Wednesday, November 26, 2014

British PIAT teams - Italeri anti-tank teams

I've been getting the finishing touches on my British platoon for Bolt Action wrapped up. I wanted some anti-tank assets and was in a pickle for finding a PIAT team in 20mm. Hunting around I found some anti-tank teams from Italeri that looked like they would do the trick.

They weren't quite perfect though. One ding was I was also getting quite a few models for other armies in the kit that I wasn't working on (and the included German troops were redundant). The other was the troops were paratroopers and not typical British army troops. However one thing I like about Bolt Action is the game adopts an attitude of under-strength platoons with a mix and match force composition. I could easily see the PIAT team as misdropped paratroopers hooking up with an army platoon the initial days of the Normandy campaign. If anything, it's encouraging me to pick up some paratroops for another force, or possibly include a small group to represent veteran squads.

The plastic itself is pretty stiff. However, it's just a tad soft and not quite the material found in Plastic Soldier Co. kits. Overall the detail is decent. Some of the molds are blurred though. The kneeling figure has his knees clumped together in a blob, with no real definition for the legs. While most of the webbing and pack kits have a fair amount of detail, some of the packs and excess gear is a little blocky. The faces and helmet netting are somewhat sparse on detail also.

The poses are okay with the firing and cocking figures done well. There are two figures in a running pose with extra rounds that form the rest of the teams. They seem a little odd, but the sculpts capture a dynamic pose okay. It might be considered a little mismatched with the other firing and cocking figures that are in a static pose. Another small gripe is the figures look a little big for 1/72. The Italeri minis are larger by about 2-3mm compared to the 20mm figures from Plastic Soldier Company (pictured below right)

Despite my complaints, overall I'm happy with the figures. I've got my PIAT team, the figures look okay and look like they can take a little wear and tear on the gaming tabletop. I wish they were regular army uniformed troops, however I have to admit I am eagerly awaiting painting up a squad or two of paratroopers now. They'd make a great small contingent of veteran troops for my British platoon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Savage Space - A fan made Savage Worlds sci-fi supplement

A while back I covered a Borderlands-inspired setting for Savage Worlds. I wanted to take some time and bring attention to another wonderful fan-made sci-fi supplement, Savage Space. Folks that follow my blog might recall that I considered running Traveller for one of my games. I ended up using Savage Worlds making my own conversion rules but much of the game I lifted stuff from Marcus "Chaosmeister" Burggraf's amazing sci-fi companion.

I feel dirty using it, as it's such a great space opera set of rules. I am a huge fan of settings that don't go hog wild with edges and skills, and instead just add a dollop to the base rules. Savage Worlds is flexible that can fit a lot of genres. So settings that embrace that and amend what is necessary is appreciated.

You get a surprisingly thorough treatment of sci-fi rules with Savage Space. There are a few select knowledge skills. There is a replacement of climbing and swimming with an all encompassing athletics skill, which is something I've sort of adopted for my other games as well. Alien creation rules are missing primarily as much of this is covered in the regular rules with racial backgrounds. Cyberware however is something that is covered a bit more, primarily as it can be acquired as equipment of sorts replacing natural limbs with cybernetic ones.

I like the approach done with starships, making them have characteristics like characters. Ship to ship combat is covered more of a general outline in the rules. I think the author admitted these are a little limited in scope, but they provide a good basis for a system. You might need to work a bit more to fit it into your game however in practice (or lift rules from another setting or game). One tremendously useful part of the rules is an adventure generator, providing seeds for some classic space opera missions as well as some more scoundrel, mercenary-type tasks.

It's not a complete sci-fi setting, as there are no rules for creating systems or planets. However that's something that can be lifted easily from other game systems. The equipment section is rather complete having a lot of your typical gear and equipment that aspiring star travelers would have for their adventures. As expected there are a variety of weapons with differing technology levels, as well as more mundane and exotic technological gear.

It really is a wonderful set of rules for running a classic space opera game. It may not be a complete setting with a larger campaign detailed out for the universe, but it does have some great bits that can be lifted out and plopped into your own hacked sci-fi campaign. The setting background they provide is brief and paper thin. However the theme of the companion rules is for a generic space opera, so not having a detailed universe setting is expected. Savage Space is a great fan-made set of rules for Savage Worlds, check it out if wanting to run a sci-fi game.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Tank War

I’ve had my mitts now on the new Bolt Action supplement, Tank War, for a while now. For those living under a rock in the Bolt Action arena, Warlord Games has introduced an all armor supplement rulebook. The big bombshell was that this book would not just be alternate rules for players to dabble in armor, but rather a completely new way to field armor platoons in the game. It was meant as a rulebook to allow infantry to face off against tanks, opening up a lot of different tournament options.

The rule section itself is paper thin, with the core rules only being a few pages. A large section details the structure of the platoon and the requirement of a command tank. Further, there is a new rule where if all the tanks in the platoon are on the same chassis (EX they are all PzKpwf IV’s, even if there are variants among the platoon), then the command distance is increased to 12". Some armies are still limited to 6" due to lack of radios. But overall it seems a means to encourage players adopting a more uniform platoon makeup, rather than selecting all manner of armored options to build their force.

In addition, the new pin rules are now in print. Making their way from a recent FAQ, there are rules limiting what can actually pin a vehicle now. Rather than any heavy weapon being able to throw pins out, now you actually have to use a weapon that can potentially penetrate the armor.

Morale of the tank is a huge factor also. Inexperienced troops work as the original rules (any heavy weapon gives them a pin) while veteran tanks use the new rule. Regulars roll a die to see if they act as a veteran or inexperienced when they are hit. I dig the idea that there is an advantage to taking veteran troops, however I wish the probability for regulars was skewed some. I’d prefer on a 3+ they act as veterans instead of a 4+. As written it’s sort of a coin flip. I do feel sorry for all those US players that kitted out 50 cals on their transports, as the value of them throwing out pins on tanks is lessened.

Tank War also introduces an optional set of rules for crew experience. As crews survive they slowly accrue experience which can be used to purchase skills. Broadly they break down into command, driving, and gunnery skills. These give a one shot bonus to the player over the game. They also improve the morale of the tank unit, as all tanks start out as inexperienced crew and morale increases as they gain experience. It’s different and allows for players to explore a campaign game where troops improve over time. There are some point values that can be used instead for legendary crews if players want to dabble in fielding a tank ace on the table.

There is a new scenario that is armor-centric for the game, relying on players capturing 1-6 random objectives. Like your typical scenario, to claim an objective you must spend an entire turn within 6 inches of it and be clear of any enemy. However players can claim objectives and roll off it, allowing them to be recaptured on later turns. So having a mobile force claim objectives quickly (while contesting others later) can be a strategy.

The book also highlights a more fun scenario where players duke it out in a massive tank battle. The authors make no bones about it, this clearly goes into the imaginary battle category of historical wargaming. But I enjoy that they are opting to throw some more fun and frivolous type scenarios into an official book. Not to delve completely in the world of ‘what ifs’, there is also a rather lengthy section on theater specific lists and historical battles.

The Good - It’s a nice addition to the Bolt Action family. It doesn’t throw down a ton of new rules to make for an entirely new game. What really makes Tank War for me is the different theater specific lists and battlefields. There are a wide variety of WWII theaters and operations covered in the book, each with relatively historically accurate force composition rules, as well as some special table rules (terrain, air support, armor platoon command limitations, etc.). These certainly make for Bolt Action to adopt a more historical feel over your typical battle scenarios.

The artwork is classic Osprey publishing stuff with some nice model pics. There is also quite a bit of historical flavor for jargon and terms used by tankers at the time which is a nice touch.

The Bad - There aren’t any rules for mechanized infantry. You can certainly get some infantry squads in your armored platoon lists, however it’s squarely on the 3 tank foundation, with a smattering of other choices. I am a little disappointed that transports weren't revisited, especially the rules regarding firing their mounted armaments. I was certainly hoping for a strong mechanized infantry list, with rules to support allowing transports to actually fire all those MGs. No dice. Which is sort of a shame.

There aren’t more tank-centric scenarios. The theater specific stuff is nice, but more tourney scenarios would be great. There is a lot of optional stuff in here which is good, but some like the legendary crews can border on being too gamey (and might lead to cheese lists).

The verdict - So is Tank War worth picking up? If you are looking to add a little chocolate sprinkles to your vanilla Bolt Action game, it’s a good buy. If you have been drooling over fielding a platoon of tanks, it’s certainly worth picking up. The optional crew experience rules can make for some fun engagements and allow players to explore a campaign game. The theater specific lists particularly stand out for me as a pleasant addition.

However, the actual core rules for armored platoons are rather thin. It could have been easily offered as a free PDF for players wanting to try them out. If you have no desire to play an armored platoon this is certainly a rulebook to pass on. There is a lot of interesting material inside but not a must have and certainly doesn't need to be considered a core Bolt Action rulebook.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Standing mountain counters for Runewars

I was in the mood to pick up an epic wargame and decided to get Runewars. The 1st edition had these special map tiles with slots in them, so you could place these cardboard inserts that represented mountain ranges through the tiles. From the looks of pics I've seen it gave the board a neat 3D look. The 2nd edition that I picked up didn't have these inserts which wasn't a big deal.

Looking over the board though, I realized although the borders for mountains are just marked with red symbols. Things can get a little cluttered in each map hex. It might be cool to use some kind of marker or token to make the mountains stand out more. After punching out all the game tokens and tiles, I sorta got an idea. See the cardboard stock for the counters and map tiles are pretty thick. You get a lot of leftover material from the game. So why not put them to use?

I cut out sections about the size of the tile edges. The problem was to consider how I could make them stand up. The most ideal solution would be to cut slots in each piece and glue smaller parts of cardboard to provide support for the long flat edge. Instead I took the lazy way and scored one side of the cardboard, and then folding it some on the opposite side. After making another fold (scoring the opposite side and folding in the other direction), I made the straight edge now sort of zigzag which is enough for the pieces to stand on their own.

The edges and cut sections were a lighter color. So I went ahead and gave a quick dab of dark paint. I also did this to any of the cardboard sections that had some portions with lighter colors from grassland and water sections of the map tiles. Also, I used PVA glue to seal up the scored folds in the cardboard and repair any splitting ends.

Overall I'm happy with the results. Obviously I could have gone to town painting them, but I wanted a simple marker for the mountain ranges that weren't too distracting of a color. A nice thing about the shapes is that they easily slip into a small zip lock bag and don't take up too much box space. Hope folks find this a useful tip.