Saturday, December 13, 2014

Going the Distance Indy car racing

Happy holidays!

As you know, I only blog about the games I host at the casa.  It has been pretty quiet as of late.  Both Terry and Ken have filled the Thursday night scene with wonderful games (the Penny Whistle blog covers them).  While I've been relatively active gaming-wise, it hasn't shown on these pages.

It was a low-key night for the group and consisted of Jon Mark, Terry and myself.  After much debate, I decided to try a new track for the group's racing game of choice: Going the Distance (GtD).

The track is from the out-of-print WizKids game, Race Day.  This game was produced in 2005-2006 and ended abruptly when NASCAR and WizKids had some sort of falling out.  The game featured constructible styrene race cars and simple rules for damage.  It wasn't the greatest game, but it did give me a very large track on which to play GtD.

Unlike other GtD tracks, this one featured lanes that started and ended in the turns.  It also featured some interesting challenges pertaining to tire wear and centrifugal force 'slipping'.  I made the rule that everyone was using "A" compound tires.   While not as durable, they give the driver a dedicated handling die (Note - If that means nothing to you, the original rules are available through the link I included earlier).  Also, the pole position rules had to be reversed due to the track's nature, meaning that the pole driver started on the outside lane instead of the inside.  I know this isn't 'accurate', but it was the only way it worked with the map. We also had to modify the pitting rules to accommodate the track.  Pitting proved to be much more difficult than normal and definitely was a strategic factor in the game.

We started with three cars apiece.  The race was five laps, with the 'field move' consisting of 3d6.  This proved to be perfectly suited for the track and yielded some fantastically chaotic results!

Terry won the pole, with the rest of the field following behind.  His lead car shot out quickly, with Jon Mark and me following closely.  Some deft maneuvering and lucky dice rolls led to the front of the pack looking like this:  Terry's purple car leading the race, with my car hedging out Jon Mark's Ferrari.  The blue Viper is used to indicate the race leader and is a key component to GtD.

 The first turn didn't fare well for Terry.  His second car blew its engine off the starting line (the car flipped over in the picture below), creating a hazard for every car behind him...

...while his third car rammed the back end of Jon Mark's car (Terry's is the purple car turned sideways in the lane in the photo below.  This indicates he's collided and stopped).  Fortunately, this happened at the end of the first turn, so it didn't negatively impact (pun intended) anything but the two cars involved in the collision.  You can also see how cool the track looks.

Around we went.  Terry managed to blow the engine of his lead car, leaving him with a final vehicle that struggled to keep up.  It eventually got lapped and caused the lead cars no end of trouble before going DNF itself.

Team Green (me) held the lead through most of the race.  I was nursing depleted tires and was moving in to pit my front two cars when disaster struck.  One of Jon Mark's cars blew a tire and flipped right in front of the pit entrance, effectively blocking me from pitting!  With a prayer and a lead foot, I gunned my cars to make another lap.  This proved to be catastrophic, as they in turn both blew out tires and wrecked.

That left three cars on the track: Two of Jon Mark's and one of mine.  Jon Mark's lead car "found the groove" and took the checkered flag, while my car pitted and regained much needed tires. 

In the end, Jon Mark won, while I took second.  Nine cars started, two finished.  That's some seriously bad racing, but it made for a fun, entertaining evening!

The map played very well and with some slight modifications to the GtD rules, can be worked into the track rotation with ease.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Axles & Alloys Racing!

Gentlemen, start your engines!
Those words are never spoken in the Deadzone.  
Instead, gangs put forth racers for the 'Deadzone Championship'. Little more than an excuse to blow the living hell out of rival gang members and then crow about it, the "DC" is held in a neutral location (at least for the duration of the race) and is the only thing the gangs consider sacrosanct.
That was the hook...
After discussion with a couple of group members, I decided to give this aspect of A&A a whirl. I had recently thrifted some ZipZap cars and track pieces (they look like Jersey barriers), which propelled this back-burner project to the fore.
I decided to build a "figure 8" track, knowing full well that the middle was going to become a hotbed of contention. I also included napalm, smokescreens and speed reduction strips (SRS) as part of this track to make things more interesting.
The race was played differently than in the A&A rules. The players have three cars to use: one light, one medium and one heavy. They can race them in any order they choose, but can have only one vehicle on the course at a time. Vehicles enter from the left-hand gap in the wall (as seen in the above photo) and have the choice of leaving the race through the right-hand gap or continuing on subsequent laps. If a vehicle leaves the race, it can't re-enter. Another of the player's vehicles can only enter when the previous is off the track. Starting speed is between 0-6. Each lap completed equals one point. Five points wins the race.
So, with jalapeno poppers, peanuts and adult beverages primed, we began.
For our race, the action started hot and heavy.  In the first round, the SRS in the middle of the intersection had everyone jockeying for position to hit the initial gap without being toasted by those around them.

photo courtesy of The Penny Whistle blog
I had the only light vehicle on the track, so I shot out to the lead, clearing room and allowing the 'big boys' to tussle.  The first 'kill' of the day occurred when John Mark's vehicle collided with Ken's monster truck.  You can see the results below.  This was the beginning of a series of collisions in that general area of the track.  This eventually created a 'choke point' that was difficult to navigate.
I kept speeding up, but had to slow down in the first loop.  Terry's Jeep was right behind me, its missile launcher a consistent threat.  I not only had to be faster than Terry, I also had to be faster than his missiles!  I kind of felt like the teenager running from the walking serial killer in a slasher flick....or the cat damsel running from Pepe lePew.  Anyway, my speed was what eventually caught me in the second bend...
Rounding the bend, I lost control and drifted into a patch of napalm, catching my car on fire.  My speed was high enough that I then rocketed straight into the side of a rock formation.  My driver, Pinkie, was ejected from the buggy and laid unconscious on the track.  Prime pickings for Terry!
One less Pinkie in the world...
Meanwhile, further back on the track, Kenny and John Mark were yet again making a scrum of it.  This time, John Mark came out on top, sending Kenny's truck careening into a wall.  He then zipped around the ever-more-dangerous first turn of the race in his "fishbat" car.
Terry's Jeep, 'the Dutch Oven', managed to complete a lap, earning him one point.  It stayed on the track and was quickly given a "how you do" by my medium vehicle, 'the Fez'.  Wounded, it continued on its inexorable way through lap two.  
Kenny's second vehicle managed to make it around the track once before meeting Terry in the middle.
Passing Pinkie's corpse

It didn't go well for Ken.  It did manage to knock Terry around a bit, though.  He had to do some deft driving to get back on the right course.

There was much jockeying, ramming and shooting in the second lap, with casualties piling up.  The Fez had no choice but to ram the back end of the Dutch Oven and was soon added to the list of casualties.  Would anyone stop Terry?

Ken did.  In a stroke of brilliant driving, he power slid to right in front of Terry, forcing yet another ramming situation.  The damage to Dutch Oven was too great and the Jeep finally gave out.

By the end of the night, the tally was as follows:

1. Terry - One point, two vehicles left
2. Ted - One point, one vehicle left
3. Ken - One point, no vehicles left
4. John Mark - Zero points, no vehicles left

Terry took home the Deadzone League trophy (a surprise to the group, as I hadn't announced I'd made a trophy for this).  Here's me presenting the trophy, fez intact (even if the car that I was wearing it for wasn't), and Terry enjoying the moment.

Photo courtesy of the Penny Whistle blog

Photo courtesy of the Penny Whistle blog

All in all, a fun night.  We hashed out some things that can be improved in future races, but I think the first attempt was a success.

Tutorial: 1/64 scale Tire Stacks

In my group's quest to complete an Axles and Alloys campaign (more on that later), I started thinking about how to make "towns" and "centers" of humanity (think Mad Max II's refinery).

A quick Google search for pics of Mad Max II only shows three photos from the movie: a long shot of the entire refinery complex and then two stills of a gang member getting toasted by a flamethrower in front of the refinery's gate.  After studying the photos, I saw that I'd need to make tire stacks as walls for either side of the gate.  Another quick Google search of "How to make miniature tire stacks" utterly failed.  Another try, using "How to make HO scale tire stacks" yielded what I needed from a page on  Below is my tutorial on making these cool stacks.

Parts list:
Sharp blade (X-Acto, box knife, etc)
Cutting board
Rubber hose
Hot glue
White glue
Cardboard/Mat board
wooden craft stick
Needlepoint grid
Paint and brushes
Toy car tires (optional)

I went to my local hardware store and bought two, one foot segments of flexible tubing of different diameters.  I wanted the tires to be of different sizes, so made sure to buy two different kinds of tubing.  Total cost was $1.25.

The tubes' surfaces were smooth, so I used sandpaper to roughen them so they'd take paint easier. I then cut the tubing into sections, making sure to vary my width to simulate different tires.

Note - Make sure that you lay the tubing flat, with the curved ends pointing down.  If you don't, you stand the risk of making irregularly shaped tires.  This can be useful for making leaning stacks, but they may look "off" to the discerning eye.

When that bit was completed, I then separated the pieces into four groups.  My reasoning was that if we are running two scenarios at the same time and they are both attacks on compounds, I'll need two sets of stacks.  I wanted the bigger tire stacks flanking the entrances, so made sure to use the larger pieces of hose first.  I threw in a few toy tires for effect.  Next, I cut the mat board (you can use cardboard) into 1" x 4" strips.  This proved longer than I needed, but the extra length provided me with a place to hold the pieces during construction.

The stacking process was simple:  Hot glue the pieces together.  I started by gluing the bases onto the mat board and then layered up from there.  I used my tallest vehicle (i.e, Motherload) as my gauge for the wall's height.  I figured that if the driver of the vehicle can't see over the wall, then it's tall enough.  When the larger sections were finished, I started on stacks using the smaller tires.  As you can see from the pictures, I used toy tires to "cap off" the stacks.

After all four walls were built, I used an old brush and applied white glue over the entire surface area to give the tires more texture and solidity.  I tried to use brush strokes that moved around the circumference of the tires so I could have "tread" when I painted them.

Allowing for drying time, I cut out some needlepoint grid (aka granny grid) to use as ladders.  I think the results look great!  I also cut small pieces of craft stick to use as platforms for the weapons that will eventually be on top of the stacks.  I glued all of these bits into place and again let the glue dry.

Next, it was time to primer the stacks with black paint and then drybrush gray onto the tires.  I used metallic gray on the ladder and platforms.  Orange and brown inks and Georgia Clay orange paint created both dust/dirt and rust stains on everything.

Voila!  Tire stacks!  Now, onto building the actual land the towns sit upon!  That's another tutorial...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Get to the Chopper! and Aliens

It was a relatively light evening planned for the gang, as we were several members short of full complement.  I "dangled the carrot" in my email invite by only using a quote from the movie Predator to entice the players.  It worked.  John Mark and Bill arrived, ready for...whatever.

Get to the Chopper!
This little print & play game is a recreation of the events in Predator.  It features the mercs running for their lives from the predatory alien that's bent on killing them and mounting their heads as trophies in its spaceship.  Classic stuff.  Here's the game's BGG link: Get to the Chopper!!!

The game's board.
Instead of using the print and play's map, I decided to use Heroscape tiles.  They are bigger and give a prettier vibe to the game. 

The players, from left to right: Blain, Dutch, the alien, Billy and Mac.
I used some WH40K Catachan  jungle fighters for the mercs and even added a hat to Blain.
We wound up playing three games of this, as it is a quick filler.  I played the alien in the first game, John Mark took the honor in the second and Bill was "it" third.

Game 1:
The mercs started down the path, which gave them a slight advantage when rolling.  The alien came on early and often, wounding the mercs with some great dice rolls.  Mac dropped claymores (the little red dice) in this and all subsequent scenarios like they were Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs.  They did do a good job of keeping the predator on the fringes of the fight...barely.


It wasn't long before the mercs were feeling the alien's bite.  As they neared the river, the fighting got more intense.

Surrounded?  No worries.  The humans will be dead soon enough!

The endgame came down to Dutch barely escaping with his life and the rest of his crew lying dead on the jungle floor.  Game mirrors movie.  Perfect!

He got to da choppah!
Game 2:
John Mark followed my example on how to run the predator, but there was a difference: his dice rolls stunk and ours were hot!  It didn't take long before the big sucker was dead.  Victory to the mercs!

He's dead, Mac!
Game 3:
We tried a slightly different tactic when Bill was the alien.  Our mercs scooted down the far side of the jungle, away from the predator.  It took him an extra round to get to us, giving us a little more time to maneuver.  Soon enough though, it was back to the violence of the game.  Dutch kept scoring improbable hits on the alien by taking running pot shots.  Meanwhile, Mac made a dash for the path and freedom.

Finally and at the expense of Billy and Mac, the alien was once again killed.  Final score?  Mercs 2, predator 1.  Great game!

The games ended early, so I continued with the theme and got out my home brew of Aliens.  The gang loves this game as well as the movie, so it didn't take much convincing to run the first scenario, the Reactor Room.

Pardon the poor recon photos taken of the Colonial Marines' foray into the room.  I'll let the pics tell the story, with a batrep at the end.

The initial set-up
What's that up ahead?
They're closing in fast!

Hold the line!
The Marines are getting away!

A Colonial Marine happy dance!
The Marines got out of the room with 8/9 of their squad intact.  The only one who didn't make it was Hicks.  He fought valiantly, but was eventually pulled through the ceiling by a rather insistent xenomorph.  I think this was possibly the most successful try at this mission I've ever experienced.  We got reeeeally lucky with our hand-to-hand combat rolls, knocking three aliens off of struggling Marines and then crisping them with flamethrowers.

A special thanks to John Mark and Bill for making such a rainy night enjoyable.

End report.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

AAR: Axles and Alloys, Recruits 2014

My running of Axles and Alloys (aka A&A) at Recruits convention was a success.  I had 13 slots available and 12 grown men answered the bell to play this little slice of chaos in action.  If the amount of laughs and whoops when things went sideways (literally and figuratively in this game) were indicators of fun, then fun was had in spades.  I want to thank Mike, Lee, Andy, Ken C., Ken V., Joel, Hal, Max, Scott, Jamie, Paul and Pat for playing.

Now, on to the game...

The plot (as written for the convention's website and program):  "Fuel. Fuel is everything. It's so rare, you'd do practically anything to get it. When you hear there's an entire truck filled with fuel heading through the Dead Zone to Summit City, you round up your posse and head out to intercept. Problem is, you're not the only gang with that thought. Who will leave the Dead Zone with the fuel, you or another gang? Will the fuel truck survive to deliver its goods? Not if you have a say in things! Axles and Alloys is a quick-playing, over-the-top sci-fi vehicular combat system based loosely upon Full Thrust rules. Think Mad Max meets Car Wars, but with simpler rules."

The gang, waiting to begin (sorry for the blurriness)
The board, sans vehicles, filled to the brim with quick reference sheets and high hopes.

The Blue Angels started strongly, as the gangs pretty much started on the other side of the table.  There was one group that entered from the same side of the table as the convoy and they tried to take full advantage of this, but the heavy weapons on top of Motherload kept them at a distance.

The Blue Angels (from L-R): Tall Boy, Lead Sled, Motherload and Flash.  Would they successfully get the fuel to Summit City?

There was one Blood Runners speedster car that finagled the ultimate "tight squeeze" maneuver in between a deadly rock formation and a burned-out husk of a car.  With his sport suspension, the rough terrain wasn't an issue.  That was the first little "test" by the players of the game's coolness factor.  Needless to say, it passed.

TIIIGHT squeeze!

As the game proceeded, it became clear to me that these players would stretch the game's rules to their full extent and create a totally different experience than my group's play test.  For one thing, droppers were heavily used, resulting in fantastic skids, wrecks and much laughter.  Let me add that these guys were great players.  They had most of the rules down within one turn of play and were calling out speeds by themselves.  I was relegated to answering rules questions and watching the mayhem unfold.  Perfect for a convention game!

Blowback, dropping oil.

The first vehicle to zip across the front of Motherload and drop some mayhem was Blowback, a straight-line, nitro-burning speedster with a turret gun.  He set the tone for others as for how to stop the fuel truck from reaching its destination.  After the above aerial shot was taken, Blowback, already weakened by some gunfire and traveling well beyond what would be considered "safe", lost control in a turn, flipped and burned.

Another blazing fast car dropped spikes in front of the big rig, effectively ruining its ability to turn.  It moved so fast that my camera missed it entirely!  Fortunately for Big Blue, it was already pointed in the right direction to safely leave the board when it ran across the spikes.

Turned and barely avoiding the oil slick, Motherload was then confronted with another problem: his own outrider was in the way!  There was a lot of speculation on whether Lead Sled would be able to move out of harm's way before the big truck t-boned him!  It did, but there was a lot of joking as to what would happen if it didn't!

Oh, poop!

On the other side of the table, the heavies of the Anarchists and the Blood Runners were approaching the slowest collision ever recorded.  Hanging back in order to cause more chaos for Motherload later, they met in a non-rush of metal and fury....which is to say they barely bumped each other after shots were exchanged.  Literally speeds 2 and 3 (10-15 mph), respectively.

In the end Chopstick, the Blood Runners' heavy, was soon on fire and taking more damage every round.  The driver succumbed to the flames and wound up doing a wonderful job as a roadblock to Motherload's escape off the board.

Meanwhile, the path in front of Big Blue was choked with mines and destroyed vehicles.  The carnage that had already been dealt was minor in comparison to Motherload hitting mines.  Not able to avoid them, the big rig lumbered across them, blowing a hole in the cab, killing the driver and damaging the vehicle's fuel tank.  Not the cargo fuel tank, the actual truck's fuel.  As those tanks sat directly below the cargo, I gave the truck a 50/50 shot of not exploding.  With baited breath, the remaining players watched the roll....


Motherload went up like a fireworks factory, killing anyone within 12" of the blast.  The table erupted in laughter.  It didn't matter to them that they all "lost".  As one fellow put it, "it's all the crazy, chaos sh*t you see happen in the movies, but on a gaming table!".

Well said, sir.  Well said.