even more intense as a third group arrived. After occupying the sandbagged guard positions outside the gate, F Troop moved up to the fence and began firing on both the Blood Brotherhood and the Followers of the Dark Prophet. More bullet holes in the buildings of the army base as the rival survivor gangs battled it out. Those who ducked inside the quonset huts found signs of the previous bloody struggle. Bloodstains were everywhere, and trails of bodies being dragged could clearly be discerned. The attackers had ransacked the place already, it appeared, and everyone struggled to find anything of value left among the debris of battle. 

Commander Zander of the Nightstalkers seemed particularly spooked. After two of his men found some useful equipment, he was the first to motion his men to exit the army base. "Whatever did this, boys, might be back. Let's get out of here!" The well-equipped group then quickly ex-filtrated through the large gap in the fence. Zander stopped to examine the bent aluminum bars. "No vehicle tracks," he muttered, shaking his head. "These bars were bent by someone or something. I don't want to meet whatever could bust open a fence like this!" His men stealthily crept from the base, regrouping in a patch of woods.

    Bucknuts begin to ex-filtrate from the compound, with their leader Coop covering their withdrawal
A cry from near the front of the base signaled another casualty of the gun fight. F Troop's Captain Amos slumped next to his firing position, clutching his side. "Got him!" Deacon Justice of the Blood Brotherhood shouted in triumph. It seemed there was little effort in searching among the base's buildings from the three groups near the entrance. Instead, here was a chance to settle some scores and pay back some bad blood between rivals. In my campaign, players earn Renown Points for knocking out of action members of rival survivor gangs. However, they receive a bonus to that score if it is from a group that inflicted a casualty on your gang during the previous game. This might explain Jenny's behavior with her Blood Brotherhood this game, and her bloodthirstiness!

Once the third casualty had been suffered by the players, that sprang the return of those who had attacked the base. I had the players who'd all suffered a casualty roll off, with the winner indicating which of the six woods spaced along the table edge "something" would arrive. Joel chose the woods between my Green Dragons and Mike S's Bucknuts. On the first turn, I indicated the shadowy "something" was stealthily creeping to the edge of the woods, so that it could see out. Its closest targets were Bao inside the cover of the burnt out car and Brutus and Jackie O of the Bucknuts, who had just exited the base and were in the open. 

    With the Bucknuts distracted by "something" firing at them, the Green Dragons prepare to exit
I had received an extra card for the "something" -- I like how the players reacted to the mystery, by the way! I saved the "2 card" for the creature, because it allows an extra die to be rolled, when attacking (player chooses the best). In addition, it was armed with an assault rifle. So, I fired two bursts, with Jackie O falling to the ground wounded and Brutus receiving a "Shaken" marker for near misses. Since anyone in hiding loses that status when they shoot under the Fistful of Lead Core Rules, I described the firer as a dark, human-sized figure that looked vaguely like...Allen! Allen has a bushy beard, hair, and mustache. I said the hair and skin were very much darker than Allen's, and immediately the players began to speculate on who or what the firer could be.

On the Bucknuts turn, Brutus scooped up the fallen Jackie O and ran behind the woods out of sight of his ambusher. Bravely, Wrich stepped around the woods and blazed away with his assault rifle. He missed, from which the players learned the firer had the "Stealthy" skill. Return fire inflicted a Shaken marker on Wrich, but also resulted in an Out of Ammo for the shooter. My Green Dragons took advantage of the distraction of the Bucknuts gun battle with the attacker to exit the base, as well. We dashed off-table with two backpacks full of supplies. Not the greatest haul, but for the first time, we were also leaving the table with no casualties!

    Players speculated over the identify of the mystery attacker - was this a clue to the fate of the base?
Near the front of the base, both the Blood Brotherhood and the Followers ceased firing and made their way off the base. Joel saw them do this, so had F Troop seize the opportunity and dash forward and search for some supplies. After finding some, they also took the opportunity to leave, carrying the unconscious body of Capt. Amos with them. The game had been a tale of two separate encounters. At the front of the base, the three survivor gangs had fired on each other from the outset. All three suffered a casualty, but upon rolling at the end of the game, the gang members all survived. On the other hand, the Nightstalkers, Bucknuts, and Green Dragons had avoided gunplay, for the most part. None suffered a casualty, with Jackie O recovering from her wound before exiting the table.

Fierce speculation ensued as to the identity of the dark-clothed, dark-skinned attacker. I decided to throw in something to worry the players as we broke up. I informed them that all of their gangs, upon heading back towards their bases, felt they were being followed. Whatever was following them was too clever to be caught, though. Whenever they tried to leave someone behind to ambush the stalker or double back, the pursuer would detect it, and stay out of sight. Doubtless, the next mission will involve more clues as to who this mystery enemy might be!