Monday, March 12, 2018

The Sword and the Stars boardgame mini-game.

Introduction
The Sword and the Stars is a science fiction boardgame with similar concepts to Empire of the Middle Ages (my favourite multiplayer boardgame). Published in 1981 by SPI, I got my copy in the late 80's and played it a few times.  For this game, I am playing the two player scenario but solo and only using about a third of the map. 

Background
It was November and the 2017 6x6 challenge was drawing to a close.  I still have a quite a few games to go in the challenge.  Two game systems have 6 plays. I have four planned plays shaping up well to finish off two more games systems,  I have a plan to complete the six games of the fifth game.  But the sixth? The sixth game system is Battlestations with one play and I am not sure I can fit in five more plays.

I started thinking space building games that may be quick that I would like to play.  Godsfire I have had for 30 years but never played.  I got it out, started thinking about how to play it solo with just a few planets each and then realised it would not really work - the combat is linked too tightly into the economic model and tinkering too much would almost certainly produce a very unbalanced game.

Then I remembered The Sword and the Stars   One of the problems with The Sword and the Stars is that you are fighting the system more than other players (much more than with Empire of the Middle Ages).  There are lots of random events and it just seems harder to get anywhere with your own empire, let alone build a bigger one,  A few bad turns at trying to improve your empire will make it worse leading to less money to improve that then leads to more chance of failure...and then a random event takes you down even further!  This is perfect for the solo player.  But it is designed for 3-5 players.  What to do?  The solo version is one huge empire and takes too long.  Why not play with just a section of the map?  I looked at the scenarios and there is a 2 player that pits two small (2 system) empires at each other in one quarter of the game board.  Perfect.  I will play that scenario, which I did in November 2017.  The plan was to play other scenarios just using parts of the map but never managed another game.  Maybe one day.

Game
Each game turn consists of 5 rounds.  Each round consists of each player being dealt 5 cards and using them to perform up to 5 operations (conquest, govern, raid etc).  An operation success or failure is governed by the card flip that indicates what happens with an operation.  This scenario is 2 turns or 10 rounds or up to 50 operations.
Also, playing solo. For the two "player empires" I will alternate playing each their cards so as not to have to try and double-guess while playing both sides (normally a player does his go and keeps a card or two spare in case they want to intercept another players operation).  It may not matter too much as they fight the system rather than each other.

Setup
The game arranged ready to play
Note: I am using Australian old one and two cent pieces for money rather than the supplied counters.  I also had made up cards back in the 80's for the events rather than use the supplied counters.

Start
VeRee starts with two systems - VeRee and Av'LEM and income of 3.

Nelldon starts with two systems - Nelldon and Barton and an income of 2.  Barton is at Tech Level -1 so it is a few operations to get it positive.  Nelldon starts in a poorer position.
The two empires
Round 1
VeRee takes advantage of 5 in Admin and boosts VeRee to Tech Level 3 and AV'LEM to TL 2 for total income of 5.  Conquers L'A'DAU. Admin falls from 5 to 3. Treasury at 2.

Nelldon uses 5 in Military to conquer Horton and Brandon.  Income is 2 from Nelldon. Treasury at 1.

Round 2
VeRee conquers Lund.  Treasury is at 0 but income is 5.  Treaty in L'A'DAU (Treaties help with Diplomacy and reduce unrest).

Nelldon conquers Uraic and raids Leandri for 5!  It is a different race and high resource value and so will make an ideal raid target, at least until its Tech Level reaches -3.  Income still 2, treasury at 3.

Round 3
VeRee gains Ambrel via a diplomatic success event. Treaty in L'A'DAU.

Nelldon raids Leandri for another 5 Resource Points.  Diplomacy now at 5 and uses that for a Treaty in Horton.  Income is still 2 and with Admin still at 2 that will not help with increasing Tech Levels.

Round 4
VeRee puts Guardian Webs (fortifications) into AV'LEM and L'A'DAU.

Nelldon raid on Leandri is unsuccessful; spent the rest of the turn governing Brandon to -1 TL but it is out of unrest.

Round 5
VeRee: AV'LEM and L'A'DAU to TL2, gain a Tactical Advantage card (+3 modifier to conquests).

Nelldon raises Brandon to TL0 and Barton to 1.  Finally getting the Empires Tech Levels into the positive.

Round 6
VeRee takes Barnz, Admin goes down to 1.  With their last card takes Uraic from Nelldon.

Nelldon spends all round keeping Brandon at the same level!

No pic for Round 6 - forgot.

Round 7
VeRee achieves nothing.

Nelldon takes back Uraic after a second attempt.

Round 8
VeRee takes Nelldon  - the seat.  It did this with its last operation after Nelldon foolishly let their Treasury get to 0 and so could not mount a credible defense. Nelldon moves seat to Barton.

Barton (was Nelldon) get raised to Tech Level 2 and taxes for 2.  It is the only system Barton has that is a positive Tech Level.

Round 9
VeRee Gets Nelldon put of unrest and puts in Trade (to reduce unrest). Ambrel goes into unrest.

Barton gets Brandon to Tech Level 0.

Round 10
VeRee gets Ambrel down to TL -1 and in unrest. Oh the joys of continually failing Operations!

Barton Admin goes to 9 on the second card and manages to get Brandon to Tech Level 1.

It is the end of the game and VeRee is the winner!

Verdict
I wondered why all the hold event cards came out and no adverse events.  I checked at the end of the game - I have not shuffled the event deck and 25 year ago I must have put them away with all the hold cards at the top and the others after them :-(  The game would have been a lot different with event cards that disrupt your empire. Also, no Outworlders appeared - mainly as with two empires in the small space, most of the systems were not in unrest or not independent (required for an Outworlder to appear on a random system). The game also took two hours - not too bad.  I did create a one page QRS that was very helpful to learn to rules, and I also created an excel spreadsheet to roll on a few of the tables - random worlds, rebellion, raid/exploitation Resource Points, Outworlders and raiders. Even then 2 hours is too slow.

Postscript
Following on from this game, I streamlined the rules and them played a small game purely in a spreadsheet using eight near stars taken from a scenario from the SPI game StarForce.  It worked mostly but needs further testing and playing.  I was playing two empires and found it was difficult to play two space empires independently.  I find it fine to play both sides with Ancients and WW2 so must be a space empires thing :-).  I need to get the rules working better for one empire Vs everything else.  While I would like to progress this (and/or the Sword in the Star solo) it further, I have other space empire-ish games I own for a very long time but have never played and would prefer to get onto the table and play.  The ones that come to mind are Stellar Conquest, Godsfire, Star Viking, Web and Starship, Freedom in the GalaxyDark Stars, Battlefleet Mars. If I had the time I would get Battlefleet Mars out tomorrow - It seems my sort of game!)! I am likely to put all this on hold for a while while house renovations occur...or not as who know if I may get a sudden urge for space empires.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2018-2021 plans (will make into a permanent page later))

Short introduction
For something not usual for this blog, a discussion rather than rule reviews or battle reports.  I discuss how to potentially improve my wargaming mojo by listing my possible projects for the next few years.

Introduction
In November 2017 I was losing my interest in playing wargames, possibly as my focus in my gaming had spread across so many projects and I was lost at sea. So why not list my gaming interests and what I feel I should be investing my time in for the next few years?  It is based on what I have really enjoyed over the last few years.  I will copy this into a blog page in a few weeks so I easily remember where it is :-) and will update in sometime in 2019/2020 to see how much has changed.

It is more of a list of things to help me choose projects from for the next two to three years rather than a small defined target.  The ones that I am most keen on are listed as priority; the secondary are those I would like to fit in but in reality are not likely.  And based on past experience, there is a good chance of something new or re-prioritisation!

Background
I played 20mm WW2 in the mid-late 80's. I dabbled in Ancients in the 90's but mostly played a lot of boardgames, mostly multiplayer affairs.  In the 2000’s the games were limited to a few games a year of Armati 2 or 20mm WW2 using various rules (mostly Take Cover!! , a Rapid Fire-ish clone).  In 2009 I began this blog to get more familiar with various ancient rules by replaying the same battles with different rules.  The games played since have expanded. I am at the point in 2018 where I feel my gaming mojo is in need of repair - I have lots of potential projects that I already have minis or kit for but not that much time.  Taking stock for a main focus may help bring the mojo back.  Not saying I will not detour and sideline from this, but at least having it written down I have more of a chance of concentrating on the things I found I like.   I also have some 10+ AARs lined up to to post that are in various stages of completion. And three games half played. This is also preying on my mind and possibly also contributing to mojo loss.  A focus for the first half of 2018 will be finishing them off and then trying to not let potential posts bank up so much. I am also hoping to cut down on spending as I do not have to buy anything (or at least not much) to play from this list. Being a realist I do know that the "Ooh, shiny!" will still "force" me to spend my cash occasionally and  detour from anything I have written down :-)

Ancients
Priority
Secondary
  • I bought the book "As Told in the Great Hall" about 4 years ago.  I have wanted to play the 14 or so British early Medieval scenarios within.
  • I would like to complete basing some 200 or so 15mm Chinese and Dark Ages figures I acquired in 2012; and finish fixing up some other figures that need some maintenance.
  •  Play Bill Banks Imperator again and revisit the 8x8 grid rules but expand to 12x8.
WW2
Priority
Secondary
  • Finish off the WW2x2 Section Advance rules, put them on the blog and play a few more games.
  • IABSM.  I have lots of cards I made for IABSM (I Ain't' Been Shot Mum) in 2002-ish and I believe I could simply use my WW2x2 Company Advance combat mechanisms to replace the ones in IABSM and leave everything else the same in IABSM. I was never happy with combat but loved everything else.  Then I could play some IABSM scenarios without having to convert them.
  • The ww3x4 games  (WW2 on a 3x4 grid) were fun and could possibly see another outing.
  • Maybe even play some 6mm games with different rules. Maybe.
Fantasy
Priority
  • I have a whole lot of Heroscape and could reuse the figures to play some fantasy skirmish along the lines of Songs of Blades and Heroes, Melee, Open Combat, Sellswords and Spellsingers  or something similar.  Something co-op.  Or just play Heroscape.
Pulp
Priority
  • I have written some rules that take the Pulp Alley concept (mostly the cards) and used a simplified GoalSystem (Chaos in Cairo) task resolution system for a combat-light solo pulp game.  Suitable to play out the Pulp Alley campaigns.  I need to dig these out and give them a run with the children.
SF
Priority
  • Continue playing solo the Traveller Adventures using my solo adventure framework.
Secondary
  • Find some simple rules that are suitable to play with a small number of ships.  Vector movement would be good. Order systems not so good. Starfire is probably out, but Full Thrust, Engage!, Shooting Stars, Call to Arms come to mind and could be good.  I have quite a few more SF spaceship rules and just need to go back and go through them looking for something that appeals.
Boardgames
Priority
  • Play more of the ones I already have with the children.  I have two children (9 and 11 as at Feb 2018) and we play together so the games have to be good for three people and generally co-op games, although my daughter does love to thrash us at Love Letter Adventure time! There is a list of about 20 Euro, AmeriTrash, mini/boardgame crossovers and card games we have played over the last 5 or so years.. I hope to play them some more and see which ones are keepers and which are not. Currently on the list (either have played in the past or ready to play) are Betrayal at House on the Hill, Zombicide, Forbidden Island, Warhammer Quest, Cluedo, Space Crusade, X-Wing Miniatures, Thunderbirds!, Wings of War, Star Fluxx, Battlestations!, 221b Baker Street, Love Letter Adventure Time, Sushi Go, Ghooosts! and Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters.  There are more I can't remember :-)  And some more I would like to buy (such as Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan). Plus three Kickstarters I backed in 2017 on track to deliver in 2018.
Secondary
  • Play some of the smaller “old school” boardgames I have but have never played.
  • Find a fairly good short solo game I like playing. Dungeon Roll is not bad but a bit generic;  Tiny Epic Galaxy is fun but does not quite cut it.  I have a list of about 6 to try.
Side projects
Let's call these tertiary.  They may happen but more unlikely than the secondaries above.
  • More Machinas
  • Revisit Solo Sword and the Stars-type star system game (blog posts to still be written).
  • Complete development of a solo Sargon II Mesopotamia ruler type boardgame (I think this is the last of my 20 years+ projects that I have not managed to do something with in the last 5 years)
  • Revisit Medieval Naval Warfare rules and play a few games.
Things not really on the list for the next few years (but you never know)
  • Most of my boardgames I do not have the space to set them and leave them in place so unlikely they will see daylight.
  • Cold war miniatures – I have 6mm miniatures but not a priority.
  • Solo story writing – the SFRPG solo adventuring framework morphed into story creator that was interesting but requires a bit of time investment to do.
  • Mass fantasy battles – I have been given quite a few unpainted Warhammer figures but have done nothing with them.
  • Starfire – I have a few undocumented AARs of playing Starfire with miniatures but it was not as exciting as I was expecting.
  • Some CCGs – I have Illuminati New World Order and Star Trek TOS but unlikely this will see any play soon.
  • I have some 20mm WW2 vehicles that need painting that I am unlikely to get around to doing.  I have some 20mm WW2 vehicles that need to be built - even more unlikely to occur.
  • I have some 6mm Napoleonic Brits that need painting and while I would like to try out some Napoleonics, I cannot see that happening in the next few years.
  • I have about 40 15mm SF figures (old Ral Partha), about 12 painted.  I am ready to play some SF skirmish using something like Five Parsecs from Home.
Final word
So, there you have it - everything I would like to do and loosely prioritised. I will try and check back on this list later in the year and in future years to see if it helped with my mojo.  Also to see how I went to then determine my wargamer butterfly rating :-)


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Machinas - post apocalyptic car dueiing - two solo games report

Introduction
My first two games with the Two Hour Wargames Machinas – car racing in a post-apocalyptic world. Summary: Loads of fun but was looking fora shorter game.


Background
The 2017 6x6 challenge wass nearing an end and I was looking for a simple ruleset to play a few games and I was thinking spaceships.  I thought of X-wing, then onto Wings of War.  I remembered a boardless game of WWI aerial combat from Kaptain Kobold that I could maybe modify into a space game.  However, Spandau and Lewis does require measuring distances, bad memory..  While browsing for those rules I came across Kaptain Kobold's Machinas posts and  Warwell Wargames was playing these as part of the 6x6 challenge. The “boardless” bit of Machinas is very clever as it only concerns itself with the placement of cars relative to each other, rather than using a racing track.  I was a big Car Wars player for a few years when it first came out.  Wow - just remembered that!  I played that and Star Fleet Battles a lot (and I mean a lot) in the early 80's. I have not touched or really thought about post apocalyptic car dueling for 30 years.

So what did I do next?
I thought I would give them a go and see if I could either rework it for a space game, or play it with my children.  I promptly set about spending way to many hours writing a 1-page quick reference sheet and  moving onto writing an Excel car generation tool.  While playing the first game solo, I got tired of remembering the car features and dice rolls and auto successes so I spent many more hours wrote some formulas that calculate the number of successes for the possible actions of a car (passing, shooting, bashing, out of control) with all the modifiers included.  So when a car wants to do something look up the cell with the result for the primary and the target.  The manual bit is doing the compare and implementing the result.  The game is longer than I thought it would be - even with the formulas doing most of the work - so may not be suitable to play with the children (I was looking for something less than 30 minutes but maybe I could do one lap?).  But it is fun! 


Game One
This is a game with 4 Sedans, costing 17-19 and attributes adding up to 9.  I run one car (red) while other three are non-player cars.

I am going to play 2 laps.



Format - name (colour): Savvy-Tech-Speed, driver signature, car customisations
Rapscallion (Red): 4-2-3, Loner, Molotov Cocktails, Power Steering, Big Slab
Yeti (Yellow):3-3-3, Speedster, Tail gun, Tuned Up, Oil
Blazer (Blue): 3-2-2, Slow to React, Cluster Rockets, Leaky Fuel Lines, Oil, Spiked Ram, Anti-lock Brakes 
Gnasher (Green):3-3-2, Bumper, Twin 50s, Clunker, Oil, Spiked Wheels, Power Steering, Barbed Chains 

Here is the actual Excel generated cars:



Lap 1

Zone 2
Yeti starts in front, Blazer goes wide.  Rapscallion (me) ends up last.
Blazer attempt to pass failed, Gnasher bashes Blazer but no effect.  

Zone 3
Blazer attempts to paas Yeti but fails and Yeti gets a shot in with their tail gun!  Blazer loses a speed. Green bashes Blazer and Blazer drops back.

Zone 3
Blazer dropping back has blocked Rapscallions (me) chance to pass. 

Zone 4
Blazer passes Gnasher.  Did not expect that!  Blazer has taken some hits to speed.

Zone 5
Rapscallion goes wide - that way guaranteed of a chance to pass!  Random event sees Rapscallion having a chance to pass immediately, and passes Gnasher.

Zone 5
Rapscallion decides to keep going and attempts to pass Blazer.

Zone 5
Rapscallion passes Blazer!  Why not attempt to pass Yeti and get in the lead.  Using the rest of the bonus dice...

Zone 5
Success!  Rapscallion in the lead!

Zone 5
Blazer nearly loses control when attempting to pass Yeti; and the other pass attempts fail.

Zone 6
Yeti attempts to pass Rapscallion for the lead.  Successful!
Rapscallion attempts to pass Yeti.  Successful!  Rapscallion still in the lead at the end of the zone.

Zone 1
Yeti passes Rapscallion to regain the lead.   Blazer attempts to pass Rapscallion and fails badly, giving Rapscallion a chance to throw a Molotov cocktail at Blazer.  Direct hit!  Blazer loses speed and flips directly behind!  Blazer is out of the race.

Lap 2

Zone 2
Rapscallion gets to close to Gnasher, but both are OK.
All attempt to pass and all fail.

Zone 3
Rapscallion sees an opening opportunity and attempts to pass Yeti and succeeds

Zone 3
Gnasher gets too close to Yeti and both are out of control.  Yeti does nor get their car back under control and flips!  Luciky it flips to the side and so misses Gnasher.  

Zone 4
Gnasher attempts to pass Rapscallion but fails. 

Zone 5
Nothing, just cruising along.

Zone 6
Gnasher attempts to pass Rapscallion but fails.

Zone 1 - the FINISH LINE
RAPSCALLION CROSSES THE LINE FIRST AND WINS!.
Well, that was loads of fun, even if it took awhile.  The NPC cars and the odd random event really make the game unpredictable - each lap is very unique.  I immediately rolled up some more cars to play another game.

Game 2
I am using the same car models but they represent different cars. I am using the same Driver names, but this is from earlier in their careers (Wastelands) and so have poorer stats and different signatures.

The cars:


Format - name (colour): Savvy-Tech-Speed, driver signature, car customisations
Rapscallion (Red): 3-2-3, Slow to React, Tail Gun, Big Block
Yeti (Yellow):3-2-3, Slow to React, Spiked Wheels, Old Tires, Heavy Armour
Blazer (Blue): 3-3-3, Speedster,  Twin 50s, Old Tires, Oil 
Gnasher (Green):3-3-2, Faint of Heart, Grenade Launcher, Heavy Armour

Rapscallion is me and driving in a sports car, the rest are non-player characters and driving sedans.

Again, here is the excel sheet with the generated cars:



I am going to play 2 laps for this game, same as game 1.

Lap 1


Zone 2
The randomly rolled start sees Yeti in front and Rapscallion last. 

Zone 2
Blazer passes Yeti for a change or leader in the first zone of the game.

Zone 3
Rapscallion brakes lock and falls behind. Yeti attempts to pass Blazer and fails badly and loses control as Blazer spills oil on the track.

Zone 3
Yeti loses complete control and flips to the back left, missing Gnasher.  Gnasher moves up into the space now vacant.

Zone 3
Gnasher now attempts to pass Blazer and does so with ease.

Zone 4.
Rapscallion back in the race.

Zone 4
Blazer attempts to pass Gnasher to become the leader and just manages to do so.  Meaning the opportunity for Rapscallion to pass is lost.

Zone 5
Rapscallion sets up to pass Gnasher....

Zone 5
...amd succeeds!  But fails to pass Blazer.n

Zone 6 and Zone 1
Rapscallion manages to pass blazer to take the lead.

Lap 2

Zone 2
Gnasher attempts to pass Blue...

Zone 2
...and succeeds.  But fails to pass Rapscallion.

Zone 3
Blazer attempts to pass Gnasher but fails.

Zone 4
Gnasher sets up for a wide pass.

Zone 4
Gnasher's wide pass succeeds!

Zone 5
Rapscallion sets up for the pass, and fails.

Zone 6
Rapscallion sets up for the pass..

Zone 6
Rapscallion attempts to pass Gnasher, using all bonus dice and passes to take the lead in the final zone.

Zone 1
All attempted passes fail.  RAPSCALLION WINS!

Verdict
Machinas is loads of fun albeit longer than I wanted for playing this game. but that was only what I was looking for - a fast game.  Machinas delivers a great narrative experience (as do all Two Hour Wargames).  I did not even consider changing any rules but I can see that some rules about when NPCs use limited ammo weapons/defense may be needed if I played more.  Kaptain Kobold has some proposed house rules I may need to look at if I play this a lot more.  For anyone into post-apocalyptic car racing, Machinas is a great set of rules.