Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wargames Illustrated 277 (at a glance)

This issue has got some offbeat material for some favorite periods, and I really like it. Highlights include the Russian offensive into Hungary (Flames of War/late war), the Haitian Revolution (late 18th Century), and the Anglo-Norman Invasion of Ireland (late 12th Century). We also get a little taste of hilarious sci-fi gaming with Howard Whitehouse's "Eat Hitler" mix of Nazis and dinosaurs. The magazine also debuts a new feature - Quick Fire Scenarios. 

I'll go into a little more detail in a future post, but I will leave you with a few thoughts. I like interesting articles that explore different perspectives of any given (and maybe even well-worn) military period and offer new gaming ideas in the bargain. All the major highlights noted above will let you put some new use to miniature troops that normally march across the field in other places (or even other times - and I'm not just talking about the sci-fi game).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spooky Adventures: Tammeraut's Fate

Every now and then, I think it's fun to really bring some horror elements to a role-playing game. I don't think this is necessarily an easy thing to do. I mean, a lot of the mundane monsters in a fantasy RPG would seem rather scary to me - but they are so common and the heroes are...well, heroes. I think a lot of it comes to writing style and game design - if the adventure can hold back some mystery and grab the characters (literally) unexpectedly, then you got something. 

One of the best D&D adventures I've run as a GM was Greg A. Vaughan's "Tammeraut's Fate" from Dungeon # 106. The author took a classic horror film idea - stranded on an island and under siege by zombies - and really made something that resonates. 
It did not seem like a tired cliche or dull or anything less than a suspenseful series of scary encounters. It was kind of fun to do a little give and take on pushing the adventure - the player characters need to drive a bit, otherwise they rightly feel that they are only reacting to situations - BUT - I think they got a kick out of knowing that the situation was out of control while they investigated the island's hermitage. It was tense and they knew they were up against some dark forces even before the sea zombies showed up. As a GM, these are the kind of moments you work towards - when the players are scrambling, using desperate imagination and tactics to get their characters out the other side of the adventure.

This gem from 2004 can be found as a hard copy or PDF from Paizo here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Early Imperial Romans and Small Battles

I have recently added Dr. Phil Hendry's wargames website to my blog lists. I can't even begin to tell you about the all the Roman-related articles and wargame army projects you will find there.

Besides his website, you find a number of his articles on the Warlord Games website. His most recent piece there makes a GREAT argument for playing small scale Roman battles that may have little do with with standard wargame army lists and popular conceptions. Check out the 'Vindolanda Strength Return' article here. If you do a search on Dr. Hendry on the Warlord site, you get quite a few results here

I have thought a long time about exploring small battles and skirmish games in the Early Imperial Period. More than anything else, I believe my efforts would have to start with a core force of auxiliaries. So for today's visual candy, I am posting the box cover to Warlord Game's Plastic Imperial Roman Auxiliaries

Friday, October 15, 2010

L5R: Empire at War Scorpions Score!

I tried out my new Scorpion deck from the recent Empire at War release for AEG's Legend of the Five Rings card game. The deck did not do too bad - and all I used was what came in the starter. Considering I have played as well as I do when I have constructed a deck - well, that probably says something about my skill and how good the cards were.

Of course, there were lots of cool synergies to be had, and they actually seemed to fit well with my regular Scorpion "deck of tweaking," which uses a lot of samurai/Bitter Lies kensai and ninjas. Take a look at the Fortress of Blackened Sight stronghold at the right - now that's a good card for the multi-weapon kensai personalities for sure. 

And did you notice the Limited Action ability? That worked great for me. If you pair this up with an Artificer (or three) , you have the ability to really go through those Fate cards. Nothing like getting the weapons or sneaky ninja action cards when you can use them.

Another potential synergy was a ninja actor personality that could replace a non-Unique dead personality. The ninja actor is absolutely dirt cheap too. If you haven't found someone you need to replace, you can play some of your favorite ninja action cards off of the character. I hesitated to attach any weapons, afraid of losing them, but then I realized that a number of weapons in the deck could easily transfer to another character. That's a good combo.

For what it's worth, I'm not a huge fan of collectible card games. I like this game for all the fantasy roleplaying atmosphere it brings to the table. The Celestial Edition relaunch from last year seems to have really gone some way to making casual play very enjoyable, which I thought was one of the game's original strengths back in the mid-90s. Everyone likes cool cards, and even a serious non-competitor like myself can easily land a few nice ones without having to go to ebay. I don't think my Scorpion starter deck was unique, either. It seems like most starter decks have had some hitting power in them without requiring a lot of boosters, but this one really went over the top.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pathfinder Bestiary: Petrification & Dragons

I recently launched a Pathfinder RPG campaign. I highly recommend the game if you liked D&D 3.5 - I know that some folks consider it D&D 3.75. I still catch myself calling it Dungeons & Dragons. 

In my first post, I mentioned that I had purchased the game's Bestiary as a PDF. I liked it so much, that I had to get my hands on an actual hard copy through the local gaming store. I don't bring the laptop to the gaming table too much and I tire of printing stuff, especially if I just need a quick flip reference. 

Paizo really got the Bestiary right. I expected some measure of revision of flavor, but was unsure how the mechanics would get tweaked. I am leisurely studying the tome, so I'm sure I'll have more discoveries that haven't leaped out at me. Here's one thing that already put the monster catalog over the top for me: petrification attacks.

The D&D game has had several monsters capable of turning our heroes into stone since its earliest days in the 1970s: basilisk, cockatrice, gorgon, and medusa come readily to mind. They do it variously by gaze, breath, or bite. As the game has evolved, the variety focused primarily on the attack method, although the save mechanic changed with the D&D 3rd Edition (ie. some monster petrification attacks were harder to resist than others). 

Pathfinder Bestiary has spiced this dynamic even more. A failed saving throw might not immediately result in petrification with most of the previously mentioned monsters, except for the medusa - and that's just the way it ought to be. The designers added some interesting ways to overcome the petrifying process in some cases as well.  

I can also say they got the dragons right too. Their powers seem very intuitive and I catch myself thinking how awesome they seem - again. One of the best things that ever happened to the game was when TSR restructured and boosted the power of dragons in 2nd Edition. In my opinion, they have made another great leap with Pathfinder. 

Kudos to Paizo for doing such a great job with the monsters we love to battle.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Updating Blog

I've added some new gadgets to the blog. Finally, there is a search button - not sure why I waited. Also, I have a popular posts section - quite frankly, for my own amusement. I am surprised by some of the items that currently rank as the most-viewed posts. 

Next week I will probably drop a few lines about L5R's new Empire at War expansion. I picked up a clan deck for the Scorpions and was quite pleased at all the cool stuff I found in it. There's some gaming goodness about Paizo's Pathfinder RPG 'Bestiary' I want to share as well.

Of course, expect more on Black Powder this fall.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Black Powder & Battle Cry

I have  strayed somewhat from my beloved Ancients and Dark Ages periods. One ruleset that I anxious to get more experience with is Warlord Games' Black Powder

I probably don't have to say a whole lot here about this ruleset - it's not like it hasn't been one of the biggest events of wargaming in recent years. It's got Rick Priestley and awesome production values. There's plenty of in-depth reviews to be found. This isn't one of them.

I don't have the resources (time, money, patience) to collect a bunch - or even a few - 18th/19th Century armies to play this game in the way it is magnificently described and illustrated in the rulebook. However,  I am going to give them a tryout using some nice hexboard terrain (probably from Battle Cry and Memoir '44) and some relevant 1/72 scale plastic figures.

While I'm going to start with the American Civil War, I'm going to take a look at some other wars. Right now the East India Company (especially 18th Century), the Seminole Wars, the American War of Independence, and late 19th Century colonials are of interest. For anyone interested in exploring the world of the soft plastic soldiers, I have included Plastic Soldier Review in the links section. I'll post some (very brief) battle reports, orders of battle, and that kind of thing on the blog once we get started. 

Oh yeah - Warlord Games offer some free Black Powder PDF downloads of a Quick Ref Sheet, Army Roster, and FAQs, which may be found on the Black Powder gaming page.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Awesome Scenario/Game Designer Article in WI 276

John Desch's "Polishing That Old Gem" from WI 276 (the Chariots issue) is absolutely awesome. The article takes us step by step - from figures to command & control to combat rules - on how the author translated the historical accounts of the Franco-Prussian War into games of Fire & Fury, and then converted them to Black Powder. He gives a ton of specifics and offers great guiding principles. Also, I think the material demonstrates Black Powder's versatility - it's got some fantastic templates regarding morale, drill, and combat that you can use to tweak your game to match the historical narrative you want to tell on the tabletop.

I was most pleased with the piece - if you couldn't guess - and plan to use Desch's advice when I tackle some upcoming projects. Highly recommended article for anyone who loves to work up scenarios and run games for other players.