#WargameWednesday -Liberating Thoughts on Liberty or Death (GMT 2nd Ed, 2016)

pic2960799_mdPlayed through the Middle Years scenario of Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection. This is part of GMT’s counterinsurgency or COIN series. LoD is not my usual “wargame” because this is not a game of a “war” as much an exploration of the politics of the time. Conflict is here, but it is just one “tool” in a faction’s kitbag of options.

I have read on BGG where some people find the rulebook a real mess. I disagree! Maybe it is my grognard background and years of Star Fleet Battles or Squad Leader or any number of Richard Berg games that clouds my thinking. That’s not to say the critics are stupid; the game is difficult to grasp at first because – as I see it – LoD is not a pure Eurogame nor is it a pure wargame. To play takes a different thought process.

Playing my first game was a bit of a challenge. In the first year of play I had to constantly refer to the Rulebook and the Playbook for clarification. By the second year of play I started to find the rhythm of the game, and by the third (and final) year I actually started “playing” the game; that is, I started making moves based on some form of strategy. The winners and losers of my game are not worth mentioning since so much was played without a coherent strategy behind the moves. Next time will be different.

LoD, being a different game, has captured my imagination. I want to try to win as not just the Patriots, but see what it takes for the British, or French, or even the Indians to win. We grognards often say that wargames can teach us history, but LoD goes beyond a simple battlefield experience and brings the politics and confrontations of Empires and Colonies and Frontier together in a beautifully packaged experience.

 

#ModelMonday -The Me-262 (Pegasus Hobbies)

img_1375Another weekend another model for Little RMN. This time it’s a Pegasus Hobbies 1/48-scale German Me-262 jet fighter from World War II. I really like the Pegasus Hobbies models; these are snap-tite and go together really well. They come molded in a base color making the paint job one step easier. This Me-262 will soon be joining others World War II fighters in the “dogfight corner” of his bedroom ceiling.

#StarTrekAdventures – Hailing Frequency (Re)Open

Last week I wrote about how I seemingly had dropped off the Star Trek Adventures RPG Living Playtest email (err….”Datapad”) distribution. A few days later, I was hailed by Chris Birch of Modiphius and sent the latest playtest documents. I really appreciate the gesture as after my snarky comments I could totally understand not ever hearing from the playtest again.

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Datapad courtesy Memory Alpha

This weekend I went ahead and reviewed the v1.36 rules. I must admit they are better than the earlier version. Some of my earlier concerns have been dealt with, others remain, and a few new ones were introduced:

  • Without the character generation rules it is difficult for me to see the difference of Values and Traits
  • I am concerned that there could be too many rolls involved, like when Assisting the assisting PC makes a full Task roll followed by the action PC making another full Task roll
  • Advantages, Complications, Determination, Momentum and Threat all seem to be coming together and mechanically (and narratively) balancing each other
  • The rules seem schizophrenic on whether it is the GM or players who make certain calls; please pick one direction and go with it!

The Alpha Rules for starships were also included in this release. Ships are played like characters with many of the same rules. I first experienced this approach to starships in RPGs with the Cortex Classic Battlestar Galactica RPG (though I now know it was done earlier than that). The rules seem to work, though without ship design rules its hard to envision how ships will scale against each other. I have hope that I can do my Vanguard setting; the Original Series Constitution-class cruiser is “Size 3” whereas the Next Generation Galaxy-class is “Size 4.”

This version of Star Trek Adventures has improved enough over the first one to renew my interest. In this next week I will dig into the rules a bit deeper and try to get a playtest session going.

#RPGThursday – Wonders of Wondrous Menagerie (Gypsy Knight Games, 2017)

In my science fiction RPG adventures,I often have alien characters or NPCs. The Star Trek universe is full of aliens, most of the “rubber-forehead” variety; i.e. an alien species only one or two facial features away from humans. Star Wars got a bit away from that trope and brought on humanoid aliens that look like humans in shape but are nothing like us. The Third Imperium setting for Traveller RPG introduced a version of humanoid aliens with the Vargr. Playing Classic Traveller was where I first ran into the concept of an uplifted species. As much as I read about them, I never actually played an uplifted character.

In several Ships of the Clement Sector stories, one can find uplift characters so I understood that they were part of that setting. Gypsy Knight Games has now released The Wondrous Menagerie: Uplifts in Clement Sector. This lavishly illustrated 82-page sourcebook lays out the good, and the bad, of uplifts in the Clement Sector. Wondrous Menagerie provides background for how uplifts are treated or dealt with in the four Clement sectors and the colonies. Many uplift species are detailed with some more suitable for NPCs while others could be used as Player Characters.

When generating a character, the player is immediately forced to deal with three broad legal status’;is the uplift a slave, free but segregated, or totally free (living in a mixed community)?

Yes, your character may be a slave. There is even an Uplift Slave Career detailed within the book.

At first this bothered me; I don’t want to play a slave! However, as I read on I was challenged by the author. John Watts very thoughtfully added an Author’s Note at the back of the book. Within this note, Mr. Watts makes observations as to how he has seen uplifted characters played in the past. He talks about uplifts as comic relief and uplifts as combat driven characters. He then talks about uplifts in the Clement Sector, and the opportunities the setting gives players to explore “more serious undertones” of racial bias and prejudice. He also offers the challenge of playing uplifts through method acting.

Few games offer a “series undertones” approach like GKG is offering here. Even Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game, set in the (now decanonized)  Dark Times -era with its speciesism mostly avoids that element of the setting in the core book.

For some, the good news is that you can play uplifts in Clement Sector without the serious undertones. But if you want a challenge, then take the one Mr. Watts offers. 

#WargameWednesday – Napoleon at Ligny

img_1359Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815; Avalon Hill Second Edition, 1977.

June 15, 1815. Napoleon has massed his Army du Nord from Soire to Phillipeville. The Prussians are aggressively deployed with parts of the army as far forward as Charleroi. The British are much more conservative, arrayed from Renaix and Oudenaarde to Brussels and Wavre.

Our first game in almost forever. I played against my boys many years ago and they have come a long way as wargamers since then. Little I is the British, and has started in a rearward, somewhat passive defense. T is more aggressive and is set up far forward; literally daring the French to come. As the French, I take the center like Napoleon did. None of our set ups are ideal as we are learning the game for the first time or once again after many years.

June 16-17: As the French move towards Charleroi, the Prussians fall back to the east. The French catch a small force at Ligny. Both sides trade a small amount of fire and the Prussians withdraw. After their passive start, the British push aggressively out of Brussels. The French turn to oblige Wellington and the two sides clash at Waterloo. After a long exchange, the British lose an infantry corps and withdraw.

After starting out in a very forward deployment, T gets very defensive and keeps falling back as the consolidating French army pushes across the Belgium border. It is the rearward deployed British who come out to contest the French, but seemingly lose their nerve in battle and retreat.

June 18-19: The Prussians are massing their forces, but the French try to consolidate forces in the face of the now rapidly massing British. Seeing a chance to attrite the Prussians, the  French cavalry go on a long raid and enter Liege with a strong cavalry force. They leave behind a small infantry force that took casualties at Waterloo. The British attack this group at Quattre Bras. Declining battle, the French retreat, but in the pursuit battle all three corps are lost! Although the Prussians have supply problems (losing a corps with Liege occupied), Blucher fails to take the bait and instead moves against the French main body massed at Ligny. The French recall their calvary force and they race to rejoin Napoleon.

Although feeling time pressure, the French (me) fails to act aggressively and instead I wait for one of the Allied players to make a mistake. The cavalry raid is intended to draw off the Prussians (T) and allow the French to take on the British (Little I) alone. The Prussians don’t take the bait, and instead the British catch a wounded detachment and in the pursuit battle get extremely lucky destroying all the units. This alone gets the Allies 1/3 of the way to victory. Now the French must fight!

June 20: In the morning light, the French in Ligny sight a strong British force  of eight corps approaching from Quattre Bras while another six Prussian corps marches from Gembloux. The French decide to stand and the Second Battle of Ligny begins. In the course of the day, the British will lose six corps and quit the battlefield. However, the Prussians stand and the battle rages on. The entire French cavalry is committed on the right, but the Prussians stubbornly stand. In the end, it is the French left that crumbles, and with the loss of a ninth corps, Napoleon surrenders.

Going into the battle the French need to destroy six British corps and four Prussian corps to win. The Allies need to destroy five French corps. At the Second Battle of Ligny, the French concentrate on the British to try and knock them out of the war. There was also extremely poor die-rolling for my French; at one point on the right wing six French cavalry corps fail to destroy a single weakened Prussian infantry corps. If the optional Command Control rule had been used the Allied attack could not have taken place like it did. Regardless, the battle ends with the British defeated, but a defiant Prussian army completing the job and forcing Napoleon’s surrender.


Comments

Napoleon plays much better than I remember. The game is rated Introductory for the rules but the strategy is demanding! Battles on the Battle Board capture the essence of Napoleonic combat. The blocks are a simple – yet effective – fog of war mechanism. Road movement limits from town to town means each General must organize their forces and ensure they have sufficient mass for battle and nearby reinforcements. We messed up the Battles rules in the first engagement, but got better as the game progressed.

The Victory Conditions build great tension. The French are racing against the clock and must defeat the Allied armies before the end of the game. The French are stronger than each individual Allied army, but inferior if the Allies mass together. The Allies really just have to survive, but the Logistics rules can force them to fight or slowly waste away if the French get to one or more of the supply hubs.

Playing a three-way game was most exciting. Both boys had their own army (relatively similar in size and power) and neither felt that they had taken the “weaker” side. Game play also keeps players engaged; in a 90 min game we got through 16 turns which included three major battles and two smaller engagements.

The RockyMountainNavy boys loved the game and challenged each other to another round the next day. Little I is already reading up on the Battle of Waterloo and wants to learn more. Although this game is 40 years old, it has stood the test of time well and still makes for a fun campaign.

RockyMountainNavy Family play verdict – WINNER!

#ModelMonday -In business when out of business

My Friendly Local Model Shop, Piper Hobby, is closing. The owner died last year and his widow does not have the same passion about the hobby he did. That is not a criticism but a compliment to Bob as he had a passion for model building that few others ever had.

Other employees tell me that Bob had something like close to 10,000 models in his house. Many of these are now making their way into the store. Since Inauguration Day, Piper has put everything – EVERY THING – at 50% off. There are many gems to be found as Bob had a collection of models going back many years.

img_1348The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself visited Piper this weekend. Like I feared, as much as I tried to control myself it still was an expensive trip. Fortunately, I was able to indulge in my German Luftwaffe wonder planes fascination and picked up the AR-234B-2N, the He 162A-2 Salamander, and the Do 335 Arrow. I also indulged my science fiction itch with a Revell 30th Anniversary Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper. Finally, I picked up another Navy jet that was a wonder for its time and often overlooked, the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray. Almost can call this one science fiction too!

T got a German World War II 1/35 scale Panther Aus-F tank. He loves cars but the Piper stock was so picked over there was nothing that really caught his eye. So he will try some armor. This Dragon kit from China is VERY detailed and challenging for T as his first armor kit. He is taking it slowly and methodically, and I am sure it will turn out beautifully.

img_1361Little I also got a few models, among then his own F4D Skyray. His kit is a much simpler 1/48 scale model from Lindberg. This model proved easy to build and Little I worked on painting and decals with a bit more care than his usual. It turned out really nice!

I am sad to see Piper Hobby go away. This leaves me with no model hobby shops in the area. Oh, there are a couple of stores around, like Michaels, that stock a few plastic models but those tend to be mostly Star Wars or models of very “generic” designs. Plastic model building is another way that the boys and myself connect as it allows me to share my love of military history with them. Fortunately, we have many models left to build!

#StarTrekAdventures – Playtest loss of comms

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Courtesy the-gadgeteer.com

In late 2016 I signed up and participated in the Modiphius playtest of their new 2d20 System Star Trek Adventures RPG. I even expressed some of my earliest thoughts here. When given the chance, I submitted feedback through the online survey since that appeared to be a condition of continued playtesting (a condition I agree with…give feedback to keep the privilege of continued access to playtest materials).

Having not seen anything for a while, I went poking around the Modiphius forums to see what was new. Apparently the v1.3 playtest rules were released on-or-about January 16. I don’t recall seeing it, so I checked my email junk and trash folders to make sure it didn’t get routed to the wrong place.

Nothing found.

Did I accidentally get left off? I admit my feedback was not totally positive, but I was still interested in trying more.

Notice the word “was.”

Modiphius probably just made an innocent mistake, but by doing so they forced me to reconsider my involvement in the playtest program. Do I reach out to Modiphius and ask (pretty please) to be put back on distro? Or do I let it go?

Upon further consideration, I am fine that I got dropped off. The new Star Trek Adventures was not capturing my imagination to any great degree. Indeed, recent releases from Stellagama and Gypsy Knights Games supporting play using the Cepheus Engine/Classic 2d6 Sci-Fi is much more interesting to me. I also have my ongoing occasional Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG campaign to consider. I could make some excuse about having “limited bandwidth” to play RPGs but the reality is the 2d20 System just doesn’t draw me in.

Bottom Line: It actually doesn’t bother me that I dropped from the playtest because I ain’t gonna miss Star Trek Adventures. I wish Modiphius the best of luck because the hobby needs quality publishers.