Tuesday, 22 May 2012

We're gonna get right back to where we started from.

This Sunday I was lucky enough to have a visit from my good friend Marvin-the-ARVN (not his real name) and along with mi hermano paternico Jonesy and his daughter Myrtle (also not her real name, in fact in real life I make it a point to call her by a different name every week) we had a game of FUBAR.  As a break from VSF we decided to do a regular Science Fiction game, so Jonesy brought out his WH40K Tau army and I dug out my EM4 plastic Space Rangers, which proxied as 40K Space Marines, with a squad of Combat Zone Power Armour proxying as Terminators.

Since we were all new to this version of the rules, we had a couple of rules queries that soon got smoothed out, and the game went fairly swimmingly.  The Space Marine tactical squads significantly outgunned the larger Tau squads, but the Tau had some special troops that could deliver a nasty surprise, like a tank gun with unlimited range that automatically killed rather than suppressed, mounted on a grav tank that could lurk out of sight on the extreme edge of the board, then pop-up to launch an attack and dropping back out of sight before anyone could return fire.  Or the Tau battlesuits with plasma cannon that reduced armour saves.  Or those blasted Shield Drones which seemed to effortlessly absorb every single hit we scored on anyone.  In fact the only casualties we caused through the entire game were 3-4 shield drones, while we lost two tactical squads and the Terminators.  In spite of this the game was a  Space Marine victory, as the Tau players kept withdrawing wherever the surviving Marines advanced and so ceded all three objectives on the tabletop.  Most importantly it was a good fun game in great company and something I hope to repeat soon.

Anyway, the game did get me thinking about doing something new as a break from VSF gaming. I've a mixed bag of 25-28mm Sci-fi stuff in various states of readiness, including a whole load of "street violence" types.  Inspired by some of the great battle reports coming out of the Winter of '79 blog I'm thinking it would be a fun change to do some skirmish gaming, with individuals or small fireteams as the base unit.  I'm thinking of going back to this blog's original concept, the "Axis of Naughtiness" modern day Imagi-Nations.  Let's take the island of Paradiso and thrust it "five minutes into the future", so that we can get away with using some near-future SF vehicles, and I've probably got most of what I need to play a good range of civil unrest, rebel insurgency or gangs vs authorities games.

For the more far-out SciFi figures, I've been thinking of a slightly more post-apocalyptic setting, with a totalitarian regime keeping its people sheltered in a closed community, while occasionally venturing out to the badlands to deal with rebels and gangs and petty kingdoms.  Pretty standard dystopian sci-fi fare, and most of the modern day figures would still be usable.

Then of course, there's that big box 'o zombies.  Everything goes better with zombies :-)

So that's vaguely the plan for the next few months, to start delving into my Sci-Fi/Street Violence lead mountain and get them painted and readied to the point where I could easily throw together a game with them at short notice.  This time last year I had ten Victorian British soldiers and ten Prussians painted, plus a handful of civilians.   The aim is to now do the same for the Sci-Fi/Street Violence stuff.

Which doesn't mean I won't be playing, talking or thinking about VSF.  The whole point is that I've got enough stuff finished now I don't need to push to get something new ready for a game, though I  might sneak a couple of half finished units onto the crafting table now and again.  And I'm still going to try out a few more rulesets and continue my personal GASLIGHT rewrite, plus see if we can't reschedule the aborted May game.


  1. We all need a break now and then. ;) I've got a small selection of GZG's nice 25mm SF figures, and a few vehicles from Jez over at Old Crow. All my stuff is tailored to small-scale skirmish gaming. I prefer to steer clear of the gritty post-apocalyptic street-level style, but I agree, everything is better with zombies.

    Which rules will you use? I wrote a set of rules a while back which I feel give a reasonable game, but I read that some folks tinkered with GASLIGHT to produce LaserLight for SF. I might tweak my rules to incorporate some GASLIGHT concepts. With zombies. ;)

    1. Because I'm really looking for a change of style/pace, I specifically don't want to use anything remotely resembling GASLIGHT. For larger games, FUBAR seems to be a good option. Jonesy used to play a lot of GZG's Stargrunt, which would be a good candidate except I'm worried it might have locked him into a very particular style of play.

      2 Hour Wargames "Chain Reaction" was always my modern skirmish game of choice, although now I might use the Rebel Miniatures "Modern Havok" flavour of the rules.
      I'd like to try some more Flying Lead, since the Song of Blades & Heroes games we've done seemed to give a good fun game. EM4's Combat Zone is a bit of a wildcard - I'd always discarded it because I wasn't keen on Action Point mechanics , but it still seems to have a small but loyal fanbase after all this time, there must be something to it.
      Mark & Maff swear by "Cold War 1983" for their Winter of '79 skirmishes and I've been meaning to give it a try. Finally I want to sit down and have a proper run through of Ramshackle Games Nuclear Renaissance, if only because it's specifically written to handle gangs/warbands with improvised fighting vehicles.

  2. Nice report - I too have recently been finding it fun getting back in 40K...

    1. I was never really into 40K in the first place. I was actually a fan of Laserburn, 40K's grand-daddy, and only picked up a cheap 2nd hand copy of the original Rogue Trader book after everyone had moved on. I'm still not a fan of the setting, the aesthetic or the marketing ploys behind the game.

      That said, I have been watching a lot of 40K battle reports on MiniWargaming.com and have been quite impressed with how the current incarnation of the game seems to play. I'm pinching the mechanic for Twin Linked weapons for my GASLIGHT revision (and other games) for example, and may borrow other ideas like consolidation moves after close combat.

      There's probably enough material for a full on rant-post on why the glossy GW style games are not for me, if I could summon the enthusiasm to write it. Fortunately enough years have passed since the Great Betrayal, and my nerdrage has abated enough that I'm content to let willing victims carry on being exploited by the "Games Workshop Hobby" while I quietly get on with my own style of wargaming.

  3. So....about this rewrite.... Any chance your readership can get copies?

    Nope, not shameless at all!

    I'm actually curious about what you're changing. I'm still looking for that VSF/Steampunk game, and I found your blog a while ago during that search.

    1. It's a little awkward because I really don't want to tread on Chris and Buck's toes by effectively distributing a copy of their game. What I'm hoping to come up with is a version of the basic GASLIGHT rules (i.e. the equivalent of the original booklet) with all the house rules we use incorporated into the body of the text. So instead of trying to explain to someone "We play this ruleset, but we ignore rule X, added rule Y and modified rule Z" with a big page of errata and amendments, we can just give players the rewrite and say "Dat's the game we's playin today."

      Now technically, by established US legal precedent, game mechanics can't be copyrighted, so provided I re-write everything in my own words, I'd be in the clear (which is how the Old School RPG retro-clones are able to effectively reproduce old versions of D&D legally). But Chris & Buck are good guys and I wouldn't want to repay their friendship by crapping on the sales of the game they've worked so hard on, so I won't post the full rewrite here, it'll purely be for the guys and gals I actually roll dice with.

      That said, what I will be doing is posting any major changes as "plug-in modules" like I did with the Morale rules a while back. You should be able to take some or all of those modules according to taste and plug them back into the original GASLIGHT ruleset.

      I did a rough draft of the house rules I plan to incorporate.


      (You might also consider the post the other week about guns and benchmarking another module.)

      One other thing I want to do is expand the vehicle/conveyance design to codify some of the "special rules" that give them some steampunky character. For example the Springenpanzer is a tall vehicle so I allow it to see over cover, and because it bounces it can move over obstacles without penalty. I also have a mini-tankette mounting a huge naval-calibre gun that looks totally unbalanced, when it fires I'm going to make the whole vehicle recoil backwards 2d6" with a chance of toppling over. Any GASLIGHT referee worth their salt will give vehicles these sorts of special rules although there's nothing in the original rules to support it. What I want to do is put down a solid framework of "Vehicle traits" that a referee could build on.

      I'd be interested to hear what you're looking for in a game and what games you've tried so far.

  4. I'm really looking for something that can go from skirmish to large scale fairly fluidly. I'd like to be able to incorporate air, and sea battles as well.

    I've got most of my background in GW stuff over the past twenty years, though the past few I've been playing a LOT of Malifaux. In this genre I've been more focused on reading rules, and planning some builds. I've yet to roll any dice (or flip cards) with a "pure" VSF system.

    I can definitely understand where you're coming from. I bought their Compendium in pdf format not long after it was released. I've enjoyed digging through it, though a few things just seem off. Overall I have to say I'm looking forward to getting into some games with the system.

    1. If you're used to GW and other glossily packaged games like Malifaux, you may be in for a bit of a culture shock. Those sorts of games tend to present the gamer with everything pre-prepared and packaged nicely. They make the model, publish the fluff background and give you all the "official" stats. With GASLIGHT, all you get is the framework to build on. It's left up to the gamer to come up with a lot of the cool stuff. You've got to be creative, rather than just buying what the latest codex says is cool.

      That said I think it's still the best option for what you're looking for. I've not tried the aeronaval combat from the Compendium yet, but using elements from Adventures and Expeditions (the roleplaying variant) and Battles, you can certainly scale up from individual skirmish to big battle games.

      The only other system that comes close is the original Space 1889 range. You'd need the RPG, Sky Galleons of Mars (airships), Ironclads & Etherflyers (full fleet aeronaval) and Soldiers' Companion (land battles) to give you the same scope.

  5. Yeah, I've definitely discovered that a lot of what's out there, while really great games, don't have the same slick production quality.

    I've been playing around with some of the Two Hour Wargames rules, I have the GASLIGHT Compendium, as well as When the Navy Walked. I'm pretty sure there are a few other rulesets that I've picked up along the way (I'm always reading rules, it's an quirk of mine), and there's some GREAT stuff out there.

    I appreciate your feedback, thank you!