Mongo’s Last Stand

Combat raged in the abandoned research base once again last night, and once again the (reinforced) Vityaz team got spanked. By those damn rats, wouldn’t you know. There was an epic slugfest between Mongo and the URSA assault suit, the armor plating holding up under the giant mutant’s relentless pummeling. However, the workers of the glorious Motherland must have overlooked the quality-control check on the flexible seals and hydraulic hoses because the mighty walking tank fell the next turn to a swarm of rats. (Yes, those rats)

Reinforced Vityaz team. STALKER guides are already moving into position near the torn fence. (again)
Reinforced Vityaz team. STALKER guides are already moving into position near the torn fence. (again)
URSA Assault suit.
URSA Assault suit.
Damn rats!
Damn rats!
Clash of the Titans.
Clash of the Titans.
Ursa for the win!
Ursa for the win!
Wait! What?
Wait! What?
With the Vityaz team down, the STALKER guides rush the bandits, desperate to take the base.
With the Vityaz team down, the STALKER guides rush the bandits, desperate to take the base.

A Black Day for STALKERS

Tonight was to be the first mission in a linked series.

A small detachment of Vityaz MVD troopers was on a routine sweep near the south west edge of the Zelyony Forest. At mid day, they caught the feeble, static-washed signal of a distress call claiming to be from the survivors of a scientific research team trapped in the abandoned URAN base seven kilometers away. Guided by a three-man STALKER crew, the Vityaz fireteam approached the base’s main gate. The lightly armored but more nimble STALKERS entered the base some 500 meters north through a break in the fence beside a pair of dilapidated barracks.

The bodies of the Research project’s security detail lay nearby, torn, mutilated, and in some cases, partially eaten. The remaining scientists had taken refuge atop a rusty fuel tank on the far side of the base.

I won’t re-hash the tragic details, but suffice it to say between the waves of mutant rats and shambling Rad Zombies, the Scientists were still stranded on the tank as the sun dropped below the horizon.

Military team
Military team
STALKERS near a grisly warning.
STALKERS near a grisly warning.
Over the wall.
Over the wall.
The Lieutenant's last stand. Mobbed by Rad zombies.
The Lieutenant’s last stand. Mobbed by Rad zombies.
"Is there someone else out there?"
“Is there someone else out there?”
Mutant showed up at the end. Just in time to snack on the leftovers.
Mutant showed up at the end. Just in time to snack on the leftovers.

The hunt for perfect rules


It’s more an epic quest, actually.

You know, your peculiar holy grail table top rules. For me, it’s fast-play, skirmish combat with RPG-lite elements. Call me finicky but don’t want a lot of bookkeeping or no chit-clutter. (spoils the effect, IMO) I don’t want a dozen stats/model, page after page of tables, hundreds of modifiers, errata and exceptions. No unbalanced points system that can be exploited by troglodyte, min/max power gamers. And please no convoluted gimmick mechanics to reinvent the wheel simply because you couldn’t borrow an existing elegant solution. Oh yes, and I’d like to be able to slot in figs from different game companies.

Now there are lots of games out there, some of them good, several of them great, most of them passable. But none of them quite trip my trigger. I guess that’s why I’m sifting other game systems – stealing, sorting, simplifying in an effort to forge yet another set of home-brew rules. I want both veteran and new gamers to grasp streamlined mechanics and concentrate on the game, on the 28mm story that’s unfolding on the table, rather than constantly flipping through pages.

I’ve narrowed it down to several key elements:

Alternating Activation.
Ye Gods! Nothing is more tedious, not to mention unrealistic, than one entire side moving, shooting, charging into melee while the other sits there and endures in stoic, static stupidity. In game terms, it’s called IGO-UGO, but I call it BOHICA. (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again)
Alternating Activation at least mimics the ebb and flow of combat, keeps both players engaged during a game turn, and allows them to react to unfolding battlefield conditions. When activated, units (single figs or multiple model squads) can perform up to two different ACTIONS before game play passes to their opponent.

Four Stats.
Movement, Combat Ability, Armor, Morale. That’s it. How many do I need? This isn’t a hyper-detailed RPG where I have to track ammo by the individual round, wound location, fatigue, mental state, and load burden. How fast can they run in a tactical situation? How well trained are they with weapons, either range or melee? How resistant are they to damage? How focused, motivated are they to stay in the fight? Just Basic Soldier Info for any battlespace.

Weapons are also divided into general classes (Do I really need to differentiate between species of Assault Rifle?) each with three stats: Range, (how far the hurt?) Firepower, (How many the hurt?) and Damage. (How much the hurt?)

Skills and Equipment.
Here’s where I can differentiate characters and specialty troops. Close Combat Crazies? No problem. This bunch has +1 to their Combat Ability when in Melee. Infiltrator/Scout? Sure. They can deploy up to 18″ off their table edge. Mimetic Camouflage? No problem. Note the fig/figs have Obfu Gear on their Stat sheet. All attacks are suffer -1 Obscured Shot Penalty.

Command and Control.
Here’s where leaders and tactical decisions come into play. Leader figs have a Command Stat and Control Radius. Command Stat grants them a limited number of orders per turn, the Control Radius dictates the distance and number of orders required to Activate a friendly model. Proximity confers other benefits as well, so not only does the player have to think and choose how and where to spend orders, but also consider how close they keep valuable leader figs to troops and danger.

Mission Objectives.
Toughest one so far. The idea is to keep objectives secret from your opponent. This adds tension and dimension of simultaneously trying to achieve your own goals while frustrating your opponent. I’ve stolen the idea of an Objective deck with different but generic goals. (Fortify particular terrain feature, exit x number of figs off opposite edge, kidnap one of your opponent’s models (defeat in melee) and bring him back to your deployment edge… That sort of thing) It’s next up in the play-test queue.

So far, our test games have gone well. Now our scenarios have all been straightforward, concentrating on core mechanics, but we’ve encountered very few snags. I think the basic framework is reliable. Simplicity is the greatest genius, someone smart once said. Now if I can add distinctions without freighting the game engine so that it loses simplicity and flexibility, I’ll be happy.

Working titles include Dead Run, Cleared to Engage, and Free Fire Zone. I’ll post updates as we progress and figure out how to make them a free DL once they’re polished.

Good Gaming.

Indiegogo Terrain Campaign

Loads of potential here.

Always on the lookout for non-Grim Dark, skull-laden, Neo-Gothic sci fi terrain. I’ve got another terrain project brewing in the back of my mind, but in the meantime, the Escenorama stuff looks great.

Pictures from test game

Tues eve my gaming buddy and I play-tested Command and Control rules for our home brew skirmish rules. Table was still set up so I snapped some pictures while the light was still decent. Sedition Wars, Reaper Chronoscope and Urban War figs for the human forces while the Bugs were represented by Reaper and GW ‘Nids

Reaper Chronoscope Nova Corps led by Sedition Wars fig
Reaper Chronoscope Nova Corps led by Sedition Wars fig
Scout and Assassin in cover
Scout and Assassin in cover
Buglies!
Buglies!
Face off
Face off
Three-on-one
Three-on-one