Thursday, 19 January 2017

Tomorrow's War Battle Report: Putting it All Together

Tonight I played the introductory scenario of Tomorrows War with my son: Putting it All Together.  US Marines vs the DPRG on the planet Glory.  From past experience I knew that the odds were against the DPRG.  So, saying that I gave them an extra GPMG team to their forces hoping this would even things out a bit.  US forces had a Troop Quality of D8 while DPRG forces were a meager D6.  I changed the tech level of the scenario as well, dropping the DPRG to tech level 1 instead of 2.

Colony World: Glory
Area: Foix Gap, near the DPRG border
Year: 2295

US Mission: An American aerospace fighter has suffered engine failure and crashed in disputed territory near the DPRG border.  The pilot has managed to eject and is currently held up in a nearby ruin awaiting rescue.  Nearby US marines are ordered to advance swiftly and extract the pilot before he is captured by Communist forces.  The pilot must exit the board by turn 8. 

Victory points:
+3 for making contact with the pilot
+10 for exiting the pilot before turn 5
+7 for exiting the pilot before turn 8

US Force, 13 men, TQ D8
Tech level: 3
1 Squad Leader
3 Fireteams (2 rifle men, 1 SAW gunner AP1, 1 SLAM gunner AP2)

DPRG Mission: An Imperialist Air Pirate has been shot down over the People's Paradise.  The pirate managed to eject from his aircraft and is attempting to escape from the People's justice.  Prevent his rescue at all costs.  Destroy or capture any Imperialist forces which attempt to intervene.

Victory points:
+2 per US marine KIA
+1 per US marine seriously wounded
+3 per US marine POW
Pilot still on the table at the end of turn 8: VICTORY

Communist Forces, 25 men, TQ D6
Tech Level: 1
Tech Officer
GPMG Team, 2 men (AP 2)
4 Fire teams (3 riflemen, 1 SAW gunner AP1, RPG Gunner AP2)

Battlefield, 3'x3' table.


Communists await the Imperialist forces

Ford in the river.

Turn 1
The US marines advanced into the nearby woods and fields.  Unfortunately, the DRPG was waiting for them.  Enemy units waited until after all US marine fireteams were on the board before they activated.  Three of them and the GPMG team poured fire into the left most US marine unit, while a forth moved behind the building in the center.  When it was all said and done the US marine unit was pinned down and wiped out, with no DPRG casualties to speak of.  Needless to say I was surprised. 

End of Turn 1.  US Marine Platoon is wiped out, with no DPRG casualties.

Turn 2 began with some hesitation on the US side.  However, confident in their technological prowess (TL 3 vs TL 1) another US fireteam advanced to the river ford with the team going on overwatch to cover their advance.  A furious firefight ensued between both sides, leaving two DPRG fireteams wiped out.  However, lady luck was not with the marines: their command squad fell off overwatch and the remaining DPRG fireteam and GPMG team caused 4 casualties on the marines in the river, wiping them out!  This was very bad since the DPRG fireteam was still beside the house and within rapid movement distance of them.  They activated and with no one to oppose them, moved into cohesion distance with that unit and captured them.

End of Turn 2.  Another US Marine fireteam is wiped out.  DPRG takes several casualties as well.

DPRG fireteam wiped out.
DRPG casualties: one wiped out fireteam and one casualty in another.

Oh no!
US Marines captured!

End of turn 2.
 Turn 3 began with the DPRG winning initiative!  Another furious gunbattle ensued with more casualties being inflicted on the communist forces.  However, the DPRG unit with the American POWs won it's reaction test and escaped behind the building with their prisoners.  This was the final nail in the coffin for the marines.

End of Turn 4.

Final DPRG situation

Final US situation
 At this point we called the game.  There was no point in continuing since even if the marine fireteam could make contact with the pilot the DRPG already had enough victory points for the win.  The DPRG victory stunned me quite a bit.  Their dice were hot, there was nothing else more to say.  The US had a clear tech advantage but the dice were simply not in their favor. 

Communist casualties amounted to 3 dead, 5 seriously and 4 lightly wounded.  American losses were 2 dead, 1 seriously and 1 lightly wounded men and 4 prisoners of war. 

Victory points were:
US: 0
DPRG: 17 plus an automatic win due to the pilot being left on the board.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Lets Talk Area Terrain

Terrain. To me, an evocative table-top is more important than the miniatures who represent the beings who will fight and die for our amusement.  With the right pieces the mind can be swept away to alien vistas and ancient lands where only the mind may travel.

Sadly, the trend in todays miniature gaming is to use True Line of Sight and what I call "Terrain Micromanagement".  In this environment each piece of terrain is placed on the table and becomes an immovable object; a force that even the gods cannot move.  We then spend much of the game arguing what one can and cannot see from the vantage point of a 25mm tall plastic/metal figure.  Absurd. 

In days gone by, wargames used another system.  The designers knew that the tabletop battlefield was only a vague representation of the actual location.  We need not be concerned with the placement of each tree, rock and bush.  We only need to know what might be in a general area of the battlefield, as indicated by a specific area.  Perhaps a piece of felt, cardboard or MDF would represent this area.  The point is that the zone represented contained a certain type of terrain: rocks, jungle, water or even buildings (yes buildings). Even GW's 40K used such a system in the days of old.  Designers knew that today perhaps your forest area represented but a light wood, whereas next week it may be an impenetrable jungle.  All we need concern ourselves with is how big the area is.

Woods and Rocky Areas

Below are two examples of area terrain and how they can be used on the tabletop: a wooded area and a rocky area.  The area of each is indicated by a piece of flocked MDF.  The pieces of terrain inside this area can be moved around at will, or even removed.  We need not be concerned with their placement.  If a miniature or unit does not fit inside the area we simply remove terrain pieces until they do.  This method allows us to create dioramas and terrain features which are modular and are user friendly.

Rocks found in my backyard, repainted and based on 60mm bases.
These terrain pieces were quite simple and cheap to produce.  Rocks can be found anywhere.  However, they should to be painted if at all possible.  Unpainted rocks on a tabletop simply look like small pebbles or rocks.  Once painted though they become miniature boulders and colossal granite formations.  The best part about rocks is they are free.  Perhaps this rocky area blocks line of sight within 2" of the base?  Perhaps only 1".  The choice is yours.
a rock

a tree
 These are trees from various manufacturers.  I simply glued them onto 40mm bases.  A little flock and they are done.  Maybe these areas are jungles, permitting but 1" of visibility in or out?  Perhaps they are light woods, permitting a 4" line of sight.  The choice is yours.
look, more trees
Area terrain simplifies line of sight, cover and just about everything else associated with vision.  Arguments vanish under it's lawful gaze.  We spend less time arguing and more time playing and hopefully enjoying ourselves together.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

GZG Kra'Vak Vehicles Redoux

For most of my sci-fi vehicles and figures I use Minwax Polyshades Tudor for most of my washes and shading.  However, for many months now I have not used that product (for a number of reasons). Yesterday I decided to play with it again, this time with my Kra-Vak vehicles.

When I initially did the GZG Kra'Vak vehicles I simply airbrushed them with various Tamiya greys to achieve a color modulation effect.   While nice they lacked enough depth and shadows for my taste.
So, on went the minwax.  It provided (at least in my mind) enough shading where no existed before and did not radically change the base color (unlike a regular paint or ink was would). The effect is subtle and hard to really see since it is basically 50 Shades of Grey.






 Now, they just need some humans to hunt.

15mm Halo Diorama - a Fathers Christmas Present

This Christmas, my 14 year old (Logan) presented me with a rather peculiar problem: he didn't want anything for Christmas.  Now, some background on him: he has ADHD and Asbergers, so his outlook on things is a bit different from the norm.  Additionally, when he says he does not want anything he really means it.

My wife really looked to me to fill the gift void this  year for him.  The only real hobby he has is Halo: games, books, lego, ect.  Sadly we have collected almost all items which could fall into this category.  So, I thought, is there something I could "do" for him.  Something that he could keep as a memory of Daddy (yes he still calls me this; he is very sentimental as well). 

What could I do.  I don't have many useful skills around the house, so building him something was out.  All I can do with any small skill is paint very small inert things.  Ah-ha!  I can do a diorama I thought.....a Halo one, with Spartans and Elites battling skirmish style, on some alien world.  So, off began this journey (around Dec 10 no less).

Step 1: The Case
The first thing was how to display it.  That was the easiest thing to find: a baseball collectors case off Amazon.  $50 with shipping.  Ouch.  It was just the right size: not too big and not too small. 

Step 2: Background
What kind of background to use.  Well Halo of course.  So, during my lunch hours at work I scoured the internet for Halo landscape pictures.  Eventually I narrowed it down and printed it out on a laser printer.  Trees and rocks were taken from my terrain collection (yay!).  It is handy having lots of stuff in the garage sometimes.  I used a piece of plasti-card as the base, flocking it with Woodland Scenics flock.

Step 3: Models
The models were an easy choice.  The GZG produces a line of 15mm figures which are a spitting image of Spartans: The NI Infantry line.  Two sets of 8 figures were only 5 GBP.  They arrived with one week to spare before Christmas.  Painting crunch time!  I washed the bare models in GW Athonian Camoshade (the green one) and picked out the other details individually.

Now, Covenant figures were a bit harder.  However, Daddy had a plan for this.  About a year ago I purchased a set of Tavshar aliens from 15mm uk.  They are very similar to Covenant elites.  I had not painted them up since they were only a test pack.  However, four models was all I needed.  Through random conversation my son provided me the color scheme to use for the elite: blue for regulars and red for a leader.  Weapons were done in the traditional Covenant Purple.

 The end result is this:

15mm Halo Diorama
 I left everyone unattached to the flocked base since, allowing Logan to reposition the models at will.

Spartans advance!


Covenant Elite

Covenant Elite Leader

Covenant Elites

Spartan with Spartan Laser

Logan told me it was the best gift he received.  Looks like I hit the mark on this one.  Not too bad if I do say so myself.

Tomorrow's War - DPRG Dear Leader I Heavy Tanks

In my previous post of the DPRG Motor Rifle Platoon, those forces were equipped with Khurasan Red Faction armor.  This however is not their normal vehicle pool.  Being somewhat fickle I tend to swap units in and out of armies (especially since I have well over 100 vehicles to choose from).  So, may I present some of the actual DPRG armor, in their full resplendent camo scheme.

Lets start off with the heavies.  These bad boys are from Combat Wombat, the Chieftan Heavy Tank.  They are featured in the Tomorrow's War rulebook as the Dear Leader I Heavy Tank, for the DPRG.  I am a sucker for canon, so as soon as I saw the Space-North Koreans in GZG and Combat Wombat armor, well that was enough for me.  My whole DPRG armor pool is painted in these colors. 

Dear Leader I Heavy Tank Platoon (Combat Wombat miniatures)
 The paint scheme was simple:

Vallejo Russian Green airbrush kit.
Vallejo NATO Black and Vallejo US Army Light Grey (Tamiya Green Grey works as a substitute) for camo.
Minwax Polyshades Tudor wash.
Matte sealer.
Tamiya weather kits (sand and light green) for highlights

Combat Wombat Chieftan tank (Dear Leader I)

Pintle machineguns from Brigade models.

Tank commander from GZG

Forward for Dear Leader!  Death to the capitalist American dogs!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

It is my 15th Wedding Anniversary Today

The title says it all: it is my 15th Wedding Anniversary today.  Without my wife my life would amount to very little.

Thanks for the years Chris.


Husband, Wife and Kid#3.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Game Review: Alien Squad Leader

Alien Squad Leader.  I have been talking about this game for some time now.  However, I have actually not given a lot of details about the game itself or why I think it is one of the best 15mm Sci Fi games on the market.  I will now correct this oversight.

ASL is a self-published game by a British fellow, Alex Self.  It is currently in print via and in its second edition, with a third edition on its way.  It is an old game, created over 12 years ago I do believe.  There is a yahoo group which although small, contains a lot of information on the game, with FAQ, photos of miniatures, optional rules and articles by the author.  Alex answers rule questions directly and also gives advice and suggestions freely.  Can you imagine getting answers to questions directly from Games Workshop in a timely manner?

The rule book itself contains almost no art work, although several color pictures of in-game models and units are presented.  There is a plethora of fiction in the book, similar to the old 40K rulebooks.  Each piece of writing focuses on one army type and gives some flavor to the game.  Unlike many other systems there is no official background for this game.  Players instead should take the army lists and run with them: creating their own backgrounds or importing one of their choosing. 

There are fifteen army lists in the rule book.  Each army is built with a specific flavor and play-style.  Some are easier to play than others.  This is intentional.  Each is built around special rules, similar to 40K army-wide special rules.  Also each has different unit choices: some have a plethora of unit options; others have but a handful.  All of this combines to provide a rich game experience.

The featured armies are:
  • Human Imperial - technologically advanced forces which rely on firepower rather than numbers. 
  • Human Colonial - local defense forces or less advanced nations.  Better on defense than attacking.
  • Imperial Strike Force - small strike forces equipped exclusively with power armor and vehicles. 
  • Outlaw Gangs - criminals and lightly equipped mercenary forces. 
  • Alien Imperial - aliens with superior technology supplemented by primitives. 
  • Alien Imperial Strike Force - as above but made up of power armor equipped alien units. 
  • Alien Warrior Caste - aliens in power armor who prefer close combat over ranged. 
  • Tripods - armies is made up of alien walker vehicles.
  • Alien Enslaver - master race of aliens supplemented by hordes of primitives.
  • Cyborg Enslaver - Psionic masters who rely on legions of cyborg thralls, supplemented by small numbers of regular troops. 
  • Mechanoid - robotic armies out to exterminate all organic life.
  • Hive Mind - 40K Tyranids.  Nuff said.
  • Victorian Imperial - technologically regressed empire which relies on discipline and massed infantry blocks.  
  • Alien Greys - aliens who use paralysis rays to incapacitate their enemies.
  • Children of the Gods - probably the strangest army.  Technologically advanced creatures who can summon powerful beings from other dimensions to fight for them. 
The game is played of course with 15mm miniatures with the game being unit based vs individual miniature based.  Miniatures are mounted on either a 50x50mm square base or for large vehicles on 100x50mm bases.  The number of miniatures on each base is irrelevant.  They represent the unit itself, nothing more.  Of course it is aesthetically pleasing to use as many miniatures as will fit on a base.  However, if you are short of figures that is not a problem.  The rule book does give guidelines on what the quantity of miniatures would be on a "normal" base for that unit type.  I personally use individually based miniatures, fastened onto bases with blue tac.

Unit types are many, and each type of unit has a subtype, 29 in all. 

  • Regular - normal quality infantry, the mainstay of any army.
  • Inferior - lesser quality infantry, think militia or police units.
  • Power Armor - elite troops, possibly with jump packs, energy shields and computer aiming devices
  • Heavy Weapons - infantry with heavy weapons for taking out vehicles and hard targets
  • Monstrous - large aliens, Ogre sized or larger
  • Refugees - unarmed civilians
  • Robotic Infantry - robotic infantry
  • Heavy Droids - large sized droids with heavy weapons
  • Recon Droids - small flying robots which zip around the table
  • Battle Mecha - huge robots, the size of battle mechs, one of the strongest in the game.
  • Fighters - armed with hand weapons, or possibly sticks & stones and the handy-dandy fist/claw
  • Shooters - armed with bows, or archaic small arms
  • Riders - cavalry
  • Beasts - trained war animals or other fearsome creatures
  • Monstrous Creatures - huge creatures, dragon size or larger
  • Thralls - mindless slaves or undead zombies
  • Close Flyers - flying monsters or flying primitive cavalry who specialize in close combat
  • Distant Flyers - modern aircraft armed with heavy weapons and possibly computer aiming devices
  • Crewed Weapons - large weapons not easily man portable
  • Floaters - anti grav platforms, slow moving and easy to kill
  • Defense Turrets - non movable defensive fortifications
  • Light Vehicles - lightly armed and armored recon vehicles
  • Light Transports - unarmed troop transports
  • Mobile Artillery - capable of both direct and indirect fire
  • Armored Fighting Vehicles - medium and heavy tanks armed with heavy weapons
  • Armored Transports - lightly or possibly heavily armed and armored troop transports
  • Assault Tanks - slower armored vehicles designed to operate near enemy units
  • Assault Transports - even more heavily armored troop transports which have a larger carrying capacity
  • Main Battle Tanks - the most powerful vehicle in the game, armed with the most powerful weaponry

One thing to mention is that players are encouraged to let their imagination take them wherever it will in regards to model selection.  There is no official range of figures for ASL and this is part of its charm.  Use the models you like and let your imagination do the rest. 

Turns in ASL are UGO-IGO.  However, there is no guarantee that your army will follow your orders.  Most armies require Command Stands to activate units.  To activate a unit a Command Stand must roll equal to or greater then the command value for that particular army on a 2d6 (the unit must also be in command range, which varies depending no the army).  It is possible to activate units with Command Stands but this is more difficult. 

For example, for a Human Imperial Army, a Command stand must roll a 5 or higher to activate a unit.  If the command test fails then that Command Stand cannot attempt to activate another unit that turn.  This makes having multiple Command Stands desirable since it is likely you will eventually fail a command test.  It also makes the order one activates units of particular importance.  Each army may only field a limited number of Command Stands and they are expensive to field.  There are ways to activate units in groups and units which can activate with free actions as well.  Without going into detail the system is designed so that it is highly unlikely that all the units of say a large army will be able to activate each turn. 

All this combines to make each turn a toss-up in regards to how your battle plan will unfold.  I like this uncertainty in the game. Defending units can also be placed on Overwatch, which allows them to shoot at enemy units during their turn.  Again, this is a nice feature for UGO-IGO structured games.

Combat, whether ranged or close, is also based on a 2d6 roll, with modifiers based on terrain, unit characteristics and whatnot.  Typically, units can take 3 hits before being destroyed.  Armor saves exist for certain types of units, as do saving throws for units being in certain types of terrain.  Combat does not always result in unit damage.  Units can be forced to retreat, evade, become pinned down, ect, depending on the type of unit (Primitives are more likely to flee when faced with modern small arms than regular troops for example).

Speaking of terrain, the rules take an "Area Type" approach.  Each piece of terrain occupies an amount of space on the board, typically with players using felt or MDF cut into specific shapes.  For example, if the area represents a Built-Up Area (urban) then that terrain could occupy an area up to 40 cm2.  The actual "placement" of buildings and or objects representing the terrain feature are totally irrelevant.  Buildings can be moved around inside the feature to accommodate units which move in and out. 

Line of Sight is dependent on several factors, including terrain features, with visibility in and out measured in centimeters.  Height bands are used in place of actual model height to determine what can and cannot be seen.  The terrain rules eliminate a lot of possibilities for arguments and does away of with "terrain micromanagement", where every bush, tree and rubble pile becomes crucial to line of sight determination and or cover saves/bonuses.  This speeds up the game tremendously.

Finally, the game itself admits to being shamelessly designed for Tournament play.  The lists are balanced point-wise and there are six scenarios presented in the game which provide a refreshing change to the typical "line up the armies and kill each other".  There are akin to the old 40K 3rd and 4th edition missions.  Again, another feature of the game I like.

ASL does not claim to be a realistic simulation of sci-fi or near future modern combat.  If that is what you are looking for than there are many other systems out there for you.  However, if you don't mind armies of Martian Tripod Walkers duking it out with bug-eyed three legged aliens or primitive human tribesmen taking on entire robotic armies with nothing more than spears and slings then this game is for you.  ASL is easy to learn, but hard to master, with many nuances which only become apparent after playing the game.  Rest assured, there is a lot of depth here and a fantastic amount of fun.

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