Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Character Died And I Am Happy

In our DnD4e campaign, my character Berenger has been the coach / hard-bitten sergeant for our party. I was ready for someone else to take the leadership role for a while, and to develop a character with a happier outlook on life, so I told our DM that I was ready for Berenger to die gloriously. He obliged, in a big way.

Our party--level 5 characters--is on a quest to stem an invasion of Lolth's minions, and as party of that, we needed to destroy a large stone which acted as an anchor for Lolth's power on this plane. The stone could be destroyed by sunlight, but it was in a high room in a tower called the Pillar of Night. The Pillar had been built by chitines (a spider/humanoid race created by the drow), which meant the tower was made of hardened webbing, and succeptible to fire if we could get inside it. The tower was guarded by hundreds of chitines plus 250 cult soldiers, mostly dragonborn, bugbears, and humans--no elves, because the chitines hate drow and kill them immediately, and all elves and eladrin are just another type of drow to them. It didn't seem feasible to sneak in the gate, climb over the walls, launch hang gliders from nearby hilltops, etc., so we consulted with local scholars and came up with a plan: our leader would challenge the chitine general to a duel.  That would get us into the throne room, and while the duel was going on, our pyromancy-capable characters would burn through the east wall, letting sunlight in to destroy the Lolthstone.

The chitine general was a fallen paladin who had given himself to Lolth; our leader was, well, me--an eladrin with a hybrid lazylord/control wizard build. We're only level 5 characters, so not very powerful--my best attack was the warlord's ability "Tell our rogue to stab something again", not exactly useful in a mano-a-mano duel. I wasn't expecting to last very long. Before we went into the enemy stronghold, I told the party that keeping me alive was secondary; they needed to put the main effort into protecting the ones who were burning through the wall.

So we marched up to the fortress. A cultist death squad came running to meet us; I announced my challenge and they stumbled to a halt, dumbfounded, before they pulled themselves together and led us to the throneroom. We took our places, the duel began, the general raised his sword and charged me--and missed. I maneuvered away, waited for him to charge again, and sidestepped. Eventually he got frustrated and hit one of my allies instead....which made it a free for all. No one was threatening our pyromancer, so he kept burning a hole in the wall and the rest of the party piled on and took the general down. I had hit him exactly twice, once for 6 damage (of his 160) and once with a spell that slowed him down for a few seconds; on the other hand, he hadn't hit me at all.

And then black opaque smoke started pouring from his body and filling up the space around him, making a column 15 feet wide. We stepped back and got ready. And what appeared in the smoke was a Level Twenty Five monster, a manifestation of Lolth. Yes, L25 compared to our L5.

He still couldn't hit me. He took out our rogue with one hit; another hit nearly took out our defender. When he attacked me, he rolled a critical miss.

I stepped adjacent to him to swat him with my staff--a necessary part of a mass healing spell I was casting to keep our rogue and defender alive. The monster grabbed me--finally--and nearly killed me in one bite.

And then our barbarian finished chopping a hole through the burning web wall, and sunlight poured in and struck the Lolthstone. The Stone exploded. With Lolth's power removed, all of the cult soldiers dropped dead, and the monster holding me exploded, killing me. Our defender grabbed my body, the rogue scooped up the loot, and the party raced down the stairs as the burning tower collapsed, setting the whole fortress and the nearby trees ablaze. Epic Win.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


This is what I actually have on the shelf.  Some I haven't played and never intend to


  • 1805 Sea of Glory
  • Attack Vector: Tactical
  • Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel
  • Fading Glory
  • Field Commander: Napoleon
  • Gustav Adolf the Great: With God and Victorious Arms
  • Infidel
  • Ironclads
  • Lion of the North
  • Manoeuvre
  • Mound Builders
  • Navajo Wars
  • Ogre/GEV
  • Soldier Raj
  • The South Shall Rise Again
  • Under the Lily Banners
  • Wellington
  • Won by the Sword

Miniatures Rules
  • Dirtside, StarGrunt, Full Thrust
  • Fields of Glory
  • In Her Majesty's Name
  • John Company
  • Larger Than Life, Colonial Lemuria, other Two Hour Wargame titles
  • Of Gods and Mortals
  • Power Projection and PP:Fleet
  • Striker, Snapshot

  • DnD 4e and 5e
  • Fate Core and Accelerated
  • Savage Worlds, Deadlands, Space 1889: Red Sands
  • Epic Roleplaying
  • Tiny Epic Roleplaying (no relation to the one above)
  • This Favored Land (Civil War)
  • Leagues of Adventure
  • Soldier's Companion, Ironclads & Ether Flyers, Cloudships of Mars
  • Little Black Book Traveller and MegaTraveller
  • HERO System 2e, 3e, 5e and 6e
  • Heirs of the Lost World (Caribbean Spanish, Aztecs, buccaneers)
  • PDFs
    • 13th Age
    • A Time of War
    • All Flesh Must Be Eaten
    • Cinmatic Unisystem
    • Don't Rest Your Head
    • GODLIKE, Wild Talents
    • Iron Kingdoms
    • Microscope
    • Monsters and Other Childish Things
    • Numenera
    • PDQ Sharp / Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies
    • Reign Enchiridion

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wounded Tiger

I did a solo game of the "Wounded Tiger" scenario in Conflict of Heroes. A veteran Tiger is immobilized in the middle of a field; the Soviets have sent four T34s and four T70s to finish it off, and the Germans have sent a rescue force consisting of a tank recovery vehicle escorted by a PzIV and a pair of PzIIIs.

In Game 1, both sides drew "Command Action" as their card. The T34s moved as a group, closing on the Tiger with the intent of ducking north behind the barn for cover, then moving behind the Tiger's flank. The Tiger's 88mm gun--and the dice manning it--proved deadly, though, and all four T34s brewed up before they got a shot off. The first one drew a "Kill" damage result; the other three took hits that were far enough over their Armor value to be instant kills. The T70s hadn't activated but had no chance of winning on their own, so I declared that a decisive German victory.

In Game 2, the Tiger still hit, but not hard enough to instant kill, and the Soviets drew Light Damage chits. The T34s headed around the barn, with three surviving to gain a flanking ability within their optimum range. Meanwhile the PzIV rushed through the village to aid the Tiger, while the Pz IIIs headed east to catch the T70s and the Opel puttered along the road and stopped once it was safely hidden in the village.
On Turn 2, the Germans won initiative, and the Tiger--feeling rather nervous--polished off one of the T34s and damaged a second. The two T34s took shots at the Tiger's flank, but one missed outright and the other was forced to reroll one of his hit dice (via the Tiger's Combat Hardened card) and his hit turned into a miss. Two of the T70s charged the PzIV, one dying on the way in. The second one realized he couldnt't expect to hurt the panzer (needed a 12 on 2d6 to hit), so he raced for the village in hopes of at least killing the Opel. This meant he had to expose his flank to the PzIV, so he plowed through a stone house in hopes that it would shelter him. He avoided being immobilized by the terrain; he didn't avoid the 75mm AP round from the PzIV, and that was the end of him.
On Turn 3, the Germans invested CAPs into Initiative and then rolled a 12 for it. The Tiger went first and missed; the last T34 took a shot, which the German neutralized with the Combat Hardened card; the Tiger took a second shot and polished off the T34. That left the Red forces with two T70s which couldn't beat the PzIIIs, much less the heavier tanks. Win for the Germans.

I don't think the scenario is as wildly unbalanced as the first playthrough made it look, but the Russians have a tough situation. The T34s start at range 15 and have to get to 10 not to have a penalty for long range fire. Their guns are Firepower 9 against the Tiger's 21 front armor, so they need to roll 2d6 and get a 12 to hit, even without the penalty.  So a straightforward charge by the T34s will look like this:
Segment 1, the T34s move 2 hexes to range 13; the Tiger fires with 1 CAP for accuracy, hitting on a 6+, and a 10+ is an instant kill.
Segment 2: the T34s advance again, to range 11; the Tiger fires again, using another CAP.
Segment 3: the T34s advance to within range, but they've used 3 Action Points to get here; the Tiger uses his remaining one Action Point plus two Command Points to shoot, adding one more CAP for accuracy. Again, he hits on 6+.
Segment 4: The (surviving) T34s can finally shoot. They need to use one CAP just to have enough action points to fire; using two more for accuracy means they are firing with FP 11 vs the Tiger's 21 armor.
Unless the Soviets do something clever (dive into the balka, exit the east end, and move north fast enough to get the barn between them and the Tiger?), this scenario looks to boil down to "how lucky is the Tiger on its hit rolls and damage draws" rather than "is the commander clever".

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Conflict of Heroes: Pursuit from State Farm 158

Yesterday Marco and I played two rounds of Scenario 5 from Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel. This was something of a learning experience, getting used to rules for elevation, line of sight, and special terrain. The map has a large balka (ravine) down the middle, with two hills (3 and 6) to the west and two (4 and 5) east. A panzergrenadier platoon sets up behind the western ridge; for the Russians, infantry elements of the 67th Guards start in the balka ,and mortars and machineguns lurk on the hills to the east.  German objective is to destroy the Red Army units, clear the balka and take Hills 4 and 5. We used the Two Player option without the additional armor units.

Starting forces: Germans have 6 PzGren squads, two 8cm mortars and a HMG. Russians have 6 rifle squads and two submachinegun squads hidden in the ravine; each hilltop has a 5cm mortar, a Maxim machine gun, and one or two 8cm mortars. Germans roll 1d6 for each unit and lose it on a 1, simulating casualties from the previous battle; Russians roll 1d6 for each mortar and machinegun (but not infantry), losing them on a 1-2.

Game 1:
No losses from the pre-game attrition rolls; this puts the Germans at a significant disadvantage.
The Red Army rifle platoons started at the north end of the balka; the two SMG squads started at the south end, in hopes of coming over or around hill 6 onto the two German mortars.
Early fire from the Russian hilltops destroyed the German HMG and suppressed one of the mortars; the crew got it back into action and both mortars dropped smoke across the front of Hill 3. The panzergrens advanced across the hill, but found no prey in the gulley below them. One squad swung out to the balka north of the hill; it discovered two Russian rifle squads at point blank range, and couldn't get back to cover fast enough to survive. By this point, the German units had used up all their activations and command points, and couldn't respond to Soviet actions; taking advantage of this, a Red Army assault squad scrambled over Hill 6 and waded into the two mortar teams, destroying them in close combat. This brought us to the end of Turn 1, and the Germans resigned.

Game 2:
In pre-game rolls, the Russians lost three of their seven hilltop units, which pared down their artillery considerably; however, two of the survivors were their 8cm mortars hidden safely on the reverse slopes. Their infantry set up spaced all along the balka.
The German HMG destroyed one of the units on Hill 5; counterfire suppressed the HMG and an advancing PzGren but couldn't manage to destroy them. A second infantry squad slipped through the gap in the hills during a lull in the firing, and discovered a couple of Soviet squads in the balka; they destroyed one before falling to the second. That second squad, however, had given away its position; the Germans advanced over the hilltop and poured fire down into the trapped Reds, who were unable to shoot effectively up the steep slope. With the southern half of the balka cleared, two German squads rushed Hill 5 to assault the mortar and take control of the heights; a third squad worked their way up the slopes of Hill 4, as 105mm rounds polished off the Russian mortar there. The remaining two German squads cautiously advanced up the balka, more to put pressure on the surviving Russians than to actually engage them.
At the end of Turn 3, the Russians had lost 4 infantry squads and three of their hilltop teams, and were about to lose their last mortar. The Germans controlled Hill 5 and had a unit on Hill 4, and had only lost a couple of units. The Russian resigned.

Controlling the tempo is crucial. Specifically:

  • Using group activations can help you attack faster than the enemy can reply, or can help you get out of the way of an enemy attack; but you have to be careful or you'll be left at the end of a turn with all your activations expended and your enemy free to maneuver as he likes. The Soviets have an incentive to pass, to run out the clock, so as the Germans, you have to be careful to get the most out of your units without leaving them vulnerable.
  • The Germans have "only" six turns to clear take the board; however, six turns is actually a fairly long time (note that the first game ended at the end of Turn 1, the second game at the end of Turn 3). You can prepare an attack instead of going all in on turn 1. However, you also can't be too leisurely. The Russians score points every turn from round 3-6 for control of their two hilltops; if you don't get over there and take them, point-wise it's the same as losing half your force. 
  • It's extremely tempting to spend your Command points early in a turn. And then you don't have any at the end of the turn, when you desperately need them.
Lessons for this scenario in particular: 
  • Use your artillery to good effect, and protect it as best you can.
  • As the Russians, don't set up in the balka at the foot of Hill3, unless you like being a fish in a barrel.
  • The Russians have incentive to pass....but if the Germans have plenty of victims in the beaten zone of their 105mm fire mission, they also have incentive to pass, so their rounds can land before the enemy gets out of the way. The Russians need to think hard about dispersing early. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Space Empires

Josh and I played a non-standard scenario in Space Empires, with our regular systems set up in opposite corners and about 75 "deep space" systems in between, with "merchant ship pipeline" and "aliens" rules in play. I forgot that exploration cruisers can reveal and remove "Danger" markers, so I wasted some time in skating around them instead of giong through, and I also mistakenly counted on them to act as a bit of a defense for my own systems. Further, by the luck of the draw, Josh ended up with a few more accessible deep space planets on his side, and consequently more production; I got more warp points but they weren't really helpful. Despite this, I did pretty well.

Phase 1 was "explore and colonize"--for the first few turns I devoted my production to building colony ships, plus Exploration and Terraforming tech. I ended up with 11 planets plus Home.
Phase 2, once I'd mostly run out of available planets, was building Shipyards, Pipelines and Tech Developments. I ended up with 11 maxed Shipyards.
Phase 3 was building warships. I left that a little late and re-discovered that a pack of ten cruisers can still hurt 2-3 battleships; the pair of BBs just don't have enough shots per turn to whittle down the cruisers fast enough.

Around Turn 15, I realized that I was in trouble; so I launched a spoiling attack to try to occupy his attention, destroy a  planet or two and even get past his ships and raid his interior. I didn't achieve as much as I'd hoped, but I did keep him busy on his side of the map rather than mine. I'm pretty sure I would have lost eventually, but I'd done enough damage that it would have been a fight, and he certainly wouldn't have been able to finish me off by Turn 20--which is an improvement over my previous attempts. An overall defeat, but a moral victory.