Saturday, January 12, 2019

Prehistorics: new pictures

I thought I'd exert myself a little for some nice pictures of my progress in the prehistoric project.
























Monday, January 7, 2019

Warlord slightly out of depth with Cruel Seas


A while ago Warlord Games released a game I had anticipated for a while: Cruel Seas. Instead of the numerous (well, if not numerous, at least present) existing modern naval warfare rulesets it would not deal with the Big Ships but with the small fast attack boats and their targets instead. 




A welcome change and a spectacular and favourite theme of mine, having read and re-read "De Engelandvaarders" by K. Norel in my youth; a chronicle of Dutch resistance fighters who fled to England in 1940 and enlisted in the Royal Navy to serve on MTBs among other missions.

Last week I played my first game. It turned out a typical Warlord product in both positive and negative aspects.

The Presentation
As we are customed to by now from Warlord the presentation of the game is splendid. The sturdy box contains all rules, dice, rulers, counters and even a largish paper playmat (both Mediterranean blue and Atlantic grey on separate sides) to play the game as well as 10 plastic ship models. There are even cardboard terrain pieces to represent coastline, a merchant ship (whole and wrecked) and a few German and British airplanes.


The rulebook is a durable A4 full-colour paperback containing the complete rules, complete fleetlists, some background, lovely full colour picture material to inspire your painting and a number of missions to play. As the game is supposed to cover all small ship actions of World War 2 the missions range from the English Channel to the Pacific, as do the fleet lists and background info. For the researchers amongst us an extensive reading list is presented. The box even has an index, which is a big plus as far as I am concerned.

The only thing missing here is a Quick Reference Sheet but that can be downloaded from the Warlord site.

The models

Warlord chose 1/300 scale to build the models in. The starter box comes with 6 Vosper MTBs and 4 S-Boats. Half of the ships are early war types, the other half the later war types like the S-100 Schnellboot and the Type 2 Vosper MTB. Later types tend to be faster, tougher and more heavily armed than earlier types.




The ships are plastic kits on sprue and are lovely. Assembly is easy and a breeze even with the rather sketchy instructions also included in the box. Warlord has announced several releases to expand on the game and the first Japanese, British, German, Italian,Soviet and US fleet packs will hit retail shortly (or have done so already). Fleet packs will also contain larger ships like gunboats, cutters, minesweepers and destroyers, all covered by the rules.




The only objection one can have against these models is that they are too big. Destroyers are over half a foot/10-15 cms and merchant freighters are even larger. A convoy in 1/300 scale will take up a lot of table space,, perhaps too much for any maneuvers to be possible. For that reason only I will most likely play this game in 1/600. But not without some heartache….

The Rules: what is good?
Already mentioned above the layout and presentation are excellent. Rules are systematically explained and illuminated by explanatory illustrations that clarify rules excellently. So what about the structure?

Initiative is determined in the familiar Bolt Action method by randomly picking coloured counters or dice from a bag. If your colour turns up, you may activate a ship. So activation is alternate. Actvation consists of movement, shooting and some miscellaneous actions of which Repair is the most interesting one, executed by the ship or plane of choice. Torpedoes move in the same activation as the ship that fired them.

Movement comes in three speeds: Slow, Combat and Full. All ships have these three speed categories irrespective of size or type. However, movement distances per speed band differ per ship type, merchants being slower than MTBs for example. A ship may make one turn per speed band moved. Large ships must make wider turns than medium or small ones. A ship may slow down or speed up one range band per turn. Handy rulers with turn angles are supplied with the game.

After moving ships may shoot. All weapons on a ship may fire on different targets. Firing is done by rolling a d10, adding or subtracting modifiers for range, visibility, speed of target and shooter and coming up with a 5 or less. A hit does a number of D6s damage (scrap hull squares) where 6es will indicate Critical Hits that may destroy essential ship systems like a rudder or specific weapons. Torpedoes may be dropped into the water in the Shooting phase as well. In a stroke of brilliance one ruler has the most common modifierst printed on its back. Splashes around the target ship from previous misses in that turn enhance the chance of it being hit. The game provides plastic splash counters.

All this results in a fast and easy to play game. But not one that, in my opimion, emulates fast attack boat combat particularly well. I think there are a number of problems. 

The Rules: what could be better?
The random Initiative method is a matter of taste. It defintely results in dynamic and surprising games. However bad luck may ruin the most clever plan. I would prefer alternate activation without the random factor. But I admit this is a matter of taste.

Turning circles do not work right and are the same width no matter how fast or slow your boat moves. This more or less cancels any effects of speed on turning which in my opnion should have been essential in a fast attack boat combat game. Tighter turning circles for slow moving ships would have been much more interestiung and really would not have been hard to implement. Besides that, all ships may make a turn when stationary, which makes large ships incredibly maneuverable. Finally, as one acccustomed to boats I get hung up on the fact that in CS ships turn around their stern, while in reality ships with steering rudders will turn around their bows unless they have bow screws.

The effect of splashes is very pronunced as any splash of a larger calibre miss increases the chance of a subsequent hit with 10%. In reality this effect did indeed come into play between capital warships but had no effect at all amongst the agile and fast moving small attack boats that left splashes behind very fast and mostly engaged in flat-trajectory fire anyway.  

Airplanes may attack boats but strangely enough may not strafe them, which was the most common form of airplane-to-ship attack.

Purists may also want to alter the effects of certain weapons and weapon layouts. However CS is a fast flowing game and should perhaps not be cluttered by too much detailed ruling. But the problems with turning circles, splashes and strafing attacks  should have been solved. Some excellent houserules to complement (and/or complete) this game with can be found at this link.

The rules also already know an extensive Errata list, which could have been somewhat prevented by better proof reading. It can be found here.

Conclusion
Cruel Seas is a beautifully executed and promising game that is enjoyable to play straight from the box. But it would have been a much better game having benefited from rules that emulate fast boats better and some more proof reading.

The choice for 1/300 scale will produce some stunning naval modelling but will run into its own limitations in larger scenarios as soon as the recommended 3x4 table is stuffed with ships actually too big to fit on it.  



Friday, December 28, 2018

Necromunda 2.0: what do we think about it? + 2 updates


In the time honoured tradition favoured by Games Workshop's marketing department GW has revived an old love of mine: Necromunda.



Now I played Necromunda to death around the turn of the century and collected and built gangs and terrain to my heart's content. I still revisit it occasionally and the game is one of my most prized and fondly remembered possessions.

So when a friend of mine asked me to try the rebooted version I was all for it. We played it a few times and I feel ready for a first review. In this review I will -just to be clear- compare this game  to Necromunda 1995 and I will assume you know that game already. If not, check here.

In terms of style and quality of game components GW leaves little to be desired, insofar their product is to your taste. One of the first things you need to know however is that, although the game is still sold in a ready-to-play box with two gangs, the definition of "ready" has changed somewhat. I will get to that.

The gangs included in the box are the familiar burly Goliaths (Bondage SM gay-bar body-builders with guns) and the all-female Eschers (heavily armed 1980ies punkrockmetal groupies).  But they have been completely redone and stylish minis they are!

The clunky 90ies Citadel metals have given way to stylish and elegant plastic miniatures in very dynamic poses.

The gangs include a Leader, a Heavy armed with a Chem Thrower (a 21st century Flamer that is) and a number of gangers armed with an assortmant of autoguns, lasguns, pistols and pointy things.




The boxed gangs do not include Juves, although the rules do.

The box also includes a Rulebook and a Gang book with Campaign rules. The Gang book onlydeals with the Eschers and Goliaths. This is new. If you want to play with other gangs, you will have to buy other books. (Crud...)

The box includes a number of board tiles that serve as an instant wargaming terrain tabletop (and have given rise to the misunderstanding that Necromunda 2.0 is a boardgame: it is not), a number of great looking doors, barricades and loot crates and of course the mandatory amount of dice, rulers, templates and counters.

This playing surface is also the limitation of play in this box. Gangers have not yet learned to climb, there is no elevated terrain and the Rulebook contains no rules for climbing (although curiously a skill for it).



Should you want to play in elevated terrain, you will have to buy another rulebook (Crud again...) and build or buy elevated terrain of course. Lucky me I kept everything.....

Gameplay
Gameplay is quite streamlined compared to the old game.

Major improvement is that gangers now move alternately, greatly enhancing the tactical possibilities over moving your entire gang at once (or at least before your opponent may move.

The Wound table has been replaced with a Wound die, The opposed To Hit vs Strength (or whatever) table has been replaced by 3 stats (Strength of Hit bigger, smaller or equal to Toughness) and things like Ballistic skills no longer need recalculating but are simply the stats you need to roll. The ammo roll is now a die rolled alongside the To Hit die and also indicates multiple hits for Rapid Fire weapons. Bolters still rock. Close Combat is somewhat simplified.

On the downside, Overwatch has been streamlined away as well as an Action (although it is still a Skill available to some gangs) which is a letdown and a loss for the game. It is however easily reinstated using the old rules. The Chemthrower has no comprehensible rules in the rulebook that we could find other than that it "hits automatically" when the template touches the target. What the effect of such a hit may be is left to your imagination. We made up that is is a Toxin Gas of which the effect is described somewhere. Apparently there are more types of ammo for a chemthrower but not (Crud) in this book. Maybe the next one?

As you might have surmised you will need a lot of money to buy a lot of books and a lot of leafing through all these books. Hopefully GW will release a Compendium sometime soon.

Gangs
In the original game the gangs started basically identical. Only in Campaign play would they develop differently. The  new game offers ready-made gangs (and pre-printed cards with stats) to start with. These gangs already are different in that Goliaths have higher Toughness, higher Strength in Close Combat and no long range weapons and Eschers have lower Toughness, higher Speed and long range weapons.

Unfortunately this means that in the confined spaces of the presented scenarios which offer lots of cover the Eschers will ususally lose, as they cannot make use of long range fire and die more easily than their Goliath counterparts from close range fiire or close combat. So I do not recommend the use of the preprinted gangs. It is easy to use identical starting opponents however and they will develop differently when playing Campaigns.

Campaigns
The Campaign system is virtually identical to the old game insofar that it is present. Apparently part of that is in another book as well. I haven't checked.

Conclusion
A mixed bag.

I would immediately reintroduce Overwatch as this greatly improves the game and makes it more interesting. But in terms of game mechanics Necromunda 2.0 is mostly an improved game. Terrain and figures are fabulous and even better than in the old game. Game components look better as well.

The rules in the starting box are incomplete when you use the old game as a reference. They do not offer play on elevated terrain and rules for some weapons are missing. The preprinted gangs are unbalanced. Splitting up the game in a base set, an elevated terrain set and separate gang sets makes it hideously expensive. I would recommend waiting for the inevitable Compendium.

When you want to start with Necromunda now I would recommend it if your budget allows. Me, I am glad I own the old game.


UPDATE 1:
The Necromunda Rulebook appears to have been released already. Unfortunately this does not include the Gang Lists, for which you still need a separate book. This will set you back a grand total of 65 GBP (or 85 Euros) for the complete ruleset alone, which is still quite hefty in my book.

UPDATE 2:
GW also released another skirmish game under the name of Killteam. While the theme and visual design are completely different from Necromunda, the rulesets are actually quite similar. KT also works with small units on small tables, uses all the same stats and rules as Necromunda does with as main notable differences:
- In Killteam you move your entire team before or after your opponent may move his entire team.
- Shooting happens alternately per figure based on Initiative
- KT knows a charge reaction under the name of Overwatch which means you may shoot at someone charging you.

In this respect Killteam and Necromunda seem to be two slightly different variations on the old Necromunda ruleset.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas holidays: prehistorics and more stuff from long ago...


DeeZee mammoths next to a paleolithic hunter. The calf is a converted 20mm Carthaginian elephant made by Hat Miniatures. 



This aurochs actually started its life as a 54mm bull made by Lemax for their Christmas landscapes. Replacing the horns with longer curved greenstuff ones yielded a perfect 28mm aurochs.



And some more stuff from long ago in a galaxy far, far away....


And a nice Christmas present that my daughter discovered in a yard sale.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Prehistorics part 2: sneak peek on some painting


Some first pictures of painted figures for this project.


Steve Barber Megaloceros deer


DeeZee vultures


Lucid Eye Cro Magnons



Foundry Titanis terrorbird 
(a fantasy element I could not resist sine they became extinct hundreds of thousands of years before Man emerged)


And a Mammoth calf (WIP) that I converted from a 1/72 HaT Carthaginian elephant



I think the ears still need some work i.e. hair...

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The most Ancient period of wargaming: Pre-historic! part 1

Every once in a while I get the itch to try out something new, something Original that I haven't seen around much. After watching an excellent 2-part documentary about the Neanterthal Man I decided to go for Pre-historic wargaming, if the term wargaming can be used in that context.



Because of course during the bigger part of the existence of prehistoric Man there were no such things as wars. Defining the period as starting at about 400.000 BC when Homo Neanderthalensis entered Europe and Asia from out of Africa until about 10.000 BC when Homo Sapiens had firmly eshtablished himself as the dominant species across most of the planet, most of Man's societies were small groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers that propably only met at seasonal meetings or at the off-chance coincidental meeting while roving their hunting grounds.

This might have led to armed conflict as often as not, but it feels a bit of a stretch to call these small skirmishes "wars".

So encounters in this period that can be played as a conflict should mostly be hunts and coincidental scuffles between small groups of hunters for the posession of a prey or cave or something.

Da Moddelz
It does take some searching, but there appear to be quite a large number of miniatures available, if only from a rather wide number of manufacturers. No one makes a omplete range of prehistoric figures. This should not surprise anyone, since PH is a very small niche in an already niche hobby.

Nevertheless the ranges are quite complete. Generic prehistoric people, branded as "cavemen", "prehistoric people", Cro-magnon or Neanderthal are and were made and sold by several companies.

First worth mentioning is DeeZee which has some Neanderthals and a lot of contemporary animals, which of course make up the larger part of PH figures. I bought most of my animals here.

Lucid Eye has lovely Neanderthals and Cro Magnon (modern Homo Sapiens) that were my eventual choice for the humans.

Steve Barber Models has prehistoric people as well as animals and produces the ruleset Prehistoric Settlement for which they make figure packs. Their Smilodon and Megaloceros were added to my collection.

Acheson Creations has quite a range of animals. But since they are transatlantic for me, the shipping costs stopped me there. They have lovely figures though.

Foundry has a range of animals amongst which are some prehistoric animals as well as animals that already existed alongside prehistoric Man. I purchased deer and bison as well as zebra to use as prehistoric horses.

Northstar has sabretooth cats and cave bears.

Rattrap Miniatures has a few animals in their Pulp range.

Toy brands Schleich, Safari and Papo make plastic prepainted prehistoric animals. Most are too large to use with 28mm but the giant sloth from Safari came in several sizes in real life and may pass for the biggest species. The Papo Komodo dragon is way too large for 28mm but perfect for prehistoric monitor lizard Megalania.

I aimed for contemporary animals that were actrually encountered by prehistoric Man. So I skipped any dinosaurs or Terror birds however tempting it was to add them to the game. I might succumb yet....

More pictures of painted figures and games are to follow.

Da Rulez
Completely a secondary priority in my book, I only started researching rulesets after purchasing the miniatures. Several sets came along and I purchased three: Tusk, Paleo Diet and Adventures in the Lost Land. I borrowed Prehistoric Settlement from a friend.

In the coming months all sets will be tested and reviewed. Paleo Diet looks the most promising at first glance, but the proof of the Mammoth is in the eating :)

Sharpen your speartips, cover your fire and stay tuned to this channel! 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse: Houseruling suggestions.

As you might have read in my review of LD:ZA I wasn't very happy with how the rules turned out. But they did have some very attractive points. 

So, like with a sexy sportscar that has quirky handling but looks oh so lovely I decided to collect, develop and test a number of houserules to solve the games most impactful (in my eyes at least) shortcomings.




Each houserule should provide a more interesting dilemma than the original rule and/or mitigate an effect that is undesirable for enjoyable gameplay (in my opinion at least). 

Cover

There are two types of cover:
  • Hard cover: -2 To Hit (most of the figure obscured by cover) or
  • Partial cover: -1 To Hit (most of the figure visible despite cover)

Desired effect: decrease effects of firepower. Enhance effects of tactical manoeuvring. Tested.

Movement

Prone: 
  • additional -1 To Hit (on top of existing cover modifiers) 
  • takes 1 AP to go Prone and 2 to get up. 
  • Prone Characters must spend 2 AP to crawl 1" . 
  • Going prone may obscure a character behind cover completely by laying down the figure.
  • Prone characters may fire and/or spend AP on other actions as normal.
Desired effect: decrease effects of firepower. Enhance effects of tactical manoeuvring. Tested. 

Dogs

Dogs may Run. 
Dogs may learn from Experience. 
Dogs may pick and develop Skill types from the Athletic and CQC tables. 
Dogs may pick up and move loot after acquiring the Heavy Lifter skill. They may not use any other effects of that skill. 
Dogs may learn to walk or run silently after acquiring the Stalker Skill.  

Desired effect: get a dog and enjoy it! Untested. 

Lock & Load

When firing in Lock and Load modus during your opponent's Move you get a -1 additional To Hit modifier for each shot fired with that Action. 

The L&L counter is then not removed but flipped over and left on the table. The character may not fire again in either the Move-,  Shoot- or Menace Phase that follows.

Firing in L&L modus in the Shooting phase by a character with an unflipped L&L counter gains the character a +1 To Hit. Then Flip the counter and leave it on the table. The character may not fire again in the Menace phase. 


Firing in L&L modus in the Menace phase by a character with an unflipped L&L counter gains the character a +1 To Hit. Then remove the counter. 

Desired effect: Decrease effects of firepower. Tested. 

Zombies
Use this rule instead of the zombie specifications in the scenarios. 

Zombies appear at the start of the game or during the game.

At the start of the game place 1 + D6 zombies per player on the table. Each player places one zombie alternately anywhere on the table until all are placed. They may not be placed in a deployment zone.

Noise counters generate zombies. Roll 1D6 per noise counter. On a 4+ a zombie appears 8" from the noise counter in a random direction. Use a scatter die of some sort and skip the noise counter modifiers. 

When Downed by a zombie, do not roll on the Injury Table but apply an automatic Infected Result (11). First Aid has no effect here. 

Zombies actions for (in that order)
·         Nearest survivor in LOS within 12"
·         Loudest noise within 12" (Closest when tied) 
·         Loudest noise (Closest when tied) 
·         5" in a random direction

Zombies do not block LOS to other zombies. If they can't reach a survivor due to other zombies in the way they simply queue up.  

Desired effect:
Make zombies a tactically relevant factor in the game. Create the need for tactical manoeuvring. Tested. 

Loot

Add to the miscellaneous Actions Table: Search a house or other closed piece of scenery. 

Searching costs 2AP. Then Roll 1D6: 
  • On a 1 there will be 2 zombies inside
  • On a 2 there will be 1 zombie inside
  • On a 5-6 there will be Loot. 
A piece of scenery may be Searched only once. 

The Loot counters found in pieces of scenery count against the total number of Loot counters for that scenario. So place some on the table and leave some out to be found through Search. Once all the Loot is picked up or found, none remains. 

Desired effect: More zombies or more Loot. It's a win-win! Tested. 

Cars

It has been a while since civilization stopped and the zombies took over. So most cars will not work anymore. However, some might. 

Starting and driving a car
When trying to start a car roll a D6 for present keys. On a 6 there are still keys present. If not, the car must be hotwired. 
  • Getting into a car takes 1 AP
  • Starting a car with keys takes 1 AP. 
  • Starting a car through hotwiring takes 4 AP. 
  • The car starts on a 5+. 
  • Only one character may try to start a car or drive one in any one turn. 
  • A starting car gets 3 noise tokens on the start location. 
  • A car with running engine gets 1 per turn which follows the car. 
Characters moving in cars may move 3" per AP. Drivers may drive-and-shoot if they choose but lose control of the car on any roll of 1 (either To Hit or for Damage). 

Cars offer Hard cover to passengers. Cars never Run and never get a -1 Run modifier due to their size. 

Out of control, collisions and crashes
All characters and zombies hit by a driving car suffer a Strength 5 CQC hit. On a Damage roll of 1 the car is out of control. 

A car hit causes 1 additional Noise counter at the collision location. 

Out-of control cars move 10" in a random direction and then stall (or crash into an object on the way). All characters in a crashing car suffer a Strength 3 CQC hit. 

A crashed car will not function again. A car crash causes 5 Noise counters. On a 6 the car alarm malfunctions and starts blaring. 1 Noise counter per turn. 

Any To Hit roll on a car and its passengers of an unmodified 6 does not hit a passenger or driver but a vital part of the car instead. The car hit this way then gets out of control and will not function again. 


Desired effect: Baby you can drive my car! Untested. 

EDIT September 14th 2018: 

Tested the house rules tonight. They worked very well. The numbers of zombies increased dramatically and put an end to any static tactics we might be inclined to. So no more time to gun down your opponents and pick up the loot. Not in the least because employing terrain for cover actually made sense now and groups of zombies would surround you and wear you down.  

The new L&L rules offered a nice choice between mobility, firepower and a fast shot in your opponents move or an aimed shot in the shooting phase. 

The faster dogs made great noisemakers and zombie-killers. 

In the course of the game small groups of zombies roamed the table, slowly increasing in numbers and forming a small horde, making the table look like a small zombie apocalypse at last! 

Searching houses produced as much loot as it did zombies. We didn't get to try out a car unfortunately. 


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse. An Unhappy Review

Lately Osprey has increased its menu of wargames rules with the zombie variant and published Ash Barkers' Last Days: Zombie Apocalyps.



Since I am a great lover of the zombie gaming genre but good rules are few and far between I inquired after these rules, read some (positive) reviews and, encouraged, proceeded to buy and play them. This resulted in a pleasant Friday night game of about 90 minutes in excellent company. However, how did LD:ZA conduct itself?

What was good? 

LD:ZA is a pleasant looking hardcover 108 page book with full colour interior. Font is pleasant to the eyes,  The book has a fine systematic layout in the approximate order you will follow when starting a game. This will inevitably sometimes run counterclockwise to the order in which you do things but I generally was able to quickly find the required rule while leafing through during my first game. Character sheets and refuge sheets are included in the book. A 2-page Quick Reference Sheet is downloadable from the Osprey site as are the sheets.

There are some points that are less than obvious however. The Rarity number of weapons for example is the maximum number of that weapon you may have at the start of the game. It can be deducted from the rules but isn't actualy stated anywhere.

Note the difference between Skill Type and Skills. A Skill Type is an area your character may develop in. This does not actually give him any Skills at start. Actual Skills are noted under (somewhat confusingly) Special Rules. It took me some time to work that out....


The book has comicbook style artwork which does great things for the atmosphere.

Character generation
In a skirmish game I like my characters properly distinguished in skills and equipment. LD:ZA has a comprehensive character generation system in which you can quickly and easily generate a team/gang. A 100 point team will give you 6 to 8 characters and reasonable equipment. LD:ZA is set at the high point of zombie infestation and you don't start with a frying pan and a kitchen knife. The characters even have a kind of character type (like Selfish or Trained). Although this only seems to be used in combining team members in likely combinations.  Each team has a hideout that also gives benefits and can be used in scenarios.

Most characters are pre-generated. However, choosing Survivors enables you to tailor-design your team with skills and equipment you can choose yourself, which is a good balance between convenience and possibilities.

Campaign
LD:ZA has a Campaign system (which is an absolute must have in my book) that is simple enough. Loot, feats and injuries are rolled for afterwards and yield bonuses or penalties that influence future scenarios. Quite a few skills you can award your characters play no role in the game itself, but in the Campaign phase. The Campaign also develops your characters skills through earned XP.

The book includes 6 scenarios, ready to play.

Mechanics
The mechanics are well tried and simple. LD:ZA is an alternate activation IGO-UGO game where characters have Action points to be spent on actions. Downtime during play is limited that way and interrupting actions during your opponents turn can be done through Lock and Load which enables you to fire in your opponents turn.  The game has a Menace (zombie and other misery happens) Move and Shoot Phase that each start after the former has been completed.

Characters have stats for things like shooting and close combat. Action tests consist of a D6 die roll plus a stat value that must overcome a threshold to succeed (usually 7). Hits may translate into damage depending on the damage value of the weapon, the target's Endurance and a D6 roll. So there is a To Hit + To Wound sequence. Shooting and close combat are nevertheless quick affairs and easily handled.



Zombies are summoned by making noise like running or shooting. The more noise, the more zombies.

It is meant to be played on a 3x3 foot table and urban terrain. Most skirmish games require lots of terrain and this is no exception.

Where is the errata? 
It is in the Last Days official Facebook Group.

What could be better? 

There is a story somewhere
Ash Barker emphasises the narrative as an essential aspect of a good skirmish game. I agree with him fullheartedly. However using pre-generated characters and refuges somewhat diminishes this. The links between games and campaign events are a bit abstract to my taste. You can lose your refuge to zombies on a roll of a table for example. It is a shame to play such a dramatic event only in that way. I understand the reason however, since zombies would be absolutely incapable to overrun a refuge in a real game. Getting taken out by zombies should be lethal, but actually is hardly a problem. See below.

I have a feeling some opportunities were missed here.

Where do I hide? 
What makes a skirmish game interesting in my book is maneuvering figures and interacting with terrain in a tactically interesting way. This is usually prompted by the presence of ranged weapons and the need to take cover from them. So you need to maneuver for a good firing position or, lacking that, for evasion and/or close assault. A good skirmish game usually sees a lot of movement taking place within firing range to successfully evade enemy fire.

Firing ranges in LD:ZA for long-range weapons (available from the start of the game) range from 24 - 30" and thus cover most of the 3x3 table within sight. However, since any form of cover behind which you can still be seen only decreases the shooting roll with 1 point, taking cover is largely pointless. Hits are usually scored on a roll of 3-4 (Shooting skill 3-4 being average) which only rises to a 4-5 for any form of cover. Firing rates for long range weapons are initially usually 1 but rise to 2+ as soon as more equipment is found or immediately by starting with Survivors with the Double Tap Skill (may reroll Shoot or Damage rolls). So being hit in cover is quite likely and indeed happens all the time. I had three of my characters running through a field of fire behind the cover of cars the entire time and still all three were killed. In this game running is just as effective by the way (also a -1 to hit) as taking cover. The problem is you cannot shoot in that turn.

This unsurprisingly resulted in a game where the teams more or less remained in their starting zones and fired at each other. Enhancing the effects of cover would have solved this.



What is bad? 

Has anyone seen my zombie? 
You start the game with a few zombies on the table. These die quickly and easily (zombies are hit +1) and that is OK.

However, zombies are quite rare in this game. A noise counter doesn't produce a zombie but only a +1 on the zombie roll (that needs a 7). So you need 3 to 4 noise counters in one location to reasonably summon a zombie. And even then none may appear. In this game zombies seem to be outnumbered by the survivors! You will certainly not encounter a horde anytime soon.

Zombies are also rather weak in close combat. They are slower than humans (no runners here) and have a lower Close Combat stat. This wouldn't be a problem if only they were actually menacing. But even getting taken out by zombies just earns you a roll on the Campaign Injury table with a very good chance of survival. You can get infected through such a roll but being killed by a zombie has no effect on that whatsoever. I miss a narrative opportunity here.

So zombies are far from lethal. Leaving them out altogether would hardly change the game. All this kinda makes them no more than a mild annoyance in the background and the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse a bit hard to swallow to be honest. A rather fatal flaw for a zombie skirmish game in my opinion.

Overshooting things
In a game where shooting is so effective Lock and Load (the "Overwatch rule") that lets you shoot in your opponent's movement phase is obviously quite powerful. But this is compounded by the fact that having fired through Lock and Load during the Move phase (without any penalty on To Hit by the way) you can fire AGAIN during the shooting phase (again without any penalty). L&L therefore gives you twice the number of shots for just 4 AP.

And since maneuvering and taking cover doesn't make much sense, sitting tight and L&L is the obvious alternative and not even a dilemma. You can even move for 2 AP AND L&L.

The fact that multiple shots (more than 1) only cause a -1 for all consecutive shots make automatic weapons not only powerful but as accurate as a normal rifle.

In my opinion (and this is a matter of taste, I know) this contributes to the fact that LD:ZA quickly becomes a rather static shootout. This may be realistic, but not very interesting game-wise.

A dog's life
You can pick a dog as your team member. That is great! It has 8 AP (2 more than a human) and is a good close combat fighter.

However, dogs (the Animal Skill/Special Rule is in the errata) may not run, cannot learn from experience and may not retrieve loot. Which makes them slower than humans (?!) and a lot more useless. Even a human burdened with loot can stay ahead of a dog! Picking dogs as team members seems rather pointless that way. A missed opportunity IMO that doesn't do justice to Man's best friend.

Who's gonna drive me home? 
There are no car rules. Enough said. Another missed opportunity.

Conclusion
LD: ZA could have been a very good, fast and furious zombie skirmish game due to its simple and effective mechanics. But the irrelevance of zombies and the overpowered ranged weapon rules force it into a rather static shooting game with an occasional zombie to swat away while you shoot at your human opponents from somewhere around your starting zone.

It is also a shame that none of those cars littering the table can be used to run people over or flee: they cannot move, there are no driving rules and you would be a close and ill-protected target inside a car anyway. There is too little interaction with terrain in general.

I think a lot of opportunities were missed here; rules wise as well as for the benefits of the narrative. My impression is that too much was sacrificed for simplicity's sake. House ruling can fix most of it, but it needs quite a bit of it to result in an interesting game that suits my tastes. A separate blog dedicated to house rules for this game can be found following this link.

I will play an additional test game soon and include scenario play to see if this makes a significant difference. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Random paintwork from the last weeks


Fire Giant from the Blood Rage boardgame


Frost Giant from the Blood Rage boardgame


28mm Chasseur a Cheval of unknown make.