Sunday, March 28, 2010

War Without End League: lists for the Recusant 113th

Well, while the attempt to build up a 40k league at Hypermind in Burlington is stalling out, apparently The Game Connection in Knightdale has a very healthy 40k league scene. While I still want to build something up at Hypermind, I'm starting to think it's a good idea to get some more experience under my belt, both simply playing 40k and seeing how a thriving league gets run. So for a change of pace I'm about 90% sure I'll field a (Chaos-tainted) Imperial Guard list up there. Here's some tentative lists at the stated point values for the league:

Company Command Squad 100pts
w/ Regimental Standard, Vox-Caster, Lascannon Team, Commander has Power Weapon

'Primaris Psyker' (Chaos Sorcerer) 70pts

Veteran Squad #1 170pts
-Meltaguns x3
-mounted in Chimera w/ Dozer Blade

Veteran Squad #2 185pts
-3x Plasma guns
-mounted in Chimera w/ Dozer Blade

'Penal Legion' Squad (maddened cultists) 80pts

Scout Sentinel Squad 120
-3 Sentinels, all with Autocannon

Rough Rider Squad (1 Rough Rider Sgt, 5 Rough Riders) 80
-2x Grenade Launchers, Sgt has meltabombs

Leman Russ Tank 195
-w/ Lascannon, Heavy Bolter Sponsons, Dozer Blade

1250 pts: add
Infantry Platoon #1 250
-Platoon Command Squad w/ Vox-caster, Autocannon team
-Infantry Squad #1.1, w/ Vox-caster, Autocannon team
-Infantry Squad #1.2, w/ Vox-caster, Autocannon team
-Heavy Weapons Squad, w/ 3x Autocannon teams

1500 pts: add either
Infantry Platoon #2, equipped as #1 250
Ogryn Squad (1 Bone'ead, 5x Ogryns) 250

1850 pts: add
2nd Leman Russ, equipped as #1, 195
Hellhound Squad 155
-1x Bane Wolf, w/ Multi-Melta, Dozer Blade

2000pts: add
5x more Rough Riders 50
'Ratling' Squad x10 (possibly Skaven minis?) (100)

Veteran Squad #2 w/ Plasma guns
Penal Legion Squad
Full-strength Rough Rider Squad
TOTAL: 395

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revolt on Antares #3: Psionics and Status

Bear with me. In the Revolt on Antares mini-game, the heads of each colonist House have powerful psionic abilities, and in my attempt to hack it into a RPG setting I'd like to key in on this, with the notion that the more of the 'royal blood' you've got, the higher your power level will be. I'd thought about just taking the notion of psionics as written in the Diaspora rules as a Stunt that lets you swap a skill
for another skill, and just changing that wild-card skill from Psionics to Assets.

My second idea was using it as is, and just saying that you can't buy Psionics skill at a level above your assets without some explicit Aspect ('Exiled Heir-in-hiding' or the like). This version feels like it allows for more, and more interesting, stories than the first one, and also makes powerful characters (scions of the various Houses) have to invest some real character resources in being both wealthy/powerful and being hereditarily psionic instead of the cheap freebie of the first idea.

But both of these made me wonder - is just putting Assets as your Apex (or close to it) skill sufficient to model the kind of semi-feudal overlordship I'm trying to convey? For people who aren't familiar with the game I'm emulating, maybe a decent comparison would be the head of a House in "Dune." What's the thing on Duke Leto's character sheet that lets us know he's head of House Atredies, and lets him act
as such in game terms? Is it just Assets: 5 and an Aspect (Imperial Duke)? Should something as powerful as "Head of a powerful, militarized Royal House" be a full-fledged Stunt? Or am I missing something? And how would we model someone further down the line of succession? What's on Feyd's character sheet, other than the Aspect 'Tiny Leather Underpants?'

not pictured: the na-Baron Feyd-Rautha's aforementioned tiny leather underpants


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Panthers or Tigers or StuG Gs, oh my

Eastern Front, midwar lists: should I go for a three-Tiger Schwerepanzer company (with 335 points of miscellaneous list-filler), or a 7-strong Pantherkompanie with only 185 points of other stuff, or a mixed bag panzerkompanie with even less room for hangers-on (150 spare points in the version below)? The problem with all these is that I wind up with just a tiny tiny amount of infantry - usually one smallish specialist platoon like scouts or pioneers. Are pure- or nearly-pure tank lists even remotely viable in FoW?

1943 Schwerekompanie (Heer) 1500

HQ: Company HQ: 1x Tiger I E, Sd Kfz 9 (18t) Recovery Vehicle (400)

CP#1: '43 Schwere Panzer Platoon: 1x Tiger I E (385)

CP#2: '43 Schwere Panzer Platoon: 1x Tiger I E (385)

WP#1: Gepanzarte Aufklarungs Platoon, 3 squads (6 MG teams), Command Panzerknacker SMG team, 4x Sd Kfz 250 (230)

WP#2: Panzer AA Gun Platoon, 2x Sd Kfz 7/1 (Quad 2cm) (100)

Pantherkompanie (Heer) 1500

HQ: Company HQ: 1x Panther D, Bergepanther Recovery Vehicle (210)

CP#1: Panther Platoon: 3x Panther D (565)

CP#2: Panther Platoon: 3x Panther D (565)

DSP#1: Panzergrenadier Platoon, 2x squads (4 MG teams), Mortar Squad, Command Panzerknacker SMG Squad, 3x Kfz 70 trucks, 1x Kfz 15 staff car (160)

Panzerkompanie (Heer) 1500

HQ: Company HQ: 2x StuG G, add Sd Kfz 9 (18t) Recovery Vehicle (345)

CP#1: Panzer Platoon 3x Stug G (510)

CP#2: Panzer Platoon 3x Panzer IV G(late) or H (495)

WP#1: Panzer Scout Platoon, 3 squads (3 MG teams), Command MG team, replace bikes w/ 4x Kubelwagens (150)

EDIT: interesting note on the Pantherkompanie - if I ditch the infantry and the Bergepanther, the points I'd have left are just enough to buy a 2iC Panther, which I could then use the kampfgruppe rules with (although doing so in a 8-model list might be odd at best...)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tunisia? I hardly knew 'er!

I may clean this up a bit later, but basically it's two proposed Flames of War lists for the Tunisian theater. Looking for suggestions/criticism as usual:

1500 Panzerkompanie (Tunisia) (1500)

HQ: Company HQ: 2x Panzer III L or M, add SdKfz9(18t) recovery vehicle (235)

CP#1: Panzer Platoon: 3x Panzer III L or M (345)

CP#2: Panzer Platoon: 3x Panzer III L or M (345)

WP#1: Panzer Scout Platoon: 2x Scout Squads (115)
[1 Cmd MG teams, 2 MG teams, 3 Kubelwagens]

WP#2: Panzer Pioneer Platoon: 2x Pioneer Squads (120)
[1 Cmd MG/2 MG teams, 1 Kubelwagen, 2 Sd Kfz251/7 (Pioneer) halftracks]

DSP#1: Assault Gun Platoon: 2x StuG G (340)

And someone to fight them, of course:

1500 US Tank Company (1500)

HQ: Company HQ: 2x M4A1 Sherman, add M31 TRV (240)

CP#1: Tank Platoon: 5 M4A1 Sherman (575)

CP#2: Tank Platoon: 5 M5A1 Stuart (310)

WP#1: Recon Platoon, w/ Bazooka teams and AA MGs on Jeeps (90)
[Cmd rifle, Bazooka, 2xRifle teams; M2 half, 2 Jeeps]

WP#2: Recon Platoon, w/ Bazooka teams and AA MGs on Jeeps (90)
[Cmd rifle, Bazooka, 2xRifle teams; M2 half, 2 Jeeps]

DSP#1: Armored Field Arty Btty: HQ section (swap Jeeps w/ M2 Halftracks, 3x M7 Priest (195)
[Cmd carbine team, staff team, observer carbine team; 3 M2 halftracks, 3 M7 Priest]

I wanted two armored forces, but I also wanted them to have some differences in composition and playstyle. Will these two forces be too similar to make for a fun teaching/opfor duo for me to lend out?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Missing comments

So this is weird/sucky - several comments (mostly from around the new year, and almost all of them from Britt) have vanished from my blog. Anyone more familiar with blogger/blogspot/whatever got any kind of info for me on how I can recover these?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Battlefleet Gothic

"Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."

Well, after some (admittedly rather disorganized) pushing to get the 40k league off the ground, maybe the smart play is to get the people who are already regular Hypermind Attendees and who already have BFG stuff to start something up as well? Who do we have, and what fleets are they planning to use?

ALTON - Space Marines (Black Templars)
JIM - I honestly cannot remember which fleets he had
STEVE - has large Chaos fleet, needs some escort ships though
ME - can bring 500pts of Imperial Navy, Chaos, and Eldar
NEW BRAD - seems like he'd mentioned BFG as well, maybe this is an opportune time to email him again?

I need to work on some way to synergize this stuff. Jim brought his copy of the BFG supplement about tying boarding parties, gamed out with 40k, into BFG - maybe when the new Battle Missions book gets here there'll be some inspiration for an update of that idea (and maybe if I win that eBay auction for a whole Necron fleet, Britt might borrow them to run tandem with his 40k Necrons for that kind of dual-game fun)?

Plus maybe we need an "Admiral's Cup" to compete with the prestigious "Golden Warboss" trophy....

(EDIT: the fact that an Al Swearengen quote came to mind for this turn of events has nothing whatsoever to do with the name of my Imperial Retribution-class Battleship, the Lord Swearengen)

EDIT #2 - added Steve to list

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Revolt on Antares #2: One Size Fits Most

I'm not as up on my current game theory stuff as I should be, but I just had a revelation about handling the Imperial Terran presence on Antares 9. Vincent Baker - who is well known in indie RPG circles for his amazing Dogs in the Vineyard, and whose Lego-based mecha-themed wargame Mechaton will be getting some love on this blog sooner rather than later - also wrote a little bit o' wonder called Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant. In 'Rock', one person plays the eponymous and nearly-all-powerful Rock, and everyone else plays people who are being crushed by his tyrannical rule. The genius of the game is that mechanically, it treats the Rock differently than everyone else. He doesn't have the same type of numbers as eveyone else but 'turned up to eleven;' the game handles him in a fundamentally different manner than all the other players.

And this is the cognitive leap I had - that while it would be nice for there to be different results for any given table's version of the Imperial Terran consular government, there's not only no need for it to be delineated or generated in the same way as the Houses, it might be better for the game and the story your table tells if it's done in a totally different way! Instead of shoehorning the Terran faction into the same set of stats as the Houses, why don't we come up with some different model - something that still has room for variation from campaign to campaign, something that helps us come up with good stories for RPing OR interesting scenarios for wargaming. Maybe all we need for some nice variation on our Imperial Terran consulates is one stat! But what will that be?

To do this, maybe we should set some assumptions about the Terran role in the game. In the original boardgame, the Terrans have more and better units than any of the Houses, and have at least double the 'replacement points' of any single house as well. In two of the three scenarios of the original game, it's Terra and their hangers-on versus someone else (either the Rebel Houses in the main game, or the Silakka invaders and their hangers-on in the second scenario). Imperial Terra isn't here winning hearts and minds; in the introductory paragraph of the gamebook they're described in terms meant to evoke a sort of crumbling Roman Empire; perhaps here it'd be worth pointing out that the Terran 'leader' unit is Ward Serpentine, Imperial Consul and 'commander of the Berserkers of the Imperial Guard,' who are a stronger-than-usual Power Infantry Battalion.

Fig. 1 - Imperial Consul Ward Serpentine negotiating with Silakkan envoy

So Terra is set up to be at least partially a military overlordship, having probably come to Antares 9 and imposed, at blaster point, their rule over the Colonial Houses (who no doubt came here Lord-knows-how-long ago and did the same thing to the poor natives) and I think their military and technological supremacy needs to be a constant. It can get whittled away during the game by the acts of the PCs (or by the results of continuous campaigning in a wargame setting), but for our start-state there's just no reason to roll for it. Similarly, while the Terran forces on the planet are probably cut off from the Empire as a whole (either actually cut off somehow, or just as a result of the weakening of the Empire overall), their high 'replacements' value means they've either got access to a logistical infrastructure of their own, or at least have pretty massive reserves of both materiel and personnel they can call on in the same timescale as the Houses' resupply efforts.

So what's interesting enough to make into a variable? How about we take a cue from Mr. Baker and jump the tracks entirely? Instead of rolling for firepower or industry, why not roll for the Imperial Terran attitude?

Granted, we've already established that Terra is probably doing a lot of (if not all of) their governing by the sword. But a Consulate that's wary of the colonials to the point of paranoia is going to generate very different stories from a Consulate that's nakedly contemptuous of them. A Ward Serpentine that expects (and may one day get) backup from the rest of the Empire will behave very differently from one who suspects (or knows for a fact) he's all on his own here on Antares 9, left behind by the receding tide of a dwindling Empire.

So maybe two stats, to give us a nice 4-box x/y graph. "Degree of Contempt" on one axis, and "Degree of Isolation" on the other? What would be other interesting variables along these lines? The book itself only ever mentions the Empire in terms of it's growing weakness - would it be better to assume that whatever's on the planet is all they've got and all they'll ever have, and come up with a different variable here?

EDIT TO ADD: The Silakka - the alien invader faction - are pretty powerful too, and cry out for some kind of behavior matrix of their own....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Diaspora Hack: Revolt on Antares

The very first 'gaming' product I ever bought was the old TSR mini-game "Revolt on Antares." While my first copy is lost somewhere in the attic or something, I grabbed a fresh copy off eBay a few years ago and have fallen in love with the setting all over again. I've made a few half-hearted attempts at figuring out some way to do some gaming in the setting - either RP, or once I stumbled into the wonderful world of 15mm sci-fi minis, tabletop wargaming. Nothing has ever really seemed to click, but I think Diaspora's version of FATE (plus its integral wargaming ruleset!) might be the way to go. I'm going to hammer away at this some here as well as on the Diaspora mailing list, and I'm actively soliciting feedback, suggestions, or just commentary on the process. I think one of the main strengths of this approach will be the player 'buy-in' as they'll be actively involved in detailing the setting, which was one of the neatest moments in our first Diaspora session.

For people who never played the original "Revolt," the bare-bones version of the backstory is that Antares 9 is on the edge of the (presumably crumbling and decadent) Terran Empire; seven noble houses, descended from the first wave of human colonists, are fighting for power and control of the planet. The leaders of each house have some fantastic over-the-top psionic ability (teleportation, electrokinesis, telepathy - a different one for each house), and each house also has some artifact of unreproducible Precursor god-tech. In the basic scenario for the original game, some of the houses revolt against Terran rule, some remain loyal, and the others get recruited into one side or the other as the game goes on. Other wrinkles in the setting include a lot of off-world (some frankly alien) mercenaries;. the (again presumably) oppressed native population of Antares 9; and gribbly tentacled alien invaders (that show up in the second scenario, but I'd certainly want to include them in my conversion).

One of the reasons I'm thinking Diaspora will be a great fit for this is that rather than sitting down and doing all sorts of background work for all seven houses and hoping that I'm brilliant enough to capture the imaginations of the rest of the players, I can hack the Cluster creation rules and let the whole table help define each house, with the help of some Fudge dice! But this takes us right up to my first issue: what are the 'stats' we'd be rolling up for each house?

Here's the only one I've gotten so far: the starting state of Loyalty. This is the key, because rather than having to sit and decide who takes which side, etc, we'll roll for it. +4 is absolute fanatical servile devotion to the Terran Throne; -4 is going to be open and total rebellion, taken to war-crime-y lengths like systematic atrocities visited on Terran civilians and/or Terry sympathizers. Zero will be 'neutral.' We'll put a 'slipstream guarantee in at this point as well: if there's not at least one House at +2 or higher and one House at -2 or less, we'll use [some algorithm that we'll determine when we figure out what the other stats are] and place a House at any needed value of +2 and -2.

Now we've pointed out my problem - I'd like to figure out what other stats need to be determined. I don't think tech is a good choice, as the original game presents each of the houses having equivalent values for their forces (in other words, everyone's laser tank battalions are as good as everyone elses), with the Terran forces being slightly better than their House counterparts. So I think tech gets a pass here. Which house gets which power is set by the original game as well, and rolling to determine which Artifact they get isn't interesting enough from a narrative point of view to bother with (if we even stick with this idea, it'll just be a flat die roll, or picking the actual chits from the original game out of a bag).

The original game does give each House a slightly different mix of forces, and the ones who have arguably 'worse' forces get more reinforcements - this dichotomy might lend itself to a 'guns or butter' stat, where +4 is an overbuilt military force that's already stretched the limits of a House economy to the point that it's unsustainable, while -4 is a House with virtually no military at all, but with tons of economic and industrial potential to be converted to a war footing in the future. The problem is that this feels a bit reductionist and silly, and I'm not sure it really passes the laugh test. I could split this into two seperate stats - 'Mercantile' and 'Military.' That would give us the possibility of having some houses be all-around powerhouses, and some getting screwed on both fronts. This doesn't replicate the game, but I want to be inspired by the setting, not shackled to it; and the thoughts of some Houses getting to be like pre-WWI Germany, with a massive military and a bumpin' economy while others get stuck being post-WWI Germany with no military and a boned economy seems like it could make for both good RPing as well as interesting fodder for wargaming scenarios. But splitting them out thusly means we're already at 3 'rolled-up' stats for each house. I'd be willing to go to four stats, but five or more feels like it would be a bit much.

Can anyone suggest any other stats that you, as a player, would be interested in knowing about a faction before you sit down to game with it? I'd thought of some sort of 'democracy' or at least 'decency' stat - while the houses are all run by the noble families, maybe something that moves them along a spectrum from 'legitimately concerned with our subjects and giving them some voice in their governance' to 'throw another serf on the fire, this one's quit screaming?' Maybe a stat for how stable each House is? While the backstory suggests that they're some sort of long-standing hereditary nobility, an unstable house might have lots of cadet branches of the main family arguing that they're the real heir?

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Later on this week I'll post something about character creation in this setting, and fish for ideas on how to handle the 'immovable objects' of the setting (the Imperial Terran Consulate, the natives, the invaders, and the mercs).