Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Frederick's War - new Hold the Line title from Worthington Games

I recently received my copy of Frederick's War from Worthington Games (full title: Hold the Line: Frederick's War).  It also came with the extra module Highland Charge, which covers battles in Scotland of the Jacobite Rebellion.


The game is a follow on to the (in my opinion) very well done Hold the Line, which was a sequence of battles from the American War for Independence.  That game also had an add-on module, covering the French and Indian War.

The game has very attractive counters, a very functional map (with multiple terrain tiles so you can reset for any of the different scenario maps), a great full color rulebook, and a couple of dice.

My only comment on the components is that I really preferred the wider infantry unit markers from the original Hold the Line. It made them feel like battalions in line formation.  But, as the scale of the battles represented in Frederick's War is so great, that each marker is representing much more than a battalion (or even a regiment), it probably doesn't matter.

I was an early (pre-production) backer of this, and I have to say that Worthington did a very good job in getting it out.

The rulebook is great (one minor flub, and might be my own error), and covers a number of key Seven Years War (and the earlier War of the Austrian Succession) scenarios that were pivotal for Prussian (and Frederick II himself).  If this title is successful, I could easily see additional add-on modules featuring other armies and more scenarios from this time period (or even stretching it back to the early 18th century - I would be first in line, for instance, for a "Hold the Line: Peter The Great" module featuring Swedish and Russian armies and scenarios from the Great Northern War).

A promo picture is circulating (still) on Boardgame Geek and other places that features a shot of some units on a board, and it features some British units - units that only appear in the Highland Charge module.  Not a big deal, but hopefully it isn't too misleading for folks.  On Board Game Geek, Sean Chick (designer) himself comments that it was a mistake so show them in the image.

I am looking forward to a solo play of this game, and I will post an AAR of it.

Oh - the minor flub in the rulebook that I mentioned - I couldn't find in the text that in combat, units all roll 3d6 in all situations (except fire combat at long range, where it is reduced to 1d6).  It is mentioned on the quick reference chart for combat, but not in the rules text.  There, the number of dice in combat is only mentioned as "fire combat dice" on a fire combat table, but there are at least two other types of combat, so by making the mention explicitly for fire combat, it threw me when I was trying to see how many dice are rolled for close combat (for infantry) and for charges (for cavalry).  Minor point, and it was cleared up in the examples, and by the line on the QR chart, but still - what is a review without pointing out one wart in an otherwise very compelling looking game??

Conceptually - the game and the scenarios look great.  I do have a minor quibble there - but in the end, my complaint will probably be a recognized strength of the game.  Here it is - considering the size of the armies that encountered each other in these battles, the number of maneuver elements in the game seems surprisingly low.  The battles in the American War of Independence are quite small in comparison, and many of them feature more maneuver elements than the battles here (please forgive: this is only my opinion, and only after an initial un-boxing and read-through of the rules and scenario).  With the original game in my mind, these battles seem more like skirmishes than the epic 18th century struggles that they were...  I will report back after playing a battle or two.

Great image of Frederick leading the way at Mollwitz (could have been cover art)

Here is an image from BGG showing the setup for the battle of Mollwitz (April 10, 1741; Prussian v. Austria; The War of Austrian Succession) the image was originally posted by Scott Smith:

The Austrians (white markers) are set up in (roughly) one line, and the Prussians (blue markers) are set up in two dispersed lines (three infantry each) with some artillery out front, and some outlying flankers.  This battle was fought between 22,000 on the Prussian side vs. 23,000 on the Austrian side.  Here is a nice reconstruction map:

Also, definitely check out the web page of Mike Bishop - he has a great map of the battle there as well.

So, with armies of around 20,000 (my exact numbers could be off, I have seen totals for the Prussians ranging from 16,000 to 22,000, depending on what you count, and who is doing the counting), it just feels a little more like a skirmish encounter than a large battle to have around a dozen counters.

Here is an example from the first game - the battle of Bemis Heights (day two of the Battle of Sarratoga).  This battle featured 8,000 Rebels against 5,000 British.  Here is a picture of the game setup.

As I mentioned, I believe once I play the game, the number of counters will feel "right", and the discrepancy of scale between battles shouldn't matter (it is the game that matters, after all).  It is just a thought that occurred to me as I looked at the battles.  I won't go into the battle of Hochkirch (which is also a scenario in Frederick's War) featuring 35,000 Prussians v. 80,000 Austrians...  I will hold my breath until I play the game (which I am sure will play very enjoyably).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

new Blog for traveller posts

I have been posting a lot recently on my Traveller game setting.  I have decided to move that away from the Gaming with Chuck blog and to set up a separate blog, on that setting, called The Etzina Passage.  I'll get back to regular postings of game reviews and new rules and so on, here on Gaming with Chuck shortly...

The Etzina Passage

While I intend to publish campaign (and setting) information over at The Etzina Passage, I'll still do product reviews, and alternate rules (etc) here at Gaming with Chuck.  Traveller Tuesdays marches on.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - System Details for Baiti (Ark/0202)

System Details - Baiti (Ark/0202)

Baiti      0202 B475436-C  S Ni        620 Sx
UWP:B475436-CLocation:Crucis Margin/0202System:Baiti
Starport:BGood Starport (Shipyard: Spacecraft; Repair: Overhaul; Fuel: Refined)
Planetary Size:4Small (e.g. Mars) (5,600-7,199km)
Atmosphere:7Standard (tainted)
Hydrosphere:5Wet World (45 - 54% water)
Government:3Self-Perpetuatlng Oligarchy. (Government by a restricted minority, with little or no input from the masses)
Law Level:6Moderate Law (All firearms except Shotguns)
Tech Level:CAverage Interstellar Community
Base(s):Scout Base (Sphere Fenix)
Zone:Green: Unrestricted
# of Planetoid Belts:2# of Gas Giants:0
Marlan Primate Embassy, Kreft Outpost in the distance, on planet Baiti

It turns out that the Baiti system, which orbits around a giant red star named Beta Aurelis, consists of 8 interesting orbits.  Although not conclusive, stellar physicists believe that there were originally four other occupied orbitals, that have been consumed by the expanding star over the millenia.

Orbit 1 - The first one, within the inner zone, contains a size 7 terrestrial world, known as Bleak, with two moons (Fault and Past).  Bleak is interesting, and normally would be completely scorched and barren, but its rotation means that the same side is almost always facing towards Beta Aurelis, so there is a very hot side, and a dark side.
  • The band of twilight in between the two is very interesting.  The twilight zone of Bleak is home to some very interesting, pre-human ruins.  These were first discovered by the early colonists from Terra, but have never been satisfactorily explored.

Orbit 2 - The next orbit out is already in the habitable zone, but still within the jump shadow of Beta Aurelis.  This is a very small world, size 1, called Mite.  Mite has a natural satellite, Gnat, which is only slightly smaller.  The two have almost a coequal orbit around each other, but Mite, because of its slightly higher mass, remains the centroid (although it is wobbly).  Mite has no atmosphere and no free standing liquids.
  • Mite has some very interesting crystalline formations in subsurface caves.  This has attracted a large (pop 7,000) processing facility to have been erected.  The entire facility is located in underground habitations, called Vinci Base.  It is run by the NamTek corporation. The value and properties of the crystals is kept under extreme secrecy.

Orbit 3 - The first orbit outside the jump shadow of the primary, is the world of Baiti itself - the main world of the system.  It is a size 4 world, but the natural atmosphere and hydrosphere make it a rare gem of a world.  Baiti has two moons, Tut and Ramses.
  • Baiti features a B class star port, with a down port located at Kreft Outpost (the largest point of habitation, with a population of 8,000, mainly a startown around the port), and also a high station called Laughing Fish Orbital Starport.  The name Laughing Fish has some (forgotten) relevance to the early Chinese settlers of this system, from old (pre-Rule of Man) Terra.  
  • In orbit around Baiti is a dispersed manufacturing facility, owned by Posix, a company that makes artificial metals and high strength metal foams (grown in microgravity).  The facility houses 7,000 employees and family members, but is spread over a dozen different facilities.  Much of the spaceship traffic in orbit around Baiti are Posix shuttlebugs flying back and forth between the different stations.
  • Ramses is the home to a sizable Sphere Fenix Scout Base, which also operates the observation crew on the research lab in orbit over Frost, and the X-Boat courier station out in the Shank Ruin asteroid belt.  
  • Tut is the home of a Marlan Primate missionary colony - they operate a very large TL-12 hospital, called Serene Harmony Station.  The missionary colony has a staff of 10,000, mostly technicians and medical staff, but also family members, and an entire meditation temple, with hundreds of monks.  The hospital has its services offered free of charge, but the Brothers and Sisters of the Temple along with Elder Farnush who runs the temple, refuses to allow weapons on the station.  Armed ships docking at the station (which is in orbit around the moon Tut) must agree to weapon-locks while in orbit at the station.  The Government of the Marlan Primate operates an embassy on the planet (Baiti), and this is under control of the secular government, not the temple.  It is located some distance from Kreft Outpost, but is in constant communication.

Orbit 4 - The next orbital out, also within the habitable zone, contains the ice world Frost, size 3.  Frost has no natural satellites.
  • Frost is currently under interdiction because of an out of control scientific research project, originally run by the Araminta Scientific corporation, now under control of the Science Directive of the Sphere Fenix Scout Service.  Araminta Scientific built the orbital lab, Research Station K-Nova (staff of 40), and from there introduced robotic agents into the biosphere on the surface of Frost.  These self-replicating machines quickly got out of hand, and began building amazing structures on the surface.  The company maintains their innocence, and claim that something "took control of the robots".  The station is now watched over by Scout Service personnel, and the planet (Frost) is under patrol (aerial only, not surface).

Orbit 5 - The fifth orbital of interest contains another small rock, similar to Mite, called Little Erg (size 1 rocky world).  It has two smaller satellites, Lance and Fount.
  • Lance has some interesting geo-thermic properties (especially for such a small body), and a small remote station is operated there, by a skeleton crew (and robots) of NamTek corporation personnel - they collect energy, and use it to provide for NamTek starships coming into system.  This is often a point of contention to the operators of the Baiti starports, who see it as lost profit.

Orbits 6,7 - The sixth and seventh orbitals contain asteroid belts.  Both of these are still within the habitable zone.  It is guessed that both were once planets, but that something catastrophic happened to them.
  • Char Belt is home to Harbison Stadium - a major grav ball facility, with training camps, multiple arenas, hotels, restaurants, and facilities for tournaments featuring up to 12 teams.  The local team is sponsored by the Scout Service academy, and this is their home stadium.  The Sphere Fenix Scout Service team are called the "Hummingbirds" and have had a winning record in recent years.
  • Shank Ruin Belt is home to an X-Boat courier base, Waymark Station, operated by the Scout Service.

Orbit 8 - Finally, the eight orbital, outside the habitable zone, and in the outer zone, is the planet Fatal.  Fatal is the same (roughly) size as Baiti, but it is so far away from Beta Aurelis, that it is not really suitable for large scale colonization.  Fatal does not have any natural satellites.
  • The dark and cold surface of Fatal conceals an underground facility known as the Chalmers School.  It is operated by a very old committee of trustees, along with a staff of about 80 (faculty and technicians).  The students are the sons and daughters of noble land owners from Baiti as well as other worlds, who are to be educated in the fine, old traditions of Vilani style noble house traditions.  This includes, as well as traditional education in liberal arts, math and sciences - also important skills such as courtly graces, fencing, poison detection and so forth.

The population of 60,000 Sphere Fenix citizens that call Baiti home live, mostly, dispersed over the northern continent of the planet.   The largest concentration (8,000) is at Kreft Outpost, which is mostly a startown surrounding Baiti Downport.  The planet government comes under the rule of the Humas household, with Duke Yancy Humas IV as the current ruler.  House Humas controls government house at Kreft Outpost, and is in theory due the tax receipts of the inhabitants, and serves as a go between providing Sphere Fenix with news from their Marlan Primate neighbors through the embassy here, and providing the Marlan Primate secular government (operating through their Earthly Heaven corporation) with access to Sphere Fenix mercenary troops.

The remaining 52,000 live in dispersed colonies across the northern continent, in communities centered around family-bond units (consisting of sometimes a dozen or more adults in a "contract marriage" arrangement, with multiple generations of children and extended family members - more like a small company or village than a traditional family).  These are largely self-sufficient, augmented by robots, and seek to harvest the sylph weed that grows across the northern climes.  These family-bond units are somewhat nomadic, following the floating seas of sylph weed waiting for it to come into bloom for the harvest, and avoid upsetting the delicate balance of the ecosystem, prefer to ride the giant tarbants (8000kg beasts, used for riding and pulling vehicles and loads).

The southern continent is home to a minor race, the Racivi - a short, slender race of beings appearing like a flightless bird, but with evolved arms and hands replacing wings.  They have a society of clans and chiefs, and live at approximately TL-2.  They are not especially fond of humans.

Here is a map of the main world.  Kreft Outpost is located at "A".  The northern continent is at "B", and the southern continent is at "C".

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - Planetary Map for Nibok (Ark/0302)

[It's not Tuesday, but still - some Traveller material from my ongoing development of the 10 systems in the Etzina Passage]

Quoted from the original posting on the Nibok System, we know this about the main world:
Nibok itself is a small world, the surface is reasonably diverse, with spread out mountains following the edges of the planet plates.  There are three major seas, and the population (100 million) is located mostly in the cities surrounding the seas.  The three seas are the Calmly Sea, the Serene Sea, and finally the Placid Sea.  The various cities are all controlled by a centrally controlled bureaucracy.  Appointments are by technical examination, and the senior organizing council are chosen by retired workers by bi-annual lot.  The main city, Choden (population 30 million), is home to the organizing council.  The main starport is an island in the middle of the Serene Sea, and is connected to a number of the surrounding population centers by a network of public high-speed tube trains.  The groups of cities around each of the three seas are all also so connected.
Taking a look at the map, we can see the three seas, and some other details.  Each hex here is 96km across.  The population, as you can see, is highly concentrated in 9 cities representing 76 million of the total planetary population (100 million).  The remaining population is located in much smaller settlements, and approximately 10 million represent a demographic that has decided to inhabit the lands in and around the central forests just south of the Glynn Jungle.  This population are called the Harp Climbers. These make their home in tree houses, in the towering multi-trunked Harp trees common to the region.  A Harp tree is a lot like a banyan tree from Earth, except that Harp trees can have trunks that each perhaps 20-25 feet in diameter, and the tree itself is massive, towering almost to the heights of a Giant Redwood from Earth.  The canopy of a single Harp tree can be hundreds of meters across, and multiple families are likely to have complex structures built in the extensive branch and trunk structures of one of these giants.

First, there are a number of major geographical features that are named.  These include:
  1. The Calmly Sea - with the polar ice flows at the northern tip, and the hilly Knotly rainforests at the southern tip.  Location of the Northern Fold of Cities.
  2. The Serene Sea, with Losel Island at the center, home to Losel Downport (the main starport of the world). Location of the Central Fold of Cities.
  3. Viron Mountains - home to many mining ventures by various corporations.
  4. Treacle Mountains - many toxic vents from the geothermic activity throughout this volatile border between planetary plates keep much life from this area.
  5. Glynn Jungle - a pre-sentient race of reptilian bipeds occupy much of this jungle.  To the immediate south, as the land dries out, and the vegetation becomes less dense, the giant Harp trees are home to the Harp Climber tribes of humans.
  6. Sobear Mountains - Unlike the Treacle Mountains in the northern hemisphere, these towering peaks are home to a wide variety of different types of life.  Very popular as a hunting destination, for leisure.
  7. Fannon Jungle - Curious ruins (pre-human) are located here.
  8. The Placid Sea - Main source of foodstuffs for the 100 million inhabitants of Nibok. Location of the Southern Fold of Cities.
In addition to the various geographical features, there are also a number of main settlements on the world.  As mentioned, the world is under a single, centrally controlled, bureaucracy.  The majority of the population, however, live in a number of cities.  Here are the names, and a few details.

  1. Dorji City (5 million)
  2. Losel Downport
  3. Choden City (30 million) - Seat of the planetary government (the Shrove Council)
  4.  Sonam  (3 million)
  5. Sangay (20 million) - Built around Sird Temple, seat of the Zen-Sird Religion
  6. Kencho (8 million)
  7. Dawa Port (3 million)
  8. Chencho (2 million)
  9. Sherig City (3 million)
  10. Lopen  (4 million)
The four southern cities (Dawa Port, Chencho, Sherig City and Lopen), all around the Placid Sea, are referred to as the Southern Fold, and the three cities along the coasts of the Calmly Sea (Sonam, Sangay and Kencho) are referred to as the Northern Fold.  The two cities of Choden City and Dorji City, along with Losel Downport, are referred to as the Central Fold.  Losel Downport, and the accompanying starport city on the island surrounding it, are under the direct control of the Sphere Fenix Port Authority, but are still considered part of the Central Fold when the population of locals that work at the starport are part of the conversation.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - Etzina System Map

While the system details of Etzina have already been presented, and a map of the main world has already been presented, here is a graphical version of the system map, with some more details on the contents.

The 6935 Mao Xiu System (Etzina, Ark/0401)

System: Etzina (0401 A454979-E)
Star: 6935 Mao Xiu (Jump shadow extends past first three orbits)
  1. (IZ) Schofield (Small Ice World) Size 2 (inside Jump shadow)
  2. (IZ) Isenberg (Small Terrestrial World) Size 3, 2 moons (inside Jump shadow)
  3. (HZ) Kannaday (Terrestrial World) Size 7 (inside Jump shadow)
  4. (HZ) Etzina (Terrestrial World) Size 4, 1 moon
  5. (HZ) Toranz (Large Terrestrial World ) Size 5, 2 moons
  6. Asteroid Belt
  7. (OZ) Erco (Large Terrestrial World) Size 6, 1 moon
  8. (OZ) Bermey (Large Ice World) Size 9
  9.  (OZ) Shaloob (Planetoid) Size 2
IZ is the Inner Zone (planets generally too hot/radiated to support life)
HZ is the Habitable Zone (planets with a magnetosphere may support life)
OZ is the Outer Zone (planets generally have too little solar energy to support life)

Schofield is itself not inhabited, but in orbit is Research Station Meyrs, which is an educational facility run by the Viron corporation, out of Norunis City on Etzina.  It is trained to support the education of terraforming engineers and scientists, and they are working on a long term project to give Schofield an artificial magnetosphere.  The station has a population of 30 inhabitants - 10 professors and scientists and 20 students.

Isenberg has a major colony (Optic City) on its surface, with a population of 8 million.  Rather than being under the control of the main world (Etzina) in the system, this colony is leased by the Sphere Fenix government itself.  Its purpose is to operate a "duty free trade port" apart from the main starport in the system, which is associated with the city state of Norunis on Etzina.  Most of Optic City is underground, although there are a few hardened domes on the surface.  The main part of the Starport (which is rated as a B class starport) is on the surface (Sanders Downport), but there is also an orbital facility (Chen-Sanders Highport).  On the first moon of Isenberg, Mandi, there is a very large wind facility (Mandi has a strange chemical mix of an atmosphere, but it also has almost constant high speed wind currents), that generates and then broadcasts its power to a series of relay satellites.  This (multi-gigawatt) operation is what powers Optic City and the starport.

Kannaday operates an orbital solar power station (with 700 Naval personnel and contractors) for the Sphere Fenix Navy.  The captured electricity is is used to charge high capacity chemical batteries and then shipped off to Haven Station, in orbit around Torranz.

Etzina itself has six main political units - the six major city states (ranging in size from 75 million at Kraits Polis, to 180 million at Norunis).  In orbit around Etzina is one of the main operations that represents a cooperative effort between the six city states - the Ford-Basel Power Station - a solar power station that provides ample, free power to the six city states.  The Power Station is an orbital facility, with a crew of 4,000 workers, it is a large, dispersed facility.  Other than the orbital docking bays of the main starport (operated by Norunic city, under Starport Authority permission by Sphere Fenix), the other major orbital facility around the main world is a series of microgravity medical facilities (Chandler Research Hospital).  This is operated by the Maisen Medical School (Maisen was the first colony on Etzina, and remains the oldest city state).

Sindar, the moon of Etzina, has a private research lab in orbit around it. The lab is owned by by a patent company, owned Ling Standard Products (a mining and materials megacorporation centered in the Imperium), and the facility is called the Chung-Hayden Materials Lab.  It is concerned with nano-assemblers that can take raw matter and automate the construction of artificial materials with heightened strength.  The facility has a regular population of 20.

The Sphere Fenix Navy operates Haven Station - a major orbital naval weapons facility in orbit around Torranz.  There are not civilian facilities in or around Torranz, and other than Naval ships the world is considered to be a red zone to all other traffic.  The population of the orbital facilities (which are quite large, and include a variety of defense capabilities including system boats, weapon satellites and so forth) is approximately 600,000.  The Sphere Fenix Navy regularly operates passenger service for duty personnel, to and from the six cities on Etzina and Optic City on Isenberg.

The asteroid belt, which is simply called the Mao Xiu Belt, features a series of three inter-supporting astrophysics educational facilities, operated by the Mardt Science University (Mardt is one of the cities on Etzina).  The largest facility, Jung Observatory has a population of 700, on the surface of asteroid RP-691.  The other two, Jung Annex (population 50) and the Cotter Data Center (population 30) are station keeping free fall facilities.

The planet of Erco is rich in certain heavy metals, and an extraction facility (operated by Mul-Cheats Inc., the Ling Standard patent company that also operates the research lab at Sindar) has grown up there to mine and ship the product.  The population of the facility on the surface is approximately 900,000 (a full colony, with families and civic structure, but under company control), but the mined product are then launched into orbit by accelerator, where an orbital reclamation facility captures them for transport.  The orbital facility (Erco Port) is also a colony, with a further population of 100,000.  The population of the whole Erco system keep to themselves, speak Vilani rather than the mixture of Solomani languages used in the rest of the Etzina system, and view themselves as ex-patriates of the Imperium.  The world and its moon are held under patent by Mul-Cheats, Inc.

No one has found any reason, so far, to exploit Bermey.  Additional surveys of the world are constantly called for by the various city states of Etzina, yet nothing has happened yet.  It may be a political hot potato.

Shaloob is the home to an orbital communications station - a private courier service called Holder Services, that runs couriers within the Etzina system, and also stages for commercial pickup and delivery by ships from outside the system.  The station, called Holder/Etzina Station, has 20 workers and is a largely automated station (the crew are augmented by automatic systems in the station, and a variety of robots).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - Planetary Map, Etzina (Ark/0401)

Mapping the home world of a system gives both the referee and the players something to consider when they think of that system, and the sorts of in-game activities that can take place there.

Taking the basic information that was generated for Etzina as the basis, the following map was generated for the planet.

Each hex is 128km across.  There are some key physical features (notably, oceans and major mountain ranges) marked, as well as the capitol cities of the six main political bodies.
A - Sea of Delights
B - Mare Tiffany
C - Mare Huey
D - Mare Cottage
E - Mare Glamis
F - Graham Mountains
G - Molineux Mountains
H - Braithwaite Mountains

1. Norunis ("Megacity One") - Population 180million
2. Mardt Arcology ("The Hive") - Population 130million
3. Kraits Polis - Population 75million
4. Flodden Arcology - Population 85million
5. Maisen ("The First Colony") - 110million
6. Frigina Polis - Population 150million

One of the curious features of Etzina is that the combination of small diameter, extreme mountains, and the very thin atmosphere, has meant that the climate and weather have eliminated the polar caps.

A small world (diameter 4) with such a high population (1billion) has come about because of the extremely dense population cities that are the heart of the various "nations" on Etzina.  Each of the original colony sites has become a city-state in its own right.  There are an additional 250-300million inhabitants outside the city states - these are nomads, argrarians, and dwelling in much smaller habitations (small cities, towns, etc).

Each of the city states represents an area where the marked hex, and the surrounding land hexes, are dominated by huge spiraling structures (even though some of the cities may have started out as a single arcology structure, the population demands have led to clusters of arcologies).