#ThreatTuesday – New missile kit for Philippines with BrahMos SSM in #wargame SOUTH CHINA SEA (@compassgamesllc, 2017)

News this past week was the sale of the BrahMos supersonic weapon system from India to the Philippines. Some reports claim the land-based variant will be fielded by the Philippines Marine Corps. This missile would be a very useful addition to the Philippines in a game of South China Sea from Compass Games (2017).

The BrahMos PJ-10 is credited with a speed of Mach 2.0-2.8 depending on cruise height. While the full-up domestic version has a range of 500 km (6 hexes in the wargame South China Sea), the version sold to the Philippines may be limited to 290 km (4 hexes in South China Sea) like a version designed for Vietnam in order to stay below the 300 km threshold of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

You can find the technical specifications of the BrahMos PJ-1 here courtesy CSIS.

A BrahMos missile launched from a truck (courtesy missilethreat.csis.org)

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 RPG CharGen Challenge – Wargame as RPG with Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1982) #RPGThursday

I started playing roleplaying games in 1979/1980 with Classic Traveller. By 1982, one of the many small companies that grew up to support Traveller was FASA. In 1982 FASA published Behind Enemy Lines, a military RPG set in World War II Europe during or just after D-Day. Unfortunately it didn’t find commercial success. Which is too bad because Behind Enemy Lines is in many ways an outstanding military roleplaying game adventure generator. The heart of Behind Enemy Lines is the Encounter Tables. Behind Enemy Lines seems near-perfect for a Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers-based adventure.

Character Generation in Behind Enemy Lines was very simple; in many ways simpler than even Traveller. Characters were usually enlisted soldiers—real G.I. Joe types—though you could make an officer. The real discriminator in chargen was the background of the character; City versus Country. City slickers tended to be a bit better educated, maybe with leadership and languages. Country boys were simpler but often came with relevant skills.

Another important “skill” was Combat Experience which is used as modifier in various situations. For example, when attempting to sneak up on an enemy position, the player had to roll 2d6 against their Agility. Rolling above your Agility alerted the enemy. However, you gained a -1 die modifier for every level of Combat Experience. It also serves as a modifier when attempting to rally troops. Combat Experience also plays a role in interrogations and rumors.

Normal Range of Values: Physical characteristics range from 5-10. Most skills cannot go higher than 6.


Clinton Graves

Private First Class hailing from the Empire State of New York.

Strength 10 / Endurance 5 / Agility 7 / Stamina 8
Weapon Handling 9 / Combat Experience 5 / Skill Pts 2
Weight 175lbs / Carry 70-80lbs / Lift 175-200lbs / Drag 225-250lbs
Background: Country
Rifle 1 / Pistol 5 / Swimming 2 / Orienteering 2 / First Aid 1
Combat Skills:
Rifle 2 / Leadership 1 / Hand-to-Hand 2 / BAR 1 / Submachine Gun 2 / Grenade 1 / Rifle Grenade 1 / Bayonet 1 / Bazooka 1 / 60mm Mortar 1 / M1919 .30cal MG 1 

Clinton joined the US Army in early 1943 when he turned 18. Growing up in mid-state New York, he learned to shoot both a rifle and pistol while hunting with his uncle who worked for a survey company (Rifle, Pistol, Orienteering). He was the captain of his high school swimming team (Leadership, Swimming).

Clinton came ashore with a later wave of troops and was departing the Anzio beachhead late on December 2, 1943 when the Luftwaffe launched an air raid. Several ships were hit, including a merchant vessel that blew up into a tremendous mushroom cloud. The ash and dust of the explosion had mostly dissipated by the time it reached Clinton’s unit, and like many of his fellow soldiers Clinton used a muffler to not inhale too much. However, ever since then Clinton has been short of breathe (Endurance 5).

Now, in August 1944, Clinton and his unit are part of Patton’s army and working hard to break out of hedgerow country and race to the Rhine. 

(For the backstory of the Bari Raid see https://rense.com/general16/WWIIluftwaffe.htm)


Feature image courtesy https://quotesgram.com/d-day-quotes-from-soldiers/

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Wednesday – Another wargame “in the books” with WATERLOO Solitaire by Mike Wylie fm @worth2004 (2021)

Sometimes it is easy to see how the worldwide shipping challenges are changing the wargame/boardgame industry. Most visible are the delays in getting a product to market. Worthington Publishing saw what was happening and took a different approach in the publication of their “Bookgame” series:

The design of this Bookgame came about as we looked at some of our board game designs that could be delivered quickly in a book format during backlogs of worldwide shipping and supply chains caused by a pandemic. Waterloo Solitaire fit well. It could do all a board game could do if 1 die and a pen could be provided by a gamer.

Waterloo Solitaire, Designer Notes and Strategy

Using a Christmas Amazon giftcard, I ordered Waterloo Solitaire and after just a few days the book arrived. These Bookgames are print-on-demand and of good quality being standard 8.5″x11″ softcovers in full color. Waterloo Solitaire is 60 pages of which six are rules and a detailed example of play, and the rest are 24 scenarios (12 French, 12 Allied) each with two facing pages (there is one more page of Designer Notes and a scoresheet).

The rules for Waterloo Solitaire are very easy to digest and one can get playing quickly. Each turn is a simple five step process:

  1. Choose Player Action
  2. Roll for Opponent (BOT) Action
  3. Resolve BOT Action
  4. Resolve Player Action
  5. Mark Turn and begin New Turn.

In Waterloo Solitaire each formation on the player side has a limited number of activations. When you activate, one simply notes the turn of activation. The player also has access to “Combined Actions” which activate multiple formations at once with a generally helpful die modifier. Seeing as a single d6 is used, the BOT action is easy to resolve and usually consists of five “attack” choices and a “special events” which calls for another d6 roll. Combat in Waterloo Solitaire uses a single d6 and a straight-forward table. Hits are marked off unit boxes.

Victory in a battle of Waterloo Solitaire is also very straight-forward. The French player wins if any two Allied formations (Allied Left or Right Wings or Reserve) are destroyed. They lose if at the end of any turn if all the units from the French I or II Corps are marked out. When playing the Allies, victory comes if the Allied Right and Left Wings have ANY units remaining at the end of Turn 18 or if the French I and II Corps are destroyed.

Not wanting to mark up my Waterloo Solitaire book, I photocopied the map-side of the first scenario which is a French player against a “Challenging Allied BOT.” I quickly lost as I failed to reinforce my I Corps and lost the last unit in Turn 5. I quickly reset (photocopied a new sheet) and restarted. This time my French (barely) won on Turn 13 with the destruction of the Allied Left and Right Wings. The Prussians never arrived to the battle (never rolled a 6 for an Allied Action). In total, the first and second play of Waterloo Solitaire battle took about 20 minutes.

[As I was writing this post I looked closer at the 12 French scenarios and realized there are actually only three sets of four scenarios. Each “set” uses a slightly different BOT (“Challenging,” “Veteran,” or “Tough”)—you actually play each scenario four times in a set. The same goes for the 12 Allied battles. Honestly, that’s a slight disappointment but in retrospect not surprising. Developing six BOT tables may be all the game design can handle.]

To experiment with the different BOT challenges in Waterloo Solitaire I advanced to playing the French against the “Veteran” BOT. The battle was more of a near-run thing for the Prussians arrived and attacked my French I Corps late in the game. However, on the Hougoumont side of the battlefield II Corps with some reinforcements from the Reserve got the best of the Allied Right Wing and, after the Imperial Guard couldn’t finish the job, were exhorted by Napoleon himself to attack just one more time and rolled up the Allied Reserve on Turn 11 for the victory just as those pesky Prussians arrived in force.

Battling on my photocopied map; you don’t need 4d6

While the game mechanisms of Waterloo Solitaire are simple, it surprised me as the how much I was pausing to think about what units to activate. The designers were quite accurate when they said, “You make the decisions on the best way to pursue your strategy.” As the French you MUST attack but you also have to manage your reserves all while awaiting the blasted Prussians. As the Allied player you have to stall and await the arrival of the Prussians. Both sides demand playing with finesse.

Waterloo Solitaire is highly suitable to be added to my “Office-al” games collection as it is a perfect lunchtime pastime. The fact that each battle is fought more than once is not necessarily bad; as a player you now have multiple chances to explore the battles and the randomness of the BOT will very likely assure that no two games ever are the same.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tuesday #TravellerRPG – “Give me a fast ship, for I intend to go in harm’s way” with The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture (3rd Ed) fm @IndependenceG6 #CepheusEngine

One of the many reasons the Traveller RPG system keeps me coming back to it even after 40 years is the many “sub-games” that the system includes. Not only is character generation its own game, but other world building elements of the rules are games in their own right. One of the more important subgames in Traveller and the modern Cepheus Engine rules incarnations is ship design. The new third edition of The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture from John Watts at Independence Games is the ship design and advanced rules compilation for The Clement Sector (TCS) Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU).

Clement-ready

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture, 3rd Edition (hereafter referred to a A&F) is a 252-page, full color pdf. Author John Watts describes it as thus:

This updated third edition of Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture has been written for use within the Clement Sector setting. Clement Sector is a small ship setting, with restrictions on the size of starships bought about by the Zimm drive, the setting’s only means of FTL interstellar travel. Further, Clement Sector has an overall maximum technology level of 12 though some technology, notably computers are higher.

Even with these restrictions, the Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture can be used in any setting with the referee or designer simply substituting back element of those settings requirements or for that matter, any type of alternative setting-based guidelines wished. There is plenty of information in A&F to interest any referee or designer, including the pre-gravitic module, which allows for more detailed designs. I do hope you enjoy the book.

A&F, “Authors Note,” p. 20

John brings up a great point here; though these books might be sold under The Clement Sector setting label, A&F, like so many Independence Games products, is really “universal” in that you can use the rules beyond the house setting.

Modular

A&F is arranged in seven “Modules.” Several are familiar, some are setting specific, and others not what one might expect to see.

Module 1 of A&F is the Clement Sector version of Spacecraft Design. To many Traveller RPG or Cepheus Engine veterans this module should be very familiar. Just note that because the Clement Sector is a small-ship setting that Adventure-class ships top out at 1,800 displacement Tons (dT) and Capital Ships are no larger than 20,000 dT.

Module 2 of A&F should likewise be familiar as it is for Small Ship Craft (less than 100 dTons). There is also a provision to make “Drones” which is not just a remote control craft, but an autonomous vehicle.

Module 3 of A&F covers pre-gravitic drive spacecraft. For all you fans of The Expanse this is how you get close to building Rochinante! More realistically, this is a great module to use to build something like Odyssey from 2001: A Space Odyssey or even USS Sulaco from Aliens (better yet, check out HOSTILE from Zozer Games).

The pre-gravitic drive Trent-class is maybe my favorite design…

Module 4 of A&F is “Zimm Drive Alternatives.” While you might be tempted to this this is where you will find the “standard” Jump Drive of Traveller RPG you should be (delightfully) surprised to find “alternate” drive technologies like the Alcubierre Drive instead.

Module 5 of A&F is Advanced Space Combat. These are the rules for capital ship combat in the Clement Sector. Again, nothing really new here (hello High Guard) but the setting specific adjustments of technology can be inspiration of how to “fit” the classic Traveller RPG approach to technology levels into your personal campaign design.

Module 6 of A&F provides six sample spacecraft. All of these have appeared in previous Clement Sector products but all here are brought up to third edition standards. Which is to say if you have the “outdated” versions you can still play with them as the changes are not necessarily major.

Module 7 of A&F is one I don’t recall seeing before. “Module 7 – A Primer of Creating Deck Plans” provides guidelines and tips for drawing your own deck plans. For myself, I’ve been drawing deckplans for almost 40 years so I thought I didn’t need this module. However, after reading it I see lots of ways I can step up my personal deckplan game and make them more interesting without necessarily more work.

Non-Naval Architecture

As much as I love A&F, it is not without a few (minor) issues. Personally, I like a complete table of contents but really wish the pages were hyperlinked. Also, the ToC might be a good place to use two-column the print as the single column format is 20(!) pages long. The index is double-column, but again not linked. I know; small quibbles and, after all, in the pdf you just use the search function anyway, eh?

“Second Star to the Right, Straight on ’til Morning”

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture is the “round-out” book for the Clement Sector Third Edition core rule book. Taken together, players, referees, or designers now have everything (and I mean everything) they might desire to make their own adventures in the Clement Sector—or any small ship ATU setting of their choice.

I should also mention that purchasers of the first or second edition of A&F were given a coupon for a substantially discounted copy. If you were a previous buyer and can’t find you coupon LOOK HARD because the price is well worth it!

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SciFiFriday – Rediscovering @GerryAndersonTV Space: 1999 and thoughts of #TravellerRPG, #CepheusEngine, & other #TTRPG systems

This past Christmas, I gifted myself the new Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual (Post Breakaway Revised Edition) by Chris Thompson and Andrew Clements with illustrations by Chris Thompson. This nice coffee table book is published by Anderson Entertainment and is an “in-universe” book based on the 1970’s TV series Space: 1999.

I was but a wee lad, a bit less than 10 years old when Space: 1999 burst onto my TV screen (and it was a small screen, still black & white). Space: 1999 was cool—cool spaceships (Eagles forever!), cool uniforms, and cool science (not that it all made sense to young me). I took in the first season and remember being absolutely frightened out of my skin at the episode “Dragon’s Domain.”

Fan created trailer for “Dragon’s Domain”

I also remember being so confused at the second season of Space: 1999 with shapeshifting aliens and…well, better to forget that season.

So I did. Ever since then Space: 1999—Season 1 at least—continued to exist somewhere in my headspace. It helped that I had a few Space: 1999 toys like a die-cast Eagle and several models. In more recent years I “rediscovered” Space: 1999 and added UFO to the lore as well as the graphic novels. The RockyMountainNavy Boys helped me find new plastic models and kept my memories alive.

UFO Intro

Breaking Down the Breakaway Manual

It’s bigger on the inside (whoops, wrong British TV show…)

Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is a 272-page book formatted in a 9.5″x12″ hardcover. The cover illustration is a faintly lined Eagle Transporter that I wish was a bit easier to see. Inside, the Manual is organized into seven major sections (chapters):

  1. History and External Layout – I finally have a good description of of what my MPC Moonbase Alpha plastic model kit depicts
  2. Internal Layout – Covered in 73 pages (~25% of the Manual) this is a great mix of set photos and illustrations; many details I never noticed in the series
  3. Nuclear Waste – At first I was like, “huh?” but after reading I better understand why this essential story element gets the attention it does
  4. The Eagle Transporter – In many ways I love the Eagle Transporter over Star Wars vehicles and this chapter reminds me why (it also gives me details to help me paint up my other MPC model of the Eagle Transporter)
  5. Supplementary Craft – Much more here than I remembered; give me the Hawk Mk IX for the win!
  6. Uniforms & Equipment – What good sci-fi fan of the 1970’s didn’t have a jacket that looked a bit like one from Moonbase Alpha?
  7. Current Command Roster – Only later did I learn about how the production company, ITV, used international stars; I always though that Moonbase Alpha was simply “international” much like Star Trek was.

There are also two major Addendums covering “Alien Technology” and “Emergency Evacuation Operation Exodus.” Buried within individual chapters are other addendum boxes of relevant subjects.

[Warning – Spoilers Ahead] Sometime in the past decade I became aware of the connection between the TV universe of UFO and Space: 1999. I was really excited to see some connections in the Technical Operations Manual. What I appreciate the most about the connections is the secrecy; there are little references to UFO in the Manual like “the Straker Doctrine” but as a whole UFO is treated as, well, a secret. There are other nods too but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.

Generally speaking, my personal experience with “in-universe” background books based on pop culture intellectual property (IP) is mixed. In order to enjoy many IP-based productions I have to really, and I mean really, suspend my disbelief. Books like Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare (Jason Fry, Ballantine Books, 2012), which as a military veteran and wargamer I should have wholeheartedly embraced instead helped me realize that I am a science fiction fan that hems more towards “gritty” or “hard” sci-fi rather than “space fantasy” like Star Wars. All of which is a round-about way of saying the Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is much more “believable”—and enjoyable—than I expected.

Roleplaying Space: 1999

As I also play science fiction roleplaying games (RPG), “in-universe” books like this Technical Operations Manual serve as a great source of gaming inspiration. I have played the Traveller RPG (Marc Miller, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) since 1979 and science fiction RPGs are definitely my thing. As I look across my science fiction RPG collection, there are several different game systems that are candidates for use in a Space: 1999 RPG. Generally speaking, I look at each set of rules from the perspective of character generation, technology, and narrative support (story generation) when looking at how they might be used to create a Space: 1999 game.

Characters – When creating a character, most systems I am familiar with use careers. Moonbase Alpha is staffed by departments which might be a good starting point. The Manual tell us the different compartments are Command, Main Mission, Services, Flight, Technical, Medical, Science, and Security (pp 209-210). We also can see in the series the Space Commission (Politician?). If we expand our “canon” to include the 2012 Archaia Entertainment graphic novel Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe we also find other “careers” like the United Nations Coastguard using Eagle Transporters.

Courtesy goodreads.com

Technology – Space: 1999 is a near (alternate) future heavily grounded in technology we would recognize as our own. The major handwaves I see are nuclear fusion rocket engines, artificial gravity, and a hyper-light drive.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Although Space: 1999 the TV series was of the “adventure of the week” kind, different episodes covered many different genres and adventure types. A Space: 1999 RPG needs to be able to handle a wide range of story lines, from military to exploration to horror and more.

Cepheus Engine (Samardan Press, Zozer Games, Stellagama Publishing, 2016+)

The easiest approach to making a Space: 1999 setting might be to go to a near-cousin setting. Orbital 2100 by Paul Elliott from Zozer Games is a sublight, near future setting using the Cepheus Engine rules. Of course, Cepheus Engine itself comes in a few flavors (“Standard,” Light, and Quantum) but using the latest Cepheus Deluxe version as a starting point seems like a good place to jump from. Cepheus Deluxe has the advantage of being the rules set I am most familiar with, seeing how it traces it’s lineage all the way back to my first role roleplaying game, Traveller by Marc Milller from Game Designers’ Workshop (1977) which I first found in 1979.

Characters – No single rules set has the right combination of careers to represent Moonbase Alpha staff, but by synthesizing careers from Cepheus Deluxe, The Clement Sector Third Edition, and Hostile a fairly representative collection of careers and skill could be assembled.

Technology – Using Cepheus Deluxe, the “average” Tech Level (TL) is 8 to 9. To create the spacecraft of Space: 1999 will likely be a kludge of Cepheus Deluxe and Orbital: 2100 rules for sublight craft.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Cepheus Deluxe does not focus on a single genre of science fiction so it should be flexible enough to cover a diverse set of adventures.

Star Trek The Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983)

Going way back in my collection, I have the first edition FASA Star Trek Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983). Seeing how the characters in Star Trek are all academy grads (or at least Starfleet personnel) the similarities to the Space Commission Moonbase Alpha arrangements jump out.

Characters/TechnologyStar Trek assumes the characters are in the service after attending the academy and served prior terms to gain experience and rank. The various Departments in Star Trek map directly to Moonbase Alpha Departments though the skills will be different because of the different technology assumptions.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Like Space: 1999, episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series) were episodic. The game system is capable of handling most any genre, but is highly dependent on Game Master preparations.

The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Long forgotten, The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) is in many ways similar to Space: 1999. Overtly, both focus on characters on a “station” or “base.”

CharactersThe Babylon Project uses a concept-driven character generation system. Using the roster in the Manual, it’s possible to map most any character in terms of the Attributes/Skill/Characteristics which can be a good example of how to make a Moonbase Alpha character.

Technology/Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Technology takes a backseat in The Babylon Project. Instead, story comes to the front. Much like Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series to do a story arc, The Babylon Project gives advice on how to do the same for your adventures.

FATE Core (Evil Hat Publishing, 2013)

Another rules set that is a candidate for Space: 1999 is FATE Core from Evil Hat Productions (2013). FATE Core claims the game, “works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives” (emphasis in original). Character generation in FATE Core is not a lifepath or point buy system, but rather “concept” driven which I find a bit harder to imagine. The core mechanic, using FATE dice, is also more suited to “pulp” gaming than gritty or hard sci-fi. Technology is what you make of it.

GENESYS (Fantasy Flight Games, 2017)

A more recent game system that might be useful is Genesys: Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight Games (2017). Genesys powers FFG’s Star Wars Roleplaying Games series.

Characters – Character generation is a form of point-buy built around archetypes. The generic career list would have to be tailored, but there are many examples in the various Star Wars Roleplaying Game books to draw inspiration from.

Technology – Technology is again what you make of it. Unlike Cepheus Deluxe which tends to portray technology in “harder” sci-fi terms, in Genesys technology is there to aid the narrative.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Genesys is a highly narrative game system that again is suitable for many different genres of play.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin Publishing, 2019)

With some work, Green Ronin’s The Expanse Roleplaying Game (2019) may also be adapted.

Characters – The Professions list of The Expanse Roleplaying Game is not that far removed from Space: 1999.

Technology – Technology-wise the two settings are not all that far apart.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system uses a three different encounter types—Action, Exploration, and Social—for games that in some ways is very suitable for a Space: 1999 setting.

CORTEX Prime (Fandom Tabletop, 2021)

Another “generic” system that may prove useful is the CORTEX: Game Handbook (Fandom Tabletop, 2021). CORTEX comes in several flavors and different versions have powered the Serenity Role Playing Game (2005), Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (2007), Smallville Roleplaying Game (2010), Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game (2012), and Firefly Role-Playing Game (2014). The CORTEX Prime System described in the CORTEX: Game Handbook is highly modular and tailorable to genre and setting.

Characters – CORTEX Prime characters come with three Distinctions (Background, Personality, Role) and then a “Power Set.” Looking across the options, I feel a Power Set combining the Classic Attributes (Agility, Alertness, Intelligence, Strength, Vitality, Willpower) with “Roles” based on Department assignments may be a good starting point.

Technology – There are plenty of examples of how to define a piece of technology in the other CORTEX rule books.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – The different flavors of CORTEX can support different genres of adventure; CORTEX Prime attempts to synthesize those different play types under one rules set.

Which one should I work on first?


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 RPG CharGen Challenge – RPG roots with Traveller (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) #RPGThursday #TravellerRPG

Christmas 1979. While searching for presents I stumbled across a small store tucked away in the upper level of a now long-gone mall in the suburbs of Denver. The store—Fascination Corner. This little corner of heaven quickly became not only my fascination but my obsession. First it was wargaming, but then I found a small black box. My first RPG. My first RPG love. To this day my true RPG love.

How I love the simplicity of character generation in Classic Traveller. Quick and easy. Sure, most of the characters will be military veterans and combat will very likely be a way of life in their future, but what did we really expect from a wargame company when it made an RPG?

Do you know how to read the Universal Player Profile? The UPP was read using hexidecimal code from left-to-right; Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, Social Status. A factor of 7 was dead-average, 0 often meant dead and 15 was the top of the scale. Skill levels rarely exceeded 4.


Cyris Ozcar

  • UPP 9776B9
  • Age: 34
  • Retired Army Lt Colonel
  • Skills: Air/Raft-1, Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-3, Fwd Obs-1, Gun Cbt (Auto Pistol)-1, Tactics-2

Ozcar (original UPP 887499) might not of seemed the brightest guy around but he worked hard (low INT, High EDU). Due to his good DEXTERITY and EDUCATION he successfully joined the Army (DM+3). He survived his first term and was both commissioned and promoted (Rank 2). In his first term he built up his strength (STR +1) and learned how to handle a Cutlass (Blade Cbt-1) and Tactics (-2).

Reenlisting for a second term, Ozcar survived and was again promoted. He learned how to fly an Air/Raft (Air/Raft-1) and more Cutlass skills (Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-2. In his third term he was promoted again (Rank 4) and finally became proficient with a firearm (Gun Cbt (Auto Pistol)-1) and how to act as a Forward Observer (Fwd Obs-1).

Ozcar’s fourth term was a bit of a disappointment. He failed to promote and found time only to refine his Cutlass skills (Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-3). He also found he had lost a step (Aging, Dexterity -1). Deciding to Muster Out, he now faces the universe with 25,000 Credits to his name and a final bit of some education (+2 INT, +2 EDU).

Looking around, Lt. Colonel Ozcar seeks employment with a mid-tech mercenary unit where he figures his Tactics skills can be beneficial.


Feature image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/237846424043702509/

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Wednesday – An abstract wargame? WAR CHEST by @trevormbenjamin & @djackthompson from @alderac (2018)

Some things should be simple. For a long-time Grognard like myself I think I know a wargame when I see one. This past Christmas, the RockyMountainNavy Boys found a copy of War Chest by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson (AEG, 2018) and purchased it for me. I went to add it to my BGG GeekList of 2021 Acquisitions and quickly discovered that War Chest, despite having the word “war” in the title of this “game,” is not categorized by BGG as a “wargame.” No, BGG say War Chest is an “abstract.” You know, like Go or Chess.

(Photo by Raul Machado on Pexels.com)

Huh?

Fact is, War Chest is a “wargame” and one that Grognards should seriously consider including in their collection.

War Chest certainly fits most classic wargame definitions. The game is a psuedo-historical conflict simulation that involves combat, the board uses hexes, and units are represented by counters (though in this case the “counters” are nice heavy poker chips.). What’s missing is dice. Is that not enough to make War Chest not-a wargame?

It’s a wargame…

Now, I can see how some people—especially non-wargamers (i.e. most of BGG)—might want to declare War Chest an abstract game like Chess given the flavor text introduction:

In this simple chest is everything a leader needs to become a strategist and general. It will be seen as a game by the child but, in truth, is preparation for ruling the land and surviving the tests of battle that will surely come, when it is time to inherit your kingdom.

You hold in your hand a replica of this gift, a game of coins played by Kings, Queens, and Warriors.

War Chest, Inside Box Cover

[I have to wonder, though, if people never heard of Kriegspiel before. Must remember to keep my expectations of BGG in check…]

When it comes to the game mechanisms of War Chest I can see how some people might look at the bag-builder mechanisms as abstracted from real warfare. After all, we all just know that military commanders never have a “bag of tricks,” eh? I prefer to think of the bag as the Commander and their J-Staff. Sometimes you need to pull the J1 Admin to Recruit, or the J3 Ops to Move or Attack, or the J4 Supply to Bolster, or the J5 Plans to Claim Initiative or Deploy. Other times the Commander will take Control or dictate the use of a Tactic or even decide to do nothing and Pass. You even need to be a bit of your own J2 Intelligence and pay attention to what your opponent does to see their strategy, as well as use some deception (coins played face up/down) to execute your own plans.

Of course, a good commander plans ahead and makes sure the “staff work is done”—coins placed in the bag—so that the battle plan can be executed (coins played). That, of course, is the rub. For the more time you spend “planning” (building your bag) in War Chest the more locations your opponent seizes. So you have to plan just enough to keep ahead of your opponent. Sometime you must assume risk and forgo building your forces (bag?) and execute a plan (play coins). Most importantly, you have to understand the asymmetric strengths—and weaknesses—of your units (cards) and use them in a manner to maximize those strengths while minimizing their weaknesses (like…strategy!). Combat, which is simply the removal of a unit (coin) from the board, is abstracted with no need for a die roll compared to a Combat Results Table.

When it comes right down to it, War Chest is not very abstract. Everything you need do, yeah verily, everything you MUST do is right there in front of you and presented in a very direct manner. To win at War Chest is to command as though this game was a real war.

Nothing abstract about that!


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #Wargame #Boardgame @Kickstarter Update w/mentions of @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @AcademyGames @LederGames @SchilMil

With 2021 “in the books” I surveyed my outstanding preorders and Kickstarter list. At one point in 2021 this list reached maybe close to 30 titles; today it stands at 20. That’s not so much a testimony to late deliveries but more an accounting of how I cancelled out of more than a few.

P500

GMT Games is the top publisher in the wargame space. Last year I “acquired” 14 GMT Games products, almost as many as the next three publishers combined. Every month Gene sends his GMT Update with the status of the business. The monthly newsletter often (always?) includes at least one—often more—new games for the P500. For a while there I jumped in on whatever caught my fancy. After all, it’s “pledge now, pay later” so it don’t matter, right?

One of the products I acquired this past year was Panzer Expansion #1: The Shape of Battle – The Eastern Front, 2nd Printing. I pledged for this product sometime back in 2017, meaning it took nearly 4 years to fulfill, and then only because somebody decided that the entire Panzer line deserved a reprint regardless of the P500 pledge numbers (which Expansion Nr. 1 never had enough of to “Make the Cut”).

When the reprinting was announced I looked hard at what I had on order and that was when I started making cuts. The entire issue forced me to reconsider my entire approach to P500, preorders, and Kickstarter.

I recently paid close attention to the December 2021 GMT Games P500 GeekList on BGG. What shocked me is how long so many games have been on the list. Like five (5) years in some cases! There is actually one expansion that has been listed for almost 10 YEARS. Hey look, I love that P500 helps gets game published but the timeline is getting ridiculous.

Now, before all the rabid GMT Games fanboys get uppity (Harold, I’m watching YOU!) I realize it is not always GMT’s fault. For example, designer Brian Train of China’ War, 1937-1941 admitted in his end-of-the-year roundup:

China’s War 1937-41: Development screeched to a halt when I lost my gaming space to renos in summer 2020. In the fall of 2021 I developed a 1938 scenario for the game. I recently heard from the GMT developer who also got sidetracked on things, and work will begin again in early 2022. We hope to finish testing and development by the end of summer. Over 1,500 pre-orders now.

https://brtrain.wordpress.com

Of my 20 games on P500/Preorder/Kickstarter eight (8) are P500. Two might deliver in early 2022 and maybe one or two more by year’s end but all seven? No chance…

  • China’s War, 1937-1941 – My P500 since October 2019. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Next War Supplement #3 – My P500 since February 2020. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Red Storm: Baltic Approaches – My P500 since April 2020. At the Printer
  • Red Dust Rebellion – My P500 since October 2020. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Stuka Joe’s CDG Solo – My P500 since January 2021. At the Printer
  • Next War: Taiwan – My P500 since February 2021. Not There Yet
  • Panzer North Africa – My P500 since July 2021. Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development
  • Flashpoint: South China Sea – Had been on my P500 when first announced how many years ago? Put back on in Dec 2021 but if something needs to fall off this is the best candidate.

Now, I get the “desire” of GMT and the P500—Gene and company (and don’t forget, it is a COMPANY) are looking at where to invest their capital. My disappointment is that the P500 has become the “preorder fanboy cult” as many new games are quick to “make the cut” followed by no real commitment as to follow-on timelines.

Preorders

I presently have five (5) games on preorder all with Compass Games. Four of the five supposedly have a chance at releasing in 2022:

  • Blue Water Navy: World War III – The Pacific. Since September 2020. Now “late 2022”
  • Carrier Battles: Philippine Sea – Since September 2020. Now “mid -2022”
  • Eastern Front: Operational Battles – Since February 2021. No date scheduled
  • 2040: American Insurgency – Since February 2021. Now “late 2022”
  • Air & Armor: Operational Armored Warfare in Europe – Designer’s Signature Edition – Since February 2021. Now “late 2022”

Like GMT’s P500, Compass Games use preorders to measure interest. I (stupidly) hit the wrong button on a few and preordered—not pre-pledged—which means my money is paid. Now Compass has my money and I wait for my “interest” to be paid back in the form a game. Maybe Compass is better off going the Kickstarter route and taking my money just before production. Speaking for myself I certainly feel my money is being used better that way.

Kickstarter

There appears to be some major churn over just what Kickstarter’s NFT-related announcement really means. I can’t tell you because I can’t make sense out of it. The best explanations I have heard talk about a using blockchain not for monetary transactions but as some sort of new IT backbone. Practically speaking, I already feel I have too much Kickstarter exposure and am reluctant to back new projects. Exceptions will likely be with known publishers that use Kickstarter as their preorder mechanism (like Worthington Games and increasingly more Compass Games).

  • Reality Shift (Academy Games) – Funded December 2020 with a projected May 2021 delivery. Maybe mid-February 2022 according to Nov 2021 update…
  • Root: The Marauder Expansion + Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 (Leder Games)- Funded March 2021 with a projected January 2022 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Right now there are a number of scenarios with delivery dates ranging from late Q1 to mid Q2. We won’t have more specific guesses for at least another month.”
  • AuZtralia: TaZmania + AuZtralia: Revenge of the Old Ones (SchilMil Games) – Funded April 2021 with a projected November 2021 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Shipments have not yet been booked/confirmed, so I am waiting to hear an expected ETA for port arrivals”.
  • 2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games) – Funded July 2021 with a projected December 2021 delivery. Per December 2021 update – “Currently the game is in the production queue.”
  • Imperial Campaigns Series 1: The Boer War (Canvas Temple Publishing) – Funded September 2021 with a projected August 2022 delivery. Per November 2021 update Jon Compton has urgent family issues he must handle and will return to production as soon as possible.

That last update is important; family first. Yes, I want my game and, yes, it can’t get here soon enough but, yes, FAMILY FIRST.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

New Year 2022 brings #Wargame reorg and #TTRPG CharGen Challenge (mentions of @ADragoons, @alegisdownport & freelancetraveller.com)

Happy New Year!

The Year Ahead

Am trying to figure out what sort of (informal) gaming challenge/resolutions I want to make for the coming year. I already have the #TTRPG CharGen Challenge (see below). Youngest RMN is changing work schedules meaning that a return to Friday or Saturday Night Family Game Night is possible. The RMN Boys also want to host game nights for two other families. For myself, I really want to deep-dive into some wargames this year which is part of the reason I pulled several series games together (see below…again). I’m interested in experimenting with using those series games to create a story (wargame narrative).

I’m also going to try to write on a more regular basis for the Armchair Dragoons. I have a long piece I’ve been working on over the holiday. Not quite done yet…but close. I also want to submit some writing to #TravellerRPG sites like maybe @alegisdownport or freelancetraveller.com. For some reason, the most popular posts on this blog are often related to the Traveller RPG and not wargames.

For this blog, I’m going to try to focus on a couple of areas:

  • #Wargame Wednesday
  • #RPGThursday
  • #HistoryToWargame

2022 Order of Battle Update

I decided to reorganize my wargame shelves this weekend. Previously, my wargames were arranged by publisher-date of publication. While this had the advantage of making the shelves look neat (generally similar boxes/labels/sizes together) it also made it harder for me to see what “genre” of games I own. Where are all my air warfare games? Or the Panzer series? So I reorganized by era, combat domain, or series. While it doesn’t look as neat, it is easier for me to find different games.

Here is how I organized:

  • Eras (arranged chronologically within each era)
    • Pre- World War I
    • American Revolution
    • Napoleonics
    • American Civil War
    • World War I
    • Interwar
    • World War II
    • Korean War/Chinese Civil War/Vietnam
    • Modern Historical
    • Cold War Hypothetical
    • Science Fiction (arranged by “universe”)
  • Air/Naval Games (Air & Naval each arranged chronologically)
  • Series Games
    • Great War at Sea/Second World War at Sea-series
    • Panzer-series
    • Tank Duel-series
    • Wing Leader-series
    • Admiralty Trilogy Games
    • MBT-series
    • Fleet-series
    • South China Sea-series (includes predecessor Breaking the Chains)
    • Next War-series (includes predecessor Crisis: XXX games)
    • Commands & Colors-series

We’ll see how this works out for me in the new year.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games

I see there is a 31-day #charactercreationchallenge in the TwitterSphere. Making a new character every day in January is a bit much for me, but I made a 2022 Challenge for myself of RPGGeek to generate a new character at least once a week by going through my TTRPG collection from oldest to newest. So far I have 48 titles to work from. In the next few weeks expect to see the “retro era” roll out (heh heh) with Classic Traveller (GDW, 1977), Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1982), James Bond 007 (Victory Games, 1983), and Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game – 1st Edition (FASA, 1983).

Here’s wishing all of you a blessed New Year and may 2022 be joyful for you and your family.

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2021 #Wargame of the Year – or – Indian Ocean Empire at Sunrise Samurai versus North Africa Dark Summer Atlantic Chase with @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @hollandspiele @MultimanPub

As regular readers likely know, I am, always have been, and will very likely forever be a Grognard. My first real “game” was a wargame—Jim Day’s Panzer from Yaquinto Publishing—found under the Christmas tree in 1979. Over forty years later I still play wargames.

In 2021, I acquired 35 wargames and a further nine expansions. If the year had a theme, one might call it my ‘Retro’ year with the addition of “older” wargames like Charles S. Roberts’ TACTICS II from Avalon Hill (1973 edition) or The Battle of the Bulge from Avalon Hill in 1965 or Hitler’s Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge from Rand Games Associated in 1975 to my collection. The 1980’s also got some love with Fifth Corps: The Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda (SPI, 1980) and Drive on Frankfurt (Pacific Rim Publishing, 1987) as well as or The Hunt for Red October (TSR, 1988).

That said, I took in six titles this year that were published in 2021 and thus are candidates for my 2021 Wargame of the Year:

Atlantic Chase (Jeremy White, GMT Games) – Atlantic Chase is a very different wargame—in some ways too different for me. As much as I am a naval wargamer (look at my nickname!) this one didn’t click with me. At heart it’s a game of trajectories and time much more than locations. There are many out there who sing praises to the rule book but I found the 10-episode tutorial a bit much. (Status Update – SOLD!)

Atlantic Chase from GMT Games

Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles (GMT Games) – The latest installment in the Commands & Colors system. I keep thinking that C&C will reach the point that there can be “nothing new under the sun” but Samurai (pleasantly) surprised me. Controversial in some respects, some folks didn’t like the “magic” found on some of the cards. Personally, I found it highly thematic (magic is often used to describe something that is unknown or not understood) and the Honor & Fortune system just builds upon the themes of the game that much more.

Command & Colors: Samurai Battles (GMT Games)

The Dark Summer (GMT Games) – The Dark Summer is the latest installment in Ted Raicer’s Dark Series from GMT Games. I love the Dark Series as they use the chit-pull game mechanism that is very solo-friendly. In some ways The Dark Summer is the perfect balance between The Dark Valley (GMT Games, 2018) which is a mini-monster and The Dark Sands (GMT Games, 2018) which can be challenging to play given the two different map scales.

The Dark Summer (GMT Games)

Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea Vol. II (John Gorkowski, Compass Games) – Indian Ocean Region is the second installment in the modern operational-level war-at-sea series that in many ways is the spiritual successor to the Fleet- Series from the 1980’s. While I always loved the “Battle Game” of SCS/IOR, the political card game was less exciting, though I must admit it has grown on me with this version.

Indian Ocean Region (Compass Games)

Empire at Sunrise: The Great War in Asia, 1914 (Hollandspiele) – Another John Gorkowski title. Like so many Hollandspiele games this one can be a bit quirky. The telescoping scale of the game delivers an interesting view of the conflict.

Empire at Sunrise (Hollandspiele)

North Africa: Afrika Korps vs Desert Rats, 1940-42 (Multi-Man Publishing) – Released late in the year, this one barely makes the list. I’ve yet to explore this title too deeply but the Standard Combat Series version of the very popular Operational Combat Series (OCS) DAK looks to be yet another “playable monster” game.

North Africa (Multi-Man Publishing)

…and the winner is…

Empire at Sunrise.

Empire at Sunrise was released so early in the year it’s easy to forget. Also, not coming from from the larger GMT Games but tiny Hollandspiele it tends to get drowned out in the marketing and social media “talk.” Empire deserves attention because that telescopic scale takes what could be three separate games and relates them to one another to make a coherent story. It’s an interesting game design on an under-appreciated historical topic. While Hollandspiele may not deliver the production quality of a larger publisher, the games are perfectly functional and do what they are supposed to do; enable gaming, exploration, and learning.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0