Friday, April 5, 2024

40K Friday - Blood Angel Additions


With the Crimson Fists progressing nicely I side-tracked for a bit into my Blood Angels. I picked up a semi-painted outrider bike force including a chaplain and then realized I had several units in a very-close-to-done state that wouldn't take all that much effort to move into the display case. So I spent a week touching up paint, redoing bases, adding decals, and gluing lost bits back on.

There's a nice 6-bike unit of outriders almost done now, along with a 3-bike squad I've had waiting on a finish for a while now, plus the chaplain on bike - that's a very cool model. I've had one in the box for some time that is destined for my Black Templars one day but it's very cool to have one put together and just about finished. I've wanted to add some of the new bikes to my BA force for a while now and this makes me very happy.

I also have a painted leviathan dreadnought sitting around waiting to be put back together and based properly and that will be this weekend's project. Paint-wise he just needs a little touch up and then he needs some decals applied and he should be good to go. I don't care that they're legends now - we don't let that keep the cool stuff off of the table.

There is a 90% painted jump pack thunderhammer captain - just needs his weapons painted - that's been loitering on the shelf for a while and he could be another "easy finish" if I focus on him for an evening or two.

I had a squad of terminators that had been waiting for a while to have their bases done so  I started with them. They're finished and in the case now so it has been a productive week.

Down the road I need to finish the 15+ sanguinary guard sitting in a half-finished state on a shelf. This feels more important now as I assume they will be replaced by a new kit later this year so it would be nice to have them out of the backlog before I have to tackle the new ones.

Beyond that there are various intercessors, assault intercessors, assault terminators, and the always-more-in-progress death company to tackle.

More to come.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Battletech: The Technical Readouts


The TRO's are the "fun" books of the line. They give you game stats for a bunch of mechs for a given time period but they also give you a big illustration and then they also give the history of that design, where it was produced, how it was used, variants, and some sample mechwarriors who use it. The original 3025 TRO up there was where the BT universe really started to take off as a "real" place. It set a certain tone and a certain look that has never been exceeded in my opinion. Part of this was having a single artist do all of the work for this book - that consistency really welded the whole thing together. 

Time marches on though and later there was a 3026 TRO covering more vehicles and personal gear, 2750 stepping back to Star League mechs, then 3050 bringing in the clans and updating the Inner Sphere mechs to higher tech, and 3055 adding even more and then on and on for a few of decades. There were tweaks to the content as the whole "Unseen" kerfluffle erupted resulting in the need to remove the images of some of those classic anime-sourced designs. Then there was their eventual replacement using new looks for the same stats - a mixed bag there. Then the eventual reinstatement of the originals after some legal victories.  The basic mix of TRO's was the same though - new ones tended to add-on rather than replace old books.

Recently though Catalyst has revamped the whole thing and tied them in to their more formal "Era" approach. Now instead of "3025" and "3050" TRO's we have  "Succession Wars" and a "Clan Invasion" TRO. 

I will say they do look good and the design and branding and all that ties them in to the rest of the line nicely so you can easily tell these are the current thing and not an older edition. With as much Battletech stuff as is floating around out there I think it does matter.

There are others besides these two - one for Jihad and Dark Age and probably ilClan too but I haven't delved too far into those eras yet as my existing familiarity peters out around the Jihad timeframe. These do use a lot of the old artwork which is nice but there are some quirks. Despite the legal issues being resolved some of the iconic unseen mechs do not appear in these which is disappointing. You have to go to the "Recognition Guide Vol. 1" to get those. 

This one covers all of the old IS mechs plus all of those clan second-line mechs that were based on them - the "IIC" versions some of you may recall. 

Like this one ...

Also a lot of the old Star League mechs have been retconned into having a 3025-era declining tech version, presumably to fill in the gaps left by the missing classic mechs. It's weird to see a Black Knight and a Flashman mixed in with 3025 staples like an Archer or an Orion. But it does make them useable with an official version in that time period so it's not really a problem - just a wrinkle in time for some of us old-timers that skipped out for a bit.

So where do these books fall? Well, once you've played the base game you could pick up the Succession Wars TRO and use most of the mechs in it in your games.  The Battlemech Manual discussed in the prior post will give you all of the rules you might need for the rest of them, plus it would cover the mechs in the other volumes like the Clan Invasion book. 

On another level these effectively serve as a catalog for picking up mech miniatures - here's what it does in-game and here's how it looks ... see anything you like?  I know that just showing people that original 3025 TRO pulled in a lot of new players back when so they are powerful tools when done right. 

Today there are effectively four elements to the Battletech tabletop game: The Boxed Sets, the Rulebooks, the TRO's, and the miniatures. You can certainly start with just one of the boxes but if you enjoy the game you will likely be picking up some of the other pieces as well. 

Let's talk about the miniatures next.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Battletech: Beyond the Basics


So the box sets are the main entry point to Battletech these days as you get rules, maps, and mini's all in one go. But what about after you have that? You picked up a box, played a few games, decided that you want to do more ... what now? There are options.

One fairly easy option is the Battlemech Manual which is one of the newer books in the line. It contains all of the rules you need to play fights with mechs. It's about 150 pages long and is ridiculously comprehensive. This one has all of the relevant rules - the sequence of play, movement & terrain, ranged and physical combat, plus environmental and battlefield types and effects - which take up about half of the book. The other half is all of the equipment for mechs in the game and covers all eras, including some stuff I do not recognize which I assume is from the later "Eras" of the game that have come out since I let it go years back.  A short final section covers "common misconceptions" and discusses specific situations that come up in play that people seem to get wrong. These kinds of reviews and example are great and I have enjoyed seeing them in 40K "Rules Commentary" sections so it is a good feeling to see them here. 

This book will let you run any kind of mech fight and isn't that what most of us are looking for in a Battletech game? This is the most recent wording of the rules out there and should be the easiest to use. It's a great product. If you have a boxed set and want to do more this is probably the way to go next. That said, it is priced about the same as the next book which has ... more.

Bonus Points: This book contains a section on "Quirks". Quirks are a section that covers all of those minor things about a mech that aren't really part of a particular rule or piece of equipment but that give it flavor. One example: the Warhammer's should mounted searchlight. It's a holdover from the Robotech/Macross model but it's been there from day one and some earlier versions of the rules covered it but it was always kind of a weird outlier. Now it's a quirk - "Searchlight" that has a few rules tied to it. There are positive quirks like "Ubiquitous", "Easy to Maintain", and "Rugged". There are also negative quirks like "Bad Reputation", "Cramped Cockpit", and "Weak Head Armor". 

Now in a typical one-off fight these may not matter a whole lot but in an ongoing campaign - particularly an RPG campaign like I am running right now - these are just great. More flavor without a complicated system to drive it is exactly how this kind of thing should be handled and I applaud it being included here. 

Well here it is, the big daddy of the BT rulebooks. This one is 300 pages long and covers everything the Batllemech Manual does and then adds a bunch more. Besides what I listed above you now have section on vehicles (that's non-mech vehicles like tanks and artillery), infantry (foot, mounted, and battle armor), protomechs, and aerospace combat - this has an entirely separate chunk in the movement chapter covering space movement and then a later chapter covering the units and how they fight and take damage. This mainly covers fighters and dropships - not the big boys - but those are the parts most likely to show up in a mech-focused game. There is also a chapter on scenario design which is something game has needed for a long time which gives examples of selecting maps, units, and victory conditions. This is a solid section and gives more options than the typical basic approach of just blowing up each others' mechs for a few hours. 

Now there are additional books out there to add more rules for things like extended campaigns and space operations but those are more like add-on systems for doing particular things. This book is generally the one-stop shop for all things Battletech when it comes to getting out some map sheets and rolling some dice.

Bonus Points: There is a short section near the back that covers "Mechanized Battle Armor" This is guys in powered armor suits (like Clan Elementals) grabbing some handholds and riding along on the outside of a mech. This section in particular covers all of the bad things that can happen if, say, you get shot while they are clinging to your mech ... or if you fall down while carrying them ... or drop prone on purpose ... or run into something. In my experience this is a fairly uncommon situation but this shows you the level of things included in this book.

One note - neither of these books contains the construction rules, they are strictly about using what is already built. For full building things rules you need the Tech Manual.

This is 350 pages of mech construction, vehicle construction, aerospace unit construction, battle armor, etc. Years ago much of this kind of information was spread out among different boxes and books but this covers it all now. There is a lot of lore on various pieces of gear such as how it was developed and when it came into service which is great for an RPG campaign but the vast majority of it is design sequences for the various elements of the BT universe. I love this stuff but it's definitely more relevant after you have been playing for a while.

So there are the two big main rulebooks for Battletech plus the big construction book.. There are other books which I will cover in some additional posts  - TRO's, the Advanced Operations books, and of course the RPG options. For now though if trying to decide between these it really comes down to what ou expect to play for the immediate future: Are you good focusing on mech to mech combat or do you want to go full-spectrum and pull in tanks and infantry and air support and the rest? If you are new or just getting back into the game I think the 'mech manual is a great escalation point and I would go there after the main boxed game. The tech manual is a serious piece of work but I would look at it after picking up one of the major rulebooks for sure. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Battletech: Starting Out


With Battletech/Mechwarrior in full swing around here I have spent a couple of months re-familiarizing myself with it and catching up on the current state of the game. Knowing there may be both old lapsed grognards out there like me as well as some  potential interest from new players I thought I would run through the basics on where things stand with the game these days.

First a bit of an overview: Battletech started out in the 80's as a board wargame, quickly added miniatures (using the same boards), expanded into a role playing game set in the same universe, and morphed into a series of computer games soon after. There is an extensive line of novels, some comic books, and a Saturday morning cartoon. These days there are some real no-hexgrid miniature rules, an alternative set of tabletop rules,  games for space combat at various levels, and at least 5 versions of an official RPG. 

 The setting is described by Era. The original setting is now called the "Succession Wars Era" but here we still call it 3025. That's 3025 AD as the game is portrayed as the future of our own world with Earth being a significant location even if most of the action does not happen there. There is also the Clan Invasion Era (circa 3050), a prequel-ish era when the Star League was in control of known space (circa 2750) and then a bunch more eras set after the Clans finish invading and settle in for the long haul (circa 3067 or later). 

Originally the game was set in a time where repeated wars had degraded the technological and industrial base of the inner sphere to the point that advanced technology like mechs and spaceships were difficult to produce and not as effective as they had been in the past. This has largely been eroded with each subsequent future Era and is much less of a factor once you get into the Clan era and beyond. 

Much of the classic Battletech lore, mechs, tone, and just the general vibe of the thing is from the early days and the 3025/ Succession Wars era. Material from that time is what established the game we have today. Subsequent releases and updates have built on this foundation for better or for worse. 

Other notes: 

  • There are no aliens in this setting. It is humans only. There are alien life forms like animals found on other planets but no alien civilizations and no intelligent aliens.
  • Also there is no supernatural or psychic element here as you would find in a lot of modern sci-fi games. It is a grounded universe based on what we know now, outside of various violations of the laws of physics to allow giant fighting robots to be a sensible design choice and to allow for FTL travel.  

So if you're interested in the setting and the game where to start?

Currently there are 3 Battletech boxed game sets and the first one is the Introductory set. This is the smallest and least expensive set and it does serve as a decent introduction to the game.  If you're not sure about the whole thing this is the one to get. That said, if you do dive into the game and pick up the core set you will not be using this one much afterwards. It does come with two mech miniatures which is great but it is very much a product that will be superseded by the full rules in the main box. 

The contents are shown above - Mechs, mech sheets, maps, rulebook, dice, and ... fiction. Stories are a big part of the setting's appeal and they hit you with that from the start. This is where the characters and the color of the BT universe start to shine. 

The core set looks like this and is the current version of that original box up at the top. Besides more maps and more miniatures the big addition here is a) the full set of rules for playing the game with mechs and b) the construction rules. Mech construction and modification has been a part of the game from the very beginning and this set continues the tradition. So after playing a few games you too can start down the path of "what if I replaced these PPCs with large lasers?" and "How many medium lasers could I fit onto this mech?" and other fun exercises. 

This is plenty to get going with the game. The gear is limited to the 3025 era technology which is an awesome balance of size/weight/heat/ammunition that has been battle tested for almost 40 years now and the mechs here are classics everyone knows. You also get a decent breakdown of the structure and politics of the Inner Sphere which will give you a basic understanding of the setting and its factions. 

One note here that I see pop up online sometimes is that I've never felt like faction in this game is the kind of choice that it is in a game like Warhammer 40,000. Building something like an Imperial Guard army in that game is a major undertaking in time, money, effort, shelf space, and personalization. A lot of people may only have one or two armies for a long time with that game. Battletech is the opposite in many ways: you can play a game with one miniature, you can paint it however you like as there is no "House Kurita" paint job - there are many units serving the house and while there may be official schemes for some of the more famous units they use the same mechs as everyone else. So you are never really locked in to a "faction" choice in BT the way you are in 40K or Age of Sigmar, or even Bolt Action or Flames of War because any mech could show up in any army. 

If you're only going to get one set for this game this is the one to get.

The third boxed set is the Clan Invasion box. This moves the timeline up to 3050 and introduces a bunch of advanced technology for both the Inner Sphere and the invading Clans and a bunch of new mech designs as well. This really blows the game open though many long time players either dislike the whole Clan thing or feel like it is at least less well-balanced than the more limited 3025 era. I do not completely disagree with this take - and I was playing when this was the hot new thing - but if you keep playing Battletech at some point you will probably run into this. 

 I would call this the "Advanced" rules for sure. There are a bunch of new weapon types (added to all of the old ones), a new unit type   - "Elementals" - which are 5-man squads of powered armor that have their own rules, plus a new way to build mechs - Omni-Mechs  - which is used by the Clans and later copied by the Inner Sphere. The Omni option means that most weapons are in swappable modules so now each mech may have 4 or 5 standard configurations instead of a fixed loadout. The game does get a lot more complicated with all of this but if you want to play in newer eras of the setting it's something you will want to familiarize yourself with sooner or later. 

The change to this new technology base also complicates scenario building. In the old days we tended to set up fights by tonnage - each side takes a lance of 4 mechs, say 200 tons max. This approach relied on your knowledge of the mechs and possibly the terrain to pick a decent force. With 3050 tech you really have 3 different tech bases: old 3025-era IS, new and improved 3050-era IS, and Clan Tech - which is better than either of those. Ton for ton there is a tremendous difference at each of those levels. This brought about the introduction of BT's first point systems many years ago and the early versions were not good. I assume the current version of Battle Value (BT's points system) is workable but I haven't played enough games paying attention to it yet to be sure. If you're coming from other games where points are commonly used to balance opposing forces it is definitely something you want to look into at this level.

Finally there is a fourth box set coming following a Kickstarter last year but it is not out yet. This one focuses on Mercenaries in the BT universe which are a common trope from the earliest days of the game and are also the focus of many tabletop RPG campaigns as well as many of the computer games. It's a topic well worth a boxed set focus but we will have to see what it brings to the game. 

There are many, many other elements to the game, particularly books that add in the complete rules for other units in the game: tanks, infantry, artillery, air and space units, buildings and more. There are also a lot of "historical" supplements based on the setting describing the various factions and famous units of each era, various campaigns and events that happen in-universe, and everyone's favorite technical Readouts that show the mechs and vehicles of a given era.  I will talk through those in future posts. 


Friday, March 22, 2024

40K Friday - Heavy Intercessors


I started off this year working on Tyranids and World Eaters - so much backlog! - but lately the focus has been on getting all the marine units I've accumulated the last few years built and primed. I have occasional flare-ups of "it's stupid to have units sitting around on sprues in an un-useable form when I could at least put them together for a potential test drive" and this is the latest outbreak of that sentiment.

With the new terminators built - more on that in another post - I wanted to get to work on another squad that I consider a signature unit for my Crimson Fists army: Heavy Intercessors. Over the last few editions of the game the Fists have been portrayed as bolter specialists and that suits me fine for my core marine force. This edition is not hitting that as hard but theming them around "lots of bolt guns" is still perfectly thematic in my eyes. So, as you can imagine, adding a big squad of bulky, heavy, bigger bolter marines in  Gravis armor has been an important goal for a while now. Also, I just like then way they look. I've had the miniatures for some time but it was time to get them out of the box and into some kind of usable form.

One nice change with this edition is that it has rid us of the "3 slightly different gun profiles" situation we had before with several marine units from intercessor types to hellblasters. Now it's just one profile that incorporates the best of all three variants. The sprues still have all of the options so you can make them look however you want. I went with the drum magazine look for these.

This is not a unit with a lot of options compared to a Tactical Squad or other older marine units. The only decision is whether to include a heavy bolter at 1/5 troopers and since it is an upgrade in every way over their normal gun and upgrade points are n longer an issue it is a no-brainer. Unlike intercessor squads there is no option to give the sergeant a melee weapon of any kind so it's 8 guys with Heavy Bolt Rifles and 2 with Heavy Bolters, all with a "Close Combat Weapon" for melee. 

One note here - the mold lines on this kit are very noticeable as they are in some very prominent places like right up the front of the otherwise smooth legs, right up the front of the guns, right along the front/back division of the helmets ... GW is usually better at hiding these, especially on newer kits, but I kept finding more as I was putting them together. Other than that it's a solid kit.

So it's a big block of marines with decent range (30"), Strength 5, AP -1 2-shot guns + a pair of heavy bolters, all at Toughness 6 with 3 wounds. They are considered Battleline so they are OC2 which means they can hold and objective just fine. They do fall into the terminator niche a bit just with more range,  less melee potential, and no deep strike so they are a bit more specialized. They are also almost half the points cost per marine so I definitely think there is a place for them. At only 40 points more than a 10-man normal Intercessor squad I am somewhat tempted to pick up more of these but I should probably get them on the table first.

Are they Meta? Probably not but when building armies I am more concerned about what fits into the theme and the approach than I am what is this month's hot unit. 

As far as what's next in the construction zone, well, a lot of my units are built but my new-style Sternguard are not and they are another Crimson Fists-associated squad so they are due to join up soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Index Card RPG Master Edition


I have seen this one discussed online for a while now and I finally decided to take a look. The short version is that it's a lighter d20-based RPG that I suspect gets used as a set of mods for other games at least as much as it gets played on its own. It is very focused on 5E-style d20 mechanics.

The book itself is a smaller-format hardcover that's almost 400 pages long and has a couple of those sewn-in bookmarks we're all coming to know and love.  The interior is black and white with a splash of red here and there. The art style used for the illustrations here works really well with the black and white approach.

  •  The actual rules take up a little over 100 pages. This is divided into a basics chapter that introduces the core game mechanics, a section for players on creating characters, then a GM section on running the game. 
  • This is followed by a monster section that covers a decent range of critter types in its 30 pages
  • The next section is one of the more interesting parts of the book where it covers 5 settings that can be used with the game.

    • Alfheim is a fantasy setting and is the most detailed setting of the bunch. Assume standard fantasy type tropes with a few tweaks. There's a big war going on so it's not as static as some fantasy worlds can feel.
    • Warp Shell is a science fiction setting that blurs into magic in some ways, centered around giant living ships the PC's will be using (the "warp shells" in the title)
    • Ghost Mountain is an interesting concept that I will sum up as "what if Purgatory looked a lot like Deadlands".
    • Vigilante City is a gritty superhero setting which has been sold as its own system (part of the Survive This! series from Bloat games) but I like this version better than the original.
    • Blood and Snow is an ice age fantasy game that's more survival level than high fantasy. Weather and terrain are more important factors here than in a typical D&D type game and monsters are mainly normal prehistoric creatures. It's interesting and different and a nice addition to the mix of options.

      All of these take up 20-40 pages each and include a lot of material on the setting, character types, some relevant gear, and feel like an actual usable setting for a game. In a long-running campaign you would eventually have to flesh out some areas I am sure, but there is plenty here to begin and run for a short to medium campaign.

  • Next is the magic chapter which is useful in most of the settings mentioned above. Magic is less of a sure thing here than in D&D with more die rolls and options for bad things to happen under certain conditions.
  • Finally we wrap up with a section of random tables for use in prep or in play - loot, monster characteristics, etc. much of it divided up by setting.
So it's a pretty solid one-volume guide for running potentially several different RPG games using the same base mechanics. So what are the mechanics? 

The ICRPG character sheet

First, it's the same six stats that D&D and most d20/OSR games use: Str/Dex/Con/Int/Wis/Cha. It does do away with the "score" and just uses the modifier. It's not new but it's the less-taken approach even now. You start with 6 points and can distribute them however you wish and 1 point = +1 bonus with that stat. 

Checks are made with a d20 + relevant stat modifier vs. a target number determined by the DM and higher is better. There are not a bunch of modifiers beyond this. The idea is that circumstances could make the situation Easy or Hard which would a -3/+3 to the target number. That's it, really. There is no skill system here - it is strictly ability scores and then powers in some settings.

The other part of this game's approach is the expansion of the damage mechanic to cover many other situations with "Effort". Here the concept is that after rolling a Check, say trying to repair something, you would then roll another die to determine how much you accomplished, much like the hit roll/damage roll we are all familiar with from D&D etc. The most basic effort uses a d4, weapons or tolls give a d6, Guns use a d8, Magic/Energy effects or weapons use a d10, and an Ultimate uses a d12. This Ultimate status might come from a power or from a natural 20 on your Attempt check and it is added on to whatever other Effort die you are using. Basically anything that is not a simple pass/fail type of task uses this system. Something like a skill challenge from 4E D&D would be resolved this way. 

The final part of this task resolution system is Hearts. The amount of Effort required to accomplish something - and monster hit points - are rated in Hearts which are 10 hit points each. This is a very videogamey reference point but it works within the context of the game. Much is made of this saving time by not fiddling with monsters having 10-11-12-13 hp and everyone just having 10 or 20 or 30 or whatever multiple of 10 you use and that's fine - I would not call it revolutionary but it does keep things simpler, especially when you expand the mechanic to cover all of these other types of tasks beyond beating a monster into unconsciousness. Characters begin with 1 Heart by the way, and can gain more as they advance. 

Characters defined by the stats mentioned above along with a race (Life Form) that influences stats and background, and then a class (Type) that gives certain abilities from the start and along the way as well as some starting gear to keep things simple. I'd say there are enough choices here to make it interesting. There is an additional set of "Mastery" abilities that once chooses after rolling enough natural 20's that ties back to the character's starting ability and makes it stronger and others can be chosen after that initial accomplishment.

Overall if I'm comparing it to something else it's on the level of The Black Hack and similar games - lot's of lighter mechanics, lots of aiming to speed up play and less need to consult the book on how to resolve things. I appreciate the goals and if your group is not terribly concerned with crunchiness in their rules this is a game worth looking over. I think it may find it's highest and best use as a set of add-ons or modular replacements for a 5th Edition D&D game as that is clearly where it is coming from. 

For example, ranges are not measured in feet or squares but as Close, Near, or Far - or Out of Range. The hassle of counting movement speeds and weapon or spell ranges seems to be an issue for some people and this game presents one way to let that go. Other RPGs use a similar system and this one looks like it should work well within these rules and could be dropped in with some minor effort I would say to d20 style games. 

I really like the overall approach, the art style, and in particular the Vigilante City setting has a lot of potential.

As an example of its adaptability I've been reading these rules while also ploughing through Mechwarrior 3rd Edition/the Classic Battletech RPG which is an exercise in extreme detail. After our initial run-through of my starting scenario I'm going to work up a set of ICRPG setting type rules and see if those could work because the real focus of that campaign is in-cockpit mech fighting where we use the Battletech rules for the majority of the time. For out-of-cockpit time I'd like something that flows a little easier. I was considering Savage Worlds - and I still am - but I think the ICRPG would be an interesting approach as well. The lack of a skill system is an obstacle but perhaps not an insurmountable one. More to come there.  

Friday, February 23, 2024

40K Friday: Terminators


Short and sweet this week: I'm working on the new style terminator marines. I acquired some in the Leviathan set and I picked up a couple of the full multi-part boxes. This is probably overkill but I really wanted to be able to field a 10-man squad with all weapon options for my Crimson Fists and to do that I needed extra bodies because I didn't feel like magnetizing these.

Also the Leviathan single-pose squad only comes with the sword option for the sergeant and termies can now take fists on their sergeants - at last! - and being the Crimson Fists I pretty much put power fists on all of my sergeants - tac squads, intercessor squads, assault squads ... wherever it is allowed that's what they have. This means one helmeted sarge and one un-helmeted sarge to allow for two 5-man units or one 10-man unit as needed. 

So that is the primary objective.

With whatever is left I intend to build out a squad for the Black Templars who are my next big marine-army project. I should have two sergeants with swords (thematic for the Templars) and a pair of extra assault cannons so that's where it will start. Longer term flamers are going to be a big part of my Templar force so I will likely add that option as well once I dig in.

Monday, February 5, 2024

February Battletech


After laying dormant for at least a decade Battletech has been poking its head up regularly for the last few years and it did so again over the weekend. With schedule conflicts interrupting the RPG plans the night was open so we went with b-tech for me. Paladin Steve, and his son Apprentice P-Hawk ... because he always take a Phoenix Hawk. 

We agreed on 140 tons as a limit and ended up with Steve taking a Battlemaster and a Hatchetman while I took a Thunderbolt and a Crusader and Apprentice PH took a Phoenix Hawk (of course), a Warhammer, and a Wasp. This was a 3025 fight as it's just simpler than adding in all the Clan-era stuff to a small one-off fight. The battle took place on two mapboards. 

We played 7 turns and it was all fairly evenly matched though Some high points:

  • Apprentice PH ran his PH out far enough that he took a lot of fire early. He did manage to back off so it survived until the end - unlike prior battles he has played.
  • Having 3 mechs did give him an advantage as far as the initiative sequence goes because it's mech-by-mech and so we will avoid that next time. 
  • For the first time in a long time we had two attempts at Death-From-Above. Neither of them connected but the miss damage didn't cripple anyone so it came out alright.
  • We used some nifty markers I picked up online that indicate modifiers for movement for each mech and they did help a lot with running multiple mechs and I can see them helping even more as we escalate things. 
  • The last turn saw some real craziness...
    • My Crusader finally tagged the Warhammer with both LRM-15s and one cluster managed to punch through and score a crit on his SRM ammo and blew him off of the board!
    • Paladin Steve's Battlemaster tagged the Phoenix Hawk in the head - the second head shot on him - and knocked the pilot out!
    • Then Steve's Hatchetman chopped into the Wasp and blew up -his- SRM ammo, leaving Apprentice PH with two exploded mech and one still standing with an unconscious pilot! It was the most amazing single turn we've had in years. 
Handy - You can find these on Amazon and eBay and probably other places. 

The P-Hawk and the Warhammer were early favorites for many of us so it was a lot of fun to see the teenager picking those two right away. We could have played this battle in the mid to late 80's with these same mechs and that's a deliberate choice on my part to keep it simple and indulge in a little nostalgia as well. Putting some more hours on these miniatures I painted back in the 80's & 90's is a lot of fun too. 

There has been some talk about running a Mechwarrior campaign for a while now and playing again really woke that up for me. I spent some time last year looking at some different modern to SF RPG systems to find one I thought would work well with it but I have yet to find one I like and think is a great fit. It would probably be Savage Worlds at this point if I was picking today. But, I have come around to just running MW 3rd edition straight-up, allowing us to plug into all of those house supplements for character details. I'm really leaning towards using it for the opening stages of a campaign and determining if it works for us well enough to use it for the rest of the way. More to come on this for sure.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Green Ronin's Valiant Adventures RPG Kickstarter - Uses M&M


So this is similar to what GR did with DC Adventures years ago - a specific-universe game using M&M rules. That seems like a good idea for me and might bring some additional attention to M&M. Here's a link to the Kickstarter.

Looks like they are doing it as 2 books (rulebook + setting book) plus a GM kit at this point which I would say is perfectly legit as an approach. Steve Kenson is the designer so I am confident it will be decent and live up to the "fully compatible with M&M 3E"  statement. They have made their goal now so it's happening for sure. 

I will say I'm not a huge Valiant fan - I've tried to get into some of their books before and it never really took but as an M&M supplement in effect I am interested. It mentions they have access to Valiant's art files so it should like like it's supposed to look as well. 

There is a free quickstart PDF out on GR's Site and DTRPG too - I will review and post something here soon. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Deadlands: The Flood - Things I Could Have Done Better as a GM

I had one last topic I wanted to cover here after running the latest Deadlands campaign to completion - what I could have done better. Anytime I have a campaign wind down I inevitably think of some things I could have done differently - and likely better. Some of this is perspective looking back but sometimes I realize things and try to course-correct while the campaign is still running. 

  • System Mastery - I've been running and playing Savage Worlds to a lesser or greater degree since it was published over 20 years ago. Casually, I know it like the back of my hand. When it comes to certain details though I rely heavily on my players to share their knowledge as things come up in play. I could be better at this and next time I will be.
    • There are some general rules that get tweaked when a new edition comes out like Shaken, the various conditions that can be imposed, or how backlash works, and those tend to catch me the first few times they come up. The chase rules change with every edition and those take a while to re-learn each time. 
    • Edges and Flaws are where a lot of the chrome comes in with this system and they get revised in every edition - sometimes even within a single edition - and more than once I have run a monster or NPC as though one of these worked like it did the "old" way. 
    • Powers are another area that gets tweaked quite a bit. The power itself may not be dramatically different but the extras and options often do and I should really pay more attention to these kinds of details before I start throwing dice with them.  
Lots of good pics from movies and TV out there for a western campaign

  • NPCs - I made an effort to individualize NPCs in this campaign and made sure to have images to show my players for many of them and this campaign was good about having names for almost every NPC one could encounter, but I am not sure many of them really stuck with my players. This is strictly a thing in my head, not something they have mentioned, but I do wonder about it after the fact. Anywhere the party is going to spend a lot of time it would be beneficial to work on more of this in advance.
    • For example, the Shan Fan run has a lot of distinctive NPCs built-in as it's a core part of the storyline here and I think it went pretty well but the Perdition election arc is presented in much less detail and I did not really fill out the townspeople beforehand like I could have done. It would have made for some more memorable characters at least.
    • That said my own award for "unusual NPC of the campaign" goes to Born in a Bowl's severed finger which had a definite personality while it was with the party. Holding a grudge against the character who botched the knife work that created it gave us some humor opportunities that most campaigns don't see.
  • The Setting - Deadlands has some very distinct qualities as a setting, both mechanically and just as a supernatural old west campaign. I think I hit a lot of these in play but I could have done more.
    • I did not emphasize the classic tale-tellin'-to-offset-the-fear-level part of play that figured a lot in old (and in some new) Deadlands adventures. I don't think my players missed it but I could have paid more attention to he fear levels of various areas and made that a bigger part of things. 
    • The Flood in particular is also heavily affected by Famine and I could have played this up more too as it's supposed to permeate the whole region. It was a factor in one of our adventures regarding the only decent ranch in the area, and it did come up in talking about the appeal of Lost Angels food program to the common man, but I don't feel like I made it ever-present as they were traveling through the state. I don't know that the campaign suffered from it really, but it's a part of the flavor of the campaign area that I could have used more frequently.
Those are my take-aways from this one - now on to the next game!

Friday, January 5, 2024

40K Friday - End of Year Tyranids


I spent some time leading up to the new year getting more big bugs built and feel pretty good about the progress here  - adding 4 Tyrannofexes and a Tervigon to the swam makes it playable now - granted with a pretty weird force composition - but that's just how it is when you're building the force. 

On these models specifically these are:

  • A Tervigon with crushing claws because I figure it will be surrounded by gaunts most of the time but having some heavy-hitting punch in the middle of that could be useful against another monster or a tank that wades into things.
    Now with 5 of this kit you might ask why I didn't build a second one instead of a 4th 'fex and the answer is that I don't really see myself playing this army for swarms of little bugs, especially to the point that a second Tervigon becomes useful. I'm more Nidzilla-inclined so while I can see taking one to babysit some Termagants I'm not particularly interested in more.
  • 3 Tyrannofexes with rupture cannons because it's the biggest gun in the 'nid army and while points may rise and fall over the course of the edition there will always be some use for a really big gun, probably several really big guns - so I built 3 of them to be sure. 
  • The 4th T-fex has the acid spray because I think a giant flamethrower type weapon could be useful at times too. I did consider magnetizing some of these guys but I decided to just commit to this mix and get them built for now. 
The goal for now is to get the rest of the army built while it's cold out, then spray them once it warms up and start painting them after that. I do have a paint scheme in mind - still needs a test run but I think it will be solid. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Savage Worlds - Deadlands as a Game Setting


I wanted to make one more point after wrapping up our campaign and that was to discuss Deadlands as a setting for an RPG because after running these 30+ sessions I am  somewhat unexpectedly - not tired of it. I've thought about why so let's talk about that.

I've been picking up Deadlands books since the game was released in the late 90's - 1st edition, 2nd edition, and multiple Savage Worlds editions. There are a lot of Deadlands books out there with campaign material in them but each edition has done a pretty good job of presenting the whole setting in just one of the core books. It was "The Quick and the Dead" first, then the Marshal's Guide, Then Deadlands Reloaded covered it and added some updates, and now the current "Weird West" book paints a nice broad picture with some more timeline updates and some changes to the past as well. 

The early material had a healthy dose of that popular 90's thing "The Metaplot". In this case the Reckoner's machinations to turn the world into a deadland by upping the fear level everywhere over time. This would enable them to enter the world and do even worse things to it directly. 

One of the fun parts of the Deadlands settings is that the Deadlnads: Hell on Earth campaign is a depiction of what happens if they succeed and it's rare to see a game company put that kind of thing out as a real product. 

The general direction in a Deadlands campaign is the idea that the PC's will become aware of this larger scheme at some point and take an interest in opposing these plans. That's the big picture, anyway. In the meantime your PC's can do pretty much whatever they want. 

  • Want to do classic western things? There's a campaign built around a cattle drive (Blood Drive). There's a big adventure built around figuring out what's going on in one town and solving their problem (Trouble at Headstone Hill). Plus there are various shorter adventures that involve tracking down criminals and getting into gunfights.
  • Want to focus on particular parts of the west? The four big plot point campaigns from Reloaded edition each focus on a different region of the U.S. with various complications tied to both the power groups in the area and the particular reckoner casing the most trouble. The Great Maze is awesome but classic Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City are all pretty amazing too. 
  • Looking for a particular type of adventure? Gunfights are certainly easily available but there are creepy horror encounters, political intrigue, and chases/hunts out there too. A little bit of online research can guide you to an adventure that will likely cover a variety of opportunities for any determined posse out there.
Just as an example in our Flood campaign we opened with a gunfight, then got involved in a train derailment and robbery, tangled with some religious fanatics, did a prison break, defended a ranch from raiders & rustlers, spent a fair amount of time involved in Shan Fan triad politics, snuck into a pirate city and blew up an ironclad, came in 2nd place in a martial arts tournament, helped defend an area during a local warlord's invasion of a city, and helped set up and run fair elections for mayor in a new and growing town on the coast of the maze! Note that this is outside of the main plot of traveling Deadlands California to set up the conditions for the Flood that will wipe out a major evil - these were the things that were happening "along the way".

To me a good setting should get a GM excited about the opportunities they see and Deadlands does this every time I dig into it thinking about running a new campaign.  A lot of what I have listed above is tied to published adventure material but that's not a limiting factor. Just looking at the general setting notes followed by a flip through the critters section has me jotting down notes for future runs and it has been this way for years This last campaign let me finally pay off some of my notes like this from years ago.

The last point I will share is that I ran this game for about two years and there is still probably a third of the "Flood" book that I didn't even touch. It's full of cool stuff and I ended up not having a good place to use some of it as the campaign developed - but I still want to. That, to me, is a sign of a strong adventure. I think of all of these creatures, locations, and NPC's I didn't use and I can't help but think that we need to revisit this one at some point, even if we wait a while in between.

So there's my ringing endorsement of Savage Worlds as a system, Deadlands as a setting, and The Flood as an adventure. I normally am tired of a setting and a campaign by the time I wrap them up and ready to move on but this time I was not and it's a very welcome surprise and I am looking forward to my next walk through this world.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Wrapping up 2023 and Looking Forward to the New Year


It was a good year. I read more books and played more games than I did the year before. The family is good and the apprentices are operating on their own. The animals are thriving and the house and yard are in good shape so a lot is going right here. 

One new wrinkle is that since the wife tracks her books read over the course of the year I started doing that too and hit 50-something for the year. I figure over 1/week is a pretty good baseline but now I have to see if I can go higher. painting mini's, running games, and computer time all cut into this effort of course so balance is the key.

Kind of obligatory here

I only played a few games of 40K this year, one of my lower-effort years in a very long time, but I did get a lot of painting done. Maybe I can get more playing time in this year. Much of this year's painting effort will be going into the Tyranids and then probably my Imperial Guard as we delve into the mysteries of Speedpaint 2.0 and airbrushes.

Blaster and I did manage to finish up our eternal ongoing tour of Command and Colors Ancients finished. I have now played every scenario in that initial set at least twice - once from each side. Now on to the next of 5 expansions ... we probably need to pick up the pace here if we are going to finish while I am still alive.

RPG's I ran this year:

  • Star Wars (FFG)
  • The new Marvel RPG
  • The Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG
  • ICONS 
  • Warhammer Fantasy RPG (2nd Edition)
  • Savage Worlds Deadlands - lots of this one. 
I didn't really play much as the GM-ing seems to be my normal role these days but maybe this year that will change up some.

Going into this year we have -no- commitments. with the main campaign completed we could go in any direction and that's a good feeling for the start of a new year. I have some ideas for some smaller games and for at least one big one but right now I'm sorting through them and figuring out what order top present them in and thinking through some details on how to make them work. More to come on those for sure. 

Other-games-wise we played some Battletech, King of Tokyo, and Scrabble - of all things! As it turns out the wife is a very good Scrabble player and I have lost more games of that this year than I can remember. A new goal for '24 is to beat her at least once now.

So - things are going well here, I feel good about 2023 and I am really looking forward to 2024. Happy new year!