Friday 29 August 2014

The Lead Mountain Reduction Challenge!

During my regular trawling of other people's blogs that show much nicer models than mine, I came across a nice idea at - the 6 month lead mountain reduction challenge.
This unimposing hillock is apparently Lead Mountain, in Maine.
Since I have at least 3 complete projects that haven't even been started yet, I've decided to join in. I'm pretty keen on this and I'm hoping having some rules will give me a bit of motivation. The actual rules are pretty simple:
1. No purchasing of new miniatures, EXCEPT if you use a joker card. Like in a deck of cards, you get two jokers to use on a figure purchase during the six months of the challenge. Could be a blister pack, an ebay bundle, or a single can't splurge.

2. Gifts do not count against you. Christmas and or birthdays etc. Also, if you're given gift cards by your hobby illiterate family or friends, you can without penalty use them on anything you want miniatures wise.

3. Paints, terrain (or materials), and other hobby supplies do not apply to the no purchasing rule.

4. At least one hobby related blog post and/or Instagram update a week. If you Instagram, be sure to hashtag your pic with #6MMRPC

5. Zombtober will be part of the 6 month challenge so, Zombie related stuff during October is ENCOURAGED!
The challenge starts on the 1st of September, so expect to see me breaking rules 1 and 4 in short order as I buy stuff at Partizan and don't blog about it. Still, I do want to reduce the heap, and nothing is particularly pressing me to buy new stuff at the moment, so hopefully I can make some progress. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Red Dwarf RPG - Starting at The End

I don't know if I've ever posted here about RPG'ing before. If not, strap in, because it's going to happen now. 

I wanted to GM a new game, and since I'd previously tended to spend ages writing something first, I wanted something with a fairly well defined background, and something that everyone in the group would know. Another key criteria for me is that it be daft - "serious" roleplaying is all well and good, but it needs a lot of commitment from everyone involved and I think it's pretty hard to keep that up.  So I needed something light.

Enter Red Dwarf: The RPG.

The basic rulebook is £30 on Amazon, but as I was psyching myself up to buy that, I noticed a review on Amazon advising me to look at instead. So I did, and was able to get the basic rulebook and the sourcebook, delivered from the US, for less than £18. 

Anyway, I got that, and just four short months later, we were finally ready to play. I wanted to have a go with the rules, and see if everyone actually got on with the game, before getting too committed, so I came up with a simple scenario to get us from the 23rd century to the 30,023rd century, pre-generated some characters, and away we went. 

Here's what happened.

EPISODE 1 - THE END (I'm nothing if not original)

The doomed ship that the adventure starts on is the JMC Canary Wharf. This bright yellow monstrosity is a freighter, which tows 18 enormous cargo containers behind it, in a 3x2x3 stack. Each container is the size of a present-day container ship. This was a cunning decision of mine to allow several large, unexplored areas to be close at hand for the future. There's also a ship-to-shore vessel called the Spacecrab, which uses huge legs to grab these containers and take them down to the surface of a planet.

The Canary Wharf was heading out of the solar system to a new JMC mining colony, which was being made more permanent after the first exploratory digs were a success. It was carrying everything needed to set up a more permanent home for the miners and increase the scope of their operations.

The characters I generated for my players were all riggers - low-ranked crew members in charge of the cargo. 

Wes - Miles Bramwell - a promising young officer who got himself demoted and stuck on a freighter after an affair with his previous captain's wife
Pete - James Cowling - grew up on a remote farm and was desperate to leave, so joined the space corps
Kieron - Paul Jackson - the cheerfully dim, but pretty strong, career rigger.

The PC's started in the rec room, playing cards at the Halfway Point party as the Canary Wharf passed through the Kuiper Belt. This was a way to introduce the skill rolls, and get the players looking at the right part of their character sheets. It was also a harmless place for us to figure out how things hang together.

They heard a loud bang, and Denzil reported that external communications were down and fire had been detected in container 6. The Chief Rigger picked the PCs to investigate. 

They decided to put on spacesuits before entering the container. Once inside, they immediately spotted a large hole in the ceiling, but no obvious cause for it. 

Jackson suggested that the container could be searched more effectively if they split up, and the others went along with this. This is nice roleplaying - it's Red Dwarf, don't make sensible decisions all the time! There was a lot of OOC joking around about this, and it was nice to see Wes and Pete, both still very new to RPGs, getting involved. 

There then followed a bit of discussion about what they were looking for (over radio, since they were conveniently wearing spacesuits). During this discussion, they noticed that there was something shimmering over the hole, and decided to climb to it. Cowling couldn't manage the climb, but did disturb some paper which then fluttered to the ground, making him suspect there was actually some kind of atmosphere in the container. 

An argument over who should remove their helmet to test this theory was inconclusive.  

Jackson then did manage to climb up, having thought to take a handy iron bar with him. He discovered some devices around the hole, a line running into the back of the container, and some smoke rising from the same area. 

Bramwell went to investigate the smoke, and found that it was caused by a chunk of the hull hitting some mining equipment and sparking a fire. He also found 5 armed pirates, rummaging through the cargo. One of them asked him to step over to them, and he decided to run instead. Unfortunately, he managed to fall flat on his own face, but this did cause the pirate to miss with his laser pistol. His attempt at friendly negotiations with the pirates from this position was not successful. Again though, nice bit of Red Dwarf characterisation from Wes, trying to talk down the people pointing guns at him.

Jackson swung for the devices around the hole with his bar, having clipped himself to the line. It took a couple of blows to break it, and remove the forcefield. The container decompressed, blasting four of the pirates into space, and badly affecting the remains of the cargo filing system. Cowling had grabbed onto a crate, but Bramwell failed to hold on and managed to miss every handhold on the way out, drifting through the opening.  

As Cowling was much more lucky, he was able to grab a pistol on its way out.  

The final pirate was still attached to the line, and was now hurtling directly towards Jackson. Paul swung for him, and managed to lay the pirate out cold. Given that he wasn't wearing a helmet, this proved less than optimal for the pirate. Jackson was able to retrieve an auto pistol from him. 

Bramwell's exit flung him into the pirate's ship, attached to the hull. He failed to grab that too, but got his foot caught on a missile slung under it. He told his crewmates about the pirates also crawling on the outside of the hull, and they clambered out to tackle them. Gunfire was exchanged to little effect. 

At this point, one of the pirates mysteriously teleported from just behind the pirate ship to right at the opening, and didn't seem to expect that to happen. Cowling took advantage of the confusion and subdued him. 

Bramwell decided to reprogram the missile he was attached to, aiming to launch it and have it return to the pirate ship. After a brief false start where he only managed to arm it, he launched it and himself down the length of Canary Wharf at speed. He intended to release himself as the missile turned, but of course failed. As it changed direction he was knocked out by the G-forces, so was now hurtling, unconscious, back toward the pirate ship while strapped to a missile. I swear I wasn't doing this on purpose.

Having dealt with the other pirates, Jackson got creative, and threw his trusty iron bar. Somehow, he scored a direct hit, knocking the missile away from both ships, and jarring Bramwell off it, so that he could drift, still at high speed, onwards towards the back of Canary Wharf. He saw the line, still attached to both ships, and grabbed at it.  

This was badly misjudged, and neatly severed his hand at the wrist.  Ok, that was on purpose.

The pirate ship, now loaded, took off, and its captain waved cheerily. Having heard that pirates had entered the main body of Canary Wharf, Cowling headed forward to take them on, dodging machine gun fire. Jackson shot at the pirate ship, scoring an incredibly lucky hit and cracking its windscreen. The pirate captain looked at lot less cheerful as his ship turned away. 

Bramwell hurtled into the Spacecrab, and finally managed to grab onto something. He got the door open and staggered into the cockpit to find the first aid kit.  

Cowling got back on board, and was caught off guard by a pirate. He managed to shoot him, but only after being stabbed.  

As the pirate ship detached from Canary Wharf, it cut the line, and Jackson fell back into the container. He was knocked unconscious when he hit the floor. 

In a decidedly unsporting parting gesture, the pirate captain fired his remaining missile, with a Cadmium-2 warhead, into the Canary's crew section.

The Beginning...

So, that wipes out the crew. The next episode, assuming there is one (and everyone seemed keen, so I just have to write the thing), will start the traditional 3,000,000 years later. 

The game itself seemed to work. I liked it as it's got a pretty simple core mechanic (skill+base stat+any modifiers is your target number, roll under that on 2d6), and there's enough sample stats in the book that I didn't have to make anything up for the pirates or the weapons (which is something I've always struggled to get right in Savage Worlds). 

I deliberately kept the pre-gen characters simple, but for the next session I want to get everyone using the assets, liabilities and behaviour tags system, which adds extra depth to the characters and hopefully gives me more chances to make their lives complicated...

Friday 15 August 2014

Basically a Victory - Bolt Action AAR

Although you wouldn't necessarily know it from reading this blog, I have been playing games at a fairly decent rate for the last few months. Some have been boardgames, but most of the actual wargaming has been Bolt Action, which we've used as part of a diabolical plan to lure Wes over from board games to the dark (and expensive) side of proper gaming.

And so it was that I found myself last weekend playing a little 500 point game, using my Partisans (and just saying they were Volkssturm rather than using that list) against Wes' US Army. We played on a roughly 4'x3' table, and as Wes had recently acquired some Sarissa bits and pieces, we combined these with some of my buildings and terrain to make small town square. We played the demolition mission, with Wes attacking a searchlight while I was targeting a small bunker.

The square, kept empty by the large numbers of guns pointing at it
We each had three units starting on the board with more in reserve, and we each had the obligatory sniper - these set up on opposite sides of the square, in the buildings.

Partisans set up defending their searchlight
Both objectives were slightly to my right of the centre, and behind walls. On the first turn, Wes' sniper neatly removed my machine gun team from a shop window, cutting them down as they set up their weapon. In doing this he revealed his position though, and so was himself taken down by my sniper.

Inexperienced partisans loiter in the woods
I moved my inexperienced squad round the back of the building to my left, and left a regular squad guarding the objective. Wes had a mortar on the table and started firing on the searchlight, scoring a lucky hit and killing one of the defenders. He also moved a squad to his left, behind the opposite building.

The rabble creeps behind a building

Reserves started to arrive on the second turn. This posed something of a problem for my inexperienced squad, which had broken cover with the intention of attacking the American mortar and officer, but now found themselves staring down a Sherman, which had arrived right in front of them. The tank opened up with its machine guns, in a most unsporting fashion. The partisans took some heavy casualties but didn't run for it - possibly not having the experience to know how bad the situation was.

Pistols turn out to be  poor choice for trying to outshoot a tank
At the same time, my veteran squad arrived and ran into the building on the left, and more regulars and an officer showed up to give more support on the right. A lot of moving around happened on the right after a lucky miss from the US mortar, to force it to range in again.

Everyone do the "under bombardment" shuffle
Having seen my inexperienced squad appear on their right, the US squad that had started to advance ran back to defend their objective. This left them in the open in front of my sniper, which cost them their NCO.

On the next turn, the Sherman finished the job of mowing down my inexperienced squad, after they failed their orders test and dithered in the open instead of pressing the attack. This did allow my veterans to burst out of the building, charge the tank, and blow off one of its tracks, but in turn they were driven off by the arrival of another US squad just in front of them (veterans know when they're beaten I suppose, and mine ran for it).

The Americans hold their right flank, irritatingly
The sniper continued firing on the squad in the open, pinning it down even more.

The view from the sniper's nest - oh look! Americans!
The frighteningly accurate US mortar had halved the strength of one of my regular squads on the right by now, but they continued moving up, spurred on by the officer. This drew the attention of the US squad, which retraced its steps again, taking up a position behind the building.

Moving up on the right
Thinking they had the advantage, the Americans charged, but things went very badly for them and the squad was wiped out, leaving three of the partisans still able to move up themselves.

It was at this point that the partisan officer saw his moment and darted out towards the bunker... having failed to account for the US tank on ambush at the other side of the square. As he revealed himself, he was taken down by machine gun fire. It was getting decidedly dangerous to cross the street.

Not a good move, as it turned out
The other US squad was now moving on my left, but I'd belatedly realised that the Americans didn't really have time to reach my searchlight, and so I could safely commit everyone to the attack. The remaining partisan squad leapt over the wall and started moving through the square, firing on the US officer crouching behind the opposite wall. Despite pinning him, they left him in the fight.

The last squad comes out to play
The shot up squad then broke cover and moved up, this time being more careful not to expose themselves to fire from the Sherman.

Heroes of the resistance make a move toward the hated invader
Meanwhile, the surviving US squad was crossing the square in the other direction, to face down the partisans making their move.

People actually start moving around in the square
The remnants of my squad ran for it, through the gauntlet of the Sherman's guns. As they were much luckier than the officer they lost only a single man and made it to the objective, needing only to survive the turn to win.

On the objective!
Unfortunately the remaining US squad had other ideas, and they moved back towards the bunker, shooting the poor partisan that hadn't made it behind cover, and causing the other to flee. Curses! 

Annoyingly positioned US infantry protect their bunker
The game was nearly over, but I had an ace still up my sleeve - if my last squad could assault the US officer, they could then clear the wall with a big enough consolidation move and might still be able to reach the bunker on the last turn. They'd taken a single hit from the US officer though, so needed to pass an orders test as they had a pin marker. This made the (inevitable) FUBAR result somewhat ill-timed, as the squad decided instead to run back towards their own lines. The game was over, a hard fought draw.

Officers are scary. Leg it!
Well, that's what the scenario rules say. And, OK, Wes is still a relative novice. But I still reckon I was making the best attempt to carry out my mission, so I've declared myself the winner anyway. Yes?

Fine. I think my main mistake was in trying to end things too quickly which meant I attacked piecemeal. With a bit more planning, I could have sent three or even four units across the open ground at the same time. As it was, they were taking turns, and each got a turn to be shot up. Still, you live and learn, so on to the next game!

Saturday 2 August 2014

Show Business - Warlord Games Day 2014

Last weekend was the second in a row where I completely shirked my duties as a father to two small children, and ran away to look at toy soldiers instead (obviously, this makes it sound like there was much less grovelling than was actually the case).

This time, the event in question was Warlord's Games Day. This was (I think) the second Games Day run by Warlord, but the first I've been to.

You did get a free policeman, but he didn't quite look like that.
Obviously, I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but the event did remind me of a much smaller scale version of a Games Day I attended many years ago put on by another Nottingham-based company, but Warlord's affair didn't suffer for that.

When we arrived, we joined a big queue, and nothing seemed to be happening. There were a few re-enactors  chatting to the punters, and I somehow ended up holding an English civil war musket (lighter than I thought it would be). Eventually, we made it through the doors and were able to collect our "free" figure (yay!) and wristband (boo!). At this point we were able to sign up for the various seminars that were going on - it was a good job I'd looked these up on the website before going, as the forms only listed the presenters' names and not the topic of each seminar.

From then on we were free to look around. There were a few very nice looking games in the first room, including a Spanish Civil War table by Empress Miniatures that looked especially pretty.

The only photo I took all day. Obviously, this is an August 1914 Great War game being played with Black Powder.
Following some other people, we then found our way into the main room, which contained more tables and a few traders. Surprisingly, it also didn't contain that many people. According to one person we spoke to, last year the place was packed, but Warlord had limited the number of tickets this year, which went some way to explaining the ticket price (£10 (plus p+p!) for a ticket makes this the most expensive show I've been to).

We joined (or more accurately, "started") a Bolt Action tank battle being run in one corner of the room. I think I might have enjoyed this more than Wes, largely as I'd destroyed 5 of his tigers by the end of the first turn with a ridiculous run of sixes on my dice.

Before I could complete Wes' humiliation, though, we had to move across to the seminar we'd signed up for, hosted by Dan Faulconbridge, editor of Wargames Illustrated. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this, but what we got was pretty good - a run through some of the history of wargaming through the lens of WI, delivered in a very dry, witty style that I quite enjoyed. And some advice on how to turn your bed into a wargames table! Can't complain about that.

We went back to the main hall and poked around a bit more before joining a tour of the factory. This was quite interesting, I've never actually seen in detail how miniatures are made before. This also included a freebie model that was still even slightly warm (having just been cast) and will now, of course, require me to start a 28mm ancients army to get some use out of a druid.

We stuck around for a burger and some light shopping before getting back into the car (which had now been superheated) and heading home.

So what did I think of the show?

Well, on the plus side, there were some very nice tables, the seminars and factory tour were interesting, I got a couple of free minis, actually enjoyed playing a game at a show, and there weren't too many people there.

On the other hand, the tickets were pricey, and really we felt like there could have been a bit more organisation. Having the sign up sheets for the seminars on the door resulted in the big queue to get in, and we weren't sure what the seminars were. There was nothing to tell you where to go for the seminar either, so we had to ask for directions. It also wasn't clear which (if any) games were intended as intros to the different rules sets, so we ended up not trying out any new games while we were there. It was sheer fluke that we found the cafe at all. Really, I think I'm just asking for signs, which would at least be an easy thing to change.

All in all, I'm glad I went, and I did enjoy the day. Unless I find I'm playing more and more of Warlord's games next year though, I don't think I'd necessarily go to the next one, but let's see what it looks like when the tickets show up in Warlord's newsletter...