Friday, August 29, 2014

AAR: Axles and Alloys playtest

The Secondhand Lions convened for a test run of my Recruits convention offering, Axles and Alloys 2.5.  On hand were Kenny, John Mark, Terry and Bill.  They each played a squad of gangs, which worked out rather well.  Kenny's take on the action can be found at The Penny Whistle blog.

In this scenario, a fuel truck is hauling that precious commodity to Summit City, escorted by three other members of the Angeles Azures (Blue Angels) gang (ran by Kenny).  As they are driving through the Dead Zone, they are accosted by three gangs: The Anarchists (Bill), Highlanders (John Mark) and Blood Raiders (Terry).  Their job is to score the fuel.  The Angels' job was to get it to Summit City.  Seems simple, right?

Note:  Since this is a test run, my vehicles and dropped weapons aren't quite finished.

The players, minus the Blood Raiders:

The Anarchists
For whatever reason, but thought to be largely pharmaceutical-based, the Anarchists watched the fuel truck rumble by without giving pursuit.  It wasn't until late in the game that they came to their senses and joined the fray.  This...hesitation...played a huge factor in the fuel truck's quick advance.

Angeles Azures
Lead Sled
The first half of the game went smoothly for the Blue Angels.  They could see the approaching gangs, but made it halfway across the table before contact was made.
Trouble's a'comin!

Motherload is pickin' up speed!

Tall Boy's jump holds the A&A record at 10.5"
Our first contact of the evening occurred when John Mark's Polecat skidded halfway across the table and collided head on with Kenny's Flash.  Kenny's driver was killed as he was flipped headlong out of the vehicle, his car destroyed.

Flash is taken out by the Highlander's Polecat.
As Motherload drove down the road, it started getting swarmed by multiple vehicles, desperate to stop it for the fuel.

Talk about ineffective support!
Motherload has several angry bees flying around his head...

This bee stings!
  Eventually, Motherload was effectively slowed to the point that it couldn't get off the board to safety.   Its escort had already zoomed ahead, confident that they had successfully defended the big truck.  Wrong.  A not-so-well placed shot struck the gasoline cylinder, creating a fireball that was felt a mile away.

Today, nobody wins!
With the fuel gone, the remaining gangs disappeared into the Dead Zone, cursing their ill fortune and the other gangs.

This trial run proved to be a blast to GM and from what the guys said, a hoot to play.  There were lots of laughs at the antics that skidding and loss of control caused.  All in all, a great night!  I can't wait to get on the table again!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Conn Con 2014

I held Conn Con, my annual "gaming convention" in my basement, last weekend.  It was a wonderful 15 hours of gaming!

I want to give a hearty "Thank you!" to everyone who attended and especially to Kenny, who hosted his awesome Vietnam game.


Our mission was to locate and destroy a radio tower that was hidden somewhere in the valley.  Enemy elements unknown.  Secondary objective was to set-up a forward staging area in the valley (i.e., make our presence felt).  For an excellent bat rep of the game, head over to Kenny's blog Conn Con opening game Vietnam.  I'm merely going to post my own photos and let you soak in the glory of the game...

Kenny, Chuck and Greg

Greg, Jeremy and Pat

The view from the GM's spot

The M113, brewed up

a rice paddy LZ

We used the village as our fire base

By the end of the game, the US succeeded in their mission, but at some loss to its units, especially Bravo Company.

Next up, we played a few different board games.  The first, since we still had five players, was Adventurers: Pyramid of Horus.  This is a grab-and-go, push your luck game that is highly thematic in the vein of Indiana Jones.  In essence, you want to get as much treasure as you can and escape the pyramid before the falling blocks trap you in and seal your fate.

Nyah, nyah!
The game ended with Chuck's character being the only one to escape the pyramid alive!  As you can see in the last picture, two others were so close to escaping...but didn't.  It was priceless!

The next two games we played, Las Vegas and Lightning: War on Terror, I didn't get any pictures of us playing.  Las Vegas was a fun dice game (we played it four times) and Lightning was a card game the others played while I set the main gaming table for the final minis game of the night.

Our final game was a group favorite: Fistful of Lead.  It's everything you want out of an Old West gunfight...easy rules, lots of blood and plenty of moments you'll always remember.

I didn't have much of a plot in mind, so I made the story go something like this...

The English Moore Gang hates the Scottish Morrissey Gang (even though the name's Irish.  Go with it.) and wants them dead.  The leader of the Morrissey gang, Jefe Morrissey (he was evidently Mexican-Irish Scottish), felt the same about Moore and his boys.  Thus, the fight was on.  Long story short, Jefe died against the side of a building.  The only survivors of his gang were his Injun compadres, who quickly left town and were never seen again.

Walkin' down Main Street
Blood Alley
Blood Alley close-up


Jefe's demise
All in all, another great Conn Con!  I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.  I can't wait until next year!!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

AAR: The Battle of Laketown, LEGO Hobbit style

Continuing my report on using war games during a LEGO: Hobbit summer camp class, the second scenario we played was the "Battle of Laketown".  Please read my "Spiders of Mirkwood" report for more details on this crazy endeavor. 

In the book, Smaug is mad that someone wants to steal his treasure and mistakenly thinks it's the humans at Laketown.  He soars from his mountain and commences to burn the town, which is made of a lot of wood, until Bard the Archer fells him.

In our game, we attempted to recreate this scene, but anyone could bring down the dragon by simply manning the arbalest and rolling well on a d20.

Since you can't destroy Laketown without building it first, I asked each student to build both a building and a boat.  I made the arbalest tower, while my assistant created the "board".  As you can see below, Laketown was built in a circular pattern, with causeways and bridges connecting the various buildings.  The players had to traverse the city, climb the tower that houses the arbalest and bring down Smaug.

Laketown, with Smaug looking on in the distance.

The Rules:  The characters don't have life points in this scenario, which I'll explain the reasoning behind that in a moment.  A player has two actions per character (each player had three chracters): Move and/or attack.  Instead of gridding the map, the characters could move 5", using a 2x16 flat brick as a ruler.  Once inside the town, they could decide where their characters went.  They could even hide within the buildings! 

In the meantime, Smaug flew by once a turn.  His direction was dictated by rolling 2d6 of different colors.  Before rolling, decide which die is the "front" and which is the "back".  When rolled, look at the front die in relation to the back die.  That gives the flight path of Smaug. 

Smaug breathed fire every time he passed over Laketown.  I gathered together all the smaller red, orange and yellow bricks I could find and kept them handy.  When Smaug passed by, the numbers on the direction dice indicated how many of these bricks he "spewed" at the town (with a minimum of six).  I gathered that many bricks in my hand and sprinkled them along Smaug's flight path.  If they landed on or in a building or walkway, then it caught fire.  Two such markers on a causeway caused it to be destroyed.  Three markers destroyed buildings.  Boats attached to these buildings were destroyed as well.  If a character was on a walkway or in a building when it went up in flame, he died.  If a fire marker ended its movement touching a character, he died.  Smaug's fire is HOT!

Killing Smaug wasn't very simple, but it was possible (5% chance).  The players had to roll a '20' on a d20.  This simulated how hard it was to kill Smaug, as he only had one weak spot in his armor to exploit. 

The players start...

A close-up of the action

Almost there...
Where do these stairs go?
They go up...
Firing the arbalest
Laketown is burning!
The adventurers got to the tower, climbed the winding stairs and took turns repeatedly firing the arbalest at Smaug.  Finally, the inevitable happened and Smaug was defeated!
All in all, the game went smoothly, with only a couple of things I'd change if I were to play it again.  The tower steps were too confined and hard for the players to place their minifigs on without knocking things over and generally gorilla fingering things.  I'd make the stairs wider and/or maybe have a couple of arbalest towers in the town.  I also think I'd change how many pieces of "fire" Smaug belches each turn.  It never seemed like the characters were in a lot of danger as they ran through the town to get to the tower.  Maybe double the number of pips on the dice to intensify Smaug's fire?

Regardless, this played out generally like my mind's eye pictured and most of the students seemed to enjoy the experience.

Next up:  The Battle of Five Armies!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

AAR: The Spiders of Mirkwood, LEGO Hobbit style

I teach camp classes at a private school over the summer.  Nothing earth-shattering, but I try to incorporate war gaming as much as possible into my camp classes.  

As the title says, I had the opportunity to create a LEGO: Hobbit course, with a healthy dose of gaming included.  I basically had the students for five days, about 2.5 hours a day.  These students ranged from going into 1st grade all the way to entering 4th grade.

I broke the Hobbit into three "scenarios".  Each very different than the last and incorporating different gaming elements into the course.  This post will focus in the first scenario,"The Flight from Mirkwood" (aka, how Bilbo saved the Dwarfs' bacon).

If you aren't familiar with The Hobbit, there is a part in the book where the dwarfs are captured by giant spiders.  Bilbo was off cheating Gollum out of his "Precious" ring (which we all know is the reason for the Lord of the Rings) and soon discovers his friends' fate.  He frees them, but they are unarmed and groggy from spider venom.  He basically has to perform a rear-guard action to ensure his comrades escape safely (they don't really, but that's another part of the tale).

For our game, I used a bit of war gaming schema (prior knowledge) and utilized elements from the wonderful (and defunct) Leading Edge Games game, Aliens.  Yes, the movie that pitted Colonial Marines against everyone's favorite acid-blooded, hive-minded aliens.  In this instance, I used the game's first scenario, Reactor Room.  In the movie, this is where the marines make initial contact with the aliens.  They don't have their normal armaments and have to rely mainly on inferior weaponry to survive.  In the Aliens game, this scene is played with the marines starting on one side of the map and simply try to get to the far side of said map.  The aliens randomly drop in and cause all sorts of chaos.  That is what I recreated in this scenario.

Materials/Prep:  I gridded a sheet of green craft paper with 1" squares.  While I was gridding, I had the students take flat, square LEGO bases and make six clusters of "trees" and "bushes".  When all that was completed, I placed the clusters at six points on the map.  Voila!  Instant spider nests!  The players are based on flat 2x3 bricks, with green, yellow and red 1x2 bricks stacked behind them to represent their three life points.  I like using these colors, as they are a very visual way to represent health status.  Green= healthy, yellow = hurt and red = almost out of the game.  I used cheap rubber spiders for the beasts.  Colorful, vicious-looking and again, cheap.  Since spiders only have one life point, I didn't base them.

Rules:  The dwarfs have two actions each, Bilbo has three.  With an action, a player can move or attack.  A move is one space, so a character can't move quickly!  Combat is simple as well.  Opponents have to be adjacent to be attacked in melee.  A 'hit' is on a 4-6 on a d6 (six-sided die) with Bilbo's sword, Sting.  Spiders hit on a 5-6 and dwarfs hit on a 6.  

Two spiders are deployed each turn.  To do so, roll a d6 and place a spider on the edge of the corresponding den.  Repeat this process for the second spider.  Spiders have four actions, meaning they are faster than the dwarfs and hobbit.  They attack as described above, but always go for the closest target.  They also have a web shooting ability that disables their target.  To make this attack, the spider has to be within four spaces and rolls a d6.  If it rolls a 5 or 6, it has potentially webbed the target.  The target does get a chance to avoid the web by rolling a 6 on a d6.  If not, then he's stuck in that spot.  On subsequent turns, the player can try to free himself from the web, but not attack or move.  To do so, he has to roll a 5 or 6 on a d6.  If a spider webs a player, it can then drag him off to be feasted upon later!  One last rule for Bilbo was the use of his newly-stolen ring.  If he wears it, spiders will ignore him.  If he attacks with it on, then they can locate him on a roll of 6 on a d6. 

Here it is in an easier to read format:

Dwarf - Actions: 2; Move: 1 space/action; Combat: 6 on a d6
Bilbo - Actions: 3; Move 1 space/action; Combat: 4-6 on a d6; can become invisible
Spider - Actions: 4; Move 1 space/action; Combat: 5-6 on a d6; can shoot webs

The Game:  I had the dwarfs cluster in the middle of an open area.  My assistant played Bilbo and I played as the spiders.  I made it clear to the students that their goal was simply to get off the edge of the map as quickly as possible and that Bilbo was their best bet for killing spiders.

Starting board
A closer view of the start
A spider den
Another one...
The game very smoothly.  There were the players that tried to veer off, but under my heavy recommendation, returned to the group.  The spiders closed in quickly.  Bilbo dispatched several and was able to keep the rear section relatively free of danger. 

They're closing in!
 The "squeeze" in the middle of the board proved difficult for the group.  The spiders didn't have far to move after deployment and thus attacked the dwarfs quickly.  In the picture below, you can see one dwarf on the ground.  That indicates he was webbed.  Bombur is in the rear of the group and in real trouble.

I made the rule that if you were in combat with a spider, you could attempt to flee, but the creature would get a free attack.  Since the characters only had three life points, it was an agonizing decision for the players.  They wound up duking it out with the arachnids and ganged up effectively.

How will we ever escape?!

The scenario ended with everyone making it out except Bombur.  He lagged behind the rest and was recaptured.   Bilbo simply made himself invisible and waltzed off the game board. 

Almost out of the woods!
By the end of the scenario, the students were ready to whomp some spiders and save Bombur.  We didn't have enough time left in the day to run the scenario again, so I went back to the Aliens game and pulled out another scenario for us to play: Saving Newt (in this case, Bombur). 

In this scenario, the dwarfs were able to recover their weapons and head back into Mirkwood to save their friend, Bombur.  I gave them the choice of ranged and melee weapons.  They hit on a 5-6 with either, but the bows could hit up to four squares away.

Mean-looking, aren't they?

I then laid out eight spider dens and secretly selected one to contain Bombur.  A den held between 1-6 spiders (a single die roll).  The players entered from where the orange die is resting on the map below.

Shhh, don't tell the players, but Bombur's in the top middle den.
The spiders stay in their dens until they have line of sight with the group and I roll the appropriate number for activation.  In the first round that the spiders can see the group, it is a 6.  Round two, 5-6.  Round 3, 4-6.  You get the idea.

One den cleansed.
Vengeful dwarfs, gearing up to kill some spiders!

In an ironic twist, the gang totally ignored and bypassed the den that held Bombur!  I mean they literally ran right past it!  They were halfway across the map when I had to call the game.  However, the goal was accomplished.  The students, assistant and I had a great time!

Next up: The Battle of Laketown.