Wednesday 30 August 2017

More than a few gears, too long in the making.

During my time off this summer I decided to finally take the plunge and order some of the new plastic Heavy Gear models from Dream Pod 9. I'd been holding off since their shipping charges to the EU are a bit pricey, but I'm glad I finally did get them!

The models are gorgeous, especially to a VOTOMS fan like myself. Since I got the 2 player starter to make sure I had enough models for two forces that would last me a good while, it has taken this long just to get them all painted up.

But now it's done, and you can see the result for yourselves:

The southern gears. I decided to keep their colors more or less the standard scheme, since gray on gray is one of my favorites anyhow.

The heavies, King Cobra in the middle, flanked by two Spitting Cobras.

The Black Mambas, going to be the assault squad in my games. 

Jaeger general purpose gear, the standard gear of choice for the southern army.

Finally, the Iguana recon gears.

Fighting against them will be the Northern army:

The Northerners. While I do like the original white on ocre scheme of the Northern army, I decided to give them the standard coloring of the ATM-09 Scopedog, the main mecha of VOTOMS.

The Northern heavies, Kodiak in the middle flanked by two Grizzlys.

A squad of Jaguar gears. They will be shouldering an assault role, similar to the southern Black Mambas.

Hunter gears, the standard Northern army unit.

A pair of Cheetahs. Light gears for scouting and harrasing enemy units, darting in to strike at weak spots before disappearing again.

The last Nothern unit is the Ferret. A super-light gear, smaller than even the Cheetahs. While it can fight with it's standard loadout of autocannon and a missile pack, the primary job of a Ferret is recon and artillery spotting.

That is the whole lot!

I'm not sure if I'll be able to fit them in with the rest of my factions on the fringe, if they do they will most likely be included as two sides fighting each other in a strictly planetary affair.
Who knows, maybe one of the many mercenary units or fighting Mega-Corps will get drawn into the situation?

Til next time!

Friday 18 August 2017

Hold the objectives at all costs! A Horizon Wars AAR

It's no secret that I like Horizon Wars, it's a great game that can do a lot of different sorts of mecha and combined arms action play faster without making it too simplistic.

If you are interested in reading a bit about my attempts at tinkering with the rules to fit the flavor of certain mecha shows, read on. If you'd rather just get to the action, you can skip this first part!

I have recently started thinking about trying to play more games inspired by some personal favorites, VOTOMS, Gundam and Five Star Stories in particular. Horizon wars is sure to work for games in the spirit of these franchises I'm sure, but there are some things I can't help but wanting to tinker with to get the right feel. That is, the right feel according to me. ;)

So the problem is two-fold; the amount of damage units can sustain and close combat. Starting with that I think is the easier of the two, damage and how it's to be allocated, I set up this game between the SADU and the NTC.

The mechas of the respective parties are very much influenced by Votoms design, so I felt they were a good fit visually as well.

What I decided to try was to limit the amount of points units are allowed to place in the A(armor/agility) stat, thereby making them more likely to blow up in a spectacular fashion, just like the AT's of Votoms. In this game all the units are P2 mechs with an Armor value of 2.
 Since I mostly play solo I use a damage allocation table rather than choosing what stat to reduce when a unit is hit. It used to look like this;
A roll of:
1-5 is a hit to the targets Movement.
6-10 is a hit to Firepower.
11-12 is a hit to the Armor/Agility.

I also modified this table a bit, so that there is an equal chance of "hitting" either of the 3 active stats. So for each hit I roll a d12;
A 1-4 means a hit to the targets Movement stat.
5-8 is a hit to Firepower.
9-12 is a hit to the Armor/Agility.

With these modifications in place I am hoping that the action on the table will be faster and more deadly as well as allowing critical hits have an even bigger impact.

This is where the actual AAR starts!

With the battles between the NTC and SADU turning into a stalemate, the high command on either side is content with whatever progress or even insignificant victory they can manage. That's why these two squads of mechs find themselves on opposite sides of a pair of automated mining facilities deep in the desert. The dome complex in the centre is both residences for the technicans and a research facility of lesser importance. Both sides have been ordered to take and hold, these facilities to deny them to the enemy. At any cost.

The NTC squad. 5 regular NTC Warrior class mechs and a bazooka-carrying Warrior model. The leader is the mech with the brown base.

The SADU unit. 5 of the Turtle-class frontline mechs, lead by a commander in a single Beetle-class unit. 

Most of the first turn is spent manuvering into place, a few daring pilots redline their machines to make it to the dome complex as fast as they can. Cover is scarce on the approach to the domes, something one of the NTC pilots take advantage of. His attack lands a heavy blow on the target, shredding most of it's armor, but it remains standing..

Having failed to destroy the enemy, the NTC mech is now in the open as a comrade of his target locks on from behind some cover. Blasted by rockets, he loses some armor too!

Start of the second turn. Each side left at least one unit to hold the mine closest to them, while they try to out-manouver the others. Two units from each side is playing a deadly game of cat and mouse outside the dome complex, trying to get the upper hand as trans-plas shatters and metal warps from stray shots.

Getting out into the open was a bad idea. The SADU pilot lines up another barrage, finishing the job this time. The NTC pilot will hopefully learn from his error, if he makes it out that is.

The partner to the recently downed Warrior mech pops around the corner, blowing a few pieces off the legs of the attacker and forcing the SADU mech to retreat back to the relative safety of his companions.

Speeding in from the south side, the bazooka Warrior fires round after round towards the nearest Turtle mech. He manages to do some damage to all of the targets systems, but not long after he takes a hit from a second mech, damaging his weapon.

The stricken SADU mech decides to deal with the most immediate threat while the bazooka mech is busy switching barrels, he spins around the corner and releases a swarm of missiles at the mech there. Taken by surprise, the pilot doesn't have time even to return fire before his mech is coming apart at the seams from the ferocious attack. That's the second NTC mech down!

Taking control of the situation, the leader of the Warrior squad shows why he is in charge: In a single smooth spin, he fires his auto-cannon right through the cockpit of one of the Turtles, taking the mech out of action immediately. As he finished the manouver the next burst finds both arm and leg servos of the other SADU mech!

Knowing that keeping the centre is the way to victory, another machine is ordered away from the mine and charges at the NTC leader with rockets speeding towards the enemy machine. The explosions pummel the mech, rends the armor, but fails to take it out completely.

Coming to his commanders aid with a helping of hot lead, the last of the Warrior mechs manage to sever feed wires and damage actuators, but the targets armor remains mostly intact.

Along the southern edge one SADU pilot has gotten dangerously close to the NTC line and was in a shootout with the lone pilot left to guard it.

Once again the NTC commander shows his adversaries why he is the boss. He quickly blows apart the damaged machine to his left, before taking more carefull aim and scraping the one in front of him as well!

Meanwhile the infiltrating Turtle gains the upper hand and destroys the lone guard, before moving up and firing on the exposed back of the bazooka Warrior.

Spinning around to face the new threat, the bazooka warrior zooms into point blank range and delivers the finishing blow, sending pieces of the SADU mech scattering to the four winds.

Having been caught in the deadly accurate fire of the SADU commander and his Beetle mech, the last Warrior mech swings in beind the dome complex to seek cover from his dogged pursuer. The SADU commander catches up however and deliver the final blow!

The Commanders face each other through the greasy smoke of the wrecked warmachines lying around them. They know they each have their orders, but they also know they can't hold this place with the troops left under their respective command. Gathering up the survivors on either side, they both decide to withdraw for now, taking the dead and wounded with them.

They will settle this another time.

Having finished the first test, I'm glad to see it work so well! The numbers might have been skewed a bit by the fact that I rolled quite a few criticals, but the end result came closer to the high mortality amongst AT pilots in VOTOMS and that was what I was hoping for. The NTC boss is definitely being declared an ace after his stellar preformance during this fight, taking down several mechs with little to no help!

I'm still considering several solutions to modify close combat and also trying to finish up my heavy gear minis while I wait for some new models for my latest idea. More on all this soon!

Til next time!

Friday 4 August 2017

Trying out Unity Field Agent

Between testing out different approaches to narrative mecha gaming, I thought I would try out the latest offering from NWG, Unity Field Agent.

I got the game while it was in beta but didn't find the time to try it before now, so that needed to be remedied!

For those of you who don't already know, Unity Field Agent is a skirmish game centered around small groups of about 5-15 models per side fighting out on the fringes on human space.

Unlike some of the other NWG rules UFA has a standard statline and a point system for models to allow for standard army lists and encounters, but also have a squad mode for necromunda-style play where you follow a group as they advance between games and a more free-form story mode for narrative games.

The stats are movement, brawl, firing, toughness and morale. The stats are fairly self explanatory, movement is the number of inches a character can move. The other stats have a numerical value between 1+ and 6+ and is used for brawling, firing, resisting damage and morale tests, respectively. 

The system uses standard D6s, but have a card-based activation mechanic using a normal deck of cards to determine activations. Each force is assigned a suit in smaller games, or a color in bigger ones, with number cards giving a character 2 actions, face cards giving you 3 actions and aces allowing for 1 action, even if you have already activated earlier in the turn.  Finally jokers can be used to advance the game clock and trigger random events if used.
You can also choose to use a card to give a bonus action instead of a regular activation if the character has the appropriate traits.
Another thing that is a bit different with UFA is that you can't repeat actions in the same activation unless you have a double-action trait. So if you have 3 activations you can't move, then shoot and move again in a single activation, unless you have the double-move trait.

For this game I decided to keep it simple to start with setting up two forces of about 75 points, the smallest suggested size.

In a standard "encounter" game, you set up a number of objectives depending on the agreed upon points. For this game I had two objectives; The red fuel depot and the Generator along the center line. If you are the only one with a character within 2" of an objective at the end of a turn, you receive 1 VP. 

The Zephyr peacekeepers; One veteran acting as leader armed with a assault rifle, a soldier with a rattle gun (LMG) and 4 soldiers with rifles. Most characters can make a 5" or 6" move. 

The attacking Cultists; One veteran acting as leader armed with a assault rifle, a Bruiser with a maul and a pistol, a heavy cultist with a rattle gun, a scrapper with a auto pistol and 4 cultists with rifles.

The first turn I learned a important lesson; I need to make the set-up distance smaller, as all the characters spent the turn running towards the objectives and each other. 

When a character in UFA decides to take a shot at another, you roll a number of D6's depending on the weapon. Most weapons roll a single die against the characters firing stat as well as a severity dice, in this case 4+. If the target is in the open you need to match or beat it. But if the target is in cover or there is poor visibility or other scenario considerations, you need to roll over the firing stat instead.

The shot hits and then the targeted soldier rolls a toughness roll trying to match or beat his toughness score. Some weapons have a impact score, this gives you a penalty to your tough roll equal to the value. This also means that some weapons can hit hard enough to make your toughness rolls impossible( e.g. a toughness 5+ character being hit by an impact 2 weapon). In this game the only weapon with an impact score is the maul of the cultist bruiser.
If he succeeds, then the shot is deflected but you check the severity dice to see if the target gets shocked. If the toughness roll fails, like in this case, you apply the severity die in full. This soldier was lucky enough to only be wounded, you can take 3 wounds before being taken out of action.

Another shot hits a soldier taking cover amongst the buildings. He is less lucky than his comrade. When you fail a toughness roll, you look at the severity die rolled together with the attack die. On a 1 the character is shocked, pinning him in place and keeping him from taking bonus actions that aren't an attempt to recover.
On a 2 or 3 you are wounded, you take a -1 penalty on all your rolls for every wound and you can take 3 wounds before being taken out of action. But if the severity die shows up 4-6 then the character is instantly taken out. This is what happened here.

Return fire damages the cultist bruiser as he runs across the sands.

Pushed on by the cultist leader, the scrapper reaches the fuel depot before any of the soldiers.
Shots ring out, and the scrapper is taken out by a Zephyr shooter.

Before he has any time to appreciate his fine shot, return fire takes him out as well. The soldier behind him is forced to take a morale test as he was within 4" of the destroyed character. He rolls 2D6 aginst his morale score, comparing them separately. One fail and one pass, forcing him to fall back in search of cover, and takes a shock marker as well.

The onslaught continues, with another soldier falling to cultist fire. This time the cowering soldier passes both dice on his morale test, and stays in place. A character can have a total of 3 shock markers before fleeing the field.

Retribution is swift, as the Zyphyr heavy rakes rattle gun fire at the already damaged cultist bruiser. Since he had previously taken 1 damage, he had to roll 6+ instead of the normal 5+ on his toughness roll, and failed. a 4 on the severity die means he is destroyed outright by the incoming burst.

At the end of the second turn Zephyr holds the generator, scoring 1 VP. They have also destroyed a bruiser and a scrapper, giving them another 4 VP. Destroyed of feeling models award you VP equal to their cost/4 so a bruiser with a cost of 12 is worth 3 VP if destroyed or driven off. The Cultists have isn't in control of any objective, but have destroyed 3 soldiers for a total of 6 VP.
Things are looking a bit hairly for the Zephyrs!

Sprinting into brawling range, the cultist swings at the heavy gunner. Brawling, like with shooting is based on the type of weapon  (if any) you use. The cultist is not armed with one, so he rolls a single attack that needs to beat his brawl score. He misses. Deciding to pay back in kind, the gunner swings his gun as an improvised weapon, allowing him a single attack as well. Rolling a 6 to hit and a 5 for severity, he hits and destroys the cultist who fails the toughness roll.

With his remaining action he goes on overwatch, wary of any attempts to rush the objective. Meanwhile the cultists are swarming over the more or less un-protected fuel depot, shooting at the Zephyr leader as they go. The leader uses his activation to rally the shocked trooper. Rather than taking the standard actions when his card comes up, he can rally a friendly model within 8, removing 1 shock marker without a roll required. The leader is not considered activated and may still act later, but this action allows for watching enemies (those on overwatch) to attack him when rallying.

When a cultist rushes up to the objective and into the LoS of the watching heavy, he is allowed to fire at any point during the action. You can react to almost any action exept steps ( a small 1" move you are allowed with most actions in the game) and recover actions. A rattle gun at close range in the open is quite a deadly thing, and the cultist is riddled with bullets before he has a chance to return fire.

The leader of the Zepyhr soldiers now get to activate and wastes no time lining up a shot at a cultist on the edge of the objective. Failing his toughness roll, the cultist is struck down.

When the cultist falls, it forces his two companions to make a morale check since they are close enough to him when he is destroyed. In a streak of rare good luck for the Zephyr troopers, both cultists fail their tests, forcing them to fall back and run away. This also means that they have no more characters in the battle, and the game is over.

Looking at the final score the Zephyr has 2 VP from the objectives and 18 VP for the destroyed and fleeing cultists for a total of 20 VP.

The cultists have 1 VP for objectives, having held the fuel depot for a round and 6 VP for the destroyed soldiers for a total of 7 VP.

A pretty telling victory for the Zyphyr, even if it looked dark for a time there!

Now normaly the game uses a system of "Ticks" to track when a game ends as well as certain random events. Each time a turn ends you shuffle the deck and advance the game clock 1 tick, as well as when a joker is drawn if you so choose and in case of certain events as dictated by scenario or random events if you use them. A good lenght is suggested to be 8 ticks, which would be between 4 and 8 rounds depending on the draw and choices made by the players. This is of course dictates only the maximum lenght of a game, as you check for victory conditions by the end of each turn.

I enjoyed the game, but was initially surprised at how deadly it was, having played a fair bit of Starport Scum recently. With the standard toughness being 5+, even without the heavier weapons that gives a impact penalty and the 4-6 destroyed results means that you'll often take out characters you hit pretty fast. I am all for it, a higher deadliness makes your choices that much more important, knowing the characters can't soak up bullets like a sponge.

Like with almost all NWG games there is a set of optional rules included to modify the experience to fit what you and/or your group is looking for, including dialing down the leathaliy a bit and  things like jumping climbing and other adventurous stuff you might not need in every game, but that might be fun to have for some scenarios.

Hope you have liked this AAR, even if it is a bit on the technical side rather than the narrative one I tend to go for.

Til next time!