In the past two weeks I’ve had a chance to run two GAMER events with vehicles. As mentioned in an earlier post, the infantry rules are pretty solid. We find some interesting nuance from time to time that must be addressed, but the infantry rules are largely complete. As a result of recent play test, I have been able to streamline the vehicle hit resolution procedure, think about terrain effects on vehicle hits, and redesign the vehicle record card, getting it from two 3×5 cards down to two.
In the low-resolution version (in which each figure in a squad has all the same attributes, a double-sided 3×5 card is need for an infantry squad (shown below). A vehicle requires one of these double-sided cards for the crew and a double-sided card (shown above) for the vehicle.
A common issue with card-based systems is that everyone sits around watching one person perform actions. For years I eschewed card-based activation in my designs. I employed card-based activation for Blood and Swash, because a figure can’t do much with a single activation, so the amount of idle time for other players is short.
The LSNC family of rules (and Battles of GASLIGHT) addresses this through the double activation TM mechanic. Typically, but now always, many people are acting at the same time. This has been demonstrated to limit idle time, even in really large games — particularly if the players are thinking about their next move before their card comes up.
With the use of the joker (or reshuffle card that ends the turn before everyone has gotten to move), however, it occasionally occurs that a unit cannot activate for several terms. While this is probably realistic, it can be frustrated from a gaming perspective. You could pull out the joker, ensuring that everyone activates during a turn, but to some extent this defeats some of the fog and friction that intended in card-based systems.
Two Saturdays ago, during a small gaming session at Buck’s War Room, we were discussing this. Below is what I’d like to try. It’s too late to test this in time for the upcoming release of Bear Yourselves Valiantly, but I’d like to try it during my next G.A.M.E.R. session. If it works, I can publish it to the yahoo groups gang as an “official” optional rule.
Proposed optional rule:
The overall commander from each side is issued some number of “activation tokens.” When the reshuffle card is drawn, all the remaining cards (below the joker) are turned over. If a number (e.g., three) did not get any cards (e.g., neither the black, red, nor “handicapping” three was drawn before the joker), an overall commander can spend ONE activation token to pull ONE of the undrawn cards ahead of the joker. The player may choose whether to pull either the red, black, or “handicapping” card ahead of the joker.
Players declare that they want to use an activation token and give the token to the game master BEFORE either commander declares what number card will be moved ahead of the joker. Only one activation token may be spent in any given turn per side. If both sides wish to spend an activation token during a turn, they each declare which card they wish to bring forward AFTER having already paid the game master. If both commanders want the same card, it will be activated only once. In the case that both commanders want the same card, neither commander gets his activation token back. One player may choose to activate the red card while the other player chooses to activate the black card with the same number. If both sides pull a different card forward of the joker, the cards are activated in the order that they would have appeared if the reshuffle card had not been pulled.
Units from BOTH sides whose die matches the card, may activate according to all the existing rules for activation, including die swapping and “rolling off” when units from both sides have the same activation number.
The recommended number of activation tokens to give to each side is two or three. Most four-hour games only last eight to ten turns. You want enough tokens to be meaningful, but not so many that you may as well pull out the joker. The GM may allocate additional activation tokens to the attacking side to ensure that they actually get to attack instead of sitting at the edge of the table waiting to activate.
At Cold Wars I purchased these new figures that are meant to look like the colonial marines from the Alien movies, specifically the second movie, Aliens. The paint job is okay, but didn’t photograph very well on my phone with the flash. In particular the faces look awful in these photos.
I am planning on using the GAMER rules that I’ve been developing with these figures for some sort of science fiction skirmish. I also painted the crew of Serenity, so they’ll get mashed up into the game as well.
Last weekend I began working on some 28mm WWII figures. When I started working on GAMER, I found that I didn’t have the right figures to make correct squads. I had lots of men with submachine guns, because I got them to fight giant ants in a pulp game. So a couple of conventions ago, I purchased a bunch of figures with rifles and BARs.
This morning I put on the finishing touches and flocked them. I wanted to have these done it time for Fall In.
Some months ago, Chris and I made a bunch of fantasy buildings for our 10mm Bear Yourselves Valiantly projects (white and blue building in the foreground). Chris noticed that tops of Tropicana orange juice looked like they might be arenas or larger buildings. I’ve been tinkering with them, but finally finished them this morning.
As my wife and kids are off visiting my mother in law, I invited a few buddies over for a small gaming session. I find that early play testing rules is often better with a smaller group. I am still refining the vehicle rules for GAMER and wanted to test some ideas with just three or four guys. Only two could make it, Chris and Duncan.
I set up another tank-heavy scenario involving a scratch German force attacking an American position. I was hoping to get a couple of close assaults and some bazooka fire. I also wanted another test of the vehicle damage procedure. All seemed to work well, but I still need to think a little about how vehicles interact with cover and vehicle movement speeds.
There Germans started with four tanks, while the Americans just had a Sherman and a Stuart. The Americans also had two infantry squads, each with a bazooka. The Germans had two tank hunter teams, one with a panzer faust and the other with a panzershreck. Even though the Pz. IV fired first, the Sherman knocked out the Pz. IV. The Germans never got much momentum, and the Americans gradually attritted them. In the end, it was a convincing American victory. I just need to clarify a few points with regard to the vehicle hit procedure. Also, I think that vehicles are moving too slowly. I also need to play with indirect fire.
After the WWII game, I cooked some hamburgers on the grill and we talked about game design a bit. In particular we were trying to brainstorm ways to account for the drawbacks of card-based activation without going back to IGO-UGO.
A couple of years ago, Chris, Dave, and I were working on a set of rules for wizard battles. After the WWII game, we pulled out the wizard game again and fiddled with it some more. We came up with some good ideas. When I finish with writing Bear Yourselves Valiantly and G.A.M.E.R., I’d like to resurrect the wizard battle game.
A couple of weeks ago Sammy ran her first convention game at Historicon. She used my Eureka toy soldiers fighting the Eureka teddy bears. That reminded me that I had 12 more toy soldiers in my ready-to-paint box. This morning I knocked them out. These are the last ones I purchased before they stopped updating the line. The others were painted to resemble Britains grenadier guard figures, but for these I decided to vary the colors a bit.
It’s been a while, but I finally had time to do some light painting. I took the opportunity to knock a couple of things off my painting queue. The first was a batch of knights I got in a convention flea market. I have been toying with the idea of a jousting game for some time. I’ve played in several jousting games that have been fun, but they often get boring quickly as the number of decisions is quite small. So, I have some ideas that I’ve been thinking about while pushing a bunch of flab around the streets for an hour in a vain attempt at weight control. I’ve had some ideas for an opposed die roll dice progression mechanic that will be just right for jousting, I think. The problem with dice progression systems (i.e., d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, etc.) is that they break down after d12. Each die adds .5 to the expected value. E(d4) = 2.5. E(d6) = 3.5. E(d8) = 4.5. Etc. But when you get to rolling two dice (say, d6 + d8) instead of a uniform distribution, you get a bell curve. Recently I’ve seen that d14, d16, and d18 are readily available. I think a die progression mechanic with a lot of variance (4-20 instead of 4-12) is finally feasible in a way that I can live with, mathematically.
Some weeks back I posted some pictures of some WWII Americans riding giant eagles and some Eureka Stukasauruses. I traded something to Chris for his unpainted Stukasauruses. After sitting on them for several months, I finally painted them. I have Major Objective (the guys who custom made the Americans for my eagles) working on some Brits to ride on griffins. I will pick them up at Fall In, so watch for a weird world war two game by Cold Wars.
Our last morning, we finished packing all our gear to get ready to turn in the RV. Then we drove back into downtown Anchorage to see the Park Service visitor center. There were some nice displays and a couple of really nice movies, including this one on the Northern Light: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdy8jjc9-TM
On the way out we stopped at this cart to get a reindeer sausage. The sausage was terrific, but the guy was a little brusque, including a sign saying, “Get off your cell phone and complete your private conversations before stepping up to order.” Reindeer sausage was terrific!
We then drove near the RV rental outfit and stopped to fill up the gas tank and the propane tank. We then ate most of the leftovers we had left in the refrigerator — our last vacation meal.
As a sort of recap, here are a couple of neat pictures that didn’t make it into previous posts. You may need to open the panoramic pictures in another view to see them fully.
In this picture Tom moved part way through the picture so that he could be in it twice!
This is a replica of a navigational aid that Alaska natives would build along the trackless tundra to help guide themselves to good hunting grounds, home, etc. This one was set up across from the restaurant at which we had our last dinner in Alaska.
We had a third beautiful weather day. We drove to Seward and couldn’t believe our weather luck! The sky was mostly clear, the weather was warm, and there was a nice breeze. We began by walking around some of the souvenir shops in “downtown” Seward.
Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska railroad and a port of debarkation for coal from the interior of Alaska heading to Asia. It is also a port for cruise ships. The winter population is about 5000 people. There were a number nice little stores and cafes in town.
After walking around the town, we made sandwiches in the RV and drove to Exit Glacier. The Harding Ice Field is a huge glacier (sort of a lake of ice in the middle of the Chugach mountains) that feeds several glaciers. One of the first expeditions to try cross the ice field exited at this glacier, hence the name.
We had a chance to take a hike up alongside the glacier for a couple of miles.
As we got closer to the ice, we found that the glacier was creating its own cold breeze. The lower area near the visitor’s center was actually hot, and we were attacked by flies. Once we got up a few feet, it was quite pleasant, perhaps chilly. There is a longer hike (approximately 8 hours) that takes you up to the edge of the ice field, but we didn’t have time for that. We needed to get back for our second cruise.
Before heading out to Exit Glacier, we had signed up for a four-hour cruise out Resurrection Bay into the Gulf of Alaska to look at wildlife. Our hope was to see porpoises, whales, and puffins.
The cruise included an all-you-can eat prime rib and salmon buffet. The food was terrific. On the way back to port, there was an all-you-can eat dessert buffet. Based on prices for food in Alaska, one serving of each would have cost more in most restaurants than we paid for the buffet.
The boat holds up to 200 people, but for whatever reason only 19 were signed up for this cruise. The limited number of passengers enabled the crew to provide more personalized attention and reduced the jockeying for position on the rail to see wildlife.
Again the cruise included a National Park Service Ranger who provided narration throughout the four-hour ride. The ranger told us that these charter cruise companies pay the Park Service to provide these rangers, which in turn allows them to hire more part-time rangers to assist with managing the vast lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.
The porpoises were designated “awesome” by Sammy.
We never got too close to this whale, but he was clearly visible several times. The ranger explained that when whales are sleeping they bob near the surface, coming up from time to time to breathe.
Just kidding… but we did enjoy soft drinks and later some hot chocolate.
We met our objectives of spotting porpoises, whales, and puffins! Tommy was hoping to see a Beluga whale, but we didn’t.
We slept that night in a campground right along the water. When we woke up we were greeted by yet another perfect weather day!
The agenda called for us to visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. Partially funded by Federal money and partially funded by an Exxon Valdez trust fund, this center is involved in aquatic research and the rehabilitation of wounded animals. When the weather was so nice the previous day, we pushed this off a day, fully expecting that the weather would turn bad and it would be good to enjoy an indoor activity.
The Sealife Center was nicely laid out with some innovative exhibits. I thought it was worth the time we spent there. They also had once of the nicest gift shops we’d seen throughout our visit to Alaska.
Sadly our trip is beginning to come to an end. After lunch in Seward, we headed back toward Anchorage for our last night in Alaska. Along the way we pulled off at some scenic overlooks to see some of the sites that were difficult to see because of the rain on our way southward.
Somewhere during our drive, I got an Email from my buddy Sam Fuson who was once stationed at Ft. Richardson. He recommended that we have halibut at the Sourdough Mining Company. The food was terrific and so plentiful that even Tom had trouble finishing his dinner. Most nights there is a singer and storyteller in the evenings, but we happened to get there the one night in 10 years that he was ill.
Well… we get on the plane tomorrow for another 12 hours in the air back to Baltimore with stops in Seattle and Detroit. Ca ca. Another vacation has come to a close.