Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dave's Sunday Drive

In order to better test my new Massive units rules, I put together a wee battle on Sunday evening.

Dave has been tasked with clearing a desert road into the enemy's flank. The road is bisected by a low ridge line with some light cover and is held by a company of House Penn-Taylor main battle tanks. Dave has CV 10 from his off-board CO and the PT boys have a CV 9 on-board CO.

The Penn-Taylor company on the ridge. Note that the CO is within convenient command range of only two of the platoons.

Turns 1 and 2. Dave begins an oblique advance on the north end of the Penn-Taylor line. The southernmost platoons open fire and leave a nasty scratch on Dave's paintwork.

Turns 3-6. Dave closes the distance on the northernmost platoon and opens fire, doing sweet fuck-all. He launches his missile at the middle PT tank and catches the HQ in the burst, again, doing no discernable damage (Dave is preoccupied with an upcoming coumn deadline and a good part of his main processing unit is editing instead of aiming). On turn 5, the PT CO blows his command roll. The blunder sends the southern tank platoons charging straight towards Dave - a blunder which turned out to be sort of providential, actually, because it cut their range down to half.

(These accidental charges/retreats which turn out for the best are beginning to get to be a habit with the PT boys. See their last battle report here.)

The PT tanks change tactics to firing to damage and manage to whittle Dave down to two damage points. A critical hit also tanks out his secondary battery, leaving him with only his main gun. Dave manages to suppress the northenmost tank a couple of times, but that's about it.

Dave finally wakes up to the fact that there's a serious problem here and sets aside his editing work. Taking full stock of the situation, he decides that a full-fledged charge is in order and goes straight in on the northernmost tank. (Being that he has 9 assault dice and an additional die for charging versus the MBT's 3, this is not a bad idea).

Dave weathers the closing fire well enough but skunks out completely in the following assault: only two unsaved hits out of ten dice! He suppresses the tank, but that's it.

Meanwhile, cognizant of the fact that Dave's now down to only two hits, the Penn-Taylor commander urges his crews to fire for effect. All four of their shots hit and two make it through Dave's armor, finally bringing the nig cybertank to a halt on turn 8, the last turn of the game.

Luckily for Dave, a Möder-Fokker battalion is coming up the road behind him and will probably have their support echelon salvage his brain box. If the upcoming battle against House Penn-Taylor is won, Dave's chasis will also probably be towed back to the Fokkin Castle for refurbishment. Dave may be old, but he's tough and waste not, want not.
Dave waits for a tow.

The battle showed me that the system works fine, but needs a few tweaks yet. Principal among these si that I've decided that "fire to damage" hits will also carry over throughout the turn. Other than that, though, the game went well. Dave really stunk on his rolls and, to be fair, the odds were against him from the outset, what with having to chrage an equivalent force in a prepared position.

It was a fun little game for a half hour!

Shamelessly stolen from The Onion, no copyright challenge implied

I'm Prepared To Give My Life For This Or Any Country

By Curtis Stalbank

THE ONION, March 28, 2007

As a true patriot, I would gladly die in battle defending my homeland. I love my country more than my own life. But I would also be more than willing to give my last breath in the name of, say, Mexico, Panama, Japan, or the Czech Republic. The most honorable thing a man can do is lay down his life for his country. Or another country. The important thing is that it's a country.

Like those heroes who spilled their blood fighting for independence against the British Empire, I, too, would forfeit everything to win for my countrymen the right to be governed by politicians in our own capital instead of in a capital located further away. Nothing is more profound or more sacred than to die for one's country, an adjacent country, or some other, foreign country.

The truth is, there are a lot of countries, each of which is the most noble cause possible to die for. I only regret that I have but one life to lose for but one country.

I would not hesitate to give my life for or against any other noble nation. Come to think of it, I would even die for a neutral third party caught in the crossfire during a heroic peacekeeping effort, just so long as my death would be in some way related to a country of some kind. That's how committed I am to the concept of nationalism.

The bottom line is that the current boundaries of a nation are worth protecting at all costs. Otherwise, what would so many brave and patriotic souls have lost their lives for?

I was lucky enough to be born in one of the 200 greatest countries in the world, and I promised myself long ago that I would never forget it. I can only hope to someday have the privilege of protecting this great land against whomever may seek to do it harm. Or to defend some other country against whomever may seek to do it harm. And vice versa.

Ideally, I'd like to die for a country that was at least in the Western hemisphere but it'd be just as heroic to expire bravely on the end of a pointed stick deep in the jungles of Africa. My wife would be widowed and my children orphaned, but they would take solace in the knowledge that I had given my life to a cause that the people of some nation believed in.

I only ask that I be given a soldier's funeral so that I may be buried holding the flag or flags of wherever it was I was fighting for.

There comes a time when all of us, no matter who we are, heed the call to the battlefield. It is a call we cannot and should not ignore, no matter where it is coming from. And if I must die, in the service of this or that country, I only hope I can at least take as many of the enemy with me as possible before I fall and breathe my last. Unless of course, they're also fighting for a country. In which case, their deaths, at my hands, will have been honorable—because they, like me, would have died for a country.

Without nationalism, our deaths in the countless wars we constantly wage to defend our own nations against others defending their own nations against us would seem arbitrary, almost meaningless. But as long as we have a higher purpose—the love of whatever country we happen to be fighting for—we will always know we did not lose our lives in vain.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Building the Big Boys, Part 1

I'm such a lazy sod! Look at that frickin' mold line...!

The Commander series of wargame rules is a marvelous example of what Ty Bomba likes to call "design for effect", by which he means that it concentrates on producing a believeable looking game while not worrying about small details. Units are abstracted in the interest of maintaining a quick and fluid game experience and, by and large, this is a good decision. Few rules systems allow one to really feel like a commander on the battlefield. In the xxC system, however, because the system glosses the small stuff, one experiences something like the worries of a real-life military leader, concentrating more on the big picture rather than on whether or not a 76mm cannon can penetrate a Tiger II's front armor at 500 paces.

The only problem is that when we get to the sci-fi installment of the system, Future War Commander things seem just a tad TOO abstract. Maybe it's because I cut my sci-fi miniatures gaming chops on Games Wankshop's Adeptus Titanicus and Steve Jackson Games Ogre Miniatures, but one of the things I look for  in my sci-fi games are large combat vehicles. I mean ridiculously fucking spectacularly unbelievably large vehicles. And for the game system to work well for me, these titanic monsters have to be integrated into the system in such a way that they simultaneously play differently from the small "popcorn" units, but don't absolutely dominate the game.

Those of you who play Ogre know what I'm talking about. In that game, one rarely sees more than two massive cybertanks on the battlefield and, when present, ogres are indeed a major focus of the game. But without appropriate support from conventional units and infantry, ogres will quickly find themselves ground down and worn out.

I think Future War Commander, as it stands, just misses this effect. Its massive units are not quite differentiated enough to give them an individualized feeling which, let's face it, is what you want to have when manuvering a robot the size of an office building through downtown Tokyo. As the rules stand, massive units are just regular units writ large and are generally too vulnerable to make them worth their cost.

This really isn't the fault of the rule's author, Peter Andrew Jones. After all, he was looking for an quick play, simple rules system which could, simultaneously, be stretched to fit any sort of sci-fi universe one chooses. And it is this flexibility which is ultimately FWC's saving grace. Peter hasn't so much given us a rules set as a nice big Lego box. By tweaking unit construction and inventing new optional rules and upgrades, it is very easy to take Future War Commander in any direction one wants. And that, of course, was Peter's main goal.

So now that my 1/600 armies have some titans and cybertanks painted up, I`ve decided to give some thought as to how I want them to work on the battlefield. What follows are some of my ideas.

Massive Units in General - Rules Tweaks
The following are some general rules changes which I intend to employ regarding massive units. They add a small amount of complexity but, in general, I`ve tried to hew to Peter`s "design for effect" philosophy and keep them as simple - and thus memorizable - as possible.

As the rules stand, massive units are far too easy to suppress, being treated like a regular unit in this respect. Because of this, a lowly infantry unit with popguns can easily stop a massive cybertank in its tracks. Sorry, I feel this is far too much vulnerability. To fix this, apply the following rule:

Massive units only test for suppression when hit by another massive unit's primary armament. Shielded units (massive or otherwise) do not test for suppression until their shields are down.

Fall backs
It should be noted that massive units do not fall back under any circumstances and that multiple fall backs are one of the main ways in which units are killed in this game. This is probably a good thing, otherwise popcorn would be knocking massive units out left and right. However, it seems to me that massive units should be at least somewhat vulnerable to other massive units. For this reason, apply the following rule:

Any time a suppressed massive unit is hit, it must roll for fall-back normally. Massive units are never knocked out by fall backs, even if forced to fall back more than 10cm by another massive unit's primary armament

So now conventional units can force massive units to fall back if another massive unit has already suppressed the target beforehand, but you still have to kill the buggers the hard way. Also, the new rules on suppression mean that even if you concentrate a lot of conventional unit's fire on the massive unit, you're not going to do much good unless you take it out completely.

Firing to damage
Add the following rule:

Any unit may "fire to damage" a massive unit. This is declared after activation and before any attacks are made. Units firing to damage do not count damage normally, but for every X unsaved hits, eliminate one hit point from the target PERMANENTLY. X = the massive unit's damage threshold, which is typically "3". Note that an attack which is declared to be "firing to damage" cannot kill a Massive unit unless it makes X * Hit Points worth of unsaved hits.

Critical Damage

Add the following rule:

For every hit point permanently removed from a massive unit via "firing to damage", roll one die: on a "6", the massive unit suffers critical damage. Roll on the following table for each critical hit:

1 Movement reduced by 5 cm
2 Shield generator destroyed
3 Secondary explosions cause two more permanent hits (roll for crits)
4 Secondary Armament destroyer (choose at random if more than one)
5 Secondary Armament destroyer (choose at random if more than one)

6 Primary Armament destroyed

If a critical hit can't apply (e.g. the primary weapon is already gone and you roll a "6", continue rolling until you get a result that can be applied.

Building massive units The following additions should be added to the rules for creating your own units:

Unit Attributes
  • Massive                                +5 for each hit point
  • Command Capable              +1/2 CV cost                        Massive unit is also a command unit
  • Expendable                           +5 per four hits
  • Damage Threshold 1             -10 per hit point
  • Damage Threshold 2             -5 per hit point
  • Damage Threshold 3              0
  • Damage Threshold 4             +10 per hit point
  • Damage Threshold 5             +15 per hit point

Points formula for units
  • Massive units count each weapon seperately.
  • Regular units count a scondary weapon at half cost and a tertiary weapon at 1/3rd the cost
New or Revised Attacks
  • Stabilized                                 +10 for regular units, +10 for each massive unit weapon
  • Half AV versus AFV (I)          -25% from the attack points before tech upgrades
  • Half AV versus Infantry (A)     -15% from the attack points before tech upgrades
  • Hard Attack only (#)               -25% from the attack points before tech upgrades
  • Soft Attack only (*)                 -50% from the attack points before tech upgrades
  • Artillery Attacks                       AV x15, plus range points. Range cost for 200cm is 100. If off board, range cost is 150.
  • Divisable AV                            May divide the AV into as many attacks as player wishes, +25% of the attack points before tech upgrades
  • Restricted Ammo                    x25% per shot (so four shots is effectively unrestricted ammo)

Tech Upgrades
  • Electronic Warfare Suite         +15 per attack value (note that this is simply Cryonics Weapons in a less orky guise).
  • AEGIS system                        +40/+70/+100 Works as a shield dome, but only against smart missiles and indirect artillery attacks. Does NOT absorb attacks from friendly units, but does attack enemy units moving through it in the same way as a shield dome.
  • Shields                                   A unit can now have any number of shields, regardless of its hits.

Optional Rules
I also decided that I wanted artillery and missile rules which didn't seem like WWII on the game table. The following rules make both more flexible (and artillery more costly):

Smart Missiles
  • Smart missiles can be (*), (#) or regular. If they have a restricted target type, they gain the regular discount.
  • Smart missiles DO NOT have the "auto-linked" upgrade: they are strictly "fire and forget". However, smart missiles now IGNORE line of sight restrictions. If at least one friendly unit is within 30cm of the target and has a line of sight to it, it can spot for any smart-missile equipped unit or units, as long as it activates together with these firing units. Spotting in this fashion is considered to be an action.

  • - Any HQ unit can now spot for off-board artillery using its CV value.
  • - Any friendly unit can now spot for off-board artillery using the CV value of its activating HQ/CO unit, -1.
  • On-board artillery can fire at units outside their LOS if at least one friendly unit is within 30cm of the target and has a line of sight to it and activates together with the firing units.Spotting in this fashion is considered to be an action.
  • - Artillery targets can attempt Evasive Action against indirect fire artillery.
  • - Artillery is now costed out according to the following formula:
     Artillery Attacks AV x15, plus range points.
     Range cost for 200cm is 100.
     If off board, range cost is 150.

Building the big boys
So now that we have some basic rules, let's build us some ridiculously large combat vehicles!

(By the way, I suggest that you make a little unit card for each type of massive vehicle you control, instead of sticking all its information on one or two lines).

Cybertanks versus Titans
In my gaming universe, cybertanks use strictly human technology and are thus considered obsolete. Walkers, of all sizes, use neural feedback network and shield technology acquired from the Siliaz Hegemony and are thus much more effective, though also quite costly. Walkers are they only units which can have stabilization and their field of view is 180 degrees (not restricted, as in the regular rules). So why does humanity still use cybertanks? Because they are relatively easy to build and maintain on colony worlds, using the technology and resources commonly at hand. Plus, the buggers are as tough as old horseshoe nails.

Mark III Cybertank
Let's start off with Fred, a Mark III Cybertank.

Fred was built as a colonial defense unit and still fulfills that role quite adequately, though without shields, he's increasingly vulnerable to enemy titans. Fred's chassis is about 50 years old, though his brain has been repeatedly upgraded with top-of-the-line AI softwear. He's close enough to self-aware as to be no nevermind. His hobbies include football and chess. Fred has been known to play an entire battalion of infantry, simultaneously, at the later game.

Mark II Cybertank
This is Dave, a slightly smaller Mark II cybertank, also built as a colonial defence unit.

(You'll have to forgive Dave for being a little dusty. Apparently some mold is growing under his starboard missile launcher).

Dave currently workd for Baron Hisa Möder-Fokker and is shown here in the colors of the Baronial Guard. Mostly, Dave stays stored in the basement of the Fokkin Castle, waiting to be called out to repell any invasion of the baronial lands. In his spare time (of which he has plenty), Dave writes a "lonely hearts" advice blog which is syndicated across the Human Sphere.

Next up, Titans!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Future War Commander in 1/600: Grey Army

Here's the Grey Army (as yet nameless, though Lukas sent in some good ideas), finally completed for Future War Commander in 1/600 (or 3mm) scale.

This is the 3rd Combined Arms Combat Team, built around a titan regiment of five squadrons. Each squadron has two troops and there are four light squadrons and one heavy. The grey heavy titans are heavily armored and mount a uniqued area point-defence system which is designed to shoot down missiles and artillery rounds. Their main weapon is a starship-grade particle accelerator. The heavy titans are also HQ units and have an electronic warfare capacity. The light titans are built for speed and are the smallest vehicles in the Human Sphere to mount shield generators. The shield geometries available due to this unique design decision require that the rail gun be slung under the titan's belly rather than mounted on top, where it would be more effective.

The greys have spent a lot of money upgrading their titan forces in recent years and their mecha arm has suffered. Here, we see a small mecha battalion (two HQs, nine line mecha troops, three light mecha troops and a mecha artillery support battery), equipped with Hünds, a solid but now somewhat obsolete mecha design.

Two conventional combined arms battalions are also part of the team. These are composed of two HQs, six MBTs, 6 IFVs and 6 heavy conventional infantry platoons. A large mobile artillery battery is attached to each battalion and a rocket artillery battery serves as the Team's heavy long-range fire support. Also attached directly to Brigade Headquarters is a armored car recon squadron. Fast recon mechs are on the Grey's "to buy" list. In the meantime, the Grey's command staff is debating attaching a heavy scout squadron to this unit, which would include 3 missile-armed APCs and 3 scout platoons.

The Team's fourth and final main unit is an air cavalry regiment, made up of six attack helicopter troops.

Brigade support includes a squadron of light attack craft and an obsolete (but still very tough) cybertank named "Fred".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

First Shots: Future War Commander Grey Army in 3mm

My 1/600 scale Grey Army for Future War Commander is almost completed. By "Grey", of course, I mean the color and not the little anal-probing aliens. I still need a decent off-color name for this force, so all creative suggestions are welcome!

The figures are a DP9 Recon Armiger for the titan in the middle (the one with the Angry Marines graffiti on it) flanked by Trooper Drones from the same manufacture. In front of the titans, we have a line of Ground Zero Games Hound Dog mecha and in front of them, O8 Leopard IIs, Marders and Israeli infantry.

Still to go on this project: touching up another Armiger and 4 more Trooper drones, basing 6 Luchs armored cars for recon and applying some final color details to the infantry (I think they need a red shoulder patch so that they jump out a little more).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dream Pod 9 Titans and Heavy Mecha Arrive for Future War Commander

Reinforcements have arrived! From left to right, Frame 25, Flails, Arminger, Drone and Fleet Scale Gear. O8 U.S. Vietnam Infantry and Chieftain tank in front, shown for scale.

As followers of this blog probably know by now, I use Drean Pod 9's Fleet Scale Heavy Gears as 3mm mecha for Future War Commander, with tanks and infantry supplied by O8.

I just bought some of DP9's new regular scale Flails and Drones, as I figured they might make good heavy mechs. The flails are perfect! DP9's fleet scale gears are 15mm or 9 scale meters tall. The flails top that by another meter or two, making them perfect superheavy mecha.
The drones are a bit too big to be mecha and yet too small to be "Titan"-sized units. Still, they are beautiful figures and I'm going to make them small massive vehicles.

Finally, I bought the new Arminger Commando and Frame 25 regular-scale gears for "titan"-sized massive units and they fit the bill PERFECTY! The only changes I needed to make were leaving off the Arminger's rather odd "loincloth" and the Frame's jumpjets (which didn't quite fit in with the projected scale).

I need to say that it's a pure pleasure to work with DP9 stuff: they cost an arm and a leg but there is zero flash and mult-part figures practically snap together. The fits are sometimes so precise that the piece will actually stay in place without glue holding it - not "can game with" in place, mind you, but still...

Anyhow, beautiful stuff, if pricey. Around 20 USD gets you 10 mecha, 8 drones, 13 flails, or 2 Titans. I make one DP9 purchase a year of about 100 USD gradually build up my armies. For those who want to try this, I suggest buying 50 bucks worth of O8 modern tanks, infantry and IFVs, plus one pack of Southern and Northern fleet scale gears. That will give you a Mecha battalion for each side, backed up by a conventional regiment with air support for about 100 USD.

Another shot, showing the DP9 stuff exclusively. Note that the flails have been modified: their vision slots have been filled down and replaced with a sensor globe. Also, the chaingun has been replaced with a bead to represent a short-ranged plasma weapon. One of the flails is also armed with a heavy missile launcher, scavanged from the Arminger's extra pieces.