Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wargames Illustrated #342 Modern Article

My April issue (#342) of Wargames Illustrated arrived in my mailbox today.  In this months edition of the magazine is a 28mm modern article I wrote for them on wargaming Operation Iraqi Freedom.  What's even better - this time they spelled my name correctly -- so that makes it 1 point for Jay Smith and 1 point for Jay White -- I'm giving that other guy a run for his money!

Anyways, if you subscribe please check it out - or if you see an issue at your local game store, why not pick it up and see how poorly I write articles?

Wargames Illustrated #342 (April, 2016)

My article on wargaming Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Anywho, off to do real work now ...

SciFi Tabletop & Terrain Progress

Just a quick post today --- I've actually made a lot of progress on a few things I'll be posting about here soon, but for today just a few pictures of progress on the SciFi front.

First up is my table for Firestorm Armada.  I'm using a 6'x4' F.A.T. mat from Frontline Gaming.  I have to say these mats are outstanding.  The F.A.T. mat is mounted on "mouse pad" material which means it lays flat immediately upon unrolling it so you don't have to wait for it to settle (or just put up with folds in your mat).  I have been using a felt mat previously, which is also a good option but sometimes requires ironing to flatten it out.  The F.A.T. mat was worth every penny.

A word of caution on a different product.  I had previously ordered a space mat from Warzone 40k that looked great on the website, but the actual product is severely lacking.  First, my mat arrived with scuff marks all over it - now, the customer service is great and they have sent a replacement mat - but the core product is what I have a problem with.  It is printed on a thin material that does't settle - kind of a thin plastic/canvas type material.  You can't iron it or do anything other than put something really heavy and flat on it ... but even that does't get rid of the deep fold through the middle of the mat.  At the end of the day, a waste of money for me - I was much better off buying the F.A.T. mat - but hey, lesson learned.

The space terrain is from Greenleaf Terrain.  I was lucky enough to pick it up off of Ebay.  The terrain is excellent and consists of planets and asteroids.  I have more terrain I'm doing myself which includes additional asteroids, space wreckage/debris field, and nebula that I'm doing by coloring pillow stuffing.

I put out my Sorylian Collective 800 point fleet I'm working on (nearing completion, finishing up 2 destroyers later today, then I just need to wrap up 4 frigates and 1 more escort).  I'm also getting ready to do the engine lighting effects using my awesome airbrush.  I have a large Dindrenzi Federation fleet I've sent off to Poland to get painted by the fine folks at Awaken Realms.

F.A.T. mat and new space terrain
(Sorylian Collective fleet WIP as well)

Great asteroids made from blue foam

After a year on order my Robotech RPG Tactics tabletop has shown up.  The tabletop is from Games & Gears.  This table is for Hawk Wargames Dropzone Commander - which is 10mm - and I know Robotech is 6mm - but this will look great anyways for Robotech (and my 4Ground buildings I have).  What you see in the picture is the table "out of the box" - the roads and fields come pre-painted.  This is going to look great once I put a little extra work into it.  My only gripe with this product is the tile attachment system.  There are U clips that are using to connect each tile together, but I've found it almost impossible to assemble the tiles while they are right side up.  In order to get it assembled I had to arrange the tiles upside down first, lock them together, then flip the whole thing over (right side up).  Perhaps there is a trick to this I've missed ...

Games & Gears Dropzone Commander tabletop that
I'm using from Robotech RPG Tactics

I'll be posting up good pictures of my Sorylian Collective fleet once I finish painting those up - so more to come!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Raid On Fort William Henry Playtest Report

Before I jump into my report here ... just a small milestone achieved on the blog.  Quietly passed 300,000 hits this past week ... never thought I would get this far along - hooray!

Alright then, as promised I got to play test the Raid on Fort William Henry scenario for Muskets & Tomahawks.  Perhaps a blessing in disguise was when I pulled out my "base" for the fort ... it had warped in storage a little bit too much to fix ... so I'm going to have to put some work into fixing the small amount of interior and exterior fence for the fort.  I say blessing in disguise because the base is large (roughly 4 feet by 2 feet) and not the easiest thing to store and transport.  In retrospect I would have taken a totally different approach - which I'm going to do now by creating a modular base for the fort.  Once I nail that down I'll certainly do up a post or two on that project.

If you have not seen the scenario yet, you can see the details here.

Roy Scaife joined me for the game and played the British while I took on the role of the French and Indians.  The game lasted three turns.  We decided to award victory points as follows:

  • 1 VP for each casualty.
  • 2 VPs for each worker saved by the British.
  • 2 VPs for each worked captured by the French or Indians.

The first turn saw a string of French cards come out early, enough to get everything on the board before much happened on the British side (a couple of cards came up, but without the alarm having been sounded the British really could not doing anything useful).  

In regards to the alarm, one additional trigger was decided upon - if any enemy unit moved to within 12" of one of the British units the alarm is triggered immediately.  So, shooting at the British from any range, moving to within 12", or the Random Events #1 card would trigger the alarm.

After getting my units onto the board I moved some Indian units to within 12" of one of the work parties, triggering the alarm and freeing up the British units.  I used the activations from the first turn to position my Indian, Canadian Militia, and Compagnies Franches de la Marine as close as possible to the work parties so I could engage them in melee while they attempted to retreat.  I did shot at one of the work parties, which was a bad idea because they "recoiled" after taking some hits which pushed them farther away from me!

Note that although the fort is full of miniatures, those are just for show and do not participate in the actual game.  Also, I need to paint my tents --- for this game I just quickly sprayed them white.

French forces staged to move onto the table.

The Random Event #1 card was drawn after the alarm was already raised, so we resolved a random event.  The result was 16, which meant it rained for a whole turn (until the random event #1 card was drawn again).  This made shooting at long range -2 instead of -1, and turned the forests (difficult terrain) into very difficult terrain (-2" to movement for Scouts, versus ignoring the terrain normally).

The first captured worker.  Indians recoiled from a
couple of rounds of melee, taking their prisoner with them.

British Highlanders move into position to cover the
retreat of the work parties.

Civilians and militia are curious as to the activity
going on outside the fort.

Light infantry nearing the safety of the British regulars.

British regulars moving out from the camp.

I played aggressively with the irregulars and managed to engage all three work parties at one point or another due to some luck with the draw order of the activation cards.  Still, while I managed to wipe out one work party completely, parts of the two others managed to make it to safety.

My French regulars were the last to get into position against the British regulars.  They managed to deliver a solid first round of volley fire, but the return fire of the British units became crippling.

The dead pile at the end of the game.

My French regulars performed poorly, being wiped out to a man.  My irregular and Indian units managed to withdraw in good order, taking 5 prisoners with them.

The final victory point count was 75 for the British (saving 3 workers) and 72 for the French (capturing 5 workers).

All in all the game played very well and all three turns took about 2.5 hours to play.  Other than the small change to the alarm being raised, I don't think I have to make any other changes at this point in time.  There was some big swings in the game, but mostly due to dice than anything else.  As the British player you'll suffer the first turn for sure, but if you get your units into position you'll come out in a better position in the long run.  The French need to be very aggressive and do what they can in the first turn and or two before the British get their "wall" of regulars into position and those work parties get too far away to engage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Raid On Fort William Henry - M&T Scenario

I've put together my Muskets & Tomahawks scenario I'll be play testing later this week.  The scenario is called Raid On Fort William Henry and takes place during May of 1757.  In this scenario a strong force of French, Indians and Canadian launch a raid against British work parties in area of Fort William Henry in order to disrupt operations in the area ahead of the planned August siege.

It has been a while since I pulled out my custom built Fort William Henry.  If you are new to the blog or don't recall that project, you can see a picture of the model below ...

My scratch built Fort William Henry.

If you want to follow the string of posts I did while building that model you can start here then use the blog archive to follow the subsequent posts (all done through September and October of 2012).

Anyways, on to the scenario ...

Raid On Fort William Henry

In preparation for the planned siege of Fort William Henry in August of 1757, French forces have been directed to disrupt operations in the area of the fort.  Special emphasis has been placed on the capture of prisoners that can be interrogated for intelligence.

Scenario Map

The table used for this scenario is 6' x 8' and represents the area around Fort William Henry.  The immediate area around the fort has been cleared of trees and vegetation.  There is an encampment located opposite the fort.  The road to Fort Edward exits the left table edge.  French raiding parties enter at #1 (one each) while the French regulars force enters at #2.  British work parties (3) are located at #5.  British regulars are located at #3 (Highlanders) and #4.  See the map below.

Scenario Map

French OOB

Objective:  Kill or capture as many workers as possible before retiring from the field.

Sub Plot:  Don't roll for your sub plot.  Randomly determine which Indian Chief has a grudge against the Rangers.  That Indian Chief must kill either one of the Ranger unit leaders in melee.

Raiding Party #1

  • 1 x Indian Chief (1)
  • 3 x Indian units (6 each)
  • 1 x Compagnies Franches de la Marine unit (10)
  • 1 x Canadian Militia unit (8)

Raiding Party #2
  • 1 x Indian Chief (1)
  • 3 x Indian units (6 each)
  • 1 x Compagnies Franches de la Marine unit (10)
  • 1 x Canadian Militia unit (8)

French Regulars
  • 1 x Regular Officer (1)
  • 3 x French Regulars unit (12 each)

British OOB & Objectives

Objective:  Once the alarm has been raised, return the work parties safely back to the fort or encampment.  Highlanders and regulars can move to assist once the alarm has been raised.

Sub Plot:  Don't roll for your sub plot.  Instead, roll 1D6.  On a 1-3, the regular officer must capture an enemy combatant.  On a 4-6, the highlander officer must capture an enemy combatant.

Work Party #1
  • 1 x Workers (4)
  • 1 x Rangers (8)

Work Party #2
  • 1 x Workers (4)
  • 1 x Rangers (8)

Work Party #3 (located at T junction)
  • 1 x Workers (4)
  • 1 x Light Infantry (8)

British Highlanders (located at Fort)
  • 1 x Highlander Regular Officer (1)
  • 2 x Highlander Regulars unit (12 each)
  • 1 x Highlander Grenadiers unit (12)

British Regulars (located at encampment)
  • 1 x Regular Officer (1)
  • 2 x Regulars unit (12 each)
  • 1 x Grenadiers unit (12)

Special Rules

Safety - Work parties are considered safe once they enter the fort or pass the boundary of the encampment.

Workers - Statistically the same as Civilians, except they activate with their accompanying unit (Rangers or Light Infantry - e.g. Irregulars).  Additionally, their movement is equal to their accompanying unit -1".

Capture - To capture workers they must be defeated in close combat.  Once captured, prisoners move along with the unit that has captured them, at that unit's rate of speed -1".  Prisoners cannot be recaptured, instead if the unit that has captured them is removed from play (melee or shooting) the unit is considered to have used their last efforts to execute the prisoners and they are removed from play along with the unit.  Any shooting at the unit must be randomized between the unit and prisoners.  For each shooting hit, roll 1D6.  On a result of 1-2 a prisoner is hit instead of the enemy unit.

Light Woods - All forested areas are considered light cover.

Alarm - When assembling the activation deck, insert the Random Event #1 card.  When the Random Event #1 card is drawn, the alarm has been sounded (do not resolve a random event).  Until the alarm is sounded, all British regular forces must stay within a 1/2 move of their initial deployment location.  British work parties, if moved, move 1D6" in a random direction.  If any French or Indian unit engages (melee or shooting) a British unit before the alarm is sounded, the alarm is considered to be immediately sounded and when the Random Event #1 card is drawn later, resolve a random event.

Okay, I think that about does it.  I'm going to be play testing this game on Thursday so look forward to seeing a battle report and scenario updates/thoughts after that game.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Chicago Way

As I mentioned in my last post I'm looking forward to the release of the new prohibition era skirmish game from Great Escape Games called The Chicago Way.  If this game is anything like Dead Man's Hand I'll be throwing my hard earned $$ at them.  They've teased us all with some cool pictures of a few of the miniatures.  4Ground will apparently be releasing a range of buildings to support the game and Great Escape Games themselves will be releasing models and vehicles in support of the game.

Familiar faces ...

"He sends one of yours to the hospital - you send one
of his to the morgue.  That's the Chicago way."

"You can get further with a kind word and
a gun than you can with just a kind word."

This should be a great project.  I not only love the movie The Untouchables, but I also watched Boardwalk Empire completely through to its end.  The themed scenarios for this game will be many, although one that I really want to do in the raid on the Canadian boarder in the Untouchables.

The release date is April 16th, right around the corner - I'll be doing a full review of the game.

Firestorm Armada (v2.0)

Well, the last few weeks have been interesting for me to say the least.  I spent most of this weekend fighting what I call "weed war" - in that it has been raining so much here I have not been able to mow the lawn or go kill the weeds ... they had taken over but I've now fixed that situation.  I started into some early "spring cleaning" which led me into a total side project.

Before I "squirrel" into the main topic here ... I just have to say that I'm *super* excited about the new game from Great Escape Games called "The Chicago Way" which is a 28mm Prohibition wargame.  I'm already thinking of the scene from Untouchables with the RCMP charging in from one side of the bridge and Mr. Ness and his team coming from the US side ... anyways ... more on that later (it is being released on April 16th).

Now, on to the main topic ... Firestorm Armada.

When it first came out I purchased two small fleets for Firestorm Armada (FSA) because I really liked the look and size of the ships.  Unfortunately, the rules at the time where not all that well written, but I figured at some point they'd get cleaned up so I packed up my fleets and stuck them in the cupboard (and promptly forgot I had them).

About 1/2 way through cleaning out that particular cupboard I stumbled across those models.  I decided to check in on if there was indeed a version 2.0 that came out and if so, was it cleaned up and better than version 1.0?  The short answer is yes.

As many of your already know, I'm primarily a historical gamer, but I do mess about with non-historical miniatures from time-to-time.  So I guess this serves and kind of an update on what is consuming my time at the moment and also a review of FSA 2.0.  The approach I'll take here is that of answering specific questions.  Those questions are:

  • Why bother with any Sci-fi miniatures game other than Star Wars X-Wing or Armada (or the reluctantly named Star Trek game by Wizkids ... which I can't bring myself to even look at given the lack of consistent scale and utterly crap pre-paints)?
  • Why Firestorm Armada?
  • How big is the range?
  • How good are the models?
  • How does it play?

Fear not on the historical front though ... I'm planning a Muskets & Tomahawks game soon to play test my Raid on Fort William Henry scenario that I'll be running at KublaCon this May.

Some cool Sorylian Collective dreadnoughts.

Why bother with any Sci-fi miniatures game other than Star Wars X-Wing or Armada?

Good question given the popularity of those games at the moment.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoy playing both games.  But (there is always a but), based on factions available, breath of tactical options during game play, rules mechanics, and setup/tear down time, I see both X-Wing and Armada as not "real" miniature wargames.  By that I mean that they are more "miniature board games" - driven by a meta game of building card combos and such.  The basic game is fairly straight forward but is quickly complicated by the cards.  Setup takes far to long for the game play reward IMO.  To reinforce this, Roy and I played a full 800 point game of FSA this past weekend (setup, played, cleaned up) in about the same time as a two others who played X-Wing beside us (played at my local game store).  Essentially there are only two factions as well (major factions ... I know there are mercenaries and such).  Overall, the X-Wing and Star Wars Armada games just don't feel like full-fledged miniature wargames.  I like space combat games and still play X-Wing and Armada, but I still wanted a more full fledged space combat miniatures game.

Why Firestorm Armada?

When I originally purchased FAS I was wanting a full Sci-fi spaceship combat miniatures game.  Also, given my standardization on 28mm (for look and feel reasons), I wanted the ships to be big and beautiful.  FAS seemed to fit the bill.  Unfortunately the first version didn't really work out (not going to belabor that here).

One of the great things about Spartan Games is that they offer their rules for free.  I was able to download the v2.0 rules and read through them before deciding to give it a second go.  In fact, FSA has very good community support as well as support directly from Spartan Games.

Having played three games now I very happy with FSA v2.0.  So, chalk up another "skirmish" type game to add to my collection.

How big is the range?

There are 6 primary factions (Aquan Prime, Dindrenzi Federation, Sorylian Collective, Terran Alliance, The Directorate, and The Relthoza).  Additionally, there is the Kurak Alliance (6 factions: Veydreth, Terquai, Hawker Industries, Ryushi, Xelocian, and The Tarakians) and the Zenian League (5 factions:  Kedorians, Rense System Navy, Works Raptor, Ba'Kash, and Illosian).  Lastly, there are the Marauders & Mercenaries (The Oroshan Imperium, Pirates & Marauders, Stellar Syndicates, Trading Companies, Penal Flotillas, Corporate Raiders, and The Infected).

That is a total of 24 various factions and fleets you can play.  The primary factions, Kurak Alliance, and Zenian League fleets all have a wide range of ships available (dreadnoughts, battleships, heavy cruisers, gunships, cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes, escorts and various small spacecraft like fighters, bombers, and such).

So how big is the range .... it is big (that's what she said ... lol).

How good are the models?

The current generation of models from Spartan Games are outstanding.  Crisp detail and low part count with little to no flash (usually just a nub to clean up at the injection point).  Spartan Games has really figured out how to make resin work well.  The models also paint up easily.  One of the great things Spartan Games has done is make their newer models modular.  For example, many of the cruisers in the game used the same basic parts and are upgraded to heavy cruisers using a couple of key parts.  The parts and mount points have holes for magnets molded into the model so that the key parts can be swapable.

How does it play?

With the introduction of Firestorm Taskforce, if you find that FSA is a little too much wargame for you it really simplifies things down and speeds up game play.  That being said, for me a game can play much easier and faster with a decent QRS, so I made one for FSA.  The entire set of rules is summarized on 3 double-sided pages - and I mean everything, special rules, optional rules, and so on.  The first 3 pages are what get used the most --- and even then, really it is page #2 and 3 that I've spent the most time on.  For those who are interested, you can download the QRS here:  PDF or PPTX.

In addition to the QRS, I did ship cards for several factions ... a Sorylian Collective example can be seen below.  These files are editable so you can print cards off that reflect any upgrades or hardpoints you select.  Download them here (MS PowerPoint):  Sorylian Collective, Dindrenzi Federation, Terran Alliance, Rense System Navy, Stellar Syndicates, and The Directorate.

So how do you play it with all these fancy gaming aids?  There is a great video you can check out below ... it is 30 minute video but it walks you through a game in detail and covers all the aspects of the game.

That should about do it for now ... I have made some progress painting my Sorylian fleet ... crappy WIP picture below ...

WIP of Sorylian Collective fleet.
4 x Cruisers and 1 x Battleship.

I'm going to keep picking away at the ships while I get some other stuff going as well.  Glad to be back to blogging.