Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mars Project

The Mars Project

Happy New Year's, or almost. I've decided that I like my Martian setting enough to develop it further.  This will consist of several overlapping projects:

  • A Gaming Table: I'm working on a table for them to fight over.  I've already posted some pictures from this part of the project.
  • Miniatures: I've already begun to collect and paint some proof-of-concept army forces.  My goal is to bash together some forces from existing plastic and metal miniature lines with a minimum of work.  I'll show my work as I go along.  Right now, I'm working on the Colonists and the Free Humans.  Next up will be the Brutes, followed (eventually) by the Ancients. I'm beginning by making some basic infantry squads, then I'll add some vehicles. 
  • Not really a face.
  • Rules Development: With a background in mind, I can develop core rules, army rules and setting simultaneously. I think this will help me focus, and provide practical problems to focus on. Hopefully, it will be easier than devising rules in a vacuum, and it will let me explore play balance and faction design.
So that's my plan for the next couple of months. I may also move from a twice-a-week to a weekly format, depending on how quickly things move to postable states.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fear the Yule Cat!

I present for you, Iceland, land of messed up folklore...

First up, we have the Yule Cat. The Yule Cat eats children who don't receive clothes for Christmas! 

"He roamed at large, hungry and evil." Ho! Ho! Ho!
The Yule Cat Poem

You all know the Yule Cat
And that Cat was huge indeed.
People didn't know where he came from
Or where he went.

He opened his glaring eyes wide,
The two of them glowing bright.
It took a really brave man
To look straight into them.

His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high.
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.

He gave a wave of his strong tail,
He jumped and he clawed and he hissed.
Sometimes up in the valley,
Sometimes down by the shore.

He roamed at large, hungry and evil
In the freezing Yule snow.
In every home
People shuddered at his name.

If one heard a pitiful "meow"
Something evil would happen soon.
Everybody knew he hunted men
But didn't care for mice.

He picked on the very poor
That no new garments got
For Yule - who toiled
And lived in dire need.

From them he took in one fell swoop
Their whole Yule dinner
Always eating it himself
If he possibly could.
Hence it was that the women
At their spinning wheels sat
Spinning a colorful thread
For a frock or a little sock.

Because you mustn't let the Cat
Get hold of the little children.
They had to get something new to wear
From the grownups each year.

And when the lights came on, on Yule Eve
And the Cat peered in,
The little children stood rosy and proud
All dressed up in their new clothes.

Some had gotten an apron
And some had gotten shoes
Or something that was needed
- That was all it took.

For all who got something new to wear
Stayed out of that pussy-cat's grasp
He then gave an awful hiss
But went on his way.

Whether he still exists I do not know.
But his visit would be in vain
If next time everybody
Got something new to wear.

Now you might be thinking of helping
Where help is needed most.
Perhaps you'll find some children
That have nothing at all.

Perhaps searching for those
That live in a lightless world
Will give you a happy day
And a Merry, Merry Yule.

Next we have the "Yule Lads," troll children who descend on Icelandic farmsteads to perform a number of charmingly horrific acts.  They have names like "Window Peeper" and "Sheep Botherer," although the names and translations vary.  

A company in Iceland sells figurines of them, too.  Here they are are with their parents (and the Yule Cat):
The Yule Lads
Contemplate these and other horrors as I travel on vacation.  It is best to wait till after New Years to Google the NSFW "necropants." If ever.

I love Iceland.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Squads, Fireteams, and the Scaling Down

Squads, Fireteams, and the Scaling Down

I've been thinking about smaller-scale games a lot recently.  My original inspiration imagined company or even battalion scale forces. I'm increasingly coming to view this is as impractical on a standard table.

I've never encountered a squad or skirimish level game I've really enjoyed.  In GW/Warhammer skirmish games such as Necromunda, Mordheim, Warhammer Historicals: Old West, each model increased in importance, but didn't gain anything more interesting to do than move or shoot.  Keeping track of the stats and experience of each model never really compensated for the tactical flatness of the game.

Squads apply all kinds of complex, adaptive maneuvers and tactics which are not normally covered by Company-level wargaming rules.  See, for example, this set of Ranger training videos:

A Preliminary Rules Sketch

Here are some basic thoughts on scaling the game down to squad level.  I think they would be too detailed to use in larger games, but might might really small ones more interesting:

Each Squad has a Squad Leader.  Additionally, each Team may have a Team Leader.  Teams must maintain coherency with each other.

Each model has a visual arc of 45 degrees from its front. 

At the start of the movement phase, declare where you wish to move turns each model.  Then roll a Leadership check for each model.  If the model moves or turns to face a target within the arc and LoS of its Team or Squad Leader, or if the model moves in a direction parallel to the arc and LoS of the its Team or Squad Leader, it gets a +1 to the roll. If it fails, it becomes Confused until the start of the player's next movement phase.

A model which is Confused may move or turn normally, but it suffers an additional -1 to hit.

This represents the Confused model reacting slowly to the commands of his Team or Squad Leader.

Geek Notes

Keeping track of the facing of all models in a squad is annoying, but I think that at this level of simulation it would add a needed boost to complexity and realism.   Particularly if you interpret line of sight restrictions harshly.  Now it will make a difference on which side of the formation each weapon is located and which way it is facing.

I have no idea how common it is for people in an actual fireteam to become so confused they function sup-optimally, but it seems like a good game mechanic to reward wise placement and anticipation of arcs of line of sight and formation.

The placement of Team and Squad leaders will become crucial for directing the rest of the squad.  A Squad with Team Leaders will have a distinct advantage in movement and control over one which has only a Squad leader.  (Ie, one which uses more modern fireteam tactics, compared to the more homogenous WWII squads.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Martian Technology (Background)

Martian Technology

All local Martian technology is based in some way on the Ancients' technological achievements.  Only the recently-arrived Colonists possses their own independant technological, scientific, and manufacturing principals.

The Obligatory Sci-Fi Crystal!
Before their apocalyptic civil war, the Ancients possessed fantastically advanced science.  They had technology enabling them to open gates to other worlds, genetic engineering allowing them to modify their slave races, anti-gravity machines, cold fusion, direct energy weaponry, force-fields and other wonders.  Most of their population and industrial base vanished in the war, but for the thousands of years after, they have remained the only civilization with a true mastery of science and technology.  They still possess their walkers, their fliers, and their weapons -- but whether they can still produce them, no outsider knows.

The Free Humans rely on scavenged or bartered Ancient technology to maintain their civilization. A human city requires one critical item to maintain itself -- the Fabricator.  The Fabricator device pre-dates the civil war, and the Free Humans have scavenged many working examples from ruins over the cetnuries.  When fed raw materials, it synthesizes several advanced construction materials, which the Free Humans craft by hand into their devices.  Among these materials are a variety of resilient, light weight synthetic substances, anti-gravity strips and crystaline energy emiters and lenses.  The Free Humans use the emitters and lenses in constructing blasters and foreceilds, and the strips in building thier fliers.  The synthetic materials find use in armor.  In addition, all Fabricator products have a variety of civilian uses.  Because the materials are shaped by hand tools, they often resemble primitive items -- but they are made of advanced materials.

Energy to power their devices come from electricity stored in capacitors. The smallest cities rely on their Fabricator to provide electricity as well, as it encorporates a cold fusion plant, and requires only water to operate.  Free-standing Power Matrices also exist, each containing a redundant plant.  The Fabricator can also fashion solar panels. 

Because the Free Human Cities rely on Fabricators to survive, Ancient raids usually seek to capture or destroy these devices and other advanced technology. However, ruins are everywhere, containing undiscovered Fabricators and Power Matrices.  Ancients themselves will sometimes deign to trade a Fabricator or Power Matrix to favored human bands.  Sometimes the Free Humans will cripple an Ancient Walker or flyer and strip it of advanced components which they cannot duplicate, such as Matrices and Heat Rays.

The Brutes exist at a much lower technological level than Free Humans.  They rarely possess the skill or expertise to operate a Fabricator.  Moreover, their nomadic lifestyle means such Fabricators they do possess must remain behind in fortified manufacturing camps. Brutes rarely utilize crystal or field generators, but Fabricator synthetics form the barrells and locks of their firearms, the plating for their armor, the membranes of their survival filtration gear, and the skin of the tents and saddles.

Colonial technology is based on earthly manufacturing techniques. The Coloniasts have found plenty of iron, steel and copper in the ruins of the Ancient cities, and they have learned to smelt and shape the some of the softer Fabricator synthetics.  As yet, the Colonists do not possess a Fabricator, nor do they understand the principals of their operation. Given their contact and trade with the Free Humans, they may soon learn.

Colonists rely on organic materials for their fuel source. To their delight, they have found that the organic sludge and carbonized chunks buried under most ruins can be easily processed into oil for their machines.  Only a few Colonists realize that these compounds are, in fact, residue of the verdant life that once covered the planet before the Ancients' civil war.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mars: The Free Human Cities

Mars: The Free Human Citites
Fear my hat!
Let's return to metagame and faction design (and to my proposed Martian setting) again.  Last time, I examined the Colonial army.  This time, I want to explore the Free Human army. 


The Free Humans live in the ruins of Ancient cities.  Their technology consists of hand-crafting materials produced by ancient Fabricators: anti-gravity strips, crystaline field emiters, and super-hard, super-light synthetic sheets.  From these, the Free Humans craft Blasters*, Electro-Javelins, Force-field shields, body armor and light flyers.

The Free Human forces should have an "ancient" historical look, and be easily kit-bashed from current historical plastics.

I want their organization to differ from the Colonials significantly enough to be interesting, but not be so weird as to seem ridiculous. I've given them Latin (-esque) names for now, but I may replace this terminology with some invented weird language later.

Equipment and Troop Types

The bulk of the Free Human army consists of infantry carrying one of the following types of equipment.  Each type of troops is called a classus.

  • The Lanceatores:  The Lanceators carry long-ranged Blast Pikes with a high rate of fire.  They are protected by a small force field mounted in a shield, and light body armor. The Lanceatores' principal battle-field role is to supply suppression fire.  Some Lanceators abandon their Blaster Pikes to man long range Blaster support cannons.**  (These can be made from pike or spearman models, attaching a muzzle or crystal to the send of the spear.)
  • The Venatores:  The Venatores carry Blaster carbines, good for shooting, but mostly for close-ranged firefight.  They are protected by a small force field mounted in a shield, and light body armor.  Their battlefield role consists of manuever and assault.  Some Venatores replace their carbines with electro-javelins.***  (These can be made from any model with a shield, converting the other arm to carry a short gun.)
  • Scutarii: The Scutari wear heavy body armor and carry large forcefield shields. They are fearsome swordsmen.  Their role is either to shield other troops with their heavy shields or to close and assualt enemy troops.  The Scutarii also function as engineers, assembling large portable force field generators.  (These can be made from swordsman models.)

These three troop types operate in various combined arms formations.  They are supplemented by speciality troops, including:
  • Umbratores: The Umbratores carry special concealing fields, and specialize in scouting and reconassance.
  • Alares: The Alares are light cavaly carrying light force shields and Blaster carbines.  They specialize in scouting and reconassance.
  • Cataphracti:  The Cataphracti are heavy cavalry, specializing in assault and melee. They wear heavy armor, and carry large portable force field generators.
  • Dracones: Light anti-gravity transports.


The Free Humans' lowest level of organization is the manus (or Fireteam) consisting of three soldiers of the same type. 

A Contubernium (squad) gathers two to four manus under a Decanus (Sergeant).  In peacetime, a Contubernium consists entirely of manus of the same classus (type). 

A Triad (platoon) consists of three permanent (peacetime) Contubernium: one of Lanceatores, one of Venatores, and one of Scutarii.  In wartime, it may attach manus of different classi into temporary, mixed, Contubernium for combined arms purposes.

A Triarch (leutinant) commands the Contubernium.  A Triarch usually has two aides.  The Contubernium may have a manus of specialty troops in support.  The Triarch may attach these troops to another squad, to his own command squad, or use them to operate independently.  Some lucky Triads may have Dracones transports, one for each Contubernium and one for the command and support manus.

Three Triads constitute a Century, led by a Centurion.  The Centurion leads his own manus of three men, and may have various units in support.

The Triad List

1 Triarch, with two aides.  May be equiped as Lanceatores, Venatores, Scutari or Alares.

0-2 Support Manus

0-5 Dracones: one for each game unit.

3 Contubernia of 1 Decanus and 2-4 manus.  All three Contubernia must be the same size.  There must be an equal number of Lanceatores, Venatores, and Scutarii manus in the Triad, but they may be assigned to Contubernia however the Triarch wishes.  The Decani may be equipped as Lanceatores, Venatores, and Scutarii.

Any manus of Lanceatores may replace two figures with a Blaster support cannon (and two crew) 
on a single round base.

Any one Venator per Venatores manus may be equipped with an electro-javelin launcher.

Any one manus of Scutarii may be replaced with a portable forcefield generator and three engineers on a single round base.

*I'm renaming the Death Ray, as it's too similar to the Heat Beam.
** LMG or HMG equivalent.
*** Think, grenade launcher.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Putting the Fun in Attacking A Machinegun Nest

Putting the Fun in Attacking A Machinegun Nest

In my recent playtesting, I realized that the basic action of this game will consist of one squad with a machinegun (or equivalent) attacking another squad with a machinegun (or equivalent).  The size of a 6'x 4' table and the size of a 28mm miniatures pratically dicate it.

So it is my responsibilty to make such actions as interesting and fun as they can be. 

What makes a game fun? 

1) The players must face choices.  Whether this is in the equipment models carry, the Doctrines they use, or the movements they make, there should be different options.  Preferably viable ones, representing varied approaches to the same goal.  Some options may be stupid or suicidal, of course, but these don't really count.  An option no one in their right mind would choose isn't really an option at all.

2) The skill of the player must make a difference.  The game mechanics should not be so random that player choices are rendered irrelevant.

3) There should be some uncertainty.  Some element of the mechanics should be random, so that players can only assess probabilities, not certainties.

How does this apply to machine-guns?

Historically, the advent of the machinegun presented attackers with a dilemna.  Namely, one machinegun could mow down an almost unlimited number of troops trying to charge it.  Given a moderate amount of protection (such as a trench) a machine-gun could dominate any peice of open ground. Queue World War One.

Most of the developments in that war, and in the interwar period, consisted of a growing tool-kit of methods for attacking a machinegun.  Mortars and artillery could fire explosive shells into trenches.  Tanks could run over them, protected by their armor.  SMGs and assualt rifles placed (nearly) machine-gun equivelent firepower into more mobile packages. And most importantly: small-unit tactics empahsized stealthy, dispersed movement and the power of suppressive fire. 

None of these tools completely negated the deadly power of the machinegun; each had their drawbacks.  But they gave a commander real options.

Our game should replicate each of these options and their shortfalls.

Range, RoF, Suppression and Saves

First, we will divide the fire of a defending squad into three zones.  Furthest will be Shooting within the range of a heavy machinegun (probably 36") but out of the range of light machine-guns and rifles (probably 24"). Manuever in this zone will be dangerous, but not catastrophically deadly, with an average RoF of 10 for the defenders and the poor advancing troops saving on a 3+

Next closest is Shooting between 24" and 6".  Now any machineguns and the rifles may fire.  Here shooting becomes quite deadly.  More importantly, it becomes quite likely to Suppress an advancing squad.  Here the defenders will average an RoF of 30 against a save of 3+ for the advancing toops.

Closest is the Firefight range of 6".  Now the defenders' RoF is the same, but the Saves on both sides are reduced to a 5+. 

With these facts in mind, attackers should do as much of their maneuver as possible in the farthest zones, and to stay in cover or out of LoS at they close.

Attackers will suffer a penalty to their to-hit, since they will be moving.  They can mitigate their problems by keeping their fire-support models stationary, and moving only their assaulting element.  If they can Suppress the defenders, and keep them that way, maneuver is a lot less deadly.  Since the attackers will usually be moving into range, they will have the initiative and be able to choose when and where the shooting will take place.

Dirty Tricks and Special Weapons

Another solution is to target the enemy machine-gun.  Mortars were pretty much designed for this task.  You can also send in a tank or armored gun, as was often done in WWII. (Whenever there was one around.)  If you haven't got anything else, you can try to sneak up and use a grenade.   I intend to give Mortars, Tanks and Grenades Doctrines allowing them to target particular enemy models.  So if you can move into range and spot the enemy gun, and get lucky with your rolls, you should be able to knock out that enemy gun.  Eventually. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

More Early Playtesting

More Early Playtesting

So with some new terrain and a bigger table, I once more set forth to bravely observe small metal combats. 

Cross at your peril
I tried a few more games of CSMs against Guardsmen and some supporting vehicles.  These games were a lot like the ones on the smaller tables -- the CSMs were close to indestructable.  They were also pretty dull games, with the Guardsmen throwing tons of dice, and the CSMs wading through. Eventually I decided I needed to get closer to the basics of the game, with more closely matched forces.

So I put away my CSMs and dug out my Eldar collection.  I then set up a few scenarios of Eldar against Guard -- with one squad of Eldar Guardians against one squad of Imperial Guard.  I gave the Guard a machinegun, and the Eldar one machinegun and one big-ass meltagun.  I set them at the same ratings.  I placed the Guardsmen into cover, and arranged some craters so that the Eldar could advance partly through cover. The forces didn't really reflect any 40k background.  They were just cone heads with guns vs space dudes with guns.

The game became -- could the Eldar successfully push the Imperial Guardsmen out of their crater?

To help them do so, I gave the Eldar a single Doctrine.  On a 3+, the meltagun's hits (if any) had to be assigned to the Guardsmen's machinegun.  I gave it a value of High Explosive 2.

I also decided to test some of my proposed changes:  I fixed the firefight distance at 6" rather than 12".  Rather than require a wound for each model, I set the threshold for Suppression to one Wound for every two models.

The results surprised me -- I expected the Guardsmen to easily Suppress and kill the attacking Eldar.  However, with moderate luck, and good use of terrain, the Eldar could often (but not always) enter Firefight range successfully and even take the objective!

Their success depended largely on their Leadership and Doctrine rolls.  When the Eldar could assassinate the machine-gun, or recover from Suppression, they tended to win.  At least once, the Guardsmen failed to recover from Suppression, hindering their own defense.

I decided these results were promising, as they reflected historical considerations and tactics in such an attack, and the outcome varied depending on both luck and skill employed.

But maybe my biggest realization was about space and scale.  When I was playing with 6 squads of Guardsmen, plus tanks, plus CSMs, my figs lined up from board edge to board edge.  And it was just dull.  Once I focused on only two squads, with room to move, the game got a lot more exciting -- about the opposite of what I'd expect. 

I like to play with as many models as I can, and so I'd planned my game to follow a company or even battallion level of organization.  But on a 4'x 6' this just may not be any fun.  Maybe I need to scale down.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Gaming Table

As part of this blog, I've decided I need a full gaming table which I can use for play-testing and pictures.  Until now, I haven't had a table at home, preferring to play at my FLGS or at someone's house.  (See the zillions of battle reports I've been in at WWPD.)  But I'm finding that writing a game is not simply a mathematical exercise, but involves testing actual forces against each other, in the full panoply of terrain, angle, and distance.  So, off to get a table...
The Table So Far
The Saga Begins...

My house has limited space, so I can't leave a gaming table completely set up. I need something I can pack up and put away.  There are two ways you can do this -- I can get a folding table of some sort, or I can get a piece of plywood or foam that will fit over an existing table.  My house has a big dining room table, about 3.5ft x 8ft, and a small 48" diameter round table downstairs.  I messed around with various extensions, such as left-over giant 4' x8' campaign road signs.  (In case you want to know they work okay on the big table but are too floppy for the round one.)  Keeping an extension on the dining room table is inconvenient, though, as my wife and I actually eat on the damn thing.

So I went to Home Despot, looking for a plywood or foam 4x6' piece I could set up on sawhorses in the basement.While there though, I found fold-up plastic tables that were 2' x 6' or so, for 40$ a pop.  So I bought those instead.  They are quite convenient, but maybe a bit short.

So now I have two potential surfaces, a 4x8' on the dining room, or a 4x6' downstairs.

4x6' is a standard table size, but I think it may be a bit small for the sort of games I want to run.  Many 28mm games, like Blackpowder/Hail Ceasar/Pike and Shotte, have begun to recommend and experiment with bigger table.  So my 4x8'  can give me a bit more space.  I'd like to get a wider surface too, but I'm not sure how to fit it into the available space.

Desert or Field?

I've decided to go with a drop cloth for my table, rather than a flocked board.  Mostly, this is for reasons of space and convenience(GW makes a really impressive multi-leveled sculpted plastic board, but I think it's just too elaborate for me.)  Also, it gives me some flexibility.  Most gaming mats are green, the color of fields.  A significant minority of games and setting use a desert tan surface.  Since I'm toying with sci-fi, and Mars in particular, I think I'd rather have a desert one most of the time.  But I'd like a green mat too, for fantasy, or NW Europe or the occasional game of FoW.  If I want to get really wild, several companies offer custom maps in space black, Mars red, ocean blue, etc.

What Do You Want on That?

So, now that I have the tables, I need to collect some terrain. Unfortunately, here I really need to make some choices.  All man-made structures require that I pick a scale.  A building for Flames of War is utterly compatible with one from 40k.  Since this board is for my 28mm game, I will therefore first be collecting 28mm terrain.  Since I'd like to do desert first, this also narrows my field of purchases.

I already had a few terrain pieces -- some GW craters and their fantasy manor set from a few years ago.  The buildings are obviously not too great for sci-fi, so I'll put them aside to paint later.  The fences that come with the set have rock walls, which I think I can use, so I cut them out of the sprues.  The craters look good, so I buy a second set.

Then I get some spray paint -- the FLGS is low on colors.  My choices are bone or flesh.  Pink craters would look like a table covered in assholes, I think.  So I buy the can of off-white and undercoat the craters and the fences.  I give them both a simple paint-job.  The most important element is a wash of water and brown/black ink.  I slop this on the craters and they instantly look like earth.  Yay!  The fences don't look quite so good with this simple treatment, but I think they are acceptable.

Between the craters and the fences, I think I can cover about 30% of a table in low terrain.  This does not block line of site, though, and so I think will result in a dull, homogenous surface.  So I need some bigger pieces too.

I really like the Battlefield in a Box terrain from Galeforce 9/Battlefront.  I've used a lot of their 15mm stuff for Flames of War, and the FLGS has two of their Gothic building corners.  They have just come out with some southwest mesa bluffs that look interesting.  Other people think so too, since they seem to be sold out everywhere.  So I turn my attention to buildings.

Destroyed Gothic buildings are a staple of sci-fi wargaming, because they are such a big part of the 40k universe, and everyone and their dog plays 40k.  Me, I'm looking for a slightly different feel.  I 'd like to avoid official GW terrain as much as I can, since it incorporates so many iconographic elements from their universe.  My eye alights on the Hall of Heroes line from Battlefield in a Box.  These are ruined buildings, but they look more like conventional stone architecture and less industrial.  They are also curved rather than square.  I can see these standing forlornly on a windswept planet, scoured by the dust of ages, and waiting for the tripods or the mi-go or the Tharks to return.  So I think I'll order a couple of these.


That's my first round of purchases.  The tables are bought.  The craters and fences are painted.  I'm waiting on the mats and the other pieces. I'll post more on this side of the project as it develops.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


River Rules

Now that I have terrain on the brain, I've been thinking a bit about river rules
  • Rivers are Area Terrain, but they do not block line of sight for models behind it.
  • Rivers are either Shallow or Deep.  Shallow Rivers are difficult terrain.  Deep Rivers are very difficult terrain.  If the River has fords or crossings, then those parts of the river are one step less difficult -- not difficult for Shallow Rivers and difficult for Deep Rivers.
  • Models that are partially or completely in the river gain an Tall 2 Characteristic.  Tall 2 reduces the model's Cover Save by 2.  If they are already Tall, this does not stack -- take the higher value. Most Vehicles are already at least Tall 2.  

Geek Notes

Historically, troops had considerable difficulty crossing a river in combat. Infantry found themselves exposed to enemy guns, with nowhere to hide.  Vehicles of all sorts could require bridges or special equipment to cross -- even without the complications of resistance.

I've designed these rules to reflect some of these difficulties, without making river crossings completely and unplayablely difficult.  In most games, players will want to stick to shallow rivers and play deep rivers only when they have multiple bridges.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Area Terrain

Area Terrain is terrain with a designated boundary.  Usually, it is on a base, and any models on that base is considered to be in the terrain and subject to its effects.  Sometimes (as with a forest made of individual trees or a ruining set of walls) players will need to agree on where the boundary lies before the game begins.

All models within area terrain are subject to the same effects (usually providing concealment and or cover).  Line of sight may be traced freely into and out of area terrain, regardless of incidental features that may be modeled to represent the terrain.  Indeed, as with a typical forest base, objects representing the terrain, such as trees, may be shuffled around the base or even removed entirely to make room for models.

Line of Sight may not normally be traced through area terrain. (You might want to make exceptions for particularly low-lying terrain, such as bushes.

Linear Terrain

Linear Terrain is terrain that provides directional Concealment and/or Cover.  Usually, it covers things like low walls or hedges.  However, it only provides these benefits from a direction passing over the line of the terrain. Line of sight and fire from behind the line is unaffected.


Ruins are a sub-type of Area Terrain.  They usually consists of a base of rubble and some sticking-up walls.  Sometimes, they have multiple stories (usually open in the back to allow you to set models on them. Ruins need some special rules:

  • Models may trace line of sight through any part of a wall with windows or significant gaps in it.  We may assume the models move around to find the windows or knock firing holes.
  • Models may move through any part of a wall with windows or significant gaps in it.  This is true even if the windows don't seem big enough to fit a model.  We will assume the models can knock holes, climb, or blast a way through.
  • Truly solid walls with no openings do not confer line of sight, or permit movement.  It's either one or the other.
  • If the ruins have multiple floors, we will assume they can climb up and down freely and don't need to find stairs or elevators specially to move.  Movement up and down a floor is (by default) 3", even if the floors are a bit farther apart than that.
  • Ruins are very difficult (4+) terrain for vehicles moving within the terrain.
  • You cannot trace line of sight through Ruins, across the base.

Geek Notes

I really hate true line of sight rules, and much prefer rules such as these, for their flexibility and practicality.  (And not having to micromanage every move with a laser pointer.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Early Playtest Thoughts

Playtest Thoughts
I set up a small table in my basement, using some leftover terrain, and ran a few scenarios of different models against each other, using the stats from my 40k post a few weeks ago.  (Steve and I have still not gotten around to running some test games -- it's just been too crazy here, what with the flu and the hurricane, and all sorts of other stuff.)  I have lots of 40k models, so they are easiest to mess with for now.  I intend eventually to collect one or more play-testing armies -- maybe for Mars.  But for now, I'm testing with what I've got.

Some preliminary thoughts:

When running two equally-rated Guard armies against each other, the Suppression mechanics seem to work like they are supposed to -- discouraging charges across open ground.  Even light terrain makes a huge difference in whether they can survive.

Once I added some Chaos Space Marines to the mix, I began to encounter possible mechanical snags.  With even minor cover, the CSMs became almost impossible to Suppress.  When firing at the CSMs, the Guard needed 5s to hit.  If the CSMs were in cover or cowering, this went up to a 6+ or 7+.  Then they needed 5+ to wound, and the CSMs got a 2+ save.  Even when massively outnumbered, they could hold of Guard almost indefinitely.

I cannot, at this juncture, decide whether this situation reflects a defect in my system or not.  Any real game would point the forces appropriately, and players would have a wider selection of special weaponry.

As I proceed, I need to consider the following:

Should the to-hit rules be revised to make it easier to hit highly skilled targets?  For example, I could rewrite the rules, so that it requires a 3+ to hit less-skilled targets and 4+ to hit equally and more highly-skilled ones. This would remove one pip off many to-hit rolls, making mass fire by low-skilled troops more effective.

Should the Suppression threshold change? For example, I could make all hits count towards Suppression, not just Wounding hits. This would make it easier to Suppress highly armored targets, without making them easier to kill. I could change the number of hits needed to Suppress a squad (say, equal to half instead of all its members) making all troops easier to Suppress.

Does the Firefight phase look right? I often had units snake into range, with half the unit able to Firefight and the other half being in Shooting range. It did not always look visually, as if targets just at 12" were up in the enemy's face, blazing away. I could change this by modifying the Firefight distance, or even merging it with Melee.

What do I want the game to become, aesthetically?  What setting should I adopt, and how should it look on the table? In most games, the setting eventually shapes the rules.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conventions and Courtesy

Conventions and Courtesy

What follows are some conventions I've found work well over the years: 
  • Players may measure anything on the battlefield at any time. 
  • Players may declare their intent in any phase (particularly in movement).  The other player should respect this intent as best they can as the game progresses.  So for example, player might say, "I intend that this unit stay out of Firefight distance"when they are moving.  If you get to the Firefight phase, and it turns out one model is an inch over line, then player B should politely allow player A to move their model back so that it stays out of Firefight distance.  This rule is designed to prevent acrimony, not permit cheating.  If your opponent declares an intent that is clearly impossible, you should say so. 
  • Models may move a bit more or less than their movement distance if it is necessary for them to stand up properly on terrain, to avoid being knocked off the table, etc.  When they shoot or move, players should remember where they  "really" are for measuring distances.
  • If you can't agree on something, whether a tricky rule, or whether something's in range, then roll off.  Higher roller wins the argument.  Then, when the game is over, you can work out a dispassionate solution for next time.
  • Don't be a dick.  The WWPD rule always applies.
Geek Notes

One of the things I liked about Flames of War when I started playing was its emphasis on courtesy.  The intent rule and the pre-measuring rule eliminate most of the arguments common to many games.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sample Template Weapons

Sample Template Weapons

These are sample template weapons, from a WWII-ish milieu.

Fragmentation Grenade
Small Template
Indirect Fire
2-inch Mortar
Medium Template
Indirect Fire
3-inch Mortar
Medium Template
Indirect Fire
75mm Howitzer
Medium Template
Indirect Fire

Geek Notes:

I'm a bit concerned that the Large Template may be too large for a single howitzer, especially since under my template rules a battery of them would begin to stack the Large Template.  I have therefore made it a medium one, on the assumption it will be using multiple tubes.