Friday, May 21, 2010

Resources: Necromunda Cards

Here's a quickie for you: a set of cards you can use to keep track of your Necromunda gangers.

(For the record, I personally think Necromunda is the best game to come out of Games Workshop to date. Don't get me wrong: I was weaned on Space Hulk, and cut my teeth on the first two editions of Warhammer 40,000 - and don't even get me started on Warhammer Quest. So even though I say Necromunda's the best, rest assured that Space Hulk, Rogue Trader and Warhammer Quest are running a close second.)

Anyway, as utilitarian as the stock Necromunda gang rosters may be, they really aren't very useful once your gang's got a few fights under its belt. (Unless your writing is extremely small and precise - and your is eyesight far better than mine!) Also, those 8.5" by 11" sheets tend to take up a lot of prime gaming real estate, especially if you're a kitchen table gamer like myself.

It was for these reasons that - many, many moons ago - I started using cards to track my gangers. The increased room to track skills, wounds, gear, etc. was a great boon, as was the decreased amount of table space the cards required. I've since started using cards for just about every game I play that requires keeping track of my models.

Unfortunately, I've since misplaced the source files for the cards I've been using for several years. Since my printed supply of these cards was running low, I recently created a new set - which I now share with you:

(Note: There's no specific card in this set to keep track of gang-level information - territories, stash, and such. We usually just write this on the back of the leader's card.)

(Necromunda box cover image © Games Workshop)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

After-Action Brief: In Which I Learn How to Lose a New Game

Since I had to take last Friday off to handle domestic issues, my usual routine of running errands Saturday and playing Saturday night or during the day Sunday turned into running errands Friday and playing during the day Saturday and Sunday. As a result I was able to try out a new (to me, anyway) game: Chain Reaction 3.0.

For those readers unfamiliar with Chain Reaction, it's an interesting departure from the standard systems found in most wargames, namely activate side/unit/model, rinse, repeat. The system follows this same basic process, but adds a nifty twist: any action one of my models/units takes is going to provoke a reaction from my enemy, and vice versa. This process of action/reaction continues until one side is no longer able to act - thus the system's name.

Now, I'm not totally new to the game. In fact, I purchased the Chain Reaction 2.0 rulebook several years ago, thanks to the rave reviews it consistently seemed to receive. Unfortunately, although the system was very intriguing, I found the CR2 rulebook mostly incomprehensible; I found it too densely packed with poorly (IMO) organized and exemplified rules. As a result, I never made a determined effort to learn the system and generally disregarded any subsequent references to the game or the Chain Reaction system in general (which also powers other games, such as All Things Zombie and 5150.)

However, for some now-forgotten reason, I found myself on the Two Hour Wargames Web site last week. I stumbled upon a rules tutorial and a step-by-step battle report that did a good job of walking the newb through the system, now revised into a (again IMO) cleaner, clearer version: Chain Reaction 3.0. (Which is also free - if you're even remotely interested, you should head on over to the Two Hour Wargames site and give the "Tutorials" a read. If you're still interested after that, download the free CR3 and give it a go.)

So, after reading the tutorials and getting jazzed again on the system, I printed out CR3 and gave it a couple of read-throughs. Having a little free time on Saturday, I talked my fiancee into giving the game a try. We each whipped up a 5-person gang and commenced a straight-up shootout between the two forces.

The first thing I have to say is that these rules can be difficult to grasp for gamers like myself. It's not because they're so complex, but because they're so different. This game was such a departure from the linear rules I'm accustomed to that my challenge was not in understanding the rules, but in un-learning over 20 years of wargaming standards. These rules expect a level of flexibility that the rigid systems I've played in the past had almost drummed out of me.

By the end of the first game (an hour or so later) we each had a different opinion of the game. She disliked the system, mainly because of what she perceived to be "too much dice rolling." However, to be fair, we were still new to the system, and the game was plagued with multiple rulebook searches and misunderstandings. As a result, unnecessary die rolls were made and the rules were much consulted. However, the biggest issue was that the system is such a new concept, and I wasn't sure how things I knew to do instinctively in other games should be handled in CR3.

For instance, the "In Sight" test. This proved to be the biggest point of misunderstanding and contention in our first game(s). The idea behind this test is this: when an inactive unit sees an enemy unit it couldn't see before, it must roll to see how it reacts. This makes perfect real-world sense, and the examples in both the rulebook and the tutorials are logical and supportive.

However, these examples all refer to one model seeing another model. But how does that work with unit movement? Does my inactive model/unit only react to the first model it sees? That can't be, because then the game breaks down to my "overwatch" being used up after the first guy pokes his head out - every single time. Does my model/unit react to each model as it emerges from cover (which means one at a time, if we play the way we do in our other games)? That would be fine, but then I'm rolling five In Sight reactions for a five-man squad, and doing an awful lot of firing before the enemy even gets a shot off - so that can't be right, either.

The rules addressed this in a manner that I found vague - and ultimately useless - at the time. I scoured the THW Web site and Yahoo group for info, but couldn't find anything useful. That is, until I re-read some of the battle reports and the rules themselves, then it finally clicked: models don't act in CR3 the way they do in the other games I'm used to. On his turn, a player can move, act, or fight with any or all of the models in the activated unit as he pleases, even to the extent of jumping back and forth between them. (Unlike most games I've played, where one model in a unit must complete its actions before the player can move to the next.) Suddenly, the vague "units with multiple models" reference in the CR3 rulebook made sense to me. (The enemy moves a logical number of models out - all that planned to and could move - up to 2" from where the first model appeared in my line of sight. Then the test is taken against any enemy models that are in line of sight at that moment.) The problem hadn't been a complex rule - it had been me bringing 20 years of wargaming standards into the mix.

Aside from this one sticking point, however, I found that the CR3 rules were generally easy to grasp, and by the end of our second game I no longer had to refer to the reaction tables for most of the reaction tests. Combat was even simpler. After the third or fourth time, I didn't have to look at the combat table for results. That second game was finished in less than 30 minutes.

In the end, my fiancee still didn't care for the game. But I think that she'll like it more when she's had more exposure to it - and when we're playing more interesting forces. (She prefers playing dark elves/vampires/cannibals/scavvies/other nasties to playing what she calls "boring humans.")

I, on the other hand, love it!

The flexibility of this game has not been matched by anything else I've played. Encounters play out in a fluid, realistic manner (as realistic as you can expect from a game, at least), and sound tactics are required and rewarded. The combat system is as deadly as it is quick. When your model's hit, the best you can hope for is it being stunned for a turn. Your best option to stay alive is: just as in real life, don't get shot. I recently read on another fan's Web page how this game had ruined other games for him. I think I can see why.

Unfortunately, despite my fiancee's dislike of the game, she utterly demolished my gang in the first game, and the second I conceded after she knocked out my gang's leader. It's a damn good thing I don't base my like or dislike of a game based on my winning or losing...

On Sunday, the whole gang was here for more BBQ (mmmmmmm, slow-cooked, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce-drenched meat *slobber*) after which we played a game of Spinespur. Four factions came to the board looking for "fresh meat" (new recruits, or - as in Slaughterhouse's case - actual meat). Each side earned victory points for dragging living enemies from the table. I didn't lose, since I managed to drag one of Mr. Jingles' thugs back to the chopping block. Unfortunately, one of the other players managed to get two bodies off the table, which left me tied for second place. Oh well, better than another loss, I suppose.

Speaking of another loss, after the Spinespur game, I introduced one of our other players to Chain Reaction 3.0. The game went even faster and with even less consulting of the rules and tables this time. I was doing well at the start, having taken out his leader with a head shot in the second turn. Unfortunately, he managed to achieve a decent position, placing three-fifths of my squad neatly in one of his fire lanes. Next thing I knew, my leader was dead and my specialist (with the only SAW in the group) was pinned behind a wall. I attempted to apply pressure to his other flank by moving a pair of models in close enough to use grenades, a plan that looked like it might work. Unfortunately, one of the pair got shot (instant kill) trying to get into position, resulting in the other retiring too far away for any hope of being rallied. Then my specialist got shot and taken out of action while trying to break from his position. The one active soldier left decided it was time to give it up, and left her spirit-broken comrade to her fate.

Even though the game was a decisive loss, it wasn't like most decisive losses I've suffered. Thanks to the ebb and flow of the Chain Reaction system, I felt like the game could tip my way at any moment. And even though I had the upper hand for the majority of the game, nothing was written in stone. When it was obvious I was going to lose, the game was just about over. Too often I can see the writing on the wall long before the game ends, which really ruins the fun of playing the remaining turns - be it as winner or loser. This game offers enough tactical options to make it challenging, but at the same time allows for a sense of unpredictability.

I can think of no better endorsement for Chain Reaction 3.0 than this: I lost my first three games, and this is now my new favorite miniatures game system.


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 2 draws / 9 losses

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

After-Action Brief & Scoreboard Update

So, the group convened this past Saturday for a most excellent repast prepared by my fiancee (BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, potato salad, corn muffins, baked beans, and much more), after which we all battled the urge to slip into food comas so that we could engage in back-to-back games of Spinespur.

Unfortunately, I once again have no photos of the games, as they were taken by one of our group who has yet to share them. (sigh) However, this time around we tried using a combination of Necromunda and Mordheim as the rules system (since the Spinespur rules unfortunately did not go over within our group as well as the setting, characters, and models did). I had spent some time converting the characters over, and the games we played were 500- and 1,000-point, four-player affairs. (Turns out, 500-points worth of the converted characters is roughly the same as a standard force in Spinespur.)

I was too close to a vegetative state at the time to allow me to recall the exact details of the first game, but suffice to say that I was utterly annihilated by my opposition, losing my entire force (Pigskin, a trio of shacklers, and a gormie) to combat losses. Oh, I was also the first player removed from that game - and the only one to not score a victory point. It ended up being a three-way tie, with only one loser: yours truly. (The scenario required each force to eliminate as many of the opposing forces' leaders as possible. My opponents each successfully killed off a single force leader, whereas I failed to do so.)

The scenario for the second game involved four forces scouring terrain features for the keys to Mr. Jingles' pink Caddy. We determined that he'd parked his car in front of "The Pig Pen" (a Slaughterhouse-run dive) where he was scheduled to deliver valuable goods locked in the trunk to Pigskin and his cronies. Unfortunately, he'd wandered off in a highly inebriated state to, erm, relieve himself - and proceeded to misplace his keys. ("Mighta' left 'em under that tree... or was it behind that scarecrow? Shit, I don't remember...")

I had a solid force, but on my right flank was my fiancee's Dark Faith army - she had availed herself of a soon-to-be-rectified loophole that allowed her to field a lot of low-cost models. Her force was easily twice the size of the next largest force on the board - and most of these were the rough equivalent of Necromundan plague zombies, which are not particularly deadly but are extremely hard to put down.

I was undone by two events:

First, I made a gambit on my right to decapitate the Dark Faith leadership by rushing Pigskin and "Maw's Boys" (a pair of shacklers) at the Anti-pope who had surrounded himself with a retinue of zombies. The plan was simple: All I had to do was use the Boys to draw out a pair of zombies with their hooked chains, then Pigskin could do the same against the Anti-pope himself. Well, the Boys did their part, but - of course - when it came to Pigskin's attack, the dice betrayed me. (I know: "Quelle surprise!") This betrayal left my right-most units completely exposed and at the mercy of a force with significantly superior numbers.

The second part of my undoing was when the other half of my force (led by a custom character known as "The Abominable Shitman") encountered the enemy on my left: an Orphanage force supported by molotov-wielding thugs. Three molotovs were thrown at my men: one hit, but did little damage and ignited nobody; the other two deviated. Yay! Er, no, I celebrated too soon - the second deviation dropped the molotov right where the player had wanted it: on top of the Shitman, who spent the rest of the game taking wounds and running around - aflame - at the rear of the battle.

In the end, Pigskin and Jingles, being pincered between a bunch of zombies and psychotic children - and alone, except for the wandering pile of flaming shit - said "Screw this!" and (reluctantly) beat out the flames on their fecal comrade and made a run for the hills. My only consolation is that neither the Orphanage nor the Anti-pope found the keys. That distinction went to the Men of G.O.D., who never ventured more than 8" onto the table; they discovered the keys in the corn field immediately in front of them and made it off the table after only a tiny scuffle with a fraction the Orphanage crew.

All in all, the game played much more smoothly with the Necromunda/Mordheim rules. It still needs a few tweaks, but I think it's going to be a regular game for our group - at least for the foreseeable future.

As for my failure to achieve victory, I blame it on a deadly combination of gluttony and disloyal dice...


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 1 draw / 6 losses

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

House Rules: The Black Market for Strange Aeons

Once again we failed to get any gaming in this past weekend, so I thought I'd share some more of my Strange Aeons house rules. This time, it's an option for the post-game sequence that allows players to use their map pieces, scrolls, etc., to get a few extra Build Points - by selling them on the black market!

The Black Market
During the post-game sequence, at the start of the treasure hunting phase, a team may send one model to the black market instead of using it to search for map pieces, etc. Map pieces, scrolls, and tomes may be sold here for Build Points instead of being translated; artifacts may be sold instead of being assigned to team members. Only one team member may be sent to the black market, and only one item may be sold during any single post-game sequence.
The value of an item on the black market is as follows:
Map Piece1D66+
Unique Tome/Artifact4D62+

These Build Points must be spent immediately to buy weapons or gear, or to add new members to the team. (This is done before the re-equip phase and regardless of whether or not the team is entitled to re-equip.)

Once a player has opted to sell an item on the black market, the transaction must be completed - even if the player is unhappy with the result of the BP Value roll.

(Optional: If the player really does not want to part with the item, he may be allowed to fight the buyer for it. End the black market transaction; once the player's post-game sequence has been completed, he may engage in a "Fight" scenario against an appropriate number of Lurkers (representing the interested buyer and his or her henchmen). If the player's team wins, he may keep the item; otherwise, the buyer has stolen the item and the player gets 0 Build Points for it.)

It's a Risky Business
Selling goods on the black market is frowned upon by Threshold. The agency tries to police the black market on occult paraphernalia through a network of underground spies and informants. There's always a chance when selling occult items that Threshold will get wind of the transaction and take steps to prevent it.

When any team attempts to sell an item on the market, roll a die. If the value is equal to or higher than the "Risk Factor" value of the item, the agent has been caught red-handed. The item is confiscated by Threshold; remove it from the team's roster. Furthermore, the intrusion has frightened off the prospective buyer - the player may not attempt to sell any other items on the black market until after the next game.

If a team is caught selling on the black market three times or more, roll a die: on a 1, the team's character is spirited away by the Threshold agents, never to be seen or heard from again. (Treat this as if the character has died - a new team must be created.)

Contested Goods
If another player wishes to prevent the sale of an item on the black market, he must declare so before the value of the item is rolled for. The transaction is postponed, and as soon as both players have completed their post-game sequences a new game is played. The two players' teams must face each other in a "Fight" scenario; the winner takes possession of the contested item.

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