Rocky Reads for #Wargame – Strategy & Tactics Nr. 82 (Sept/Oct 1980) -or- Grognard nostalgia (with a mention of @markherman54)

I recently acquired Jim Dunnigan’s wargame Fifth Corps: The Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda, Central Front Series, Volume 1 (Strategy & Tactics Nr. 82/SPI, Sept/Oct 1980) in a trade. This is the magazine version which came in the subject issue. As I was reading the rules for the game (still stapled inside the magazine) I started thumbing though the rest of the issue. Very quickly I found myself waxing nostalgic at much of the content. I stopped thumbing and started reading.

In late 1980 I was in 7th grade. I had been playing wargames for less than a year at this point and was heavy into my very first wargame, Jim Day’s Panzer from Yaquinto Publishing (1979). By this point I probably had the second game in the series, ’88’ (1980). I also surely had started playing the pocket edition of Star Fleet Battles (Task Force Games, 1979). This was also the start of my “serious’ military history reading, especially since my neighbor worked for Ballantine Books and monthly would throw a box of history books over the back fence into my yard. So when I open the pages of this issue of Strategy & Tactics it brings back many great hobby memories.

At the time this issue was published, I was just starting to read wargaming magazines. The $5.00 cover price for the issue was a bit steep for me. It would be another few years until I started making enough of my own money in chores that I could afford luxuries like an issue of Strategy & Tactics.

Full page ad on page 3 for Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game. Was this really a thing? I was huge into (now Classic) Traveller RPG but what was SPI thinking?

The feature article in this issue is “The Central Front: The Status of Forces in Europe and the Potential for Conflict by Charles T. Kamps, Jr. Mr. Kamps wrote more than a few articles for wargame magazines back in the day and I always thought they were well researched. The main article is rather short (four pages) but the added text boxes that follow are awesome and include:

  • Skeleton Order of Battle, Fulda Gap Battle Area
  • The Airborne Threat
  • Air Support (with an interesting aircraft readiness chart…boy those high-tech F-15s were difficult to maintain!)
  • The Big Picture: A Scenario for Invasion
  • The Miracle Weapons (TOW, other ATGMs, FASCAM)
  • Nuclear & Chemical Operations
  • The Prophets (with a shout out to Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War, August 1985 which I read religiously)

The last text call out box is “The Wargames” where Mr. Kamps relates results from “professional” wargames. The author lets us know what he thinks of these wargames when he concludes:

Having participated in Command Post Exercises in Europe wherein general officers and senior field grade officers accomplished their objectives by fraud, (e.g., map movement of mechanized units through impassable terrain; ignoring or defying umpire rulings on combat resolution; etc.), the author issues a caution to regard all “official” results with a degree of circumspection.

Charles T. Kamps Jr., “The Wargames,” Strategy & Tactics Nr. 82, p. 14

Hof Gap: The Nurnburg Pincer, Volume 2 of the Central Front series for only $9.95!

On page 17 is Volume 1, Number 1 of “For Your Information: A Wide Ranging Survey of Historical Data and Analysis.” This column would be one of my favorite parts of S&T in the future. These little factoids, an early version of a wargaming wiki, were awesome for me to read and store away. “FYI” contributed much to my military history historical knowledge.

I can almost remember looking at ads like the full-page spread on page 21 with wargames shown. To this day I still want to find a copy of NATO Division Commander: Leadership Under Fire (Jim Dunnigan, SPI, 1980). I would end up with a copy of Air War: Modern Tactical Air Combat by David C. Isby but it would be the 1983 TSR version. Likewise, the full-page spread of SPI science fiction/fantasy games also brings back memories, like playing my friend’s copy of Greg Costikyan’s 1979 game The Creature that Ate Sheboygan (near where my father grew up). I also see Commando (SPI, 1979) and StarSoldier (SPI, 1977) listed on these pages, both of which ended up in my game collection around this time too. Jim Dunnigan’s The Complete Wargames Handbook is also available for only $7.95.

I was surprised, but not surprised, to see the secondary feature article, “Across Suez: The Battle of Chinese Farm, October 15, 1973” was written by Col. Trevor Dupuy, USA, Ret.. Dupuy founded The Dupuy Institute and is the paragon of an operations research specialist. I would read several of Dupuy’s books through the years but I was not aware of this connection with SPI. In retrospect, it should be obvious to me. Christopher Lawrence, who worked at The Dupuy Institute with Col Dupuy, writes in War By Numbers (Potomac Books, 2017) about Dupuy and combat models in the 1970s:

By the early 1970s the models were being used to war game a potential war in Europe for the sake of seeing who would win, for the sake of determining how we could structure our forces better, and for the sake of determine what supplies and other support were needed to sustain this force on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

This development of models created a need to understand the quantitative aspects of warfare. While this was not a new concept, the United States suddenly found itself with combat modeling structures that were desperately in need of hard data on how combat actually worked. Surprisingly, even after 3,300 years of recorded military history, these data were sparse.

It was this lack of hard data on which to base operational analysis and combat modeling that led to the growth of organizations run by Trevor N. Dupuy, such as the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO). They attempted to fill the gap between modeling communities’ need for hard data on combat operations and the actual data recorded in unit records of the combatants, which required some time and skill to extract. It was an effort to integrate the work of historians with these newly developed complex models of combat.

Lawrence, War By Numbers, p. ix-x

Interestingly, the advertisement for the related wargame, Across Suez: The Battle of Chinese Farm October 15, 1975, shows it is designed by some guy named Mark Herman. I have to wonder what sort of conversations Mark had with Col Dupuy when designing this game. Seeing how Mr. Herman went on to lead a major defense contractor’s wargaming effort (not to mention all the wonderful games he has designed) I am interested as to the degree of influence the Colonel had on him.

I really enjoyed the “Gossip” column and all the name dropping. There is talk of the new and amazing Ace of Aces (Gameshop, 1980) with “no counters and no map.” I remember this game very fondly as my friends and I would play endless rounds on the school bus going to to/from middle school. Star Fleet Battles also gets a mention along with the forthcoming Federation Space (Task Force Games, 1981) which I would purchase.

Then there is this little snippet—”In the role-playing corner of the world, Chaosium is working on a role-playing game on H.P. Lovecraft’s work.” How little did we all know that Call of Cthulhu would still be going strong 40 years later!

I even found some early Satanic Panic reporting in this issue:

“These books are filled with things that are not fantasy but area actual in the real demon world and can be very dangerous for anyone involved in the game because it leaves them open to Satanic spirits.” Guess what they are talking about. Right. Dungeons & Dragons. It seems there is trouble in Heber, Utah. The Mormons are in an uproar over the game and, in fact, the state legislature is debating banning the game. “D&D banned in Utah” read the headlines next week, and up will go sales again. It is also rumored that a Christian organization forced a Phoenix store to withdraw D&D from sale. Something about it coming from Satan and working with the Anti-Christ. It’s probably all a Communist plot anyway. Oh, they said that too?

“Gossip,” Strategy & Tactics Nr. 82, p. 35

I was surprised to find David C. Isby reviewed Warship Commander 1967-1987: Present Day Tactical Naval Combat and Sea Command: Present-Day Naval-Air and Anti-Submarine Warfare. Both games were by Ken Smigelski and published by Enola Games in 1979 and 1980, respectively. I have these two books and for a while they were a direct competitor to Harpoon (now from Admiralty Trilogy Games) in my collection. I like how Dave Isby characterizes Warship Commander; “This book presents a study of modern naval surface combat set up in the format of wargame rules, aimed primarily at miniatures play but easily adaptable to boardgame format.” He goes on to say, “The book is a thorough, detailed simulation of a fascinating subject, and is worthy of comparison with the best boardgames.” On Sea Command he states, “Sea Command is an eduction in modern naval combat in wargame form.” Yes, I know!

Looking across the “Games Rating Chart” I find several games I either owned or would own in the next few years:. As much as we talk about the Golden Age of Wargaming being dominated by SPI or Avalon Hill I see more than a few other companies listed here with Yaquinto being a personal favorite:

The back page of this issue has an advertisement for For Your Eyes Only, a military affairs newsletter I actually subscribed to for a while. There is also an advertisement for a new bi-weekly newsletter by a guy named Richard Berg who was starting a new publication, Richard Berg’s Reviews of Games.

In many ways I feel lucky to find this particular issue of Strategy & Tactics. There were so many great games talked about within these pages that I am personally associated with. It’s great to see where the wargming hobby was in late 1980 when my hobby journey was just starting.

#RPG Thursday – From The Winds of Gath to #TravellerRPG

Role-playing games didn’t just spring up from nothingness. The most famous RPG, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) had it’s root in science fiction and fantasy literature. The famous D&D Appendix N gives readers a listing of some of those sources. Likewise, the Traveller RPG drew from science fiction, but there has never been an “official” counterpart to Appendix N. Some fans have built their own. For myself, I prefer to read some of the Golden Age of Science Fiction stories and find connections. So it was that I picked up The Winds of Gath, the first story in E.C. Tubb’s Dumarest of Terra Saga. First published in 1967, there are direct connections to elements found in Marc Miller’s 1977 Little Black Book editions of the role-playing game Traveller.

The Winds of Gath

“What’s it like being a traveller?”

‘I mean, what do you get out of it?’

His eyes were curious and something else. Dumarest had seen it so often before, the look of the stay-put to the mover-on. They all had it and the envy would grow. Then, as the prison of their ship began to close in, that envy would sour into hate. That’s when a wise traveller waited for another ship.

‘It’s a way of life,’ said Dumarest. ‘Some like it, some don’t. I do.’

‘How do you go about it? What do you do between trips?’

‘Look around, get a job, build another stake for passage to somewhere else.’

The Winds of Gath, Chapter 1

Note how E.C. Tubb uses the double-L version of traveller, just like Marc Miller would. This short exchange summarizes the essentials of any Traveller adventure, especially the early version found in the Little Black Books that were mostly rules and very light on setting. Get a job. Build a stake. Move on.

Cold Sleep

Dumarest sat hunched in the box as Benson crossed to the dispenser. He wrapped his arms about his chest, conscious of the cold, the bleakness of the compartment. The place resembled a morgue. A chill, blue-lighted cavern, the air tainted with a chemical smell. A low place, shapeless with jutting struts and curved beams, harsh with the unrelieved monotony of unpainted metal.

There was no need for heat in this part of the ship and no intention of providing comfort. Just the bare metal, the ultraviolet lamps washing the naked coffin-like boxes with their sterilising glow. Here was where the livestock rode, doped, frozen, ninety per cent dead. Here was the steerage for travellers willing to gamble against the fifteen percent mortality rate.

Such travel was cheap–its sole virtue.

The Winds of Gath, Chapter 1

In Classic Traveller, when a Traveller is awakened from Low Passage there is a basic saving throw of 5+ on 2d6 (Book 1 Characters and Combat, p. 21). That works out to an 83% chance of survival – or 17% chance of dying. You want to boost your chances? Have an attending medic (“DMs: Attending medic of expertise 2 or better, +1).

‘I haven’t lost one yet,’ boasted the handler. ‘That’s why you had me worried. I’ve got a clean score and I want it to stay that way.’

It wouldn’t, of course. Benson was still fresh at the game. Give him time and he would become less conscientious, more time and he would grow careless, finally he wouldn’t give a damn. That’s when some of his kind thought it cute to cut the dope and watch some poor devil scream his lungs raw with the agony of restored circulation.

The Winds of Gath, Chapter 1

Travel the Traveller Way

Further off and to one side, on some high ground well away from the danger of the field and the smell of the camp, sat a prim collection of prefabricated huts and inflatable tents. There sat the money and comfort money could provide–the tourists who travelled High, doped with quick-time so that a day seemed like an hour, a week a day.

Those in the camp had travelled like Dumarest–Low. Those who rode Middle stayed with the ships which were their home.

The Winds of Gath, Chapter 1

Book 1 Characters and Combat on page 21 laid out the three classes of travel:

  • “High Passage – Includes first class accommodations and excellent cuisine.” CR (Credits) 10,000
  • “Middle Passage – Includes second class accommodations (though still reasonably good quality) and passable quality food and drink.” CR 8000
  • “Low Passage – Involves travel in cryogenic (cold sleep, or suspended animation) capsules, and the traveller is unconscious for the course of the journey.” CR 1000

Better Living Thru Chemistry

We already noted that High passengers used “quick-time” to speed up the perception of time. In the chapter “Drugs” in Book 2 Starships we find “Fast Drug:” “Fast Drug is named because it makes the universe (to its user) appear to move much more quickly; the drug slows down personal metabolism at a ration of approximately 60 to 1″ (Book 2, p. 38).

The opposite of Fast Drug is Slow Drug. Again, we find this in The Winds of Gath:

‘You said that you know what you are doing but few have used slow-time in the conscious state. The dangers are too great. It isn’t just a matter of living faster, you know.’

‘I know.’

‘I hope that you do.’ She handed him a small bag. “These glucose tablets might help. You’re going to need all the energy you can get. Unconscious you’d be no problem; I could supply intravenous feeding and your energy-demand would be relatively low. Conscious…’ She broke off. ‘Well, you know about that. Just remember that the square law comes into effect on food requirements and everything else.’

….

He felt nothing, not even the air-blast carrying the drug into his bloodstream, but, with shocking abruptness, the universe slowed down. It hadn’t, of course. It was just that his own metabolism, reflexes and sensory apparatus had suddenly begun operating at almost forty times the normal rate. The danger lay in accepting the illusion of a slowed universe as reality.

The Winds of Gath, Chapter 14

In Classic Traveller a Slow Drug accelerates the users metabolism to twice the normal rate. Not quite the “forty times” in The Winds of Gath but the essential element of the drug’s effect is there.

1 of 1001 Characters

Classic Traveller Supplement 1 1001 Characters included nine characters drawn from science fiction. Although not identified in that supplement, the later Supplement 4 Citizens of the Imperium called them out. Here is Earl Dumarest (warning – minor spoilers):

  • Homeless Wanderer
  • BFCA98 / Age 34
  • Cr – 0 to 100,000
  • Blade-6, Most other edged weapons-4, Most guns-4, Streetwise-3, Steward-2, Pilot-1, Tactics-3, Leader-3
  • This individual habitually carries a blade or dagger and wears mesh. Raised on a tramp trader, he now wanders the galaxy alone, searching for the home he left as a youth.
  • In the course of his travels, he has acquired the formula to the affinity twin, a chemical that, when ingested by two beings (animals, persons, etc) allows one to occupy and control the other. The occupation ends with the death of one of the individuals.
  • Incidentally, he is pursued by nefarious forces that want this formula.

Reading for Roleplaying…or #Wargame? – The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity by Jon Peterson (@docetist) – or – I’m a Munchkin Grognard (#RPG #TravellerRPG)

My first role-playing game (RPG) was Traveller from game Designers’ Workshop back in 1979. In the same little store where I discovered my first wargame, Panzer by Jim Day from Yaquinto Publishing (1979), I found a small, very plain black box with three Little Black Books inside. So started my RPG adventures which would parallel my wargame experiences. As I was a solid military history reader and generally avoided fantasy science fiction in those days I never felt the urge to play Dungeons & Dragons like a few of my friends. But that was OK; we played the heck out of Traveller for RPGs and Star Fleet Battles (Task Force Games, 1979+) for wargaming back in those days. All of which means I entered the world of RPGs without realizing that I was amongst defining moments of the hobby. The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity by Jon Peterson provides a “lost” history of how Dungeons & Dragons and other games came to define a new genre of gaming – the role-playing game.

As Peterson points out, Dungeons & Dragons (1974) did not call itself a role-playing game. Indeed, the cover stated it was, “rules for fantastic medieval wargames campaigns” (Peterson, 15). Starting from this observation, Peterson in The Elusive Shift takes the reader on a historical survey of how role-playing games came to be defined; or, as Mr. Peterson says:

It is not the ambition of this study to settle on a tidy dictionary defintion of role-playing game but instead to show historically how the game community came to grapple with agreeing on one.

Peterson, The Elusive Shift, p. 19

A Munchkin Grognard Traveller Perspective

Like I already stated, my first foray into RPGs was through Traveller, not D&D. At the same time I was entering the wargaming hobby. Forty years later I consider myself a wargame Grognard, that of an “Old Guard” of players who have been involved in the hobby a long time. So it was interesting to realize that in RPG terms of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that I was a “munchkin.” As Peterson relates:

It was around this time that the pejorative term munchkin entered the role players’ vocabulary. The Wargamer’s Encyclopedic Dictionary (1981) defines a munchkin as “a young wargamer, generally under 14 or 16 years of age,” in contrast to a grognard, “a wargamer who has been in the hobby a very long time.”

Peterson, The Elusive Shift, p. 232

As I was 12 years old when I got my first wargame and RPG, I was actually a very young munchkin which is probably why I missed out on so much of the background fighting over what the RPG hobby was; I simply did not have the money to subscribe to all those newsletters or magazines where the discussion was taking place! Even if I did subscribe, as a sixth-grader the discussion may even had gone right over my head (figuratively and literally).

Through reading The Elusive Shift I also came to discover just how much of an influence Traveller has on my definition of an RPG. Peterson goes so far to call Traveller a “transcending design” (p. 173) and devotes an Intermezzo in his book to the game. Since Traveller was my first, and for several years my only, RPG* when I read the “rules” I accepted them as “the way” without question. Peterson points out that how one plays Traveller is a matter of player preference; “There are three basic ways to play Traveller: solitaire, scenario, and campaign. Any of these three may be unsupervised (that is, without a referee; the players themselves administer the rules and manipulate the situation” (Traveller Book 1, p. 3). To this day I have no problem playing an RPG solo; it has always been an option from the beginning. I also have no problem setting up a one-shot scenario or digging into a campaign. Again, that has always been “just the way it is.” I also was very happy to see Jon Peterson call Traveller, “perhaps one of the most adaptable of the designs of the 1970s” (p. 173) though he says that because the game exemplifies the extremes of both open-ended (with a Gamemaster) and close-ended (no referee) systems. Without trying to ignite an “Edition Wars” argument discussion here I’ll just say that these days I am very happy with the Cepheus Engine version of Traveller which is very similar to the original Little Black Books Classic Traveller from decades ago.

In The Elusive Shift Peterson shows how Dungeons & Dragons grew out of both the wargaming and science fiction fan communities. Again, as I entered both genres of hobby gaming at the same time I didn’t really see any “legacy” issues . All of which means I never really got into the whole “D&D is a wargame” controversy discussion because RPGs and wargames were always two related-yet-distinct facets of hobby gaming to me.

To this day, the wargame community constantly grapples with the age-old question “What is a wargame?” Heck, even I took a stab at answering that question in an episode of the Mentioned in Dispatches podcast for the Armchair Dragoons. Peterson’s The Elusive Shift shows us how a closely related community grappled with a very similar defining issue. This book won’t give wargamers an answer to their question but it certainly can promote understanding of how the RPG community came to some agreement.

Coming together. In agreement. What a novel concept!

Citation

Peterson, Jon, The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2021 (Apple Books electronic edition)


*I’m not sure what my second RPG was, but it may have been Commando by SPI (1979) which Peterson notes is both a wargame AND and RPG. I know my copy has marked up charts where we tried to convert Commando tables for use in our Traveller activities. Behind Enemy Lines (1st Edition, FASA 1982) is clearly my next RPG after Traveller, though some might argue that it is more a skirmish-level wargame adventure guide than a “true” RPG.

#SundaySummary – From Kursk to Karelia to No Motherland Without; complete Scythe, Dicing with @ADragoons, Cepheus Engine, and too much Kickstarter #wargame #boardgame #TravellerRPG

Wargames

Still working on my Kursk Kampaign reading. Have gotten through July 12, 1943 and am now looking at my tactical armored combat wargames like Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel 3rd Edition (Academy Games, Panzer (GMT Games), or Blood & Thunder (GDW) to see how they approach the the first part of the offensive and especially the signature Battle of Prokharovka.

At the same time I am exploring my newest Standard Combat Series (SCS) title from Multi-Man Publishing, Karelia ’44: The Last Campaign of the Continuation War (2011). So far it’s pretty “bog-standard” SCS with the added splash of “The Boss’s Patience” rules which vary game length. More to follow!

Boardgames

My copy of No Motherland Without from Compass Games was supposed to ship this week. I don’t have a shipping notice yet so I hope it’s on the way. It arrived! It may have spent the night out on the porch. Did I accidentally order the “Frozen Chosin” edition?

My corrected copy of Scythe Complete Rulebook (Stonemaier Games) arrived this week. The major changes were in the Automa for solo play. Using the Automa for solo play was a part of the Scythe design I have shied away from; maybe that needs to change?

Check out another episode of Mentioned in Dispatches podcast from Armchair Dragoons where we talk about dice for over an hour. Did we have a purpose for the podcast, or was this just a good ‘ole bullshat session?

Roleplaying Games

Issue #4 of Cepheus Journal is out. If there is one thing I find interesting about this issue is the range of settings that are using the Cepheus Engine rules. I mean there is everything from classic space opera to more hardish sci-fi to historical to fantasy to modern. This issue may be the best one yet showing off the versatility of Cepheus Engine.

Kickstarter

Lot’s of wargame content being offered with closing dates before the end of the month; so much so I can’t possibly back them all:

Pro Wargame Reading Recap

Via Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko)New Defense Science Board report on state of US military gaming, exercises, simulations. –>”strategic gaming has become a rarely employed tool for analyzing today’s larger and longer term challenges.”

Via Major General Mick Ryan (@WarintheFuture) An awesome Friday #PME read – #Strategy, #War, and the Relevance of Carl von Clausewitz, from the Military Strategy Magazine.

Via designer Brian Train“Commercial Wargames and Experiential Learning” by Roger Mason PhD.


Feature image from Team America: World Police

#SundaySummary – My Kursk Kampaign with @RBMStudio1, Standard Combat with @MultiManPub, Going Social with @consimworld, a Dice-y Podcast with @ADragoons, and Going West with @IndependenceGa6

Wargames

I continue to work on my Kursk Kampaign History-to-Wargame (or is it Wargame-to-History?) project. This is a special series I am working on to look at the Battle of Kursk using both books and wargames. The “core wargame” I am using is Trevor Bender’s Battle for Kursk: The Tigers are Burning, 1943 from RBM Studio as found in C3i Magazine Nr. 34 (2020). I don’t know if the series will feature here or at Armchair Dragoons yet.

Multi-Man Publishing found some wayward stock in their warehouse. Good for me because I was able to pick up another Standard Combat Series title; Karelia ’44: The Last Campaign of the Continuation War (2011). As with every SCS game, I am interested in the “gimmick” rule; in this case the “Boss Point” system which varies game length.

Do you know that ConSimWorld has a new social site? I’m trying it but am really unsure. I can be found there as (you might of guessed) RockyMountainNavy. What do you think?

Boardgames

Not a very busy boardgaming week except for recording an episode of Mentioned in Dispatches for the Armchair Dragoons. Look Listen for the episode to drop next week. In the meantime check out my meager dice collection here.

My pre-order for No Motherland Without by Dan Bullock from Compass Games should be shipping next week. As a guy who spent nearly 1/3 of my military career on the Korean peninsula to say I am “interested” in this title is an understatement.

Role Playing Games

I’m not really into Western RPG’s but I am sure tempted with the release of Rider: A Cepheus Engine Western from Independence Games. I love what John Watts has done in The Clement Sector setting for his Alternate Traveller Universe and am sure he has brought the same level more love to this setting. Here is how he described Rider in a December blog post:

Rider will use the Cepheus Engine rules as a base with modifications made to fit with the “Old West” setting. Rider will draw inspiration from both fictional and historical Western lore but will definitely side with fictional portrayals. To paraphrase Larry McMurtry (who was misquoting “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”), we will be “printing the legend”.

Books

As part of my Kursk Kampaign series this week I read parts of The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House (University of Kansas Press, 1990) and The Battle of Prokhorovka: The Tank Battle at Kursk, The Largest Clash of Armor in History by Christopher A. Lawrence from Stackpole Books (2017).


Feature image nolimitzone.com

#RPG Thoughts – Looking at “extra” rules in @FFGames Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Deep in my heart I am a Traveller roleplaying game fan. The RockyMountainNavy Boys, and especially the Middle Boy, are Star Wars fans and more into the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Roleplaying Game line. As I am the one called upon to Game Master (GM) sessions I feel I need to “keep up” with the rules. Seeing how a recent trip to the FLGS resulted in the purchase of a new book I decided I needed to “review the holdings” to see what I can learn to help make our sessions more enjoyable.

In reviewing the books onhand, I focused not so much on the new character classes or equipment or vehicles like the RMN Boys do. Instead, I turned to the later pages in the book which gives the GM advice on running campaigns in that book’s setting.

Edge of the Empire

Edge of the Empire is the preferred era of the RMN Boys. So these books offer the rules that the RMN Boys “expect” to see the most. I found some of the extra rules useful, and some less so.

  • Enter the Unknown: A Sourcebook for Explorers – Features rules for “Grand Expeditions” and exploration; not very appealing to the RMN Boys
  • Suns of Fortune: A Sourcebook for the Corellian Sector – The RMN Boys are absolute Han Solo fans so in many ways this is their sourcebook but for the GM it lacks featuring rules for Modular Encounters (blah)
  • Dangerous Covenants: A Sourcebook for Hired Guns – The RMN Boys like the Bounty Hunter and Hired Guns classes and all their equipment so the rules for “Paramilitary Vehicle Conversions” are awesome; for the GM “Cinematic Combat” is a way to speed up battle resolution (+)
  • Far Horizons: A Sourcebook for Colonists – The RMN Boys got this one again for the interesting mix of equipment and weapons; for the GM “Making Social Encounters Interesting” is a very useful section (+)
  • Fly Casual: A Sourcebook for Smugglers – This is a “core” book for the RMN Boys; for the GM there are lots of useful rules like revised Hyperspace Travel, Con Jobs and Scams, Heists and Break-Ins, Showdowns and Shootouts, and Gambling (ok….)
  • Special Modifications: A Sourcebook for Technicians – Another weapon and equipment heavy book; for the GM the Crafting rules and Slicing are useful (ok?)
  • No Disintegrations: A Sourcebook for Bounty Hunters – The second “core” book for the RMN Boys; for the GM the “Investigations” seems a bit out of place but is still useful when hunting a bounty (ok).

Age of Rebellion

Like any military-oriented RPG, Age of Rebellion strains under the stress of running a group of free-thinkers that is supposedly under military discipline.

  • Stay on Target: A Sourcebook for Aces – For the GM the section on Astromechs is useful for world-building flavor as is Dogfight Terrain but the whole Beast Riding seems out of place though I understand the similarities in “mounts” being a fighter OR a beast (??)
  • Forged in Battle: A Sourcebook for Soldiers – Here the writers of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game make an attempt to address the many issues that surround playing a military team in an RPG; useful GM rules cover “Strike Missions,” “Soldier Campaigns,” “Fortifications,” and different “Combat Environments” (I’ll just adapt the Mercenary rules from Traveller here)

Force and Destiny

Personally, I tend to try and keep our Star Wars Roleplaying Game campaigns to what I term “low Force;” I generally use the Force as introduced in Edge of the Empire and try to stay away from the “Lightswords & Wizards” found in Force and Destiny.

  • Keeping the Peace: A Sourcebook for Guardians – Not much here for the GM but the RMN Boys like the rules for Armor crafting (meh)
  • Endless Vigil: A Sourcebook for Sentinels – Once again, the Boys look to “Lightsaber Crafting” whereas I, the GM, study Urban Environments or Contact Networks; need to check how these Investigation rules mesh – or not – with the Investigation rules in EotE No Disintegrations and pick the one I like to run (ok…).

Multi-Era Books

This is the recently purchased book that spurred this exploration. Rise of the Separatists: An Era Sourcebook focuses on the Clone Wars TV series which the Boys absolutely enjoyed but I kinda passed on. That said, the rules for “Running Large Battles,” which is different from mass combat rules found in Age of Rebellion, and the “Optional Rules: Fighting in Squads and Squadrons” may be useful.

Putting It All Together

At the end of the day I’m content with falling back on pure GM skills and not being closely tied to an “official” mechanical implementation. I find this approach especially useful in a more-narrative RPG like the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. I’m comfortable with looking at a Player Character’s characteristics, skills, and attributes and letting the player explain how they are doing something and make a roll. After that we one can use the narrative results of the die roll to keep the story moving! Honestly, the only real rules a GM needs to know is the core mechanic in Star Wars Roleplaying Game. That said, the many “extra” rules can be helpful in creating a setting that the players buy into.

I’ll point out here that when we play, I try to stay away from close ties with canon; I prefer to place our adventures away from iconic characters and events and will only use them, if at all, in a brief passing encounter more to remind the characters about some aspect of the Star Wars universe than to try to change it. Hey, it’s a big galaxy out there with plenty of room for stories away from canon!


Feature image Rise of the Separatist: An Era Sourcebook from Fantasy Flight Games

DICE! An @ADragoons Mentioned in Dispatches Podcast Special (Advance) Edition #Wargame #Boardgame #RoleplayingGame

I will be recording a special episode of the Armchair Dragoons Mentioned in Dispatches podcast in the very near future where we will discuss dice in gaming. At the risk of looking like a poser (because I know I am far from a true dice fanatic) I’m posting my dice collection for reference during the episode – and (hopefully) for your viewing pleasure.

The 2021 RockyMountianNavy Dice Collection

2021 RMN Dice Collection (Photo by RMN)

Role Playing Games

Traveller5 Dice – Very chunky and heavy at 19mm; careful rolling these on a tabletop! (Photo by RMN)
Fantasy Flight Games GENESYS (aka Star Wars Roleplaying) – Specialized dice (Photo by RMN)
Evil Hat FATE Dice – look to be 16mm sized (Photo by RMN)

Gamescience

My GameScience Collection – Do YOU believe the hype? (Photo by RMN)

Sirius Dice

A relative newcomer – Tube ships with 7 polyhedral plus an extra d20; this is the “Spades” set with a lone spade in place of the 1 on the d20 (Photo by RMN)

Chessex Collection

12mm (left) and 16mm (right) for lots of wargaming use (Photo by RMN)
I actually bought these to replace the black and white dice in Blue Water Navy (Compass Games) because I wanted the “proper” Blue for NATO and Red for the Warsaw Pact (Photo by RMN)
More Chessex sets – Occasionally called upon for various roleplaying games or wargames (Photo by RMN)
Hey, wait a moment…haven’t I seen these before? I must really like that color…. (Photo by RMN)

Common Dice

“Acquired” over the years…I don’t think my parents were left with a game that had dice inside the box. These are the larger ones (16mm) (Photo by RMN)
More “acquired” or orphaned dice. Top right are 16mm, bottom row is 12mm. More on the colorful ones in the upper left in a moment (Photo by RMN0
Some real castoffs – The top are small (~10mm or smaller) but the larger is a 2-4-8-16-32-64? The bottom are older d10/d20 which are some of the oldest gaming dice in my collection (Photo by RMN)
Microdice acquired from those pocket collectible construction games (12mm for scale) (Photo by RMN)
This is one of those “collections” found in a discount store; useful for experimenting or prototyping games (Hmm…how could I use this Jack die in Advanced Squad Leader?) (Photo by RMN)

“Special” Dice

When you need d6 for a space-themed game; I actually dislike the way they (literally) roll (Photo by RMN)
My Star Fleet Battles Dice (Photo by RMN)

Dice Accessories

Dice bags – Alas, I don’t actually have a Crown Royale bag but I do use that smaller HP mouse bag for travel (Photo by RMN)
Dice Tower – Mine’s a bit small (but perfect for 12mm or 16mm). Unfortunately the Games Tavern is no longer in business (Photo by RMN)
My well-worn 10″ dice tray with 19mm, 16mm, and 12mm dice shown (Photo by RMN)
My BBO Poker Table Portable Poker Party Mat – World Traveler 35″x70″ – Now I can safely roll those chunky 19mm dice on Mrs. RMN’s nice dining table! (Photo by RMN)

I’ll Take My Chances

Since 2d6 is so common in wargaming, it is helpful to understand the odds when rolling. Marc Miller in the rules for the Traveller 5 RPG goes way into depth on the the topic with an entire appendix, The Dice Tables.

The Dice Tables appendix from Traveller 5.10 Core Book 1 – Characters and Combat

As quick as many people are to dismiss the Traveller 5 RPG (“too complex” is a very common remark) there is lots of good design inspiration within what is admittedly more a toolkit than a simple set of rules. One dice use that has inspired me elsewhere is Flux where you use 2d6 to create results from -5 to +5. Useful for a random modifier? Hmm….

Flux from Traveller 5.10 Core Book 1 – Characters and Combat

Not Shown

My dice collection shown above EXCLUDES dice that come in the many games sitting on my shelf. Within those many boxes I can find everything from the standard d6 to d10 and even the occasional d20. I also have specialized dice like the Battle Dice in the Commands & Colors series from GMT Games, Compass Games, or Days of Wonder. There is also the specialty dice found in the Birth of America/Europe series from Academy Games. Heck, even the latest Conflict of Heroes game from Academy Games, Storms of Steel, uses a specially marked d10. Even Root (Leder Games) has a special combat die.

Which raises an interesting question I hope we dig into during the episode; What is the best use of dice in a wargame? The hobby started with the d6. Once RPGs came along the d20 became popular which actually led to the availability of polyhedral die like the d10 (where 2d10 can actually make a d100). Some wargames replace dice with cards (for example see Tank Duel! from GMT Games) while others make the d6 the centerpiece of the game (Table Battles from Hollandspiele). Lowered manufacturing costs also allows publishers to enable designers to use special dice (Commands & Colors, etc). What do you think the future of dice are in wargaming?

#SundaySummary – From Scaling New Heights to a Grand Flop shoutouts to @MultiManPub, @compassgamesllc, @Bublublock #wargame #boardgame #RPG

Wargame

Game of the Week

I pulled out the Standard Combat Series (SCS) title Heights of Courage: The Battle for the Golan Heights, October 1973 (MMP, 2013) this week for my deep play. Spoiler Alert – I still like SCS titles! More detailed thoughts are the subject of a #WargameWednesday post in the future.

Courtesy MMP

The Grand Flop

Before I played Heights of Courage I pulled out Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete (Multi-Man Publishing, 2017). This is a Grand Tactical Series (GTS) game that I bought last year in the MMP ‘Back from COVID” sale. I had played it before and wanted to try again. Alas, it’s just too much.

I tried one of the Operation Mercury smaller scenarios; the first one in fact. After finding the right counters (because this scenario uses a special set of counters) and setting it up on the small 17″x22″ map (because, duh, it’s a small scenario) I discovered I had set up on the wrong map and needed to transfer to the larger 22″x34″ map.

FRUS-TRAT-ING.

I played out “SNAFU” which is a historical scenario for Operation Mercury. Like I wrote about before, the chit activation mechanic is used well in the game system. That said, this time I played less “the system” and more “the battle.” In the end, I was further frustrated. Yes, I like the chit activation and all it brings to the depiction of command and control but it just feels too cumbersome for me. Maybe it’s the scale – Grand Tactical is both large-scale and grand in scope which is means it takes much more time to play; time that is an increasingly rare commodity for me as we try to come out of COVID.

Courtesy MMP

Boardgames

It looks like designer Dan Bullock’s No Motherland Without: North Korea in Crisis and Cold War (forthcoming from Compass Games) is getting near to print. Dan posted on BGG that the game should start shipping February 8. Of course, with the way the USPS is going North Korea may collapse before the game is delivered….

Courtesy Compass Games

I was in my FLGS this past week and picked up Snowman Dice by Mike Elliott from Brain Games (2019). This is another game for Mrs. RMN to share with her students. This is most certainly a Children’s dexterity game or a very lite Family dexterity game. I played it with the 1st Grader and realized I had to teach her the fundamentals of dice reading; as long as she saw the part she needed she tried to use it to build instead of using only the top-facing side of the die. A good reminder about how learning and teaching games is not always as easy as one assumes.

Fanciful, but wrong (Courtesy BGG)

Role Playing Games

While in the FLGS the Middle Boy picked up a copy of Star Wars: Rise of the Separatists: An Era Sourcebook for the Star Wars Roleplaying: Age of Rebellion game. In many ways this is the sourcebook to go along with the Clone Wars animated TV series.

One interesting rule in this sourcebook is “Optional Rules: Fighting in Squads and Squadrons.” This rule enables Player Characters (PC) to take Minion-level characters and create a squad or squadron under the leadership of a PC. The PC can then order the squad/squadron using Formations. This rule helps get past one of the stumbling blocks of military-style roleplaying games; how to use characters as leaders and not simply independent actors on the battlefield.

We have not played a Star Wars RPG session in a loooonnnnggggg time. I dug up an old campaign idea and am trying to work it into some usable material. My personal preference is to play an Edge of the Empire -like campaign but knowing my Boys I need to pull in elements of Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny too.


Feature image courtesy discover.hubpages.com