Friday, November 11, 2016

A Relatively Simple System for Relatively Complex Solo AI

While playtesting my Invasion:UFO (working title, and yes I know about the British TV series) rules, a comment from  a playtester got me thinking -- could my simple AI with semi-random movement be adapted to actually consider Objectives like a human would?  After a bit of thought I came up with a relatively simple way based on the pathfinding that units do in computer games.  It still leaves a lot to the player, of course, but it does achieve the goal of making the AI appear as if it is considering objectives.

I'm putting this out here for others to use if they would like while playtesting continues.  No frills here - the is the rough draft of the rules.

Following the rules is a playtest in action.

IF YOU TRY THESE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES!

A Relatively Simple System for Relatively Complex Solo AI

ARSSRCSAI -- not a very good acronym!

Right now this is aimed at land operations as they usually have one thing in common -- objectives to take.  This is usually less so with aerial, space, navy, etc. although I think it would be interesting to try it with the Aeronef games being kicked around on other threads.

I've tested this half a dozen times now and I think it works, but I worry that my own biases of knowing how it is supposed to work might be influencing it, so...opening it up.  This grew out of skirmish gaming for my Invasion:UFO project but it also worked beautifully with a Victorian Sci-fi game that I ran.  Anyway...the rules!

Components required:
2 six-sided dice
Objective markers - I'm using slips of paper for now - marked
  1 - marked with 30
  2 - marked with 20
  3 - marked with 30
 
 Enemy force markers aka "blips" or "blinds"
    So far, I've only tested this with 3 markers.  But it should work ok with more -- and including "dummy" markers would make the game more interesting.
    How you divide the forces is really up to you -- but try dividing them into a primary and secondary group at least and maybe a tertiary.  Or the tertiary could be the dummy blind. 
   
    Examples:
        For skirmish gaming I had 2 groups of 2 figures and 1 group of 3. 
        For the VSF game I had 2 squads with 1 marker, the commander and a command squad with another, and a skirmish cavalry group with a third.
       
Optional:  Stance cards -- stolen temporarily from Invasion - UFO here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B85YEexS55cdT1o5Q3pDNElTSTg
    NOTE: This is _entirely optional_ but it does give the enemy a little more random movement while _tending_ to move directly toward the objectives.  But if you like, skip this and just move the enemy toward the objective when you get to that part.
    Decide what the enemy commander's temperament is or just roll d6
        1,2: Aggressive
        3,4: Confrontational (this will be renamed - it's really "normal")
        5,6: Cautious

3 foot by 3 foot game board -- I think it will work for larger areas but haven't tested it.  What's important is that you can divide it into roughly equal "squares" and having squares of 1 foot on a side is convenient.  For the AI, the board is divided into 9 numbered squares but the numbering is different for setup and objectives.

For Setup the board is numbered:
    AI SIDE
        1    2    3
        4    5    6
        X    X    X
    PLAYER SIDE
    (where X is the human deployment zone -- no enemy units will be placed there)


For objectives the board is numbered:
    AI SIDE
        X    X    X
        1    2    3
        4    5    6
    PLAYER SIDE
    (where X is the AI deployment zone -- no objectives will be placed there)


SETUP
    Up for discussion but what I do: 
    1.  Pick the side for your forces to come in on.  Place your forces - either randomly as per the AI below or however you like.

    2.    Place the AI units using the Setup numbering. 
       
    3.  Place the AI objectives.  You will place one 30, one 20, and one 10 marker.  Roll a d6 and place the marker in the square indicated -- place it in cover, on top of hills, in buildings -- this is a case where the more terrain the better, probably.  If you roll the same square -- well, this is a case that needs testing.  I think it works best to just roll again so that there is only one onjectice per square but I could be wrong.
   
    4.  Finally, roll the Enemy Mission.  This is to determine what happens when the AI hits an objective.  So far I just have:
        1-3: Take and Hold.  The enemy will stop when it achieves an objective
        4-6: Patrol.  The enemy will continue to move when it hits an objective.  I'm not sure how well this would work, actually.  Each blip would need to track which objective it had already hit, which would be messy.  Alternately maybe each objective would simply be removed instead of reduced by 10?  More thought needed here.
       
PLAY
    The enemy remains as blips until the player's units identify the blip.  I've just been using LOS but it depends on what kind of game you are playing.  I think it would be very interesting to play a naval surface fleet versus an AI submarine fleet, for instance, and use sensor rules to determine when the blip converts to models. 
   
    Converting - the provess of exchanging blips to models.  For my skirmish game I don't place the models right on the blip when it converts; I roll an offset with a d6 and a direction die just to add more uncertainty.
   
    AI BLIP MOVEMENT RATE
        Movement rate prior  to converting is abstracted.  I use 6" for my blips.  They ignore terrain and can end up on impassable terrain since I then roll an offset when I convert them (see above)
   
    OBJECTIVE DETERMINATION
        Here's the heart of it!
        1.  Starting from left to right, select a blip.
        2.  Measure the distance to the 30 objective. 
        3.  Subtract the distance from 30 to get a score.
                Example:
                    If the 30 blip is 24" away the score is 6.
                    If the 30 blip is 31" away the score is -1.
                    If the 30 blip is 9" away the score is 21.
        4.  Repeat step 2 and 3 for the 20 objective and the 10 objective.
        5.    From this you should have 1 high score -- if a score is tied the higher numbered objective wins
       
        BLIP MOVEMENT
        6.  Take the stance card and place it against the blip.  Aim the "This side toward enemy" arrow at the winning objective.
        7.  Roll 2d6 and move the blip in accordance with the roll  (or move it toward the objective if not using the stance cards)
        8.  IF THE BLIP CONTACTS AN OBJECTIVE (or I usually give a little lee-way like within 1" or 2"):
            A) The objective is immediately demoted to the next lower level.  A 30 objective becomes a 20.  A 20 becomes a 10.  A 10 objective has been achieved and is removed from the board.
        9.    IF THE MISSION IS "TAKE AND HOLD"
                a) the blip contacting the objective makes no further movement this game.





Example

In this example, I did not use the Stance cards for clarity.  So the blips always move in a straight line toward the highest scoring objectives.  I used Battle Chronicler for the maps -- it's my first time using it but I think it will work pretty well for future examples.  I'm really grateful to the author for providing his work for free.

In this example, I am resolving the objective calculations from left to right (ie A then B then C).



I used random deployment in the top 3 squares.  A and B happened to end up in the same quadrant.
Objective 30 is the biggest draw on the board.  All 3 blips start moving toward it.

Nothing's changed in this relatively simple example, so all blips continue towards the Primary Objective (30).  Notice though that C is close to Objective 20.

Objective achieved!  A makes the first move and moves onto Objective 30.  Objective 30 now becomes a "20" objective.  B moves next.  Both objective 20s are a draw, but the former Objective 30 is stronger since it is closer.  B moves onto the farm house and further reduces the objective value to 10.   Finally, C resolves its move.  There are two "10" objectives quite a distance away, so C changes its path and heads toward Objective 20, the secondary objective.

Both A and B are on an objective and this is a "Take and Hold" mission.  They will no longer move (unless forced off the objective - which would up the objective by 10 - need to add that in the rules above).  C takes the hill and that ends the game as far as the AI is concerned.


Of course, this is a simple example but even this simple example has a neat flow to it that goes beyond just using semi-random movement. 

Please let me know in the comments if you try this out!
       
       
   

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Update with photos!



Yes, I actually managed to create some terrain today for Too Fat Lardies' Sharp Practice Deployment Point Contest (whew)!

Here is my accompanying letter with the photos:

Most esteemed gentlemen (and Rich),
I realize that I may technically be too late as I am submitting from across the pond where there is 1 hour and 15 minutes until July 1.  But no matter -- it was worthwhile getting these done.  And I would have had it done sooner if not for those weedy coves at Shapeways.com.
You see, my plan for this vignette was to use only items which I had built myself -- including, if needed, building models in a 3d program and having them 3d printed.  The ammunition boxes and barrels were done by this method and they arrived at my home today -- in fact only 6 hours ago -- rather than on June 27 as the aforementioned weedy coves had promised.  Alas, the Martini-Henry rifles which I created seemed a bit anemic when placed in the vignette and I fell back to using some spare Wargames Factory bits.  (I will have another go at the rifles -- it's not uncommon to have to print a couple times to get the dimensions exactly right, especially for miniature items)

I plan on using these for my own Imagi-Nations colonial gaming and Victorian Science Fiction gaming.  Without further ado, let me present the deployment points of Victoria's Own Barsoomian Rifles, featuring ammunition boxes based on images from Ian Knight's website, the ubiquitous Martini-Henry rifle and a water barrel for those dry nights on Mars or wherever on Earth they are called to serve.
Just for interest I am also including a picture  of the 3d printed ammo box fresh out of the box at 4pm this afternoon.
Enjoy and thank you so  much for running this contest and for producing Sharp Practice!


Small update - I found my original sketch.  So now this post has the full path from concept to design to print to finished product!
 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A change of plans

Best-laid plans and so forth -- haven't done much on the miniatures side.  That's because I received Sharpe's Practice 2 and have been working on the chips for the game.  Chips which I promptly cocked up and turned what I thought would be a 1 hour task into going-on-8 hours.  Ridiculous, but they are nearly done.


Combat Mission

My poor old computer won't play modern games, so I've been playing a classic: Combat Mission.  It's now available on Good Old Games and I highly recommend it.  Do the graphics suck by today's standard? Sure.  But it's still the game that comes closest for me of the feel of playing a miniatures game.  That it still holds my interest nearly 10 years on is testament to that. 

I've decided to try and play-through as many scenarios from each side as I can and keep notes as I go.   I'm trying for a Major Victory from each side.   In the past I often couldn't remember which scenarios I'd played and so I suspect I've skipped some while playing others over and over.  For fun, I've kept some notes.  Here's the first two scenarios I've "beaten" -- played enough that I've moved on.  Needless to say there are some spoilers here:

Aachen - Small - Oct 1944

Allies - I put both armored vehicles in the middle.  Then split a squad on each street to act as scouts.  Even knowing I was walking into an ambush situation, I still managed to lose both vehicles before the end -- the Sherman died without firing a shot.  The second playthrough I played so conservatively that I had to rush a bit at the end, but I kept both armored vehicles alive for the Major Victory.  I even managed to get the Flamethrower team into action -- that was fun since they are so fragile they usually die quickly.

Axis - Stepping through the entire 14 turns without giving a single order gave me a Draw.  Shouldn't be too tough to convert this to a win.  Notable event though - the tanks actually maneuvered with some intelligence.  And even though my AT gun put a round through the Sherman, it kept coming (it actually destroyed the AT gun in the same second as it had its hull penetrated). 

Playing to win, I maneuvered aggressively and kept the Americans from penetrating past city center.  It was fun setting up trap after trap and the shot of the match went to the Panzerschreck team who had a 10% chance to hit the SP gun and evidently rolled a 10 to score the brew up!


Chambois - Medium

Excellent played as the Allies.  Will teach you to use terrain - fast!  I lost twice before figuring out the lay of the land.  Then it was pretty easy but even one German tank can ruin your day.

As the Axis, play that you can only exit the map from the road in the middle of the map.   (The one in front of the wooded area).  This forces you to use overwatch and protect the fragile trucks.  Even with that it was a cakewalk as the AI can't put up much of an offense, but at least I felt like it was worth my time playing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Update sans photos

I've had a couple of photo-heavy updates that have been waiting for me to get the photos off the camera.  And I realized if I kept waiting then I was never going to get anything posted.  So I decided to just do an update and then post pictures as I'm able to.  The problem is that with the new baby, I can either work on projects or blog about them and I've been choosing to work on them.  But I'm going to try to update at least once a month and try to keep to a Wednesday schedule.

To keep myself accountable, I've added that to a task on my Google calendar.

Speaking of Accountability 

All wargamers have a lead mountain.  As I believe Neil of Meeples and Miniatures said, it's easier to buy new figures and be enthused by a new project than it is to finish an old one.

I still have Orcs and goblins unpainted from my very first foray into miniatures gaming in 1988.  Will they ever get painted?  I hope so.  But right now fantasy isn't high on my list.  But at least they are nice old Ral Partha figures instead of Games Workshop!

To keep myself accountable, though, and to make progress against my goal of getting things done, I've decided to create a Trello board.  A Trello board is a kanban board which in this case means its a glorified bulletin board with electronic sticky notes.  It's a project organizer, so in itself that doesn't make me any more accountable.

Opening it up so that you can see it does.  :-)  Here's the link:  Colony13 Kanban Board.

You can even vote on what I get done next.  No promises to follow the voting, but you never know. :-)

Project Update

To give a little context, here are the projects I am working on:
  • Create bocage terrain for Chain of Command (completed just before board started but I want credit for it here.  I have pictures and a tutorial coming for this - they turned out great!)
  • Paint miniatures from the Battlestar Galactica board game.  It occurred to me that these are the perfect size for also playing 5150:Fighter Command (see here) and that it would be more fun to play the boardgame with painted miniatures anyway.  And I will be using my custom 3d-printed flight stands with them.  Status: Vipers and Heavy Raiders are 80% complete.  Colonial ships about 20% complete.
  • Tripods.  I loved the Tripods series of books -- I always called them the White Mountain series but whatever.  The tripods were the stars of the show.  And Alien Dungeon's tripods for All Quiet on the Martian Front fit what I had in my imagination perfectly.  I received the starter set as a birthday present last year and got the tripods built...then decided I really needed to deck them out in LEDs.  And add some 3d-printed parts.   Never mind that I had no idea how to do the LEDs.   So this project has dragged on...but it's going to be completed this year.  As of two weeks ago, the build is completed, the basic paint job on the 3 tripods is done, the LEDs are in hand and so are the 3d printed parts.   I'm hoping to have this completed in the next 4 weeks - or at least get work-in-progress shots up here
  • Victorian Sci-Fi.  My Red Coats on a Red Planet campaign is starting up again.  I hadn't called it that before but here are the previous posts.  I had started this using Too Fat Lardies' Platoon Forward ruleset and am re-invigorated by their new Sharp Practice 2 ruleset to replace 2-Hour Wargames Colonial Adventures.  Painting wise this means finishing up my British colonial platoon - these are primed and ready to be painted using the excellent Perry miniatures.  And a few heroes from Warlord Games and a certain Zulu movie.
  • Following that I have my New Anglian Confederation 15mm platoon and armored platoon from Ground Zero Games -- for Tomorrow's War and the upcoming Chain of Command: Fighting Season. These are painted to base color and just need inking and weathering -- and another try at a airbrush camoflage now that I have my airbrush back in working order.  Mind you, I've never yet achieved a satisfactory result with an airbrush and if this one doesn't work -- you might want to watch eBay.
  • Last but not least I have the Hanging Tree, the Floating Castle (both previously blogged though I've made a lot more progress since then) and Gamecraft Miniatures excellent 15mm MDF middle east buildings (again for TW and COC:FS)
And that's all for tonight.  Take a look at the board, feel free to vote or leave comments and I will (hopefully) be back in a week with some photos!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Playtesting my own 15mm solitatire sci-fi skirmish game

Things have been quiet on the blog simply because I've been too busy gaming!  I've been frantically playtesting my own rules for an X-Com-like solitaire game.  Based on Earth in the 1950s, the game features a shared dice pool mechanic for moving and firing that neatly replicates the feel of "action points" without any bookkeeping.  The aliens are driven by a strategic and tactical AI that sometimes has surprised me with really clever moves.  And finally campaign rules drive both the alien encounters and the advancement of human technology and human troop quality (as they get better at hunting the aliens).

I think it's a good sign that I've enjoyed every game that I've played-- even if no one else likes it I'm having fun! I'll be posting some playtests shortly and may even put together a demo video to highlight how the game works.  And eventually, I will probably follow Matakashi's lead and post most of the rules for free online, then offer a low-cost pdf for convenience.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Game 2015 - Christmas Present Pile On

Why yes, that snowman IS wearing a fez!
When I had a regular gaming group in Virginia, USA, a fiend and I decided to start a tradition of playing a Christmas game after we had read about some clubs in Britain doing the same. The games were light on rules so that it was more a social activity than a game, and the good guys always won.

The first few games used simplified Napoleonic rules with the Rat King attacking Christmas Village to steal the presents and ruin Christmas. The stalwart Teddy Bear Brigade (from Eureka Miniatures) defended the village with the help of the Bumble and reindeer and snowmen. Later a little adult cynicism crept in and I ran a game where the Rat King was a freedom-fighter trying to free the elves after Santa had sold out and forced them all to make cheap electronic toys instead of high quality Euro games.

Then there was the infamous game that another member ran one year involved Walmart mercenaries with automatic weapons arriving in 18-wheeler trucks to bust up the Toymaker Union after they went on strike for higher wages and more time for reinder games. This was deemed too cynical and poor Walt was laughingly banned from ever running the Christmas game again, but it was a lot of fun!

So as a tribute to the ghosts of Christmas games past, I present this year's Christmas Game which I will be running for my family. I'm making the rules and checking them twice, but there might be a few holes or confusing bits so feedback is welcome.

The game is totally free as my Christmas gift to readers.  As an experiment in self-publishing, I'm also offering it as a  pay-what-you-want title through the Paypal Donate button below. 

If you like it and play it with your family, please let me know in the comments!

Fimo snow people and presents and an igloo for home base

Christmas Present Pile On

The Rat King has discovered one of Santa's Pre-positioned Gift Depots and has sent his minions to steal the presents and ruin Christmas! Only a nearby village of friendly snow people can stop him. Get the pile of presents back to your base as quickly as possible. Running them back is safer (unless you get hit by a snowball!) and throwing them is quicker but more difficult. Throw snowballs at your opponent to force them to drop any presents they are carrying and send them back to base to warm up!

Download

Download the game here for free. 

And if you want to give back a little ($5 suggested):   

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Havoc Game 4 AAR - Chapter 1 Finale

NOTE: UPDATED with pictures!  Dec 20, 2015
NOTE: I'm going ahead and posting this without pictures for now.  I hope to come back and add them.  As noted below, when this was written we were expecting a baby in two weeks.  Well, that was two months and two weeks ago!  It's taken me this long to find time just to write it up and post it and I'm afraid it might be another couple of months if I took the time to finish the pictures.  So here's the narrative and hopefully the pictures will follow. Enjoy!)

Intro

This game didn't turn out quite as expected (well, except for the part where I lost -- although my wife insists it was a tie. More on that later), so it provides a fitting end to this chapter of our ongoing Roman versus Amazon battles.  It introduces two new factions and I think the next games will feature one or both of them -- and might segue into a bit of Legends of the High Seas battling (I've had the rules for a while but have never actually played them).

All this being said, we also have a baby due in 2 weeks or so.  So gaming time might be...limited for a while. :-)  

Scenario

One thing I like about Havoc is that it's so easy to slot in different miniatures and still have a balanced game.  My wife has had several mermaids painted up and recently added some Cthulhu-ish piratical types from Reaper Miniatures.  And also one neat figure that is like the figurehead from a ship.  From the desire to use these figures came the scenario and also a bit of a retroactive continuity applied to the previous games.



It turns out that this was not a Roman invasion of the Amazon lands.  It seems instead that the Romans were shipwrecked!  They decided to split their force -- fast cavalry rode ahead of a main body to try to cut through the land and back to civilization (the demise of this force was the subject of games 1 and 3) while a smaller band stayed with the sailors to try and parley with the natives and eventually repair the ship.  This led to game 2, where the desert nomads were trying to sell a Troll to the Romans and to the current game.



We open, then, on the following scene:  At a troglodyte village, the Roman prefect Cornelius "The Butcher" Tacticus and a small bodyguard are negotiating with S'slith The Destroyer for supplies and perhaps to gain some new recruits.  While the Butcher has never seen such creatures before, the advantages to the Empire of having troops who have natural armor and are at home in the marsh are obvious!  But how well do they fight?  Their negotiations are interrupted by a runner who throws himself at the feet of S'slith and rasps and hisses what is clearly a warning.  The Amazons are on the move and are about to attack the village!



Meanwhile, back onboard ship the crew is making repairs as best they can when suddenly the lookout cries from the top of the shattered main mast -- "Thar she blows!  Wakes spotted a-stern!"  













Setup

The small Roman legion and Cornelius "The Butcher" Tacticus start within the village.  Arrayed around them are 16 Troglodyte skirmishers with "The Rush" Named attribute.  S'slith the Destroyer, the magus S'stinky the Small and a standard bearer round out the force in the village.  Just outside, 3 heavy cavalry mounted on salamanders stand ready -- though, oddly, they seem rather small for a troglodyte...  


Out at sea, 9 sailors (count as crossbowmen) take aim at the approaching school of sea creatures -- mermaids, cthulhus, shark-men and other sea creatures -- and prepare to defend their ship under the direction of their Captain (a Fencer).

So there are 2 areas under attack simultaneously -- a land battle and a sea battle.  At sea, the Roman ballista mounted on the ship can fire to support the land battle.



Special Rules

The Amazons, since they were attacking, had +1 die to roll for Momentum on the first turn.


The Living Figurehead:  The Living Figurehead is a magical construct on the Roman ship.  When the ship wrecked in a storm on the coral of the Amazon island, the Figurehead sacrificed herself to beach the ship on a sandbar to ensure her sailors would live through the gale.  She now lies lifeless and inanimate, her wooden body frozen like the statue she started as.



Special Objective:  The Cthulhu Magus watched the ship die and is fascinated by the strange magic held within the Living Figurehead, Tempestia Pallentides.  He wishes to retrieve the Figurehead and take it for further study.  To that end, he has gathered a raiding party of mermaids, shark-men and other creatures of the sea.  His objective is to USE 4 AUGMENT TOKENS to bring the Living Figurehead back to life (as a Behemoth).  However, should this be accomplished, the Shark Knights will rise to bring balance back to the sea -- represented by 3 Shark Knight Heavy Cavalry.


In the Pre-Game Ritual, each player was awarded a token for having a finely painted army.



Turn One

Despite the advantage, the Amazons lose momentum and the Roman player (me) is kind of lost.  I've noticed that for our games I spend so much energy on setting up the scenario, re-reading the rules, getting army lists together -- that I usually get a bit lost when it actually comes to playing the game.   In this case, I started with a defensive move -- firing the ballista at the Amazon berserker line and narrowly missing both the aimed-at berserker and the standard bearer just beyond her.  In response, the Amazon Cavalry Archers volley-fired and hit the Troglodyte command squad -- in a nightmarish deja-vu scene from game 3, my main Named character, the Magus, and the standard bearer were all in danger on Turn One.  In fact, I spent a Havoc token to save S'slith the Destroyer, and the poor standard bearer went down with dozens of Amazon arrows piercing his scaly hide.   


After that, I quickly moved the skirmishers to form a defensive line and moved S'slith and the Magus into cover.  Not a good start.  



The rest of the phase was simply advancing other troops -- the only notable action came when "Rick the Eye" (this pirate figure was named for my friend Rick way back in 2005 - nice to see the figure back in action after a decade!) nailed the Deep One, Varag, with a fine pistol shot made as Rick dangled from the railing.

Phase Two.  The focus stays on the sea battle as the mermaids (light cavalry) and toad-man (heavy cavalry) are within charge range.  They swarm aboard and massacre 3 of the crew, though the Roman artillery crew manages to hold off the charge of the toad-man, Grogomon, long enough for the Fencer to join the fray and slay him (in the Assault phase) using a combined attack and 3 Havoc tokens.  Rick the Eye sets his sights on Captain Cthulhu the Destroyer (Z'ur'dri the Destroyer) who is shielding the Cthulhu Magus (Acthirralb Z'aiolko).  The magus is making a bee-line for the Living Figurehead and barely notices when Rick the Eye's shot rings out and ends the Captain's tentacly existence (despite Havoc tokens used in defense AND being in cover - really bad luck for the Amazon player).



On land, the Troglodytes close with the Amazon berserkers and MASSACRE them to a man -- er, a woman.  The Roman victory celebration is measured in micro-seconds as the Roman player (me) realizes that the Amazon player (my wife and mother to my child) forgot to add in the MAD die from being close to the Amazon standard bearer.  3 Havoc tokens are awarded to me for what becomes known as the Resurrection battle and that one MAD die makes all the difference as only 2 of 6 berserkers are taken down.  



The Amazon light cavalry archers, robbed of their volley fire targets, charge the troglodytes on the Roman left flank.  Carnage ensues as 3 troglodytes are taken out due to impact hits.



It's kind of at this point that I realize I made a big error in positioning.  My trogs are only going to be able to take on the Amazons in two-on-one battles -- and I realize with a sinking feeling that if I lose momentum next turn they are going to be cut to pieces in one-on-one battles before I can get them out of the way.  



The sound of the Amazon Musician "sounding the maneuver" brought me back from my reveries.    



An Amazon heavy cavalry and a Knight Furioso (a demon) charged into contact with S'Slith the Destroyer and the Troglodyte Magus (respectively).  This looks bad -- although the Magus does have 4 Augment tokens.  I realize he actually has a chance to win the battle if he spends the tokens on himself - but I really need him to help out S'slith as well.  

The Roman troll is charged by another Amazon heavy cavalry and the second Amazon Knight Furioso (Skyclaw, a harpy).  The remaining heavy cavalry cut effortlessly through the Roman Legion and by the time Impact hits and the assault phase are resolved, only 2 remain standing, effectively eliminating them as a fighting force.  The Butcher manages to stand his ground against the impact hit and in the assault phase lives up to his name as he butchers (with one Augment from the magus) the heavy cavalry who dared to charge him .

Of the battles in the assault phase not already mentioned, I prioritized the following -- S'slith had to live, it would be great if the Magus survived, and the Troll...was on his own, probably.  And that's pretty much how it worked out.  S'slith the Destroyer, despite spending his Havoc tokens, is taken down by his heavy cavalry opponent.  S'stinky the Small summons his  spellcraft and succeeds in sucking the life-source of the Succubus into his sorcerous sphere!  (Using all his remaining Augments to boost his own attack rolls).  And finally, the Troll kills the heavy cavalry he was facing but is in turn brought low by the Amazon Harpy.  (At least he managed to kill something before dying this game!  see game 2)


Turn the Last, also known as the Cleverly Named Turn Two

So to recap -- both players have lost their "Destroyer" Named characters and neither managed to actually do any destroying.  Both players spend tokens and the Amazons emerge victorious with Momentum for this turn.

And the Roman tactical error with moving the skirmishers ensures this will be a quick game.



The Amazons open up with more sea creature carnage as the deadeye crossbow shot of sea hag Zephyre Wavenhair takes out another sailor, and the mermaids (Meradwyn, Sealanna and Laenaya) run roughshod over the remaining sailors, including Rick the Eye whose eye was unfortunately distracted by the mermaid's great beauty.  Only Nimble Jack and the Fencer remain for phase 2, though not before a few more lesser sea creatures  are taken out by pistol shot.  













On land, the Amazon Behemoth (Medusa) charges the Magus only to be charged in turn by the Butcher.  (Some modern revisionist historians may claim that the Butcher was actually running away from the Harpy Skyclaw when he accidentally bumped into the Medusa.  Were the Butcher still alive he would have these historians put to the sword.  Regardless, this clever application of the Third Law did mean that the Harpy was left without a target for her fury).





The Cthulhu magus, Acthirralb Z'aiolko, hiding behind Skull Rock, charges up his magical energy and prepares to summon life back into the Living Figurehead.  

Phase Two

The Amazon Musician again sounds the maneuver and send the Harpy winging across the battlefield to charge the Roman heavy cavalry (the one bright spot for the Romans last phase)  The remaining two heavy cavalry cause more carnage amongst the cavalry archers and one manages to trample into the Harpy.  The Amazon chariot mows down the last two troglodyte skirmishers.

At sea, Nimble Jack kills the mermaid, Sealanna, but is ridden down by her sister, Laenaya.  The Amazon Cthulhu Magus unleashes his spell and the Living Figurehead comes alive.  

And while the Shark Knights rise from the depths at the stern of the vessel, who is to say whether it is the magic which attracts them or the blood in the water?









In the Assault phase, the Behemoth  unleashes an 11 MAD dice attack, boosted by Havoc tokens and 3 Augment from the centaur magus.  The Butcher and the Roman Magus are cut to ribbons. 

The Roman heavy cavalry with lance is just the thing to kill the Harpy, finally.  And the Fencer aboard ship kills the last mermaid, Meradwyn.


It's pretty clear how this game is going but we decide to play one more turn and it's a...









CUT SCENE!

I force a cut scene and we take 2 last moves to end the game.  The Amazon Sea Hag Zephyre Wavenhair fires her crossbow to kill one of the newly arrived Shark Knight heavy cavalry.  The remaining Shark Knights chase her down and get their revenge.  







And in the final move of the game, the Fencer uses his last remaining Havoc token to leaps from the gunwales, slide down the broken mast and skewer Sharkey the Amazon shark-man (Zigmal the Tooth) before Zigmal even knows there is a threat.



AFTERMATH

So remember those "small" troglodytes?  The heavy cavalry on salamanders and S'stinky the Small ?  Turns out they are actually goblins!   One of the remaining knights raises his visor, looks at the carnage the Amazons have just wreaked upon their opponents and says in a suspiciously Bronx accent, "Well, that's the end of Stinky, boys. We better be's gettin' back to the Boss.  He ain't gonna like this.  He ain't gonna like this one bit."   
Outcome: The Amazons, in pursuing the Romans back to their ship, have inadvertently set off a turf war with the orcs and goblins, who consider this their territory.  They are now aware of two threats -- the Romans and the Amazons. The Amazons clearly have won the land battle ... for now.

At sea, the creatures of the deep have been awakened by the Cthulhu Magus.  This will no doubt lead to some naval combats, as my wife has a band of pirates painted to go with her sea creatures.  And I have a long dormant fantasy pirate collection of miniatures with Orc, dwarf and Pi-rat (skaven) pirates plus the conventional(?) skeleton and human crews. The Cthulhu Magus looks around at the carnage -- just about all of the sea creatures had given their lives to protect him, allowing him to get to the Figurehead and restore her powers, bringing her to their side. But what does Cthulhu care about a little bloodshed? He has what he came for. He sounds the signal and swims off in retreat with the Figurehead and last remaining sea creatures. The pirates, with their surprise shark knight backup squad, have won this front ... again, for now.

Tactical thoughts

I lost the game by not realizing my biggest strength -- mobility.  With 16 skirmishers, there should never have been a case where they were involved in a one-on-one battle.  But I got panicked by the early success of the Amazon heavy cavalry and the threat of the Knights Furious.  After that. it was all over.  



When we set up the scenario, I thought I'd have a decent chance at the land battle and would probably have trouble in the sea battle until the Shark Knights were released (who were 1/3 of my army points).  In the end, having so many missile units (I used the Crossbowman profile to simulate the pirate's pistols) and one good Named melee unit (the Fencer) worked way better than anticipated.  



The Amazons won the land battle handily and the Romans won the sea battle, so we tied there.  The Amazons gaining their objective of the Living Figurehead gave them one more point for the win.


House Rules

Momentum rule

We used the rule suggested by Brent Spivey (in a comment to a different AAR on this blog) of giving the player without momentum an extra die in the momentum roll for the next turn.  We like this rule, as it seems to force a better back-and-forth of momentum -- or if you really want sustained momentum, you have to spend the Havoc tokens to be able to keep it (or be really lucky!).  We'll be using this going forward.



Artillery no-guess rules


A discussion on Delta Vector led to my developing "no guess" artillery rules which were used here for the first time.  It worked splendidly and got rid of the one bit of the Havoc rules that I just really didn't like -- the "guess the distance" rule for artillery.



For this game, I used a RAT of 2 for artillery crewman because I didn't want it to be too overpowering.  It was actually a little under-powered.  My new recommendation is to use RAT 3 for trained artillery crew.  If that crew should be killed and then replaced by regular infantry, then the replacement crew only has a RAT of 2 (which was another niggle that I didn't care for - that artillery crew could be replaced by regular infantry and yet retain the same skill level - which was actually the skill level of the player at guessing distance).   

I also reduced the initial impact hit from 10 to 8 because I think the rolling to-hit will actually be more accurate for most players.  This needs a bit more play-testing, as I only managed a single artillery shot this game.  But my gut feel is that the slightly reduced hit is still scary enough.   It still feels right, so I'm going to keep it as is for now.  





Artillery with To-Hit rules

Artillery crewman now have an RAT of 3.  Should the crew be killed and regular infantry re-crew the artillery, then their RAT is only 2.



Reduce the initial impact to 8.    (Drop the 10 from the sequence, in other words. One "bounce" is lost)



Roll to-hit based on the target model RDF as normal.   



On a miss, roll 1d6.  On 1-3, the shot is short.  On 4-6, the shot is long.

Roll 1d6 and move the target back or forward along the path from the artillery piece in accordance with the results of the first roll.



Example.  I miss and roll 1d6, scoring a 3.  The shot falls short.  I then roll 1d6 again and score a 4.  I move the impact point back 4 inches from the target on the line which intersects the artillery piece. 



This does mean that the original target could be hit if you are lucky in your deviation and bounce rolls!
  

Thoughts

It's interesting how introducing my wife to wargaming has led me to re-examine my own relationship with miniatures.  She isn't interested in collecting armies -- she wants to buy neat miniatures and create her own theme that ties them together.  After years of collecting miniatures in the same pose and painted the same way for Warhammer fantasy, I was really quite envious when she just went to Reaper and bought all the cool miniatures that I never bought because they didn't fit the army list.   What was I thinking?