Last weekend, Dave, Chris, and I travelled to War Horse Farm in Gettysburg to run some games for Sam Fuson and folks from his work. There were 16 gamers, plus the three GMs, including several kids. We ran two morning games and two afternoon games.
In the morning, Chris ran his Saving Queen Victoria GASLIGHT game involving British trying rescue the Queen from the Prussians, who are hiding in a ghost town in the Wild West.
In the afternoon, Chris ran his Nijmegen WWII Look, Sarge, No Charts game that he will be running at Fall In.
In the morning, Dave helped me run a Fate of Battle game from our upcoming 1814 Campaign book. This was also a play test for Fall In. The scenario was really quite good, and the players had an excellent time.
In the afternoon I ran a multi-sided GASLIGHT undersea game.
Various international factions were competing to get secrets off of the Nautilus, which had recently been discovered. The native denizens, the local fauna, and Nemo’s crew had other plans.
The game was a good time and a nice, light change of pace after the more serious, four hour Napoleonic game.
It was also the first time I had had a chance to get these underwater figures on the table.
In the end, I think only Dave and the weird fish were able to accomplish their mission — killing and eating one soldier from each of the five attacking factions.
It was another successful outing at War Horse Farm. Sam says that the folks he works with are getting ready to start buying and painting their own figures.
During yesterday’s run, I came up with what I thought was a solution to my morale dilemma. After a few minutes with Excel, I think it will work.
What I envision is that the card will have a target number, between -3 and 4. When making a morale check, the player will subtract the number of morale pips from the Guts # of the unit. If this difference is greater than the target number, the unit passes. Otherwise the result of the morale break will be found on the card.
This will allow a single card draw for the morale check, rather than one card draw per morale pip as currently envisioned. It gives about the right percentage of pass and fail results. I think I’m ready to give this a try.
My thinking on these rules continues to evolve. It gives me something to do while running in the mornings. 🙂
In the play test we had a couple of weeks ago, I was generally pleased with the way it worked, but still thought it could be faster without any loss of accuracy. There were two areas I thought were an opportunity for improvement. The first was determining whether a body part was protected by cover, and the second was morale testing.
Recall from my previous post that when you draw a card to determine hit location, that body part may be protected by cover. I had originally envisioned that the cover would be on the back of the single chart card (4×6) that you would need for the game and that eventually player wouldn’t need to refer to it any more. I found that even toward the end of the play test, there were still questions about whether a piece of cover protected a body part. I decided that I could add that right on the chart card.
This accomplished two things. First, it put the information right on the card that you were already looking at, and second, it allowed me to have greater variance. I wanted a wall, for instance, to usually block a torso hit, but not always. You can see in the figure above that now I’ve added small icons that indicate when a piece of cover protects the body part. You still have to compare weapon penetration against cover protection as described earlier.
This figure shows all ten hit location and cover possibilities. These are repeated five times on a total of 50 cards. For cards 51 and 52, I think I am going to make body hits, but instead of the five circles used to determine which figure was hit, they will indicate the soldier with a crew-served weapon was hit. I figure folks will try to knock out the machine-gun, so this will provide a slightly higher chance of hitting it than a rifleman.
The original morale resolution process was copied from LSNC, replacing special dice with special cards. This requires you to draw a card for each morale pip accrues since you last activation. Interestingly, this process seems slower with cards than with dice, even though the information was almost identical. So, I thought about a system that requires only one card draw but takes into account the number of morale pips accrued. As it looks like math, I’m sure anyone who plays the game will complain.
An example is:
Difference = (2x # morale pips) – Guts#
If Difference > 0, then…
Let’s say a half squad had accrued three morale pips. In the formula above, Difference would be 6 – Guts#. The Guts# is 3 for green, 5 for regular, and 7 for elite — the same as the minimum movement distances for those Guts ratings. In this case, a green unit would fail, but a regular or elite unit would pass. I haven’t thought through all the implications of this change yet, and in the back of my head I think it may make shot-up units more difficult to break than fresh ones, but I’m still working on it. There are also some cases, under this new scheme in which units are guaranteed to break. That’s not what I’m looking for. Somehow, I need to compare number of pips with morale level and also take into account cover. It’s a vexing issue.
In my first post, I described movement and briefly addressed activation. The activation system is very similar to the Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules; however, there are more cards in the activation deck.
Units activate and fire by half squad. After all shots are declared, the firing player begins flipping cards. The series of symbols at the top of the card are used to determine whether the shot hits. Start in “column” zero and shift right as indicated in the green, rounded rectangle. If the result is a green check, flip the next card to determine which figure was hit and where the figure was hit. Once the hit is resolved, flip the next card for the next shot. Keep going until all shots are resolved.
When a hit is scored and you flip the next card to determine where the figure was hit, the figure may be protected by cover. The type of cover determines which body parts are protected as indicated below.
If the body part is protected, compare the penetration of the firing weapon with the protection level of the cover. For instance, most rifles and light machine guns have a penetration of two. Trees, for instance, have a protection of one. If the protection is greater than penetration, the shot is blocked, and the target soldier gets a “duck back” or “stun” result instead. If the penetration is greater than the protection, the wound type goes down a level: incapacitate is reduced to wound, and wound is reduced to wound(-). Wound(-) means that if the wound hits an area previously wounded, the wound has no effect.
A wound reduces a figures endurance by one. Incapacitate reduces endurance by three. When endurance is reduced to zero, the figure is out of the game.
Note that some weapons get to fire more than once per activation, as indicated in the “dice” column.
For several weeks, while running, I’ve been thinking hard about some new ideas for WWII skirmish gaming. If these ideas work out, I can see applying them to multiple “modern” skirmishes, such as cowboys and sci fi. I’m trying to get at a number of important issues:
I wanted to avoid having individual soldiers target individual soldiers across the table. That slows a game, leads to gaminess, and provides unrealistically good control of distribution of fire.
I wanted cover to act as cover. In most games cover reduces your chance of hitting a target. While this is mathematically indistinguishable from what I’ve decided to do, it didn’t quite seem right at the skirmish level.
I wanted fire to be at areas, rather than individual soldiers, but I wanted team leaders and squad leaders to have an impact on distribution of fire by restricting the size of the target area.
I wanted activation to be randomized, but I didn’t want only one person playing at a time.
I wanted movement distances to be somewhat randomized.
I wanted the game to work for either a “realistic” skirmish game or something more cinematic.
I wanted it to be quick and fun without becoming simplistic.
So, lets start by defining the attributes of each figure. These attributes are indicated by the acronym GAMER:
Guts: the “morale” of the figure. This can either be a unit attribute or different for each figure. Ratings are green (worst), regular, and elite (best).
Accuracy: the ability to hit a target with a firearm or thrown object. Ratings are trained (worst), veteran, and expert (best).
Melee or Might: the ability to damage an enemy in hand-to-gland combat. Ratings are trained (worst), veteran, and expert (best).
Endurance: the ability to take damage before being incapacitate. In a “realistic” game Endurance is three, but for more cinematic games Endurance can range from two to eight.
Reaction: the ability to react first or more quickly than an opponent. Ratings are slothful (worst), average, and cat-like (best).
Activation and movement are based on Guts. When a unit activates, a d10 is rolled for its movement speed, but there are minimum distances depending on Guts:
Movement over linear obstacles costs 2″. Movement through rough terrain halves the movement speed.
Activation is done by rolling cards and looking for your Guts. Cards have Green, Regular, and Elite on them as well as being numbered from 1 to 6. There are several of each of the 1 – 6 cards. Two in each color are black. Up to three in each color are red. All of the red cards and black cards are usable by elite units. Only two (of three) red cards and both black cards are useable by regular units. Only one red card and two black cards are usable by green units. There are additional activations cards for close air support, indirect fire, heroes (in a cinematic game), and other events.
In my next post, I will discuss how fire combat is resolved. We played it last Friday night, and the players seemed to think it worked pretty well.
The kids really enjoyed their 24+ hours afloat. I wasn’t with them (as described in my previous post), but I’ve included some pictures that Candy took to give an idea of what the kids did. As they set sail, it was raining, but by mid day the rain had abated, the weather turned nice, and they began to enjoy themselves more. Living in Maryland, many of the kids have been on boats before, but the captain, “Skip,” literally showed them the ropes and had them manipulating sales and taking the helm.
On the way out of the Inner Harbor, they passed the Francis Scott Key buoy. This is thought to be the location from which he watched the bombardment of Ft. McHenry the night he wrote The Star Spangled Banner. Tommy said that you could barely see the fort from this point. You can see that it was still overcast when they passed this point, but Tommy thought that he could probably only see the flag and not the fort itself. Certainly this would be true at night.
The kids prepared meals for all on board, including Skip and his first mate. Lunch was simple fare — salt beaf, hard tack, and rum. Actually, it was ham and cheese sandwiches, but that doesn’t sound as nautical. For dinner they made cheese burgers on Skips shipboard grill. Breakfast consisted of French toast and bacon.
About 4:00 they dropped anchor near Annapolis. The kids broke out Skip’s foldable boat and played in the water for an hour. Scuttlebutt is that the water was warm if you kept moving, but was chilly if you sat still.
After dinner they played more Kung Fu Fighting and then hit the sack. The girls took up the V berth below decks. Tommy and Ryan had to sleep on deck, which they didn’t mind until about 11:00 PM when it started to rain on them.
The first thing Erin had to tell me when I met them at the dock was that she got to pilot the ship under the Bay Bridge. Skip said he doesn’t often let the Sea Scouts do that, particularly on their first voyage. Tommy said that Erin was quite good at maneuvering the boat.
On the way back to the Inner Harbor, Skip’s engine overheated and began smoking. They came into the harbor on just wind power until the last mile or so when Skip turned the engine on long enough to approach the dock. In addition, over the emergency radio, they heard a report of a boat taking on water and saw a Coast Guard boat speed by to rescue them.
Before releasing the crew, Skip sat them down and complimented them on their performance and attitude as well as the way they quickly learned the needed skills. This has become a common theme with the Venture Crew. There’s lots wrong with American society and our largely ill culture, but the kids in the Venture Crew routinely impress me with their maturity, teamwork, and support for each other. This is a tremendous group of kids, and they are a pleasure to be around. You parents out there should be proud of these kids!
By the middle of the week, the kids were starting to get worn out. After the late-night Kung Fu and all the physical activities, the kids were showing some signs of fatigue. I was getting worried that they weren’t having much fun on Wednesday, but by the end of the day, they had perked back up.
I had a lot of trouble getting Tommy and Ryan out of bed. In fact, they barely made it to the morning formation. I guess they were up half the night goofing around. I remember those days when I was a kid when you could talk all day to your best friend about nothing and just have the best time.
We did finally make it to formation and breakfast. The kids had some trouble with the powdered eggs, but again, I thought they were okay — particularly for camp food after a strenuous day. After breakfast, we were off to high COPE. Normally, they would have done a second day of low COPE, but since many of the Venturers had other activities scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Scott wanted the kids to get a taste of high COPE. The kids all got to do three events, while taking turns belaying and helping in other ways. The three events were the giant’s ladder, which was meant to be a two-person, cooperative event, a traverse of a two-rope bridge, and a zip line.
The first two people up the giant’s ladder were Maddie and Sammy — the shortest kids in the group. While they both struggles somewhat, they helped each other get up the ladder. Sammy was actually able to shinny up the cable between the rungs!
Erin did a very nice job helping her partner up the ladder. He was struggling a bit, but Erin didn’t seem to mind the height and helped push him up to the next run.
I don’t know if the kids appreciate these scout experiences. I didn’t get to do things like this until I joined the Army. How much easier Beast Barracks and the Infantry Officer Basic Course would have been if I had had these opportunities!
The instructors said that to be an instructor you have to be able to traverse the giant’s ladder solo. Tom basically negotiated the ladder himself while helping Ryan, who has an injured shoulder. Tommy and Ryan were trying to set a record pace for the day. Tommy really made the ladder look effortless.
Looking a bit tired after two and a half strenuous days and a big lunch. Instead of climbing, the kids elected to go back down to the waterfront to sail and perhaps ride the giant float/tube again.
Because the floats were both broken, the scouts decided to get in these little two-man sail boats and sail into the river. Left alone on the dock, without even a buddy with which to swim in the bath-warm water, I elected to ride in the power boat with two scouts who were trying to learn to ski.
After both of the scouts had several tries, coming close to getting up on their skis, I was able to get in the water and ski myself, which was fun.
After dinner we set up some cones in a big field and started our own nine-player ultimate frisbee game. The teams were Mike, Tommy, Sammy, and Michela vs. Jamie (Michela’s dad who joined us for the day), Ryan, Maddie, Erin, and me. Our team got stomped 10 to 3. We were hoping to attract other interested players so that all of us could play on the same team, but most of the Venturers were at the pistol range. It was an intense game, and I think everyone had a great time. I was once again reminded that I am no longer 20. Following our game, we all sat around joking. I picked up blade of grass to put between my thumbs as a reed to make noise. All the other crew members started doing it too. Ryan went for loud and ugly, nearly coughing up a spleen. Maddie could actually play notes and did a pretty good job of emulating “To the Colors,” the bugle call used at morning and evening formations at Broad Creek.
As we were getting ready to take a shower, “Bongo,” one of the camp commissioners, told us that they had set up a camp fire in our camp site and wondered why none of the Venturers were participating. As I mentioned earlier most of the Venturers were at the pistol range, so this was just a matter of one too many simultaneous events. We told him we were going to take showers and then would join the program; however, they were filing the pool, which meant there was no pressure in any of the showers, so we just wandered over to the camp fire. As we all had an early morning ahead of us, we all elected to go to bed before 10:00 PM.
Tuesday began with an early wakeup and reveille formation. As we were getting ready, we thought these tents were on fire, but then we realized that it was just the condensation re-evaporating in the morning sun.
People like to complain about prepared food. We live in a society of critics who have never done anything themselves but like to complain about the deeds of others. (Google the “Man in the Arena” by Teddy Roosevelt to wind your way to it on the politics and humor area off my main Web page.) I thought all the food was good. It was generally tasty, and there were almost always extras for seconds. In addition, they always had out the ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the most finicky eaters. My philosophy is that if you complain about hot meals three times a day, you just have never been hungry enough. In any event, I thought Broad Creek did a good job with the meals each day.
Tommy, Candy, and Michela “getting down” with the post-breakfast sing-along.
Tuesday morning we returned to COPE for what is almost always my favorite event of these COPE weeks: low COPE. Low COPE doesn’t have the drama of climbing the “giant’s ladder” or walking a two-rope bridge 40 feet in the air, but I think it is a much more interesting and fun experience. Much like the leadership reaction courses used by the Army for decades, low COPE involves a series of problem solving events that stretch the creativity and teamwork of the group. On Tuesday the Boy Scouts working on a merit badge were separated from the dozen or so Venturers from several crews. The combined Venture crew, calling themselves “The Super Velociraptors” after 15 seconds to come up with a name, went through the events together all morning.
The now-sentient Super Velociraptors trying to escape from the evil mad scientists lair so that they could eat all humans. The first challenge was to get across a acid lava spikey pit of doom, but only the plastic disks could touch the lava. Also, if the disk was in the lava without also touching a velociraptor, it would be incinerated and lost. After a few minutes of planning — and even a rehearsal or two — they set out on their journey.
This involved the lighter scouts riding on the backs of the heavier scouts as they slid and inched their way across the acid lava. There were 14 or 15 kids and only 6 of the protective, floating, acid-lava-resistent disks.
Throughout the exercise the kids demonstrated good communication and problem solving skills. I was quite proud of our kids.
Another event involved getting a tire off of a pole without the tire touching the pole or any of the scouts touching the pole.
A physically strenuous event involved getting all the kids up and over a wall. In the picture above the staff in the black shirts were not helping get people over the way, but were merely spotting for safety.
The scouts quickly realized that the heaviest kids needed to go over the wall in the middle of the pack, while the lighter kids needed to go toward the beginning or end. Here Maddie is pulled and pushed over the wall. Scott was so impressed with this group that he gave them another challenge: to get him over the wall, but he would be a limp body and not help at all. This involved a fair amount of risk — and no small amount of pain — on his part, but the kids came through with flying colors.
This event, called All Aboard, had an obvious solution. The rules were that in order for the teleportation pad to teleport the super velociraptors to their next challenge, each person needed to get one foot on the pad, one foot in the air, and no feet on the ground. The obvious solution involved slowly adding people in a balanced way around the pad; however, Erin came up with this unique solution, which solved the problem quickly and with little effort. Scott, the instructor, seemed pleased with the unique solution.
The final group even of the day involved passing the entire group though the tire, representing a hole in the wall. The rules to this event changed several times during execution. At first they had a pair of glasses that they could pass back and forth that enabled the wearer to touch the tire without being incinerated. After one or two people made it through, the glasses were stuck on one person’s head and could no longer be transferred. Then later, they could only talk in velociraptor language.
Again the kids did very well during this and all the other events.
On Tuesday the kids decided not to go to climbing in the afternoon again, but instead relax for a couple of hours and then head down to the waterfront to ride the big float being pulled behind a speedboat.
During the siesta, we again played some volleyball. The boys seemed oblivious to the fact that we were playing with three, pretty, teenage triplets. They were more interested in the game. Sigh.
We linked up with transportation to the waterfront about 1600. The direct route to the waterfront is not fully paved yet, and so we took a circuitous route to a public peer and then took a speedboat to the waterfront. The goal of this journey was to ride the float being pulled behind the speedboat. Unfortunately, only six people were allowed on the boat at any one time, so all the adults had to sit on the shore. The water, heated by the Peach Point nuclear power plant, was like bath water. Even if we couldn’t ride with the kids, it was relaxing to just float in the water.
Eventually both of the floats broke, coming back to shore as wilted pancakes. The aquatics director took a few of us out on the boat with a knee board. I didn’t quite get the hang of it, but he said that Sammy was the best knee board rider all Summer.
Maddie managed to get up on the knee board, but like me, she never quite got her knees fully into the divots in the board and so didn’t have a smooth or long ride.
We missed dinner because of the late events at the shore; however, they set aside plenty of turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn for the 20 or so of us who came back late. We watched the pistol range safety class while eating, because the kids were interested in shooting on Wednesday evening. Then we took some late showers and played a game of Kung Fu Fighting (a card-based game) before hitting the sack.
Monday morning began with formation, flag raising, and announcements. One by one, the various units were released to the chow hall for breakfast.
The first morning we had french toast and bacon. Neither were terrific, but they weren’t terrible either.
All meals at scout camp end with a staff-led song. I don’t remember what song this was, but everyone was “getting down.”
After breakfast we met some of the instructors for COPE. COPE is challenging outdoor personal experience. It seems to consist of three phases. Day one consists of games and activities centered around getting to know the other participants. Some of these games were just fun, like Ninja, but others were team-based problem solving exercises.
In this exercise the scouts stood in a circle holding onto handkerchiefs. Then in a series of moves, the instructors moved handkerchiefs from one hand, through the center, and back to the scout. This created a pretty intricate “Gordian knot.” This used to be done holding hands as a “human knot,” but apparently someone dislocated a shoulder, so they have gone to this technique. The scouts worked for a better part of an hour trying to step into and out of handkerchiefs to untie the know without letting go of the handkerchiefs.
The other half of our kids participated in an exercise to get their whole group across an acid lava spikey pit of doom, The only object that could touch the acid lava without being destroyed were the two four-by-fours with ropes attached to them. It was interesting to see how the kids from our crew took charge early in these games.
The obvious solution is to stand on the boards and coordinate walking with them. This is difficult, but possible. Maddie came up with the idea of using them as balance beams instead, getting as many folks as possible on one beam and then passing the beam from behind them to in front of them. In the end, the group ended up using both techniques as some of the scouts were more comfortable with one technique than the other.
After a morning at COPE, we went back to the chow hall for lunch and then played volleyball against some of the staff during “siesta” time.
They have a very nice volleyball court at Broad Creek with well-marked boundaries. We joined the staff, who were playing after lunch. I was having a particularly good serving day.
Tom demonstrated some of his JV volleyball prowess — and getting angry at the lack of rules being followed.
Erin scored a few points with her serves.
Maddie did well, also; although, she might have done better with her eyes open!
After siesta we headed back to the COPE area for climbing. All the kids took a turn at the climbing wall, most twice. The consensus was that the rock bits were easier to climb that the 2×4’s.
The kids all seemed to have a really good time climbing the tower. We left the climbing area in time to make it back to change into Class A shirts for the flag ceremony and dinner. After dinner we participated in a conservation project. Our project was to use hedge cutters and scythe-like weed whippers to clear portions of the yellow trail which had become overgrown. Tom, Ryan, and I spent a fair amount of time trying to cut trees that had fallen across the path with two inappropriately-small hand saws. It was good for working off a few dinner calories but was not the most effective way to clear the trail!