About Me

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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

PMC 2640 gets played against a real human opponent!

I was pretty excited about PMC when I finally got my hands on it a few months back. I wrote my introductory battle report on it after doing a solo run simply because I had to...but I finally got my first "real" game in last night.

I decided to forgo my usual note taking and just enjoy the flow of the game for once. What Im going to present here is a series of pics with ultra-quick commentary, and then give a few more thoughts on the game itself.

Here is our battlefield as it shapes up and forces are chosen.

I had to introduce the mechanics of the game in and amongst the descriptions of the unit stats and what they meant - fortunately my opponent was a veteran and picked it up quicker than I would have liked him to!

We played an easy Tier 3, Priority 1 battle. Left to right:
4-man Tier 3 Rocket team
3-man Tier 2 LMG section
6-man Tier 3 LMG team (one member is being interrogated by the enemy, but managed to escape in time for the battle)
4-man Tier 4 sniper team
Tier 3 Light combat vehicle
8-man Tier 3 Rifle team

Honestly, as I was deploying, I thought the red thing in front of me was a hill...heh oops! :)

We played a Capture scenario, where we had 20 turns to contest 3 objectives: the 2 watch towers and the low, flat grey block in the center (it was VITAL, I swear it!).

Deployment as it is shaping up:

My opponent was fielding a version of the Slammers, with 3x Tier III Grav Combat cars, some mortars, scouts on grav sleds, and quite a few Tier I rifle teams.

His models were pretty cool. Here are his Combat Cars and Scouts.

The game starts, and he starts flanking to my left with his vehicles. I snake my way towards the center with my Light Combat Vehicle. His grav sleds rush up and pull their first Markerlight designation, which immediately brought mortar fire down from the other side of the map. Fortunately it missed.

The rules for buildings were really easy, but we had packed them in so densely that the only things really maneuvering where the vehicles (his to hunt, mine to evade).

You can see his tanks sneaking around to my left. I felt I was secure in the buildings - my snipers had Gauss weapons which gain a +1 vs vehicles, and I had a lot of faith in my bazooka team, but the snipers never got to cover before they were pounced on...and this was their quick and inevitable end:

(Hint: 1 guy, with a modified Morale of 1, with 12 Suppression markers....he wasn't long for the battlefield! [He fled the next turn])

My bazooka team didn't fare much better, either, taking lead from fire hoses at near-point blank range, which ended up being too close for them to arm their own rockets. To make matters worse, you can see the smoke billowing from the center - my light tank took its final demise from small arms! That's right - at point blank range from an angry mob, even assault rifles can finish off light armor, which was scary to contemplate!
On my right, the LMG team wasnt doing much better. They slogged through cover for two turns, and when they popped out, took some crazy-accurate fire from some rookie gunners across the way, and spent a few more turns cowering under cover.

They finally had had enough of being pinned down on the right flank, and decided to make a mad dash in a vain effort to redeploy and aid their ailing left flank.

It was a futile gesture. The Combat Cars kept coming, while mortar fire continued to rain into the Bazooka team. The tank at the bottom of the pic here wiped out a few more of the redeploying LMG team and sent them right back into the woods.

It was getting late, and with the all-but-complete destruction of my bazooka team and my LMG team pinned again, I called it. We made it 5 turns, and it was a complete route. I killed a few scrubs with my central Rifle team, but really didn't return effective fire on any front. Here is the outcome:

Finally, satellite imagery confirmed the conflict's result:

So, I had a blast even though the game was over almost before it began. I knew Aron would be bringing vehicles, but I put my points into small, more veteran units. I think he did it right, as the firepower from his tanks was almost always a 9, and only rarely a 7 - brutal in such short environs. He proved that Tier I troops might not be glamorous, but their effectiveness was plain to see. The few I hit did break nicely, but he rallied against long odds and kept them on the table.

Actually, come to think about it, his dice were hot when they usually aren't, so it was good to see luck back on his side. There was nothing atypical in this game - it had its ups and downs, but no single roll or action seemed out of place.

The game is, indeed, a fast-play ruleset. I'll borrow some of my opponent's words as he described it our local group, since he was seeing it with fresh eyes:

"It plays well, quick play set a bit like slammers but not as crunchy. Simple force building, with this "tiered" structure you may have read about. So no custom options but with a bit of imagination I was able to do slammers combat car platoon supporting some local irregulars.

I'd rate this 8/10
Slammers & StarGrunt 9/10
Tomorrow's War 7.5/10 for the complexity.

There is a Mordheim-like campaign system. So that could be fun. I'm going to get the printed rule book.

I like this better than Gruntz."

Of course, YMMV but this came together nicely. There are a few things that could be a splash more crunchy, but then it would lose a bit of its ease of play. Indirect fire, for example, had no scatter, but we realized that this would require a template, which the author stayed away from. The combat is pretty streamlined.

Next time we play, we hope to do two things to make referencing easier in-game. First, combat cards for each unit, instead of a roster. Similar to Malifaux or other similar games, we'll need to design these, but that shouldn't be hard.

Second, we think a chit or token with the unit's Morale stat on it would be a huge help, especially if it could be written on with a wet erase or grease pen. The chit would follow the unit around the board, in a similar vein to Dirtside tokens. For the purist, it might clutter up the board, but we were already using blast markers. That, combined with a small card, would make pulling up numbers in-game that much more quick.

Again, "factor factor factor" comes up a lot in the game, but the modifiers are so straight forward as to be quite simple.

This game is a winner. There are so many unit types premade that exploring them all will be part of the fun. Not being greedy and sinking all my points into smaller, elite units will be hard to resist, but this game values concentrated fire, and all units seem to have a purpose.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Even the Best Laid Plans...

I had made up my mind. After a really positive reception to my PMC review, and more than a fair amount of requests for a Battle Report, I decided that today I would oblige. All my possible gaming friends were off at their cons, but PMC 2640 thoughtfully includes options for both solitaire and cooperative play. Excellent!

I did my honey do list, got the kids outdoors and into the sun (where I should be!), and convinced the wife to look the other way as I happily set about preparing my battlefield. I was going to do Scenario One: Restoring Law and Order.

After I had the village set up (including the area hit by preliminary bombing; clever me!), I sat down to write up the army lists. I opened to the section for Insurgents...and blanched.

See, the Battle Tier determines how many units you can bring, and of what type. The options were Tiers I-III (rolling a d3 to decide). I figured I could get away with no more than a Tier I game, so I set about it.

Tier I allows no Tier III units, and the Insurgents were to receive 10 Tiers-worth of troops. Oh, and they were allowed only one Tier II unit. This means they would be composed of 1 Tier II and 9 Tier I units. No, no, I thought. They need more beef. Breaking the rules, I assigned them a Tier III 8-man "Insurgents with LMG" unit before also giving them a Tier II 12-man Organized Militia. Rechecking the Force Org chart, I saw that the only other option was to give them 5x Tier I Armed Civilians....at 12 men apiece.


8+12+(5x12) = 80 models. For a Tier I battle.

I admit, my heart sank. Not because the rules are unfair, but because I'm a 6mm guy, and this teeny 15mm force is all I have. I might be able to get the Insurgents on the table, but I'd have zero ability to play the invading force!

Sorry, boyz. I tried. I'll try again when I can convince a friend to join me, or when I decide to try a 6mm game...so instead, Im going to paint some of those JR Miniatures buildings!

[EDIT: Stand by...I have an idea...]

Scratch that, reverse it...

What the heck was I thinking? I unpacked, set up, hit a snag, repacked, went back upstairs, and then came to my senses. Seriously? So I didnt have 160 models. I had my collection, and I had a new ruleset to play.

Enter: Rescue the Hostage!

It was an hour to dawn, and the small group of elite commandos surveyed the town they were to infiltrate from its outskirts. Glancing at their fellow comrades, they wouldnt have been able to detect each other in their stealth suits had it not been for the hyperimaging sensors in their powered armor suits.  Knowing the downed fighter pilot they were here to rescue was in the hands of some ruthless interrogators, it was time to get in, make the rescue, and get out.

In this scenario, I made a group of super soldiers in powered armor. They were advancing under the cover of darkness, and so I made some changes to the rules:

Sz 5 [qty of men in group], Mv 6" [move], F5 [Firefight value], R 18" [weapon range], D12 [defense: note, halfway through the game I dropped this back to 11 as 12 was too insanely high], A5 [assault value], M6 [Morale, also VERY high]. Specials: Advanced Stealth [Cannot be engaged from more than 12" while in darkness], Determined [Morale doesnt get reduced with casualties], Silenced Weapons [Will not attract enemy attention if a firefight wipes out the target and there are no other units in LOS]

Defending the town, we had:
Squad Orange: 5 Engineers [Mv 4, F3, R18", D10, A3, M5] who were working on a broken APC [M10, F3, R18", D12, A2, Struc 5] - in hind sight, the vehicle was just for show...LOL!

Blue Squad. regular riflemen [Sz 9, Mv 5, F3, F3, R18", D10, A3, M5] who were occupying some ruins at the far end of the village. It was reported that the basement of this farmhouse was where the pilot was located.

LMG Section [Sz 8, Mv 4, F3, R24", D7, A1, M4] occupying the central hill with a decent view of the approaches.

Yellow Squad, same as Blue, who were camped out in front of the two manors in town.
Here we can see the Commandos as they exchange final glances, nod, and advance as one.

Rules of the Scenario:
In solitaire mode, the player takes his turn and then OpFor takes theirs. As long as no unit is within 12" of the commandos, the commandos can act as they like, but every OpFor unit rolls 1d6 on their turn: on a 6, they can act according to the solitaire chart in the book.

Once a firefight or action had occured, this OpFor roll becomes a 5+. If a squad gets LOS on the commandos, or a firefight initiated by the power suits raises an alarm, then all OpFor units roll on the chart as normal, but add +1 to the action roll.

Opening Fire:
The Commandos advance towards the APC and the Engineers idly working on it. Huddling at the base of the hill between them and the enemy, the commandos note that the engineers are not being very discreet in their actions; it is not a hard decision to storm over the hill and engage. They do so, pulse weapons firing in brutal efficiency:

Rolling 1d10 + F5 [firefight] + Qty 2 [5 soldiers firing] + 2 Range [less than 1/2 range] + 2 Hill [elevated gives a bonus] = 1d10+11. I rolled a 9, which is an auto-hit (and as high as I could have rolled - in PMC, a 0 is a zero, not a 10. 20 vs Defense 12 (I gave the ambushed bastards some cover from the depot and the APC) meant 8 hits.You can see the dice there: 3 dead, 10 Suppression Points (SP). Their Morale dropped from 5 to 2 due to the casualties, and 10 SP is decidedly more than 3x their Morale. The Engineers wont get to act on their turn, and if they cannot clear the SP to get to 6 or less (to be eliminated you need to be MORE than 3x Morale...and you roll 1d6 per Morale stat...which is reduced by casualties. They'll roll 2d6 and cannot clear more than 1SP per die. They get auto-removed!

The silenced weapons did their job and no other enemy units are alerted to the disaster that just befell their mechanics. However, I changed the Activate roll to 5+ now instead of 6+ because a firefight occurred. No OpFor acted.

The commandos advanced to their right, around the walls, drawing closer to their charge.

The photo shows the OpFor activation rolls for the next turn, however: 3 6's. Rolling on the chart, furthest to closest from the commandos:
Yellow gets uneasy and withdraws behind their buildings, listening for radio traffic
LMG section holds, prepping their weapons
Blue squad feels that something isnt right, and leave their courtyard to investigate. They Exit their building 4".

Deciding that Power Armor would treat Medium Walls (which are Impassible) as Low Walls, the commandos jump the walls and Move into the small patch of woods in front of them, drawing closer to the suspicious Blue squad. The LMG section cannot see them yet (outside of 12", but their activation roll pushes them forward and they advance towards the APC. Yellow team gets curious, returning to their original positions. Blue team holds.

The squeeze is on:

The commandos have no perfect shot, and decide the best defense is a quick and furious offense. They Advance into the depot next to them and let rip into the LMG section. F5+R2+Q2 = +9, getting them a 14. D10 on the LMG gets 4 hits, equaling 2 SP (I later realized the LMG team only had D7, but oh well!). The firefight wasnt as conclusive as they had hoped, so the GIG WAS UP!

LMG team clears their 2 SP.
Yellow squad Move 7" forward.
Blue squad Advances around the corner of the walls and open into the back of the commandos. Since they are setting up the Crossfire but dont get the bonus yet, their roll of 13 cannot beat the Power Armor in cover (14) and miss.
The Activation roll had the LMG team Advance (move and fire) and so they did. Adding +2 from Crossfire, they achieve a 16, and the 2 hits give the commandos 1 SP.

The commandos are in some serious heat now. Failing to clear their 1SP, they stand and Fire into the LMG crew. I prepared a 1d10+10 shot but rolled a 0...whiff! Uh Oh!

Yellow squad Advance and as they climb the hill, 3 of their team are able to open fire with their assault rifles, but the roll isnt good enough.

However, the errant shots really surprise the Blue squad, who mistake the incoming shots as being directed against them (they rolled a 0 on their Action table). They fled in panic directly away from the commandos.

Bloodlust in their eyes, the LMG team Charges in, preparing for some serious Rambo action. Return fire from the commandos deals them 1SP (the Basic Fire shot was 1d10+7, but I rolled a 1, resulting in 8 vs D7).

Assault in PMC is like Epic Armageddon: it goes until it is finished.

Firing from extremely close range, the LMG crew managed 1 Sp. However, the return fire was much more vicious and punishing. 5 hits from the commandos dealt 2 casualties, Breaking the LMG team (Morale 5 - 2 = 3, SP dealt was 7, so more than 2x = Broken). They fall back 1".

Once again, the commandos fail to clear their Suppression Points, but knowing they were in a hard place, and knowing that Broken units who are assaulted are destroyed, they lunge forward and cut the LMG team down where they stand. While a beneficial auto-kill, it also put them directly under the vengeful guns of the newly arrived Yellow squad...

Hearing the cries of their brothers as they are struck down, the Blue team rallies yet again and runs back towards the firefight (the random rolls were really wreaking havoc with the OpFor's ability to coordinate, but they were fun nonetheless).

Yellow squad Advance and gather their combined weight on the top of the hill. There would be no better time or opportunity to finish off the infiltrators, and they gave it their all.

R2 + Q3 +H2 +F3 = 1d10+10 resulted in a 16 (it was during that Assault that I realized D12 for the commandos was too high), giving 5 hits. This resulted in 2 dead and 7 more SP to the commandos, for a total of 9SP. Because Determined meant that the commandos didnt lose Morale as they took casualties, 9SP was only more than their M, and not twice, so they were Suppressed only.

Here, as the commandos prepared to shake off their SP, I realized I had been rolling Morale incorrectly. I had been rolling 1d6 per SP on each squad, but this was supposed to have been 1d6 per Morale stat. Thus, the commandos rolled 6d6 and cleared 4SP, bringing their SP total to 5, which was below their Morale, and clearing the Suppression status. This happened before actions, so they then got to act.

Knowing they couldnt take another round of deadly fire from the elevated position of the enemy, they did what any sensible team of highly trained commandos in power armor would do - they charged up the hill and entered melee, taking their 5SP with them!

Return fire of 1d10+6 failed, and thus began a back-and-forth brutal engagement that eventually saw the Yellow Squad broken and they fell back the obligatory 1".

At this point, the Blue squad (furthest from the enemy) rolled yet another 0 and fled. I decided they had had enough and were done for the night. The Yellow squad cleared 2SP with their 4d6, but were still Suppressed. Suppressed units cannot move or fire, except to withdraw to the nearest cover. "Hey look, Ruins!", one shouted to another, and the team fell into them, seeking any possible escape.

It wasn't to be, however, and the grim reapers of death advanced on the cowering team, extracting their vengeance and eventually their embattled comrade....

Game Over, Man!
So that was Fun! Learning a ruleset for the first time, playing a solitaire game AND taking furious notes is always a challenge, and this one was exactly that, but I really enjoyed it.

Note: Balance was likely non-existent since I created the units, composition AND activation rules on the fly, but it got the dice flying nonetheless. Had this been a player-vs-player, the commandos would have been annihilated, but the uncertainty of the solitaire activation provided some fun. I thought the powered armor was DONE when the Blue team came around that corner, but the Yellow team scaring them off was hilarious (Hi-Larious, as Jane would say). It played pretty smoothly, and actually lasted a lot longer than I expected. As the author pointed out, casualties are pretty light, with Suppression Points being the order of the day, but I liked it.

I'll need another run with a mate soon, to get another's perspective on it, but I will certainly play this again.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

PMC 2640 review for 15mm

It's Labor Day weekend and many of my friends are off at one of the two local cons running...Celesticon or Pacificon. That's ok. I'm here listening to Depeche Mode and writing about my first impressions of Assault Publishing's PMC 2640!

I ordered the game last week from Pico Armor for $32 USD. I was pleasantly surprised that this price included shipping; it shipped last Saturday and arrived yesterday, Friday.

The book itself appears well done. The cover is nice and shiney, and the pages are high quality. That's not what I'm here to write about. What I was really gambling on by ordering this sight unseen was:

Is the game play going to be engaging?
Will I be able to use the models I have?
Will I want more, or will this sit on my shelf like so many other rulesets I took a risk on?

Let's delve into it.

Game Mechanics
The game mechanics have been mentioned elsewhere (open the links in Google Chrome and it will translate the pages automatically), but I'll touch on them again here.

The game uses d6 and d10s. Combat is done with a single d10: add your unit's Firepower stat, add a few easy modifiers, and compare the result to the target's Defense. For every Margin of Success you achieve over the Defense, you get a hit. Rolling on a chart with 1d6 per hit gives you the results, most of which are Suppression Points. If a unit suffers enough Suppression, they can be taken out of the fight (eventually, when they reach enough, they will simply disband). It had the flavor of Epic Armageddon's blast points to me - I immediately identified with it.

My gut reaction was that this was too simple, but then I studied the Firepower modifiers, and the more soldiers you have in the firing squad, the more bonus you get. I think it is an elegant solution to the "fistful of dice" syndrome, and I'm looking forward to putting it to play.

Activation alternates between players, with each squad getting one action they can perform.
Move lets you move your Move stat (which seems to average around 4 or 5") plus 2", but you cannot fire.
Fire lets you perform a Firing action, and gives a bonus to combat
Advance is a typical "Move and Fire" with no bonuses to either step
Assault is a close combat charge, but before you do so, the target unit AND all supporting enemy units within 6" of the target get to fire at you. Given the ease of which Suppression Points are given, this will likely end poorly for the attackers in all but the most carefully planned assault. No objections to it yet...

Army Building
That's the quick gist of the game. I needed to know, however, how many models this game wanted me to put onto the table (in fact, the FIRST thing I opened the book to find was the unit sizes!). About a year ago I purchased some of Khurasan's Federal models, and have been contemplating an OpFor for a few months - what would I need to get? The answer seems to be that each Squad has between 2 and 8 models in it. Most "standard" units are 8 men strong, with some specialized units (like snipers or LMG crews) are much smaller.

The game I had bought my models for was Gruntz, but I just didnt like the dicing mechanic - 2d6 per model got cumbersome, and while I can appreciate the Battletech-esque bell curve, it just didn't flow for me. I did, however, like how Squads were usually around 6 strong, and you could add 2 Specialists to beef up each unit. PMC does it differently. Here, if you want a group of soldiers to have Rifle Grenades, you would buy a squad of Grenadiers out of the Engineers list, taking a Tier II or Tier III slot; the same group of soldiers without Rifle Grenades would likely be a Tier III Regular Rifle Team out of the "Rifle Infantry" list. The difference? The Engineers are 6 strong, while the Riflemen are 8 strong.

Remember that you are only throwing 1d10 per unit as they fire, but 4 men in a group get a much smaller Firepower bonus than 8 men do. You also get to choose which models to remove as casualties, and a unit never really loses its abilities as it gets reduced in size (Morale, Firepower bonus, and Suppression are all a different story, however!).

The one knock I had heard of PMC ("Private Mercenary Company", btw) was that it really was a Human-only game, in a similar vein to Tomorrow's War. This game doesn't have a "Build Your Own" mechanic, which concerned me a bit, but what it DOES have is a reasonably large selection of unit entries for you to pick and choose from. It is a bit simplified, and needs some expanding in a serious way, but for now I think it will suffice.

(The one advantage that this has over "build your owns (BYO)" is that in a given force, you know what the base standard is. Anyone who has ever played Warhammer Fantasy or 40K knows what a human stat line looks like: all 3's, with Ld 7 and 1 wound. In a BYO, you can min-max to your heart's content, making Human-stat troops even cheaper by removing redundant stats, or jacking up one all-important stat at the expense of the others, creating a strangely asymmetric "elite" unit that has no real resemblance to what a "real" elite soldier would look like. This system bypasses that problem at the expense of flexibility).

The Army Building mechanic doesn't use points, per se, but rather Tiers, and I think the way it is implemented is actually pretty clever. You decide what Battle Tier you are going to play; this is a number between 1 and 5, and a chart tells you what you can and/or must take from each Tier of unit (as an aside, he uses "Tier" a lot, and it took me a few reads to fully get what he meant in each case, but I believe I have it now).

Units come in Tiers from 1 to 5 (same as above), with a Tier I unit being the lowest of the low (ie Penal or Irregular troops), Tier III being an "average" unit like Regular Rifle Team or a 6-man Light MG team, and Tier V troops are the best (2-man Sniper team, Commandos/Rangers, or even Advanced Combat Vehicle).

Speaking of vehicles, the designer made a comment in the rules that he wants his vehicles to play like PMC plays, and not be a "game within a game", and for the most part, he appears to have succeeded. You can take APCs and Main Battle Tanks, but in really reduced numbers, and doing so will eat away at the points you have available for other troops.

Each Battle Tier gives you a certain amount of Composition Points (in this example I'll use 18). The Tier then lists what units you may take, for example maybe you can take 0-4 of Tier I units, 0-3 of Tier II units, 3+ of Tier III units (being mandatory), etc. The Tier of the unit you take is subtracted from the Composition Points, so in the above example, you are spending a minimum of 9 points on 3 Tier III units, leaving 9 points for other Tiers. You could get a Tier V, and 2 Tier IIs, or maybe go with 2 more Tier III and 3 Tier I units...

I believe that two players who come to the game, each with a human-style merc force, will likely end up having similar armies if they just play a pick-up game. However, if you did this, you would lose the real flavor of the game: the Campaign. The author makes no bones about his campaign - this isnt a Flow Chart or set of Linked Scenarios. This is a straight up Mordheim-style campaign, where your units get Experience Points that they can use to develop Battle Honors (making each unit individual and lethal in the ways you want them to be). You can also add doctrines to your own Force, however, which allow you to bend some of the army construction rules (one gives you 2 extra Tier I units for free, while one reduces the number of required units, freeing up your points to spend on more exotic units).

As I said, the author needs to come up with more troop entries soon, but within this limitation of the game, the Battle Honors system lets you really individualize your force in an acceptable and satisfying way. There is no way to model:

Grav bikes or tanks*
Teleporting / Tunneling
Spells/Magic/Special technology
Aliens-style melee-only units

(*note, this is not entirely true, as different forms of propulsion are mentioned in the Optional rules, but this works for vehicles and not grav bikes, etc...)

This last bit concerns me a teeny bit, because I'm about to buy some of Khurasan's Space Demons, and also really wanted some of the Felid jetbikes...but Im pretty sure I can tweak the existing Alien entries to make faster, less shooty melee brutes and have it come out ok. Still, more is needed if this game wants to compete in the marketplace.

Common Sense
A few last things to mention. The writing is actually decent - I had no problem understanding the gist of things, and even though it was written by a non-native English speaker, it wasnt really that hard to comprehend. Reading outloud in a mock-Soviet Bad Guy accent actually got me to chuckle a few times (under "Alternate Activation" on p.22, one paragraph starts, "For remembrance, it is good idea..." - how can you NOT read that in a Soviet accent and keep a straight face?).

*Fire combat is measured closest model to closest model.
*If one of your models can reach base-to-base with the enemy in an assault, all of them can.
*When crossing a linear terrain piece, either all of your models must be able to cross it, or no one can.
*When your models are half in one terrain piece and half in another, they get the least beneficial result depending on the circumstance (so a half-open, half-wooded unit would get no cover versus incoming fire, but would suffer a movement penalty when moving out).

I'm really looking forward to putting this on the table. Like you, I have read enough rulebooks to find the niggling points pretty quickly as I go through them, and this one doesn't have many for me. I appreciated the streamlining I saw, and think it will work out, and with the campaign system, I can even imagine that I will get quite some play out of this one. I recommend you check it out. For those of us in the US, $32 isnt a massive amount of money for something to be shipped to you.

Lastly, I am going to walk myself (and you, if you're still here) through a quick firefight and see how it goes. Oh, and I don't tend to spend time creating Cheat Sheets for a game unless I think I'm going to play it, and last night I sunk about 2 hours into making mine. I am still seeking permission to post it up to Board Game Geek however, since they seem to have changed their posting requirements...

Fire Combat
You just moved a unit of 8 riflemen into some woods that are 20" across an open field from my LMG team that is in a courtyard. It is now my activation and I choose the Fire action with my machine guns.

I measure the range from closest to closest, and it is indeed 20". My team has a range of 24" so I am in LOS and range. I roll my d10, adding 5 for my Firepower Stat, +2 for 6 soldiers firing, +1 for the Fire action, for a total of 1d10+8.

The Regular Rifle Team has a Defense of 10. Being in Woods gives them a +2 Defense bonus, so my roll needs to exceed 12 to be effective.

I roll a 5, getting a total of 13. I exceed the Defense by 1, so roll 1d6 on the chart. I get a 3, resulting in the target unit receiving one Suppression Point (SP). Their Morale stat of 5 allows them to act with no penalties until their Suppression Points exceed their Morale - so they can take 4 more with no problems. At the beginning of the next turn, they will have an opportunity to clear those SP automatically. I will need to pour more firepower into that same unit this turn if I want to cause any lasting harm.

Note that had my 1d6 for the hit resulted in a 6, I would have killed a man, and the target unit would have received 2 SP's. Their Morale would be reduced by the 1 casualty, meaning that only 3 more SP would be needed to Suppress the unit.

Unit Building
I will also build a quick Priority level 1, Battle Tier III force:

Tier I

Tier II
Field Command 3rd Grade - 2 man Commander unit
6-man Grenadiers team with rifle grenades

Tier III
8-man Regular Rifle Team
8-man Regular Rifle Team
3-man HMG section
Light Support Vehicle (like a SPG on light tank chassis)

Tier IV
4-man Sharpshooter team

Tier V

I have NO IDEA if this is an effective force or not. I do know that a Priority 1, Battle Tier III battle is what the author recommends newcomers start with. If I increased this to a Priority 2 game, I could double the entries in my army and keep the game on a 4'x4' table. My collection could easily accommodate this, but that would start to be its limit. The force above has 7 activations, which I think isnt too bad, and has Command, decent anti-infantry and anti-vehicle stopping power.

My wife just walked by and asked what I was typing so furiously about.
"My new game", I told her. "I'm putting a review of it up on my blog."
"Did you like it?" she asked.
"Sure did. I'm pretty happy with what I've read."
"Wait," she asked. "You read the whole thing already? Didn't you just get it yesterday?"
"Yup," I assured her. "I skipped the fluff and went straight to the rules section, but yea, I've read it all already."

She just looked at me. "I do that too", she said after a moment. "Skip the fluff, go straight to the rules..." She gave me a cute smile and moved on.

It's true. The sexes will never really understand each other...which is perhaps why we love them so much!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mayhem 10mm Fantasy Battle Report

For anyone who knows me or has read my Blog, they know I love two things:
1. Build-Your-Own units and army lists, and
2. Fantasy

...errr..."But this is a Sci-Fi Blog!", you say, and yes, you'd be correct. However, my first foray into the world of miniature wargaming was Warhammer Fantasy Battles, 6th Ed, back in 2002-2003, and I had some epic, memorable battles. I was enthralled...but as WFB has gotten stranger and stranger and more, well, GW-ized, I left it for other games and other scales (I'm selling my Orcs and Goblins, if you're interested!).

6mm Sci-Fi has captured my heart of late, mostly because I wasn't a huge fan of the Warmaster Fantasy ruleset and the Sci-Fi versions of it (Future War Commander). Lately I've been willing to give FWC a shot, but for this report, let's say that I got sidetracked by Brent Spivey's fantastic new offering called Mayhem.

If you haven't read the Harrison's Ford AAR yet, I recommend you doing so. It is well told, explains the ideas and mechanics behind Mayhem, and has some better pictures than I am about to show you. I managed to borrow some Warmaster units from my friend Thomas Foss (please visit his blog at http://skullandcrown.blogspot.com/ for amazing pictures of the models I used today, as well as a LOT of Warmaster pics!), put together some armies for the Humans and Orcs, and had a go of it. Sadly, my Opponent-to-Be bailed on me, but as this has happened in the past, I was ready for the solo effort.

To do some explaining of my own, the Movement and Combat Quality stats are done by dice types. The mechanic knows as the Versus mechanic allows you to always choose whether to take the Default value (which is one-half the dice size, so a 3 on a d6) OR take a Danger roll, rolling the dice and taking the results. I love it.  As for CQ, the smaller the die type, the better, because in combat, you want to roll lower than your opponent in an opposed check, with a Natural 1 being an auto-kill most of the time.

At first I feared that, even with this neat Versus mechanic, it was going to be little more than a gimmick for what could turn out to be yet another overly-simplistic game engine. I've seen 2-stat units before, and they don't tend to impress me. Well, Mayhem gets it right. Most Troop Types get traits unique to themselves, and Weapons which can be added to these units act as Counters versus different types (called Designations). A Soft Counter improves your Die Type by one (so a unit with CQ d12 would be a d10 in that particular combat), and a Hard Counter improves the Die by two. You also get extra dice to roll in the combat based on different circumstances, which I will point out during the Battle Report. In short, this leads to an awful lot of variety in combat, and I feel it works really, really well.

The other cool mechanic is the Overdrive, which allows a unit to keep going and going as needed, but each time you activate the same unit in a turn, the cost in Command Points to do so increases. This allows you to spread your points around to the whole army, or really zoom in and focus on one or two units as needed. You can even bounce around between units, ie move one unit back to open LOS for some archers, shoot with those archers, then move the original unit back in place...

Mayhem uses Crowns as the currency for Points, and 150 Crowns is a good starting value to learn with.

*Really quick, let me apologize for the pictures. I even went as far as getting the tripod out to get ready for this report, but using the Macro setting and being back a few feet didn't work as magically as I had hoped :(

Humans: 150 crowns

Spearmen: Mov d6, CQ d10, Infantry, Spear, Ranked Fighting [8 crowns]
Heavy Foot: Mov d6, CQ d10, Infantry, Heavy Armor, Swords, Shields [9c]
Crossbows: Mov d6, CQ d12, Infantry, Crossbows [11c]
Heavy Cavalry: Mov d10, CQ d10, Cavalry, Heavy Armor, Lance, Steadfast [16c]
Griffon Rider: Mov d10, CQ d8, Cavalry, Flyer, Blunt weapon, Shield, Heavy Armor, Terror [25c]* (originally I had built the Griffon with Beat Back, but learned later that this wasn't legal...)
Fanatics: Mov d6, CQ d10, Infantry, Great Weapons, Berserker, Fearless, Heavy Armor

I figured the Humans were orderly, and reasonably well trained, but had their CQ lower than the Orcs because I like to envision that Orcs are just nastier and stronger...

4) Army Leadership: d10 [Leadership Rolls: 4d10]
24) 3x Spearmen
32) 3x Heavy Foot, 1 Standard, 2x Musician, 1 Elite unit (upgraded to CQ d8 for free)
11) 1x Crossbows
20) 1x Heavy Cavalry, 1 Standard, 1 Musician
16) General, using Heavy Cavalry profile
27) 1x Griffon Rider (with its illegal 2-point Push Back ability factored in)
16) 1x Fanatic

Orcs: 150 crowns

Orc General: Mov d10, CQ d8, Cavalry, Great Weapon, Heavy Armor [16c]
Orc Swords: Mov d6, CQ d10, Infantry, Sword, Shield [6c]
Orc Spears: Mov d6, CQ d8, Infantry, Spear, Shield [8c]
Wolf Skirmisher: Mov d10, CQ d12, Cavalry, Short Bow (downgraded to d10/d20 because of their Cavalry designation) [16c]
Wolf-Riding Hero: Mov d10, CQ d10, Cavalry, Sword, Shield, Hero [18c]
Giant: stats in book [35c]

4) Army Leadership: d10 [Leadership Rolls: 5d10]
16) 1x Orc General
31) 4x Orc Swords, 1 Elite, 1 Banner, 4 Musicians
11) 1x Orc Spears, 1 Standard
35) 2x Wolf Skirmishers, 1 Standard (who originally had a musician.../sigh....if only...)
18) 1x Wolf Hero
35) 1x Giant

I went for more mobile ranged attack, hoping to get some good flank harassment from the bows on the Wolf Riders. Cheap troops seem to do just fine in this game. We'll see.

The battle would take place on a 3'x3' Swamp board. I set up a church that the Humans were to defend, but really, it was just to be a slugfest. Had I a human opponent, it would have been a slaughter to the man, but with just myself to blame, I used the Default game-ending scenario of the first General to die loses (Duh...that makes sense, right?).

Deployment Zones: 9" (the game calls for 1/4 of the board's width to be Deployments on either side). The Orcs deployed first:

 The left has a unit of 2 Swords next to the Spears (the unit that has the General behind them). The other 2 units of Swords are to their right [quickly: each turn you roll for Command Points to order your troops with. The game has a formation called the Advance that allows 1CP to move up to 3 "squared-up" units at once, but with no maneuvering or turning allowed...thus these formations]

The Giant towers by his lonesome in the center, with the two units of Skirmishers and the Wolf Hero on the far right. Units must be in "range" of a Hero when receiving orders, or their actions cost more. This command range is dependent on the Designation of the closest Hero (orders do not come from any specific hero like they do in Warmaster, but rather, you just have to be "in range" of a Hero). I knew those Wolfies would be out and about, spreading their mischief far and wide, which is why I paid extra for the Hero to accompany them.

Next, the Humans:

The Human Left Flank has the Crossbows on a small rise (hoping to gain the extra die for their to-hit rolls). The 3 Spears are ready for an Advance, and the Fanatics are causing ferocious noises just behind them. The Heavy Horse with the General occupy the center, with the 3 Heavy Foot clustered to the Right Flank. Just off behind the massive tree is the Griffon Rider, being as sneaky as he could be.

Turn 1: Orcs
The Orcs roll 5d10 for Command Points and get 10 (roll +1 die per Elite unit, Standard, and extra Hero after the General, taking the highest value).

The Block of Spears and Swords advanced their Default twice [3CP for 2 Actions].
The 2 units of Wolf Skirmishers Advance twice also, moving 10" [3CP]
The Giant in the center decides to Move twice, rolling his Danger rolls each time, and nets 13" of movement for his 3CP. He rushes the church and hollers threats and insults at the units he knows to be lurking behind the woods.
The Block of 2 Swords Advance once, and the General and Wolf Hero each get their free Move because neither had Activated during the turn.

Turn 1: Humans
The Humans get 8 CP from their 4d10.

The Spears Advance twice for 6" [3CP], and the Heavy Foot Advance once for 3" [1CP].
The Knights, General in tow (he has actually "joined" the unit here), sense action as the Wolf Skirmishers move down the Human's left flank. A burst of speed (7") leaves the Knights clammoring for more...

...but the next Danger roll failed to deliver, and the Knights skitter forward a mere 2". The Wolves are safe, for now.

The Fanatics also roll poorly, moving just 2" in support of their General.

Turn 2: Orcs [9CP]
The Wolf Skirmishers race to gain the flank of the Heavy Horse, but only get a 5" on their Danger roll. They decide to push on [3CP], this time rolling 8", which allows them to hit the Crossbow unit.

Since this was the angle of impact:

...I decided to let them wrap to the flank. Impact hits allow units that have them (notably Cavalry and Chariots) to Initiate combat without spending the CP required by all other units. Initiating the Melee (which Impacts count as) also give 1 extra die in the attack, and Impacts are Soft Counters vs Infantry, Cavalry and Beasts, so the normal CQd12 is improved to d10's. 2d10 vs 1d12 saw the Crossbowmen steel themselves and fend off the Wolf attacks. The Skirmishers suffer a Disordered token, and if they get beat once more with that token on, will be eliminated.

The other unit of Skirmishers roll an 8" for their move, running past the Heavy Cavalry and turning to their left (effectively cutting off the cavalry from the Crossbows). They then loose with Short Bows at the Cavalry, using the Volley ability of their bows to send the Knights packing. However, 3d20 vs 1d10 resulted in a tie (remember, lower is better), and the Horse stayed put and the Wolves looked worried.

The last 3CP allow each of the 3 foot units near the center to reposition themselves, with the General close behind.

Turn 2: Humans [7CP]
2 of the 3 clustered Heavy Foot advance on the Human Right for 1CP, leaving the third behind as reinforcements and counter-charges (in this game, any of your units that are forced to flee will be destroyed if they touch another unit or terrain, so keeping space seems to be vital).

3CP allow the 3 central Spears units to reposition (1 balked a bit, rolling 1" on his Danger roll).

Needing 4.25" to reach the Wolf Skirmishers who were harrasing the Knights with Volley Fire, the Fanatics gamble and take their Danger Roll. They get a 6" on their d6, and hit the Wolves in the flank. Using Overdrive to engage, they didnt have the last CP needed to make use of their Great Weapons, but rolling 3d10 (+1 for Initiating, +1 for Flank) vs 1d12, the Fanatics got a Natural 1, slaughtering the Orcs to a man!

This is the End of Turn 2:


My wife caught me in the act of, errr, playing with myself?!

Turn 3: Orcs [10CP]
The Wolf Skirmishers still engaged with the Crossbows are surprised to be still alive, especially given their vantage point and the carnage their brothers nearby just suffered. Instead of Rallying, they decide to Fight On (costing them extra CP to Initiate the battle, and risking losing and death). 3d12 vs 1d12 gives a victory to the Orcs, and now both units have a Disordered token. Being isolated and so deep behind the lines, they prepare to say their last.

The central Orc Spears tries charging a Human Spear unit, but a 2" leaves it a bit short. The Elite Swords next to them show them how it is done, however, and hit the front of the other Spear:

Rolling 2d8 vs 1d10/1d12 (the Ranked Fighting ability of the Human Spears let them roll an extra die in the combat, albeit at one step worse than normal) and the Orcs scored a Natural 1, wiping the Human Spears unit out.

Giants have a Ranged attack to represent their massive reach with their club. It is a d8 for range (meaning up to 8" reach, which is WAY to long in my opinion) and d6 for damage, which is pretty beefy. The Giant had a Heavy Foot within Default range (4") so no roll to hit was needed, and the damage roll netted a Disordered token for the Humans.

An Orc Sword moved up alongside the Giant, and another advances from the back line. The Wolf Hero flees for free, moving 4" (and was really hoping for more; he is just outside the frame to the right in this following Turn End pic).

Turn 3: Humans [4CP on 4d10!]
The Griffon Rider decides that now would be a good time to launch an attack. With his Blunt weapon, which negates Heavy Armor, he was hoping to hit an already-Disordered unit in the flank and kill it, but a) no Orcs had Heavy Armor, and b) no Orcs were getting beaten in the center! He Overdrives to hit the left flank of the previously-victorious Elite Orc Sword unit. With a CQd8, initiating melee and hitting the flank, plus Soft Counter from the Impact, the Griffon rolls 3d6 vs 1d8 and wins by 3. With the Drive Back ability from his Cavalry designator, this means the beaten Orc unit must move backwards 3"...but because this made them touch their Orc Spears unit nearby, they were eliminated instead.

The last CP is spent on the Heavy Cavalry, as they gallop after the fleeing Wolf-Rider Hero. They move 9". [note: We've all heard the derogatory term "HeroHammer", which refers to Warhammer and its ilk, where a Hero can rule the battlefield with his martial prowess. Mayhem gets around this a bit by only letting Heroes be attacked by other Heroes, unless they have joined a unit, in which case the attacker can choose which profile (the unit or the hero) fights back. This is why my Cavalry is chasing the Orc Hero, because with the General attached, they want to catch and kill the Orc]

Run, Orc Hero, Run!

Turn 4: Orcs [rolling 4d10, having lost the Elite unit, manage 10CP]
The Orc Swords unit next to the Giant, who was merrily swinging his club at puny humans, make an unmodified Danger roll in their attempt to close with the Terror-inspiring Griffon (they needed a Danger roll regardless, as the Griffon was more than 3" away...so it was a win/win). Getting 5", they closed with the right flank of the beast and held their shields up for protection....

The Orc Spears to the front of the Griffon are only 2" away from it. They had a choice: spend 2 extra CP to move their default movement of 3", or gamble with the Danger roll...and since they needed a 2+, why not? They rolled a 1. Of course they did. Using Overdrive, they reach the Griffon, and then spend 5 more (for a total of 8) to initiate melee (3 for third action, +2 because of Terror). With a CQd8, Spears being a Hard Counter vs Cavalry, and 1 additional unit in the flank of the Griffon, the Orcs roll 3d4 vs 1d8. All 4 dice come up 2's...which gets the Griffon excited for a moment. This tie is called a Deadlock, and some Traits only trigger on Deadlocks...and Push Back is one of those...until I read it in the book and saw that it was an Infantry- and Behemoth-only trait. Drats!

The last CP is spent on the Giant, who swings at the Heavy Foot again. The damage dice yields a 1, auto-killing the Humans (which is a bummer: Heavy Armor allows units to suffer 2 Disordered tokens before being killed, instead of just 1...but a crit is a crit is a dead Heavy Foot unit!).

The Wolf Hero flees his free 6". Those Humans just won't give up! Here are two angles of the end of Turn 4: Orcs:

Turn 4: Humans:
The Skirmishers realize that the Orcs still have a blasted Skirmisher unit tied up with the Crossbows (note: "Stuck in", a term from WFB, doesn't apply to Mayhem; you can actively remove a unit from melee. It costs a pretty Command Point, but it can be done!). 1 CP to turn and move into them, 2 to initiate combat, +1 to use the Great Weapons has the Fanatics rolling 4d6 vs 1d12 (flank, 2nd unit, initiating melee, plus Great Weapon's Heavy Counter when Initiating). The Humans win by 7 (irrelevant, but a fun stat nonetheless) and because of the existing Disordered token on the Orcs (and no Heavy Armor), this finishes them off.

"Look, ma, no Wolves!"

The General and his Heavy Horse use two Default moves to catch up to the fleeing Orc Hero. The 10" is plenty of distance to engage, and the General rides to the front of his unit, using their free Impact hits to avoid having to pay more to begin the melee. The Hero has no facing, so the General don't gain an extra die or more for hitting in the flank/rear, and roll 2d6 vs 1d10 (the Lance is a Heavy Counter on Impacts vs everyone!). Despite the good odds, the Orc puts on a brave show and wins the battle by 1! The General and his unit would then liked to have Rallied, removing the marker, but alas, they were 1CP short of being able to do so...which was actually a frequent occurrence during the game ("...if only I had just one more CP!).

The last two CP were spent over by the embattled Griffon. The nearest Human Spears unit moves up in support, pinning the Orc Spears in the right flank. This will lend an extra die to the Griffon in the upcoming grand melee.

The Griffon uses the last CP to melee the Orc Spears. As I started counting up dice, I gave both units +1 die for having a supporting unit beside them. The Griffon's 3d8 vs 2d4 (Spears HURT!) looked daunting, but throwing common sense and good tactics out the window, the Griffon swung anyway. The Orcs rolled 2 1's on their d4's, and the Griffon and his noble rider were deader than dead. Very dead. I think this poof was a Griffon feather:

Turn 5: Orcs [rolling 3d10, losing the banner from the Skirmishers = 2CP!]
With all tactical options limited, and the Wolf-riding Orc Hero all but trapped, he calls out the General and leaped to the attack. 3d10 (initiating, enemy is Disordered) vs 1d10, the mighty Orc Hero dodges a thrust from the ironclad General and sinks his blade deep into the chest of the Human warrior! A Natural 1 killed the General...I fully expected a 2nd Disordered token on the Heavy Armor-wearing unit, but the gamble paid off.

With that, the game was over, and the Orcs kept the field. The fallen General is a bit blurry...

Thoughts and Wrap-up:
So, what did I think? I really, really enjoyed this game. I felt satisfaction as I was counting and changing the different die types, and maneuvering wasn't too bad.

I had a few minor gripes:

Maneuvering multiple units isnt smooth. I suppose this is natural, but both the Orcs and Humans tried bringing their blocks of 3 troops to bear and things broke apart.

I really, REALLY wish there was a way to add dice to a Danger roll, whether it be a CP cost, a Trait, or something...gambling on just 1 die, when the game rewards multiple dice in so many other situations, just felt a little off. In fact, in Difficult Terrain, the game already has the "Roll a bunch of dice and keep the lowest", so it shouldn't be a stretch to make the opposite true as well.

As mentioned, the Giant's d8 "Ranged attack" is just too long. I can see a d6, but d4 might even be better. A minor thing, though.

The Command Points system worked pretty well. It isn't my favorite concept because, like Warmaster or FWC, it left certain parts of my battlefield untouched while other parts raged out of control (those Wolf Skirmishers lasted forever, untouched, while that one epic brawl with the Griffon took 8 CP!). Still, I like it better than Warmaster because you KNOW what you're going to get at the beginning of the turn, as opposed to just suddenly having your turn be done or whatever, and this way is is partially Resource Management. All in all, it is something I can live with.

My biggest issue, however, is similar to what I have with other points-build systems, and that is this: in a game where Die Type is so important, making a 1-point difference between Combat Quality dice is just too little. Consider this:

Unit #1: Mov d8, CQd12 unit is 5 points
Unit #2: Mov d6, CQd10 is also 5 points.

Add a Spear to Unit #1 and he costs 6 points. Now he has a Hard Counter vs Cavalry...rolling d8's.
Increase Unit #2's CQ down to d8, also for 1 point, and now he is also 6 points and effectively has a Hard Counter vs EVERYTHING, all the time.

I think CQ dice should increase cost at LEAST by 2 per die type...making the more combat effective units cost that much more. Anyway, I really wrestled with this while I was building the two lists (I built twice as many units as I used, just to be complete, and it was fun too!), but it could be just me.

Everything else felt really fun, though!

I really liked the way Elite units are assigned (each army gets 1 for free), because it requires taking 3 of one unit type in order to upgrade one, and since it only increases the CQ by 1 step, its not a huge deal (well, and it adds 1 die to the CP pool).

I will play this. I will play this with as many people as I can grab to play it with, and for as long as I refuse to give Thomas his models back! I am now hunting for money that will allow me to buy my own Orcs/Goblin army, as well as a Wood Elf army (which I figure will give me a massive range of "good monsters" I can build and use)...and I am really happy about it. I recommend this game highly. I have found the author to be responsive on both Tactical Command and The Miniatures Page. And keep in mind, Brent Spivey kept a lot of things out of this inexpensive ruleset for a reason - he wants players to build upon the basics. I, for one, cannot wait to see what else he is coming out with!

Wanna buy a 28mm WFB Orc Army? :)