Friday, May 30, 2014

New Games

Yaquinto's Ironclads and Victory Point's The South Will Rise Again just arrived.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Space Empires Replay

When I finish a game and put it back in the box, I usually don't have an urge to get it out again right away. With Space Empires, however, I kept thinking "Let's try it again...", so I gave the Doomsday Machine scenario (Easy, Small) another go. This time I didn't lose scouts quite as quickly (one each in turns 3, 4 and 5). Better yet, the location of newly discovered planets was more in my favor, so I got seven colonies up to full producton by turn seven. For technology, by the end of Turn 6 I had Size 3, Attack 2, Defense 1, Move 3, and Shipyards 3.  Turn 7 saw the first battle, barely 45 minutes after I started the game. Four cruisers come off the ways and go out to meet the first Machine at a colony adjacent to the Homeworld; two came back. On Turn 10, six cruisers attacked the enemy and defeated it without loss. Three more were in transit from the shipwards to the fleet, but didn't reach the battle space in time to participate. On turn 12, three squadrons of four cruisers converged on the last Machine, and defeated it while losing a third of their number. The improved Attack technology proved its worth. 

I still have to remember that Maintenance goes by hull size, not number of ships. Oops. Fortunately I waited till late in the game to build ships, so it wouldn't have made much difference.

Here's the key point about this game: it took about fifteen minutes to set up, an hour to play, and a bit more than five minutes to sort the pieces, bag them, and get everything back in the box. That's a big factor in "Let's play it again."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Space Empires

Space Empires is a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) game by GMT, with a couple of solo scenarios, plus options for two, three, four or more players. I read through the rules last night and put the smaller of the two Doomsday Machine solos on the table this morning. Total time was a bit  more than two hours from punching counters to end of game.

Components:  Mounted mapboard, plain black numbered hexes, no "starfield" background. Not exciting to look at the board by itself, but a starfield might make things look cluttered. The map has areas outlined for each player's home space.
The counters are diecut, about what you'd expect--they don't come out as cleanly  and easily as the ones in Conflict of Heroes, but they do come out. If you're obsessive, you might trim take nail clippers to the corners. although I probably won't bother. Each player has Home Area counters, designated by an outline color--red, green, yellow, pale blue--and there are Deep Space counters which have a white outline. Might be hard to distinguish "white" from "pale blue" if you have glare or poor light. Note that most of the Home counters are in one area of one counter sheet, but there are a few more on another sheet. I spent a few minutes thinking "I should have 26, I'm only seeing 24..."
The game requires some bookkeeping but the record sheet is intuitive, and the items listed on the chart are in the correct order by turn sequence. I don't have any compulsion to do my own Improved Version, which is rare.
Four d10, two orange, two black. Given that squadrons can have up to six ships, perhaps they should have included two more dice--but I have thirty d10 of my own within arm's length, so it's hardly a problem.

Game: in the "Small / Easy" version Doomsday Machine scenario, you start off with your home planet against one edge of the map--think of it as being the center of a clock dial, where your territory is the lower half of the dial and the upper half is off the board. Staring forces are three scouts, three colony ships, a mining ship and four shipyards. There are three Movement phases, followed by an Economic phase; the rules call each phase a Turn, but I'll use Turn for the four phases together. You know in advance that Machines will show up during the Economic phase of Turns 7, 9 and 11; the first one is weak, the second tougher, and the third tougher still.

Turn 1: I discovered two Mineral deposits and two Planets. I realize now that I sent my Miner out discovering when it shouldn't have been able to--only warships can explore strange new worlds. I sent two Colony ships out to the new planets and paid the Technology cost to increase Move to 2 for new ships.

Turn2: Lost two of my three scouts, built two replacements (which get the Move 2 tech) plus a colony ship and a miner. Planted a third colonies.

Turn 3: Lost another scout, bought upgrades for Shipyard Capacity and Hull Size tech and another Colony ship. Established a fourth colony.

Turn 4: Lost my remaining two scouts but I have explored almost all my home space and I don't know whether it's worth exploring Deep Space.  I invest in technology for Ship Attack Rating and Hull Size.

Turn 5:  Mining ships still hauling minerals back to colonies. Put down the fifth and final colony--there are more planets but they're far enough from the homeworld that I don't think it's worthwhile building more colonizers. Technology upgrades to increase Move to 3.

Turn 6: The first Doomsday machine is due at the end of next turn, so it's time to make the final Tech developments and start building warships. My warships can now be Attack 1, Move 4, Size 2 cruisers. I build two of them.

Turn 7:  I build four more cruisers. There are five spawn points around the perimeter of the Deep Space area and the first Machine appears at one in the lower left (using the clock dial analogy, it's at the 7:30 position). My colonies happen to be mostly to the right, so the Machine will be aiming at my homeworld.

Turn 8: My fleet intercepts the Machine and engages. This one is pretty weak; it only kills one of the six cruisers. I lose another two exploring. During the exploration I find some minerals which my Miners can collect, so it's not a complete loss, but it certainly wasn't worth losing the cruiser. I vow to stop exploring, and I build four more cruisers.

Turn 9: My squadrons move to central positions. During the Economic Phase, a second Machine appears, at the far left (9:00 position). There's one uninhabited planet between the Machine and my homeworld, but no colonies. Four more cruisers come out of the yards/

Turn 10: My miner tows that last mineral deposit to a colony, while my navy intercepts the second Machine. This one is tougher and kills four of my cruisers. Fleet mainteance costs are rising and my mineral resources are dwinding; I can only build three replacements, not four.

Turn 11: I build another three cruisers, bringing me up to thirteen. The final, and toughest, Machine appears at the far right. There are two colonies between it and my homeworld.

Turn 12: My fleet intercepts the Machine just before it reaches the first colony. Our first round of fire lands several hits...and then apparently our targeting software decides to go on strike. Cruiser after cruiser explodes, while our return fire only rarely manages to connect. Finally the gunners fix the problem and resume effective fire. After five rounds of combat,  with five cruisers left, and one of them damaged, they finish off the last Doomsday Machine. Victory!

Debriefing: I think I should have built one more colony ship, and maybe another scout (it which case I'd have lost the scout rather than a cruiser).
I realized after game-end that I was moving my ships too fast. Your starting Move 1 means you get to move 1 in each phase, but Move 2 doesn't mean you get to move 2 in each phase--instead, you move  1 in the first movement phase, 1 in the second, and 2 in the third. Move 3 means 1, 2, 2.  The same mechanism used in some of Jack Greene's naval games, so I've seen the mechanism before; I just didn't keep in mind that "Move 2 doesn't mean moving two". Intercepting the Machines in time would have been somewhat harder but I don't think it would have made a difference to this game.
A few times I lost track of which pieces I'd moved. I suppose I could start with the leftmost hexrow and keep working across to the right, but I like to move my warships first and then come back for the civilians. The hexes are big enough, though, that I could easily put the counters at the top ("north") of the hex on the first phase, at the bottom of the hex for the second phase, and keep alternating.

Rating: More elegant than I expected; particularly, the bookkeeping is a lot less painful than I expected. I'll happily give the scenario another go. Josh had to talk me into buying this one, but I'm glad he did.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Arrivals

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas and Space Empires, both from GMT, arrived today. En route: Yaquinto's Ironclads.

Monday, May 12, 2014

OGREs coming and going

I hauled OGRE up to Blacksburg, and Josh arranged for his friends Will and Kelson to come get an introduction to it. Both of them were impressed and amused by the sheer size of the game--over twenty five square feet of boards! Over 1000 counters! We played one scenario, with a pair of Mark Vs attacking a command post defended by 40 infantry, 30 armor, and two Mark IIIs, with Josh and I handling the defenders. Our strategy was to knock off the Mark Vs' primary batteries and then focus on the treads, using our Mark IIIs to ram as well as shoot. The Mark Vs came on separated, and I think that was their undoing; they couldn't protect each other and we had room to get our entire force engaged.  Getting them down from speed 3 to speed 2 was tough, but once we managed that, we could pile on and drag them down. We lost 3/4 of our infantry and more than half our armor, but we managed to immobilize the Mark Vs at 8 hexes from the Command Post. Quite a creditable effort for our two new players and I'd have to replay it a couple of times to see if I could do any better. And at the end of the game, Kelson fiddled with his phone for a few minutes and announced "I have a Great Big Box coming to my house on Wednesday!" -- he'd found a copy for $120 and snapped it up. And a good time was had by all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


We unwrapped the Austrian expansion for C&C Napoleonics and gave a go to the Mariazell scenario, with Josh taking the Austrians while I took the French. On the left, the French had a couple of infantry units; in the center, a couple of light infantry; on the right, two light cavalry. The Austrians had two or three infantry units in each location, no cavalry, and some of their infantry were grenadiers.

I think this game was dictated by the cards, which said "the French will attack left and be unable to respond meaningfully to the center and right." On the left, I easily pushed back one Austrian infantry, and destroyed a grenadier unit with a single bayonet charge. And then I stalled. I did manage to drive home a light cavalry charge against the Austrian guns--and for a wonder, Josh didn't have the First Strike card waiting in his hand--but I was unable to finish them before the Austrian infantry to either side chased my horsemen away. A few rounds of unanswered musketry, and their center had destroyed mine; a couple more rounds finished off one of my cavalry and a wounded infantry regiment. Four banners, and victory went to the Austrians.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

In Her Majesty's Name: Cornwall Black Guards vs Zombies

I got In Her Majesty's Name and the expansion Heroes, Villains and Fiends a few months ago, and finally have a table clear to set up a game. For the first game, I'm pitting a five man British Rifle squad against creatures from the Red Sect voodoo list in HVF..

The Duke of Cornwall's Own Black Guards (200 points):
  • Captain Carnelian Woolsey (Inspirational, Erudite Wit), 72pts
  • Sergeant Jones (Bayonet drill, "Royal Welsh"), 33
  • Lewes (Bayonet drill, "Royal Welsh", 1 explosive grenade) 30
  • Awbrey (Bayonet drill, "Royal Welsh", 1 explosive grenade) 30
  • Atkins (Bayonet drill, "Royal Welsh", Marksman, 1 explosive grenade) 35
The monsters (202 points)
  • tonton macoute with machete (46pts)
  • 12 zombies (13 each)
The monsters don't have a Leader character but a) this is a solo effort, so I'm not worried about it being competitive, and b) the Red Cult leader would be a voodoo bokor with mystic talents, and I didn't want to fool with that for the first game. I could have taken another, non-mystical Company but I had all these zombies here, ready to go...Given that the monsters outnumber the humans 13:5, I'll have three zombies move (but not fight) for each initiative tick.
The map is 24 x 26" with a street running east-west, three buildings and a couple of trees south of the street and three buildings north of it. The redcoats start in the southeast corner, in an alley between the edge of the map and a building; the monsters are scattered randomly. There is one civilian marker in each building; four are dummies, but two are real and the Brits want to find them before the zombies do. Monsters move towards non-monsters if they can see them, otherwise roll 1d6 for direction of movement and 1d6 for distance.

Turn 1: One zombie starts in line of sight of the Brits, so the Captain elects to keep his squad where it is and let that zombie come to them. Awbrey bayonets it and Woolsey sabers it, but the zombies doesn't fall; it scrabbles futilely at them. No other zombies are in line of sight. The rules have Movement Phase, then Shooting Phase, then Fighting Phase, so I'm carrying out all Movement before any Shooting--there's an example on page 13 which mentions shooting at figures who haven't moved yet, but that's deleted in the errata.

Turn 2: The three soldiers who aren't already in a fight move forward with bayonets ready. (I'd thought Atkins' Marksman talent would let him Shoot into a Fight without penalty but it turns out that effect comes from the Hunter talent--which is why Atkins advances with bayonet instead of hanging back to shoot). Three zombies come around the corner, two going for Lewes and one headed for Jones and Atkins. Across the street, a zombie tears into a Civilian--but it's dressmaker's dummy! The zed growls in frustration; the Brits sigh in relief. Atkins and Jones hit their zombie but it doesn't go down. Lewes sticks one of the two attacking him. Awbrey bayonets a brick wall and narrowly escapes breaking off his bayonet; Woolsey calmly slashes the zombie but it doesn't go down. (The zombies are mostly rolling 2's for their attacks and 8's for the Pluck rolls). It's helpful to have markers, either on the table or the roster sheet, to indicate which figures have already acted in each phase.

Turn 3: Woolsey wins initiative but all the soldiers are already in Fights. Atkins, planning to step back and then lob a grenade, attempts to disengage but fails. At the west end of the street, three zombies randomly move into line of sight to Lewes, so next turn they'll start moving toward him. There's a zombie in the building adjacent to the troops; its random movement brings it to a window beside Awbrey, and it reaches through to attack. In the Fighting phase, Lewes continues battling his two zombies. Jones finally lands a killing stroke on the one he and Atkins are facing, and the first zed falls. (Atkins started the Fight phase engaged but his only opponent expired before Atkins acted. He cannot throw a grenade or shoot because those are Shooting phase actions and this is the Fighting phase; consequently, Atkins doesn't get an action). The zombie in the window claws at Awbrey and knocks him down. Woolsey mutters "Buck up man, they're only ravenous undead who want to eat brains, you're in no real danger" and that's enough to get Awbrey back in the fight (he would have failed the Pluck roll if not for Woolsey's Inspirational talent). Wooley rolls a 10 to saber his zombie, who rolls a 10 Pluck roll to take it with a smile.

Turn 4: The three zeds at the end of the street lurch toward the soldiers. One of the zombies inside a house, moving randomly, gets close to a civilian--the suspense builds. The soldiers have their own problems, though. Atkins tosses a grenade behind the two zombies attacking Lewis but both shrug off the blast, and they pull down Lewis, who rolls a 1 for Pluck. First blood for the zeds. Woolsey sabers his zombie again, and it finally falls. Awbrey and his zombie flail ineffectually at each other through the window.

Turn 5: Most of the zombies, attracted by the noise, begin to shamble toward the soldiers. Awbrey disengages, leaving the zombie in the window mindlessly clawing at nothing (the zombie took his movement before Awbrey did). The Captain moved to avenge Lewis. In the Shooting phase, Awbrey lobbed his grenade behind the Fighting zombies, killing one. Atkins leveled his rifle at a zed in the street, a dozen yards away; the creature staggered under the heavy round but kept coming. In melee, Woolsey knocked down the the zed which had bitten Lewis, and Jones followed up with the bayonet, but the zombie refused to die.

Turn 6: Only two zombies are moving randomly now; the remainder are fixed on the soldiers, although only one closes to melee range. The tonton macoute finally comes into line of sight, and Atkins draws a bead on it, but the bullet misfires. Woolsey dispatches the zed he'd knocked down last turn, while Awbrey's lunge finishes the one Atkins shot.

Turn 7: The soldiers are in a three man line, with the left flank protected by a wall and the right anchored by their Captain; they stay in place. Atkins retrieves the last squad's grenade from Lewis' body. Only two zombies make it into contact, but three more and the tonton macoute are right behind them. There's a scream in the distance as a zombie stumbles across Miss Heather Hansen and devours her, but the squad's after action report will omit that detail. In the Shooting phase, Atkins lights the grenade and tosses it; the blast shakes three zombies (nullifying their Numb "disregard the first hit" protection) but the tonton macoute easily ignores it. In the melee, Jones finishes off one zombie, bringing the squad's total to six.

Turn 8: Captain Woolsey decides to engage the ogre, but then has second thoughts and stays where he is. They seem fated to meet, however, so when  the tonton macoute advances on him, he stands firm (Pluck roll 10). Atkins (another Pluck roll 10) moves up to his officer's side and growls a challenge to the ogre "Come and have a go, then, if you think you're hard enough!" Two more zombies move to attack, with another unable to shuffle into line because of the building protecting the soldiers' left. The melee resolves as four one-on-one duels. Woolsey's flashing saber finishes one zombie (thanks to the -1 Pluck penalty that a saber inflicts); beside him, Jones trips and falls on his face (would have failed his Pluck roll except for being Royal Welsh and having an Inspirational leader).

Turn 9: Jones can't find his feet and remains Knocked Down; the zombie who couldn't get into contact last turn moves into the line and faces Woolsey. All the Brits are engaged so there's no Shooting. Awbrey finishes his zombie, and Woolsey's stroke staggers his (removing the Numb protection). The ogre nearly breaks its machete but Atkins' counter merely angers it. Jones's zombie barely manages to land a blow, and it does no harm.

Turn 10:  Jones stands as Awbrey moves to assist him--Awbrey would have done better to help Atkins with the ogre, but there was no route to get there unless Atkins disengaged, which would bring another chance for the tonton macoute's Terrifying talent to affect him. Captain Woolsey and Sergeant Jones dispatch their zombies; the ogre and Atkins trade heavy blows but both remain on their feet.

Turn 11: Jones and Woolsey turn to assist Atkins. Awbrey hangs back, unwilling to get within reach of the monster. He raises his rifle, then decides that it would be inadvisable to shoot into a scrum that includes his commanding officer and his sergeant. Atkins is distracted by the arrival of his reinforcements and the tonton macoute hammers him flat. As the beast throws back its head to roar in triumph, the captain lunges and slits it from guggle to zatch!

Turn 12 and following: With all immediate foes dispatched and a moment to breathe, the soldiers check their fallen. Atkins and Lewes are hors de combat, but both should recover; Awbrey guards them while Woolsey and Jones explore the buildings. Only two zombies remain on the board, one of them in the building with the late Miss Hansen and the other trotting up and down an alley, and they are easily dispatched. The sergeant discovers Miss Harriet Tynsley hiding in a wardrobe and the troops escort her to safety.

A very successful operation. The riflemen had the advantages of a good position with one flank protected, and an enemy who came at them in uncoordinated waves. On the other hand, that position meant they had no line of fire; the only zombie to fall to gunfire, without getting into melee, was the very last one. And I'm thinking that I need to add a Field Surgeon to the TO next time the Black Guards deploy.