Book Release: Zombie Six – Enemy of my Enemy

BOOK RELEASE

 

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Thanks to those of you who followed along at the HSSJ blog. My latest Mil SF book, “Enemy of my Enemy” is now available at Amazon.

Print version HERE. eBook available 17 March. Pre-order HERE.

Thanks and Enjoy.

ZONA: The Chistoysk run.

Playing ZONA last night, our STALKER-flavored skirmish rules. Four STALKERs visited the town of Chistoysk near the Black Woods. The Fat Man wanted a cell tower in town repaired and was offering a wad of rubles to get it done.

“Plus,” he said. “I hear one of the RMUs stashed a bit of gear in the area. It goes missing, who’s to say how that happened, eh?”

The team agreed it was worth their time and took the job.

“One last thing,” the Fat Man added as they headed toward the door. “You might want to keep an eye out for Rotters. The fast kind, not shufflers. Zoombies,” he cackled.

Derek spit on the pavement. “Derr`mo. I thought this sounded too easy.”

“If it was easy,” John said. “Anyone could do it.”

Pat cracked his shotgun open and loaded two shells. “Off we go, then.”

***

The game began with four players entering from the south edge. Chistoysk is considered a Threat Level Two zone and has three Hot Spots in addition to the mission objective. Three groups of hostiles are present at the start go the game: two small packs of Ragers and one Rager brute.

 

The first couple turns saw the players advancing. Pat and Matt entered the nearest building. John pressed through to the Hot Spot on their left, while Derek went on an end run, angling through the ruins for the Hot Spot on the right.

 

Matt climbed to the top floor and immediately began shooting zombies. He dropped one straightway, which might not have been the wisest move. He may have thinned the herd but he also got their attention. Following the simple AI rules, the hostiles all began to converge on the sound.

 

This left Pat downstairs fending off a mob of rabid undead. After fumbling his (only) Molotov cocktail and scorching the building’s already devastated exterior, he spent a number of activations frantically blasting away with his double barrel shotgun (great in CQB but needs reloading every two shots) or hacking away with his machete.

Meanwhile John headed toward the Hot Spot on the second floor of the nearby building.

“Oh quit whining. You’ll be fine,” he yelled to Pat. “There’s only 8 of them.”

John triggered the Hot Spot, spawning feral dogs, who immediately clambered up to attack him. Derek suffered an empathy spasm and turned aside to help Pat by picking off  Zekes from a distance with his AK74.

 

After a lot of blood, bullets, swearing, and a near-death experience, all the Zekes and Dogs were down. John not only salvaged a Med-Kit from the cache, but found an Anomaly containing an Artifact. (Granted +1″ to his Movement)

Pat staggered to his feet, blinked at the freshly re-killed undead piled around him, and went down the road after John, who was heading toward the Cell Tower. Derek followed at a distance, picking a path through the debris on the first floor of the central apartment building. Oddly, Matt remained in his third-floor perch.

“I gotta bad feeling,” Derek muttered.

As John and Pat approached the cell tower, Matt’s homicidal tendencies surfaced. “If I can’t have the mission objective,” he thought in profanity-laced Russian. “No one can.” And with that, he began shooting.

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Treachery: the wounds of a friend. John and Pat are shot in the back. No objective for them.

Derek quickly scrambled to cover. Peering out a broken window, he stared at the building at the southern edge of town.

“How am I gonna kill this guy?” he thought.

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***

We called it after that perfidious display of mercenary ambition and callousness.

It was a good game. Tense as the Zekes and Dogs piled on. The other two Hot Spots went un-searched, and of course no one got the Mission Objective. I’m going to tweak the On-Table Hostiles and maybe add spawning points in order to pressure players into cooperating more than killing one another. Not that you can’t do it. The Zone is a dangerous place.  I just want that to be a difficult, momentous decision.

Thanks as always to the members of the Cape Cod Wargame Commission.

Have a great day.

 

Oh and if you’re in a STALKER state of mind, A Prayer to Saint Strelok is available at Amazon. Thanks.

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Dark Rituals

Our ASOBH game continues as the adventurers come upon the Necromancer Varro Desecrae conducting an dark ritual at the Shrine of the Sky Stone.

In addition to his Hell Knight bodyguard, the vile mage hired a goblin shaman and a mob of goblin scuttlers (backed by a Toad Demon) to insure the ritual is goes off uninterrupted.

The forces of evil dominated the first portion of the game with the goblins swiftly advancing on the attack and Varro Desecrae banking 6 successful actions to summon a skeletal giant.

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The battlefield
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Goblin mob with extra demon power!
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Minions of the Necromancer
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Desecrae invoking the power of the gibbering dark.

Our heroes responded sluggishly. (poor dice rolls, esp by the Elf Druid and Werebear) While the Dragonkin cleric squared off against the Toad demon, the two Ork trackers were overwhelmed by the goblins.

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Fierce combat see-sawed back and forth. The Dragonkin couldn’t catch his breath to summon his dracolisk.
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It was like fighting a mob of 6-year olds. Death by a thousand cuts: a brave attempt but the Orks eventually succumbed to the incessant slice and jab.

THE TIDE TURNS

Perhaps it was the Orks’ death. Maybe it was sheer bloody tenacity, but there was a distinct sea change midway through the game. The slow and steady Dwarf advance paid dividends as they felled the Hell Knight, then advanced on the Shrine itself, interrupting the Necromancer at his fell purpose.

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Down goes the Hell Knight!
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Down goes the Skeleton Giant.

Bodyguards dead, Dwarf warrior approaching, Desecrae flees the field and leaves the ritual unfinished and a mysterious icon on the shrine dais.

Squealing in triumph, the goblin scuttlers attack the Druid and Werebear, only to be bloodied by spear and broad axe. The survivors scatter.

On the other flank, the Cleric finally lands a solid blow with his mace, crushing the demon’s head.

With heavy casualties and their leader gone, the forces of darkness flee. A near thing but the adventurers claim victory.

The severely wounded Orks will recover but have to do battle next week with penalties to either their Q or C. (their choice)

Hard fought, hard won. Game over.

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However this campaign turns out, the consensus is the Dwarf Warrior’s victory over the Giant Skeleton will be remembered in song and saga for generations to come.

Reluctant Allies

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More Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes gaming this week, with Matt, Derek, John, and Pat each fielding a Hero and Sidekick as they search for the Treasure of Sagra-Bayar.

Each player has their own reasons for finding the treasure, but their goals align  – at least for the moment – and they must work together against a common enemy.

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Choose, you must.

As this was the first meeting, each player had only one player model available for the mission. (Got to make sure they’re going to play nice together)

Even worse, they were forced to make a difficult choice right away: rescue the Seer under attacked by murderous raiders, or save the ancient rune stone about to be smashed by an enraged giant. Each offered different benefits and rewards, but given their strength and time constraints, they could only help one.

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Hearing the giant’s hammering blows in the distance, the party chose to aid the Seer. The battle quickly devolved to individual combat as the raiders turned to face the new threat. Boasting and over-confident, the Ork Tracker went down early on, severely wounded. His new-found companions came to his rescue however, including the Seer, who revived him.

Derek’s Elf Druid dispatched two of the crazed barbarians with his spear while Dragonkin and the Dwarf accounted for one more apiece. Seeing his mates dispatched, the remaining raider fled.

The grateful Seer not only resurrected the Ork but informed the party as to the whereabouts of a possible entrance to the treasure fortress. Each player also received an enchantment on one weapon or article of equipment.

Unfortunately, the Rune Stone was demolished.

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The Hand of the Runesmith, searching for the ancient Dwarf artifact, Uldur’s Anvil
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Blood-Sworn Ork trackers, seeking revenge on the Necromancer, Varro Desecrae and the return of a sacred clan totem.
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Winterthorn Emissaries, sent by the High Council to locate sacred, arcane texts which might reverse the fading power of the Eldar.
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Dragonkin Cleric and Dracolisk familiar. Legends say the Treasure Fortress of Sagra-Bayar is guarded by a great, abyssal demon. This terrible evil must be destroyed.

 

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These make the perfect crazed raiders.

 

Reluctant allies for the moment, the party bound up their wounds, re-sharpened their blades, and went off together toward the Pass at Guhna-Tel.

More next week. Have a great day.

New Terrain and ZP pictures

Coming off the holiday break, last night’s game session was more shooting the breeze than miniature foes. Everyone was more intent on hanging out and chatting than getting serious about a game. That said we did a quick brawl that let me put two new terrain pieces on the table: a ruined apartment building and a swamp. The building is an MDF kit, the swamp pieces scratch- built with wood bases, foam core, water effects, flock and Woodland Scenics tall grass.

We used Zona Perestrelki – our STALKER-flavored skirmish rules – for quick combat.

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The battle ground: a refueling station eleven kilometers inside the north perimeter of the Zone.
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The swamp
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“Look behind you!”
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Stalkers and scientist make it to the fence.
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ZERTs (Zone Enforcement and Recovery Team) facing down a pack of feral dogs.
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Bandits scrounging for petrol
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ZERTs at an old supply truck. Something valuable inside, perhaps?

There’s more ZP in the pipeline, but for the foreseeable future, we’ll be doing old-school RPGs (both Interface Zero Cyberpunk and straight up DnD) and a short ASOBH campaign, “The Treasure of Sagra-Bayar.” I’m finishing the brushwork on the character figs this week and will post photos later.

In the meantime, corny as it sounds, I was struck by a deep sense of gratitude when the guys walked in last night; it’s a great hobby with great people and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Have a good day.

And if you’re in a STALKER mood, A Prayer to Saint Strelok is available for your reading pleasure. Spasibo!

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Games that stick.

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I’ve been thinking about games that have durability, replay-ability, longevity.

As anyone familiar with hobbyists and the hobby industry knows, “Shiny” comes and goes. Indeed the hobby industry is built on ‘shiny’ and every gamer worth his salt has a lead/plastic pile that bears mute witness to the fickle siren song of new figs, a new range of figs, a different scale, genre, time period… Let’s all admit that most of the war games on Kickstarter are miniatures-driven – not rules driven. Coming to my ‘end-of-year’ game room clean up this week, I’m definitely guilty as charged.

But between tidying the game room and some recent attention to my home-brew rules, I’ve been thinking about the war games that last after the shine fades and asking ‘What games do I/other gamers return to and keep playing year after year? And why?’

I know the answers are different and flavored by individual experience and preference. Some people started playing DnD decades ago when they were Stranger Things kids and have stuck with it through all its editions. Others move on to Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020 because they scratch that Neon and Mirrorshade itch and there’s no need to look elsewhere. (Ain’t that right omae?)  Some sink their teeth into 40K early on and cling to it like a Pitbull all their days. ( I think that’s what GW wants) When I posed this question on TMP, nearly 50 historical gamers listed rules like DBA, HoTT, Johnny Reb, Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, and so on.

For a SF/F gamer like me: in no particular order and off the top of my head, I’ve played VOR, Void, Celtos, Chronopia, Warzone, CAV, Stargrunt 2, and Full Thrust. I did a stint with THW’s Bugs, 5150, and After the Horsemen. I’ve tried 40K, Necromunda, Inquisitor, and Space Hulk. Then there’s Warmachine and  Hordes, Iron Ivan’s Disposable Heroes and Ambush Alley games. (I know I’m forgetting some.) Now add Board Games, RPGs, Quick Start versions and Indie rules like One Page X, and the locust swarm of games I’ve read but never played/played once, and the trail of game rules behind me looks like a the footprints of an epic quest or an addict’s detritus. (a bit of both, I suspect)

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As far as I can discern, a game’s ‘longevity’ factor has multiple ingredients ranging from brand loyalty, local availability of players, and personal experience/associations, to the quality of related miniatures. But there are also underlying currents of simplicity and versatility. Those seem to be crucial.

Across the board, the common denominator in rule sets that seem to stick is that they are a reliable, straightforward framework to hang the action/story on. Sure, there may be particular flavoring and a degree of crunch/gritty detail, but the appeal seems to be that a player can plug in their force and play the game, not the rules. Combat, Movement, Morale, Special Abilities and Genre Specifics are resolved in the background while the battle, the story, is allowed to come front and center. IMO, the primary reason DnD and RPGs remain so popular is they provide mechanisms for players to participate in a common adventure, in a story.

The challenge is to translate that robust, functional dynamic to a war game, into a mock battle. The hitch is that most miniature war games seem to have been built on the back of RPGs and the detail level that’s so enjoyable and necessary for a player character in a dungeon crawl doesn’t scale up to platoon, regiment, and brigade level. Defeating Nash-Zaroth the Liche King requires the same kind of ‘combined arms’ flexibility as taking Istvaan IV in the Andromeda system, but the fine detail needs to be abstracted and smoothed out. Otherwise, the flow of the game/battle grinds to a chart consulting, modifier algorithm factoring, special rule quoting halt. CLUNK – players are disengaged, thrown out of the story, and there goes the fun. And I contend FUN is the real reason we’re still playing with toy soldiers and making up cool stories.

So as I approach Game Room Cleaning Day, not only am I going to take a hard look at the clutter, (expect a new batch of items For Sale) but in refining Zona Perestrelkimy STALKER-flavored, home brew skirmish rules –  I want bake in the brooding, dangerous, specifics of the Exclusion Zone but always remain mindful of honing the mechanisms to support the story, the mission, the game play, not bog it down.

It’ll take time, some sweat, and not a little bit of play- testing, but whether or not ZP gets picked up, that’s going to be a goal for 2018.

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Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.

***

PS: the short story A Prayer to Saint Strelok is available at Amazon if you feel like getting in the mood. Enjoy.

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