Sunday, July 12, 2015

What Have I Been Up To?

Regular readers may have noticed another long absence, well, I'm back, and I'll share (guiltily) what I've been up to...

There's been quite the gap in posts lately, and it's entirely my fault - we haven't been able to link up with my friday group, and I've only been to one Mid-Week Wargame Wampage since January.

Not that I haven't been gaming - but, dirty secret, it's been online. After some 15 years of being online, I finally found my first MMORPG, and Megz has been sharing the madness.

For the stone-knives-and-bearskins fans amongst the readers, that acronym stand for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game, and in this case, it's Star Trek Online (hereafter STO).

Character Screen - Note the Traveller reference name...

Yes, space-cadets, it's now possible to boldy split an infinitive, where no on has split, before  - online. STO is a combination of the Sims 2 meets FASA'a Star Trek Combat Simulator, all in the universe of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek.

Players may select Federation, Klingon or Romulan as their character.  There's also an "alien" sub division, which is allied to either Fed or Klingon. Also, the Romulans aren't exactly a full faction (locals call them a "fraction") since Cryptic Studios decided it would be easier to ally the higher ranked Romulan characters to either the Federation or Klingon Empire (to be clear, I think this was a bad, sloppy, lazy decision...)

Gotta love the "bad" guys

Your character progresses from a Cadet to a Fleet Admiral, over the course of play. Lower level missions are more reminiscent of the TV series - there are some negotiation missions, search party missions, patrol missions and such like.

That said, most missions, either ground-based or in space, are combat oriented. As you character gains rank and prestige, new venues will open: there's the planet Nukara - hot as hell where an environmental suit is all standing between you and fiery doom.  There is New Romulus, where the refugees from the Hobus Supernova are rebuilding their home.  There is Defera, which is being invaded by the Borg. There is Kobali Prime, under invasion from the Vaadwaur, and harbouring an unpleasant secret.

Marooned on a barren world...
In addition to these "Adventure Zones" there are the canon worlds of Vulcan and Andoria (which seem to have been forgotten by the developers at Cryptic) and Risa, the Resort World, where the Galaxy Relaxes (for a short time during the summer).

This game is not without its drawbacks - the social element is a trifle...awkward. If you thought miniature gamers had genetic social handicaps, just have a read thru a MMORG's user forum: after following a few threads, you might think you were reading an HMGS "Lets Move/Not Move Historicon Thread".

That said, there are some delightful people playing Online, with the advantage of being able to meet ad hoc, and with no boxes of miniatures, terrain, dice, measuring tapes to cart about. Players organise themselves into fleets, the STO equivalent of World of Warcraft guilds.  Fleets can be helpful resources, providing access to rare equipment and supplies, or they can be barren monuments to their founder's vanity.  Megz and I have been in both kinds.

Other hitches include a lack of Quality Control in the programming department - there are harmless bugs that are so old ("Talk to Loot Critter" springs to mind) that the current programmers seem to have no idea how to fix them. These aren't glaringly bad, but they serve as a pointer to a deeper issue...

Probably the greatest drawback - which some might label a "feature" - is how much TIME this game will burn. Many tasks have a 20-hour cycle (or "cool down") which encourages the player to log in daily.  At the higher levels, assigning Duty Officers, R &D, plus supporting the various "fronts" (Borg front, Tholian front, New Romulus, etc) can easily add up to an hour, and more if one wishes to play some tactical encounters.  Include making friends (most of the other characters are players - especially the ones running and jumping about like idiots) and one could easily spend four hours and up online.  It's happened to me.

After six months, the obsession is passing, and I find myself able to go back to working on miniatures, or work, or watch the news (bleah!) without wondering if that Level XIII Anti-proton bank my engineers are working on is finished...think I'll log in for a minute...


...nah!  I'll check in tomorrow.  I have miniatures to paint...






Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ragnarok - Issue 60: Better Late then Never


The latest (and that's literally) issue of Ragnarok is now available as a pdf download.

Health issues on the part of the SFSWS secretary, Mike T, has delayed release by a year - I sincerely hope Mike is on the mend and enjoys a full recovery.

There are articles on gaming Judge Dredd, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and one for adding Triffids to your zombie games (I want an Eddie Izzard miniature...bang me gavel!)

Also, the full rules, stat cards and maps for the Stargunt II version of "Crystals from Dinom" written by yr. humble bloggist and included with Marc Miller's blessing!

Hie thee hence for details...Ω

Monday, June 15, 2015

StarGrunt II at NJ Con

As has been mentioned previously, NJ Con in Edison NJ is a great convention.  I ran two StarGrunt scenarios, both of which were designed for TravellerCon-USA.

Full write-ups of these can be found here and here - however, I'll post some recent pictures from NJ Con to keep current.

The SMS Mercs - Pinned atop the Dinom Corp HQ.
Crystals from Dinom - I had one player, John R, which is all the game needs if I take the opposing side. John did a fine job of getting the pinned-down mercs off the board.  I think it took him four turns, which is some kind of record.

John caught one of my squads in the middle of the street, shot them up with vehicle-mounted lasers, and proceeded to over run them.

Here comes the cavalry - 1300 HP worth
The miners brought out their mining vehicle (armed with a short range laser) and two prospecting "dune buggies" (armed with 50 caliber MGs) but were unable to make much of an impact on the Mercs APCs (I think we might have shot off one of the rear-vision mirrors)

And they're gone.

On Saturday, I was pleased to have John return for "Canned Vland". Once again, he had choice of sides whilst I would run opposite. He chose the Planetary Defense platoon and supporting ConFederation Marines.  I would run the Vilani.

Downtown Mikanek - Soosboro
Going by The Book, I sent my recon sleds forward, hoping to draw some anti-tank rocket fire, but John was not to be gulled, and as the recon went deeper, the armour had to follow.


Once at the barricades, the fire from the PDF intensified, pinning down the Imperial recon - John decided he could spare a few LAW rounds, and one hover scout went boom.  I think some of the crew got out, and you can see them sheltering in one of the nearby burning buildings.  Idiots.

As the plasma main guns of the tanks fired in support of the recon unit, building caught fire and the PDF SWAT team lost half it's numbers.

Finally, around turn 4, the first tank crossed the barrier, and the missiles began to fly in earnest. Fortunately (for my side - hurrah!) John had some pretty mediocre rolls, and couldn't score a major hit.  He logged enough minor hits to disable the lead tanks plenum chamber (or Bernoulli drive, or whatever) and the crew de-bussed in a panic and took shelter in a nearby burning building.  Idiots.


Buy the end of turn 5, it was obvious the Vilani would be unable to get their three remaining vehicles (2 tanks and a recon sled) off the enemy side in time (end of turn six).  The Terrans were declared the winners. Well done!

Post Convention Thoughts
Both games played well - a single player has a certain advantage vs a team, in that his moves are well coordinated. He loses something of a broader perspective, but in a skirmish game, focus is sometimes better.

In both games, we played to a clear result in just over two hours - a fast moving game is ALWAYS better.

By the way, if the reader noticed the barricades were different in this game, you win a cookie. I wasn't able to find the corner stock berms from previous games, so I used my Northwest Frontier sangars from my 25mm Colonial collection. These were made back in the late eighties using ornamental pebbles and craft glue, and they have served honourably ever since...Ω

Sunday, June 14, 2015

NJ Con - This IS Your Daddy's Miniature Convention

There are people who like large, noisy, sweaty, smelly conventions - 
I am not one of them.

And that's why I like NJ Con in Edison, NJ, where I've just spent two relaxing, enjoyable days. Plenty of parking, nice helpful staff, modest but interesting dealers room, and past time with good company. Nice convention site with room to grow.

NJ Con recaptures the simple fun of playing miniatures as was done in the Golden Age - there's really No School like Old School.

The NJ Expo Center is located at the end of a quiet business park, near the nexus of three major highways (NJ Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and I-287), making it easily accessible for drives from north, west and south. 

Minor downside - the convention center is about 1/2 a mile from the nearest hotel.  That's not much of a problem in my opinion. Another debatable downside is there was no integral catering, but there was a BBQ van with some very good hot sandwiches which was there from about 3:00 PM to about 8:00 PM.  And being Edison there are plenty of restaurants, some of which will not be Indian.  

NJ Con Vendors Room - photo courtesy John R.

(Edit 15 June): Thanks to John R., there are now pictures:

 
NJ Con Game room - photo courtesy John R.


For a touch of controversy, I understand there are those in HMGS who have dubbed NJ Con the "Anti-Historicon" - I find this difficult to credit.  The first NJ Con was run at Fort Dix in 2008 - well before the current Historicon move and unfortunate fallout.  With a full month (and attendant pay-cycles) between event dates NJ Con is not in direct competition with H-Con - it is, at best, a soft or indirect competitor.

That said, the success and inevitable growth of NJ Con does prove that there is life outside of HMGS for the miniature wargame hobby - something which the current HMGS leadership might not want to hear....Ω

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

5150 Star Navy and Star Trek Wargaming


Federation Squadron: miniatures by FASA and Starline

As an end-of-year experiment, Megz and I engaged in a friendly game of 5150 Star Navy, by Two Hour Wargames.  We used my old collection of FASA and Starline ships from the Star Trek franchise.  

Our old rules of choice were FASA'a Starship Combat Simulator, with detailed SSD's and lots of damage rolls and adjustments for loss of power and superstructure, and while not as slow as Star Fleet Battles, a fleet-sized game could take about four our so hours.. I've been hankering to try the 5150 rules out, as they have been reported on The Miniatures Page as being fast and fun.

The rules themselves are available as a pdf, and are some 65 pages long, plus an index.  For our purposes, we can draw on the supplied races from the 5150 universe and adapt them to Star trek.  The Star Navy would form the template for the Federation, and the Hishen would provide the guideline for the Klingons.

Klingon Squadron: miniatures by FASA and Amarillo Design Bureau
 The Federation squadron featured a Constitution-class Cruiser (U.S.S. Exeter, sister-ship to the famous Enterprise) supported by two Larsen-Class destroyers.

Destroyer, damaged by hostile fire...

 The Klingon squadron was comprised of two D7-A Battlecruisers (IKVs Klothos and Tantarth - as seen in the original series and animated series) led by a D7-M (IKV K'Tinga) as seen in The Motion Picture.



Pregame and Turn 1: 5150 Star Navy has some interesting pregame scouting rules, which will affect set-up and deployment. It was determined that, while the Federation were defending the system, they had managed to jump the Klingon infiltrators. The Klingons rolled badly, and as a result, the Federation would be coming in to their forward port flank.

All ships were REP 4 (standard naval) except the cruiser Exeter, which had a TV crew aboard, and rated a REP of 5) .

The Feds came in at speed 6 (max for the cruiser) and one of their destroyers damaged D7(B)'s shields. The Klingons panicked and targeted the destroyer, bringing down her shields and damaging her hull.  Our first table rule was enacted, we halved the damage larger ships do to smaller ones.

Turn 2-3. The Feds targeted the D7-M, as she had extra guns and a photon torpedo tube.  Three ships on one - she blew up real good.









Turn 5 - 6. An attempt to avenge their commander, the surviving D7s took out both destroyers.  Then attempted to accelerate past the Exeter and exploit her weak rear arc.



The passing maneuovre fails, and a D7 dies.


Shouting some nonsense from the Next Gen TV series, the last D7 (the Klothos) decided to "ram these disruptors down their throats" and closes, batteries blazing...


The stars favour the Khomerex (Empire) and the Exeter is dispatched. Ka'plah!


Post Game Thoughts:  These rules, with some genre-specific tweaking, have a lot of potential.  We were able to complete the game in just under an hour, and that included searching for rules, pencils and dice. I imagine we could play a  four-to-six squadron game in two hours, given more experience.

There are some interesting game mechanisms, based on the 5150 house system, where reaction tests are made and are either passed, partially passed or failed. Partially-passed gunnery plagued the Federation in the mid-game, though not badly enough for the Klingons to walk over them.

I plan to bring these rules to the Friday Night Pals and see what mayhem can be wrought - I think I'll add some attack shuttles for amusement's sake.

Look forward to another post in the New Year....Ω

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Return of the Forgotten Photos: Babylon 5 Fleet Action - The Battle of the Line

Another old set of photos, of a fleet-scale game of the Battle of the Line, from the Babylon 5 Universe, using the Babylon Fleet Action rules from the now defunct company, Agents of Gaming..  AoG was a good, if somewhat self-indulgent, company that produced Babylon 5 Wars and Babylon 5 Fleet Action.

Babylon 5 Wars looked and played a bit like a streamlined version of Star Fleet Battles, and while fun, could take a long time to complete a game. B5 Fleet Action organised mutliple ships  into squadrons, factored in weapons, shields and maneuvre, and enable players to engage in large fleet actions and finish in perhaps four hours.

These are old pictures, dating from 2001.  I think they were taken on film, developed and then scanned.  They were lurking on an old Iomega Zip disk - remember those?  Like a 3.5 diskette on steroids, they were.

I don't quite remember which side won the scenario - I tend to think that the Earth Force had to simply hang on for a certain number of turns, at which point the Minbari, who are up to this point wiping the map with the earthers, suddenly and mysteriously ask for a truce.  The rest is Television History...

I do remember the Evil Minbari Warlord, Myk'Ry'an, upon discovering the location of the Earth command ship (the only carrier on the map, hmm...) decided to concentrate fire, decapitate the Earth fleet, and break my scenario.  Only some desperate maneuvre on the part of the carrier and escorts helped avoid disaster.

Hold the Line!  The Minbari Advance

The blocky, wedge-shaped carrier and command ship (bottom centre) takes evasive action.


Two Hyperion cruisers, flanked by two pairs of Nova Battleships
Smaller escorts and some GZG in foreground


The Minbari Fleet

The Earth Alliance Command has ships to burn, which is fortunate, 'cuz they do.

The Earth Alliance Fleet

Fire, you Fool! Fire EVERYTHING!
Finding these pictures made me a bit nostalgic.  I think I'll try this scenarion again, or a smaller part of it, using Starmada...Ω

Monday, November 24, 2014

GZG 15mm 8-Wheeled APC

 Last week, painting was good, and i managed to finish four of Jon Tuffley's 8-Wheeled APC:s from the StarGrunt 15mm vehicle range. Specifically, V15-50A.

One significant difference is the vehicle weapon mount - those pictured are not supplied with the models as listed, they are from the GZG Grav APC V15-20A.  A platoon of which I've shown painted here.

V15-50A Miniature by Ground Zero Games

There was nothing wrong with the auto-cannon as supplied - I'm using these vehicles as part of a Traveller-universe TL-12/13 mercenary troop, named "Spinward Marches Solutions, LLIC".  They need plasma-guns for fire support. (I'll be including a writeup on SMS in the very near future...)

I'm well-pleased with these castings, the parts all fit nicely (I did need to dremel out the gun mount, as I was mixing bits) and the detail is up to GZG's usual excellent standards.

V15-50A Miniature by Ground Zero Games

One minor hitch was my being able to find, after two year's delay, all of my GZG plasma turrets - only two could be found.  A frantic email to Himself at GZG resulted in a promise to cast me two more, at a very reasonable rate, to include with my next order.

Jon Tuffley's Customer Care simply CANNOT be beaten.  Full stop...Ω