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.

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? :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Perfect Game.

I posted my last blog about the state of 6mm rulesets on a number of forums. Most notably, it got a massive response on The Miniatures Page and on Tactical Command. I then took it a step further and got into a long discussion with a friend, a pillar in the 6mm community, who has designed his own rulesets many, many time, and I knew I was in trouble when he defined Strike Legion as "Too Simple."

Oh boy. I am on this quest for the Perfect Game, but does it exist? Can it exist? I am beginning to think not. Perfect for whom? Perfect for what? My "perfect" will clearly be someone else's nightmare, so why bother?

It has been said that a perfect night of gaming includes great friends, good food, and drinks...and I agree. I don't go down to the FLGS for pickup games, because if I dont know you, or know your reputation, I am loathe to give you a few hours of my time that could, conceivably, be highjacked by your antics (no offense - this is hypothetical, you see). You might not even be that bad...but beating you (or losing to you) won't have that thrill, because I dont _know_ you.

But what if the Perfect Evening could include all this fellowship, but also include a Perfect Game as well? Not possible? I wonder.

My needs are different than yours. My desires and hopes are likely light years from yours...so how do we reconcile this?

I am beginning to think we can't. I think I am back to the drawing board, and I must design my own.\

OK. I can do this! I've edited and play tested and helped come with solutions for quite a few games, and writing is my forte...but...but...there is more to a game than writing. Play any game by Spartan Games and you'll see: games need to be playtested!

Simply put, I could quite easily put down on paper my favorite mechanics from this game and that game, combine, tweak and edit a bit, and come up with a formula that might LOOK like a few games on the market, but be different than all of them...but I dont have time or opponents to play a published set of rules, let alone write and develop my own.

It could be a labor of love, spanning years and decades and a million miniature manufacturers...but do I want this to be me for the next 10 angry years of my life, conning friends to play my frankenstein and give me feedback on it, only to tweak some more?

Or do I think, Fuck It, and play your game and like it?

Dont drink and blog, btw. You keep having to hit the backspace to correct your stupid typos... :)