Saturday, November 21, 2015

Heavy Steam.... Enjoyable Steampunk Mech goodness

I like to think I was "there" way before the steampunk genre took off and became fashionable as my friend Craig and I played GDW's Space:1889 RPG all the way back in 1988.

What I missed out at the time though was the 1980s and 1990s Battletech mech craze as I never did get into it. I was a big FASA fan of their Star Trek game, but not Battletech for some reason. Still, I was curious in a small way at the time but not enough to try it out.

The only time the mech thing intrigued me was the 1992 magazine cover for GDW's Challenge magazine. For some reason, it still resonates, maybe because I am a history buff and I love alternate Earth sci fi.

The next brush with mechs I had was when I rented the low-budget 1990s movie Robot Jox and saw in the movie theatres the more recent Pacific Rim, but that's about it.

Still, when my friend Jeff menthioned the recent game Heavy Steam by Greenbrier games, and the steam allocation mechanic, it triggered the same thing as the Challenge cover. I was intrigued and bought it.

I sat down today first with my friend Jeff and then Jim for about 8-9 hours of Mech (or as they call them in the game, Titans) combat.

The game combat has a curious blend of abstract concepts but detailed resource allocation mechanics. .

For example, you move within  1 to 6 bands or sectors toward the enemy,

 and place terrain cards to simulate the different terrain you find within each sector, which seems kind of abstract.

On the other hand, there is great detail on the steam allocation in this game. You have to manage your steam pressure to do just about everything in your mech, from powering your feet to your weapons at just the right time. The steam has to move as there is no sci-fi technobabble about the warp core. Steam pressure is steam pressure.

In fact, I would say this resource allocation was the best part of the game. Jeff, Jim and I all enjoyed this aspect, as we scrambled to keep the steam moving, minimizing damage and keep our damn boiler from exploding.

When I was playing, I had images of the "black gang" as stokers were called, shoveling coal in the belly of the engine room, to keep Her Majesty's Titans going. Even during WW1 when most ships were fueled by coal, stokers and trimmers (people who kept the coal pile level to keep the ship from listing), had the worst and crappiest job around, in their hot dark hell shoveling tons a day to keep the ship going.

And so, I imagined the same in my giant mech cavorting around in the battlefield. I didn't read the fluff that came with the game and don't know by what sorcery the mechs are powered, but in my mind, it was the black gang shoveling coal.

But I digress.

Anyways, like I said, the steam management is taken seriously in this game. In fact, probably for the first time I've ever seen someone take the steam in steampunk so seriously in a game or setting. It isn't handled with hand-waving passes like the "ether" or "Martian liftwood."

And it's all managed on beautiful card stock that has a schematic of your mech.

You got to push white cubes to the right place and time, build up shields (blue cubes) and avoid black cubes (damage) and red cubes (overheating), while still carrying out a fight. All the while keeping an eye on your boiler pressure.. too much and you'll get damage.

When I both played with Jeff and then Jim, we just did the small light mechs and not the big heavy mechs, just to learn the mechanics. The minis themselves were not bad to look at.

The artwork on the cards was pleasing and very in-theme with all the classic steampunk hallmarks, complete with that British upper class feel,  Prussian pickelhaubes and monocles, and of course, British red (they wore that stuff in the field back then, not just in their mess dress).

The game designers know the genre enough not to get too serious, as some of the names of the weapons and events indicate.

World domination, or a spot of tea, eh wot?

The rule book could have been a bit better. Jeff and I strugged the first couple of hours with it, flipping back and forth a lot, but eventually we got the hang of it when Jim showed up.

Jeff and I had a game and a half before he left, and it was okay only, mainly due to the learning curve. I think Jeff liked the game as well, as he was texting me afterward about rules clarifications so obviously it was still on his mind.
Jim and I had a great time now that my learning curve was over and truly, we were slugging it out with everything we got at the end, throwing in infantry, artillery and mobile guns..

We had to go back and back into the game pile to get the black damage cubes as we were damaging each other like crazy at the end. Like two boxers slugging it out in the center of the ring, we fought at night in the same sector, nobody retreating...

I hit Jim's main head, the command center several times and just need another shot or two to cripple him...

Jim was trying to do the same to my torso, and at the end was throwing everything he had, dangerously overheating his boiler..

Jim's boiler was on overload to the extreme at the end..

I took damage after damage in the center, with no power to my legs. I couldn't move, even if I wanted to in the end..

Anyways, Jim pushed his luck and eventually beat me to the punch... While I was Apollo Creed going for the head knockout, Jim was Rocky Balboa going for the body blows and won.

This was my first truly manage-a-Mech game and it was a great afternoon. Very enjoyable and exciting to the end. And we were just playing the small mechs with the default weapons after all. The large heavy mechs we had not yet tried.

Was this what all that Battletech craze was about?

Anyways, the steam management and the balanced game play did it for me. I suspect Jeff, Jim and I will definately have another round.

Thumbs up!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Some of my old 28mm paint job dioramas: A blast from the past....

Please feel free to vote on them on with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. 

 Reaper's Sligg Squarg Herder



Reaper's 50001: Sascha Dubois, Time Chaser 

I tried to show Sascha, as a time traveller, "clocking in" from a different time period (say, summer 1802 to winter 2012) in a bright green flash and in a green energy field.
( I realized afterward and unconsciously, that I have an environmental message between the lines also (lol)) 



Armed Guerrilla Gorillas in Coveralls (Boiler Suits)

I put them on a movement tray as I had an idea to have them face human prejudice, illustrated with some graffiti on a wall.
The names and Ape #s are, of course, a joke and not for any game.



Kitbashed 28mm Steampunk VSF Iron Mole

 Took a G.I. Joe toy, snapped off it's drill and attached it to a WW1 German tank. Also, added a wrought iron chest and a fuel tank to the tank.



Jack the Ripper escaping by Jet Pack!


Weird Civil War Confederate (CSA) Dinosaur Raptor Cavalry with Standard

Surfer Dude looking for new Facebook friends





Sunday, November 15, 2015

Star Trek Attack Wing: The Doomsday Machine

The original Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine" has always been one of my favourites of that show for some reason, and I have been looking for a Doomsday Device booster for Attack Wing.

As of this date, they still have not done it, though we're getting bizarre stuff like Quark's ship for sale.

Who doesn't like this episode? It's great.

The episode trailer sums up a great episode:

Anyways, not to be daunted, I ordered a Doomsday Machine mini from the folks who did Star Fleet Battles and painted it. Someone from Boardgamegeek did the stats.

I was not sure how game balanced the stats above were as they were done by an amateur, but I decided anyway I wanted to do a Doomsday Machine battle.

Since I was using a custom card, I trotted out my own custom cards. Thirty years ago, my friend Jim, myself and others played FASA's Star Trek: The Role Playing Game. Jim's character was the Captain, I was the helmsman (Will Stryker, named 4 years before ST:NG's Will Riker by the way) and my friend Craig was the weapon's officer Hans Steiner. I thus recreated their RPG stats into Attack Wing Stats, as well as stats for our refit Constitution class (or Enterprise-class as we FASA players called it), the U.S.S. Excellence. I just ported official stats from similar cards, and changed the name and picture in order to ensure it was costed correctly.

Here are their 30 + year old FASA ST:RPG stats. 

As I said, we were die-hard Star Trek RPGers in those days, and we actually played the RPG scenario from FASA called "A Doomsday Like Any Other." I am not sure, but I think it was in the fall of 1985, exactly 30 years ago. I was the GM for that mission and it was our groups first ever competitive session, with three different factions.

But I digress.

It was great that after 30 years,  our old FASA Star Trek characters make one last appearance, much like Han Solo will do in the upcoming Star Wars movie next month. I really loved those FASA years playing in that gameverse and those FASA characters who are still dear to me even though these people are fictional.

For some reason, the person who made the above Doomsday Machine card did not cost it, so I eye-balled the stats, and set up a 23rd Century scenario for me and my friend Jim to play.. a Doomsday Machine vs an refit-Constitution class the U.S.S. Excellence, a Tholian vessel and a Romulan Bird of Prey..

The Doomsday Machine needs to destroy all 3 ships or the moon and planet in the scenario. To destroy the moon and planet, they would have to take 2 and 4 actions on the moon and planet respectively, within a range of 1 in its front arc. Every action taken, I would put a token down. Thus, if I hover on the planet for 4 turns, I would place 4 tokens and thus consume the planet, as in the episode.

Jim, leading an inter-planetary team of Romulans, Feds and Tholians, has to defend the planet.

I had serious misgivings about this being balanced against Jim. I mean, you could only damage the Doomsday machine with a frontal attack, and it has to be a critical hit. Meanwhile, I'm firing with 9 attack dice.

We decided to just go with it, and see what happens.

I as the Doomsday Machine was on one side, and Jim was set up near the planet. An asteroid field lay between us. 

 Jim had 3 ships and crews to manage, but I was sure he was up to the task.

The Tholians were exotic and only appeared once in TOS and I think once in the Enterprise show with Scott Bakula.

I chose them as I was intrigued with the game mechanics of their famous energy web.

Tholia One

Romulan Bird of Prey, old school.

I started right down the middle to make it look I was going straight for the planet. 

 I then swerved left to try and screw Jim up hoping he'd dip a toe into the asteroid field

 but he countered to face me on the left with all 3 ships.

The Romulan and I engaged at point blank, causing just 2 damage and 1 critical to him, even though I had 9 attack dice. I just blew down his shields a bit.

Meanwhile, Jim was building a Tholian web on the outskirts of the asteroid field with the Excellence closing in to hem me in.

 I had no choice to but to veer to the right and plunge into the asteroid field.

Jim doggedly chased me, doing an Immelman turn on his Bird of Prey

 I burst through the asteroid field, and surprisingly take 1 critical hit damage.

 Jim's Excellence and I are in each others arcs, but we both do minimal damage.

We then move past each other's arcs, and Jim piles up his Excellence and Bird of Prey. It got congested in the asteroid field, no doubt.

I then do a surprise move and do 1 reverse back to see if I can catch Jim in my front arc, but not in his. He had the same thought.

We exchange some shots, but Jim quickly tries to outflank me on my left as he has the Romulan right behind me to soften me up.

The Romulan is right in front of me and I let him have it, destroying him, with Jim's Excellence immediately on my left.

I go forward and try to do a tight right turn but wind up having my base scrape the damn Tholian Web anyway.. I didn't realize it, but all the webs on the board, not just the ones I run into, affect damage.

I get in front of the moon, and lay down my 1 of 2 activation hits. One more hit, and the moon would be consumed.
But I got interruped as Jim's Tholian wheels on my right, and we are both in each other's arc.

I destroy the Tholian but the Moon is in my way as I see Jim's Excellence wheel behind the moon. 

I'm forced to delay my moon destruction and try and maneuver to get a clear shot at Jim. 

 We do the dance, wheeling in front of each other...

 I've taken 6 critical hits with only 3 left before I'm destroyed. The game has come down to me destroying Jim in one massive volley before he can eke out 3 more critical hits on me.

We both fire in front of each other's front arc...

But it was not to be.. I've managed to destroy Jim first.

A good "computer simulation" for the good crew of the U.S.S. Excellence.

It was closer than I thought. As I said, I was concerned about game balance, and I think if Jim had one more ship, even a small scout, it would make all the difference.

We then closed off the night with 3 rounds of the light dice game Star Trek: Five Year Mission by Mayfair Games (the guys who did DC:Heroes RPG 30 years ago).

It's basically a dice allocation game with the Star Trek Theme ported on.

 A fun light game and more interesting than I thought.

 We played both TOS and TNG.

Anyways, we had an all Star Trek gaming session tonight and it was enjoyable. I liked both games and hope to do both again.

Thumbs up.