Target Lock on My Rebellious Child

As the ongoing hype continues to build toward the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, It’s entertaining to ponder (as much as a very irregular gaming blog can ponder anything) the central Yin and Yang of what has become known as the “Star Wars Universe”. The second trio of Star Wars movies made a total hash out of the whole Force shtick, turning away from earlier hints of mysticsm while simultaneously introducing one of the worst ideas in the history of high-dollar space opera AND presenting a great argument against so-called Romeo and Juliette laws.

A lot of Star Wars fans, I think, have a misguided view of what it takes to turn to the Dark Side of the Force. Presumably, they’re the people who have a warped view of order and authority, but let’s stay focused. On the surface, it’s easy to think that Star Wars bad guys turn into bad guys because they’re basically assholes to begin with. I mean, clearly, The Emperor is an asshole. Anakin somehow manages to turn into an asshole, despite Obi Wan’s best efforts. All of those Sith Lord types (you know, the Darth-whatsit guys) are really assholes.

The Rebels run out of ships. Again.

The Rebels run out of ships. Again.

My own observation is that turning to the Dark Side (or not) has a lot more to do with family than it has to do with any latent (or overt, for that matter) assholery. Continue reading

Looking at More Changes in Warhammer 40k 6th Edition

I first got stuck in to Warhammer 40k right after the publication of the 3rd Edition rules, way back in 1998. I was familiar with the 40k 2nd edition rules, but hadn’t been captured by them. Something about 40kv3 clicked for me, though. My eight-foot table (this was before the onset of my domestic marrieditis) hosted plenty of knock-down, drag-out fights.

The new 6th edition rules feature the most extensive set of changes to the game system since that long-ago leap from 2nd to 3rd edition. Fourth and 5th editions featured changes of their own, of course, but many of them were minor, or updates that could be classified as either streamlining or clarifications. The 4th edition update, I remember, lavished quite a bit of attention on changes in the Assault Phase. They generated a lot of discussion at the time, but those changes were nothing like the new Assault Phase we’ve gotten with 40kv6. Continue reading

Warhammer 40k 6th Edition. Already?

As you might surmise from my long-ago recent posts on Dust Tactics, I am something of a plastic crack addict. I don’t know what it is about gaming with miniatures that grabs my attention so much — maybe it’s a throwback to all those days spent in backyard dirt piles with toy soldiers when I was 5 — but there it is.

I enjoy Dust Tactics, even though it’s not truly a “tabletop” battle game. And I was just starting to get a feel for Dust Warfare, the tabletop system for the same minis range, when along came Games Workshop’s release of the 6th Edition rulebook for Warhammer 40,000. While 40k wasn’t the first minis game I took up, it is the game that I’ve spent the most time and money on. So there wasn’t any question what was going to happen when the new edition rules came out. Yep, tabletop wargaming’s big dog is back on my blog. Continue reading

It’s not easy being a Zombie

In my last post I ran through the whats-in-the-box basics of Incursion. Now it’s time to get down to the nails and lagbolts in order to answer that most important question: How does the thing play?

For today’s exercise, I’ll be using some examples from the game’s introductory scenario — “Recon”. Essentially, a couple of American APE troopers are trying to get from one side of the game board to the other. Their only obstacle is an unending stream of very pesky Sturmzombies.

The forces available for each of the game’s scenarios are generally customizable. Players are assigned a number of Resource Points (RPs), and they expend those RPs to purchase their forces. The first scenario is a bit limited, though. Each side gets 6 RPs, but the scenario mandates that the Americans must purchase two ‘models’ (ergo, two ‘Grunt APE’ models at a cost of 3 RP each) while the Crazed Maniacs must spend all of their RP purchasing Sturmzombies.

Faced with Reaction Fire, even Zombies want to be someplace else.

Faced with Reaction Fire, even Zombies want to be someplace else.

For 3 RP the Nazis buy the Sturmzombie ‘card’, which gives them 3 new Sturmzombies EACH turn. So in this scenario, the Bad Guys buy the Zombie card twice and will get 6 fresh undead nightmares to bring into play every turn. That’s a lotta stinky Zombie.

There is no time limit on the scenario, but it seems like it will be in the Grunts’ best interests to hurry up. To win the game, one of them has to survive to get off the map. If both Grunts die, the Zombies win. If at least one escapes, it’s another glorious victory for the troops of the Lucky 7th.

Probably the biggest thing the Americans have working in their favor is the game’s Reaction Fire rule, which allows gun-armed troopers to fire every time a model expends an Action Point in their field of fire. But there’s a catch – in order to use Reaction Fire, a model has to end its turn with NO enemy models currently in its line of sight. Additionally, if a reaction-firing model with a multiple ROF rolls doubles, it loses Reaction Fire mode. So Reaction Fire can be a powerful tool, but it isn’t always easy to end up in the right spot to make use of it.

So. In order to get at least one of their guys off the map alive, the Americans are going to have work to maximize their ability to lay down Reaction Fire. The light machinegun bolted to each of the APE Grunts has ROF (2)  for Reaction Fire, which gives them a pretty good chance of scoring a kill each time they fire on a Fortitude (4) Sturmzombie. In ‘normal’ fire, the Grunts have ROF (3) — but they also have only AP (3), so they’re not exactly sprinting across the board.

The Zombies, on the other hand, have to work at keeping the Grunts out of Reaction Fire mode so they can get in close for Hand-to-Hand combat. They’ve got AP (5), so they can move fast enough. The trick for them is getting some big waves of Zombies going so the Grunts don’t have a chance of ending a turn with nothing gribbly in their line of sight.

It’s a tough proposition — and the congested nature of the subterranean setting cuts both ways. All of the twists, turns, doors and short lines of sight make it easier for the ‘Zeds’ to get closer without getting shot at. But it also makes it easier for the Grunts to get themselves into spots where they can go into Reaction Fire mode.

With nothing in their arsenal to make the Grunts duck and cover, the Zeds have a tough time in the ‘Recon’ scenario. They can circle around, make big Zombie conga lines and try to use doors and corners — but sooner or later they’re going to run into a wall of Reaction Fire. A Grunt who ‘loses’ his Reaction Fire status (by rolling doubles on his shooting) might get himself into trouble, but the Zeds really have to work to put together a perfect storm of threats if they’re going to have a chance at winning.

If the Grunt player remains patient, doesn’t panic and manages his lines of sight he is going to get to do a lot of shooting via Reaction Fire. In a couple playings of ‘Recon’ so far, I haven’t had the Sturmzombies get close to winning.

Out of the box: Incursion

What do you get when you cross the claustrophobic setting and hardened-armor firepower of a game like Space Hulk with slavering hordes of zombies controlled by the evil will of a Nazi mastermind?

That’s easy. You get the latest game to hit the Big Table — “Incursion”, published by Grindhouse Games.

As I’ve mentioned before, my gaming addiction is not entirely limited to ‘normal’ wargames. Strange settings, bizarre themes and oddball systems are well-represented in my game closet. When a game pits the good guys against two of alt-wargaming’s most despicable villains — crazed Nazi scientists and merciless zombies — how am I supposed to ignore that?

So here it is.

Lots of goodies in the box

Lots of goodies in the box

Incursion is set in the grim – yet oddly campy – game ‘universe’ first established by Grindhouse in their miniatures rules “Secrets of the Third Reich 1949″. The game’s slice of the story is fairly straightforward: heavily armored, firepower-laden American troopers are trying to crack into the well-defended lair of evil genius Hugo von X, the maniacal Nazi scientiest responsible for creating a host of wonder-weapons and abonimations.  There’s power armor (Armored Personal Exoskeletons in this case), machineguns, flamethrowers, grenades, BFGs, Sturmzombies, evil twins, malevolent mutants, attack-trained werewolves and even a Doomsday Device that needs disabling.

Dudes. That kicks ass. What’s not to like?

For a retail price tag around $50, the box comes packed with a nice array of goodies. There’s a two-sided, mounted game board; four sheets of markers and figure stand-ups printed on impressively heavy stock; a  large stack of cards; a pile of plastic figure-stands; three d6; a molded box insert to hold the bits; a rule/scenario booklet and players’ aid card.

Countersheet detail

Countersheet detail

The physical production is very good quality.  The only quibble I have worth noting is that the die-cutting of the markers and standups was a bit variable. Obviously, the sheets were struck from the ‘front’ facing of the game pieces. In some cases, the die didn’t strike quite deeply enough, leaving an incomplete cut through the printed surface on the back facing of the sheet. The issue was resolved easily enough by tracing the cuts with a sharp X-acto blade — it was just a little more of a hobby project than I’d expected.

Incursion’s rules are pretty simple, especially for a ‘skirmish’ level wargame. The turn sequence is old-school, IGO-UGO with bidding each turn to get the initiative. Your guys/gals/things then expend Action Points to peform actions from a pretty limited menu of options – move, shoot, face, ‘use’ something (switch, door, whatever), stab/poke/whack.

Weapons roll a number of d6 (‘Damage Dice’) equal to their rate of fire. If the roll equals or exceed the target’s “Fortitude”, a Damage Point is scored. A ‘model’ that collects DP equal to its damage rating is elminated. Sturmzombies, for example, have a Fortitude of 4 and are eliminated by a single DP. American ‘Grunt APEs” — the game’s star-spangled red-shirts — have Fortitude 6 and take 2 DP to eliminate.

Sturmzombies can only attack hand-to-hand. Most HTH attacks in the game roll just a single Damage Die. Zombies benefit from a sort of ‘gang up’ rule that adds a Damage Die to the attack for each subsequent Zombie attacking the same target in a given turn (i.e. first attacking Sturmzombie rolls 1 DD, second attacking Sturmzombie rolls 2 DD, etc.). Given the confined nature of the game map, it’s a trick to engage with multiple Zombies at once — but it’s enough of an advantage that it certainly seems worth working toward.

There are a few special bits here and there, and the battle cards add some interesting twists and turns to gameplay. I’ll get into some more details about shootin’ and stompin’ with a little battle report when I get a chance.

So far, I think Incursion is a fun, thematic and fairly simple head-knocker of a hybrid board/tabletop wargame.  More to come…

$178,900.00

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m a bit of a magnet for all sorts of downloadable gaming junque. I’m not a total addict (at least not to the point of needing an external hard drive to keep up with stuff), but I’m always curious to see how creative minds approach any number of gaming-related topics. So, yeah, I’ve downloaded more than my fair share of PDF rulebooks, supplements, terrain tiles, counter sets and figure cutouts.

It did not escape my notice last month when the DriveThruStuff.com family of websites made their pitch for donations to their Haitian Relief Fund. As you may imagine, I was particularly attracted to the “Haitian Relief Bundle”,  which offered a large number of downloadable products – all digitally donated by their publishers – as an incentive for the rather small donation amount of $20.

OK. So I took the deal. But more on that in a minute. Right now, I’d like to give props to the krewe. Here’s the REAL deal: The gamer-powered donation drive for Haitian relief collected $178,900.

That’s extraordinary. That’s not chump change, boys and girls. Here’s a little perspective. In late January the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pledged $750,000 for Haitian relief. $250,000 was immediate relief from existing funds and the remainder was pledged from anticipated future donations to a relief fund.

Now, the ELCA isn’t some televangelist who can rake in millions in a few days with warnings about lightning bolts from God – but neither is it a small organization (about 4.6 million members as of 2008).  Even if you figure that’s a little over 1 million households, that’s still anticipating far less than $1 from each potential ‘donating budget’.

I’m not privvy to the customer records at the DriveThruStuff web sites, but I’d be really surprised if they had over 1 million customers. The donation total was more likely generated from the giving of 10,000 – 12,000 people – which is a pretty generous response, if you ask me.

Of course, some folks are probably wondering about the goodies that were included in the downloadable bundle. A lot of publishers participated. The ‘order’ appears in my account the same way as a ‘standard’ bundled product would – links to individual downloads for each product. That means I don’t have to waste bandwidth downloading product that I don’t want.

To be sure, the bundle includes some products that aren’t exactly world-beaters. If you’re not familiar with the state of the downloadable gaming press, then I’ll clue you in that it includes its fair share of less than impressive products. However, the relief bundle also includes a fair number of top-quality downloads – some of which ‘retail’ for more than $20 on their own. I was even nicely surprised to find several products in the bundle that were on my ‘wish list’ for the site.

Kudos to all involved – the web sites involved in the donations, the publishers who offered their wares and the gamers who ponied up. Great job, folks.