Saturday, 31 March 2012

Rats Rout Orcs

Half-Orc Chief and Beserker
Since I've found myself playing a lot of 'Void and Stars' recently, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics, as it were, and play some more 'Songs of Blades and Heroes'. The problem was that, whilst I have played the game a couple of times in the past, I didn't have any warbands of my own to do it with. Or, at least, that's what I thought. Those that know me will know that my 15mm fantasy figures are pretty much tied up in HOTT armies. But rummaging through boxes and piles of unpainted lead and plastic showed that I had far more 25/28mm figures that I'd care to admit owning. Some of them were painted. And most of them are more than suitable for SoBH.

The biggest source of figures I have is GW's 'Lord of the Rings' line. Many years ago I subscribed to the part-work that accompanied their original release, and so have a pile of sprues and unpainted metal personality figures. I even have a handful of figures that I managed to paint before the allure of the game wore off. This line provided my first warband - Half-Orcs:

Ok, they're Uruk Hai. But let's not go all official shall we? For this game they're Half-Orcs.

The warband is as follows:

Chief - Q3, C4, Leader - 70pts
Beserker - Q3, C4, Fearless, Savage - 52pts
3 x Warriors - Q3, C3 - 30pts
2 x Crossbows - Q3, C2, Shooter: Medium - 28pts

I already had the warriors and crossbows painted, and did the chief and beserker last night; a black undercoat and some swift dry-brushing saw to it in no time at all.

(The bases are very basic and I will do them all up properly at some stage.)

Whilst I have other LotR factions to fight them with, I thought something different would provide a better looking game. Tucked away in a box I found a handful of plastic Skaven my son painted some ten years ago. They were pretty much of the quality you'd expect when you let a child of six loose with paints and a brush - the colours were OK (I suspect there was a lot of paternal advice), but some of the painting wasn't entirely 'between the lines'. Not to worry - I patched up the worst of the missed bits with some brown paint, then ran a dark brown wash over the figures. A little drybrushing on the metallic areas, and the figures were good enough to put on the table. I found a metal Skaven personality I'd bought and never painted it, and spent 20 minutes getting him 'table-ready' as a suitable leader, then added in some GW giant rats I painted 25 years ago for use in a Victorian Horror role-playing game we played at that time.

And so I ended up with this:

Clan Chief - Q3, C3, Leader, Tailslap - 66pts
7 x Warriors - Q4, C3, Gregarious - 27pts
3 x Rats - Q4, C2, Animal, Gregarious - 15pts

And so to the game. This was the setup:

Basically it was a couple of areas of ruins. The Rats are on the left, and the Half-Orcs on the right.

Here you can see the Half-Orcs advancing, their commander leading from the rear:

The Rats show what it means to be gregarious:

The two forces quickly closed:

The beserker went it alone, but was quickly surrounded and overwhelmed:

The Rats followed up this success by rushing the Half-Orc's chief, and killing him too:

The morale tests saw the Half-Orc force break up, with a couple fleeing the table.

Meanwhile in the ruins, the giant rats were fighting a couple of Half-Orcs:

The gruesome death of one of the rats saw a general rout, however, leaving one giant rat to face both Half-Orcs.

Back in the main battle the beleaguered Half-Orcs formed up for a last stand:

It didn't last long. In the ruins the last giant rat killed a Half-Orc, forcing them to another morale test for 50% losses:

The resulting tests saw two Half-Orcs cut down attempting to flee from close combat. With only two Half-Orc figures left, I drew the game to a close.

The early loss of the beserker and the leader really saw the downfall of the Half-Orcs; whilst individually slightly better than their rodent foes, the fact that the Rats could activate as groups right until the end of the battle gave them a real edge, especially with the Gregarious ability.

A couple of things I wasn't sure about. Firstly if a figure fails a morale test whilst in close combat I assumed that their opponent got a free-hack. If that resulted in a knockdown, I ruled that the figure was killed. In other words, the morale test forces a break-off, followed by a free-hack. Once the free-hack was  resolved I then resolved the flee based on the figure's post-combat position. In addition, I assumed that a figure that was prone was automatically killed if hit by shooting; the rules just say 'combat', and aren't entirely clear on the matter.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

HOTT Tournament Scoring

Over the years there have been a healthy number of HOTT tournaments and competitions. All of them use some sort of scoring system to determine the overall winner, and this post is an attempt to outline some of the systems which have been used.

Note that in all cases losses include not just elements that have been destroyed, but those that have been lost for any reason, including moving off the table, being ensorcelled or fleeing the field. Elements such as lurkers which have fled the field, destroyed hordes and ensorcelled heroes or magicians count as lost until they are brought back. Once brought back they no longer count as lost.

Berkeley Scoring

A player's army is worth 24 points (AP). Each player scores points equal to:

Enemy AP Lost + Own original AP - Own AP losses

A player that has lost the game is assumed to have lost all 24AP, regardless of actual casualties. If the scores are calculated correctly then they should add up to 48.

Example: A player captures the enemy stronghold to win the game, having lost 4AP of troops in the process. The winner gets 24 (Loser's full army value) + 24 (Own army value) - 4 (Own losses) = 44 points. The loser gets 4 (Killed enemy elements) + 24 (Own army value) - 24 (Own losses) = 4 points.

In the event of a drawn game scores are calculated as normal; they will be 24 - Own losses + Enemy losses.

Ties are broken by the number of enemy general's elements killed.

This system provides a good spread of scores making ties unlikely, but the arithmetic confuses some players (the idea that scores must add up to 48 helps eas this a little). It does heavily penalise losing, making cautiously not losing (even if by playing for a draw) more attractive than a win big or lose big strategy. This can have a tendency to encourage overly defensive play or agreed draws.

Burton Scoring

This is the same as Berkeley scoring, but penalises draws. A draw is only worth:

Own losses - Enemy losses.

This makes draws very unattractive, but in doing so penalises those that were due to a hard-fought game timing out. Those innocent of cautious or slow play are punished along with the guilty.

Minnesota Scoring

Both players score the value of enemy elements that are lost. The winning player also scores a 12 point bonus.

The downside of this scoring system is that it penalises those players who don't win by slaughtering the enemy army. It is possible to win by scoring low numbers of casualties on the enemy army (capturing the stronghold, for example), but the scores favour those who win by destroying half or more of the enemy army. It does not directly penalise players for their own losses, however, so encourages a more aggressive style of play.

Recon Scoring

A win scores 2 points and a draw 1 point. Record own AP lost and Enemy AP lost; ties are broken by the player who has the best AP loss differential.

This system makes ties for places more likely, especially over a small number of games. The tie-break system suffers from the same problems as the Minnesota system, in that it does not reward players who kill enemy generals or capture strongholds as highly as those who destroy enemy armies. On the plus side it is easy for players to record their scores.

Modified Recon Scoring

A win scores 2 points and a draw 1 point. Record Enemy AP destroyed; ties are broken by the player who has killed the most enemy AP.

This has the simplicity of the Recon system, but the tie-breaks reward aggressive play. Note that if you win a game your own losses are irrelevant.

New Berkeley Scoring

A win scores 3 points and a draw 1 point. Record Enemy AP destroyed; ties are broken by the player who has killed the most enemy AP.

Again this has the simplicity of the Recon system, but wins are more heavily rewarded.


It is impossible to come up with a scoring system that is fair in all circumstances, and tournament organisers must decide which kinds of behaviours they should reward. I think there is a majority who seek to 'penalise' draws, encouraging both players to play for a win in the allotted time. The problems come in using systems which score based on element kills, as these penalise players who win by killing enemy generals or capture a Stronghold. Against that are systems which don't take into account killed or lost elements; they fail to distinguish between a lucky player who wins by killing the enemy general in the first combat and one who, thorough skill and tactics destroys a high proportion of the enemy army with little loss to themselves.

And, of course, any scoring system must be easy for the players to use and for the organisers to assess.

Thoughts are welcome in the comments, as are alternative scoring systems not covered above.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Red Dog Rebellion

Scratchbuilt spaceships based on asteroids
The Red Dog Rebels
Left To Right: Fair Go, Eureka Stockade, Such Is Life,
Night Shifter and Ship With No Beer
Once again I have been playtesting 'Void and Stars'. I have tried a couple of odd, short games over the weekend, mostly to try out mechanisms and concepts, but this afternoon I played a full 750pt game. I used the recently released v1.4 playtest version of the rules.

The games was played on a 2' x 2' area, using half-sized measuring sticks. the ships were all scratchbuilt from card, lentils and cork tile. You will also notice that I have acquired, on loan it has to be said, a suitable gaming cloth. Space is no longer a sandy brown in this house.


With the cost of the conflict with the LLAR escalating, the Oceanic Union looked to its citizens for further funding. A tax on revenues from the lucrative asteroid mining operations on the western rim of the Oceanic Union proved too much however. The miners of the Red Dog System rebelled, and declared independence from the Union. A flotilla from the OUDF was sent to bring them back into line.

But the miners were resourceful. Living on the fringes of the Union had taught them to look to their own defence, and when the OUDF ships arrived they found that the miners had an unusual flotilla of their own ...

The Fleets
The OUDF were equipped with two Town Class cruisers (Mittagong and Emu Plains) and three Island Class Destroyers (Pukapuka, Savai'i and Norfolk). The stats for the cruisers can be seen here. The destroyers are as follows:

Island Class Destroyer - Escort, CV: 3, Range: S, Speed: M, Hardened Armour,Point Defence Support: S, Point Defence, Escort Support
Systems Cost: 24 Actual Cost 96

All ships were Quality 3
The Red Dog Miners' fleet was cobbled together from whatever ships they had available, plus their other main resource - asteroids. Their force consisted of two hollowed-out rocks, with engines and weapons systems installed, plus three converted mining support vessels operating as a carrier, a gunship and a missile launcher.

Asteroid 'Eureka Stockade' - Capital, CV: 6, Range: M, Speed: S, Indirect: 5, Shield Generator, Hardened Armour, Fighter Bays: 4, Capacity Battery, Repair Drones, Leviathan
System Cost: 85, Actual Cost: 255

Asteroid 'Such Is Life' - Capital, CV: 5, Range: M, Speed: S, Indirect: 5, Shield Generator, Hardened Armour, Heavy Ion Cannon, Leviathan
System Cost 65, Actual Cost: 195

Support Vessel 'Fair Go' - Escort, CV: 4, Range: S, Speed: M, Light Fighter Hangar: 3, Hardened Armour, Rapid Fire Escort Support, Escort Support
System Cost 33, Actual Cost 99

Support Vessel 'Night Shifter' - Escort, CV: 4, Range: M, Speed: M, Repeater Weapon, Hardened Armour, Escort Support
System Cost 33, Actual Cost 99

Support Vessel 'Ship With No Beer' - Escort, CV: 4, Range: S, Speed: M, Indirect: 2, External Ordinance: 1, Hardened Armour
System Cost 33, Actual Cost 99

All ships were Quality 4
Left to Right: Eureka Stockade, Such Is Life and Night Shifter

The Eureka Stockade - a hollowed-out asteroid converted to a warship.
The white counter shows that it has active shields.
The Battle

The Miners defended and, by a stroke of fortune, rolled three asteroid fields as the terrain. The scenario was a straight stand-up fight.

The OUDF advanced quickly, pushing the destroyers Norfolk and Pukapuka around an asteroid field to try and flank the miners' ships. meanwhile the miners advanced slowly, limited by the Leviathan special on their capitals. They concentrated on the third OUDF destroyer, the Savai'i, launching missiles and fighters at it, and hitting it with a slow, steady barrage of direct fire. It didn't last long, and before the fleets had really got to grips was blown up by a shot from the Such Is Life. The Miner's fighters switched to the other destroyers.

The early part of the game belonged to the Miners. Some bad activations by the OUDF meant that they inflicted very little damage as they moved across the board.

The advance
The Savai'i has already been destroyed, and missiles and fighters are closing on the Pukapuka to the left of the picture
The Miners switched their attention to the Pukapuka, and that was so badly damaged that it warped to safety. The OUDF were already two ships down, and fighters were now closing on the Norfolk. The Miners had still suffered no significant damage. However as it moved into the rear of the Miner's flotilla the Norfolk fended of a several waves of fighter attacks, and emerged relatively unscathed.

At this point the fleets had closed right up, and were exchanging fire at close range. Activation failures on the part of the Miners meant that their fire was weak, whilst the two OUDF cruisers started to damage the Ship With No Beer. The initiative remained with the OUDF as the flotillas passed each other, and the Mittagong and Emu Plains swung round into the rear of the Eureka Stockade and started to pound it with a deadly fire. Within a couple of turns it was so badly damaged that it had to test morale, and it quickly fled. 

The Eureka Stockade comes under a deadly fire
from the OUDF cruisers Mittagong and Emu Plains
Ignoring the Such Is Life, the cruisers switched their attentions to the Fair Go, destroying it in a volley of fire. The Norfolk duelled with the Ship With No Beer, badly damaging it, leaving it easy meat for the Emu Plains to finish off. However the Night Shifter put in some accurate shots on the Norfolk, forcing it to flee the battle.

Both fleets now had to test morale. The OUDF passed with little problem, as did the Such Is Life, but the Night Shifter decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and fled.

It was now the two cruisers against the Such Is Life. after a round of fire it was obvious the asteroid stood no chance against he well-drilled OUDF crews, and the Miners conceded the game.

The Such Is Life discovers that ... such is life
The Miners had lost the Fair Go and the Ship With No Beer destroyed, whilst the Night Shifter and the mighty Eureka Stockade had fled. The OUDF lost the Savai'i, with the Norfolk and Pukapuka fleeing.


This was a fairly close fight. I thought that the Miners would be let down by their low Quality, but a conservative use of activation dice, limiting most ships to one roll in the early part of the turn, allowed them to keep up a steady fire on the approaching OUDF ships. The OUDF trusted to their superior quality early on, needing to out-manoeuvre the Miners, but failed a couple of activations. A Quality 4 force can survive without a Fleet Command Centre so long as its ships aren't designed such that they require multiple actions; low quality fleets require simple, no-nonsense designs, possibly with decent passive defences in order to survive those turns when activations mostly fail. Once the action hotted up the Quality 3 of the OUDF allowed them to move faster and more often, running rings around the Leviathans.

The new firing modifiers made direct fire more deadly and decisive, which was good. This was despite all ships having Hardened Armour. This was the first game I've played with reasonable numbers of fighters, and they seemed to work well; not as instantly deadly as missiles, but a sustained annoyance.

There did seem to be a small flaw with the morale rules - a force has to test morale when it has lost 50% of its ships. Escorts are easier to take out than capital ships, so the game developed into a fight to eliminate enemy escorts, forcing the capitals to test morale. I wonder if a force's morale value should be calculated based on 2pts for a capital and 1pt for an escort, with 50% of that total forcing a test. That way, for example, neither force in this game would have tested morale if all of its escorts had been lost; you would have to eliminate a capital ship.

Top Terrain Tip: I use areas of felt to mark asteroid fields. A field has a strength of 4-6, so I put the appropriate number of rock on each felt shape to show he strength in-game. So a Strength 5 field will have five rocks on it. I just need a way to show pulsar strength now.

Lego Series Seven Minifigs - For Gamers

It will not have escaped your notice that I like Lego. And I always like to keep an eye on forthcoming releases, mostly for the photographic possibilities, but also with a view to other uses as well - like gaming.

The forthcoming set of Lego Collectible Minifigs offer a few possibilities for gamers.

All of the pictures are by WhiteFang (Eurobricks)

First up we have a rather nice Aztec Warrior:

Sadly you'd need a lot of these do a DBA/HOTT army, so you're either looking at getting lucky with your selection of the sealed packets, or wait for a while and resort to the specialist Lego marketplace sites like Bricklink. Actually this holds true for all of the collectible figures ranges; there is a rather nice Roman Legionary in Series 6 for example.

Next up is a Galaxy Patrol officer for sci-fi buffs:

Lego has a good range of sci-fi figures of various races and types, and they would lend themselves very well to a skirmish game setup. There are even companies which produce Lego-compatible accessories for Halo and similar universes.

And let's not forget the Star Wars line; it's certainly viable to get a small skirmish set-up out of them, and at a cost you could even stretch to a couple of HOTT-type armies.

This Valkyrie seems to be operatic rather than combat-orientated, but it's not a major issue and she can always be given a head-swap so she doesn't look like she's singing:

Indeed component swapping is always a possibility for Lego figures used for gaming purposes and could be considered one of their strengths. The only thing to watch for is the colours of the heads/hands; ordinary Lego lines, such as the collectible figures, have yellow as the base flesh colour, whereas ranges based on film or TV licences, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter, use flesh. They don't mix well.

On a par with the Valkyrie, for fantasy/medieval skirmish, certainly, is this Evil Knight:

Pretty standard stuff, but useful.

Finally we have the Ocean King:

A perfect God or Water Lurker for a Lego HOTT army, but also a possibility for giant monster gaming as well. 

It's worth looking back through the previous series of Collectible Minifigs for other game-related figures. Readers of this blog will have seen me use a number of figures from past ranges for monster gaming (and I haven't given the Statue of Liberty an outing yet either), but there are numerous space and fantasy figures in the ranges, as well as historical ones such as a Coldstream Guardsman and a Gladiator.

Lego - it's more than just terrain.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Pulgasari - North Korea's Godzilla

A couple of years ago I came across a film called 'Pulgasari'. There is a Wikipedia article on it here:, but in a nutshell it's a Japanese-style monster movie made in North Korea in 1985, using a kidnapped South Korean film-director. As Kaiju movies go it's actually pretty good; certainly better than some of the Godzilla movies of the 1970s (not that being better than them is that difficult). We ran it by our South Korean exchange student last year, and he enjoyed it - it was certainly good enough to while away part of a slow Sunday afternoon.

The basic story is simple (aren't they always?). set in Korea's past, it's about a bunch of rebels fighting against an evil king. The rebels acquire, via magical means, Pulgasari, a huge monster who eats iron, and with him in their ranks rampage across the kingdom. The king tries various ploys to defeat them, but is overthrown, at which point the victorious rebels have to decide what to do with a giant monster who is still hungry for iron. It's basically 'Godzilla' meets 'the Water Margin'.

Anyway, there's big battles, a monster and other HOTT stuff in there, so away we go.

The Rebels With Their Monster

1 x Warband general (Rebel Leader) @ 2AP
1 x Behemoth (Pulgasari) @ 4AP
7 x Warband (Rebels) @ 2AP
1 x Lurker (Rebel ambush) @ 1AP
1 x Sneaker (Disguised as prostitute) @ 3AP

The rebels are enthusiastic but a bit inept, and work well in bad going, so are classed as warband. Pulgasari is big and stompy. The Lurker and Sneaker add variety and reflect some of the plot elements.

Unfeasible Artillery
The King's Forces
1 x Blade general (Top general) @ 2AP
1 x Artillery (Various unfeasible devices) @ 3AP
1 x Magician (Hired priestess with back-up group of singers and dancing-girls) @ 4AP
7 x Blades (Royal troops) @ 2AP
1 x Lurker (Cunning ambush) @ 1AP

Pulgasari On The March
The Royal troops aren't up to much, but are no worse than the Rebels, so don't really merit being Hordes. They use a mix of swords and shields, and polearms, so you could have some Spears if you wanted. Blades seems the best all-round classification, though. The Artillery represents various fanciful weapons employed against Pulgasari, including fireball-hurling catapults, rocket batteries and some amazingly impractical cannon. A magical priestess was also used in an attempt to defeat the monster.

Hired Priestess
These armies would be easy to make, using various Chinese/East Asian figures. I don't think you can get a Pulgasari miniature or, at least, not one at a scale suitable for the tabletop but any Godzilla-style monster toy would work nicely. You'd probably have to scratch-build the artillery though.

I Can Haz Ferrous Metalz?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Void And Stars - The Rematch

With fewer jobs to do on Sunday than I anticipated, and an early start in order that Mrs Kobold could visit the local market, I found myself with time to devote to Void and Stars. I decided to rejig the starship designs I used in the previous game, adjusting them to make them faster with better ranges and CV on the hope it would produce a more decisive game.

The new stats follow. I have listed two costs, System Cost and Actual Cost. The first is the cost of the CV plus specials, whilst the second takes into account the multiplier for Quality. I have decided to base the break-point for capital ship/escort on the System Cost, with anything over 40 being a capital ship. Thus a high-quality escort might cost more than 150pts (there's a phrase I never thought I'd write), whilst a low-quality capital ship may be less then 150pts.

OUDF - All ships Quality 3

Town Class Cruiser - Capital Ship, CV: 5, Range: M, Speed: M, Hardened Armour, Full Spectrum Sensors, Damage Control, Point Defence, Shield Generator
System Cost: 55 Actual Cost: 220

Opal Class Frigate - Escort, CV: 4, Range: M, Speed: M, Hardened Armour, Full Spectrum Sensors, Point Defence, Escort Support
Systems Cost: 36 Actual Cost 144

Explorer Class Carrier - Escort, CV: 3 Range: S Speed: M Hardened Armour, Light Fighter Hangar: 2 Point defence, Point Defence Support: M, Escort Support
System Cost: 30 Actual Cost 120

LLAR - All ships Quality 4

Port Class Cruiser - Capital Ship, CV: 5 Range: L, Speed: M, Indirect: 4, Assault Doctrine, Shields, Fleet Control Centre, External Ordinance: 4
System Cost: 70 Actual Cost: 210

Tiburon Class Missile Frigate - Escort, CV: 4, Range: M, Speed: L, Indirect: 3, Escort Support
System Cost: 38 Actual Cost: 114

Conquistador Class Gun Frigate - Escort, CV: 4, Range: L, Speed: L, Spinal Mount, Escort Support
System Cost: 34 Actual Cost: 102

Essentially I raised all CV values, and increased weapon ranges on some ships to allow for decisive fire at longer distances. The OUDF ships are still tough, but the LLAR have better factors for dealing with it. Higher speeds mean more chance for rear shots.

And then I played a game ...

You'll be pleased to know that I didn't record it in the same detail as the last one. It lasted longer because both sides had rotten luck in terms of activation, failing the easiest of rolls. It ended in a decisive result though.

Because of the changed points values the two sides were uneven in terms of numbers, with the LLAR having six ships and the OUDF only five.

The LLAR force was, once again, the cruiser Montevideo, the gun-frigates Pizarro and Orellana and the missile frigates Estrella, Tiburon and Raya. A total of 756pts.

The OUDF had the cruise Mittagong, the escort carrier Flinders and the frigates Opal, Sapphire and Diamond. A total of 772pts.

The OUDF defended and rolled a strength 4 asteroid field, a nebula and a dust cloud. The asteroids went in the centre, the dust cloud to the N and the nebula to the NE. The LLAR deployed to the S whilst the OUDF deployed to the N.

Once again the LLAR plan was to pump missiles at the Mittagong, whilst sending the gun-frigates after the OUDF frigates. The OUDF covered the Mittagong with the Flinders, and sent the frigates on a flanking move.

The LLAR move first in each turn.

Turn 1

The LLAR launched missiles at the Mittagong and fired at the Flinders until the Montevideo failed to activate.

On the OUDF turn the Flinders launched fighters on a CAP mission to cover the Mittagong, before the Mittagong failed its activation and ended the turn.

Turn 2

The Montevideo launched missiles, then the Estrella ended the turn.

The OUDF  frigates moved past the nebula, firing ineffectively at the Orellana as they did so. One of them caused a turnover.

Turn 3

The LLAR launched more missiles until the Montevideo ended the activation. the gun-frigates had not yet acted.

The Mittagong fired at the Estrella causing a weapon damage, whilst the Flinders used escort support to eliminate a missile marker. The Diamond caused a turnover.

In the turnover phase missiles hit the Mittagong, but its armour handled the damage.

This was pretty much the position at this stage:

Turn 4

In a change of plan the Montevideo and its supports closed up rapidly on the Flinders and hit it with direct fire and missiles, causing both systems and weapon damage. Once again the other ships failed to activate.

The Mittagong shrugged off more missiles.

In the OUDF turn the Flinders came good, repairing all damage, then launching a new CAP patrol to protect the Mittagong. The Mittagong returned the favour by failing to activate and ending the turn, but not before it had damaged the Estrella.

Turn 5

The LLAR switched attention to the gun-frigates, and the Pizarro inflicted a system damage on the Opal. Then the Orellena failed its roll.

The OUDF had it worse. Their first ship failed to activate on two dice and caused a turnover.

Turn 6

The LLAR failed to activate their first ship, and the two forces passed  each other with barely a shot exchanged.

The OUDF exploited this, with the frigates swinging around into the rear of the LLAR gun frigates, destroying the Pizarro's weapons. On the other side of the table the Flinders and the Mittagong took down the Montevideo's screens.

Turn 7

Things were hotting up now. The LLAR gun frigates also came about and the Pizarro blasted the rear of the Flinders, damaging its weapons. The Montevideo added to this, adding a weapons destroyed to the tally. Were it not for the armour the Flinders would have been destroyed.

The Mittagong now engaged the Pizarro with full spectrum sensor enhanced  overload shot, causing a weapons critical. The Diamond caused a systems destroyed on the Pizarro, but caused a turnover.

The Flinders In Big Trouble

Turn 8

The LLAR got a good set of activations this turn. The Orellana and Raya engaged the Sapphire, but inflicted no damage, whilst the Tiburon and Estrella damaged the Diamond's weapons with a volley of direct fire and missiles. Finally, aided by the fleet command centre on the Montevideo, the damaged Pizarro managed a series of rear-shots on the Flinders which destroyed it. First blood to the LLAR.

This was now the situation:

The OUDF lost no time in taking revenge. Fire from the Mittagong and the Diamond stacked up hits on the Pizarro, caused a crew panic and the Pizarro engaged its warp drive and fled. the Sapphire then failed to activate an the turn ended.

Turn 9

The LLAR frigates engaged the Diamond and Opal with direct fire and missiles to no effect, before the Montevideo ended the activation.

The OUDF had a better turn. The Sapphire moved in behind the Orellana and destroyed it, and the Opal damage the Raya before the turn ended.

Turn 10

In danger of going off the table the Montevideo slowly turned back into the fight. The Estrella and Tiburon used missiles and direct fire to plaster the Diamond, leaving it with a systems destroyed and weapons damaged.

In the OUDF turn they managed a systems destroyed on the Tiburon, before the Opal once again failed to activate.

Turn 11

The Estrella and Raya continued to persecute the Diamond, putting it in weapons destroyed with a crew panic as well. It passed its morale, but was in a bad way.

In the OUDF turn the Opal failed the fleet again, but not before inflicting weapon damage on the Raya.

Turn 12

The Estrella finished off the Diamond. But that was it for the turn.

Once again the Opal threw away the OUDF turn.

Turn 13

The Raya showed that it could emulate the Opal, and threw away the LLAR turn.

The OUDF engaged the Montevideo with the Mittagong and the Sapphire, using overload fire and full spectrum sensors, and left it with its weapons damaged and systems destroyed. It hadn't had chance to raise its shields since they were taken down on Turn 6. Meanwhile the Opal destroyed the Raya's weapons. Things were starting to look bad for the LLAR.

Turn 14

The Raya and Estrella launched missiles at the Sapphire, causing weapons damage. And that was it.

In the OUDF turn the Mittagong caused a turnover, but still managed to add a systems destroyed to the Montevideo's woes.

Turn 15

This happened:

The LLAR launched everything it had at the Sapphire, overloading it with direct fire and missiles. It didn't stand a chance and vanished in a massive explosion. The OUDF had now lost over half of their ships, but the morale test only caused a systems damage on the Mittagong.

The Opal and Mittagong concentrated their fire on the Montevideo; the Opal's shot caused a weapon critical, giving the Mittagong the opening it needed to destroy the enemy capital ship. 

Bye Bye, Montevideo
The LLAR morale tests went less well than those for the OUDF - the Estrella and Tiburon fled, leaving the Raya alone on the field. At that point I ended the game.

The losses were as follows:

The LLAR lost the Montevideo and Orellana destroyed and the Estrella, Tiburon and Pizarro fled.

The OUDF lost three ships destroyed; the Diamond, Sapphire and Flinders. Despite this the victory was really theirs as the Raya was in no state to take on both the Opal and Mittagong alone.


This was a much more decisive game than the last, with the changed ship designs making a lot of difference, as well as being easier to run. Faster speeds meant that rear shots were easier to get, and they seem to be the key to destroying an enemy; getting behind a ship and unloading every weapon you have is very effective. The problem is not leaving yourself vulnerable to return fire.

The rapid turnovers were frustrating, and it looks like a force needs either a good innate Quality, or such things as the fleet command centre to avoid being inactive. Since ships that don't act still move in a straight line, there is a danger that with a run of bad luck your fast ships will fly off the table and count as lost. I reckon a force needs to have, or simulate, a Quality of 3 or better to stand a reasonable chance, although a fight between two low-quality forces might be interesting. Or amusing.

The hardened armour still proved useful, but was not as frustratingly useful as it was in the last game. The OUDF's direct fire linked with full spectrum sensors is a great weapon, but I also have a soft spot for the LLAR's spinal mount gun-frigates. When it activated the Montevideo's assault doctrine was effective too; this could be nasty if combined with a spinal mount, although I don't know if a capital ship can have two doctrines. The current version of the rules doesn't forbid it ...

The game generated no major questions. I tried the the alternative escort support rule (your CV + die roll against full strength of missiles/fighter) but not enough to form an opinion as to whether it's better than the 'published' version.

Overall, a much more satisfying game in terms of result and ease of play.

Edit: I realise after reading the rules again that in both games I made a mistake with direct fire in that I gave the firing ship a +1 for overload, rather than it putting the target on a -1. Obviously this makes a difference in how decisive damage is. OUDF ships are better off skipping overload if they can use their full spectrum sensors, though, as the sensors give both a +1 to the firer and a -1 to the target; a nasty combination.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Void And Stars - The Game

The Diamond Goes It Alone
Having designed and built the starships I needed for my first Void and Stars game, I was ready to play. Here is the report.

I played solo, 700pts, six vessels a side. The vessels were as described in previous posts. I used a 2' x 2' board, with a ruler cut to half the length listed in the rules. I don't have a black cloth, so just went with the sand-brown one that was already on the table. It made for easier photos, of course.

I didn't have the ships on bases so didn't use the measurement conventions for them as listed in the book Each model had a designated point on it, to and from which all movement distances and ranges were measured. This point marked the actual location of the ship; the rest of the model was irrelevant.

On to the actual game. The report is long. Very long. If you just want my views on the game, scroll down to the section headed 'Thoughts'.

The League of Latin American Republics (LLAR) defended. I rolled on the terrain table and got a nebula, a dust cloud and a strength 1 pulsar. The pulsar was placed in the SE corner, the dust cloud to the E and the nebula to the NW. The Oceanic Union Defence Force (OUDF) chose the W edge. The LLAR deployed to the E, well away from the pulsar.

LLAR Deployed

OUDF Deployed

My long-shot of the setup ended up blurred. Sorry

In the following write-up I will list each ship in terms of how many dice I rolled to activate, followed by how many actions it got. So 3D/2A means 3 dice were rolled, for 2 actions.

The OUDF planned to cover the Mittagong with the two carriers, Leichhart and Flinder, whilst the three frigates Diamond, Sapphire and Opal would push through the nebula and attack the enemy ships, the idea being that the nebula would cover them until they could bring their short-range weapons to bear.

The LLAR planned to use the two gun frigates to attack the Mittagong and the carriers along with a series of missile volleys from the other ships. The aim was to take the Mittagong out of the fight as fast as possible.

In the report I will skip mention of compulsory moves unless they had a significant effect. In essence every ship makes at least one move per turn unless it chooses to come to a stop. No ship did in this game.

Ships are listed in the order they activated.

Turn 1 - OUDF

Flinders - 2D/1A - Launched fighters on a CAP mission around the Mittagong
Leichhardt - 2D/2A - Fired on overload at the Estrella. And missed.
Opal - 2D/1A - Moved
Sapphire - 2D/2A - Moved twice
Diamond - 2D/2A - Moved twice
Mittagong 3D/3A - One move, then a sensor scan on the Estrella followed by direct fire. Which missed.

At the end of the turn the frigates were entering the nebula. In the turnover the Flinders' fighters moved into position around the Mittagong.

Turn 1 - LLAR

Raya - 1D/1A - Launched missiles at the Mittagong.
Tiburon - 1D/0A - Nothing
Estrella - 2D/2A - Launched missiles at the Mittagong, followed by its external ordinance.
Pizzaro - 2D/2A - One move, followed by a shot at the Leichhart, causing a system damaged.
Orellana - 2D/2A - One move followed by a shot at the Leichhardt, which would have damaged it had the carrier's armour not protected it. The armour on the OUDF ships stopped many damaging hits through the game.
Montevideo - 3D/1A - Launched missiles at the Mittagong.

The LLAR ships benefited from the fleet control centre on the Montevideo, although this doesn't help the Montevideo itself.

In the turnover the missiles homed in on their target.

This was the position at the end of the first turn:

Turn 2 - OUDF

Diamond - 3D/2A - One move, followed by a shot at the Raya which missed.
Sapphire - 3D/3A - One move, followed by a full sensor scan of the Tiburon and an enhanced shot, which missed. The sensor scan followed by a shot was a standard attack of the OUDF, so I will list it as a FSS shot from now on. It takes two actions.
Opal - 3D/1A - It moved, and that was the end of the activation.

The Mittagong and the carriers could afford to hold off until the frigates were in a better position, so I activated the frigates first.

In the turnover  the missiles continued to home in on the Mittagong.

Turn 2 - LLAR

Montevideo - 2D/1A - Fired more missiles at the Mittagong.
Raya - 2D/2A - Fired missiles at the Mittagong, then took a direct shot at the Opal which was stopped by the armour.
Tiburon - 2D/1A - More missiles for the Mittagong.
Estrella - 2D/1A - Missiles. Guess the target.
Pizzaro - 3D/0A - End of the activation.

There were a lot of missiles aimed at the Mittagong now.

This was the position at the end of the second turn:

Turn 3 - OUDF

Flinders - 3D/2A - The Flinders couldn't get close enough to the incoming missiles to use escort support, so it took an overloaded direct shot at the Orellana which missed.
Leichhardt - 2D/1A - Launched fighters on a CAP mission to protect the Mittagong.
Mittagong - 3D/2AP - FSS shot at the Orellana causing a weapons destroyed.
Diamond - 3D/3A - One move out of the nebula, then a FSS shot at the Tiburon, which missed.
Opal - 3D/1A - A shot at the Tiburon, which missed. End of the activation.

The carriers and the Mittagong were preparing for the first wave of missiles, so activated first. In the turnover the first two hit the Mittagong, but it was protected by two fighter patrols, its own point defence and the point defence support of the carriers. They didn't even get close.

Two missiles target the Mittagong, whilst two more close in. All four missed.
The white counter shows that the Mittagong has raised shields.
Turn 3 - LLAR

Pizarro - 3D/3A - A move followed by an overload shot at the Leichhardt. Once again the OUDF armour saved the day, converting a systems destroyed to a systems damaged.
Orellana - 3D/2A - An overload shot at the Leichhardt, which missed.
Raya - 3D/1A - Fired missiles at the Diamond. End of the activation.

The gun-frigates concentrated fire on the Leichhardt, whilst the other ships planned on picking off the Diamond with missiles. The latter failed through a failure to activate the first ship to try.

In the turnover phase two lots of missiles hit the Mittagong, for no effect, although it used up the last of the CAP fighter missions. A missile hit the Diamond, and also caused no damage.

This was the position at the end of Turn 3:

Turn 4 - OUDF

Diamond - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Tiburon, which missed.
Sapphire - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Tiburon causing weapon damage.
Opal - 3D/3A - An overloaded FSS shot at the Tiburon - systems destroyed
Flinders - 3D/3A - Now close to a volley of missiles it attempted escort support. Three shots, three misses.
Mittagong - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Pizarro, which missed.
Leichhardt - 3D/2A - First it repaired the weapons hit, then launched fighters on an attack mission.

In the turnover another missile hit the Mittagong. It would have caused damage, but the armour stopped it. There's no getting away from the fact that hardened armour is a useful special to have.

Turn 4 - LLAR

Raya - 2D/2A - Fired a point defence disrupter at the Diamond, which missed, then launched missiles at it.
Estrella - 2D/1A - Fired missiles at the Diamond.
Tiburon - 3D/2A - Repaired its weapons, then fired missiles at the Diamond.
Montevideo - 3D/3A - Fired on overload at the Sapphire. With its assault special this gave it a good factor, and it caused a weapons destroyed. It then launched missiles at the Diamond.
Pizzaro - 2D/1A - A shot at the Leichhardt, which missed.
Orellana - 3D/1A - A shot at the Flinders, damaging its weapons.

A lot happened in the turnover.

Fighters attacked the Orellana but had no effect. A missile hit the Sapphire, causing weapon damage; armour prevented a weapons destroyed. Three missiles targetted the Diamond, one of which was from the rear. Two weapon damaged hits became a single weapons destroyed. The third missile also caused a weapons destroyed, putting the Diamond onto weapons critical. This left it in a rather odd position; the Diamond has a CV of 2. Two weapons hits would cause a -2, putting it on a CV of 0. But weapons critical has the effect of halving the CV, which puts the Diamond back up to 1. This is only an issue with a CV of 2, but it is an oddity.

Here are the missiles targeting the OUDF frigates:

At the end of turn four this was the position. As you can see the markers were starting to build up:

Turn 5 - OUDF

Flinders - 3D/2A - Launched fighters on a combat mission, then took a direct shot at the Orellana, which missed.
Leichhardt - 2D/0A - End of the activation.

Not a good move for the OUDF; their frigates were closely engaged with the LLAR ships, and didn't get any actions.

In the turnover two lots of fighters went for the Orellana; two weapon damage hits translated to a weapons destroyed. This stacked with the previous one to leave the frigate on weapons critical.

Turn 5 - LLAR

Orellana - 3D/2A - Two moves, in an attempt to get away from the fighters.
Pizarro - 2D/1A - A direct fire shot into the rear of the Leichhart scored 8 to 2, which would have destroyed the carrier. But the armour shifted it to 8 against 3, which just caused weapons destroyed.
Raya - 3D/1A - A move, then the end of the activation. 

Nothing significant happened in the turnover. And I forgot to take a photo.

Turn 6 - OUDF

Leichhardt - 2D/1A - Launched fighters on a combat mission.
Mittagong - 3D/0A - Appalling bad luck saw the OUDF turn end again. Their frigates were in danger of flying off the board due to failed compulsory movement.

In the turnover fighters from the Flinders attacked the Orellana, causing systems damage.

LLAR - Turn 6

Estrella - 3D/3A - Moved and launched missiles at the Leichhardt, then took a direct shot at the Leichhardt. This would have destroyed it, but for the armour again. But a systems destroyed became a crew panic. 
Tiburon - 2D/2A - Moved, then fired missiles at the Flinders.
Montevideo - 3D/1A - Fired missiles at the Flinders.

The LLAR cruiser and missile ships had now passed the inactive OUDF frigates, and were turning onto the Mittagong and the carriers.

In the turnover two fighters attacked the Orellana causing weapons damage, whilst a missile caused weapons damage on the Leichhardt. The Leichhart was now in a very bad way.

I took a photo at this point, but it's too blurry to use.

OUDF - Turn 7

The Leichhardt took a morale test, and suffered a systems damage from it which took its Q to 7. So it engaged its warp-drive and fled.

Flinders - 3D/3A - A failed escort support on some nearby missiles, then two moves into the dust cloud to get protection from them.
Mittagong - 3D/3A - One move, then a FSS shot at the Tiburon which missed.
Diamond - 2D/2A - Two moves, turning around in an attempt to get back into the fight.
Sapphire - 3D/2A - Repaired weapons, then a move.
Opal - 3D/1A - Moved.

In the turnover fighters inflicted systems damage on the Orellana.

LLAR - Turn 7

Tiburon - 2D/0A - And that was it.

In the turnover the Raya moved off the table and out of the fight. I assume that ships which leave the table are lost. The Flinders was hit by a missile, causing a weapons damaged which cascaded to a weapons destroyed.

This was the position at the end of turn seven. In the bottom right you can just see the pulsar, which had no effect on the game at all, aside from the fact that both sides avoided that part of the table; a pulsar causes ships near it to suffer combat penalties.

OUDF - Turn 8

Mittagong - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Tiburon, causing weapons damage.
Flinders - 3D/3A - Two moves, then launch fighters on a combat mission.
Opal - 3D/3A - One move got it closer to the Tiburon, then a FSS shot caused systems damage, which cascaded to crew panic. the Tiburon got two morale passes and stayed in the game.
Diamond - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Tiburon missed.
Sapphire - 3D/3A - A moved, followed by a FSS shot at the Tiburon, causing weapon damage.

In the turnover fighters and missiles moved, but nothing contacted.

LLAR - Turn 8

The Tiburon failed its morale and fled.

Orellana - 2D/1A - Repaired weapons damage
Estrella - 3D/3A - Two moves got it to the rear of the Mittagong, where it launched missiles at close range.
Montevideo - 3D/0A - Once again the flagship let the side down. Most LLAR ships were beyond the range of the fleet control centre at this stage.

In the turnover missiles went into the rear of the Mittagong and the Flinders. The Mittagong was saved by its shields from its first damage of the game. The Flinders would have been destroyed, had it not been for, yes, its armour. It still took a systems destroyed.

And here's the position at the end of turn eight.

Turn 9 - OUDF

Mittagong - 3D/0A - Oh dear.

In the turnover fighters attacked the Orellana, but missed.

Turn 9 - LLAR

Estrella - 2D/0A - Oh dear again.

Nothing happened in the turnover, and whilst ships had moved I didn't take a picture because nothing significant happened.

Turn 10 - OUDF

Opal - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Estrella missed
Sapphire - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Estrella missed
Diamond - 3D/2A - A FSS shot at the Estrella missed. Do you see a pattern here?
Mittagong - 3D/2A - Two moves in an attempt to close up on the Montevideo.
Flinders - 2D/1A - Launched more fighters.

In the turnover the fighters engaged the Orellana and caused weapons damage.

Turn 10 - LLAR

Montevideo - 3D/2A - Launched missiles and external ordinance at the Sapphire.
Pizarro - 2D/1A - Moved, as it was well away from the fight.
Estrella - 2D/1A - Fired missiles at the Diamond.
Orellana - 3D/0A - Just a compulsory move, which lef tit wide open to the fighters attacking it as they could now move into its rear.

In the turnover fighters attacked the Orellana, but missed.
Missiles went for the Diamond and caused weapon damage.

And here we are at the end of ten turns:

Turn 11 - OUDF

Diamond - 3D/2A - After repairing weapons damage it fired into the rear of the Estrella causing weapon damage.
Opal - 3D/1A - A shot into the rear of the Estrella caused another weapon damage, cascading it to a weapon destroyed. Both ships used compulsory movement to get into the rear shot position.
Sapphire - 3D/0A - Nothing more to say.

Turn 11 - LLAR

Montevideo - 3D/3A - A move, followed by missiles at the Sapphire.
Pizarro - 3D/2A - An overload shot at the Sapphire missed.
Estrella - 3D/1A - Fired missiles at the Sapphire.
Orellana - 3D/1A - Repaired its weapon damage.

In the turnover two missiles hit the Sapphire. A system damage cascaded to a systems destroyed, and it took a weapon damage as well.

At this point I'd had enough. Playing solo can be quite taxing, and I wanted to record the game whilst it was fresh as well. It was obviously good for a few more turns, and I just didn't have the time or energy to play them through.

It was hard to say who was winning. The game swung from one side to the other, although I think the OUDF's ability to resist damage would just outweigh the LLAR's ability to inflict it. Both capital ships were totally undamaged and the Montevideo hadn't been targetted once.


I found it very hard to get effective damage on ships. This could be a function of their design - the armour on the OUDF ships saved them countless times, whilst their low firepower meant that they couldn't inflict serious hits on the LLAR vessels. But I can't help thinking that the damage cascade effect has too many steps, leaving ships as ineffective hulks that still can't quite be finished off. I wonder if any system damage on top of a crew panic, or weapon damage on top of a weapon critical should just finish the ship off. This would require an rewrite of the morale failure effects though.

Let me emphasise a point in the paragraph above; hardened armour is very good. It saved three OUDF ships from destruction. 

I do wonder if some of the problem is that hits are diluted between systems and weapons, with no direct penalty for total accumulated damage.

There were specials I didn't use. The point defence disrupter was fired once, and the force disrupters were never used. I do wonder if, in fact, the rules have too many specials with similar abilities. Obviously it makes for variety, but it does make it hard to remember what each ship can do. Part of the reason I created standard 'doctrines' for my two fleets was to have as many specials in common across ships as possible.

Whilst it's a free ability, escort support didn't seem up to much. But perhaps I was unlucky.

The activation system certainly made for an interesting game; it was quite tricky deciding where to go first, and risk ending the turn. I'm not sure about ships on compulsory failed movement going in a straight line, though; running off the table or into a planet seems too much of a possibility.

You end up with a lot of markers on the table. Damage could be written on the data sheet, of course, which would save having those markers, although it does make it easy to see which enemy ships are vulnerable. And it's not a bad way of seeing what state your own ones are in as well. I didn't come up with an obvious way to keep track of which ships missiles were targetted on, or which ship launched fighters; for fighter bays this isn't an issue, as a ship can keep launching fighters, but light fighter hangars only allow one counter per ship. I sometimes lost track of which carrier a counter belonged to.

I love the terrain. It breaks up the table, and actually has an effect on the game as well, both good and bad. A couple of times a ship was able to use dust or a nebula to avoid a sticky situation.

I came up with a number of questions, which I have sent directly to the author. I won't bore you with them here.

On the whole I'm keen to try Void and Stars again, but may try some different ship designs. I wonder if fewer ships, built to more points, would give a more decisive game.

Martian Fliers

I rather liked the look of the Barsoomian fliers in the new 'John Carter' film. They weren't really as Burroughs described them, but they had a 'Burroughs' feel about them. I'm sure he wouldn't have objected to how they were shown.

Anyway, there is a current discussion on the HOTT Yahoo Group about suitable models to depict fliers in Martian armies, so I thought I would post scans of illustrations I have of them that I think are close to how they are described in the books.

The first three are from 'Warriors Of Mars - The Warfare Of Barsoom In Miniature' by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume and published by TSR in 1974*. The pictures are by Greg Bell. Click on them to see them bigger:

Pictures of Martian warships from Gygax and Blume's magnificent 'Warriors of Mars'

This small picture is the only depiction of a flier I could find by Michael Whelan. He did cover illustrations for all eleven of the Martian novels, and all of them are pretty accurate with regard to the descriptions and contents of each book. So if Michael Whelan thinks that this is what a Barsoomian flier looks like, then this is probably what a Barsoomian flier looks like. It's tucked away on the back cover of 'Llana of Gathol':

A Martian flier, illustrated by Michael Whelan

*This is what it says - a complete set of miniatures rules for Barsoom. It has ground combat at both army and individual scale, and also a set of rules for aerial combat. Very old-school, of course, but quite nostalgic.
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