Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Haunted Castle



In my home town there is a Krogers (big surprise there) and at one point in this Krogers was an arcade game called Haunted Castle...

...and what a fine game it was too. It is clearly a modification of the Castlevania franchise and as it sports the Konami logo it is an authorized modification. But that aside I played this friggin game for hours on end, standing before the cabinet, whipping whipping whipping the shit out of anything that got in my way. I got good enough at the game that I could beat it on only two quarters, which is to say one continue, and that was something grand for me.

As you can see it was a platformer with a variety of gothic horror settings and it consisted of six levels each ending in a boss. I'm pretty sure there was a mummy and a frankenstein but otherwise the only I remember clearly is a HUGE coal monters that was so large only its head and one hand (the one he was trying to beat your ass with).

There was jumping and swinging and so on but he level effect that I still remember was on the first level. About half way through you encounter a wal that is about the same height as your character and a strong wind starts blowing it at you in pieces. Alot of players had problems with this but it had a very clear pattern that is you watched you could easily bypass it. That little piece of game has stuck with me for twenty years though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Keep on the Shadowfell, A Review.

Hello Lords and Ladies!



Today I will be reviewing the first module for the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons but before I do that let me regail you, if only briefly, with the story of obtaining this damn thing.


For a THIRTY DOLLAR product you'd think my city of approximately twenty five thousand would have at least one available on the launch date, but no. I actually didn't obtain this product until the 28th, so i'm sure many of you have already read the product but you can compare your experience to my opinions. It's worth noting that getting this fine little module involved three retailers and two weeks of asking, "Did you order this yet?"


/sigh


Anyway..


Okay, that aside lets look firstly at the physical properties of the "Keep".


The module consists of a pocketed folder, ala Trapper Keeper,


two paper booklets and three double sided color maps. The maps are fine products although they are reprints of some of the DDM maps lacking the labeling for deployent zones and victory areas. This is just fine in my book since it is likely new players will be buying this and they are not going to have these and having extra copies of maps means you can give out the maps to your friends which is also cool. The two booklets are a very thin one and a very thick one (huh huh) with the thinner weighing in at 16 pages; 6 pages devoted to 'quick start' rules and the rest to 5 pre-generated characters (more on them later). The thick booklet weighs in at 80 and is the adventure key for the Keep on the Shadowfell with Dungeon Master quick start rules. These are rules that really should've been put in the player's quick start book instead; such as descriptions of the skills with their uses. It will really be necessary for any Dungeon Master to copy this section to give to the players if all you're using is this module and not the core books. As for the smaller booklet i've got to give WOTC a black mark for not making the character sheets separate, hell not even perforated for easy removal. Again you'll need to do some photocopying to enable players to have free use of the information.

Content...

First i'll talk about the pre-mades. My understanding is that the PHB will have 8 classes and 8 races so with these five characters we get a healthy sampling of 62% of the options but with no power of selection of er.... powers. Each character has all of its (limited) equipment already handed out which is fine as these are premades. Well, mostly fine. Really there should have been some kind of equipment tables which is a mainstay of every RPG and even more so with the quick start box sets that Dungeons & Dragons is famous for. Now for the individual characters...

*dwaf fighter: well, he's a fighter aaannnd a dwarf. He is armed with a maul, which I can only surmise is a two-handed mace since that is commonly what a maul is but I don't remember one appearing before in the Dungeons & Dragons system. His array of powers is built such that it seems unlikely you'll ever just use the maul as a basic attack, why bother when instead you can attack and do 3 damage to an adjacent enemy. What? No adjacent enemy? No problem use the Reaping Strike which will do that 3 damage if YOU MISS the attack instead.
*halfling rogue: apparently a halfling, when learning how to become a rogue, also learns how to man handle ogres and orcs. Nearly every power of the rogue enables him to slide the enemy forcnig it to move somplace else. I know this is supposed to represent the rogue's ability to trick his foe and maneuvere his foe into the position that best benefits him but since you'll only be moving the miniature of the monster it will seem like this halfling is a kung-fu master.

*human wizard: one thing, magic missiles of infinite use. Need you know more? Need you have more power than that? Oh, okay how about 6 to 14 damage magic missiles as a level one character? Yeah, i'll take those too.

*half-elf cleric: I weep here. My cleric, my favorite class, has been totally destroyed. They will tell you other wise but seriously he is no longer the cleric he used to be. As all character's now have healing surges his powers are basically all offensive attack powers that also grant a boon to his allies. Sure, he's got a power that lets them use a surge and another that heals in a burst but since you can use the Healing skill to do basically the same thing (allow and ally to use a healing surge I mean) who cares?

*dragonborn paladin: I will totally bow to the idea of playing a race that is half dragon. Of course I think this will likely lead to a series of all dragonborn parties since they are so cool but so what. As a paladin he is a solid beat stick with some holy power to back him up. If you're a fan of paladins I think you'll enjoy him quite a bit.

Second i'll talk about the adventure. Let me reference another WOTC product; "The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde" which is a 3.5 mini campaign setting similar to an earlier prodcut for basic Dungeons & Dragons called Thunder Rift released in 1992 by TSR. I also need to reference the Keep on the Borderlands which I mention briefly in a previous post. All of these products have the common purpose of being 'sandbox' settings that can be dropped into any pre-exsisting setting and are excellent starting adventures for any players from experienced to NEWB.




Indeed Shadowfell is organized almost identical to that of Slaughtegarde which seemed to be a 'feel out' product to see how the gaming community would accept the new format. While it's not 'old school' which makes me a little sad inside I will say that this format is fantastic for the Dungeon Master. The encounters are mapped out nicely and clearly detailed to make it easier to run the encounters and play the game overall. I'll go out on a limb and say that even though I haven't finished the 80 page adventure booklet, mostly because I don't RP anymore so i'm lazy as hell, it is a fine adventure module and filled with action. I'm not shitting you here either, the FIRST encounter has about ten monsters in it. I won't go into painful details but damn, I remember my first days with Thife the Magic-user and his one magic missile spell. You run into ten kobolds, you get the fcuk out of there. But of course, Thife had 3 hit points, not 25 like the lazy wizards of today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I forgot to tell you...

...about the turning house rules we use.



Well, maneuvering house rules we use for Warhammer Fantasy Battles.



The rules are written where when a regiment of soldiers wants to turn, but not do a 180 or 90 degree turn, they wheel. Wheeling involves one of the front corners remaining stationary while the other angles around until the front is facing the way you want it to. This sounds easy but when measuring it out its really kind of a bitch to do. So the Dirty Gnomes, endeavoring always to increase fun and decrease Lizardking's bitching levels have house ruled it just like this;



All infantry regiments receive two wheels during the course of their movement be it a walk, march, or charge. All cavalry regiments receive three wheel maneuvers during the course of their movement. These do not affects the total available forward movement the unit has at the beginning of its movement and these wheels are not affects by difficult terrain although they are by blocking terrain as normal.



Now, arguably this makes all the regiments move faster, but, since everything basically gets to move just the same amount faster it isn't a big deal. What it does do is cut down on the time it takes to move a unit of my saurus cavalry from point a, to point b, wheel, then to point c. It also serves to incfrease the over all tactical movement of the game while preventing it from taking on the aspects of a skirmish game.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aggression Rules for Warhammer Fantasy

My group is majorly back into warhammer fantasy. We missed it alot, it is a solid game for us and is always fun. We are older now and less obsessive with WYSIWYG rules so we have an easier time with the play of the game. As such, we also modified some of the rules, HOUSING them as it were to improve them to our style. This is a presentation of a new rule that i'm going to reveal to my group the next game night but i'll also post our turning rules below. I got the Agression rules from DBA and it's modified a little so it's not completely theft, just mostly theft.

:-o

Anyway, Agression works like this. Each army has an aggression factor that indicates the number of dice that are rolled before battlefield set up. The army that rolls the highest dice (not cumulative score) is the Attacker, the other is the Defender.

The Defender gets to set up the terrain on the table and also gets one fortified position, this could be a wall or a building with a unit already in it but they have to set up their entire army first. On top of that the Attacker gets to pick his table edge to come in from (which is done before terrain set up) and after the battle field is built but before the defenders deploy he gets to shift a number of pieces of terrain equal to his army's aggression score. This is representative of the defenders picking the best possible place to hold off the foe figuring in the speed of the attackers approach, you don't always get what you want but you take the best you can get. Normal terrain rules must be maintained when the attacker moves the elements and it is best if no more than 1 element is on the table for ever 2 square feet (or 4 on our game board of four feet by four feet).

The idea behind this system is to give a feeling of an attacker and a defender, different from a meeting engagement kind of battle. This also will mean that more apparently aggressive armies, such as daemons and orcs will be the attackers more which fits their theme. Below i've listed the agression scores for each army as I see them in alphabetical order:

Beasts of Chaos: 3
Brettonnia: 1
Daemons of Chaos: 3
Dark Elves: 2
Dwarfs: 1
Empire: 1
Giants & Dogs of War: 2
High Elves: 2
Hordes of Chaos: 3
Lizardmen: 2
Ogre Kingdoms: 2
Orcs & Goblins: 2
Skaven: 2
Tomb Kings: 1
Vampire Counts: 2
Wood Elves: 1

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guitar Hero III...defeated.

Well, on medium at least.

That was a helluva run too. The guitar battle with Lou is by no means a push over although I did beat him on easy the first go. Not a bigbrag, but a brag none the less.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm actualy part of an ancient lizard race...

...but not ones from UFOs.

Sorry.

I have been playing (off and on) a game called Warhammer Fantasy Battles...


... for many years now and my army of choice are the Lizardmen. My army is from back in, oh, circa 1994 when the fifth edition of the game launched and it came with a nice chunk of Brettonians (knights and archers) and Lizardmen (saurus warriors and skink archers). Anyone who played this box is likely familiar with the horrid imbalance it provided. I'm not shitting you here, I spent the entire first year that I played the game getting my ass handed to me by the Brettonians and all the weak ass friends I had who played them. Which was everyone sans one guy who has an obsession with Dwarfs.

No not that kind of obsession, geesh, perverts.

Anyway...over time my collection built until it is the awe-inspiring army that it is now. The first addition of note was that of a General, the Slann, which was a huge toad that was supreme wizard being carried about by four ass-kicker saurus. It was devistating in both close combat and magic combat. Times have changed and now he floats alone (although still a big fat frog) and is not so grand in close combat, he continues to be unbeatably hoss in magic though.
Pretty sweet eh? Yeah I think so too. That's not mine, mine isn't painted that good and it's the old version, this is the 'new hotness' version that does look better but I feel no need to drop 40 bucks on it when mine can kill the enemy just as effectively..

Anyway, this weekend I had a match against a High Elf player and long time friend. We haven't played the game in years but we both had our armies and we wanted to revive the "good ole' times" if you know what I mean. I wanted to take pictures and produce entire battle report but it didn't happen. I can give you the primary layout though...

The High Elf host consists of a unit of light cavalry, two small formations of archers, 3 repeater bolt throwers (ouch), a block of spearmen, a small formation of Swordmasters of Hoeth (with BIG two handed swords) and three characters; a wizard, a mounted hero, and a hero on the back of a griffin. He had to randomly determine which was his general and it turned out to be the weakest combatant of all three characters, the wizard. This will hurt him later as you'll see.


The Lizardmen Cohort consists of a Slann escorted by a block of saurus warriors, another large block of saurus, a large skirmish band of skink archers, a block of saurus cavalry, three Kroxigor and a saurus hero on a cold one mount. Oh, and a Stegadon with a howdah full of armed skinks. Oh, and two things called Salamanders with their handlers.


I set up the table with some woods and a hill and pond (we are aquatic after all) and deployed my battle line giving him the option to respond to my deployment. Let me say it's been a while and I've been playing alot of skirmish games so I kinda forgot how important the initial battle line is. From left to right went; salamanders, cavarly, slann with escort, saurus infantry, skink archers. Behind the skinks was my kroxigor which is a completely valid combat strategy as they can charge the enemy through the skinks but can't be targeted by ranged attacks through the skinks. A huge mistake I made was placing the stegadon behind the battle line. In retrospect I have no fucking clue what I was doing. The stegadon is a huge triceratops looking sucker with a wooden box full of heavily armed warriors and a bolt thrower strapped to it's back. The absolutely last place it should have gone was in the back, but I must have failed my stupidity roll that day.


The high elf battle line, from my left to right was; light cavalry, spearmen, archers, bolt thrower, bolt thrower, bolt thrower, archers, griffin hero, swordmasters. Somewhere in that was the mounted hero and the wizard but I can't remember where. Anyway it was clear I was going to have to march into a wailing hail of fire and suffer casualties in the 50% range I was figuring before engaging his warriors in hand to hand. I love this guy, really, he's like a brother. BUT. The dirty son of a bitch always sits back with a shooty campy army and makes you come to him. It gets old alot of the time but this time it didn't. It had been long enough I wanted to see if they scaly swordsmen of my command could hold up. Plus I was figuring on my magic thinning their shootiness a bit.


We only played four turns which took about an hour or a little more which is a pretty good clip for a war game. I'm going to give a jist of each turn because I honestly don't remember the specific moves. We rolled a d6 for first player, I won the roll but after some thought gave him first turn so that I could react to his missile attacks.


Turn 1: The only movement he did was on my left bringing his light cavalry up so they could fire on the salamanders which he feared, and rightly so. The majority of the turn was me moving forward, him winging something in the area of 30 dice worth of missile attacks and me loosing 3 of my 8 cavalry which he also feared. My crowning achievement of the turn was calling down CONFLAGRATION OF DOOM upon a unit of two bolt throwers totally frying the crew, they would be reaping no more this game. OH, and my salamanders decided to luncheon upon their handlers instead of shooting. Yaaa me!


Turn 2: More marching from my warriors and a failed charge of my cavalry on a unit of archers. I figured they were out of range but it was worth the guess since they were going to be targets ANYWAY and and extra round of shooting them wasn't going to hurt any. The highlights included my salamanders burning the light cavalry killing four of 10 and their difficult maneuvering through the woods. It should be noted on my right flank I was a total cluster of failure. The stegadon wasn't doing anything useful, the skinks weren't hitting a damn thing, and the Kroxigor were picking their nose. The high elf general was sweating through because he hadn't caused enough casualties for me to be worred, and it was primarily devoted to the apparent indestructible quality of the cavalry. He was pouring arrows and bolts into the last five and doing nothing!


Turn 3: Finally there is some melee! He really did place his units all the way across the battlefield, I mean they were within 2 inches of his edege putting about three feet between me and them, and on speed 4 that takes some time. His missile far took more casualties and he charged my cavalry with his spears before I could charge his archers, which was the smart thing for him to do but ultimately they didn't really hurt the saurus. He also charged his hero into their flank but only contacted one, which he slew, and thus removed himself from combat. His griffon mounted hero charged a saurus cohort and did some casualties but ultimately the saurus one due to nubmers, ranks, and bravery and he failed his break test and fled, I did not pursue because I didn't think I could get a 10 on 2d6 and I didn't see the point in over extending the guys.


Turn 4: More melee between saurus and elfs ensues with no significant casualties except the defeat of my cavalry. They had held their own for so long then suddenly turned tail and ran! They also didn't run very far and were run down the spear men. If this had been a six turn game it would have been a bad idea for the spearmen as they were now behind my lines and well within death but it was the last turn so it was a good plan. My saurus charged the griffon hero but got tangled into a fight with the swordmasters as well and the kroxigor finally got into the game. The total unit losses included a salamander with handlers on my side and a unit of 10 archers on his side. Four turns of raw war with little true death, it was great! The break point was his wizard though. He had been charged by my stegadon and the 7 IMPACT HITS that it dealt him destroyed him. The ensuing panic tests were horrible and all but his heroes fled the field. If that hadn't happen the results would have been around 600 victory points each and a draw game, as it was the route turned it into a solid victory for me.


I've read up on the rules some more and we did alot wrong by the rules as they are written but I don't think we did anything wrong in the play of the game. We both had fun and except the bad panic rolls for the high elves it was a fair and balanced fight all the way through. I'm looking forward to playing again!


Maybe against undead. Maybe against Brettonians. Who knows.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Doomsday!




Fritz and I went to see the movie Doomsday this weekend, allow me, please to give you my review...







Let me start with an acronym...WTF?!





Okay, i'm all for movies with Mad Max levels of road rage and I'm all about the post-apocalyptic-plague-world-sci-fi-future.

But at what point did Neil Marshall think that throwing a full blown dark ages castle with full crew of men-at-arms and self-made hand-beaten armor wearing executioner was going to make this thing gel.

Again, don't get me wrong, I love it. This screen play took GUTS like I've never seen. We are talking like seventy feet of 'em.

Let me break it down for you;

1. We gotz a plague...OHNOES!

2. We gotz to wall off HALF THE FRIGGIN ISLAND! OH F-ING NOES!!!11

3. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 years.

4. We gots TEH PLAGUE AGAIN! OH F-ING NOES!!!111!!!111???

5. WAIT! LOOKZ! There be peeps in da plague lands.

"how?"

"wtf cares!"

"right!"

6. K boyz, send in da chica with da robots eye.

Mix with 2 old APCs, about a dozen peeps with guns, stir gently, let simmer all of 15 minutes.

7. Crazy post-apocalyptic peeps --> "Get 'em da be fud!"

INSERT CRAZY FIVE THOUSAND ROUND EXPENDITURE OF AMMUNITION, NON-BULLET PROOF GLASS, EASILTY TOPPLED APCs WITH MOLITOV COCTAILS, MAKE THEM PRISONERS.

8. Cook up da doctor and eat 'em.

9. Robot eye chica escapes with Maid Marrian.

10. Find Robin Hood.

11. Go to mountains.

12. Go through secret passage through HIGH TECH GOVERNMENT INSTALLATION FILLED WITH SHIT, but don't look at it! Not yet.

13. Find crazy knight, get Robin Hood killed, become prisoner...again.

14. Find crazy 'king', fight in arena, kick crazy knight's ass. Well, stick a spike in his head, same difference.

15. Escape with grenades (boom!)

16. Go back to secret passage through hi-tech installation and this time look in the damn crates.

Add MOTHER F-ING BENTLEY with full tank of gas in a big box plus GPS tracking cell phone.

17. Go have awesome Mad Max road battle.
18. Drive Bentley through a bus, DO NOT I repeat DO NOT scratch the paint bitches!
19. Get stopped by helicopter, turn over 'package', use cool robot eye to record bad guy giving monologue.
20. Wrap up film, go back and take over post-apocolyptic cannibals.

Now, you can't say that doesn't sound like some wild ass FUN to you, because I know it does. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, even in the 'suspended reality' department but FCUK IT it how often do you get to see dark ages knights AND post-apocalyptic road warriors in the same flic? NEVER that's how often.

The people critics are rating it a C+ on yahoo, and sure sure it's a C+ movie, BUT COME ON it should be given more just for having the cajones to mix what it did!

GAPING PLOT HOLES BE DAMNED!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

E. Gary Gygax: July 7th, 1938 - March 4th, 2008

I was someplace between 8 and ten years old when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. It was at a flea market, here in Ohio, and it was two Dragon magazines and the adventure module B1: The Keep On The Borderlands. I was with my oldest sister and we were walking down the row of card tables and trestle tables looking for something cool. Two elderly people, a couple if I remember right, had set up a couple tables out side their RV to sell off some stuff they had accumulated. Underneith one of the tables was a couple milk crates with magazines and books, in amongst these were the beginnings of a life time of adventure. They were a nice couple, I'd wager in their sixties, and they sold the three paper back volumes for a mere dollar twenty five. I asked my sister if she knew what they were and she said she did, that it was a game called D&D. It sounded amazing, looked funner than anything I had played before, and asked her to teach me and she said she would.





Later that afternoon she sat with me, and my unofficial brother, and the module and magazines and taught us to play the game with a few pilfered monopoly d6's. I played a magic-user named Thife, because I didn't know how to spell thief, who had 20 hit points and could cast any of the spells on the 'sheet.'





The 'sheet' was a double sided reference sheet meant for new players who were using the Basic (redbook) rules. It listed weapons, armor, equipment, a combat matrix, how to figure your armor class, and listed some first, second, and three third level spells.





We explored the keep map, which incidentally was NOT where the monster lay in wait in the regular adventure, and my sister made up the rules on the fly. I'd wager a Deck of Many Things right now that Gary would have approved of our play even though we were butchering the rules. My brother played a fighter and we went room to room fighting monsters like werewolves, minotaurs, and goblins and found gold coins and gemstones aplenty. We were hooked right then for a life time. I think probably part of what sunk the hook in was that at one point that evening my Mom joined in the game. She played a Cleric (which is probably an aspect of why I like Clerics the most) and sprinkled holy water about the rooms where we slew these horrible beasts. She grew borde quickly though and went to do something else. I'm pretty sure she was just making sure the game was 'okay' and considering the press it got at that time who can blame her?



Gary Gygax was not my hero, and nor was he and icon to me, he was something else, something closer. Heroes die or go away and icons continue unchanging always and inhuman in a way. Gygax was someone I could relate to, someone who I was like in many ways, someone who shouldn't have died at a young age of 69. His death hit me pretty hard, harder than it should have considering I did not have the fortune of meeting him in person much less mourn him, but it did. I think because of the relativity I had for him, it was like having a litle bit of my own mortality thrown back at me.



His game of course changed my life, there are thousands of us, if not hundreds of thousands, who can say the same. But more than his game changing my life, his life changed my life. It showed me something that right now I can't put my finger on but I think has something to do with opportunity and enjoying life. It's...complex.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My gamerscore right now is 2,234.-

Christmas this year was very good to me. My wife, always loving, went above and beyond and teamed up with a friend to get me an xbox 360. I have always loved video games but always been fairly cheap for the most part, although in the right situation I don't haggle on price, but game rigs and games are one of those places I try to wait for the price to drop. Well, not so here.

My friend Matt brought over his system a few times for game night and the group would sit down and split (split) screen Halo 3 and tear each other up.

Okay, that's a lie.

Matt would tear us up over and over to the point of bringing us, all much larger than him, nearly to the point of murderous rage. Really. I almost killed him once, but he was faster than me. Lucky him. Truth is I now understand he is down right gifted in the FPS genre and should really be on a pro team someplace making the money they make. I'm sure it's not much but I'd wager it's more than he's making now.

Anyway, I digress, the point here is to high light my 360 gaming goodness. I've never been one to be focused enough to beat games. I've played alot, but once it's no longer fun and too much work I tend to walk away from them. I'll only fight a boss so many times, try a puzzle so often, or look for the ring of whatever digital sounding whoozit so long before I put the disc back in it's case and forget it. I attribute this to my Nintendo 8-bit days because game developers at that time had less tech to work with and relied more on LENGTH over anything esle. Not their fault, I still love those games, but damn. Really. Can anyone remember trying to beat Mario Brothers without using warp worlds? Or how about the original Final Fantasy, woooo boy did that take some time. I can honestly say the first game I ever beat was, well on consoles at least, was Legend of Zelda (still have the original cart) and then I found out there was a second quest. Oh my goodness, and that was harder than the first. I didn't finish it, but I nearly did.

With the 360 this has changed though, I find myself putting in the extra time to beat a game. Why you ask me? I can hear you now; "Why oh why Diceman do you put in the extra hours to beat these games when before you wouldn't?" Let me tell you.

Gamerscore.

Whom ever developed that idea at Microsoft/Xbox needs a promotion, it is genius. It tapped into something within me, something I understand now as a need to compete. It opened that up a previously unknown font of competitive enegery within me. I have pondered this briefly, between load screens, and realize that as my Xbox is LIVE I am likely to have my gamerscore seen and my achievements observed by the mass of xbox gamers out there. This means that if I do infact take the three hours it took me to beat the final boss of Conan then I have more than self recognition to be rewarded with. Anyone who cares can look up Conan on my gamer card and see that I have, in fact, defeated what is likely the most annoying boss in the history of gaming.

I think playing Halo 3 with my friends generated this need to compete. Now keep in mind this is not a need to win but to actively compete and put up a good effort. I don't feel a need to be king of the hill, it's enough to have knocked the king down a few times and made him take attention when i'm coming. You can take a look at my Halo 3 scores and see I don't have to win but I like to score a Spartan Laser kill every now and then and don't mind sticking them with a plasma grenade if I can over common battle rifle fire.


I've, barely, added my Gamercard to this blog so you can see how i'm doing. I imagine there will be many who have much higher scores than mine, but that isn't important to me. I'll work my way up, slowly but surely, and I may never take the time to get into the 1,000 clubs for games (lets hope I don't go down that rabbit hole) but i'll be sure to finish what I start since I know people can see that I finish it.


Oh yeah, one more thing, Viva Pinata. This is ever present on my tab of games recently played. I' don't get this. My sons play it lots but not on my profile. It must just track what ever is played in that particular 360. Strangely though I started playing because I didn't want to look like a tool and not have any gamerscore on the game.

Sad? I hope not.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I've got a CROSSBOW and a CATAPULT...

...and a plastic castle that bursts into plastic flames when you hit it with a carom.

Really.

Look here...


...I know you're jealous, just think of this like middle-ages edition of 'Cribs' and we will get along fine.




Up in the castle's sweet loft, right by the roof mounted catapult you see the incarnation of yours truly, the orc warlord Ugmagrak Graktha (translated from orcish that means "He who eats pigs.", ironic, I know). Around my castle is my fortress, well part of my sprawling land engulfing fortress. Those fellow greens skins are my borthers in arms as you can see our weapon of preference, the Meat Cleaver, you'll note orc wielded meat cleavers get capitalized they are that hoss. Even our shiels have spikes on them, oooooo yyeeaaahhhh (insert beat music).

If you swing left you'll see my second catapult, we call him Bizness, mostly because when you see me load him up you know I mean business in a carom tossing sense. Something of yours is going to go skidding across the table baby, just know its coming, check it out...



Thats Bizness behind its mean green fortifications. You're not gonna get to him you can just forget it, and even if you do that carom you wasted is just gonna bounce like its leaving your lame knight party.


You see Scrim hanging over there doing sight duty for Scrum whos back behind the high wall cranking back some kinetic energy.




But that isn't all my friends, not at all, you gotta swing right of the castle and check out my crossbow. It's a mean wooden carom slinging orcish machine of war and we call him Kazzing because that's the sound his elastic makes when he's taking care of your carefully built blocks. Blotsam and Jotsom are his two ops and they are killer skilled with that puppy. If you get close you can check out the number of castles they've triggered brigh orange flames on by the carved notches in the bow part. Lets just say they better stop soon or they are gonna cut it in half. Take a look...

It's loaded and ready to bring the hurt on baby, you can see the red eyes from here of my orcish weapon masters. They get a little over zealous at times and their accuracy gets off but can you really blame them? Just look at that fine craftsmanship they have to work with.
When you hear the 'kazzing' you should jump, just keep that in mind.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Board Game Geek: Updated.

Well, through a stupid mental strugle I decided that it was really the right first action I made to leave the geek. I really don't want to but more than not wanting to leave that community I don't want to be treated like a dog by that community, which is what happened. I linked my blog and reprinted it there and it was censored by the moderator.

I was censored for the use of the word 'dickwad' and the linking to Penny Arcade (see my first post) and calling the users of the geek dickwads, which I didn't do. This was basicaly enacting exactly what this theory indicates happens with internet anonymity, the moderator message could not be replied to and did not indicate which moderator put on his goose stepping boots. I find that dozens of individuals are allowed to be offensive and inconsiderate on the geek, but you aren't allowed to call them out on it. Effecitvely members of the moderation team are nazis and want to control the content rather than moderate the content. Incidentally the word moderator means 'to moderate' and moderate means: "kept or keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme, excessive, or intense". Ah, while the idea that I am not within proper limits, extreme, excessive, and/or intense is pleasing in it's own right this really wasn't so. The actual problem was the concern I might run off the dickwads, and you see, they make donations. Again we see community and ethics sacrificed for money. I almost donated 30 dollars to become a 'supporter' on the geek, glad I didn't because that would move me into the realm of wasting money and I've got better things to waste it on.

Ask me about a coin sometime, lets just say they have the wrong side up.

To be fair I did send a farily irate email to Aldie, the maker of the geek, whom I still assume is a decent person be it man or woman but ultimately i'm sure they are too busy to worry about one dissentor when there are so many cows and, well, dickwads, moving about the pasture. I'll go find green grass again and i'm sure before long it will be ruined.

This is why I have this blog, there is only one dickwad. Me.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I want to play Mazes & Monsters...








...and have wanted to for about 20 years now. I discovered this book sometime during early high school and I fell in love with it. I'm not saying this is a good book, it's not but it's not a bad book either. It definitely does not fit in Rona Jaffe's other works if you look at it from the surface, like I am, becasue i'll likely not read her other works so I can't really say if it is or isn't at the core. My wife could and she read this book because I asked her to but I doubt she'll read the others either. (Rona Jaffe here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rona_Jaffe). She passed away, or as one of the movie's fan sites put it, "Failed her saving throw versus death." which is more frightening. I mean, we don't even know what her saving throws were at that moment. Was this 1st edition, 2nd edition or 3.5? Was she play testing 4th Edition? We can't know although two years ago is long enough that it is unlikely. All I'm saying is, get your self something to improve that saving throw pronto.

But anyway, I want to play this game. Read the book and you'll come to understand why. It sounds friggin fun. The characters are very non-templatative, mostly because DM Jaffe probably never played an RPG much less one that doesn't exist. It's clearly molded after Dungeons & Dragons yet it is molded by someone who only knows what they have heard and what they have read written by other people that haven't played the game or read the rules. So it's a game described through a muddy pair of goggles that are perscription goggles, but for somebody else and not you. Oddly the game descriptions turn out fascinating. Allow me to elaborate.

"Holy Men" or "Holy Man" (i.e. Cleric): the character of choice for Robbie Wheeling (Tom Hanks before he saved Ryan's Privates...or something like that) is clearly based on what you might hear about an RPG character but strangely different. The Holy Man is not a cleric except in a sense of being, well, holy, which he isn't. This isn't really an aspect of D&D but instead a reflection of mythology. The mythological dieties took a nearly soap-operatic hand in mortal affairs and commanded loyal followers to pursue strang quests to exotic locations to get killed rather than in their back yards. The character of Mazes & Monsters is instead more 'monkly' than 'clericy' although he is clearly meant to be 'clericy'. Elaboration within the text sites that each Holy Man is actually a student of another Holy Man who teaches him all his wisdom and one day leaves to go...someplace. We really don't know where he/she (I imagine there are Holy Women as well) goes or why but the guy he taught aspires to become good enough to go where they went, and thus we have a cycle in this way. This is more reminiscent of the of asceticism in practice which you can find relevance of in every major religious belief. All this aside I dig the idea of a character that is following in the foot steps of someone who was there and taught them personally but moves on to something better and your character is trying to catch up with him. I can recognize this is a manifestation of my personal belief in Christ and Christianity in the desire to be like my savior and ultimatley, through his Grace, reach heaven.

Charlatan (i.e. Thief): we don't know much about Daniel's character because he doesn't appear to later (initially he is the Maze Controller) but it's obviously a Thief from 1st Edition D&D. He dresses in black and carries a dagger and sneaks around and is called a Charlatan which is defined as: "A person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud." which isn't really an accurate reflection of a D&D Thief but an accurate reflection of what someone who uses the goggles I described above would think a D&D Thief would be like. As an aside i'm pretty sure Jaffe had anti-semetic feelings since the only nationality mentioned in the book is Jewish which is Daniel (go figure on the name) and he's a Charlatan. Can we say Merchant of Venice?

Fighter (i.e. well, Figther): Kate's character is the 'strong' character because she wants to be strong herself in light of a horrible event in her past. I won't elaborate or i'll start talking about other things rather than the non-existant game I want to play. Basically she kills the monsters with effeiciency and can challenge hordes of them. At one point the adventurers are beset upon by a horde of "blood thirst undead" and she makes short work of them. I want to have a fighter like that on my team. My experience with 1st Ed. showed me a horde of anything, even mushrooms, will totally screw your party of brave heroes. She was obviously hoss beyond hossness. I find it interesting that at the introduction of her character it mentions her bringing the gear she needs to survive and one of these items is a sword. Just a sword, it's not magical, not enchanted, not flaming or icing, or anythign else-ing. Just a normal sword. She must have a strength of 18/1000. I'd like to throw in that this is clearly intended to be a feminist character, which is a good thing I think. If I had to apply a fantasy RPG class to my wife it'd be Fighter, only because there is no "Rampant Waste Laying Ass Kicker" class. When she did play years ago that is what she played, but we called it Fighter.

Sprite (i.e. I have no clue): J.J. gets the Sprite. And whatever the hell a sprite is...is beyond me. There is no equivalent to this character in the game and the best I can guess is that the description she makes omits Freliks class choice. Say a halfling that never says what he does for a living. This theory is at best weak since he has sonar and many other abilities such as enchanting monsters to tell them where the treasure is. I want to see the rules for this puppy, sounds very cool and over powered but yet again, remember the goggles eh? Otherwise it doesn't really mention much of his abilities but he does jump into a pit towards the middle of the movie and early in the book and dies. If this was 3.5 there would be NO WAY he'd go down so eacy, 1st Ed. he could have been level 20 and it would have done him in.

Rules: not much reference made to these but there are a few tantalizing gem stones she let drop while carrying this book through the maze. "Power" for one; when Frelik kicks it by jumping into a pit filled with diamond incrusted spikes (a rich death indeed) Glacia (Kate's Fighter) ask Pardeu (Robbie's Holy Man) to raise him from the dead but he tells her he doesn't have enough power. Now this makes it sound like magic points or magic slots or something like that but it's not because when Daniel says he can make a new character Kate complains that it will "...take him forever to amass enough Power." This could be a simple double use of the word, and likely is, but it still generates a rich mechanic inkling in my mind that I'd like to explore. Something else that fascinated me was the limited dice usage, now oddly enough this is heavily 1st Ed. At the introduction to the 'new game' ala Daniel he shows the dice to the players (d12's btw) and tells them he holds their fate in his hands. Not with d12's he won't but meh. The rules of 1st Ed. encouraged Dungeon Masters to make all the dice rolls for the characters to maintain a mystery of the probabilities and mechanics of the rules as much as possible. This was meant to be done for everything from attack rolls and damage rolls to saving throws. I can see how this would be cool as a player and an insufferable pain in the ass as a DM. Why this is fascinating is the depth of knowledge of the game someone would have to have to know this was in the rules. I have two theories on why this appeared; 1. because she was actually a role player herself and played 1st Ed. or 2. pure chaos theory coincidence. It's likely the latter.

Gorvils and the Jinnorak: woooo monsters! We love to make them and we love to kill them. These are the only monsters besides the "blood thirsty undead" that are mentioned and only the Gorvil is visually represtented in the made for TV movie and is not really what is described in the book. I don't have the text in front of me right now but the Gorvils are small lizard-man like monsters that leap from holes in the ground to attack, and are cycloptic, which is to say only one eye, and no they aren't wearing a patch. The movie's Gorvil is this hulking six and a half foot tall crested lizard man that looks cousin to the Gorn from Star Trek (hmmm, close spelling too eh?). Let us compare (Gorvil on left, Gorn on right):

















The Gorvil picture isn't so good, I know, but you can get the jist right? Neither of these buggers are cycloptic or in holes. The Jinnorak are a different story because in essence they are mutants, it even says so, they've been in the dark soooooo long that they have mutated into a horrible nocturnal race that feeds captives to their Jinnorak king. Hmmm, could that be a race of Golems? Naaaaa. But these monster ideas really captivated me when I was younger and fresh to fantasy unlike now but they still hold a place of value in my mental box of nostalgia and they will continue to hold a place of honor there right next to Scarlet from G.I. Joe, Optimus Prime, and polyhedral dice.

This is a game that never existed but it is a game I've kept my eye out for ever since I read the book. I imagine that copy right issues keep a serious game developer from making a set of rules for the title Mazes & Monsters, which is a damn good title IMO, or even producing a board game of it. There's likely to be something to do with the fact that Jaffe basically says that games like this are bad and leads to people jumping off tall buildings. Which really isn't true, but hey, why stop a demagogue right? Also Jaffe stole the entire story, I still love her for novelizing it though, look up this link off from wiki for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Dallas_Egbert

Leap Month.

Happy Febuary 1st!

Leap year is here, leap month is initiated. Anyone doing something cool for leap day?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Got Army Men?

Just about every boy, and probably more girls than you'd think, have played with plastic army men. I love them even though I really don't have any right now. I've had them in the past but I'm pretty hard on stuff and my boys are pretty hard on stuff too so they didn't last so long. When I look at the green (or gray or brown or whatever color) soldiers in poses of active combat I feel that there is a little world that I'm not part of that is frozen for me for just a moment. Like I am taking a brief glimpse into a miniature sized global war for your living room floor or kitchen table.



I'm always screwing around with rules mechanics and game ideas and working off the inspiration that looking up and thinking about plastic soldiers has generated within me I've written a little rules set in the spirit of these diminutive soldiers and their apparently endless waring.



I've found myself becoming more and more interested in historical wars as gaming, something I was always interested in reading about or watching about but never gaming about which is where I seem to be heading. In looking into these games I've discovered a veritible treasure trove of interesting miniatures made by a cornucopia of companies. Some are good, some are bad, but all are cool IMO and I want to share that with you.



First we have Plastic Soldier Review (http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/) which is a totally kick ass website that gives quality reviews of plastic soldiers produced by dozens of companies and a wide range of periods. It reviews the quality of the products as well as the historical accuracy. I love reading the reviews, just love them. This was one of the big impacts on my current tastes although I don't have any of these yet. I'm talking to two local stores seeing if they can do special orders for just a kit or two at a time.



Second we have The Army Men Home Page (http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/) which has a lot of pictures of a variety of plastic soldiers and alot of cool related information. It also has a link to a rules set called Shambattle (wonderful name, shame they beat me to it) about playing with toy soldiers with some rules. I haven't read the rules, mostly because they aren't free and I'm cheap, terrible I know but I'm sure they are fun. How can they NOT be they use toy soldiers!



Thirdly we have Michigan Toy Soldier Co. (http://www.michtoy.com/) in case you are so spirited into love for these things as I have been that you want to buy some. The site has some great deals and a good selection and wonderful prices as far as I can tell. I just wish they would have them broken up by periods and manufacturer but really i'm just being spoiled there aren't I.



I've copied and pasted my game rules below, feel free to steal them, play with them, and change them. Please don't make any money off them and tell me afterward because I'll cry and no one likes to see a grown man cry. They aren't anything complex so don't expect that, I wrote them for my 8 year olds sons to play with me, as soon as I get some army men to play them with. Constructive criticism is welcome, but don't post useless statements thank you.




Army Wars
by
Art Nickles Jr.


Introduction
Army Wars is a game designed for boys and girls from 7 to 12 years old that uses easy to play game rules for plastic soldiers. It is written to allow them to use these plastic soldiers to fight battles for control of the territories in their home be it a kitchen floor or a dining room table. These rules are broken down into three parts; Building an Army, Fighting Battles, and Objectives.
Each player needs only a little bit of equipment to play Army Wars. First they each must have an army of plastic soldiers, any amount will do but thirty plastic soldiers will do nicely and will provide a game that will last about half an hour to experienced players. Also, each player needs a fist full of six sided dice, like you would find in a Monopoly game, 15 to 20 each because they will be rolling a lot of them for rifle fire. Lastly they each need a standard twelve inch ruler to measure movement and check ranges.


Part One: Building an Army
Each player needs to assemble their army before they can battle. To do this they spend game points to buy units or squads of different qualities. Both players should agree on an amount of game points before they start and the first game should be 50 points to keep it simple.
The squads consists of either five models or ten models with a squad marker assigned to the unit. Squad markers are a single dice, showing where the unit is on the table and what quality the squad is. Also each squad has a squad leader in it, this is the unit's commander and the more living leaders you have the better your army will perform. The squad leader is either a soldier that is different from the othersin the squad and in other squads (except other squad leaders) or one that is marked. May toy soldier sets have models holding binoculars or pistols and these make excellent leaders but if this is too much hassle simply take a black Sharpie marker and color in the base of one soldier in each unit making him the leader.
To buy a squad with game points the player simply decides what quality of squad it is and how many are in the squad. The quality of the squad is how good they are at shooting. Quality ranges from Green, to Veteran, to Elite with each being better than the last. Green troops cost a lot less but aren't as good and Elites are very expensive but very good shots.


Green Squads:

5 soldiers = 5 points
10 soldiers = 10 points


Veteran Squads:

5 soldiers = 15 points
10 soldiers = 30 points


Elite Squads:

5 soldiers = 25 points
10 soldiers = 50 points


When a player puts a squad onto the battle field he should place the squad marker showing the quality of the squad. The dice should show a '6' for Green, a '5' for Veteran, or a '4' for Elites. If a player or a referee catches another player changing a squad marker then the squad is immediately eliminated if it is his own and if it is another player's then his largest and best quality squad is eliminated instead. In some cases using dice as squad makers is too difficult and in these instances it is best to instead cut out carboard counters an inch square that read; GREEN, VETERAN, or ELITE so all players can see the squads quality clearly.


So a player with 50 game points might buy an army like this;
1 Elite five soldier squad for 25 points.
1 Veteran five soldier squad for 15 points.
1 Green ten soldier squad for 10 points.
This totals up to 50 points and gives the player an army of 3 squads that makes an army of twenty soldier models.

Deploying the Army: after you have built your army and have the battle field decided you have to deploy them. This is easy, each player rolls one dice and the highest roller selects a place where his army will enter the battlefield by placing the ruler along the edge of the battlefield. That is the deployment zone for his army. The player to his left does the same but his must be at least 24 inches (two ruler lengths) from any other deployment zone. You continue to do this until everyone has a deployment zone. Next roll the dice again and the lowest roller has to place his entire army on the field by putting their squad markers anywhere within one ruler length of the deployment zone. Players continue to place their armies until they are all placed.

Part Two: Fighting Battles
This part is all the rules for moving, shooting, and the order of playing.


Order of a Game Turn: every battle consists of game turns and each battle should be limited to a only so many game turns. Very rarely do battles continue until only one side is left standing, eventually someone realizes it's not going their way and pulls out before any more troops are lost. The normal game should be played for 4 turns but players can play to any agreed number of turns.

The first thing to determine in a game turn is Initiative which is defined as who gets to go first. To determine Initiative both players roll one dice for each squad leader they still have in the battle and add together the results of the dice. The player with the highest total has the initiative and selects one of their units, may move it if they wish, and may shoot with it at an enemy squad. After this has happened the player to that player's left goes next and so on until it comes back around to the player with initiative. They then select and move another squad and this continues until each player has moved three squads, then the turn is over.
A player may move the same unit over and over if they wish but this unit is going to need support if they get too far ahead of the rest of the army so players should be careful in moving the same squad too often.


Moving a Squad: this is done by telling all the other players if the squad is Running or Walking and then using the ruler to measure the movement of the squad.
If the squad is Running you can move it the entire length of the ruler (twelve inches) but they don't get to shoot at any one, they are too busy running.
If the squad is Walking they only move half the ruler's length (six inches) but they get to shoot at an enemy if they want too.
When you move a squad you don't have to measure for each model, only measure for the squad marker then place the soldiers around it. Every soldier has to be within half a ruler of the squad marker, which is six inches, or they may get lost. If another player thinks a soldier isn't close enough to the squad marker they can call it out and it has to be measured. Any soldier that isn't is removed and lost.
Placing the soldiers how ever you want around the squad maker means you can put them in places where it will be harder to see them, and that means they are harder to shoot at so be careful how to place your soldiers, do your best to protect them!


Shooting: this is the fun part. After a unit Walks it can shoot at another unit, as long as it isn't a friendly unit. To do this you tell the other players which unit is attacking which unit, you should also point it out. After you do this place the ruler on your unit's squad marker and measure to the targets squad marker. If the target squad is within one ruler's length then you will have an easier time hitting them. If the target isn't the player you're attacking has to put down their ruler also touching yours. If the target squad's marker is now within the length of both rulers you can still shoot, but it will be harder. If they are further away than that you can't shoot at all. Basically this means a squad can shoot up to 12 inches away easily or up to 24 inches away with a lot of luck.
To shoot you roll a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers in the squad that is attacking. The dice must score a number equal to or higher than the quality of the soldiers to be a hit. So a Green unit, which has a quality of 6, needs to roll sixes to hit with their rifle shots and a Veteran unit will need to roll fives and Elite needs to roll fours. If the enemy is two rulers away then the dice roll is one more harder, but can't be harder than a six. So both Green and Veteran quality will need to roll a six and Elites will need to roll a five.
For each dice that rolls the needed roll then one of the enemy is eliminated. Which models are taken out is up to the player who owns the unit with the exception of the squad leader. Every time the unit takes at least three casualties you have to roll a dice, if you roll a 6 then the squad leader is one of the casualties.


Fighting Up Close: it is rare, but it is possible for one squad to run up to and attack another squad in hand to hand combat. This is tricky and mostly based on luck over skill. If after a squad moves it's squad marker is touching another squad marker then the two squads will duke it out. To do this each player rolls a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers in the unit and compares the highest scores, any ties result in no loss but any where one is higher than the other the looser takes away a soldier. If there are more soldiers on one side than the other extra soldiers aren't lost, they just have a better chance to get more good scores and not use their bad scores. This is just like using the dice rules for Risk, but with more dice. Every turn from that point on the two squads will fight at the start of the turn, using up one of the squads you can use on your turn even, until they are done fighting and only one squad is left standing.


Examples of Combat;


Shooting.
Chris has a five soldier Veteran squad shooting at Matthew's seven soldier Green squad. Chris lays down his ruler and the target squad's squad marker is within one ruler length so he rolls five dice, one for each soldier, and rolls these scores: 5, 4, 4, 2, 1. This means 1 of the five dice hit, as the Veteran soldiers have a quality of 5. Matthew removes one of his soldiers and then it's his turn, so he has the unit that just took a hit fire back without moving. He has six soldiers left now and they are Green so he rolls six dice and needs to roll 6's. His scores are: 6, 6, 3, 3, 3, 2 so he scores two hits, Christian takes away two of his soldiers. Now Matthew's unit has six soldiers left and Chris' has three soldiers left.


Fighting.
Chris takes his next turn to rush into combat with the enemy soldiers of Matthew's army. He moves his squad marker up to the enemy squad marker so they are touching then both players roll a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers they have, Chris has three and Matthew has six.
Chris' scores are: 6, 4, and 2.
Matthew's scores are: 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1.
Comparing the highest dice first; a 6 to a 5 shows that Chris' '6' is higher so Matthew loses a soldier. The next highest dice are 4 and 5, so this time Matthew's '5' wins and Chris looses a soldier. The next highest dice are compared which is a 2 and a 3, again Matthew wins and Chris looses a soldier. The remaining three dice of Matthew's roll aren't important as Chris has no dice left, but you can see they were really bad rolls so it's good he had so many soldiers to fight with. At the end of the fight Chris has 1 soldier left and Matthew has 5, this isn't looking good for Chris, but Matthew can't move the unit until that last soldier is lost and as long as Chris can roll a six on during the fight he can hold them off.


Part Three: Battle Field Objectives
Rarely in war do soldiers fight each other just to fight, they almost always fight over something or to do something. In Army Wars we call these things Objectives, which means something you want to get to control. Objectives are used to see who wins the game and determine how the game is won. The objectives that are used are determined by where the battle is taking place known as a Battle field.
The battle field is where the players decide to fight it out. This can be anywhere that the players all can see how the battle field is formed and where it ends and that has things in it to fight over and fight from. A good example is a typical dinning table with odds and ends after a day of school. There may be some cups of water, books, a center piece, or anything else. These items become the terrain on the battle field that will help create the excitement.
Some terrain will be large enough to make it hard to see the enemy. When one of your squads shoots at another squad you have to look over the shoulders of your men and see how many of the enemy you can see. Any soldier model you can't see at least half of you can't shoot and they can't be lost in battle. This is good to keep your forces hidden as well so they have a better chance of surviving the battle.
Objectives are things that the armies are fighting over. There are two types of objectives; places and things.
Places are items that the army men can climb up onto or go into. Maybe a book or a model building. As long as one player has more soldiers on or in the objective than their enemy then they control it and get points for it.
Things are small items that the squad could carry, if they would move around life like and do it. These items can be moved by the unit and having it puts the unit in control and will give them points for it at the end of the game. To take a 'thing' you just move your squad marker onto it, then it stays with your unit as they move. If all the soldiers in a unit are lost then the objective drops to where the squad was last.
Every objective needs to have a points value, to do this roll one dice after you decide what the objective is and write down that score. That is how many points it's worth at the end of the game. Objectives worth more points will undoubtedly be fought for more fiercely but that is just more fun!
Victory: after the agreed upon number of turns is played through the players count up their objective points to see who wins. A player scores points for each objective one of his squads controls, either because they have the most soldiers on or in the objective or because the object is carried by the unit. The player with the most objective points wins the game.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why the movement rules in AT-43 are being played wrong.

Mmmkay.





This post is THE reason why this blog exsists. I used to be part of an online community named the Board Game Geek (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/) which is a wonderful community and excellent and just all around cheeky cool. Unfortunately it's being completely over run with internet dickwads (please refer to this link here: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19) and I have less than no tolerance for any person lacking intellect. (As a disclaimer by intellect I specifically mean "capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge, esp. of a high or complex order; mental capacity" and not just saying "NUH UH YOU'RE WRONG!") You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to be cunning or witty, but you do have to use your brain or I get pissed. A tool on the Geek and myself were engaging in a debate over the mechanics of the movement rules of AT-43. Well, I thought we were at least, and as the digital conversation progressed this person became less intellectual by the moment and more dickwad. It culmunated in such fury filled frustration on my part that I left the community all together. It wasn't just this person, I should clarify, I had seen other evidence of the dickwad infusion way before him and did my best to ignore it. But ultimately every forum based community is over run with these people. I'm sure you all have stories, further even i'm confident some dickwad will post something on this blog eventually. If they do so, i'll not hold back. This is my Sparta and all men (in the coloqial non-genDered sense of the shortening of the word 'human') will be responsible for their words.





This being prefaced, I'll dump the blog now...





AT-43 is a miniatures table top war game, which is to say we use army men to run around and roll dice and shoot at each other. I'm stoopid for these games, really, just love them. I love miniatures and love rolling dice and most of all I LOVE GAME MECHANICS. I think I might be in a minority there but i'll read rule books just to read rules.





When I read the rules for AT-43 movement mechanics I flipped with joy. It seems, as I read them, to be a stunningly evolved collection of rules to stream line play time and increase tactical options without reducing the quality of the game. From this point on it gets geeky, be warned, also understand I am arguing for the reading I have taken from the text and support this with actual text. Very geeky indeed.





Let us look now upon the 'normal' mechanics involved in moving miniatures. We shall use the game Warhammer 40K, which is an excellent game in its own right IMO. Let us create within our minds an imaginary unit of 6 Space Marines, one is carrying a missile launcher, four of them bolt guns, and the last is a sgt. with chain sword (vrooom vrooom!) and a bolt pistol. The player decides to advance the squad a normal movement which is six inches (last time I played at least) so he lays out his tape measure and moves the sgt. (or any other model) six inches, then again for the missile launcher troop, then one time each for the other four models. Six measurements, six movements and we are done. Now I haven't timed this but I'd wager you're looking at a couple minutes of play time to move those six models. Some players will move the few models in front and just guess the rest of the models movement into similar formation.





Now let us look at the AT-43 squad movement rules (available rules here: http://www.at-43.com/pdf_EN/AT43/AT-43_rules.pdf). We will use a Steel Troopers squad which consists of six models; one sgt. with a laser rifle, four troops with laser rifles, and a missile launcher. Now this is were I differ from most understandings of the rules, apparently even the company itself (cheeky eh?). One model within the unit is always the leader no matter what, if the leader gets killed the next closest model becomes the leader and you replace him with the model that is being used as the leader model. To move the unit you measure the movement of the leader and then move the remainder of the models up to the leader adhering to the rules for cohesion of a unit. So in practice you measure the movement of the Steel Trooper sgt. (his movement is 14 cm I think) and place the model 'there' and then pick up the rest of the models in the unit and put them around the sgt. how ever you want them to be placed. This takes less than a minute, really less than 30 seconds, I haven't timed it but I played less than 48 hours ago.





Now that we have placed the two examples before you I will show my argument and why I am reading the rules this way and why it is silly to do it any other way beyond some deep intrinsic need to waste time. The location of the models on the tabel is important in both games, but it doesn't need to be to maintain the integrity in either game and I think the designers of AT-43 understood this and created an excellent set of rules around what is important in a table top game. Let us examine the points of importance as I see them:





1. Who can shoot?: as in all wargames of this type if a model can see any of the enemy unit, he can shoot at the enemy unit. Normally the movement rules act as a restriction of the ability of a model to get into a location where he can see the enemy. This, in logical thought, is stupid. On a battlefield no one runs the same speed, or walks the same speed, and the squads of modern warfare do not maintain a formation. Soldiers run to cover, move where they need to to get the best shot, and generally do their best to kill the other guy while not getting killed. The movement rules of all wargames are representative of reality and not ACTUALLY reality themselves. So it seems to me that as no unit moves the same speed on foot since no individual moves the same speed on foot that it is a convention of ease that all units of the same type move the same distance on the table top. This manifests to my mind that idea that the models are place holders for the unit's presence and not actually where the model is all the time, only when they are actually subjected to firing or actually firing. So inbetween it doesn't matter a hill of beans, and further it is logical to think that the forces in question would not move to the best position possible at all times.





2. Keeping it togther.: all of these games contain morale and cohesion rules. AT-43's are excllent IMO because of their simplicty and effectiveness. In any game a model can only be so far from another model within the same unit and from the leader of the squad itself. With AT-43 this cohesion is 2.5cm from an other model within the unit and 10cm from the leader. Now if for some reason this cohesion is broken, say from casualties, then there is no effective upon the unit in game turns. Cohesion is a restriction to location of the models within the unit, not something that must be maintained or bad things happen. A unit must be in cohesion after it moves, period, no options. So you must place the modles within the restricted space available. So, if two of my six Steel Troopers get offed breaking cohesion, what do I do? NOTHING, until they activate again and then they must end their activation in cohesion even if I don't move the unit I'll have to move models to make cohesion again. No morale test, no special rules, just the limit of the model's distance from the leader and each other. The game uses a zone of fire (in the rules) for all units when they are making a shooting attack and the cohesion rules effecitvely limit this zone of fire to 15cm in width which can be obtained with only 7 models. So it doesn't really matter how many there are, they can only string themselves out so wide to take aim.





3. Who dies?: location affects who dies in any war game but as I mentioned above in number 1 this is truly only important at the instant of the attack. The rigid turn based mechanics of a miniatures game is for ease of play, not actual recreation of a battle field. In reality soldiers rarely form up and fire together, it's not a twenty-one gun salute, it's a fire fight and you shoot every time a target presents itself. The turn based firing mechanics more acurately portray a single slice of time for that unit in the scale of the game. In AT-43 impacts (i.e. hits) are applied starting with the models closest to the attacking unit and applied backward one for each lucky soldier unitl they are all applied. Any left over are wraped back around to the front and applied again each getting two until you run out, and so on. If the officer is killed, he's dead (but there is still a leader model fyi) same as the regular or the special weapon carrier. So when placing your models on the table after the movement you are taking a strategic stand on their location until you activate that unit again. Most miniature games require you to move each model seperately, which means if you want your flamer thrower to get to the front and do some flaming throwing you have to slow the remainder of the unit so he can do so. This, really, is stupid. No real unit would work in such a way. The officer would call for the flamer who would huff it from where ever he was up to the target and let 'er rip! No officer would order the flame thrower up and everyone else slow down so that he can get up there. Now I'm sure this has happened before, but only because they didn't want to be in front of the flame thrower and not because the guy with the flamer thrower moved exactly the same speed as the rest of the unit.



4. Where do they shoot from?: this is the key point IMO. In AT-43 all measurements are made from the leader model in the squad. Now some people say to the contrary but neither is this supported by the text of the rules nor is it really such a great idea. Let me unpack this for you. Let us refer to the above two game units. The Space Marines have a range of 24" with their bolters, the sgt. 12" with his pistol, and the missile launcher 36" (I think, it's been a while). So, when you are declaring an attack on the enemy you measure for each of the models to determine if they are in range or not. With the AT-43 squad you do not, you make one measurement from the leader of the attacking unit to the leader of the targeted unit. PERIOD, no more measurements than that. Range is not a measure of limitation but a measure of probability in the game. Weapons have accuracy and the further away the target (in increments of 10cm) the harder it is to hit. It is possible the target is far enough away that the weapon's effective limits are reached and do not hit. There is a dynamic difference between these two mechanics in the sense that you do not lose fire power due to range only effectiveness of that fire power in the hands of the soldier. If a United States Marine and I were to play paintball, he would own me. I am not a bad shot but he would have a better understanding of fire fights and more skill (i.e. accuracy) with the fire arm he was using even if it is a paintball gun. The effective range limitations of the weapon play its part, but they are identical (in a theoretical sense obviously) so only skill affects out come. It is not logical that the bolt pistol has less range than a bolt gun beyond it's EFFECTIVE range which is where the weapon looses accuracy. The bullet doesn't magically stop and drop to the ground.



So I've listed my arguments now I'll put up my reference points, right out of the rule book itself. To briefly reiterate; I am stating that the movement rules should be played as follows:



1. Move leader model (be this officer or not).

2. Place all remaining models in squad around the leader model as desired maintaining unit coherency rules.

3. Go on with your life.



This seems pretty simple eh? You'd be surprised how much out of the box I'm thinking here, damn near inquisitorial levels. Now keep in mind, I am not changing the rules to the game, I am seeing this in the text as it is provided. It seems that the players are for the most part playing it wrong adhereing to a system that is not necessary. I will admit that an "Official" ruiling was obtained on the "Official" forum but I have no proof that either A) this comes from the actual designer of the game or B) that that person knows what they are talking about (no offense intended whoever you are). All of the following are from the AT-43 rulebook as published in 2007 by Rackham, the game's manufacturer. (Bold text is kept as it is in the rule book, it is not bolded by me.)



First point of reference: [page 46 Measureing A Distance] "For a unit consisting of several miniatures, measurements are taken from the edge of the leader's base. Unit to unit measurements are done from leader to leader." This clearly indicates where the measurements are taken from and the heading indicates distance which is what a movement measurement is.



Second point of reference: [page 47 Units] "A unit of several fighters includes a leader. This fighter has the same characteristics as the other members of the unit but the miniature is different. He is used as a reference point when measuring distances." We see the direct statement that the leader model is a reference point for distances.



Third point of reference: [page 58 Movements] "Each unit can move once during its activation. The type of fighter and type of movement define the maximum distance that can be covered. For each unit, it is possible to choose between two types of movement: rush movement or combat movement." Now this is the big point for me. It clearly states that we are discussing the movement of a unit not the movement of a model by the use of the word unit. What determines how far the unit moves? The type of fighter and type of movement; type of fighter being according to the stats on the card because all models of the same unit are the same fighter, type of movement being rush or combat. If you take the time to read the rules by the link I posted you'll see that there is no place within the entire length of the movement rules of a single reference to movement of an individual model by measurement. Obviously if there is only one model anyway you will, but it is not required to move them individually.



Fourth point of reference: [page 74 Resolving Morale Tests]

"Morale test upon the unit's activation

A unit is subject to a Morale test upon its activation in the following situations:

*A Type 1 or Type 2 infantry unit has fallen to 3 members or fewer;

*A Type 3 infantry unit has fallen to 1 member;

*A unit of armored fighting vehicles is entirely immobilized."

>immaterial line skipped for brevity<

"Morale tests outside the unit's activation

Outside its activation, a unit of armored fighting vehicles is subjected to a morale test when one of its members is destroyed or abandoned."



So this shows all the instances that morale tests must be made. None of them have anything to do with cohesion. Typically becoming out of cohesion requires morale tests or special movment in such games but not in this case. This is a minor point truly but it's still valid.



Overall I think these movement rules are a logical evolution of miniature war games. It can take hours just for the movement of large forces, when really it shouldn't, and these prevent that. I think that if you read with an open mind you'll see the same thing I'm seeing. And if not, no big deal, it's just a game.



A couple post scripts...



Post Scrit One: The flamer issue.

In the game the only time a measurement is made that doesn't involve the leader is a flamer special weapon carrier. I won't bore you with all the rules but basically I think this was implemented more as a restriction upon flamers than a restriction upon movement. To use the flamer (which is very dangerous) effectively you must risk that special troop by putting him closer to the enemy than you would probably like. You could argue this but I think you'd basically be hitting your head on a hollow log.



Post Script Two: Maximum Effecive Range.

A real life fire arm has an maximum effective range which is defined as; "The maximum distance at which a weapon may be expected to be accurate and achieve the desired effect." This is not the limits that the bullet will go. You project a 7.5 gram lead slug at 1,180 feet per second it is not going to stop any time soon, namely because it's going ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY FEET in a single second. Dodge that! To show you what I mean lets compare a couple guns.



First we have the Heckler & Koch MP5 Submachine Gun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_MP5) with an effective range of 100 meters (about 325 feet). It uses the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge which is the bullet I reference above.



Second we have the M9 Semiautomatic Pistol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M9_pistol) with an effective range of 50 meters (or about 160 feet) and it uses the exact same cartridge. If I recall right you can actually take the bullets out of one and put them into the other.



So we see the same bullet with wildly different effective ranges but both of those bullets are going to go 1,180 feet per second. So in theory you can wing a whole clip of them at the enemy and you'll not likely hit anything at 150 meters but you might. The ranges in AT-43 are looong indeed to give us a feel for just this sort of occurance.



Post Script Three: Board Game Geek.

I am back on the geek, my handle is Wickerman555 (which is also my xbox live gamer tag) and struggled until deciding to found this blog. It has given me the catharsis I need and didn't feel I could generate with the geek. If you want to look me up be my guest and I love good conversation or debate :)

Post Script Four: Boad Game Geek.

Fuck 'em. I caught shit because they didn't want me to even indirectly refer to the asshats on the geek as the dickwads they were. At first I started to complain but then I just deleted that acct. too. I have no patience for stupid people anymore.

Counter