Apocalypse Earth: Black Ops Playtest – Sweep & Clear

For a while now we’ve been playing with the idea of “scaling” the Apocalypse: Earth setting for different games – just as back in the day GW had Epic, 40k and Necromunda for massed battles, intermediate and small scale skirmishes with different levels of detail, we’ve been toying with the idea of a 6mm mass battle version as well as an intimate, up-close-and-personal RPG (of sorts) set in the shadows of the Apocalypse: Earth universe.

To begin with, we thought we’d shift the focus from Allies v Holy Soviet Empire, and shine a light on some of the small scale behind the lines security.. Now, one of the factions that we haven’t explored too much on the tabletop are the extraterrestrials – the iconic Greys! If you’ve read the fluff, you’ll know that the main reason the Atlantic Alliance has the jump on the other sides in terms of technology is due to an alien spacecraft crashing in the deserts of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Ever since then, Alliance scientists have been busily reverse engineering every aspect they can, creating the UNIVAC artificial intelligence to run the everyday infrastructure (and maybe more..) of Alliance nations, and the ARPANet instant electronic communications network, as well as the antigrav tech that powers things like the Silverbug gunships.

But although we haven’t seen the Greys in open battle yet, behind the lines it’s a different story, as elite security teams drawn from the best Allied combat units fight desperate small unit actions against alien infiltrators!

Accordingly tonight’s game pitted our gallant Alliance Special Forces team against an unknown foe, sweeping across an abandoned industrial sector..

The battlefield laid out.. SpecForce team in bottom left, with four objective markers four the team to check out and clear
The team deploy into cover
The team approach the first objective, cunningly concealed behind the two crashed cars..
Specialist Stewart trains his weapon on the objective, setting overwatch as Specialist Hill moves in to check the objective..
..we roll on the threat table, and out come two Mind Slaves with light weapons!
Clearly taken by surprise, Hill’s rounds go wild, missing completely!
Mercifully, Stewart is on overwatch, dropping a mind slave instantly. The second one attacks Hill in close combat, but the specialist has clearly recovered his composure and takes it down swiftly and brutally!
The team move cautiously toward the next objective..
..but the GM has some nasty surprises in store! We’re trying to figure out a way to simulate sod’s law in combat.. this is getting us some of the way there!
To Specialist Hill’s immense relief, Objective 2 turns out to be blank!
Hill and Moss clear Objective 4, but Objective 3 spawns a pair of mind slaves with pistols, stunning both Stewart and Hunt, and wounding Hunt’s leg into the bargain!
Thankfully Hill is on overwatch, and despite being hit with a jam, he clears the stoppage and takes down the two mind slaves with a couple of clean head shots.

And with that, the game is over! A resounding victory for the Special Forces team, but bear in mind that this is the lowest threat level, and would be an encounter that takes place at the start of a campaign. A fun, and at times pretty tense mission, looking forward to more playtesting on this!

Till next time, stay thrifty (and dry..) out there, see you soon!

Musings on Game Design…Or, Can 40k Ever be “Good”?

You find me in a philosophical mood. Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s the copious amount of whiskey flowing through my veins in an attempt to shift this cold I’ve acquired…

In any case, I’ve found myself surfing a few forums like TMP and Dakka and coming across rafts of… debate, let’s call it, about the state of Games Workshop and 40k in particular. Broken units, no balance, people furious about their favourite unit suddenly being made overpowered or underpowered or invalidated altogether. Then you have players of games such as Adeptus Titanicus annoyed about the lack of “support” – ie, new stuff – they’re getting (to be fair, they’ve got a point – GW’s Facebook post about the box of new Warlord Titan weapons “will have a Warlord in it too” was such an utterly hilarious and terrible marketing/PR decision that you can’t help wondering if they’ve been moonlighting for Boris Johnson’s campaign team)

Picture linked from Fawcett Avenue Conscripts blog:  http://wpggamegeeks.blogspot.com/

Anyway it got me thinking. If you “support” a game, that means you expand the setting, you add new stuff – we’ve got similar things planned for Apocalypse: Earth, delving deeper into each faction’s history and more esoteric units, but seeing as it’s just the two of us writing it all and one of us is holed up with a cold it’s safe to say we won’t be releasing anything anytime soon. Now this is all well and good up to a point, but if you’re GW and your business model depends on releasing New Stuff year on year, at some point you’re going to overload your core system – the rules can only take so many New Things.

Why? Two reasons: Granularity. 40K & Age Of Sigmar are built round a D6 system – nothing inherently wrong with that, our game is too – but it does put a limit on the number of variables a unit can have. Particularly in the latest (8th) edition where things like vehicle fire arcs and armour facings have been done away with. Eventually you’re going to introduce New Things that are statistically identical to the Old Things. This brings me to the second consideration: GW is fundamentally a model company. Even the most diehard 40k/ AOS fan is going to buy waaaaaaay more models than they are books. Their monthly magazine, White Dwarf, is primarily a marketing tool to sell more of the latest New Thing (yes, there are useful and interesting articles in there but at it’s heart it’s a GW product with the primary function of selling more GW products) – but for a player, there has to be a reason to by the New Thing. It has to be functionally better than the Old Thing it goes alongside or replaces – for example, why buy a new Invictor Tactical Warsuit model if the Dreadnought that you’ve already got does the same job? And this inevitably leads to power creep, as each faction gets New Stuff to counter the other guys’ New Stuff to the point where your basic grunt is utterly useless, just there to die on Turn 1. At which point the games has to reset and hello, New Edition. And so the cycle continues.

Of course, if GW doesn’t sell new models and bring out new things… well, Duncan, Peachy and co have bills to pay. The stores don’t heat and light themselves. Without the constant commercial imperative powering everything then the company would fold and there’s no 40k for any of us (never mind the hundreds of people out of a job and the death of one of the few business success stories the UK can be proud of). So GW really is a victim of it’s own success – failure to release significant quantities of New Stuff means that players accustomed to this level of “support” feel they’ve been abandoned, whereas “support” past a certain point pushes the game into power creep where only the newest and shiniest of models are worth the cost. Not to mention the constant slew of codexes, Chapter Approved and FAQ books… I read (admittedly on Dakka, so this may not be 100% accurate) that there are now 144 documents needed for playing 40k. Now I’m sure this is an exaggeration, but really, more than 2-3 books is surely nuts.

Is there a solution? I think no – not for GW, anyway, they can’t stop expanding and evolving their models and rules. If they stop, they die. No new models/ rules? What do you put in White Dwarf this month then? One Page Rules do a good job of combatting this, but I can’t see GW going down that route, it wouldn’t square with their production values and codex-based business model.

For us, we’re doing the core book for each system and eventually a sourcebook for each faction and that’s it, anything else we think of we’ll add to the blog and make available as a free download (like the Kugelpanzers back in April).

So there we have it, bit of a ramble this month, but I’m full of whiskey and bird flu and wanted to get this off my chest – what are your thoughts on the thorny issue of “support” for a game? Am I right about the inevitable imbalance of a big name game system like 40k? Do Privateer Press or Fantasy Flight Games have these issues? Drop a comment and let us know – meantime, stay thrifty out there and see you again soon!

Friday Night Firefight

As any resident of the UK who has ventured outside recently has realised, it’s getting bloody cold out there! So on Friday, we abandoned the gaming shed and moved indoors for a skirmish.

Some of you will remember the foldaway urban skirmish board we knocked up from the back of a shelving unit last year – although storage had not been entirely kind to this, it was still looking in pretty good fettle, so that gave us a roughly 3’x3′ surface to scrap on.

For rules, we used the classic small scale skirmish ruleset “Firefight” from Alternative Armies – the current version can be acquired here: https://www.alternative-armies.com/products/firefight-2-0-28mm-ion-age-wargame-rules , but we were using the original from the early 90s. With one small tweak, that is – the original used tiles with squares, no 3D scenery, so we bodged some cover rules and decided that we would substitute 1″ distance for 1 square. We’d fancied doing “open plan” Firefight for a while, so time to put miniature to board and give it a try!

Firefight
The original and classic!

We laid the table thick with sci fi/ industrial scatter scenery and put the DIY Ork Dread in the centre as a downed objective of sorts. Using the forces detailed in the first scenario in the Firefight rulebook, Jim took three Levy troopers and a Crusader NCO (FF equivalent of three Guardsmen with a Space Marine NCO-  budgetary restrictions meant these would be represented by our Deathwatch Space Marines) and I took the Shia Khan forces – two Infiltrators with Eggtimer rifles (represented by Orks), two Goblins with Eggtimers (Gretchin with red tipped autoguns) and two Goblins with Popcorn pistols (Gretchin with regular painted autoguns).

The forces manoeuvre cautiously toward each other

Judicious use of cover in the opening phases

Troops close to engage – who’s ambushing who?!?

Both sides open up!  Note the dice by each figure- this represents the accumulated “Dodge” points each figure has available, a neat little mechanic when you get used to it

Gutter fighting around the downed Dreadnought – a Levy trooper falls, as do a Goblin and an Infiltrator!

Crusader sergeant engages the Shia Khan at point blank range!

Up close and personal…

He drops the Infiltrator but a Goblin blindsides him with a point blank pistol shot!

Goblin with Eggtimer rifle and a good stack of accumulated Dodges secures the objectve

His two surviving team mates catch the remaining human trooper in a crossfire and bring him down – Shia Khan win!

After a slow couple of first turns with both sides manoeuvring through cover, the action exploded at point blank range and was absolutely lethal! Once you wrap your head around it the concept of the Action Dice and Dodges is really fun and innovative – armour doesn’t play a part (as far as we can tell), the Crusader has power armour but this doesn’t seem to have any bearing, but I guess the designers figured that nothing is going to stop a .50 calibre explosive bullet at a range of a few feet..

Firefight contains a campaign system and I think we’ll definitely be revisiting this, whether “open” or using the tiles provided.

Next on the list to try – Grimdark Future Firefight! Till then, stay thrifty out there and we’ll see you soon.

Hold Back The Tide – A Hyperian Wars Battle Report

The mood was tense. The grenadiers and riflemen were trading rumours amongst themselves – an unstoppable horde of Virum Nascii, hundreds strong, which had overrun the outlying colony of Hadley’s Hope in the northern disputed territories, slaughtering the Sky Marines sent to interdict them.

Amongst the crew of the steam tank “McDaggett’s Fury“, however, such sentiments were notable for their absence. 

“Sky Marines” scoffed commander Boddicker, “probably tried to buy them off.”

He patted the gunsights on the Fury’s main cannon. “Firepower! And lots of it! That’s all those beasts can be expected to understand. Franz? Louis? Are your rifles zeroed?”

The two foregunners saluted in eerie synchronicity. “Sir! Yes, sir –  optimised to peak accuracy, ammo feeds and repeater mechanisms cleared and double checked”

“Good work” Boddicker nodded approvingly “Signal Colonel Murphy that the Fury stands ready”

Atop his horse, surveying his assembled forces, Witch-Colonel Alecius Murphy had already sensed the build up of adrenaline and arrogance within the steam tank- it’s very presence evidence of how seriously the Ancien Regime province command took the Virum Nascii threat. Sky Marines didn’t die easily – he knew that all too well. Underestimating his foe was not a mistake Murphy intended to make again. 

He surveyed his assembled forces – lines of riflemen in their dark blue coats and peaked caps, columns of grenadiers imposing with their shakos and bayonets, a regiment of the illustrious cuirassier cavalry, the line anchored by the imposing iron beast that was the McDaggett’s Fury

The Virum Nascii had plagued this province in recent months, and the slaughter of a Sky Marine force at the nearby colony of Hadley’s Hope had proven that these beasts were present in force, and not to be underestimated. Murphy cast his precognitive vision forth and in his minds eye sensed the presence of a huge horde of the ratmen, heading his way.

“We make our stand here” he announced, “prepare firing positions and make ready to receive the enemy”

He gritted his teeth. It would be enough. It had to be enough.

Welcome back to another Hyperian Wars battle report – and this one should be a doozy…

After the slaughter of the Sky Marines in the last battle, this time it’s the turn of the other major human faction (so far… fluff still very much WIP), the Ancien Regime to face the vile ratmen! Some of you may remember these lads from way back in the early days of the blog, and in fact the first ever Hyperian Wars battle back in 2016. The Grand Alliance and the Ancien Regime are prone to the odd clash now and again, but petty squabbles are invariably pushed aside when the unhuman terrors such as the Virum Nascii are on the rampage. Lord Ratticus’ hordes have been boosted by some frenetic painting, while in response I’ve given the humans some much needed firepower with our repainted steam tank, and with these new toys ready it was off to the shed to commence battle!

We set objectives (Vrilfire reactor,  hilltop ruins, hilltop to the northern edge of the table and ruined temple at the top left of the picture)   rolled deployment and got diagonal facings – Virum Nascii won the roll off and made the Ancien Regime set up first.. appropriately sneaky for the vile ratmen..

Ancien Regime lines – Colonel Murphy commanding two regiments of riflemen each about twenty strong, two sixteen strong regiments of grenadiers, a ten man cavalry squadron and the steam tank…

..facing a LOT of rats! Lord Ratticus, emboldened by his previous victory now commands two 16 strong regiments of warriors, two similarly sized regiments of slave archers, a 24 strong regiment of slaves with hand weapons, plus a section of poison wind grenadiers, 8 plague priests, a bodyguard of 6 vermin stormtroopers…

… and a small section of 5 assassins, here sneakily infiltrated forwards into cover.

With everything deployed, it was game on!

Turn 1:

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Virum Nascii charge forward!

Cavalry crash into the slave regiment…

…shattering their fragile morale and causing the survivors to disappear!

Poison wind grenadiers join the party, taking chunks out of the human forces

Lord Ratticus gets stuck in…

Felling his foe! By the end of turn 1, each side has two objectives – the Ancien Regime have lost their cavalry regiment, the Virum Nascii have lost the slave regiment, two warriors and a poison wind grenadier…

Turn 2:

Poison wind grenadiers take down McDagget’s Fury!

Assassins pile into the riflemen..

Grenadiers march to confront the warriors!

Assassins take their toll on the grenadiers

But it’s not all one sided….

Meanwhile the grenadiers on the northern table edge duel it out with the slave archer regiments..

Carnage wherever you look!

Turn 3:

Ratticus and his Stormtrooper bodyguard fall to the guns of the grenadiers

Virum Nascii assault begins to stall in open ground

Poison wind grenadier takes on the riflemen

Plague priests pile in to the riflemen in the centre

Turn 4:

Ratmen warriors make a charge towards the riflemen in the woods

In bloody fighting, the riflemen bring down the plague priests

Without Ratticus’ command bonus, this regiment of warriors natural cowardice takes over..

The final poison wind grenadier falls

Grenadiers finish off the slave archer regiment

Turn 5:

Warrior regiment finds it’s nerve again but is decimated by the riflemen on the hill 

Grenadiers bring down the final archer slave before beginning to advance into the ruined village

As turn 5 ends it’s two objectives apiece, but four damaged infantry regiments plus Colonel Murphy are facing half a warrior regiment and an archer slave regiment.. without Lord Ratticus’ presence holding them together the Virum Nascii realise the situation is unwinnable and flee the field. Humanity holds this day!

Well, that was a blast and right up to turn 4 it could have gone either way – Colonel Murohy may have failed to successfully cast a single spell but his presence definitely helped the riflemen in the centre beat off the ratmen assault. I think the main issue the Virum Nascii had was failure to concentrate force in one area – had they focused on one single area of the human lines they could have overwhelmed them and rolled up the line piecemeal, but poor coordination let their regiments get picked off one at a time, and when Ratticus went down their naturally poor morale really started to count against them…

Still, the story isn’t over, we’ve got more Hyperian Wars coming as the escalation continues – more troops, characters and war machines for the Virum Nascii, and the same for the human factions! Stay tuned, stay thrifty, we’ll see you soon

One Page Carnage – Age Of Fantasy: Regiments AAR

So the other week, after seeing numerous Wyloch battle reports, we succumbed to “monkey see, monkey do”, downloaded the rules and took them for a spin ourselves.

And there was much rejoicing.

So we figured, let’s try out some of the other rulesets – with summer evenings scratching my fantasy itch, and having recently painted up a whole sh*tload of 1/72 Ratmen (who are in NO WAY anything to do with GW Skaven, just so we’re clear)

Rules and army lists available here: onepagerules.com

Ratmen:

Warlord [1] 3+ 3+ 2x Hand Weapons (A3) +5pts Tail Knife (+1A in melee) +5ptsVenom Blade (Poison in melee) +5pts Hero, Tough(3)

Warriors [16] 5+ 5+ Hand Weapons (A1)

Slaves [16] 6+ 6+ Hand Weapons (A1)

Monks [8] 5+ 5+ Censer Flails (A1, Poison) Furious

Poison Grenadiers [5] 5+ 5+ Poison Grenades (12”, A1, Poison), Hand Weapons (A1)

Storm Troopers [10] 4+ 4+ Halberds (A1, AP(1))

Slaves [16] 6+ 6+ Slings (18”, A1)

Humans:

Captain [1] 3+ 4+ Hand Weapon (A2) Hero, Tough(3) Inspiring, on Horse – Hooves (A1), Fast

Marksmen [20] 5+ 6+ Rifles (24”, A1, AP(1)), Hand Weapons (A1)

Infantrymen [20] 5+ 5+ Halberds (A1, AP(1))

Light Cavalry [5] 5+ 5+ Hand Weapons (A1) Fast

 

Deployment:

The field of battle

Human forces line up, riflemen on the ridge covering the infantry about to advance into the ruined village

Ratmen line up opposite, slaves with “slings” on the extreme left flank

Poison grenadiers loiter in the centre, looking for targets of opportunity

Out on the far right Ratmen flank, the Slave unit is tasked with holding an uncontested objective

The two forces face off…

Who will prevail?

Turn 1

Both sides advance into the ruined village, looking to claim the densely packed objectives

Poison Grenadiers draw first blood, downing a cavalryman with a grenade

Whilst out on the Ratmen left flank, Slaves advance to seize their first objective

Turn 2

In the centre, human cavalry led by the Captain bear down on the Poison Grenadiers, killing two and forcing the others to withdraw, while the Slave unit bears down on another objective and battle is joined in the ruined village..

Human infantry engage the block of Ratmen warriors in the village streets

After driving them off, however, the Ratmen Stormtroopers pitch in!

Meanwhile the Captain leads the cavalry against the remaining Poison Grenadiers

But another cavalryman falls to their arcane lethal devices!

Archer slaves advance on the riflemen, albeit largely ineffectually – rifle fire drops four slaves and a few warriors, while infantry engage rat stormtroopers and Warlord in the village centre

Bloody gutter fighting around the ruins

After selflessly letting his bodyguard weather the melee attacks, the Ratman Warlord wades in!

By this point both sides had secured two objectives, but losses on the human side were mounting up more rapidly than the more numerous Ratmen – could superior human firepower prevail?

 Turn 3

Slaves are moving in in a pincer movement while Stormtroopers rush the human infantry from the rear

Carnage in the streets, causing the human infantry to Waver

Who quickly rally to return the favour, charging the Stormtroopers in the rear..

Riflemen pour fire into the Ratmen, retreating out of arrow range- they successfully wipe out half the Warriors, causing them to Waver

As we ended Turn 3, It was 4-1 to the Ratmen in terms of objectives secured as superior numbers were beginning to tell..

Turn 4 (Final Turn)

Between the Warriors, the Stormtroopers and the Warlord, that’s it for the human infantry!

Ratmen advance steadily, arrows falling amongst the riflemen

The Captain takes down the last Poison Grenadier, settling a rather personal feud..

And as the Slaves turn to face the cavalry remnants and the archers advance onto the ridge to take on the remaining riflemen, it’s 3 to the Ratmen, 1 contested and 1 for the humans… and that’s it!

Heavy losses all round but the vastly superior numbers of Ratmen were better placed to soak them up, and I think I really needed to focus absolutely everything on annihilating one unit at a time – rather than getting my riflemen duelling with the archers and the cavalry mixing it up with Poison Grenadiers, we should have plowed everything into hammering the central Ratmen units the infantry were facing… still, plenty of time for another game!

Once again, a really fun game from the One Page Rules folks and a great “introductory” wargame – you can play this one with the nippers (and I intend to once my youngling stops regarding dice as tasty snack treats) as well as your mates and having everything immediately accessible is a big help keeping the game flowing. I could say it’s almost too simplistic, but… the guy’s stated intent was to produce a game that could fit onto one page! It’s a cracking fun game and a great framework to houserule extra bits and pieces on if you want more depth, and there’s plenty that we’ve learned about game design and economical rules writing that will be making it’s way into our next series of releases (probably next year sometime, don’t hold your breath!).

Meanwhile we’ve got some scenery to paint for the League Of Extraordinary Riveters on Dakkadakka.com, and something pretty cool (and big.. and VERY red) on the horizon to show off… stay thrifty out there, we’ll be back soon!

I Have Seen The Future…. and it is GRIMDARK!

As some of you know, Jim and I are basically Wyloch groupies, and have been ever since we stumbled across his series on how to craft DIY 40K vehicles, skimmers, walkers etc out of hot glue and random crap he has lying around the house. He’s basically nerd MacGyver.

Anyhoo, recently he’s been putting up some battle reports using the system formerly known as 1page40k – Grimdark Future. This is billed as a fast playing, easy to use, quick and dirty version of the 40k we all know and sort-of-love, sort-of-loathe. Rules and army lists are free to download from the One Page Rules website here. And seeing as we are drawn to free stuff like a moth to the flame of a slow burning crack pipe, we were all over this.

Jim took the Skooderia as Orc Marauders, I took the Hazzard 1977th as Human Defence Force. Long story here, but basically I feel the Leman Russ I built out of cardboard owes me some serious f*cking karma after it’s traumatic birth. OPR designer Gaetano Ferrara recommends 750pts per side to start, but because we were using smaller models we expanded up to 1000pts.

Well, it made sense at the time.

Anyway, lists:

Da Orc Marauders!

Warlord [1] 3+

(shoots at 5+)

4+ Twin Carbine (18”, A4)

, CCW (A3)

Bad Shot, Furious, Hero, Tough(3)   65pts
Orcs [10] 4+

(shoots at 5+)

5+ Carbines (18”, A2)

, CCWs (A2)

1 Rocket Launcher

(24”, A1, AP(3), Deadly(3))

1 Heavy Machinegun (36”, A3, AP(1))

Bad Shot, Furious   215pts

RT -280

Commando Orcs [5] 4+

(shoots at 5+)

5+ Pistols (12”, A1), CCWs (A2)

1 Flamethrower (12”, A6)

Bad Shot, Furious, Scout, Stealth, Strider   145pts

RT 425

Power Armor Orcs [3] 3+

(shoots at 5+)

2+ Carbines (18”, A2), Energy Fists (A3, AP(2)) Bad Shot, Furious, Slow, Tough(6)   395pts

RT 820

Truck [1] 4+ 2+ Heavy Machinegun (36”, A3, AP(1)), Crew (A1) Bad Shot, Fast, Impact(3), Tough(6), Transport(11) Battle Ram (Strider)

Red Paint Job (moves +3” on Advance and +6” on Rush/Charge actions)

180pts

RT 1000

The Human Defence Force musters!

Commander [1] 4+ 5+ Assault Rifle (24”, A1), Energy Sword (A2, AP(1)) Commander, Hero, Tough(3)  55pts

Psychic [1] 5+ 5+ Pistol (12”, A1), CCW (A2) Hero, Psychic(2), Tough(3)  50pts RT 105

Infantry Squad [5] 5+ 5+ Assault Rifles (24”, A1), CCWs (A1) –  90pts

includes Weapon Teams [3] 5+ 5+ Missile Launcher – pick one each turn: HE (48”, A1, Blast(3))AT (48”, A1, AP(3), Deadly(3)), CCWs (A1) Tough(3)   RT195

Conscripts [10] 6+ 5+ Assault Rifles (24”, A1), CCWs (A1) – – 60pts RT 255

Weapon Teams [3] 5+ 5+ Heavy Machineguns (36”, A3, AP(1)), CCWs (A1) Tough(3)  115pts RT370

Weapon Teams [3] 5+ 5+ Missile Launcher – pick one each turn: HE (48”, A1, Blast(3)) AT (48”, A1, AP(3), Deadly(3)), CCWs (A1) Tough(3) 120pts RT490

Weapon Teams [3] 5+ 5+ Laser Cannon (48”,A1,AP(4),Deadly(3)), CCWs (A1) Tough(3)  125pts RT 615

Battle Tank [1] 4+ 2+ Nova Cannon (36”, A1, AP(1), Blast(6)), Laser Cannon (48”,A1,AP(4),Deadly(3)), Crew (A1) Fast, Impact(3), Tough(12)  2x Heavy Machineguns (36”,A3,AP(1)) Storm Rifle (24”, A2)  Light Machinegun (36”, A3) 385pts RT 1000

We set up terrain with a ruined village to the east and a disused plasma generator station to the west, set objectives (one of the generators, central hill, ruined church and a ruined shop)…and GAME ON!

Human Defence Force won the roll off and force the Orcs to deploy first:

Jim’s ladz took the southern table edge, concentrating forces in the village – effectively conceding the plasma generator but with the intent of focusing on the central three and hoping to overwhelm the HDF at short range

Big Red packed with Warlord, Power Armoured Orcs and Commando Orcs with the task of seizing and holding the two village objectives. Meanwhile the other mob would head for the central objective in  the hills

HDF infantry cluster in cover opposing the main orc force – commander, infantry and conscripts along with heavy machinegun team

The HDF is ready – Hoo-AH!

And battle was joined!

Action erupts almost immediately as the Warlord, the Commando Orcs and the Power Armoured Orcs leap off their transport and straight away mix it up with the HDF heavy machinegun team – losing a PA Orc and another wounded

HDF range superiority proving effective as long as humie can keep his distance, but if the Orcs can get in close…

Boyz mob climb the hill, taking an objective and lobbing a grenade into the HDF squad

HDF missile team open up on da boyz

The General wades in to the fray

“Where dey all gone?”

 

Transport holds the objective while the Warlord makes his way through the village

Commando Orcs hold the forward ruins objective, giving supporting fire while the Power Armour Orcs advance on the conscript squad and the Command squad 

As we go into Turn 3, it’s 2 objectives to the Orcs, 1 to the HDF

HDF conscripts play cat and mouse with the VERY tough Power Armour Orcs

The General advances toward the Orc flank, a rolling firestorm…

From their perch near the plasma generator, HDF laser cannon team drop the Warlord

And as the final turn comes to a end, the General crashes into the Orc flank, taking the central objective and massacring the Commando Orcs.

End result, 2 objectives to the HDF (plasma generator and central hill) one to the Orc Marauders (ruined church, held by the transport)

Casualties – HDF lost a weapons team and some of the infantry squad, plus wounded Captain… the Orcs were pretty much down to the transport and their Power Armour elites, and even they were pretty beaten up.

So a pretty decisive victory!

Thoughts on the game? A LOT of fun. Grimdark Future is simple, fast playing and intuitive, absolutely brilliant for a quick throw down kickabout. We did wonder about the balance of point values given the pounding the Orcs took, but Jim did point out the he might just’ve sucked at playing the game.

So, a new system, and props to OPR designer Gaetano Ferrara for the effort he’s put into creating a fun and fast game that really benefits from not being supported by a major model company (more thoughts on that another day). We had a blast and next up on the list is OPR’s “Age Of Fantasy- Regiments” – we’ll let you know!

(Side note – free rules and army lists, 1/72 miniatures, scratchbuilt terrian and vehicles… could this be the cheapest wargame ever played?)

Try these yourself: onepagerules.com

Operation TYRANT- Apocalypse: Earth AAR

With the Soviet offensive of summer 1956 successful in capturing a number of Allied plasma generation facilities, UNIVAC, Majestic 12 and Supreme Allied Command Europe were all agreed to focus their immediate strategy on recapturing these vital installations before Emperor Djugashvilli could build on the momentum the Holy Soviet Army had lmanaged to create (at great cost).

It therefore came as something of a surprise when Stalin’s next move did not come across the front lines in Europe, but a massed amphibious assault on northern Scotland coming from an armada of massive transport submarines. In one of the opening moves, Lt Polikarpov would lead the infantry component of the assault task force assigned to knock out the plasma generator station powering Faslane naval base.

The Scottish campaign was notable for the complete and total inebriation of both sides – commissars would ladle out vodka liberally to the assault troops while the Scottish defended their homeland fuelled on a mix of Iron Bru and McEwan’s. Fighting was close and brutal, fuelled by borscht on the one side and deep fried Mars bars on the other. In the end, however, there could be only one victor.

Welcome to another Apocalypse: Earth megagame! We’ve been planning this for a while to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and figured doing our own weird war retro sci-fi take on things would be our little (if slightly strange) contribution to commemorating the immense bravery shown that day.

So, without further ado, on to the battle report!

Scenario:

The Soviet force would be landing on the beach from the gigantic transport submarines they had created in secret and infiltrated up to the Scottish coast (which meant no need to scratch build landing craft), and would be landing with the intent to capture the (suspiciously familiar looking) plasma generator station that powered Faslane Naval Base – knocking that out would take down the base forcefields, allowing the next stage of the Soviet invasion.

Task Force Polikarpov, therefore brought EVERYTHING to the battle, including some new recruits to bolster the rifle squads to a full 14 men each. We were also trying something new – grouping the Soviet tanks into platoons, each consisting of two regular gun T-48s and either the Inferna or Elektra assault variant. This meant less flexibility (alternating unit activations favours multiple small units, a fact that the Atlantic Alliance is built around) but also the ability to bring down a LOT of firepower in one go. In short, playing like the slow moving iron clad firestorm the Holy Soviet Army should be!

And their opponents – well, wouldn’t you know it, Buffalo 2-7 had been so badly mauled at Skalk Point they’d been sent back to the UK for training and integrating replacements, so guess who happened to be the sector QRF again? This time the lads would also have help in the form of a League of European Nations platoon, including infantry, an anti-tank laser and some experimental vehicles on their maiden game

Deployment

Klaxons blared inside the Allied command centre.

“Contact – no, wait, multiple contacts!” called out the sonarman monitoring the sonobuoy pickets out in the bay. “Bearing 060 through 065, closing up on the beaches fast.. where the HELL did they come from?”

“One of their damned sorcerers” snarled Lt. Grant. He quickly swallowed the last bite of his bacon sandwich and thumbed the ARPANET transceiver on to the platoon network.

“Buffalo 2-7, this is Sunray. All units stand to. I say again, stand to. Prepare for amphibious assault.”

Around him the troops were already scrambling. Men checked weapons, drivers gunned engines. Grant thumbed the channel.

“Kampfgruppe Hulkenberg, this is Buffalo 2-7 Sunray, we have multiple- “

“We have them too, Lieutenant”. The clipped, precise tones of his European League counterpart cut through the static. “All units moving to prepared positions as rehearsed.”

Grant smiled grimly. “See you on the beach, Nico.”

“It’s a date. Von Hulkenberg out.”

The Allied forces rush to defend Mel Bay! Silverbug gunships anchor the flanks while the Kugelpanzers prepare a point blank defence with their (potentially) devastating laser cannons..

Grant and the Atlantic Alliance infantry cluster on the Allied right

Lt. von Hulkenberg’s platoon take the left, bolstered by Atlantic Alliance vehicles

An wall of steel welcomes the Holy Soviet Army!

Turn 1

The game opened with a salvo of 152mm shells from supporting Soviet naval firepower, smashing an Allied jeep and causing damage to the Kugelpanzer squadron, but no sooner had the ground stopped shaking from the explosions than appeared the gigantic, terrifying form of the Soviet Colossus – Stompy Uncle Joe leading his children to war!

The Holy Soviet Army storms ashore – the Colossus leads the way, incinerating one Kugelpanzer, frying another one with his lightning launcher and lobbing the third one onto an Alliance APC, destroying both! AND THEN finishes off by blowing both missile launchers off a Silverbug with his anti air machineguns – THAT’s how Stompy Uncle Joe rolls..

The Holy Soviet Army barges on to the beach, the brutal firepower of the Rampager’s twin 130mm cannons demolishing a Centurion

Siberian assault troops storm into the fray…

…before being gunned down by Rocketeers!

Soviet infantry push onto the beach, taking fearful losses

Chaos on the Allied left flank!

And just about everywhere else!

Lt. Polikarpov leads his platoon forward

Heavy weapons squad unleash hell on the defenders

Attack Drones bring down a Silverbug

Into the breach, Comrades!

The state of play at the end of turn 1 – the Soviets are ashore but heavy losses on both sides

Turn 2

Once more, the Holy Soviet Army advances into the maelstrom – after the near total demolition of the Soviet infantry in turn 1, we house ruled that any units destroyed in turn 1 could respawn as a second wave in turn 2. Very sportingly, Dan declined to apply this to his left flank tank platoon and limited just to infantry. In fairness, we hadn’t really balanced the armies too closely, it was largely gun and guesswork!

Despite being immobilised, Stompy Uncle Joe manages to grab an Allied APC that ventures too near..

Which he promptly lobs at the sole surviving Centurion, falling short but causing a very spectacular explosion…

Second wave of Soviet infantry charge forward…

A second squad of Siberian assault troops overwhelm the German infantry on the Allied left

The remaining German rifle squad gun down the exposed mutant assault troops

As the second turn ended, the Soviets were ashore with heavy losses – but at the cost of gutting the Allied formations!

Turn 3

Soviet Holy Mystic summons primordial waves of psychic energy to telekinetically lift the last functioning Allied M60A3 and drop it on the second Silverbug, destroying them both in spectacular fashion!

Soviet naval guns blast through the few remaining Atlantic Alliance infantrymen

Surviving Tesla troopers demolish another APC

Stompy Uncle Joe falls to Stinger/ TOW fire

By this time both sides were on the ropes and tottering, but the Soviets had managed to push the Allied forces off the beach, with catastrophic casualties on each side!

Turn 4

Stompy Uncle Joe may have fallen, but he’s still in the fight! Soviet Holy Mystic summons the psychic strength to lift eighty tons of steel and drop it on the sole surviving Allied vehicle..

The subsequent explosion wounds Lt. Grant and kills yet another Alliance rifleman

Allied sniper team knocks out a Tesla trooper’s generator – in response, the surviving trooper fries the sniper team!

Mac and Lt. Grant make a last gasp attack on the Soviet HQ..

But they fail to inflict any damage, and Lt. Polikarpov and his HQ gun them down without mercy!

And with that, the last gasp of Allied resistance falls… the way is open to the plasma generator station!

The pain flared across his temple. Lt. Grant struggled to consciousness to find himself looking into the darkness of a Kalashnikov assault rifle barrel. As he struggled to clear his vision, a second figure in a peaked cap wielding a pistol swam into view.

“Lt. Grant, I presume”, said a Russian voice, “I have been waiting a long time for this..”


So, a Soviet victory! At great cost – HQ, a couple of riflemen, the Mystic and his bodyguard, a Tesla trooper and sniper were literally all that were left. On the Allied side, however, we were down to a German medic armed with a pistol. So, now what for our story? Lt. Grant trying to effect a breakout from a Soviet POW camp? Some more fluff and battle reports on the Scottish Front? Let us know!

On a more serious note, no one reading this will have been unaware of the 75th anniversary of D-Day a few days ago, and certainly that was in our thoughts as we finished this quite epic game.

Dan – “That was a laugh and everything, but f**k me, can you imagine having to do it for real?”

No. No I can’t. We both agreed that neither of us could have done it. But mercifully, we haven’t had to.

So thank you Grandpa. Thank you Grandad. Thank you to all of you who summoned up the courage to do the impossible – not just on D-Day, but the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that, for eleven more months.

Stay thrifty out there and we’ll see you again soon.

How To Play With Your Balls – rules for the League Of European Nations Kugelpanzers!

Oh, the jokes just write themselves 😉

Anyway, in the spirit of thrifty wargaming, here are some “beta test” rules for the Kugelpanzers in the last post – this is what we’ll be using in the next couple of games, let us know how you get on and please do post feedback in the comments section.

Ocelot“ Kugelpanzer – official designation Porsche Model 9.44 Laser-Aufklärungspanzer 

Armour – 16 (all over, due to spherical nature of the tank)

Speed 22cm

Armament – 3 x laser cannons (with targeters)

Range – 100cm

R.O.F – 3

Penetration – 2D6 + 3

Instead of firing individually, the vehicle may combine all three laser cannons to produce one focused shot:

Combine the targeter bonus (so +3 to hit)

Range – 100cm

R.O.F – 1

Penetration – 4D6 + 6

The vehicle may combine fire with up to two other Ocelots within 12 cm of it, each additional vehicle doubling the penetration and adding an additional +1 to hit (maximum +4) .

Damage Roll 2D6

Front 27

Side 23

Rear 18

Top/ Bottom 14

2,5 The engine is hit and explodes, crew are killed and all within 3cm are hit as if by a frag grenade The engine is hit and explodes, crew are killed and all within 3cm are hit as if by a frag grenade The fuel tank is hit and explodes. The vehicle is destroyed and catches fire. Crew and all within 3cm are hit as if by a flamethrower The ammo compartment explodes and the vehicle is vaporised. All within 6cm are hit as if by a frag grenade
6,8 The fuel line is severed. The vehicle is immobilised and must roll a D6 each time it fires a weapon. If it fails to roll 3+, the vehicle explodes. All within 6cm are hit as is by a frag grenade and the vehicle catches fire A laser cannon is destroyed A laser cannon is destroyed The crew compartment is hit. All crew except the driver are killed. The vehicle may move but not fire.
9,11 The driver is killed. The vehicle slews 2D6 cm in a random direction. If it hits an obstacle, it crashes (penetration 2+2D6). If the vehicle survives, it is immobilised. A track is blown off. If moving, the vehicle lurches 2D6 cm in a random direction. If it hits an obstacle, it crashes (penetration 2+2D6). If the vehicle survives, it is immobilised. If the vehicle is stationary, it is immobilised. A track is blown off. If moving, the vehicle lurches 2D6 cm in a random direction. If it hits an obstacle, it crashes (penetration 2+2D6). If the vehicle survives, it is immobilised. If the vehicle is stationary, it is immobilised. A laser cannon is destroyed
12 A targeter is destroyed on the laser cannon facing the firer A targeter is destroyed on the laser cannon facing the firer A targeter is destroyed on the laser cannon facing the firer Fire control computer is damaged – the vehicle may no longer combine fire from its laser cannons

Stay thrifty out there and happy wargaming!

Forgotten Classics! Game Review: Firefight (Alternative Armies)

Many years ago, a budding teenage me was snooping about the dusty corners of that wonderful den of geekery, “Another World”, when I should chance to happen upon a book. Something about it caught my eye, and a quick flick through hooked me in completely. I stumped up my £10 (or whatever it was) and off I went with a book that would bring me many, many happy hours of nerd bliss.

This was the book:

Firefight, by Alternative Armies.

Now, I’d seen a few AA “Levy” series minis in blister packs and bought a few to use as 40k Imperial Guard renegades/ Chaos cultists/ Genestealer cultists/ PDF, because they caught a pretty cool aesthetic with the visored helmets, flak armour and Space-Kalashnikov rifles, and the Crusader series had appealed to me as Space Marine proxies,so curiosity got the better of me and I thought what the hell.

I remember being significantly underwhelmed flicking through my new purchase on the bus ride home – the full colour cover giving way to a black-and-pamphlet with pencil artwork, fluff that was… well, meh, really, they’d gone for the same Dark Ages In Space feel as 40k, but with a lot less grim dark and a lot less imagination (in fairness, though – GW are the fluffmeisters, you aren’t going to win going head to head with them there). On the human side you’ve got the Levy – basically Imperial Guardsmen, with the elite rising through the ranks to become Crusaders, power armoured elite troopers whose own elites include Templars and Hospitallers. On the alien side, you have the Shia Khan…

These are sort of an Ork/ Eldar hybrid race, faster but weaker than humans with their basic troops known as Goblins (wielding weapons codenamed “Popcorn” and “Eggtimer” by the human forces.. a shout out to the NATO names for Warsaw Pact weapons during the Cold War, perhaps?)

The game included some thin cardboard terrain tiles and tokens, a long way from GW quality cardstock, a few typos in the rules suggesting poor editing… I didn’t expect much.

Boy, was I ever wrong. Firefight is a brilliantly designed game, based around the concept of action dice allowing you to do particular things (I’m willing to bet more than a few of the Mantic design team played this game back in the 90s) – close fought, addictive, fast and deadly. I don’t mind admitting a strong influence on our Black Ops skirmish game (still WIP for now). Every trooper has rolls a certain number of dice depending on what action he has chosen, modified by what he’s armed with, with a basic rule of 6 generating an offensive action (such as shooting someone in the face), and 1 generating a defensive action (dodging out of the way). The designers commented that they hoped to produce a system that was easy to play but hard to read, and you know what, they managed it.

The rulebook teaches you the rules stage by stage, starting with a basic house clearance mission where a Levy squad with a Crusader NCO clears a house of Shia Khan Goblins and Infiltrators, and the subsequent missions bring in heavy weapons, melee, more sophisticated actions such as medical aid, and mini campaigns on both strategic and tactical levels, where your Crusader or Levy platoon patrol across a city working their way through snipers, ambushes and (as the name suggests) firefights!

Not a bad haul!

A very Rogue Trader aesthetic in the rulebook..

Pretty certain the same artist as a LOT of the early 90s GW stuff!

Levy and Crusader NCO squad take on Shia Khan Goblins and Infiltrators in a house clearance mission

This game is up close and personal!

As the rulebook says – “With these weapons, at these ranges…”

It’s been a real blast getting back into this game again, and I’m planning to replace the thin card tiles with proper MDF based jobs with 3D terrain to enhance the feel – yet another project! But for the meantime, when we want a quick skirmish with minimal set up, low model count etc, this is our go to game for the moment, and I think will be for some time.

I thoroughly recommend this game for anyone looking for a quick fix wargame, and I commend the Alternative Armies team for producing a classic that holds it’s own 27 years later! You can still find copies on eBay if you hunt around, this game is worth the effort to find.

Till next time, stay thrifty out there!

Deadzone! On a budget.. of £0…

Focus? What is this focus of which you speak? Heresy!!

You know that phenomenon where you hear about something – a band, a game, a TV show – and all of a sudden you hear about it everywhere?

What is that called?

Anyway, that’s what’s happened with us – a Luke’s APS video brought it up, and then over the next couple of months we just kept hearing about it, reading about in blogs and forums.. what is it? Deadzone, that’s what!

I’ve long had a weakness for small, quick skirmish games that bridge the gap between wargame and boardgame, and doing a little digging into what Deadzone is.. we liked what we saw.

Particularly when we discovered the rules available for FREE on Mantic’s website. BOOM (as the saying goes).

So, we had the rules downloaded. Next up – miniatures. Well, that was easy. Dice – Deadzone runs on a D8 system with specially labelled D6s for command rolls, but normal D6s will work just as well- you simply assign a number to each command skill. Ebay, £3, 20 D8s show up a week or so later. God bless those hard working Chinese kids.

Finally, terrain – Deadzone box set ships with a 2′ x 2′ mat with printed 3″ squares, and a terrain system based around 3″ cubes. Happily, Dan had a couple of bits of hardboard knocking around his shed, roughly 2′ x 3′ – the excess would be used for dice, counters, roster cards etc.

It begins! Measured out 3″ squares onto the hardboard and scored them into the material with a DIY knife

Stippled on texture paste – a mix of paint, PVA, filler powder and sand. Rubble effects are done by squeezing acrylic caulk onto the board and pressing cat litter into it. Caulk is excellent for gripping the litter and holding onto the board.

Sprayed the whole thing with cheap black spraypaint and then began drybrushing up as per the previous urban board.

Here I’ve added washes to help delineate the squares – thinned down black, smokey ink, and skin washes to colour the greys.

Texture catches the drybrushing nicely

Added mud – burnt umber basecoat, drybrushed with layers of lighter brown

Added flock to the mud to help mark out the squares, simulating weeds growing in the mud

After all this, the board was pretty warped, about a 1cm bulge in the middle. Were all our efforts to be in vain, our attempts at Deadzone gaming to be thwarted by models gradually sliding off theboard?

Happily, no – Wyloch to the rescue – we coated the other side with thinned down PVA and left it for 24 hours. Result? Totally flat board.

Added some scenery built a while back from various bits of food packaging and away we go!

The rules give a sample scenario along with two strike teams – we’ve proxied the Marines as Enforcers and the Gretchin as Forge Fathers, and so far we’re 3-2 to the little stunties.

Deadzone is definitely a fun game, once you get your head round the dice test mechanic, and it’s great for keeping both players involved through alternating activation boosted by command dice providing extra actions throughout the game. It’s definitely a game that lends itself to tactical play – you’re going to get the victory points through taking and holding objectives, as it can be damn difficult actually putting a model down, (particularly as the wimpy laser rifles the Enforcers are equipped with don’t pierce armour too well), but this is no bad thing – in the real world, you wouldn’t just chuck your highly trained strike team into a meat grinder, and as we get the hang of this game it’ll be fun to try and build a narrative campaign.

Time to finish up with some pics, as Grot and Marine get down and dirty in the Deadzone:

Till next time, stay thrifty out there and we’ll see you soon!