Sunday, December 03, 2023

Grid-based Napoleonics and Undaunted: Battle of Britain

For our November session we managed to get five players for another grid-based Napoleonic Game.

We played the action of the Austrian left flank at the Battle of Sacile.

FG, Adrian, and I, playing the Franco-Italian force, slogged through the forests and marshes surrounding the Austrian-held towns of Palse and Porcia instead of approaching them in the open; as a result our attacks went in piecemeal, and the Austrians were able to hold on to Porcia by the time the clock ran down, winning the game.

After the main game Adrian took us through a game of Undaunted: Battle of Britain.

I thought the flow of the game didn't really resemble aerial dogfighting, but it did give me an appreciation of the Undaunted game mechanics, and make me want to give the original Undaunted game a try.

For our December game we are planning a game of the second edition of Conquerors & Kings, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Savage Gamma World #9

Our tale began when the mutants were visited by a human who called himself Jaffar. Jaffar claimed to be a traveling merchant, and possessed the knowledge to modify the rifles our mutants had looted from Humanity's Restoration (HR) so they could be used by mutants. He offered to "unlock" all the rifles they had collected in exchange for them recovering a piece of technology from a facility of the Ancients. To demonstrate his knowledge and sincerity, he unlocked a rifle, which Tom was afterwards able to use.

Kong, Ranggup, and Tom (see PC profiles here) traveled with Jaffar to the facility in the middle of the desert, but found that a Deathclaw - a carnivorous beast - had made its lair at its entrance. Tom was able to lure the Deathclaw into an area of soft sand, where the mutants managed to kill it, but when they made their way to the entrance they found two Deathclaw cubs there, which Ranggup decided he would adopt and bring back to the village.

Jaffar opened the door to the facility using a passkey, and our mutants found themselves in a lift that took them deep under the desert floor. When the loft door opened, they found themselves in a large, dimly lit room that was the scene of carnage - many skeletons and destroyed robots were strewn all over the floor. Our mutants found themselves being scanned by laser, and soon afterwards a voice spoke to them, informing them that they were trespassing on a United States Army facility, and asked them to identify themselves. Our mutants replied that they were there to recover a suit of armour, and after a long pause, the voice instructed them to proceed to a console and retrieve a widget there, and to proceed to a lift at the other end of the room.

The voice explained that its name was Dreadnought, and that it was the Artificial Intelligence in charge of the security of the facility. Many years ago, it explained, the security of of the facility was breached by enemies of the state, who tried to lock Dreadnought out of the system and corrupted the security droids, which then killed all the scientists and workers within the compound. Fortunately, Dreadnought retained control of the lobby level and its wall-mounted lasers, which it then used to destroyed the rogue security droids. It then placed the facility under lock-down until the proper authorities arrived, but they never did. Now, it requested the party to retrieve the weapon arms of the suit of armour from the various levels of the facility, and then to unite them with the main chassis of the armour, so it could leave the facility before the enemies of the state could arrive.

Our mutants followed the directions of the AI, and traveled to the manufacturing level and then the weapon range, overcame the surviving security droids there, and restored control of the levels to Dreadnought by inserting the widget into the consoles of each level. Finally, Dreadnought instructed our mutants to go to the research level, where they would retrieve the passkey from the dead body of the head of the facility, which would allow them to access the armour.

Our mutants followed the instructions, but when they entered the research level they were confronted by a droid that resembled a large mechanical spider. After ascertaining their identities, the spider droid revealed that it was an Artificial Intelligence that preserved the memories of Dr Martin, the head of the facility. Dr Martin told our mutants that Dreadnought was in fact the codename for the power armour and the Artificial Intelligence that inhabited it. Dreadnought was originally designed to take over the functions of the power armour in the event that its human operator was incapacitated so it could remove itself and its operator from the site of danger. However, the AI came to the conclusion that it could better protect its occupant if it was in charge of all of the suit's functions even while its occupant was fully competent. Realising this, Dr Martin decided to shut the AI down, and began to disarm Dreadnought under the pretext of upgrading its weapons. But Dreadnought soon saw through the ruse, and ordered the security droids to kill all the humans within the facility before they could disable it. Dr Martin was able to use the wall-mounted lasers to destroy most of the droids and to lock Dreadnought out of all of the levels except the lobby level. He hunkered down in the research level with a few of his colleagues and waited for help to arrive, but when it became clear that no help was coming, he transferred his memory to a separate AI which inhabited a spider droid, so he could warn anyone who came after his death of Dreadnought's intentions.

For a while our mutants wanted to help Dr Martin, but when they realised that they were at Dreadnought's mercy while they remained in the facility, they destroyed the spider droid and located Dr Martin's mortal remains, and took from it the passkey. They then took the precaution of disabling the weapon arms.

Once they restored control of the level to Dreadnought, they were instructed to bring the weapon arms and the passkey to the lowest level of the facility: the vault.

Our mutants used the passkey to enter the vault, and there they saw Dreadnought, a hulking suit of armour taller than a man. Robotic arms there affixed the weapon arms to the chassis, and Dreadnought awoke and started to move towards the lift. Our mutants followed it, and together they all traveled to the surface level.

Outside the facility, they were met by Jaffar, who was ecstatic when he saw Dreadnought. However, his joy soon turned into panic as Dreadnought refused to follow any of his instructions, but simply walked into the desert. Jaffar followed the walking armour, all the while yelling orders at it, and left our mutants behind.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on the Fallout: The Roleplaying Game module Fully Operational.

I followed the basic premise of the module rather closely, but changed certain elements that did not fit my vision of the post-apocalyptic world, and streamlined it. There was a little more role-playing this session that the others, but once again there was no "right answer" to the situation.

Jaffar was of course a reference to Jafar in Aladdin - I had the idea that in the even the PCs refused to hand over Dreadnought to him, he would leave them locked within the facility.

Following the original module, I had Dreadnought walk off into the sunset to enjoy its newfound freedom. I do hope to bring him back in a future session though.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Savage Gamma World #8

Once again our mutants were called to eliminate a threat to peaceful mutants. This time, they investigated rumours of the Locust People, a race of cannibalistic humanoid mutants that lived in a 'hive' society. It was believed that a Locust People queen would lay dozens of eggs before she died, and when those eggs hatched some of them would become new queens-in-waiting, while the rest would become warriors; the warriors would range far and wide to gather food for their queen, chiefly in the form of the flesh of other mutants! When they had been sufficiently fed, the queens would disperse and find new lands where they would lay their eggs and then die, starting another cycle of carnage.

The last appearance of the Locust People had been a few decades ago, and the memory of their destructiveness still remained in the minds of many elderly mutants, who feared the reports of new Locust warriors ranging about would mean another calamity for the zone.

Following the information provided by the hunters who spotted the Locust warriors, Kong, Ranggup, Rex, Tom, and Vik (see PC profiles here) ventured into the cave complex where the Locust People made their lair, and fought and killed a number of the warriors, from which they looted shiny pieces of card which the warriors wore around their necks. However, when they delved deeper into the caves, they were attacked by the enormous queen of the Locust People, and had to flee through a metal door that incongruently stood at the side of a cave.

One through the metal door, they found themselves in a well-appointed room. They were greeted by a holographic human, who welcomed them "back onboard" - the holo-conductor had mistaken our mutants as passengers of the train based on the cards they were carrying - and informed them that the train would depart immediately so as to make sure it could "make up for lost time".

Sure enough the whole room the mutants were in began to lurch and then move, and after a short while light came through the windows on the sides of the room: the train had exited the caves and was now moving north at great speed! As the train passed through a forest there was a sudden loud bang and shaking of the cabin, as if the train had collided with something. As the train sped on, our mutants noticed that every so often the train would lurch dangerously and threaten to throw them around the cabin. It was obvious that there was something wrong with the train, but the holo-conductor was mum, and would only assure them that the passengers' safety were his utmost priority.

As the train gained speed the lurching would occur more frequently be come more and more violent. Our mutants realsied that their lives would be in danger if they did not leave the train or stop it. At first they tried to open the doors or windows on the train so they could leave, but the holo-conductor informed them that the doors and windows were secured while the train was in motion for the passengers' safety. Our mutants then tried to make their way to the front of the train to stop it, but found their way blocked by a jammed door between the dining car and the lounge car. Through the bent door they could hear a growling sound. Climbing through the vent in the kitchen car to the roof of the trains, Ranggup crawled forward to the lounge car, which had an observation dome of glass. Here he saw that the dome was broken at the front, as if it had struck something. No doubt it was this impact that cause a malfunction in the lounge car that led to the train's periodic lurching. Crawling through the broken dome, Ranggup saw what was making the growling sound: a large, six-legged plant-beast that had most likely been struck by the dome and fallen through. Ranggup was able to calm the beast, and open the jammed door from the other side to allow our mutants to continue forward.

Finally our mutants came to the door to the pilot's coach, but found that they could not access it. The holo-conductor once more appeared and informed them that the pilot's car was out of bounds to the passengers for their safety. Our mutants were able to convince the holo-conductor that their safety was at risk if they could not enter the pilot's car and stop the train, and after some calculation the holo-conductor agreed with them, and allowed them through.

There, in the pilot's car, our mutants overcame the security droid guarding the controls, and finally managed to put the train to a stop.

When they had left the train, Rex's unerring sense of direction told them that they were a ten-day's walk from the cave!

When they finally made their way back to their village, our mutants found a shrine for them in outside the titan which they had made their home - the villagers had thought that they had perished fighting the Locust People, and in response the surrounding villages banded together to avenge them and to end the Locust People threat.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on the Mutant Crawl Classic module Mayhem on the Magtrain. Once again I found the module to be a little more complicated than necessary (although it was thematic), but was able to take the central premise of the story and have a fun, full session.

When first told about the Locust People my players took the threat seriously, and the first hour of the session was spent gathering information, scouting, and making a plan of attack. Knowing that the Locust People were in fact just an excuse for the PCs to enter a cave and be forced into a runaway train, I briefly contemplated making the whole session about fighting the Locust People instead, but decided to stick to the plan. In my defence, I had informed them that the session would be "a bit rail-roady" in advance, which one of the players took to mean that it would take place on a train.

The players were a little concerned and disappointed that their characters were not the ones to end the Locust People threat, and I had to comfort them by telling them that there isn't always a "right way" to "solve" an adventure, and that sometimes the game was just to explore and deal with whatever happens. That's the OSR way.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Arrowstorm and FiveCore Company Command (ft. Undaunted: Normandy)

I am actually two AARs behind on our Savage Gamma World campaign, but since it is faster to wrote a wargaming AAR than an RPG AAR...

We were planning to play another Napoleonic game on Sunday, but due to unforeseen circumstances only Fg and myself were able to meet up for the session, so we decided to instead play something I have been planning for for a while, and something that just came up recently.

The first game we played was Arrowstorm, a recent release by Dan Mersey. I was actually a playtester for the game in its previous incarnation many years ago, so I was excited to get a copy of the rules when they were released this month. The rules cover the period from the Norman Conquest to the Hundred Years War, and I was hoping to use them for Wars of the Roses too, but given that this was October, I decided to take my Dark Ages collection out and fight the Battle of Hastings.

The rules utilise a tile system, which allows me to use my Undaunted: Normandy tiles. They are a tight squeeze with the 15mm figures we used, but I like the look. In the original game players placed order token onto a shared order chart, but I thought it would be easier to just print the order chart out, glue it onto a piece of card, and cut it into counters which the players can take instead.

The game is rather, well, game-y. You take turns to choose a limited menu of orders from a common pool, which you can then use during the upcoming turn. However, you may choose orders which your troops cannot actually execute just to deny them to your opponent - in our game I (playing the Anglo-Danish) chose the Shoot order on many turns even though I had no missile troops simply to deny them to the Normans, who had missile troops.

The game flowed well enough. In our game the Normans charged the English left flank, but then their cavalry was defeated when they charged up the hill. Fg sent his spears round the English flank, but as I held a unit in reserve they were able to hold them off until I could deploy more units from the main line.

I will see if I can make up scenarios for Wars of the Roses for these rules in the future.

For the second game we played FiveCore Company Command, a game by Nordic Weasel, but not exactly. You see, I have been looking at the Undaunted: Normandy tiles for a while, hoping to use them with miniatures. They are unfortunately a little small, being only 9cm x 9cm, and while they are printed on both sides, there are only 18 tiles in a box, and I had to wait until Amazon Prime Day to order a second set to have enough tiles for our games.

Anyway, back to rules.

Our group were playing the Chain of Command rules several years ago, and have between us accumulated four 20mm armies. While we enjoyed the period, the CoC rules were not the easiest to play or remember. After trying out a few of the other Nordic Weasel games, I decided to give FiveCore Company Command a try, and thought that its depicted my idea of WW2 combat well enough. With some tweaking, I converted the rules to being grid-based, using a rough conversion of 1 grid = 6".

As you can see from the photo above, the tiles are even more crowded when using 20mm figures, and all the more so when vehicles are used. But the grid format made the game easy to play.

We played a scenario from a Chain of Command Pint-sized Campaign book, twice - the first time with just infantry, and the second time with a Sherman on the US side and an anti-tank gun on the German side. The Germans won the first game, and the US the second game. In both games the victory came after one side suppressed the other side and made a dash to/from the church on the upper side of the map across the open ground (tile 12B). The tank and the anti-tank gun we used in the second game did not actually end up having much influence on the outcome.

I enjoyed the games a lot, but the small size of the tiles was an issue for me. After the game I explored the options of recreating larger versions of the tiles, or even making similar larger tiles using the RPG maps I have been using, but there was no perfect solution. I think we will probably stick with the Undaunted tiles for now, and hope that they produce a deluxe edition with larger tiles someday.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Savage Gamma World #7

Our mutants were resting in their lair in the Titan when they heard a commotion from without. Emerging from the Titan, they were confronted by angry and confused mutants from a village 3 days away. They soon learned that the mutants' village was attacked by a giant steel robot a few days ago, during which eight of the villagers were captured and taken away. The rest of the villagers decided to come to our mutants' lair to see if they (and their Titan) were responsible for the attack. After seeing for themselves that our mutants' Titan was not the robot responsible, they villagers asked for our mutants' help in finding and returning their friends.

Batte, Ranggup, Rex, and Vik (see PC profiles here) followed the villagers back to their home, and from there they followed the giant round footprints of the robot, which led up and over a ridge. From the top of the ridge, our mutants could see a giant structure at the floor of the valley below. At first they thought that it was a building, but they soon noticed the tracks on the ground behind one end of the structure, realised that it was in fact a giant vehicle with tracks, consisting of a tractor at the front, hauling two trailers behind it. All told, the vehicle measured 60 metres long, 20 metres wide, and 40 metres tall at its highest point. At the bottom of the side of the front trailer was a door, and midway up the wall they saw an opening, from which plants grew out of. They also saw the giant robot described by the villagers patrolling around the vehicle.

Our mutants watched and waited, until at last a ramp lowered from the rear trailer, and the robot walked up into it. Batte decided to fly up to the opening on the side to see if it could provide a way for the party to enter the trailer, but when he came near the opening a plant tendril lashed out and grabbed him by the foot and pulled him inside. Below, the other mutants could hear Batte screaming telepathically for help. Rex and Vik decided to throw Ranggup up towards the opening, and sure enough the plant grabbed ahold of Ranggup and pulled him in too. Once inside, Rangup lowered a rope to Rex and Vik below, who quickly climbed up. Together, the mutants struck at the plant until it released Ranggup, and then reduced it to a pulp.

Our mutants then left the room they were in by the only door out, and were quickly confronted by man-sized security robots. They were able to overcome the robots, but could not open any of the other doors they found at the corridor they were in, until they realised that they could use the head of one of the droids (which they had knocked off during the fight) to unlock the doors. After some exploration, they learned that they were in the living quarters of the humans who must once have crewed the vehicle. They eventually found the door to lift, which they took to the lowest level. When the door to the lift opened, they were once again attacked by robots, which they once more overcame. They then found the door that opened to the outside of the vehicle (which they saw from the outside) and tried to wedge it open with the inactivated robots, but flying drones soon came to begin to repair the robots. Our mutants realised that time was of the essence, and decided to find the missing villagers and leave the vehicle before the robots were repaired.

At level 2 of the trailer, they found a large room with screens that showed the different parts of the trailer, and realised that the villagers were being kept in cryogenic stasis tubes at level 5, along with dozens of other mutants. Venturing to level 5, they exited the lift only to be attacked by a large yellow ooze creature, which caught Vik with a barbed tentacle. In a panic Vik used his molecular disruption power on the ooze, which turned it into a puddle of liquid, but also rendered him unconscious.

The other mutants brought Vik's unconscious body to what appeared to be a laboratory. Here they realised that the cryogenic storage room was at level 6, which was not accessible by the lift, but via hatches in the ceiling of the lab. Our mutants manipulated the control panels of the lab in random fashions, until at last one of the hatches opened, and a mechanical arm holding a cryogenic stasis tube descended from the opening to deposit it. Batte seized the moment to fly through the opening, while Ranggup leapt onto the mechanical arm, and was taken up to level 6 too.

Once the hatch closed, Batte and Ranggup found themselves in a cold chamber filled with close to a hundred cryogenic stasis tubes, each holding a mutant. They were unable to find a way to activate the mechanical arms in the chamber, or otherwise cause the hatch to open again. Cold-blooded Ranggup soon became to fall into a stupor, while Batte once more began to scream telepathically to Rex below to find a way to open the hatch.

Just then Vik woke up, and together he and Rex tried to work he control panels again, to no avail. In a panic Rex smashed opened one of the panels and peed onto it, which caused some sort of alarm to go off and a voice to announce that a fault had caused the cryogenic system to go into failure and that all the specimens held in stasis would die if not released from stasis in 15 minutes!

Vik proposed to Rex that they searched somewhere else for a solution, and the two took the lift to level 4, where they found the infirmary of the trailer, and found a robot doctor. The robot doctor was initially confused by the presence of our mutants, but once it had learned of the situation from our duo, its programming kicked in and it offered to help reverse the cryogenic process. However, there was not enough time left - only 66 out of the 99 mutants held in stasis could be saved before the time ran out; our mutants were able to save 6 of the 8 mutants recently seized. Our heroes herded the survivors out of the trailer, and they quickly put as much distance between themselves and the vehicle as they could.

When questioned, the other revived mutants all told the same story: they were going about their own business when they were attacked and seized by the giant robot. None of them could tell how long ago they were taken, and how far away they must be from their homes. Some of the mutants decided to follow our heroes, while others decided to strike out on their own to try to find their homes, and so they parted ways.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on the Mutant Crawl Classics module "The Apocalypse Ark", which features a vehicle of “the ancients” with a mission to find and collect different species. The original story had a villain (who had taken over control of the vehicle and its AI), but I removed that character and plotline and instead just used the vehicle and its attached robots as a basis for this session.

The set-up was pretty standard, with the PCs exploring the “dungeon” and overcoming its various denizens. The players did do rather poorly towards the end of the session, which was probably due to a combination of boredom and frustration from lack of clear direction. I will have to manage this better in the future.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Xenos Rampant and Space Hulk again

For the September session we played two games of Xenos Rampant, followed by a game of Space Hulk.

We decided to make up lists of set points and then roll for scenarios.

The first game saw me fielding 36 points of Space Marines vs Rick's Necrons in the Diversion scenario. The game ended in a draw.

For the second game Adrian's Eldar defended against Rick's Tyranids in the Orbital Drop scenario.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a big game of Space Hulk.

For the October session I am planning to return to some historicals with a game of Napoleonics.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Savage Gamma World #6

A few weeks after their return, our heroes received disturbing news regarding the army that they had encountered at Titan's Beach - another band of the soldiers, calling themselves "Humanity's Restoration" (HR), had taken over the mutant village of Gundity, driven the older and weaker mutants out, and enslaved the adults, forcing them to work and threatening to harm their children if they refused.

Batte, Kong, Rangup, Rex, and Xi Xi (see PC profiles here) were sent to rescue the villagers.

Arriving at the walled village at night, our mutants infiltrated the village and established contact with the captives using Batte's telepathy power. Together, they planned a multi-prong attack, with Xi Xi sneaking into the army's leader's house to incapacitate him, while would neutralise the soldiers in the barracks, while Rangup and Kong would take out the guards at the gate so allow everyone to make a quick escape.

However, the plan fell apart as Xi Xi was detected by the soldiers' leader, who shot and wounded the mutant. The gunshot raised an alarm, and our mutants were forced to launch  their attack prematurely. Fortunately, forewarned by Batte's communication, the captured villagers rose against their captors, and all the soldiers were overpowered and killed, with only one managing to escape.

Our mutants then learned that the soldiers had been using the villagers as labourers as they worked to restored a cable car that led into the mountain above the village. Our mutants decided to take the cable car and explore where it led to, thinking that they may be able to find some technology or weapons that will aid them in the future conflict with the HR.

The cable car took the party high up into the mountain, eventually arriving at set of steel doors set in the side of the mountain. Using the access card they took from the soldiers at the Titan, they were able to open the door. The door led into a corridor with steel walls and floor, which led to what appeared to be a long-abandoned research facility. The floors of the facility was curiously clean, and our mutants soon found the reason: a functioning cleaning robot had carried on its duties despite the disappearance of its previous masters.

Exploring deeper into the facility, our mutants found a set of broken steel doors, seemingly forced open from within. Inside they found a large number of cages, now all open and empty. Nearby was another set of broken steel doors, this time forced open from the outside, and again leading into a room full of empty cages.

At this point another robot appeared - but this one was a security-bot, which began attacking the party with laser guns mounted on the ends of its arms. It was soon joined by the cleaning robot, which grappled Rangup. After a short fight, our mutants managed to put both robots out of commission.

Further exploration led to a garbage pit in the deepest recess of the facility, where the party found old human and animal bones.

With no weapons or tech to salvage, our mutants returned to the cable car, and made their way back.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was a mash-up of two scenarios from Gamma Zine. The liberation of the village was supposed to be just the opening encounter for the scenario, but as the players took a long time in planning their attack, it took almost half the session before they decided on a plan... which fell apart because Xi Xi's player, a total newbie at RPGs, failed his Stealth roll despite using up all his Bennies, and nearly lost his character.

I had to drop a few of the combat encounters I had prepared for the rest of the session to allow time for the party to explore the facility.

There wasn't much loot to be had from the session, but during play one of the players asked to use a dead/dying soldier's hand to fire his rifle, and I ruled that that would work, which effectively gave the mutants one way to bypass the "mutant lock" on the rifles.

Although we are only two sessions into the campaign, I am enjoying how the players are engaging with the setting.