Sunday, September 18, 2016

One Page Game Prep

I love poking around the Intert00bs and Google+ to find great new blog posts. And just when I thought I had seen it all with one page dungeons, hex crawls, villages, even rulesets... these guys open my eyes to One Page Game Prep/Adventures:

Blingdenstone Enhanced
Improved Information Presentation for Dungeon Masters and the Slumbering Ursine Dunes

Now, I've been doing prep and write-ups for game sessions since forever, but the thought of challenging myself to keeping it to one page, or at least as few of pages as possible. The most important information right there, and if I need to drill down, I can do so, either from the hex-map or dungeon key, or if I've got my tablet up and running, from the wiki/online documents.

So I did that for today's game. My players are going to go investigate why some trolls have been attacking Lord Winright's iron mines and making off with what seems to be scrap ore.

My OPGP (man, now "O.P.P." is on my brain... let me go fire some Naughty by Nature up...ahh...) anyway, my OPGP forced me to stay lean, mean and focused. Oddly enough, coming up with my encounter tables really went well... I could focus on the specific and have them ready to go. Instead of rolling dice and consulting tables, it's all there on this page, and focused on the adventure and the area. I don't need to check if there are 1d10 of this and 3d6 of that, I've already done that and it's on the page, ready to go for this session.

If the players don't get everything done, I've got no problem tossing it, or keeping what wasn't used for next time.

I can't exactly show the OPGP for this game, but I should do one in the future as an example. In the meantime, hit the links above - especially Blingdenstone to see how this could look.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Learning Chaos Wars, Part 2 - The Basics

I started this series to explore the updated release of "Chaos Wars", a set of miniatures wargaming rules by Ral Partha. In Part 1, I went over the history and approach of the rules, as well as point out a simplified version of the rules that may be a reprint of the original game "Rules by Ral".

This part, we're going to jump right into a sample game and watch two small forces duke it out as we learn the basic mechanics. Here are the forces:

Each turn in Chaos Wars consists of events. For learning the rules, they recommend we focus on 4 events using simple troops:

1. Initiative
2. Ranged Combat
3. Movement
4. Melee Combat

For a game that doesn't have scenario rules and victory conditions, the rules recommend a 10 turn limit (although I far prefer the approach of the simplified version - "Continue until one player begs for mercy.")

So... I have my table set up and forces arrayed. I don't have a 6x4 table that the rules recommend, my table is about 3.5' x 6'... so I used my homebuilt 4x4 table. No terrain, we'll add in terrain rules later.

(and if you're wondering why the screwy start positions, read [1] below.)

Turn 1

First event is Initiative. In this stripped down game, Initiative will be important for movement and that's about it. 2d6 per side, highest wins. I re-rolled for ties. Interestingly, the winner doesn't have to accept initiative, they can pass it on.

Second event is Ranged Fire. Depending on what missile weapons your troops are equipped will determine their range. In this game, Human and Goblyn archers are equipped with "Common bows" so the range is 12". There are rules for line-of-sight (you have to have it on at least half of your target) and for indirect fire over your friends, and NO shooting into melees. We'll get into the mechanics of shooting in a couple of turns, as the forces draw closer.

Third event is Movement. Moving in Chaos Wars is ridiculously simple - as long as you stay in a group/four sided-ish shaped unit, and no figure/base exceeds the unit's movement rate, you can move, change facing, change shape in just about any way you like. I learned pretty quickly that I NEED movement trays! (if you're wondering about the weird shapes my human forces took, see [2] below.)

Fourth event is Melee. In Chaos Wars, all fighting and losses are considered simultaneous, so although your troops might get decimated, they might take your opponent down with them! We'll get into the mechanics of how melee works in a couple of turns.

So the first couple of turns consisted of the orcs sliding into a nice line, sending the Goblyn Troops off to harass the Human archers and possibly flank, while the Humans tried to switch positions between the archers and Men-at-arms to put their missiles to bear across the battlefield.

Soon enough, in Turn 3, we had some missile fire!

Turn 3

1. Initiative - Orcs 9/Humans 2 - Orcs win. It was this turn that I thought Initiative might make a difference. I was thinking that the Goblyn flankers might tie up the Human archers, not realizing what was about to happen...

2. Ranged Fire - both Human and Goblyn archers have units within their range, so the arrows go flying!

The Goblyn Archers fire first. The mechanic for shooting works like this - you roll a 1d6. You add in modifiers, for things like indirect fire, casualties in the firing unit or terrain considerations. You then divide the modified roll by the target's "Armor" value, using standard round up/down rules.

In this case, the Goblyns rolled a 5. Their target was Human Yeoman Infantry, who have an Armor value of 2. 5/2 = 2.5 or 3 - so the Human Polearms-men take 3 casualties!

In return, the Humans Archers fired and rolled a 6! Their target was Goblyn Peasant Infantry (the flankers), who have an Armor value of 1. 6/1 = 6... and I decimate HALF of the attacking Goblyn flankers with one attack! "Yay!" cheer the humans.

3. Movement - the lines continue to move forward. The humans (wisely) abandon the idea of swapping places between the archers and men-at-arms, seeing how badly the archers decimated the Goblyn flankers with missile fire. The Orc cavalry, full of blood-fury, move into melee with the Human Cavalry.

4. Melee - UNLEASH HELL! ... ... or roll the dice. In this simplified game, we're not doing any sort of morale checks, so melees will be To The Death!

The mechanic for melee is about the same as for Ranged - roll 1d6. Add modifiers, subtract penalties. Divide the modified roll by the target's Armor, rounding up/down - that's the number of casualties that your opponent takes.

Something that comes into play in melee are base combat values and weapon upgrades. You can have peasant troops, yeoman troops or knight troops. Think levies, drilled militia, professional/veteran. So your roll might have a modifier -1/0/+1 (respectively). The type of weapons you've bought for your troops might also affect your roll.

In this case, when the Orc Yeoman Cavalry attacked, they rolled a 5. They get a +1 to their roll for having Standard Mounts. So their modified roll of 6 is divided by the Human Cavalry's Armor of 3. That means the Humans take 2 casualties. 5 (+1) / 3 = 2.

Melee is simultaneous, so although the humans take a casualty, it doesn't reflect until melee is over. So I took to moving the casualties slightly back, but having them on the board so I could still count them. The Human cavalry strikes back, rolling 2, adding +1 for Standard Mount, dividing by Orcs Armor value of 3. 1 casualty to the Orcs! 2 (+1) / 3 = 1.

(Picture was taken before removing the Orc casualty)

Turns 4 -7

The forces slug it out. Once all of the units come into melee, ranged attacks no longer occur - the archers draw swords and engage. It was also during these two turns that I rolled 4 1's in a row. No, really... here's my notes:

The battle between the Goblyn flankers and Human Archers was over at the end of Turn 5 - the entire force of Goblyns decimated! Now I was going to see how flanking worked, as I could move that unit to engage something else.

Moving closer... and closer... and closer... FLANK!

Turn 8 - 10

With the Human Archers now flanking the Goblyn Archers, they can add a +1 to their melee roll. So in essence, flanking gives you an extra casualty if you score hits, and attacking from the rear (+2) can give you 2 extra causalities. With the help, the Goblyn Archers are obliterated, and the other units have whittled each other down to almost nothing.

When you take causalities, that starts to affect your roll modifiers. For infantry troops, you suffer a -1 penalty for each two figures lost from the unit. For cavalry, you take a -1 penalty for EACH figure lost. For 3 turns, neither cavalry unit took casualties, mainly because great rolls were negated by the casualty loss penalty

And after Turn 10 - Game over!

So... what did I learn?

The basic mechanic for Ranged and Melee is quick and easy - 1d6 roll +/- modifiers / Target armor = casualties taken by the target/opponent.

Movement is pretty easy as well, just keeping your units in a block/rectangle/line and no one base moves more than the unit's movement rate. Once in contact, I squared off the units, but that's the DBA/HOTT player in me...

Without morale rules, this game feels and plays a lot like One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas! Units locked in melee to the death till one side is destroyed, simple movement - I might try using some of the scenarios with these simplified rules and set up.

I also learned that when morale comes into play, this is going to change things up quite a bit.

So Who Won?

Well.. see, that's the thing. I didn't have a scenario with victory conditions, so Chaos Wars "helpfully" provides you with a technique of how to "weigh" the losses your enemy took versus how much of the unit was destroyed. The idea is to come to "thirds" of the forces destroyed, award "Victory Points" to those thirds, award additional points for commands killed and standards taken and blahblabhblahblah...  when I crunched the numbers, it was a draw.

No, really. Take a look above at the picture... to me, this looks like the Bestials got their asses handed to them... but because I didn't kill enough of them, I only scored a 1/3rd toward Victory Points. WTF?

I get it though... You get more points for routed units, which makes sense, and nobody routed. And since I had such a small number of army points to begin with, I could see where the numbers don't always tell the story.

Lesson learned... always have victory conditions. Cause the points thing... meh.

So what's next?

Well, we're going rerun the same battle, but with morale rules and terrain. Stay tuned for Part 3!


[1] - the screwy start positions come from my random deployment rules from my Campaign Wargame rules. To prevent bias when I'm doing solo games, I use the chart to determine position. I would have liked the human archers more towards the middle but the dice had a different story to tell...

[2] - the weird unit shapes. This is what happens when you don't have movement trays AND you have units where the figures have different base sizes. I did the best I could to present consistent frontages and sides. I'm trying to get to a consistent base size of 1" fronts for my 25mm troop/cavalry figures.

Let me know what you think? Have you tried to play the simplified version or the full version with just Init/Ranged/Move/Melee? How did it go?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Learning Chaos Wars, Part 1.5 - A (kind-of) Quick Starter

Over on the Ral Partha forums, "SonofThor" posted about an older rule set formerly published by Iron Wind Metals called "Iron Winds of War".

I am always a sucker for quick and dirty rules and my curiosity got the better of me so...

A bit of Google searching later and I managed to snag a copy of these old rules. At 3 pages, they are very abstract!

(Click on the image to view the PDF or go here:

The rules are an extremely simplified version of Chaos Wars, for sure. The game is broken up into turns consisting of 5 "events":

  1. Personal challenges by leaders
  2. Missile fire
  3. Move
  4. Melee
  5. Morale
The game can be played with only 2d6 and whatever figures you have on hand. The combat rolls and melee rolls are very much based on how Chaos Wars works and the figure types are similar as well in being grouped into three types: levy, infantry, knight (where in Chaos Wars, they are peasant, yeoman, knight). 

I love the victory conditions: "Continue until one player begs for mercy." 

This is a great introduction to wargames for kids to play! They are a perfect way to learn some of the concepts that Chaos Wars is built on. They do leave quite a bit out that is in the full Chaos Wars rules: there is no magic, there are no war machines/siege weapons, no creatures and no campaign rules. Still, for a pick-up, quick-play or even convention game, these are wonderful. 

Give them a look and tell me what you think.

N.B. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the Quick Reference Guide that Ral Partha has been using for the past two years at their convention games and demos. It is a very packed-full 4 sheet summary of the republished Chaos Wars. This also is an excellent quick-start guide or convention game guide.

Friday, September 9, 2016

How I Paint - Ral Partha Sea Elf troops

What I'm painting: Ral Partha Sea Elf Swordsman

More Ral Partha Chaos Wars troops for my armies. I did these using the Dallimore/Foundry 2-color method, using craft paints. Since I worked on my Chaos Warriors back in June, I've gotten much better about how to paint the faces, getting to where I can paint right up to the eyeballs. Lots of light and patience helps.

Color scheme (Base, Highlight)
Flesh: Americana Base Flesh, Fold Art Light Flesh
Hair: Americana Moon Yellow, Folk Art French Vanilla
Armor/Weapons: Games Workshop Tin Bitz, Folk Art Metallic Solid Bronze
Shirt: Americana Ocean Blue, Crafter's Acrylic Tropical Blue
Shirt cuffs: Folk Art French Vanilla, Americana Snow White
Pants: Crafter's Acrylic Black + Americana Holly Green, Americana Holly Green
Boots: Ceramcoat Charcoal, Americana Neutral Gray
Shield Face: Folk Art French Vanilla, Americana Snow White
Shield Jewel: Crafter's Acrylic Black/Crafter's Acrylic Tropical Blue/Americana Snow White
Feather: Crafter's Acrylic Dark Turquoise, Same + Americana Snow White
Details: Games Workshop Shining Gold

The rationale behind the colors: The Sea Elves do not have the luxury of the same metals that the races on land have. They make do with bone, bronze, shark/whale leather and fabrics from what is available under the seas and oceans. That's the story of the colors of off-white (bone), grey (leather), bronze and the bright blues and whites. The Elves themselves are a pale white with blonde or blue/black hair.

I'm going for a kind-of Greek look to their insignia on their shields. As well, their shields are works of art themselves, so where I can, the bosses will have a jeweled effect, and the decorations or designs will be gold.

Step 1: Primed with black. In this picture, I had some extra paint from a previous model and painted the base coat on the swords to make use of the paint on the palette.

2. Base coat and highlight coat of flesh. The fingers around the sword were hard to trace, so I ended up doing a light drybrush to bring them out nicely.

Step 3: Paint the clothes from the inside out. When I get to painting, I'll get on a roll and forget to take pictures! Here, I've finished the blue shirt, the cuffs, the pants and the shield face. With the 2 color method, I don't use inks or washes, the base coat and a highlight give the appearance of depth.

Step 4: Boots and Armor. The base coat of armor is finished, ready for highlight.

Step 5: Finishing touches. And once again, I forgot to take pictures until the very end. The armor and weapons have been highlighted. Blonde hair has been painted.The details have been added, such as the gold trim, the shield decorations and feathers.

I also used a neat trick from my Battletech painting - a "jeweling" effect. I do that on the gems in the shield bosses. It really makes the shields pop and gives them a unique look. I also put a bit of the brighter jewel paint on the helmet decorations to add some detail.

Step 6: Mounted on bases and ready for the final basing step. I'll have them on sand and a couple will have some shells and lichen to give them an ocean feel.

It took about 4 hours to do these 3 guys, which isn't bad. The detailing of the shields takes awhile, as did being careful with the white trim/cuffs on the shirt.

Also keep in mind, these are troops. So I'm OK with black eyes and some imperfections, as these will be in a unit of 12 figures, and I'm looking at them from 3 to 4 feet away. I love seeing my Sea Elves together, with the bejeweled shields and bright tropical colors.

Questions/comments/criticisms? Let me know!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Battle of Yew - Fall 15, 58AD - Dark Ages Campaign

15th Day of Fall, 58th Year After the Doom - the forces of Chaos (composed of the men of the Black Brotherhood and Orcs) faced off against the Army of Enonia. The Army was a combination of recruited militia and mercenary professionals, led by Marshall Victor Roehm.

The Bestials and Chaos Men had taken over the town of Yew and held it for almost an entire season, enslaving the population that remained. The orc chieftain, Quadag-Ammar, was eager to face the humans and destroy their army.

While this battle was fought with HOTT, I adopted a scenario from One Hour Wargame “Scenario 14: Static Defense." The orcs would deploy one unit of similar elements near each objective (Yew and the Orc stronghold) and would have to keep at least one element of troops within 200 paces (2", 1 move) of both. So if the humans defeated the orcs by killing over half of their elements, but the orcs were still within that 1 move of both town and camp, the humans actually lost!

The rest of the deployment positioning was done following HOTT and using random setup from my campaign house rules.

The opening moves: Marshall Roehm attempts to destroy the cavalry protecting the right flank of the orc camp with his cavalry, while sending his blades around the hill to the other side. He sends his knights around Yew to ride down the orc blades.

The orcs send the blades to face the knights, while meeting the cavalry charge head on.

The human and orc cavalry trade blows and shove each other back and forth, in a series of recoils and pursuits. Slowly, the human cavalry gains the upper hand on the orcs, but there is one stubborn element that resists bravely!(One key rule I forgot here was the rule that if a unit recoils when it is flanked by a front facing enemy, it gets destroyed! This was my first HOTT battle in about a year, and I was not that well learned in the rules to begin with! This battle might have been over a lot sooner if I'd remembered that! D'oh!)

Marshall Roehm's knights face off against the orc swordsmen on the road to Yew and a melee ensues.

But disaster strikes for the humans! 2/3s of his knights fall to the blood thirsty swords of the orcs, and the remaining retreat towards Marshall Roehm's position. The orcs regroup and reform their lines, intent on running down the humans. The orc general, Quadag-Ammar, cheered on his troops to run the humans down.

Meanwhile, the human cavalry makes a decision. One unit stays with the remaining orc cavalry unit, fighting back and forth across the battlefield. The other two human cavalry elements would slip in behind and make a dash towards the orc camp. The remaining unit of human men-at-arms also move to flank the orc camp, but Quadag-Ammar sends an element of orc swords and remaining archers to prevent that from happening!

The battle comes down to two key engagements. The fight near the town of Yew between Marshall Roehm, his remaining knights and a unit of reserve spearmen facing the dour and fell-handed orc swords and their war chief on one side. The other fight near the orc camp between  the remaining human cavalry and men-at-arms facing a mixed group of orc spearchuckers, sword and archers.

The humans are victorious! Roehm's knights are able to get between the orcs and Yew, and the orc camp is left open as the units protecting it are pushed away. With few troops left and the humans having destroyed over half of the orcs, the bestials' resolve wavers and Quadag-Ammar grudgingly orders the retreat.

It really was a question of inches, as that middle unit was at 2.5", just outside the 1 move range. As was the archers near the orc stronghold. This was interesting to have a separate set of victory conditions above and beyond the normal HOTT rules. It force me as the human general to make choices about how to attack and what to attack, in order to ensure I'd freed either Yew or cleared out the camp.

The victory at Yew opens up another town to my players, albeit one that was under Bestial and Chaos rule for a season. It also opens up some interesting possibilities for the wargames campaign, to see what Duke Archanis Reynald may wish to do, now that he's established a solid line and two victories against the invading Orcs and Goblyns. My campaign now gets more interesting!