Wednesday, December 26, 2012

City States of Aquaria

A new project underway at Gaming with Chuck Headquarters - moving slow, and sure to carry into the new year - is a wargame design. It will be a tactical wargame, set in a science fiction setting. The setting is this -
The planet Coralon-VI is a water world, that was settled by a colony ship from Earth, about 600 years ago, during the first wave of Colonial expansion. As there is not much in the way of free standing land on the surface of Coralon-VI, named Aquaria by the original settlers, a sequence of genetic modifications to the frozen embryos on the colony ship was made, so that starting wih the first batched of locally born colonists, all of the long term inhabitants of Aquaria would be able to breathe and live underwater, in the shallow seas.

Thus began the original settlement of the planet. Underwater cities, as well as modified local plant and animal life, gave rise to the City States of Aquaria. Now, however, 600 years after first planetfall, the Philosopher-Princes of the various city states have begun to run out of settlement and development space in the choice areas of the shallow seas. As always in Human history, this has led to a state of war between the city states.
The game will be a tactical game between the armed forces of the various city states of Aquaria. Those forces include not only human warriors, but also undersea craft, surface craft, and cyber-enhanced lifeforms native to the world. I have worked up basic movement and combat sequences, and am in development of the various units, but here is a preview...

  • Sea Infantry - basic human warriors, adapted to underwater living and combat.
  • Sea Crawlers - armored vehicles, designed to operate on the bottom of the sea, capable of carrying heavy weapons.
  • Warrior Fish - various sized fish, enhanced with weapons and armor, trained to respond to commands and operate in combat.
  • Sub-Craft - underwater attack craft, small and with crews of usually only 1 or 2 humans.
  • Surface-Craft - attack craft that operate on the surface.
  • Destroyers, Cruisers, Leviathans - undersea craft, with large crews, and multiple weapon systems.
  • Terrors and Krakens - modified sea lifeforms that are not fish, but still have been modified to carry a variety of weapons, etc.
The game will feature simple rules for movement and combat, as well as close-in combat (melee?). I have already worked up the basics for these (moving, fighting, shooting), as well as some basic terrain, for the basic units. I am playing around with turn sequencing, and different C2 structures for the game, either cards or dice or something else.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

As yesterday was Christmas, it seemed appropriate to send out some Christmas Cheer to fans and readers of Gaming with Chuck. Below is a picture of a Father Christmas (i.e. Santa Claus) figure, painted up quite nicely. I am not sure, but I believe this was a special release figure from The Foundry. Anyone know for sure?
Be sure to enjoy the time between now and New Years day, and I hope all reading this have a Great New Year, as well. -The Management

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Nugget - classic wargaming newsletter

Over at Wargame Developments, there a bunch (issues 193-255) of The Nugget available for download to read. These are great, and have articles about all sorts of wargames and different aspects of running games, as well as writing rules, campaigns, miniatures, etc etc etc. It is an English (i.e. - United Kingdom) oriented publication, so many (but not all) of the manufacturers and conventions discussed are on that side of the pond, but that should not distract from the enjoyable articles. Definitely worth checking out.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Battlefield Effects, part 2

Okay, so here are some of the specifics of how the Battlefield Effects rule could be applied to a wargame, and the specific charts that can be used.  This is the detailed follow on to the original posting here.

As mentioned in the first article, here, approximately every third turn both sides will roll 1d6.  The high roller has Fate with him/her for that event.  If the high roller had an Even number (2,4 or 6) on their die, then the effect will be Good Fate for them.  If the high roller had an Odd number (3, or 5) on their die, then the effect will be Bad Fate for their opponent.  In all cases, if the dice contest is a tied result, then re-roll but the final results will be Special (each entry in the table below has an interpretation of what a Special result means).  Rolling a tied result more than once has no more effect than already being Special.  Note, Good Fate may affect both sides, equally Bad Fate may affect both sides.

Good Fate
1Unlooked for Relief
2Renewed Vigor
3Our Cause is Just
4A Hush in the Din
5Very Ably Commanded
6Move with a Purpose

Unlooked for Relief - An average unit (usually infantry, unless an all cavalry force) joins a random command, appearing on the tabletop at the rear of that command's controlled area.  Special: An elite unit joins the command.
Renewed Vigor - Restore half of the lost stands (casualties) to all of the units in a random command, except to units that are routing.  Special: restore all the lost stands to one of those units - player's choice.
Our Cause is Just - For the next turn, any units charging or receiving a charge do not have to pass a morale test - they are dedicated to the fight!  Special: In addition, units in one random command receive a 50% addition to any charge bonus move.
A Hush in the Din - Extremely favorable conditions for missile fire in the following turn mean that all missile fire (for both sides) will be at maximum effect.  Special: One unit in a random command is able to fire twice.
Very Ably Commanded - During the next turn, all command bonuses for one random command are doubled (double effect, double distance).  Special: All commanders on this side are affected, not just one command.
Move with a Purpose - One unit in a random command is able to move at double distance this turn.  Special: The entire command is able to move at double distance this turn.

Map of the Colina Verde battle, fought by ODMS in May of 2010, an excellent example of the sort of game where the Battlefield Effects rule could be useful

Bad Fate
1Withdraw from the Line
2Special Detachment
3Wretched Fatigue
4Darkening Skies
5Afflicted to great Distraction
6Hesitant Command

Withdraw from the Line - A unit from a random command is removed from the battle.  Special: Two units, each from a separate command, are removed from the battle.
Special Detachment - Roll 1d6 for each unit in a random command.  On a 1 or 2, inflict that many casualties, representing picked men removed from the units for some special task (off the table).  Special: Each unit in the command automatically loses either 1 or 2 figures, dice for it (1,2,3 - one figure; 4,5,6 - two figures).
Wretched Fatigue - A unit in a random command may not move or shoot for this turn.  Special: Two units in the command are so affected.
Darkening Skies - Weather has suddenly grown extremely bad.  For the next three turns, there is no road bonus to movement, and all ranged combat is at half range.  Special: No range combat at all is allowed for the next three turns.
Afflicted to great Distraction - During the next turn, a random command's commander is afflicted by extreme pains and malady - the units in the command are effectively "out of command".  Special: An additional command's commander is so affected.
Hesitant Command - One unit in a random command is unable to move this turn, yet it may still engage in ranged combat and melee combat.  Special: The entire command is so affected for the next turn.

A double blind game could be one where the Battlefield Effects rules really add to the Fog of War.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wargaming Wednesdays - battlefield effects

Sometimes in battles the unexpected happens. Units perform without orders; reinforcing elements arrive late (or early) ( or not at all); supporting elements don't; and individual officers are often anything but predictable.

But how to translate this into a tabletop miniatures game without a lot of complication? One way is with card driven events. This is down well in the excellent ruleset, The Sword in Africa. Also by Patrick Wilson's random event decks for TSATF. Charles Grant, in his Programmable Wargames Scenarios handles it for the solo wargaming by providing dice driven results for one or both sides in a solo game. The recent generation of card-driven board wargames handle it by linking events to troop activation. The ACW ruleset (and it's many variants) Fire and Fury handles it through a maneuver dice table where unpredictable move results can occur.

A simple system is suggested here, with fleshed out details next time.

Every third turn (3, 6, 9, etc) after all moves and combats are done, both sides roll a dice. High roller has the whim of fate on his side, temporarily. If the high roller had an even number, then some benefit accrues to his forces. If it is an odd number, then something negative happens to his foe.

Specific results will be in a future add-on to this posting.

Monday, December 17, 2012

15mm Wargaming, Mexican American War

Over the weekend I was invited to play with BAGGs (Benning, Alabama and Georgia Gamers).  They do historical miniatures once a month.

This month, they played a game of Mexican-American war.  I got to command a Brigade on the U.S. side, coming ashore against a Mexican mixed force of peasants and regular army.  The regular army held a hill crest, augmented with several batteries of modern artillery, and the whole had a large screening force of irregulars who came out to meet the U.S. forces coming ashore.  Our forces includes U.S. Regulars, U.S. Marines, and elements of the Texas Navy (irregulars, formed up from crews on the gunboats and paddle-wheelers that landed us).

It was a great game, using some homebrew rules that Bob and Ed (two of the guys at the core of the group) wrote a number of years ago.  The rules are called "Blood and Guts" and they have played them a lot, and used them at conventions at Siege of Augusta and other cons.

Here are a few pictures from the game.  You can see the Mexicans pretty clearly, and then the U.S. troops (that is part of my command) coming up to meet them.

Mexican force - Irregular Infantry on the left, Regular Cavalry on the right.

U.S. Regular Infantry advancing.

The forces begin their engagement.  There were still Regular Mexican Infantry across the river, and it was only ankle deep, so my right flank had to be protected.

Birds Eye View of the engagement.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Theremin Thursdays - music of The Hobbit, but not yet

Okay fans, so this week as a special request to my daughter, I agreed to think about the music from The Hobbit (different versions) as the theme for considering the relationship between music and gaming.

That is pretty broad territory, as The Hobbit has been done as an animated movie, has some great songs in the book, had some songs set to music by Professor Tolkien, and even in some of the various radio and audio versions has had some music appear.  Plus there are songs ABOUT The Hobbit that are not FROM The Hobbit.  And, looming over the shoulder of this conversation is the release of the first installment of the new Peter Jackson trilogy relating the book to the modern cinema.

We have a family outing planned to see the movie this weekend, so before I write the full, definitive Gaming with Chuck article on the relationship between The Hobbit, music, and gaming - I will wait until after the movie.

In the meantime, as a sort of teaser, here are some music clips....

A great song/ballad by Glenn Yarbrough for the Rankin Bass animated film.

Another song, also from the RB movie, is this one - sung by Wood Elves after the demise of Smaug...

As my one tip of the hat to the new movie, before I see it, I will post a single video that is based on the movie.  By now, even if you haven't seen the flick, you must have seen or heard the incredible trailer that features the scene at that famous party at Bag End, where the Dwarves (deep in their cups) begin getting moody and steamy-eyed and start singing of their long lost heritage and treasures that were lost to the dragon smaug.  The singing from the movie looks and sounds great in that trailer.  There is a vocal group called Str8Voices that does a cover (yes, already) of that song.  It is incredible, except for one thing.  The song really doesn't call for female voices.  See what you think -

Amazing enough, there are already some other, even more divergent, versions of this song available.  Like this one (a talented singer, Karliene, but not a Dwarf), and this one (cute, but still not a Dwarf), and this one (that last one is two twins playing electric harps - which they also do on songs from Skyrim, the Legend of Zelda, Blue Oyster Cult, and a cover of an AC/DC song - where will it all end?).  Sheesh.   All good, but not Dwarves.  I like Dwarves. 

Now Rob Inglis is a Dwarf.  And a Hobbit.  And an Elf.  And one of the Númenóreans.  He is the Most Excellent reader/performer of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings as recorded books - and he is a complete one man show.  Here he sings "The Song of the Lonely Mountain" from the book, which is what all this fuss is over anyway.

Okay, that is enough for now.  But... before departing, I do have to offer up One gaming link.  As I have brought up the Dwarves singing about the desolation that Smaug had wrought on their home in the Lonely Mountain, I should cover a game that deals with that topic.  [Yes, there was a great title from Iron Crown Enterprises on this very theme, but I will get to that in the later Hobbit article.]

For this installment, I am recalling a game, in a series of boxed micro games from Heritage (great manufacturer of miniatures, a long long time ago - who actually did, for the age, a pretty good line of Lord of the Rings miniatures and rules), called Dragon Rage by the talented Lewis Pulsipher.  The list of games was called Dwarfstar games (currently made available on the website from Brainiac), and included some good titles.

Curiously this is the second micro game to appear in a Gaming with Chuck article this week, the earlier one being the excellent Metagaming title, Chitin:I.

I think that it could be very easily argued that the basic idea of Dragon Rage owes at least a little to the idea of Smaug's raid on Lake Town.  Here is a link to the game (which has been released by the original copyright holders in a free Print and Play form).

 The game has recently been re-produced and made available commercially (for those who don't want to print and assemble) by Flatline Games.  It looks really, really good.

More on the Hobbit, and gaming, in a few days, after I get a chance to view the Peter Jackson offering.

Addendum:  A few weeks ago, in the original Theremin Thursdays article, I had a link to the Peter Hollens and  Lindsey Stirling video featuring Peter's vocals and Lindsey's violin playing in honor of Skyrim.  Well, I just recently came across another fantastic video, featuring some interesting video of everyone's favorite dragonborn hero, but this time with music from the incredibly talented Malukah (see her playlist on youtube, here).  The Guild Wars song that she collaborates on has her doing some really nice vocal work.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wargame Wednesdays: Chitin:I The Harvest Wars

A very interesting topic this week.  Actually four mushed together, but only with minor coverage for each (leaving room for future articles in all four topics).  The four ideas are this - Science Fiction board games, Micro Games, Games based on Biology, and Redesigns of old games. 

Not that kind of Science Fiction board game.
The game covered below is definitely a Science Fiction board game, actually a war game (using a loose definition of a game that conceptually represents two different factions in martial conflict with each other).  It is one of the original batch of Micro Games from the first dedicated publisher in that subgenre.  It is (as you will see) based on Biology (meaning, living units, and the game somehow represents the processes of living units).  And, there is a fantastic modern redesign of the game.

The game I am thinking of is Chitin:I (the Harvest Wars), by Howard Thompson, and published by Metagaming way back in 1977 (the Pleistocene era).  It is a very innovative game concept, being built around two hives of intelligent insects that are at war with each other, over food.  It just so happens that dead intelligent insects are an excellent example of food.

Each army has several different types of insects (fully realized in the advanced rules) that give different capabilities.  Collecting food is how you score victory conditions, and for that you need workers.  But there are also several different types of warrior bugs (each with different strengths) and also flyers, and brains (called Basics) that give a command capacity to the army.

The game came out in the micro game series from Metagaming, meaning it was in a small pocket size, with a small two color map, and a cardboard sheet of counters, and a rulebook.  Originally it was in a plasticene pouch, and the second edition came in a box (with a micro die).  It sold for the unheard of sum of $2.99.  Well, almost unheard of - it was the second game in the series, and the original game was OGRE (I shudder in the awesomeness...) which was in the same format and also sold for $2.99.  Some awesome pictures of the early cover art of both of these (Chitin:I and OGRE) are available at the Microgame Museum, which features data on many of the micrograms (both by Metagaming, and by a host of other companies).

Chitin: I is a remarkable amount of fun to play, but other than the conceptual idea (of bugs warring with each other over food), there really isn't too much new in the game.  Some common hex based wargaming ideas are present - zone of control, movement based on hexes, combat based on a Combat Results Table (CRT).  Some of the innovative things the game did offer - The hex map has Mega-hexes (a larger hex, drawn around some smaller hexes) which regulate movement for flying units.  Also, the facing of a unit matters in this game, which is not true of many other games of this era.  And, of course, dead units become victory objectives (actually, they can be harvested by worker units, for victory points).

So, we have an excellent, if old, game that may or may not be available as a used game, or through a scanned PDF source.  But that is where the idea of game Redesign comes in.  It seems that there are a number of very talented graphics design people who get a real charge out of taking existing games, and redesigning the components for them (sometimes with new art, or sometimes just to rearrange the components into more useful sizes or shapes).  The redesign of Chitin: I by Scott Everts is fantastic.  There is an article about it here, in Scott's blog on Boardgame Geek.  Here is a picture of the (fantastic) finished product.

The new board is fantastic, as are the control charts, and (not pictured) even the game manual.  Scott evidently talked with Paul Jaquays (artist for the original Metagaming game) about redoing the game.  Metagaming itself is long gone, and when he sold the company, after parting ways with Steve Jackson, Howard Thompson (the designer of the game, and the man behind the company) evidently left gaming forever.  Despite numerous attempts by people to get back in touch with him over a number of the old Metagaming designs, he has never shown any interest.  So . . . Scott went to Paul.  Paul was (as described in the article linked to above in Scott's blog) reasonable about letting him have access to the art, and even gave him some new art.  But it didn't work well, being too detailed for the size counters that Scott was doing (note: I love Paul Jaquays art, and always have since his earliest Judges Guild stuff).

(side note about Paul - known to old gamers as one of the most influential of the early fantasy game artists, and designer of fantastic products over the years like Central Casting, Paul had moved on to working in the video game industry, on titles such as HaloWars and others.  He recently - maybe 2011 - underwent a sex change process in his life and is now known as Jennell Jaquays which is mentioned here, because any modern lookup of current art projects for the video game world will most likely come up under the name Jennell.  I personally hope that Jennell continues to create, and to prosper as a designer and artist.)

A great bio of Jaquays is available from Escapist Magazine.  Anyway, the new art that Scott eventually used was from Nick Hayes.  Nick is a very talented graphic designer that makes all sorts of really interesting an innovative game components.  Here is a list (with pictures) of some of his projects.  As a comparison between the 1977 components and the modern Nick Hayes based stuff from Scott, here are the two counter types.


Finally, I should point out that the game, as it exists today, is available in two main forms.  First, you can get the files as downloads through Board Game Geek, and then print them out and assemble them (to as awesome of a level as you like) yourself.  Second, you can purchased a printed version of them from Print and Play Productions, a company that takes print and play (PNP) games from the Geek and other sources and provides professionally made physical components out of them.  Sort of like dealing with Artscow but not having to do the design and upload process yourself.

So, no matter how you get a copy, find a copy of Chitin:I and prepare to defend your hive, by eating your aggressive and dangerous (but oh, so tasty) neighbors.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wargame Wednesdays - Hold the Line

So, I have been wanting to start writing some reviews of games from Virginia wargaming companies for the past few weeks, and I finally got started on the first - a title from Worthington Games named Hold the Line.

HtL is a lightweight wargame that recreates situations from the American Revolutionary War, in the struggle between the Continentals and the British Regulars. It has rules for leaders, different troop types, movement, combat, terrain effects, and a very nice selection of troops.

On first glance, a lot of gamers draw comparisons between HtL and Richerd Borg's Command and Colors series - and there are some similarities.  Both are played on a similarly sized (in number of hexes) generic board, using tiles for terrain.  Both involve abstracted troop body markers, that have a capability to move, fight, and shoot.  Both have a basic shoot ability that degrades over range (although in two different ways, depending on the C&C title).  And both are scenario driven.  But there are some differences.

First, C&C uses cards to drive the action - you have a hand of cards and select one to do your turn.  In HtL it works differently.  Each side in a scenario has a basic rating (2,3,4, etc) that equates into a number of actions per turn.  To that, a D3 is rolled and added, and the total is the number of actions you can perform on your side in a turn.  An action is move, or shoot.  A unit may do either, but not both.  Since you have a bunch of units on your side, as in C&C, you are only dealing with a fraction of your forces on any one turn.

Second, there is the question of combat and the effects of range on shooting.  In C&C, the systems all use special dice, with symbols representing the different sorts of effects that can occur.  In HtL, simple D6 are used, and each unit gets a certain number of dice to roll.  There is a target number to make on the dice to cause a hit, and that target number gets reduced with range.  In the C&C games, many units receive few dice at range, although given the symbol based dice, the possibilities of a hit per die are the same.

Third, the C&C games all use nice physical representations of the units - either plastic soldiers or attractively stickered blocks.  HtL uses very attractive, heavy duty, counters that are easy to read, easy to handle, and have nice identifiable art.  It makes setup very fast.  Although I must admit - I am a sucker for plastic army men, and block based games...

In all, I think it is a very nice game, quick to set up, and fun.  The tactical challenges of the scenarios are really enjoyable, and the overall tempo of the game (where, since you are moving only a few units per turn, and you need to really set up a battle line for success, as is appropriate for 18th century warfare, it can take a few turns to adequately prepare and execute an attack) are refreshing.

A good friend of mine, Charles Cabell, has a very nice video review of the game, here...

Overall Hold the Line gets Two Thumbs Up from Gaming with Chuck.  Good job from Worthington Games.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Traveller Tuesdays - Offworld and Orbital Facilities

[NOTE - This article has been updated, there is a section below (indicated in Red), that has been updated, in a later article posted here.]

So, in a planetary system where there is a large enough population, of a technology level high enough, it is quite likely that the population will move out into the high orbit of the main world, and onto other planets and moons in the system.  This is a quick and easy way to determine what sorts of facilities exist within a system.

First, a recap of how the Mongoose version of Traveller determines what sort of bodies exist within a stellar system, other than the main world.  This is based on what is in Book 3: Scout, pages 92-93.  This system determines the bodies of the system that are important for play, not necessarily all of the bodies within the system.  We can take that to mean (within the constraints of "important for play" as being bodies where there are likely to be habitations or facilities, among other things).

First the Jump Shadow of the star is determined.  This is the 100xD (where D is the diameter of the star) sphere within which making an interstellar jump is dangerous.  It is determined by rolling 1d6, to determine how many "orbits" (orbital positions that are likely to contain a body) are within that sphere.

Next, roll a second d6 and add in the number of orbits within the Jump Shadow, to determine the total number of orbits that are of interest around this star.  As mentioned, this system does not concern itself with "uninteresting" orbits, or orbits that are insignificant.  This gives a total number of orbits somewhere between 2 and 12 that are of interest, and some number of those - the ones closest to the Star - are within the jump shadow of that Star.

Keeping in mind how many Planetoid Belts and how many Gas Giants exist within the system, the next step is to determine how many orbits are within the different zones of the system. The possible zones are the Inner Zone, the Habitable Zone, and the Outer Zone.
Gas Giant

This is done by rolling 2d6 - the lowest of the two dice representing how many of the orbits of the system are within the Inner Zone (those orbits where there is just too much heat or solar radiation for life to comfortably exist).  The highest of the two dice represents the first orbit of the Outer Zone.  Any orbits between these two (if any) are considered to be the Habitable Zone.

[EDIT - This section has been heavily modified, taking advantage of interesting results from T5.  The modification have been presented here.  The replaced section has been marked off as a red block quote, scroll down to the regular text, to return from the revised section.]

For each orbit, roll 2d6.  Depending on the Zone, the results of this die roll will determine the contents of that orbit.  This system assumes that there is something in every orbit, even though it does not determine the distance between the orbits.

For the Inner Zone -

  • Double 6s indicate that the system has a significant companion star, and it replaces the last orbit of the Outer Zone.  Ignore further companion star results (i.e. - only one companion star can be generated in this system).
  • Double 1s indicate that a Gas Giant (if present within the system at all) exists.
  • Otherwise, read the lowest dice of the 2d6 rolled, and consult the following chart.

  1. Small Terrestrial world (planet size 1-3)
  2. Large Terrestrial world (planet size 4+)
  3. Belt if available (size 0) or Planetoid (size 1)
  4. Small Ice world (planet size 2-4)
  5. Large Ice world (planet size 5+)
  6. Belt if available (size 0) or Planetoid (size 1)
For the Habitable Zone -

  • Double 6s indicates a companion star (as above) if a companion star has not already been placed.
  • Other doubles suggest a Gas Giant (if available).
  • Otherwise, read the lowest dice of the 2d6 rolled.

For the Outer Zone -
  • Double 6s indicates a companion star (as above) if a companion star has not already been placed.
  • Other doubles suggest a Gas Giant (if available).
  • Or if the total of the 2d6 is greater than half the value of the orbit, then also a Gas Giant (if available).
  • Otherwise, read the highest dice of the 2d6 rolled.
An Ice World

For each Gas Giant, significant Moons may be rolled for.  If the Gas Giant is in the Inner or Habitable Zone, then it will have 1d3 Terrestrial (size 1+) Moons, and 1d6 Ice World (size 2+) Moons.  If it is in the Outer Zone, then it will have 1d6 Terrestrial (size 1+) and 2d6 Ice World (size 2+) Moons.
Terrestrial World Planets will have 1d3-1 moons.  Ice World Planets will have 1d3-2 moons.

Once all orbits are filled using this system, consider the number of Gas Giants placed - if there are more Gas Giants to place, then just create new orbits outside the last Outer Zone orbit, but inside any Companion Star (i.e. "push" the companion star out, to make room for more Gas Giant orbits).

Also consider the number of Belts that the system is to have.  If not enough have been generated, then create new orbits between the Habitable Zone and the Outer Zone, to accommodate the extra required Belts.

Moons of a Gas Giant

Determine location of the Main World -
  •  If there is a Habitable Zone, then the Main World is placed in the middle of the Habitable Zone.  If the middle orbit there matches the Size of the UWP, then that is the Main World, otherwise create an additional orbit in the middle of the Habitable Zone for the Main World.
  • If there is NO Habitable Zone, then roll 1d6.  If the result is a 6, then the Main World is a moon of the first Gas Giant in the system, otherwise the Main World is placed as the last orbit in the Inner Zone.

Now, having determined the planetary contents of the system, the presence and relative location of planetary bodies, gas giants, moons and asteroid belts, the question turns to Offworld and Orbital Facilities.

In order to determine how many such facilities exist, based on the UWP score for the Population, roll on the following table. Add to that number the Tech Level of the world, and subtract 7.  The result is the number of facilities within the system.  Note that if the Tech Level of the Main World is less than 8, all such facilities within the system are operated by organizations/governments other than this systems Main World.

Facilities Generated
Pop 0-2None
Pop 3-41d6
Pop 5-62d6
Pop 7-83d6
Pop 9-104d6
Pop 11-125d6

If there are 5 or few facilities, all of them will be determined on the Small Facility table.

If there between 6 and 10 facilities, half of them (rounded up) will be determined on the Small Facility table.  The remainder will be determined on the Medium Facility table.

If there are more than 10 facilities, then half of them (rounded up) will be on the Small Facility table.  Half of the remainder (rounded up) will be on the Medium Facility Table.  The remainder will be on the Large Facility table (but only if the Main World population is 5+, otherwise, these will also be Medium Facilities).

If a result is rolled more than once, than each additional result gains a roll on the following table:

Repeat Results
1Additional Rival Operation
2Larger than Normal Facility
3Higher Technology Facility
4Dispersed Facility
5Complex of Multiple Sites
6Robotic/Automated Annex

  • In the case of an additional rival operation, it is just that.  Another of the same facility, in a different location in the system, but of a separate governance, or ownership, from the first.
  • A dispersed facility means that it is spread out to cover multiple orbital platforms (if orbital) or on multiple locations on the planetary body it is on (or maybe in orbit around different bodies, or on the surface of different bodies).  All of these working together, and in communication link, supporting each other.
  • A complex of multiple sites means 1d6 of the facility in question, but somehow linked (either as an extremely large orbital colony, or as a surface, or sub-surface, colony on a planetary body in the system).
  • Robotic/Automated annex facilities are a duplicate of the original of the type in question, but only the first is operated by live occupants/operators - this additional facility is operated through automation or by robots.

Small Facility
1Education Facility
2Religious Facility
3Communications Outpost
4Science/Research Lab
5Power Generation
6Sports/Recreation Facility

  • If the world is on a regular Jump route, then a Communications Outpost is likely an X-Boat tending facility.  Otherwise Roll 1d6 - 1-3 In systems communications, 4-6 Interstellar communications.
  • The population of Small Facilities is likely to be a population code of 1d3-1 (if 0, then it means a single individual is operating the facility).  
  • Science Facility roll 1d6 - 1. Biology, 2. Physics, 3. Information, 4. Planetology, 5. Materials, 6. Psychology.  Roll 1d6 - 1,2 - Private, 3,4 - Planet Government, 5,6 - Interstellar Government.  Roll 1d6 - 1-3 - Applied; 4-6 - Theory.
  • Education facilities roll 1d6 - 1. Trade School 2. Martial Arts 3. Religious Training 4. Science Training 5. Private school of Nobility 6. Psionics Training
  • In the case of a Religions Facility or a Sports/Recreation Facility (either a zero grav sport, or a hotel/resort), the population code generated represents the operating staff, there are accommodations for several thousand visitors, on a short term basis.
Medium Facility
4Food Production
5Corporate Facility
6Nature Preserve
  • A Medium Facility is likely to have a population code of either 3 or 4.  Note that this represents the staff.  In the case of a Food Production or Nature Preserve facility, it is likely to be much larger than what would be necessary for the staff, as the facility contains large areas serving their function.
  • A Medical facility is actually a Quarantine port on a 5+ (1d6), otherwise it is a hospital.
  • If the world is a Captive Government, then the Security Facility belongs to the Captor Government, other wise it is a Port Authority facility, watching the Main World population, as well as any incoming or outgoing traffic.

Large Facility
1Commerce Port
4Military Facility
5Fuel/Resource Station
6Alien Population Center
  • A large facility is likely to have a population code of 5 or 6 (except the Residence/City - see below).
  • A Commerce Port is either (1) Retail shopping, (2) Warehousing, (3) Resource Auction House,  (4) Cargo Handling center, (5) Major Financial Center, or (6) Trade Union Community.  Multiple results are each likely to be separate types.
  • A Residence/City Facility will have a Population Code one less than that of the Main World.
  • If the System has a Naval base, then the Military Facility is likely to be a Naval Weapons Station, otherwise it is likely to be a Barracks for either Army or Marines.
  • If the System has an A, B or C Starport than the Fuel/Resource Station is likely to be a Fuel station, ancillary to that at the main Starport.  Otherwise, it is likely to be the headquarters of a Resource Extraction operation (like a Belt Mining facility, or a Mineral Extraction facility).
  • An Alien Population Center is identical to the Residence/City Facility, except that it is populated by either Humans of a widely different culture, or actual Aliens.
 Finally, to determine the location of the Facility, roll 1d6.  On a 1-2 it is in orbit around the main world.  On a 3-4 it is in orbit around some other body in the system.  On a 5 it is on the surface of some other body in the system, and on a 6 it is below the surface of some other body in the system.

Orbital Facilities can be in orbit around just about any body (Planet, Moon, Gas Giant, even the Star or its Companion, although these latter are likely only to be likely for Research Centers).
Surface or SubSurface facilities will only be present on Terrestrial Worlds, Ice Worlds, or Planetoids (in or out of a belt).  They will not be on or under the surface of a Gas Giant.

(note: NASA images from here)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Meeting - Gaming Club at Columbus State University

So, this afternoon, from approximately 1:30 until 5:30, there were a group of about 12 students - graduate and undergraduate - who met to have an inaugural meeting of an impromptu gaming club.  This was in the School of Computer Science, at Columbus State University.

The following games were played:
A good time was had by all present, and there are plans to do it again in two weeks, and perhaps regularly in the Spring semester.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Theremin Thursdays - Iron Horse edition

There are a lot of songs in the rich repertoire of North American music that concerns Railroads (there are a lot). Not surprisingly, as railroading in many aspects is of great interest to me, this music is also of interest to me.

The history of railroading, with powered locomotives, goes back to the turn of the century, 1800.  There about, several inventions came together (flanged rails in the last century, and steam engines most recently) to enable the major developments that lead us to what we view as the classic railroad - a powered locomotive pulling cars full of either passengers or cargo.  As a brief note of interest, however, cars on rails goes back to about 1550, when rails were first built in Germany to enable cargo wagons to travel easier.

Railroading in Europe and North America grew and grew in prominence and sophistication all the way up to the point where road traffic started to supplant it economically.  Around the period of the 1930s, during the Great Depression, there is a ton of American folklore and history that has to do with railroads - it was a part of almost all aspects of life.  PBS did a very nice documentary about young hobos riding trains, called Riding the Rails, with information available here.  One of the things they did along with that was a nice article about the history of Railroad based music.

For the music selections in this edition of Theremin Thursdays, however, I am going to concentrate on some later music. First to not cover some territory already done in this area, I can point to a great article posted on the music blog, Hidden Track, called B List: 10 Best Songs about Trains.  Amongst other things, it covers two of my favorites - Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead, and Take the A Train by Duke Ellington.  As you can see, the coverage of Railroad themed music covers a lot of different genres, even in modern times.  The list at Hidden Track covers some of the greatest musicians of the pop music over the last 50 years (Pat Metheny, Gladys Night, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, etc).

The railroad companies themselves, in the mid 20th century, started putting out videos about their history and service, and some of these (for a gamer) are very interesting to watch.  Here are two that I think are pretty neat, although a Youtube search will uncover a lot more.  The first is a history of the Chicago and North Western Railroad (C&NW), released in 1948, the 100th anniversary of their existence.  There is some (fun) dramatization to watch in this, but also a nice history of the spread west of North American railroads.

The second is a nice article about the impact of railroading on American industry and the economy.  If you play economic railroad games, this is a very interesting history worth watching.  It is from the New York Central Railroad, one of my personal favorites.

But, now to the music, and then to the games.  The first is from Gordon Lightfoot.  Gordon Lightfoot's song the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a great song, and will probably be part of a future Theremin Thursdays article. The song being featured here, of course, is the Canadian Railroad Trilogy.  What a great song, about the history of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

Another song from around the same era is Jim Croce's Railroad song.  What a great song.  There is a version on youtube, below, but it has some special effects added in for the train sounds.  Not sure I like those . . .

I could add a link to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Railroad Song, but enough with the mellow stuff.  I will end the litany of music about railroad songs with one of the most fun (if ridiculous) songs about trains.  The song, of course, is Crazy Train by Ozzy.  But, for a video, I'll post a version of the song done by Iron Horse (what a cool Train name...), in a bluegrass mode.  At least I didn't post this version.

Okay, so what about gaming and Railroads.  First, there is the immensely popular game Ticket to Ride.  But is it a train game?  There is a whole sub-hobby of railgaming purists out there who would say no (note: I gently disagree, as to me any game with a Train theme is a train game, but there are of course different types, and different levels of difficulty and degrees of simulation involved).  A fun game, and an excellent gateway game to the hobby of modern board gaming, but not a train game.  Okay, so then, what is a train game?  A future article could be dedicated to this very question, but it seems to include some aspect of rail line building; cargo delivery; be based on economics; and sometimes have some aspect of company control, or a stock market.  If we use that as the criteria, then our list is a lot shorter.

The main categories seem to be three.  First, there is the whole large collection of very nice Crayon based Train games from Mayfair.  These are so nicknamed because they involve drawing on the game board, marking up your train segments, as you build them.  This could be done with crayons or with erasable markers, on a board specially built to be easily erasable.  The first of these was Empire Builder, but there have been lots and lots of successors.  You build your train network in the first phase of the game, and then you deliver cargo in the second phase of the game.  Nice.

 The next category are games where the main action is driven by control of various train companies, through the purchase or selling of stocks.  These are chiefly nicknamed "18xx" games because many of them feature a year from the 19th century (1830, 1860, 1853, etc) in the title.  One of the main influences in this category is the title 1830: Railways and Robber Barons from Mayfair, which was recently (and beautifully) reprinted.  These games have the players building routes, etc, but the main emphasis is on ownership, for determining control and winning the game.

The third main category of train game that railgamers take seriously is the series that is heavily based on Martin Wallace's design in Age of Steam.  Successors have been Railways of the World, Railroad Tycoon (taking the name from the enormously successful series of computer based Railroad games), and Steam.  I personally have Steam and Railways of the World - both are good games, and all four of these differ in some very important ways.  These games have the player controlling one train company throughout the game, but the action of building train lines and then delivering cargo is what the game is all about.  All great games, in my opinion.  Here is a picture of Steam, one of my favorites.

Okay, so those are the big categories, and I like them all.  Of the three my favorite is probably the third (Martin Wallace) category.  I love Steam, and I don't think I could play enough of it.  There are just so many layers of strategy to be employed, and lots of decisions (both tactical and strategic) - features I really like in games.

There are, however, other games that even serious Railgamers might grudgingly acknowlede as railroad games.  Here is a nice list of shorter games.  One of the criticisms of the above three categories is that games of those types take a l_o_n_g time to play, typically.  Not as long as, say, a 6 player or 8 player version of the Avalon Hill class Civilization, but still, pretty long.

So here is the list, it is called "Train Games in An Hour or Less" with the subtitle, "Where you don't own a Company".  Well, I don't know if Chicago Express breaks that rule, but it is still a very good list.

A few of my favorites that are not in the categories above are First Train to Nuremberg (which was, btw, Dec 7, 1835);  Chicago Express (which features really cool dials on the board, but is also a great game); and Steel Driver (which involves stock shares, and line building, but is otherwise pretty benign).  One of the cool things to note about those three titles is that they all started life in different forms.

First Train to Nuremberg - has long deep roots to Last Train to Wensleydale (the new version includes the old version).
First Train to Nuremberg
Last Train to Wensleydale

Chicago Express - Was originally Wabash Cannonball from the train game specialty publisher, Winsome Games.
Chicago Express
Wabash Cannonball

The third of this trifecta of Games Chuck Likes is:
Steel Driver - Which is very strongly based on Prairie Railroads
Steel Driver (note: Rubik's Cubes not included)

Prairie Railroads (updated Cube version)
I think that in all three cases, the newer versions (First Train to Nuremberg, Chicago Express, and Steel Driver) are all very attractive games, with first rate components, but if it wasn't for the design pioneering with the originals, we might not have gotten there.

Much the same with today's high speed rails, and the debt they owe to the pioneer in self powered railroads.

Shape of the Future? California High Speed Train

An early train of the Stephenson's Rocket era

A Splendid Little War - Wargaming Rules

This week, Wargame Wednesdays presents a set of quickplay rules for the Spanish American War (SAW).  A friend of mine referred to this (lovingly) as the Spanko-Yanko war.  I don't know about that, but these rules were written to play some fun club night miniature wargames using the very nice "Rough Riders" figures recently re-released by The Virtual Armchair General.  As the website states, these were released back in the 90s by Richard Houston, and they were sculpted by Chris Ferree.
The figures nice - not up to the standard of modern figures, but certainly fine for back in the 90s.  I bought a bunch of them from Patrick at TVAG when he first released them, and I got them painted up for me by a good friend in Virginia.  Well, one thing leads to another, and before you know it - there was talk in my old weekly club about playing a game with them.  So a ruleset was needed, and for small projects like this I really like homebrew rules, so "A Splendid Little War" was born.

Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.
- Theodore Roosevelt

A Splendid Little War

Wars for small, quick games simulating land combat in the Spanish American War
by Chuck Turnitsa
Figures and Battlefield
  1. 15mm figures
  2. Infantry stands are 25mm square (or whatever is convenient).
  3. MG and Artillery stands are 30mm square (or whatever is convenient).
  4. Units should be organized by stands.
    1. An infantry unit should have between 4 and 6 stands.  
    2. A Machine Gun unit should have 1 stand
    3. An Artillery unit should have 1 stand
  5. Each stand should have several figures mounted on it  
    1. An Infantry unit should have 3 figures
    2. A Machine Gun unit should have 1 MG and 2 crew members
    3. An Artillery unit should have 1 gun and 2 crew members
  6. The table top should be prepared before the battle.  
    1. The fighting space should have ample areas of cover (jungle), especially at the edge of the battlefield.  
    2. There should be one or two small built up areas, on a road network, in the central part of the battlefield.  
    3. Roads have no effect in the game, unless they pass through jungle, then they permit full speed movement, and also artillery movement
Game Setup
  1. Each side should have 3 or more brigades of troops.
  2. Each brigade should have a handful of units.
    1. Infantry units are from 4-6 stands of infantry
    2. MG units are 1 stand of machine guns
    3. Artillery units are 1 stand.
  3. Prepare a card for each brigade, identified on the card. Prepare 1 “bonus” card for each side.
  4. Shuffle all these cards together.
Turn Sequence
  1. Take turns flipping over a card.  When a card is flipped, all of the units in that brigade may move.
  2. If a bonus card is flipped, a Brigade that HAS ALREADY MOVED may move again. Units that contacted the enemy during the first move may not move during this bonus move.
  3. If a bonus card is flipped first, then that side may identify a Brigade of the enemy’s as “pinned” which means that it may not move that turn on its regular card. If the enemy draws its own bonus card,after it would have normally moved the “pinned” brigade, then it may moveit normally.
  4. All units move 6 inches each turn. Artillery may not enter rough terrain. Infantry and MG units move half in rough terrain (except Moro warriors and Philippine Scouts).
  5. If an Artillery unit or MG unit move, they may not shoot.
  6. An Infantry unit may charge the enemy.If this is the case, the unit gets +1d6 inches added to their basic move.
  7. See charges and responses (below) to determine what happens during a charge, and how a unit may respond to being charged.
  8. After all cards have been flipped, and all units have moved then all artillery and MG fire takes place, simultaneously.
  9. After all artillery and MG fire is done, then all infantry fire takes place, simultaneously. Units charged may fire; charging units may not.
  10. After all firing takes place, then fight hand to hand combat (see charges and responses, below).
  11. Shuffle cards and begin next turn.
Firing Sequence
  1. Infantry may fire 12 inches
  2. MG may fire 24 inches
  3. Artillery may fire 48 inches
  4. Infantry fire is done by rolling 1d6 per stand firing, and scores a hit on a 5 or 6.
  5. MG fire is done by rolling 3d6 per crewman (there are 2 crewman per MG stand, initially), and score a hit on a 5 or 6.
  6. Artillery fire is done by first picking a target point, then rolling a drift dice and 1d6 (2d6 if over half range). If the drift dice indicates a hit, then good, otherwise drift the target point the amount rolled on the dice.Roll 1d6, and any unit within 1 inch of the landing point takes that many hits.
  7. US units under cover may be fired at, but receive a save of 4,5,6 per hit scored.
  8. Spanish units under cover may not be fired at (they are adept at hiding – learned in the war against Cuban rebels – and are using smokeless powder, so are not easily spotted).
  9. Units under cover may fire out of cover, if they are at he edge of that cover.
  10. Units that lose a stand must test morale – see below.
  11. Each infantry stand can suffer three hits before being removed.
  12. Each MG stand can suffer two hits before being removed.  After 1 hit, it can only move half speed.
  13. Each Artillery stand can suffer two hits before being removed.  After 1 hit, it cannot move, but may still pivot to fire.
Charge and Response
  1. When a unit wishes to charge, before measuring the distance to the charger, roll 1d6 and add that many inches to the unit’s move.
  2. If the unit has enough move to contact the enemy, then the charge is a success.
  3. If the unit does not have enough move to contact the enemy, then it stops after moving as far as it can.
  4. The charged unit may shoot during the Firing sequence part of the turn, but only at the charging unit.
  5. The charging unit may not fire, even if it did not contact the enemy.
  6. If the charging unit loses a stand, and then tests morale, it may fail (see below).  If it does fail the morale test, then it does not make contact (but may be shot at by the charged unit).
  7. If the charged unit gets to move after being contacted, and wants to evade, it moves away 1d6 inches. If the charging unit has enough remaining movement to catch it, then it is removed from the game. An evading unit may not fire or charge another unit.
  8. If the charging unit makes contact, then both sides roll 1d6. The higher modified roll wins, the loser taking the difference in hits. The winning unit automatically takes 1 hit. The losing unit automatically routes (see below)The following modifiers affect the dice toss.
    1. Charging unit gets +1
    2. Larger unit gets +1
    3. Unit defending earth works or in a building gets +1

Morale and Results
  1. When a unit has to roll a morale test, roll 1d6, if it is Less than the number of stands remaining it passes.
  2. If a unit fails morale, it has two choices, it can route, or take 1 full stand as casualties.
  3. If a unit routes, move it 2d6" away from the enemy.  It is marked as routing.
  4. When a routing unit's Brigade is activated in the turn sequence, then roll a morale test for the routing unit, if it passes, it recovers from routing, and may turn to face the enemy.  If it fails, it continues routing (2d6").