Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A rusty veteran and new arts of war?

Not so much 'rusty' as 'seized up'!
As I noted last month, my old buddy Mark's mayday visit was marked by his introduction to my current game of games: Combat Commander. This was going to mean more visits to Scenario 1. Fat Lipki, which I guess I've played more than any other because I've already introduced 3 players to the game (but scenarios 4. Closed For Renovation and 9. Rush to Contact are 2 alternative candidates for my single most played Combat Commander scenario). Just as well I still like the scenario then.

Following up the scenario's sitrep notes in my efforts more precisely to locate the action I was unable to locate the specific Lipki via google or wiki. I had to turn to my books for the map to the right. I also learned that the 18th Panzer Division was in Panzer Group Two's 47th Motorised Corps under Army Group Centre.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Combat Commander quickies

Fun in Stalingrad!
Badger was round on Friday. We played Combat Commander, naturally enough, choosing to embark on the campaign scenario from BP#2: Stalingrad. Representing a single September day's fighting atop the Mamayev Kurgan (Badger was pleased to discover that, Stalingrad campaign scenario notwithstanding, there are no city maps), the multigame campaign scenario uses the RSG with a few variants:

  • A limited mapset across which to fight; this represents the ebbs and flows of the tactical situation as the battlelines move back and forth across the mountain.
  • Predesignated force pools, with named leaders and their platoons replacing the OB's from the RSG.
  • Extra rules for fortification resources; for units which survive one scenario becoming reinforcements in the next; and for spreading devestation - a personal favourite this, it adds an increasing amount of rubble to the map each scenario.
Badger got the Germans (curses!).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another bloody Sunday?

From the skies and the forests they came!
It was just Donald and me for games on Sunday, so we decided to begin our first campaign from DoW's Memoir '44 Campaign Book, Volume 1, which this M44 completist had treated himself to with the hoary old "it's my birthday" excuse.

The quick play and simple unit representations make M44 an ideal game for a system linking a series of scenarios into a campaign, and M44:CB1 was eagerly awaited by the game's many fans. After just 2 games it is impossible to have a sense of the full scope of what the DoW team have added to M44 with CB1, but I can report that I like the look of what I have seen so far (surprised, dear readers?):
  • A nice hardback book, with full colour art throughout: it's expensive to go hardback, but the book's more durable, and I think kids'd be extra proud of one.
  • A punchboard of counters stuck in the back of the book (keeping these in good nick is another good reason for a hardback book).
  • 51 new scenarios, many drawing on underused expansion sets.
  • 3 grand campaigns; each comprising several mini-campaigns, themselves played out across 3 or more scenarios (as many as 8 in the really big ones):
  1. Unternehmen Fall Gelb: France 1940.
  2. Operation Barbarossa: Soviet Union 1941.
  3. Normandy: France 1944.
The core campaign rules themselves are simple but effective:
  • Reserves: each player has a reserve pool; reserve rolls at the start of each scenario govern access to your reserve units.
  • Objective VP: many scenarios contain various objectives other than just destruction of the enemy; these provide bonus Campaign VP as well as victory medals in the given scenarios.
  • Victory events: dice rolls made before each new scenario begins, these provide another layer of variation by enforcing small changes to each side's deployments.
All told, these rules will add a few minutes to each scenario's setup time, which I would expect to see become increasingly insignificant as players gain experience of the campaign game.

Unternehmen Fall Gelb: Airborne Operation
#16. Fort Eben Amaël
Starting at the beginning, as you do, and with some random selection, I found myself the Belgian defenders of fortress Eben Amaël on the Meuse near Maastricht, under attack from German glider-borne combat engineers. The original action there was one of WW2's first and most famous coup de main operations.

Historical revisionism took root right at the start of our new campaign: the Belgians held the fort against the German attack so that the panzers were unable to cross the Meuse as quickly as had been planned. There was a minor rules hitch which might've contributed to my 5-4 victory, but I reckon more significant was the excellent shooting of my units, which was some 1 pip above the mean on the day as a whole.

#17. Unternehmen Niwi
Another interesting scenario showcasing the new depths brought to this old favourite with the expansions, Unternehmen Niwi features the operation in which the Germans used Fieseler Fi 156 Storch light utility aircraft to seize crossroads vital to the planned panzer 'infiltration' through the Ardennes. Among the new rules in play were:
  • Depleted units: units starting at less than full strength.
  • Armour Breakthrough: armour reinforcements which can enter on your opponent's side of the map.
History was again rewritten, despite Donald's canny use of an Armoured Assault card to mobilise his Armour Breakthrough. I had kept my own armour units safe, ready, and waiting, and so was able to mount a decisive armoured counterstrike which won me the game.

So, with 2 scenarios to go, the Unternehmen Fall Gelb: Airborne Operation minicampaign stands at 10-7 to the Allies. All to play for then!

Grizzled veteran 0
Stubborn defenders 2

Attack Sub
I've recorded a game or two of Courtney F. Allen's Attack Sub with Andy in the past, but none with Donald. We'd played it several times before, although sufficiently long ago that we decided to stick to the introductory scenario.

I drew the Russians. The game started well for me, as I was able to build up contact sufficient to take the first shot (IIRC), which missed. All told I think Donald and I each fired 3 times; mine all missed; 2 of Donald's were the 1-shot kills that won him the game. I will have my revenge.

Old seadog 1
Not quite got his sealegs 0

PS. I don't know why the scans for the M44 maps turned out so scabby. I'll look into it. ;)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Sunday sessions roundup

So, I've got 3 sessions' worth of games unreported. The Combat Commander games played with Mark and Badger are going to have to wait a bit. Meanwhile, I'll do a quick run through our last 2 Sunday sessions.

#1. Triumphs: complete, petty, or otherwise
Elsewhere on Saturday after showing what he's made of across the Combat Commander table, Mark was able to join us Sunday. I was keen to play Judge Dredd, so that I could return to my rightful place in the Chief Judge's chair, there mercilessly to lord it over Mark as befits ancient rivalries we share with our old Edinburgh mob.

Gav's impending late arrival meant that we had to turn to filler, so that Knizia's old favourite Ivanhoe appeared on the table as if by a law of nature. We fitted in 3 games while waiting for Gav. Andy particularly enjoyed the first: he won, which is rare. The next 2 games went to me.

Andy 1
Donald 0
Mark 0
Me 2 (that's the "complete"...)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Oooh! Shiny! (AKA floating like a butterfly)

It seems like an age since last I posted, but it was actually only last Tuesday. Stage 1 is ongoing. I take comfort from the fact that I seem to be levelling out, but am only too well aware of how easily this might change. I've done some proper shopping and cooking this week, which is about all that's gone to plan. I'm just a bit frazzled.

CC@UK Games Expo'09
I've made some decent progress in my preparations for this tournament, but less than I'd've wished. Still, with a tad less than 3 weeks to the due departure date, I remain confident that I'll manage to do all I'm planning for the event.

Meanwhile, look at the lovely piece of kit I was able to pick up the other day at the local Ryman stationers (formerly known as Stationery Box): my very own LOS checker! (AKA: Retractable chrome badge reel.) Dirt cheap at £1.99. So you where to go fellow CC fans.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Adjusting the throttle

Bloody hell! No sooner had I survived the mayday gaming bash with Mark, Badger and the lads, than I found myself snapping awake and bouncing out of bed in the instant; a sure sign of my Stage 1 Hypomania. Oh dear, I thought, and I'd just got used to the unanticipated mood downswing.

Faced with this wakeup call, and after a frazzled week at the end of which I was pretty weary, I've decided that RD/KA! will be taking 2nd place in my gaming priorities until June. Or, to be more precise: Mark's, Badger's and my mayday weekend's games of Combat Commander and Up Front will be the last full-length game report I post before I return from CC@UK Games Expo'09.

CC@UK Games Expo'09
The event now has 4 players booked (myself excluded), plus 6 CC sets available. This means that we can already accomodate up to 12 players. Such a turnout would push the event up to the limits of this year's space, which would just prove my point about the demand for a WW2 tacsim tournament circuit in Britain. Fingers crossed I guess.

Meanwhile, I've made a start on the task of clipping, bagging, tagging and inventorying all the games I'm taking with me (CC aside, I'm taking my Memoir'44 and my Commands & Colours: Ancients to lend to Barry Ingram for his main-event tournaments (Saturday and Sunday, respectively). Hardly a thrill a minute (task and entry both), I'm going to get the latter done so's I can make headway on getting the former dusted. I've got two Sundays' games results to post, which I should get done before the week is out. ;)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Promises, promises!

The perfect Space Marine army?
Facebook-friends and twitter-fellows will already know about the Liquid Gloat prompted by yesterday's geek grab:
"the 'old' one (and better than ever too!)."
No-prizes (with apologies to Stan 'the man' Lee and the old Marvel Bullpen) to readers who thought... 40K?

Yes I'm hankering after more than just some roleplaying, so yesterday I hit town; there to visit my local GW; where I availed myself of the filthy lucre and finally grabbed myself a copy of the new(ish) 5th edition Codex: Space Marines. I've only skimmed the book so far but I can report that, alongside the astonishing and ever-growing range of plastic Space Marine kits, this codex - fat as an old 2nd edition volume, means that there truly never has been a better time to be a Space Marine fan (and at GW's prices, it's just as well, don't you think?).

Friday, May 01, 2009

A definite hankering...

It's been a long time since I did any roleplaying, and longer still since I've GM'ed. There are various reasons for this, but they all boil down to two in the end: dissatisfaction and weariness.

My WFRP campaign ran for about 30 sessions over a period of some 16 months, ie. roughly every other week on average. I wasn't a seasoned GM, and I'm not really the seat of the pants type either, which meant that I put a lot of work into those games, not including the write ups here at RD/KA! (Keynote was a godsend!). In the end it was all too much for me. I was worn out.

What was more, I wasn't getting the satisfaction I wanted from the game. As I explained to the lads one night while we were eating dinner before a game with Bill: playing boardgames with Badger is a simple matter of opening the box and off we go; a 100% successful recipie for enjoyment, which couldn't be said of the roleplaying, even when it was going well; which wasn't all the time, naturally enough. This was my motivation to turn the Sunday sessions into a regular boardgaming bash.

Even when Bill became the GM, the group dynamic changed because the midweek date ultimately reduced us to just 2 PCs: Tony and me. I think this just wasn't enough to give the games real momentum. Quite why the 3 of us failed to reach critical mass escapes me, although I do know of some contributory factors. I now believe that primary among them was Katana.

Readers who've known me since bygone days might be shocked by that admission, since they'll be all too aware that Katana is one of my all-time favourite PC's, so close to my heart that I coined the phrase 'primary projection' to express what he meant to me. That is to say: he was a creative expression of some of the deepest wellsprings of my subconscious strivings. Well known primary projections include Conan and Philip Marlowe.

At first sight you'd think that I'd've been delighted to return to a PC like that; in the hands of the GM who presided over his creation and the first phase of his adventures; and with the player - Tony, natch - who, as GM, gave Katana the second phase of his adventures, when we first roleplayed together back in the late 1990's. And I was. It's a nice experience to pick up an old PC and 'put him on' like you would a well worn coat. And that blog I wrote upon his return weighed heavily in the balance which eventually tipped in favour of my acceptance that rpg's are art.

Even so, with the benefit of hindsight after the roleplaying had unravelled, Bill mused that going back to Katana might've been a futile attempt to relive old glories. He was right, of course. Precisely because Katana is that primary projection, he is too deeply embedded in pasts that can't be revisited. Sure Bill and I could do Katana easily and well, but it was, as Bill said about Frank Miller's Sin City, a five-finger exercise.

Worse still, with the benefit of lengthy reflection on Bill's offhand remark, I have come to the conclusion that not only was Katana too easy to play for the pair of us; he was also an unfair obstacle we unwittingly threw in Tony's path. I mean to say, teaming up Tony's Witchblade with Katana effectively reduced her to a guest star in Katana's continuity, instead of being a co-star in her own. This is OK for one-offs or short mini-campaigns based on player transience, but not if you want a proper ongoing series. Each and every player should enjoy equal billing after all.

All of this is by way of looking back at some of the mistakes made in past roleplaying in the hopes of avoiding them in the future because, yes, we're talking about doing some roleplaying. In the end Donald's wish to roleplay again was just too keen to ignore.

I'd already suggested to Donald that he try the HERO system, and was pleased he was agreeable. On that basis, Donald is talking about a couple of ideas. It's likely that we'll begin with his first: an outlaw mini-campaign using Iron Crown Enterprise's highly esteemed 1987 Robin Hood: The Role Playing Campaign. I am already looking forward to this. I'm thinking of a character who is a master of the quarterstaff. Whatever complaints people might have about HERO, it cannot be gainsaid that its skills list and combat system renders weapon mastery in rich detail, and with mechanics that reward real tactics and actual practice as opposed to just dishing out stat upgrades.

For my part, I have two ideas for mini-campaigns of my own. One is HERO too: a return to my take on TSR's 1993 Bughunters. One of two books I've got from the late, unlamented Amazing Engine system, I liked Bughunters' concept: clone troopers in space fighting the bugs? What's not to like? I immediately realised though that I would run this game with HERO instead of the dumbass TSR AE.

I ran this with Tony and other friends back in the late 1990's. I've still got all the material I worked up for the game and the setting (a piece of background work was posted to the Trollslayer forums a few years ago). It just needs to be updated, and I'd be ready to run it again. This is something I'd like to do, because I liked the kinds of stories I was aiming at in the setting; and I had a few surprises in store for my shell-shocked players. Unfortunately we moved on to other games, and never went back to my Bughunter.

My other idea is to go back to WFRP, naturally enough. I'd like to run a more hi-octane game in a classic D&D style, albeit with a bit more than just dungeon bashing; a game in which I'd unleash without let or hindrance the full power of the game's hideous antagonists and its deadly combat system. Of course, I plan on making the potential rewards commensurate with the risk.

We still don't know quite how, when and with whom our return to roleplaying is going to pan out, but we'll be getting something going for sure. Expect to hear more. ;)