Laserburn: Scenarios & Deployment rules

I’ve written up two scenarios Byakhee Rich & I will play tomorrow. I’ll trawl the records and brain cell to add some more as there seem to be very few Laserburn scenarios written up.

One thing that struck me when writing them up and reading the Laserburn rule book was the complete absence of deployment rules. Its totally up to the umpire to decide when designing the scenario – but what happens when there is no umpire ? Who chooses sides ? Who sets up first ? In what order ? How far in ? etc. Now having played different rules sets and different scenarios there are any number of options.

Some ideas for deployment rules:

  • Dice to choose side of table
  • Dice to choose deployment zone(s)
  • Play out the scouting rules as per Chain of Command
  • Hidden movement
  • Scouts & Vanguard movement (WHFB)
  • Place units alternately
  • Place all units in one go
  • Place units in an Initiative determined order (high first or low first)

It got me thinking as to how these rules would affect the way scenarios are run and how the balance of gamesmanship would change. If one side places all its units first, that could give the other side an unfair advantage (advanced intel). This is something that hasn’t come up in AVBCW yet where we simply all pile in all at the same time. Is this better or worse ? On what terms ? In terms of the chaos of war ? In terms of fairness ? Or does it disrespect advanced intel and hence undermine military prowess ? How far do you go when designing a scenario to favour one side or the other ?

I’ve longed to write up some inter war rules sets, and indeed to expand the Laserburn rules so if you have any ideas, chuck them in to the comments. I want to break out of the IGUGO rules and fixed deployment zones and get a really fluid battle going.

Thanks !

Rules: Chain of Command

So JP and I tried out yet another skirmish rules set: Chain of Command. JP had bought this recently for his b’day and wanted to try it out. I failed in an assignment to pop round and pick it up, so other than a two page concoction from JP, and a barely understood viewing of a you tube video of the two fat lardies explaining it (the words were all English but made little sense to me) I turned up to engage in battle.

The hard copy is a decent sized glossy affair as is rapidly becoming standard for most mainstream genre rule sets. Sadly AVBCW being very much niche can’t afford to pay for the high production values and extra taxes that come with this level of publication (I’ve asked about this before and had it explained, so no disrespect to niche publishers !).

Ok, so its a glossy book, but how do the rules play ?

We only did the Patrol scenario (the basic engagement encounter), but it turned out to be a quite innovative affair.

After working our your Forces, their skill level, and Force Morale, you work out where you start on your side of the board, and then start deploying patrol markers up to 12 inches away from each other in a chain. You can’t get within 12 inches of the enemy, and if you do you are “locked down” so this represents patrols randomly encountering each other. So there is no hard and fast “deploy 12 inches from the board edge” type rules ! This can radically alter the tactical set up of the board and deployment.

The force with the higher morale goes first and rolls a number of dice dependent upon their morale – between 4 and 6. This is for a Phase. This can determine which/how many units may be “activated”, whether you get to go on another phase, whether you accumulate Command points and so on. I won’t re-write the rules here ! In our games, JP had a knack for going two phases one after the other which did leave me standing idle and it is a bit more of an IGoUGo (heavily modified !) system. By accummulating Command points you can end the Turn if you want, which removes lots of makers and effects such as smoke. However, in the two games we played, we only ended one turn, so I anticipate players reducing the number of Command points needed to end a Turn.

Different leaders have different numbers of Initiative points, so having leaders in the right place and getting the right dice rolls is important.

We also both found that we would have to radically alter our tactics for this rules system. Weapons ranges in this game are LONG. Pretty much Line Of Sight (LOS). So unlike other rules sets, getting up close and personal is a suicidal act with lots of casualties, huge amounts of Shock, and a good way to rout. Shock represents troops going to ground and generally being demoralised. Actual deaths are low, but a hail of bullets is just as effective in driving off the enemy – again a built in aim for the rules. Its similar to duckback rules, and also influences being Pinned. Firepower is awesome, with LMGs on 6 dice to hit, HMGs on 10 dice to hit. As in real life getting caught in the open by an HMG leads to a short life expectancy.

With a “To Hit” roll, followed by a “To wound” roll it seems old school, but what they’ve done is to modify the “To Hit” rolls by using both firers’ skill level and the targets’ skill, and also on the “To Wound” roll making it much better IMHO. So Regular troops utilise cover more effectively than Greens.

Key Question: Did we have Fun ?

Yes ! The deployment/Patrol phase I found very innovative. The Activation rolls innovative – even if I think I got the sticky end of the stick. As commented I’d reduce the number of Command points needed to end the Turn.

Upsides:

  • Comprehensive text and examples
  • The Authors’ intentions are plainly spelt out and understood
  • Innovative command and control system
  • Easy to understand, JP & I picked it up in the first game and within an hour were fairly confident we know the rules
  • Seems flexible to cope with varied “army lists”
  • It has an Index !

Downsides:

  • There are only a few “army lists” currently covered – JP made a few up for AVBCW
  • Lots of counters and trivia on the table…shock, jump off points etc…
  • A 6×4′ table really is a must given the long ranges of weapons so this will limit people unless they use smaller scale figures
  • Turns are open ended, and seem quite long
  • A key rule – Force Morale – is not explained very well IMHO. Its an excellent mechanism but could do with a revised section on it as the overall mechanism is scattered throughout the rule book.

Looks like I’m buying yet another rulest – the copy in the pictures is borrowed from JP.

Obviously designed for WW2, this can easily be adapted for AVBCW, and probably also RCW where morale was very important.

Generic markers

Byakhee JP and I are having a game of AVBCW on Saturday using Chain of Command at his place due to the chaos in Carcosa. I asked what I needed to bring and he commented:

micro dice or suitable small tokens

This is not the first game system that uses markers to indicate “shock”, “disorder” or similar morale effects.

So whilst buying the most expensive light bulbs known to man, I popped into Hobbycraft and headed for their jewellry section.

These items seem small enough to be non-intrusive on the table top, but large enough to handle. I got about 50 of the black and the red for £7 which should be ample for most games.

I got the two colours in case there were two types of status that we needed to cover, and or to cope with two players if they were to be used for any other purposes say such as action or order markers.

We’ll see how they go on Saturday. 🙂

WHFB: Dark Elves new Army Book

The latest Dark Elves book lands:

£30, so not to be sneezed at, I think it needs a bit more editting but in and of itself is a nice book with good production values. Its the fourth Dark Elf Army book now:

Yup, got the lot.

Key differences are, in no particular order:

No Eternal Hatred for the Dark Elves by default. Only Black Guard and a few others and its even worse than it was before, like every round of close combat…

Hurrah I hear all my opponents cry….

Oh dear, but we do get Always Strike First like other Elves, and then we have Murderous Prowess, which means we get to re-roll all To Wound rolls of 1 when making close combat rolls. Every round. Hmm, now where were those Executioners with Killing Blow ?

Assassins are now proper characters (heroes) again…well whoopy do pass the ammunition and the rubber swords.

Interestingly, the mounts of the heroes/Lords now confer on their riders their special rules such as Fast Cavalry, so that unit of Dark Riders I’d planned with a Sorceress I’d laboriously converted is now possible. The WHFB Errata confirm this.

Sorceresses can use any of the eight lores of magic which is interesting so yes light and so on are now within our remit. Oh and Dark Magic is interesting especially with that special quirk when we roll any doubles…

Warriors are more expensive, no surprise there. But at least we now get the simple bloke with sword and shield option ! Doomfire Warlocks are a new option as Fast Cavalry, and Shades get to have command squads which will be interesting. COK are more expensive, meh. Black Guard, owwww…..Executioners as commented previously are going to be lethal….

Sisters of Slaughter, the ref is out on them so far, could be the nightmare of the enemy, or an easily killed unit. Should be good against massed ranks (which they ignore in combat resolution). CoB are different better and worse so not nerfed. I am not convinced by the model. A new unit – Bloodwrack and their Shrines, the fluff as presented is wafer thin but having all the old stuff there is abundant evidence of a Gorgon in the back story of the Dark Elves.

Now that’s enough, as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for the rest of the Byakhees later on this month…suffice to say the new book will disrupt their ideas of what my army is like which is something a lot of us had concluded was a bit too predictable….

Cats and designing scenarios

As most wargamers and games designers know von Moltke wrote:

No plan survives contact with the enemy.

He also did a lot of kriegspiel:

Moltke originated the use of the colors blue for friendly forces and red for hostile forces in strategy or wargaming, hence the term “blue on blue fire” in friendly fire situations.

Obviously this is a simple scenario – open the back door to allow fresh cool air into the house. However the enemy (BlackJack) has taken advantage of this and brought in a new “friend”…which is still mobile and able to get under the tumble drier/washing machine/fridge-freezer.

This scenario illustrates why I do not install a cat flap in the door as it would allow 24×7 access to this sort of outcome.

When designing wargames/role playing scenarios, treat the players as cats: Impossible to herd; and liable to act as the enemy of your intentions. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

This is another disturbing outcome of opening a window or door: A Cat; A Rodent; and a tangle of wires supporting my iMac, Printer, Hub, Router, telephone, external hard drive and camera.

I’ll be rethinking this nest of wires over the w/e with a view to KISS. And its also a concept to be applied to the forthcoming Bridge Over the River Wye. With 10+ wargamers to manage along with external catering and the general nauseau of setting the game up and keeping things running, KISS is something I can recommend to many GMs ! We’re toying with the idea of some force selected rules and I’m keen to add this sort of individuality, but not at the risk of causing chaos and confusion.

Time will tell if JP and I get it right… :-O

Brink of Battle

Brink of Battle is a skirmish wargame ruleset that Byakhee Jon bought and I’d been aware of. Due to offspring Jon is often only able to make short games sessions and I’m also up for skirmish gaming anyway. So we’ve now used these rules for a few games and are getting the hang of them.

More details here

The rules use d10s throughout.

The players dice off each turn to see who has the initiative ‘The Edge’, however the loser gets ‘The Break’ which means after the fist Action they can seize the initiative.

After generating Action tokens, the player with The Edge gets to move a single figure first and does all their actions (move, shoot, combat etc) all in one. Activation of models then alternates between the players unless The Break is used. So it keeps both players actively involved throughout the game.

Dice rolls are ‘contested’. So when I try and shoot an enemy, they also get to roll dice to dodge the bullet. Obviously the ‘attacking’ player gets benefits ! Again this keeps both players actively involved in the game, which is a very nice thing, as some games do mean a player stands down for long periods…The downside of these contested rolls, is you do need either a very good memory, or a pice of paper and pen to hand at all times.

As this is a skirmish game, each individual model has its own stat line. Every model is rated on C3: Combat; Command; and Constitution. Then they have what weapons and gear they have. All of these are bought using ‘Supply Points’. For 500 SP, you get about 5-10 models depending on their rating, and their scaled to go up to 1000 SP – so maybe 20 rubbish troops, 15 average and 10 elite troops. You wouldn’t want to go beyond that due to book keeping.

On top of this, you can buy ‘Traits’, basically skills like being a Sniper (better at shooting), or for my MHC Rangers (ignoring movement penalties through difficult terrain). This further customises your forces. As JP commented, this helped strengthen the characteristics and background of the forces. In this case we were using the rules for AVBCW, but it could easily be used for RCW/BoB.

The ranges of the weaponry are more realistic, using a 4×4 board pretty much all of the area would be within range of a rifle, and half within a realistic chance of success of hitting a barn door. This is both a good and a bad thing. We also had a problem with the rules on long range shooting which was one of the few instances when the rules weren’t clear.

We’ve been playing these rules at the 500 SP level so far. This means the generation of Action points has been a moot point. Action points are based on a d10 plus the commander’s level, so we’ve alway had surplus Action Points. In larger games we can envisage cases where you have more characters than Action points and their distribution becomes more important. (No Action point = no acton !)

Learning from our first game last year the three games we played yesterday were very brutal, and very short: 1.5 hours; 1 hour; 1 hour. As quick, if not quicker than other skirmish games such as Laserburn, Mordheim or Necromunda.

This is a good and innovative set of rules, that are very definitely different to Warhammer and its derivatives, and keep both players engaged.

Rivet Counting ! And why you should not use too many vehicles

Ok, as you can see my transport pool is expanding, something others have noticed before:

Mort: Giles, you have too many tanks !

Whilst he was looking at my AVBCW collection of Vickers Medium tanks at a game in Tring. I wasn’t fielding them all they were just in the box

Its an oft repeated joke that more model King Tigers are used in WW2 games than were built during WW2. The same goes for AVBCW and RCW. Especially in 28mm large skirmish games. No mater they are comparatively pathetic, they can dominate a game too easily as in both periods anti-tank weapons were equally rare (and pathetic).

But we all like eye candy.

A German Erhart captured by the Russians – by the use of the Triangle and circle markings, it was being used by the Don Cossacks. This one was also upgunned with a 37mm cannon.

Here’s a really useful site that lists how many of each type of Armoured Car was built during WW1 and into 1920.

If you click through the links half way down the page, you get to some real obscure photographs I’ve not seen before and are very interesting. A very useful resource site. It correlates well with the the books I have on A/Cs in the RCW.

So in wargaming terms:

  • None of the armies of RCW/BoB standardised their vehicles, so you can mix and match and still adhere to historical accuracy.
  • The numbers of vehicles were tiny.
  • So limit the number of vehicles on the game board…for the size of games we play no more than one armoured car per player, unless you modify the scenario.
  • Don’t forget they’d have been unreliable due to few spare parts, little fuel, and little support in terms of supply chain and support crews,

Several players at the BoB Big Game I ran, did comment favourably that limiting the A/Cs made for a different but still enjoyable game. You also need to limit the number of field guns, HMGs, and LMGs similarly.

Many of the points above apply also to AVBCW. In or ear the cities and ports you could justify A/Cs, in the country and remote locations start cutting down on the number of vehicles or insist on Heath-Robinson contraptions made by the local blacksmith after one pint too many.