Monday, 30 June 2014

An Improved AI For Machinas

Machinas plays very nicely solo, but sometimes the AI doesn't seem very sensible. Well-armed NPC vehicles rarely use their weapons, for example, and the system doesn't cover some of a vehicle's more unusual options.

As I've played games I have been tweaking and adding to the system in order to make the behaviour of NPC vehicles more 'intelligent', which in turn I hope makes them into more challenging opponents.

I have tried to develop a system which will apply to both Races and Road, and will note the differences accordingly. In essence a race will still emphasise passing, and vehicles may be more conservative about expendable weapons until towards the end of the race. On the road, vehicles will be more aggressive, as the aim is to eliminate the opposition within a limited time-frame.

Bonus Dice

A vehicle will always roll to use Bonus Dice on the Bashing, Shooting or Out Of Control Tables.

A vehicle will always roll to use Bonus Dice if it is attempting a Pass.

If a vehicle is being passed, it may opt not to use Bonus Dice. Look at the number of Successes of the passing car and compare it to the number of Auto Successes the NPC car has.

If the number of Passing Successes is less than the number of Auto Successes, then the NPC holds off the Pass without using any Bonus Dice.

If the number of Passing Successes is equal to or greater than the number of Auto Successes, then determine how many dice the passed car would roll without any Bonus Dice, halve the total and add it to the Auto Successes. If this score is greater than the number of Passing Successes, then the passed car will roll to use Bonus Dice, but each will only be used on a roll of '1'.

Otherwise roll for Bonus Dice use normally.

Example: Red attempts to pass Yellow on a straight. Red scores 5 Successes. Yellow has a Speed of 3. This means that Yellow's Auto Successes are lower than Red's Successes (3 vs 5). Yellow's Savvy is 4, and he is on the inside, so he would automatically roll 5 dice. Halved this is 2.5, and added to his speed of 3 this gives 5.5. This is greater than Red's score, so Yellow will roll for each Bonus Dice, using it on a '1'. Had Yellow not been on the inside, his total would have been 5, which would not have been greater than Red's, so Yellow would have rolled for Bonus Dice use normally.

Winning A Pass

If an NPC car wins a wide pass, then it will just pass - there is no other option.

If an NPC car wins a normal passing attempt, then you must determine if it will Pass, Bash or Shoot. This is how we do this.

At the start of the game, assign each NPC car a Primary, a Secondary and a Tertiary behaviour. Each of these must be either Pass, Bash or Shoot, but a behaviour may be used more than once. For example, a car equipped to do nothing but bash may have Bash as its Primary behaviour, Pass as its Secondary and Bash again as its Tertiary.

In a Race all cars will generally have Pass as their Primary behaviour, so a car with Twin 50's may have its behaviours defined as Pass/Shoot/Bash in a Race, but Shoot/Pass/Bash on the Road.

When a car wins a Passing attempt roll a D6:
1-3 - The car uses its Primary behaviour
4-5 - The car uses its Secondary behaviour
6 - The car uses its Tertiary behaviour

If the car was being Passed, and won, then make the roll as normal. Treat results of Pass and Shoot as Holding Off The Pass, unless the car has a Tail Gun in which case both results are treated as Shoot.

Other Behaviours

In a Race, if an NPC vehicle has the option to use something with limited uses, roll a D6. They will use it on a roll of 1-3 on a D6. They will automatically use it if the number of uses remaining is currently greater than or equal to the number of track sections remaining. This applies to such things as Molotov Cocktail, Flamethrower, Box of Nails. On the Road an NPC car will use such expendable items at the first opportunity

If an NPC car has the option to make a special challenge instead of a normal Passing attempt challenge (firing a Tail Gun at a target behind them, or Missiles at a target two or three spots ahead, for example), then they will do so on a roll of 5+ on a D6. 

On the Road, a pursuing NPC car that is is front of all pursued vehicles will declare Dropping Back in the Challenge Phase on a 5+ if their Primary behaviour is Bash or Shoot. If their Primary behaviour is Pass, then they will only Drop Back on a 6.

If an NPC car has the option of changing lane (via a random event, for example), then they will do so on a 5+ of a D6.

When an NPC car has the option of moving into or passing via the inside or outside lane, they will go Inside on a 1-4 and Outside on a 5-6

When rolling for position at the start of the turn, an NPC with Loner will go Out of Position on a 1-2, attempt a Wide Pass on a 3-4, and a Normal Pass on a 5-6.


This may look involved, but in fact it's fairly easy to keep track of during the course of a game, and makes for more sensible NPC vehicles, especially in chases.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Game Of Two Halves

I guess that some of you out there are following the world Cup (the World Cup - the ones for other games being qualified by the name of the game).  John Hovey seems to be, and has developed a quick, dice-based football game, so you can replay your favourite matches.


I tried it out this evening. As you'd realise from a read-through, there's few decisions; it's really a means of using dice to develop a narrative, which in itself is no bad thing. And the mechanisms is good and gives the right feel. the only criticism I'd level at it, and it's one others have found, is that it tends to lead to scoreless draws. Despite what people outside of football-playing nations believe, scoreless draws are not the norm. I suspect that some tweaking of the tables is needed.

Anyway, give them a go; they're worth at least ten minutes of anyone's time.

Oh. And this:

Update 04/07/2014 - Linked to latest version

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Buggy, Bus And Bikes

Some more vehicles for Machinas.

The first is a 1933 Ford roadster, from Hot Wheels:

This was the vehicle that would have been Tom Sawyer in the game we played on Thursday. I went for a hobo look - a palette of browns and plenty of dust. It has a big, rear-facing machine-gun. The driver is an old Airfix figure, the gun came from another, armed, Hot Wheels vehicle, the blanket roll is scratchbuilt and the spare wheel is from a Risk cannon.

The roadster is a subcompact car, which behaves slightly differently to 'standard' cars in Machinas. I'd like to try some more non-standard vehicles, so I decided to Go Big. Here's an armoured school bus.

It carries a couple of machine-guns, carries a massive spiked ram and is heavily plated in armour.

This is not where you want to see it, although the roadster is more agile.

Finally I decided that I wanted to go to the other end of the scale and use motorbikes. But they're hard to find in Hot Wheels scale (the ones they do are massively overscale compared to the cars. It looks like Italieri do (or did) some WWII German motorcycles that may work, if I can find them, but until then I just printed off some German ones from the Junior General site. They will give me a chance to try out the rules

As you can see, they scale nicely with the cars.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wollongong Death Race

Tonight Machinas made its debut at the Gong Garage Gamers.

I pre-generated thirteen vehicles, and Dave brought his collection along as well, using one of them as a proxy for one of my pre-designed cars. Everyone chose a car they liked the look of, I explained how the game worked, and off we went.

Although we had five players,  I added a couple of NPC cars to bulk out the numbers and to provide vehicles for people to take over if they were knocked out of the race early on. It was a good job I'd had that moment of foresight ...

The cars lined up at the start. From left to right:

Tom Sawyer (Dave) - An agile buggy with a well-aimed rear-facing gun.
A Farewell To Kings (Geoff) - Guns, molotov cocktails and lots of nails. Nasty.
Dreamline (Me) - A pure ramming car. Big spikes on the front.
Hand Over Fist (NPC) - Another ram car, with bonus spiked wheels and big chains hanging off the back to make it difficult to pass.
The Anarchist (NPC) - A flamethrower. Say no more.
The Fountain Of Lamneth (Caesar) - A big gun. Again, say no more.
Clockwork Angel (Marco) - Surprisingly quick for a car toting four machine-guns.

Photos are few, because I was tied up in keeping the game running.

Geoff roared off into the lead with A Farewell To Kings. He held off numerous passing attempts, some by judicious use of boxes of nails. At the start of the second lap Dreamline failed to negotiate them, and crashed. The Anarchist narrowly avoided being wiped out by the wreck.

I took over Hand Over Fist at the back of the pack. A couple of sections later The Anarchist tried to bash Marco's Clockwork Angel. Marco threw in a pile of bonus dice, and The Anarchist flipped out of the race as well.

We were now nearing the end of the second lap, and people were settling nicely into the tactics of the game. Geoff was maintaining his lead, but Caesar and Marco were wearing down his bonus dice.

At the end of the second lap Dave moved up the pack with the Tom Sawyer (who had acquired a gunner figure, for some reason). A random event saw him swerve too close to Geoff's car, and an appalling Out of Control roll saw A Farewell To Kings bounce off the track and out of the race.

As we neared the end of the third and final lap, this was the position. Tom Sawyer was out in front, with his rear-gun acting as a serious deterrent to any drafting. I had tried to use Hand Over Fist's ramming abilities to remove an opposing car, but kept missing the successful bash by one success. Caesar, in The Fountain of Lamneth, bided his time at the rear.

The finish! Marco used his greater speed to take the lead from Dave in the final stretch of track, but Caesar used up a big pile of bonus dice to hammer down the outside from the rear. He overtook my car and Dave's, and only missed overtaking Marco for the win by one success. A very close finish indeed.

This was a great race, with most of the players in it until the end, and enough decisions to keep it interesting. The few house rules I was trying (an alternate random event and an improved AI for NPCs) held up well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and soon picked up the tactics and possibilities - when to spend bonus dice, when to pass, when to shoot and which opposing cars to avoid.

I was so tied up running the game I didn't even get chance to make a cup of tea, let alone get pictures of the Command & Colours and 15mm Black Powder games.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A Nice Morning Drive

As promised, here's a playthrough of my Red Barchetta scenario for Machinas.

The Red Barchetta itself is a repainted Hot Wheels Corvette; the best I could find at short notice. The MSVs are two suitable cars from the collection I now have.

I chose Deep Treads and Speedster as my traits, giving me reasonable capabilities on both curves and straights.

I generated sections one turn in advance, so I knew what was coming next, but not beyond.

And away we went.

Section 1 was a curve. Both MSVs moved into position to pass.

I saw an opening and moved to block the Grey MSV (this is a variant random event I am using at the moment - I have scrapped the bonus pass attempt you get on a '7'; now you can now choose to change one lane either to the left or right).

Unfortunately the MSV managed to move over as well, but in doing so nearly collided with the other one.

It zoomed into position, and ...

... passed me.

The Brown MSV also had a go, but I held him.

Section 2 was a straight. I drafted, and Brown tried a pass, but suffered a temporary brake lock and dropped back out o the running for this road section.

In Section 3 - a straight - I decided to draft the Grey MSV, and the Brown MSV moved in behind me as well.

But, again, the random events gave me an opening, and I took it.

Foot hard down on the accelerator I pulled ahead of the Grey MSV.

Section 4 was also a straight. Both MSVs moved to make a wide pass ...

... and almost collided again. They failed to overtake me.

We swept into a long curve in Section 5. I suffered issues with my brakes, and nearly collided with the Grey MSV behind me.

The Brown MSV made an attempt to head me off ...

... but couldn't manage it.

Sections 6 and 7 were also curves, and both MSVs made desperate attempts to pass me, but I kept my nerve and held them off again and again.

Section 8, and Grey makes a wide pass. Once again I see him off and ...

... reach safety!

The scenario was fun to run, but probably a little unbalanced in favour of the Red Barchetta. I possibly need to up the quality of the MSVs to make them more dangerous; whilst the Red Barchetta is weak in a bash situation, the MSVs never really got the chance to line one up because I was too quick and agile for them.

Still, it was great to bring one of my favourite songs to life.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Red Barchetta

My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And now on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the turbine freight
To far outside the wire where my
White-haired uncle waits.

If you know me, you'll know I'm a bit of a fan of Canadian rockers, Rush. If you don't know me ... well, you now know that I'm a bit of a fan of Canadian rockers, Rush. One of my favourite songs, and certainly one of my favourite driving songs, is 'Red Barchetta', from the 1980 album 'Moving Pictures'. The song itself is set in a vaguely dystopian future where cars, or at least cars as we know them, appear to be banned. The protagonist has had one preserved - the Red Barchetta of the title - and, once a week, takes it out for a drive. On one such expedition he encounters other vehicles, and a chase ensues.

The song itself was inspired by a short story by Richard S. Foster called 'A Nice Morning Drive'. In this the protagonist drives a MG, and the other vehicles are Maximum Safety Vehicles (MSVs), which are safety cars designed to withstand collisions at up to 50mph. In the world of the story, MSV drivers ram 'conventional' vehicles off the road for fun, and that's the fate awaiting the narrator if he fails to evade them.

You can read the story HERE.

And here's the song. Turn it up loud.

Anyway, I thought that I would take inspiration from both song and story to create a short scenario for Machinas.

Jump to the ground as the turbo slows
To cross the borderline
Run like the wind as excitement shivers
Up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me
An old machine
For fifty-odd years
To keep it as new
Has been his dearest dream.

The basis is the road chase from the rules. You will play the driver of the Red Barchetta. You are being pursued by two MSVs, and must evade or avoid them.

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant Red Barchetta
From a better vanished time.

The Red Barchetta is a sports car, so gets +1D6 on the Passing Table, but -1D6 on the Bashing table. It counts as Tuned Up, so gets +2 Bonus Dice at the start of the game. In addition you can choose two of the following:

Speedster, Big-Block Engine, Cool Driver, Gearhead, Deep Treads

Build your driver with 9 points, and you're ready to go.

Fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

The MSVs have no special abilities, and count as Sedans. Generate their driver stats using the Wasteland table.

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

To play the game, set up the Red Barchetta in the lead, with the MSVs behind it. Use the road generation table to determine the nature of the next stretch at the start of each turn. The MSVs are run as non-player vehicles, of course. If they win a Passing attempt, they will simply pass on a 1-3 and Bash on a 4-6.

Well-oiled leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware.

The game plays as a standard chase. However the roll to end the chase applies to both MSVs, not just one, and represents the Red Barchetta reaching the one-lane bridge. If using the optional rules for Shoulder Driving, the road is considered to be three lanes wide. Obviously there is no shooting.

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air-car
Shoots towards me two lanes wide
Oh, I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase.

If the roll to end the game is made, and the Red Barchetta is not the lead car, then play one more turn.

The MSVs win if the Red Barchetta is wrecked, or it is not the lead car at the end of the game.

The Red Barchetta wins if it is the only car still running, or the game ends and it is the lead car.

Any other result is a draw.

Ride like the wind
Straining the limits
Of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded
At the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle
At the fireside.

Coming Next - I play the scenario ...

Afterword - Rush tried to contact Richard S. Foster in order to let him know that his story was being used for a song, but his contact details were out of date. The story of how he found out about his contribution to the world of music, and how he met Rush lyricist and drummer Neil Peart can be found HERE.

Winter Is Coming

A couple of weeks ago, my club tried a simple mapless HOTT campaign. They gave it a 'Game of Thrones' theme. Since we had planned it weeks in advance I used it as an opportunity to put together a new HOTT army but, as things turned out, I wasn't able to take part and left off finishing the army.

Well, this week, I completed it. Wildlings!

Now, I should say that I haven't read the books yet, so the army is based on (a) the TV series and (b) the figures I had available. If you want it's an army inspired by the 'Game of Thrones' Wildings.

The figures are mostly some I've had for ages; Kremlin Miniatures Siberian Tribesmen, now sadly out of production. When they released them several years ago I bought one of each pack so that I could see what they were like, planning on getting some more at a later date. Well, that won't be happening any time soon, but there were enough bits to throw together a HOTT army.

The army is as follows:

1 x Rider General @ 2AP (The King Beyond The Wall, or a Tribal Chieftain)
1 x Riders @ 2AP (Mounted Wildlings)
5 x Warband @ 2AP (Warriors)
2 x Shooters @ 2AP (Archers)
1 x Beasts @ 2AP (Skinchangers)
1 x Behemoth @ 4AP (Giant)

If I expanded the army I'd include a Hero maybe, and certainly find a place for a mammoth or two.

Here are the Warband.

The archers are lovely figures; some nice poses, and beautiful lamellar horn armour.

Here's a close-up of the armour.

And a rear-view showing the excessive back-piece.

The Riders are mounted on some great stumpy little ponies which really look like the mounts of tough steppe tribesmen.

The Beasts. I raided my wolf collection for this element, then added a couple of severed-head wielding figures to add the human component.

The giant. He's a Copplestone yeti I've also had for a few years. And he was a positive pleasure to paint.

The snow is done by coating the base in PVA and dipping in fine sand. I then painted it in white, gave it a second rough, incomplete coat in pale blue (with which I also edged the bases), then a final coat in white. The transparency of the final coat just shows bits of the blue and give the snow some shading.

Anyway, at some stage I guess I need to try this army out.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...