čtvrtek 12. října 2017

Battletech!

Or the obligatory "I'm not dead!" post.


2016 was a good year in general, but regarding the hobby it was rather disastrous, and this year is only marginally better. There is too little spare time - and so many rulesets to try yet! Also, my main gaming buddy switched to multiplayer boardgames, so there you have it. From my little spare time I spent some on boardgames, some on painting (see my orc warband below!) and most on browsing the rulesets and acquiring new ones.

Blurry and Furious!
I have recieved my preordered Rogue Stars, only to decide it would be a pain to teach someone tired enough after day's work, but I still like the idea of really small SF groups thriving through a shady bussiness. Perhaps I may try Void Pirates, or wait for Harder Than Steel? Or man up and finally try the Savage Worlds (Showdown)?

Finally, Battletech happened.

You know Battletech, don't you? I mean, who doesn't? For more than 30 years players pick or design their huge, armoured and weapons-bristling mechs (piloted robots) and send them against each other. While I don't think that huge bipedal weapon platforms can ever reign the battlefield, I like the setting, the feeling and the detail as the bolts start flying, the armour of your mech falls off (or evaporates outright) and the systems fail (or evaporate too). I also like the turn structure, and I just have respect for a game that has changed very little in over thirty years and still gets played! Actually, I think Classic Battletech is like a T-Rex: It's ancient, it's cumbersome, but you simply have to respect it.

That's 100 tons of massive respect on the left,
55 tons of respect in the center,
and 20 tons of "okay" respect on the right.
(Image taken from a wallpaper to HBS computer game )

However, my road to Battletech wasn't as straight. At first I found the rules for Adeptus Titanicus, with the pre-plotted orders, different body parts etc. While I was charmed, there was no reasonable way to play it with something more than self-made paper chits. Then came Imperial Knight: Renegade (itself just an upgrade of Godbreaker Clash, a WD minigame), which I still hadn't purchased, but liked the rules, and gravitated more and more to big stompy robots. What I did was to purchase some EM4 Steel Warriors and Samurai Robots Battle Royale from Ganesha games - not a bad game, and close to my favourite Song of Blades and Heroes, but  ultimately not what I wanted.

Then, finally, Battletech happened for me. On a whim I acquired some second hand plastech minis (Made of evil plastic. Really, not bad - Evil. Because whenever you try to remove the awful moldlines, it just won't let go - and you can forget about using a file...), intro rulebook, maps and record sheets for almost nothing, and talked my friend into trying it.

Phoenix Hawk vs Shadow Hawk
We had started a duel of Hawks  that is yet to be concluded, if ever. (Fortunately, in Battletech, SaveGame is incredibly easy. You just write your mech's position and facing to its recordsheet and you're done.) However fragmented and incomplete, the game impressed me enough to try harder and finally discover another BT player in my area. We had some pair vs pair games, and that's where I got to the slippery slope and just had to have more.

More!
Not only I have purchased more maps and mechs - I wanted a more intense experience. So we went 3:3, and finding out about a tournament nearby I pledged to take part, making it the first ever tabletop tournament in my life. The tournament is still to come, but I'm already having tremendous fun building the list (traditionally, mechs fight in four-member formations called lance) and running simulations. It also means that I'll have to paint some more miniatures, yay!


And more!
To sum up: Classic Battletech is a wonderfull game. It may be a bit oldschool with all its character record sheets, bubbles to cross out, tables, modifiers and time requirements, but in return you get a cinematic experience, coupled with an excercise in tactics. The game has been here for thirty-some years and offers a rich universe to explore, enjoy and smash to pieces with your huge robots. You can start with as little as a free pnp download, you can wait for starter box sets coming the next year, put one together from available map sets, lance packs and paid downloads, or you can scour the bazzars for a good catch. Either way, it is worth a try.

pondělí 10. října 2016

[Bladestorm] Well, that was a disaster...


Recently, I got an opportunity to organise a skirmish game after a long time. With the same players as usual, I decided for something new - a system that offered interesting decisions even with low model count. At first I had thought of Open Combat, but considering all its paperwork I picked Bladestorm instead. Why? It offered more weapons, interesting turn structure, single combat roll for both hit and wound, more choices for the player (which attack to block, whether to put one's skill to attack or defence,...) - and I wanted to try it for almost a year. It looked like a solid plan. How could anything go wrong?

I have read the rules there and back. I knew there are point values for everything, but I decided that we all roll our characters and minions, with the dwarves being slower and more cumbersome, but also tougher and more disciplined, goblins being rather a small and nimble nuisance and orcs rather average. So far, so good.
 
Quite a long trek for short legs...

But, I set the limits and averages not having played at least a small solo demo. And, which was worse, in my pride (and ignorance of the flow of the game due to the sin above) I decided not to use one of the rules - the "death die" (it is not used in the intermediate rules anyway).  As a result, it was difficult to hit anyone, but a hit that succeeded was likely to kill a character, or at least take more than half of HPs, calling for a morale check - thus the game was dull, until the moment someone felt extremely unlucky.

...let's do it again.


So, have I learnt from my mistakes? I believe so: Two weeks later, the dwarves (in teams of 2 and 3) had to escape with a secret map of the underground tunnels stolen from the orcs. How-ever, many things changed...

Having pity with their short legs (and considering the time limitations) I used only a single map. In best case, the dwarves had to break through a week and negligent garrison of the fort (an orc archer and three night goblins) - quickly, because on their heels were another three orcs, and the pursuit was closed by black orc boss with another two goblins.

My opponents made a tactically sound decision to let the map-bearer run for it, using the rest of their force to tie the garrison and get in the way of the pursuers. And, with a bit of luck, escape too.

The archer took a key position.

Things went more or less just as planned - one of the three goblins from the garrison was mown down, orc archer took a position of such strategic importance that he wasn't able to participate in combat and the key dwarf, heading round the fort, was tied by a single goblin.

That brown bead means a failed morale check. At least his shame didn't last long.

The goblin didn't last long, but kept alive and stabbing long enough for the first pursuers to arrive, and suddenly, there was enough greenskins for everyone. Except the Axe-dwarf, who obeyed his orders and ran.


Almost there. Note the massacre in the background.

The rest of the dwarves put up a resolute defense, with their leader even showing his back to the orc boss only to stop possible pursuers. The only one who could do anything to cross the dwarves was the dumb archer, so he charged the escaping longbeard, hitting him hard - being hit even harder in return. By then we had ran out of time, so we decided that the dwarves eventually succeeded, though at a cost.


Summary: Bladestorm is a fine game. Its RPG roots are quite apparent, as it offers enough granularity to distinguish fighters of the same race, of the same type, from each other. I can well imagine awarding them experience and improving their stats - assuming they survive the deadly encounters, because not even the steel clad knight nor the nimblest of elves is safe from a random hit getting through. I also like the turn structure, although the "move or shoot" rule is a bit harsh on ranged attack types. Having played SoBH and Open Combat I also miss any kind of push-back. The reception in our group, however, is rather a mixed one. One guy likes it (used to be GM, so he's open to new ideas and he's not afraid of stats and modifiers), the not so much (in the late evening, after work). Well, gone are the days of our youth... With second edition is on its way, I hope that the issues can be amended with some training, because Bladestorm deserves it.

P.S.: Regarding the turn structure, I'm coming to like the one used in BattleTech, LotR or Blood Eagle (there may be a difference, but the gist is the same) - Everyone moves (alternating or player by player), then, everyone fights. Maybe next time? Or maybe I'll go wild and try the reactive nature of Rogue Planet... (Just to see their heads pop, muhahaha)