Tuesday, 18 November 2014

In the Jungle, the Quiet Jungle...

Memo to Self: When wanting to post pictures to the blog, remember that the camera card reader will only be found immediately after you've written it off as lost and ordered its replacement from Amazon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lesser Spotted Paradisan Turkey-Vulture has landed.

Or put another way, we have finally fought the inaugural wargame in the San Paradiso imagi-nation setting.  Talking to mi hermano disponible Jonesy during our regular Sunday terrain crafting & mini painting session, it transpired that his regular Monday D&D session would be cancelled.  So I suggested he and any other loose players might come over here for a coffee-table skirmish game to actually use some of the stuff we'd been working on these last few months.

I came up with a scenario that just happened to be the opening shots of the Paradiso farmer's revolt campaign I outlined in the last blog post, and so we settled down to a very enjoyable evening trying to get to grips with the latest iteration of Two Hour Wargames' "Chain Reaction".

I've been a fan of 2HW for years.  In fact back in the day I ran a very successful demo for Amazon Miniatures back when Chain Reaction was branded "Guns & Girls" to tie in with their range of figures inspired by the gun-fetish porn site of the same name.  (For the record, this was not the demo game that got Amazon and MAWS perma-banned from the Partizan wargames show for miniature nudity.  I meticulously greenstuffed little bikinis, crop tops and hot pants onto every figure, much to the bemusement of the AM staff, and ran a scenario with them fighting off against the faceless corporation of "the Man".  My figures may still have been slutty, but by the gods they were Empowered Sluts!)

Anyway Chain Reaction and the 2HW mechanics have gone through several iterations since I last played them so I was looking forward to seeing if they still kept the same back & forth firefight feel as the earlier editions (Spoiler alert: They do).

The terrain was my living room coffee table, which is just a shade smaller than 4ft by 3ft.  Since the urban terrain is still nearing completion on the workbench I decided to use the trees & jungle vegetation scenery that I've been working on in parallel.

The Scenario:

The Free Farmers' Collective have so far been limiting their actions to civil disobedience and peaceful protest.  They have however procured a supply of automatic weapons and other material necessary to escalate their campaign to a full armed revolt.  Word has reached the ear of El Jefe De Policidad in Verdaville that the rebels are picking up a supply drop located at a remote roadside stop up in the heavily forested foothills of Monto Blanko.  El Jefe immediately rushes out with three of his most loyal constables to go and interrupt those naughty rascals.  Despite his utter confidence in his own abilities and the ultimate authority of Law & Order which he represents, El Jefe is persuaded to pause at the local army barracks and bring along some regular army troops in support.

Government Forces
El Jefe - REP 5 Star, Shotgun
Three Constabulos Municipales - REP 3, one with shotgun, two with pistols

Four soldiers - REP 4, Squad leader and rifleman with M16s, grenadier with M203 and gunner with SAW.

Rebel Forces
Rebel Leader El Porco Verde - REP 5 Star, Assault Rifle
Seven rebels - REP 3, One with a SAW, the rest with Assault Rifles.

The terrain was mainly thick vegetation, with a road running roughly diagonally across the table.  At the centre is the roadside stop (maybe a rural bus stop or possibly a roadside food stall?) where the Rebel's truck is being loaded up.  The rebels could setup two figures up to 18 inches away from the truck as sentries, the rest would have to be within 4" in the middle of loading up.

The Government forces had a choice on how they entered - they could drive in hard and fast and pile out of their vehicles guns blazing, or park up some way up the road out of sight and proceed in on foot with a little more stealth.  (in the end, I wound up playing El Jefe, so I wound up dicing for it, resulting in the police skidding to a halt at close range, Sweeney style).

The police car had barely skidded to a halt when one of the alert rebel sentries opened fire on it from the bushes, putting one of the constables out of the fight right away.  A couple more rebels brassed up the car, leaving it rather the worse for wear and suppressing the occupants (i.e. duckback results), while the rest of the rebels scrambled for their weapons and cover.

El Jefe and the Constabulos crawled out of the riddled patrol car on the side away from the rebels and tried returning fire.  El Jefe's shotgun succeeded in taking out one rebel, but the poor constables found themselves totally outgunned by the rebels' AKs.  Meanwhile the fireteam of soldiers moved into the woods and started trying to move up the road to a flanking position.  They came under fire from across the road, and in diving to cover almost stumbled over another rebel hiding in the vegetation, who they gunned down in a vicious close-range fight.

While the army traded shots across the road, El Porco Verde led half his men in an almost mirroring manoeuvre, successfully flanking the police behind the car.  The two constables scurried round the back of the car seeking cover, while El Jefe successfully fended off El Porco Verde while he dived for the nearby bushes.

In the end however, El Porco Verde used his men's fire to pin down El Jefe (duckback) before charging in himself to finish off the Government Pig.  It was a vicious, drag-em-down-in-the-mud fight, but eventually the filfy rebel scum beat the valiant police hero to death with his rifle butt.

(It was actually at this point where we struggled with the rules.  Technically it's debateable whether El Porco would have been able to make a charge, since El Jefe had suffered a Knocked Down result and was presumably out of sight.  However common sense suggested that he ought to be able to, so I handwaved it.  Then we carried out the Charge Into Melee test.  The results were that the defender (El Jefe) could fire and the charger (El Porco) could melee, no reaction tests.  But the rules weren't clear on what that meant or the exact order of events.  We resolved El Jefe's fire and got a Knocked Down result.  Did the "No Reaction Tests" mean that El Porco shouldn't take the usual Recovery Test?  If I'd not scored a hit, would it have meant he didn't take the usual Under Fire test (I'd assume yes to the latter, not sure about the former).  And most importantly, did the fire take place before the melee, and did the Knocked Down result prevent El Porco from getting his planned melee attack?

My assumption was that the fire happened as the charger was moving up, and a result from that should stop the melee from happening.  However my esteemed opponent didn't share that assumption and so we went on to resolve the melee with the egregious results for law and order.

I should point out however that had the charger been a normal figure, El Jefe's shotgun blast would have cut him in half, since El Porco had used the Star Power rules to reduce the damage down from a double-kill to a mere knockdown.  The Star Power rules actually worked very well I felt, much better than I'd expected them to. Both El Jefe and El Porco took otherwise lethal hits prior to the melee and
were able to barter them down with Star Power points.  It struck the right balance of keeping heroic characters alive without them becoming unstoppable killing machines.

So anyway the honours went to the Rebels, and putting my campaign-managers hat back on, I'm going to say that they used their success to take control of the uncontrolled "Goodwill of the People" resource.  The ordinary people of the foothills of Monto Blanko and the Piso valley are buoyed by news of the rebels success, and are beginning to believe they have a chance of success.  In mechanics terms, with 4 resources to the Government's 3, it means any hope the government had of quickly suppressing the revolt is now gone.

The next game can now be anything that follows on logically from the first.  It could be another skirmish like this, or it could be a larger scale battle, maybe fought in 15mm using AK47 rules.  Or if you have a game with suitable air-to-ground rules, you could play out a fairly one-sided game of an airstrike on a rebel stronghold (The government would at most have light attack aircraft like the Super Tucano, the AH-6 Little Bird helicopter or an obsolete MiG, the rebels won't have any aircraft, but could conceivably have some man-portable SAMs just to keep things interesting..  hmm I'm tempted to dig out Mercenary Air Squadron and see if that couldn't handle that scenario as a neat little solitaire game.)

In narrative terms, the fall of the vainglorious El Jefe means that the local Commandante will now take full control of the situation and be prepared to commit regular army forces to the suppression of the farmers revolt which now has to be taken seriously...

The jungle terrain is largely made up of that old familiar standby - aquarium plants, mounted on CDs or irregularly cut MDF bases (bought from Wargames Tournaments).  The smaller, light green trees are actually from a Toys R Us dinosaur bucket.  I've had them for ages, but basing them properly really gave them a new lease of life.  The taller trees are from eBay, from one of the many Chinese importers selling plastic doodads on there (Possibly Everest Models, though I can't be sure).  So far I've used about a quarter of the plants & trees I'd collected over the years, but judging by the way what I've got covered a 3'x4' table, I think just doubling what I've got ought to be enough for most purposes.

 And lastly, a fun piece.  With all those Plasticville buldings I acquired three of the Plasticville cars.  They're very primitive, just a plastic bodyshell and clip-on wheels (like the very cheapest plastic toys) and a shade smaller than the 1/43 scale I use for cars with 28mm.  Since they would not be usable as cars, I copied something I'd seen a couple of times on the internet and turned one into an abandoned, overgrown and rusted wreck.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Little Boxes Made Out Of Ticky Tacky

Memo to self
1 Update the blog on a more regular basis
2 Once a year is not regular

Work on the not so snappily titled "Modern Imagi-Nation Project" has been proceeding apace, albeit a lot slower than I'd hoped.  To recap, a couple of months back we looked at that table full of Plasticville buildings, picked out about a dozen of them, picked out a handful of figures for each of three factions (motorcycle gangers, "hip-hop" gangstas and police) and decided to prepare these for a smallish skirmish scenario to act as a starting point for San Paradiso.

To be fair, Mi Hermano Constructor, Jonesy has been joining me pretty much every Sunday for a few hours crafting session and while he's been doing the bulk of the work on most of the Plasticville buildings, I've found myself distractedly working on a hundred and one other minor terrain details, such as palm trees, scatter terrain and signage.  This could be why progress has been slower than anticipated, however I think we are going to wind up with a more attractive scenery when the buildings are completed.  We've even had one visit from our friend Crazy Eddy, who started painting all of the bikers and gangstas (thus making finishing them his job)

We've also discovered another source for a couple of small but interesting buildings.  In Japan, the "Tomica City" range of toys  allows you to create a very impressive cityscape of buildings, roads and railways in 1/64 scale.  While only a very limited subset of the range is available in the UK, several useful items have been on sale recently on Amazon..

The buildings are all basically "little boxes" like this pizza shop.  Being scaled for the inch-high toy figures as seen in this photo, they're visually a very good fit for 28mm figures, although the building footprints are a bit on the small side.  However compared to the Plasticville commercial buildings, these make quite acceptable "mini-units".  And let's face it, the pizza-delivery trike is worth the box price on its own!

Anyway outside of the project's assigned Sunday sessions, I've taken to painting figures while (half-)watching films and TV shows in the evenings.  I've found I can get through quite a lot of figures this way (not to mention quite a lot of video).  For highly individual figures, like the gangers, I can easily manage between six and ten figures in an evening.  For more uniform figures, like soldiers or boiler-suited minion guards, the bulk of the figures' paint job comes from the Army Painter colour primer and all I need to do is pick out necessary details (flesh, boots, weapon, belts and any other details that are appropriate).  These I've found I can rattle through at an alarming rate - one evening I think I managed over forty such figures in one, admittedly long sitting.

As a result, when the original planned project terrain and figures are completed, we'll immediately have a wide selection of other figures ready to play out a range of conflict types, from further urban gang violence on the streets of Port-au-Nice, to rebel farmers in armed revolt in San Paradiso's interior, all the way up to an outbreak of hostilities with Paradiso's belligerent neighbour (whose troops' uniform and equipment may or may not bear an uncanny resemblance to the Iraqi Army.)

At the moment though, the project is all about the journey, not the destination.  I'm hoping we'll be past that stage and in a place to roll dice and play with all these new toys before the end of the year.


While the overall plan is for San Paradiso to be a campaign backdrop for an ongoing narrative, I was thinking it would be nice to have some form of campaign mechanics, if only to give some structure to any sub-campaigns that might arise.  Take the farmers' revolt mentioned above.  We could simply play out a number of skirmish games, arbitrarily evaluating how individual game results affect the overall flow of the conflict.

But one night of insomnia-driven web surfing later, and I think I've found the perfect Universal Mapless Campaign system.  It's a synthesis of Rick Priestly's Warmaster Ancients campaign system, and the political system used by Kaptain Kobold in his Alto Peru campaign rules.  Having shamelessly stolen, mangled, mutilated, folded and regurgitated these ideas, I present them below for your amusement and edification.

Dr V's Slightly Derivative Universal Mapless Campaign Rules.

Each battle in the campaign is fought between full "armies" balanced according to the scenario (so for an encounter battle, the forces should be roughly even, for an attack/defence the points/numbers might go up to 2:1 or even 3:1)

Success or failure in the campaign is measured by the acquisition and loss of Resources.  A Resource can be absolutely anything, appropriate to the scale of the campaign.  It could be something substantial like control of a territorial region or access to a supply of some commodity, or it could be an entirely abstract thing, like political support from a particular group, or entirely nebulous like "The Goodwill Of The People".   The campaign mechanics can work with entirely generic, unnamed Resources, but naming them does add considerable colour and will help build the campaign's narrative.

Each force in the campaign starts with a number (suggested 3) Resources.  In addition, a pool of resources start's the campaign Uncontrolled.

After every game where there is a clear winner, they may do one of the following.

1) Take control of an Uncontrolled Resource.  This is automatically successful.
2) Attempt to steal control of a Resource controlled by the defeated enemy.  This is successful on a roll of 5+ on D6
3) Undermine the enemy's control of one of their Resources, making it Uncontrolled.  This is successful on a roll of 3+ on D6

The campaign continues until...
a) one side is left with no controlled resources
b) one side has three times the number of resources held by their opponent
c) an agreed number of games have been played
d) everyone involved is bored.

The winner is the side holding the most resources at the end of the campaign.

Using this system, you have complete freedom when it comes to the individual battles.  One game might be a 28mm skirmish using Flying Lead or Chain Reaction, another might be a larger scale operation played in 6mm using micro-armour rules.  Yet another might be an air-to-air battle using C21 or Check Your Six.  Whatever games the participants feel like playing and can be worked into the campaign narrative.

Example setup - Farmers' Revolt

A small number of landholders in the Western Foothills region of San Paradiso have been protesting against what they say are unfairly high levies against their crop production.  What began as a civil disobedience campaign has escalated into a minor insurrection, with bands of armed farmers clashing with patrols from the San Paradiso Army sent to maintain the peace.


Farmers - Control of the Foothills of Monto Blanko, The Bridge at El Humber, Support from the Church

Army - Secure base of operations at Verdaville.  Secure supply of food and supplies, The Airfield at Los Anillcamino

Uncontrolled - Foreign media interest. The fertile Piso River valley.  The Goodwill Of The People. The Sunrise Corp Processing Plant.

As you can see, that's quite a mix of traditional territories and abstract concepts, all of which can be seen as contributing to victory or defeat by either side.  For an urban street-crime mini-campaign, Resources might be control of individual streets or buildings, support from a corrupt cop or a supplier of contraband goods.  For a galaxy-spanning sci-fi campaign, Resources might be whole worlds, Support from an Alien Race, or The Force.

The rules would work exactly the same if you simply said

Farmers - 2 Resources
Army - 2 Resources
Uncontrolled - 4 Resources

... but actually giving each resource point an in-world identifier is much more colourful.

There you have it.  Not entirely original, but an amalgamation of a couple of good ideas by clever people that I think would work quite well.  |I can already think of some variations and optional rules that would add variety at the cost of the system's current extreme simplicity, but this is where the idea stands for now.

Thoughts anyone?