Monday, 12 April 2021

Back To The Shipyard

Although I have a nice set of counters for 'A Billion Suns', it would be nice to have some miniatures as well. I did make some spaceships a few years ago, but I'm not sure I'm entirely enamoured of the designs, and even if I can reproduce them. So I thought I'd make some ships especially for the game. And, as you might expect, I have resorted to lolly sticks.

At the scale I'm likely to be playing at the larger ship types aren't going to be a viable option, so my aim was to put together two forces of the smaller ships. I can do a second build session to expand this as required. Here's the start - utility ships (small and medium), gunships, corvettes and frigates.

I'm not planning on anything to fancy - I used small pieces of card to break up some of the flat surfaces. These are the final designs for (front to back) the gunships, corvettes and frigates.

And these are the utility ships

With the basic designs sorted, the next step was to replicate them in numbers needed for the game. I also looked at some flight stand designs, as well as how to do 'wings' - the 'fighters' in 'A Billion Suns'.

The production line at full stretch ...

And the results!

For each side I have produced 5 x Medium Utility, 5 x Small Utility, 10 x Wings (which can be marked as Recon, Fighter or Bomber as necessary), 6 x Gunships, 4 x Corvettes and 2 x Frigates.  

The small rectangular locks at the front are lifeboats, which are objectives for ones of the contracts. That will be my next build phase - making objective markers for the contracts.

Whilst out shopping the other day I found these great beads. They're about 1" square ...

... and make perfect Jump Points. I don't even need to paint them.


Friday, 9 April 2021

Easter Flamme Rouge

We visited our friends for lunch on Easter Monday, and I taught some of them how to play Flamme Rouge. It was the first time I've played it with four human players, which was fun.

We picked a basic course to start with; just a couple of minor hills and a sprint-finish. Claudia (Black) went a bit wild at the start, and ended up way out in front, accumulating exhaustion cards. The rest of us played more cautiously.

We did the first climb and descent, and that caused the pack to close up a bit, but one of Claudia's cyclists was still out in front, and I (Red) tailed her.

Despite her exhaustion Claudia managed a win, and despite my carefully managing of cards for a final sprint I just scraped a second place.

We set up another game, with a fiendish long climb to the finish. Claudia was more cautious this time, whilst Marco went into an early lead. I got stuck at the back.

The climb to the finish made overtaking very difficult, since the cyclists generally move at the same speed on climbs and we had all done a good job preserving cards in our hands to ensure that. It was Marco's green cyclist who won it, closely pursued by Eric's two blue riders. I came in fourth.

Whilst the AI teams are useful to give you a full game with only one or two players at the table, it was a lot more fun as a game with the full complement of four. I need to find a copy of the Peloton expansion, which takes the game up to six players.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

A Billion Suns Again

Catherine and I played another game of 'A Billion Suns' yesterday evening. Once again we went for Scale 3 and got Supply, Industrial Espionage and Whaling contracts. This meant three tables, but our dining table is really only good for two if we want space for admin and helms, so we pressed a kitchen work-surface into action as well.

We committed more initial resources in this game. Catherine ignored the Supply contract and sent four wings of fighters to grab a container ship and go for the Industrial Espionage one. She also sent a gunship and utility ship after one of the space kraken. I sent fighters after her fighters, some utility ships on the Supply contract, and a frigate and utility ship combo to hunt kraken.

Initial moves saw Catherine's fighter wings wiped out by mine (see the picture showing the five ones I rolled when shooting at her with passive fire), giving me a start on the Espionage contract, and her kraken-hunting force destroyed by the kraken after we seriously underestimated how nasty their attacks are. This wiped her ships out. I got the Supply contract well underway, and easily killed a kraken with the frigate to pick up and score a heart.
Catherine rallied and sent a swarm of recon wings to escort two of the container ships, allowing her to score all 12 Credits from the Espionage contract on the second round. However I scored the full amount on the Supply contract, plus a kraken heart to finish with a score tat was less negative than hers. I 'won' with -4 Credits whilst she had -10.
This game played really quickly and we felt we had a handle on what we were doing as well. However the Whaling contract wasn't one worth going after with any great degree of commitment, since it takes too long to reap its full benefits and the other two contracts have mechanisms which cause them to time out. We actually didn't play the third round - Catherine worked out that she couldn't stop me scoring the last cards on the Supply contract without pulling in new ships, which would have cost her more than I would have lost by not finishing the contract.

To be fair, my investment in a frigate for the whaling contract was a bit ambitious, although had we had more time from the other contracts I think it would have paid off; it killed two of the beasties during the course of the game, including jump-hopping to a new table and using railguns on one with Power to Weapons to score three 2 damage hits.

Anyway, I still haven't worked out how I'm going to put together ships and so forth for this game yet, so until then I'll be using these boring counters. But at least I'm playing.

Here's the pictures.

The game spread across three 'tables'.

Fighters compete to 'escort' a container ship whilst they search it for a rare specimen.

Hunting a space kraken.

Hunting a space kraken and not getting destroyed by it.

Blue wipes out the red fighters.

Collecting a kraken heart.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

'A Billion Suns' - First Game

Catherine and I had our first go at 'A Billion Suns' this afternoon, playing a basic Scale 3 game. There's quite a lot of information to unload on a new player who hasn't read the rules before, but Catherine managed to get a reasonable grasp of what she had to do.

We drew our three contracts and got Shipping (picking luxury stuff up from a planet and selling it), Demolition (blowing up rogue space-stations) and Rhexis Harvesting (picking up weird energy from a 'pearl' surrounded by a dangerous energy field). The game was spread across two tables, which you can see marked here by a chalk line. On one table were the three facilities and on the second the planet and the Rhexis pearl.

I have outlined how 'A Billion Suns' works here, so won't repeat it. We both had a think about what resources we wanted to commit to the contracts. Catherine decided to harvest the pearl, whilst I decided that the shipping contract looked tasty. We both decided to demolish space-stations. I sent in a gunship, whilst Catherine was more frugal, and sent in a fighter wing.

Meanwhile on the other side of the galaxy, two large merchant ships approached a planet, ready to trade. Nearby, unphotographed, Catherine's utility ship was scanning the Rhexis pearl.

Back at the space-stations, I decided to soften one up and ended up destroying it. This scored revenue, but less than I would have got had I taken the time to erase the AI core first. Still, it was money in the bank, and a second station (with no AI) would pay for the gunship.

Catherine erased the AI from a station, and set her fighters back into an attack. The station's automated defences wiped them out. She jumped in a squadron or recon ships to try and finish the job, but they were wiped out too.

I was accumulating luxuries at the planet, and was ready to ship them out for a score. But I realised that Catherine was about to score big from her harvesting. And if she did it would end that contract as well. Since the demolition contract also had a time-limit. I realised that I wouldn't have time to score revenue from my shipping contract before the game ended (the game ends when two contracts can no longer score revenue). I jumped in a pair of fighter wings, sending them after Catherine's harvesting ship, hoping to destroy it before it reaped the full benefits of the pearl. I failed. She scored.

My gunship went after another station, hoping to take it out and justify its cost. The station's shields deflected my attacks and, to add insult to injury, the station then auto-destructed, ending the contract and taking out my gunship in its blast radius.

I did earn some revenue from the shipping contract, but not as much as I'd hoped.

Catherine won decisively, spending 5 Credits on ships and earning 12 Credits from contracts to pick up +7 Credits. I spent 11 Credits on ships and earned a measly 7 Credits in return for a total of -4 Credits. Instead of going after Catherine's harvesting ship I would have been better off jumping the fighters in on the third space station - destroying both of them would have left me in credit, if nothing else.

The game played smoothly and quickly, especially given that we hadn't played it before. We're both keen to try it again.

YOU Are Elon Musk!

We had a family get-together yesterday and, at Maya's insistence, we played' Elon Musk's iPod Submarine'. All afternoon.

I've posted the game here before, but here it is again. It's pretty simple:

We played with seven people, although Michelle dropped out about halfway through for a nap.

We took full notes of every round, but I'll just summarise each one. It should give you an idea how a full game flows.

Problem 1 - Shipping Container Stuck In Suez Canal

This was an obvious one for someone to choose, all things considered. Solutions included 'Godzilla Deadlift', 'Tesla Magnet' and my wonderful 'Sonic Submarine'. Elon Musk (Catherine) chose 'Aquatic Transporter'. I thought that she was Elon Musk. Everyone else thought that I was Elon Musk and voted accordingly. Round One to Elon Musk.

Problem 2 - 'Cowbell' Video Not Available On YouTube

This came out of our earlier discovery that the classic 'More Cowbell' sketch from SNL is not available on YouTube.

Solutions proposed included 'Online Petition', 'Musk Tube' and a 'Rural Fieldtrip'. Elon Musk (Maya) jumped in with 'Advertising Campaign', but when pressed couldn't suggest what for. we exposed them and they failed to tell us what the problem was, so the players won.

Problem 3 - Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar On The Run In Wollongong

This was also based on our earlier YouTube investigations, watching old Mitchell and Webb sketches. It also showcased Cei's inability to understand what a problem of six words or fewer looked like.

Anyway, some of the solutions were 'iPod Police', 'Cigarette Cage' and 'Bluetooth Shelters'. Michelle was Elon Musk and went for 'Sonic Screwdriver' (Cei has been making her watch a lot of 'Doctor Who' because apparently they don't have it in Indonesia, where she comes from). We all spotted she was Elon Musk, and she had no idea what the problem was. Another win for the players.

Problem 4 - Cei Trapped In A Haunted House

This was Michelle's revenge for Cei's obscure Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar problem in the previous round.

The solutions for this were a bit weak. Obviously we felt that Cei being trapped in a  haunted house was no bad thing. I did suggest 'Proton Packs' though. Catherine was Elon Musk and leaped in with the random 'Pringles Tubes'. She was quickly exposed for another player win.

Problem 5 - Too Many Leaves Not On Trees

That garbled english was Catherine's contribution, but we weren't sure if the problem was (i) too many leaves on the ground or (ii) a lack of leaves on the trees. Our solutions covered both, and ranged from '3D Paint' and 'Strong Glue' to 'Giant Earthworms'. Elon Musk (Satvik) felt that 'Intelligent Stitches' were the answer. We weren't convinced and he failed to tell us what the problem was. Yet another player win.

If the problems are obscure then Elon Musk has a difficult time in this game.

Problem 6 - Nothing Blocking Suez Canal

Obviously a problem for the makers of high-engagement memes.

This produced a great set of solutions: 'iPod Submarine', 'Proto-Divers', 'iWall', 'Canadian Pondweed', 'Less Roughage', 'Add Fish'. Can you spot Elon Musk (Maya - again)? Yes, that's right - the 'Proto-Divers'. She failed to deduce the problem, and we, the players, won again.

Problem 7  - Pringles In Tube Have Run Out

Yes, we had eaten our way through the first lot of table-snacks.

Solutions covered 'Multiple Copies' and 'Inbuilt Replicators' to 'Unlimited Refills' and 'Timelord Technology' (Michelle really has watched a lot of 'Doctor Who' recently). Maya was Elon Musk again, and went for 'Transporter Accidents'. She actually came close to guessing the problem though, but  we didn't feel she was close enough, so we called this round a draw. And got more snacks.

Problem 8 - Must Convince Everyone You're Elon Musk

This isn't really a problem, but we ran with it.

I dived in with the unintentionally punny 'Elon Mask'. Satvik played the problem properly with 'Submersible iPod'. Cei tried 'Musk Spray' and was accused by everyone else of being Elon Musk. He wasn't. It was Catherine's 'Genetic Manipulation' that was Elon's contribution. So Elon Musk won this round.

Problem 9 - Time-Travelling Nazis

We tried to switch to simpler problems, to give the Elon Musk player more of a chance. My favourite solution was Cei's 'Inglorious Basterds'. Other suggestions included 'Anti-Time' and 'The Doctor'. Catherine was Elon Musk and chose 'Date Manipulation'. We exposed her, and she failed to pick up on Cei's reference and couldn't quite pinpoint the problem. A player win.

Problem 10 - World Pasta-Shortage

My son eats a lot of pasta, and decided that this could become an issue. 'Soylent Society', 'More Machines' and 'Super Cei' were the bizarre solutions proposed. I was Elon Musk in this one, and went for 'iPod Engineering'. However the discussion hinted that it had something to do with Cei eating, I guessed it was about a food shortage, remembered his love of pasta, and correctly guessed the problem for a Musk Win.

Problem 11 - Porridge On Your Shoe

This was my wife's random contribution. The best solution was 'Tiny Dogs'. I was Elon Musk again, and failed to work out the problem, suggesting 'Bluetooth Collars' and being quickly exposed.

Problem 12 - Space Ghosts

Obviously my 'Space Pacman' was the best solution! Maya proposed a 'Space detective' who would investigate and find out why the ghosts were haunting space and lay them to rest. Cei went for 'Atom Bomb'. But he wasn't Elon Musk. That was Catherine, with 'Solar Sieve'. We worked out who she was and, again, she failed to identify the problem.

Problem 13 - Choosing Baby Names Is Hard

This is a big thing in our family at the moment, since Michelle (and Cei) are expecting. And later this year I will be a grandad!

Anyway, some of the solutions proposed were 'Buzzfeed Quiz' (my favourite), 'Name Bros' and 'Libraries'. I was Elon Musk (again) and opted for 'Techno Fonts'. I was easily exposed, but somehow worked out what the problem was, for a second win as Elon Musk.

So I claimed overall victory, since I'd won as Elon Musk twice by guessing the problem after being exposed. Elon Musk won four rounds, and we had one draw.

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks to Catherine, Satvik, Henri, Maya, Cei and Michelle for an entertainingly stupid afternoon.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Dark Ages DBA

Caesar and I played DBA last night, with an outing for my 6mm Dark Ages armies that haven't seen the light of day in a long while.

The first game saw the Strathclyde British (me) defending against a Pict invasion, because Caesar wanted to try out the Picts' Fast Pike.

On my left my cavalry smashed into a wall of Pictish spears supported by light horse.

On my right my spear-line was overwhelmed by skirmishing Pictish archers.

In the centre my steady spearmen drove the lighter Picts back.

The British fell back on their flanks, leaving the centre exposed.

Gaps opened in both lines, which the Picts exploited.

A final push by a block of their light warriors saw the British defeated.

I think that this was the first time the Picts have actually won a battle - the lighter pikes are tricky to use, but did the job when used in a mixture of single and double ranks.

Caesar kept the Picts for the second game, whilst I switched to the Scots-Irish, who are basically a mass of auxilia.

We charged in two long lines and clashed in the open field. Caesar was horrified to discover that the auxilia could kill his light horse. Actually I was as surprised as he was; I'd forgotten about that combat result*

My old-school chariot general led the way ...

... some of the time.

Caesar's general also led from the front, driving a block of Pictish spearmen through the centre of the Irish line.

The lines were broken up now. Whoever got the PIPs would win. I got a '1'.

Caesar got more than '1', exploited some gaps and killed my general, for his second win of the evening.

It was nice to have those armies out on the table after such a long break, and great to see the Picts come into their own as well.

*Update: We read the rules wrong - somehow we read the Psiloi result line. Auxilia don't kill light horse. Oops.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Counters For 'A Billion Suns'

I'm still not sure when I'm going to get a chance to play 'A Billion Suns' for the first time yet, but last night I printed out a whole set of counters and markers so I will have all the pieces I need and more. They're glued to card and the next stage is going to be the long process of cutting them out.

There's far more stuff there than I'll need for a basic Scale 3 game - there's enough objectives to cover me up to Scale 5, for example - so I should be good for a while.
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