Friday, 10 November 2017

Jovian Chronicles Odyssey SEED - Part 3

Jovian Chronicles Jovian vivarium style colony by Dream Pod 9
Jovian vivarium style colony.
Time for part three of our space adventure saga! No cheesey drama this time around, just the cold hard facts. While fun to write now and then it makes an event that took 45 minutes to play take up an entire post.

Following from part two, let's see what happened next. As always SPOILERS for Odyssey SEED below.

Our three JAF pilots stayed with the now pacified Nighthawk freighter and her deadly cargo. Well, Swede had become Jupiter's latest artificial satellite and had to be collected several hours later by the escort when it arrived as command didn't allow Dutronc or Sturmer to leave the Nighthawk. The Thunderbolt-class cruiser JSS Brave soon arrived and a squad of marines outfitted in Decker suits proceeded to, more or less peacefully, secure the Nighthawk and her crew.

Instead of going back to their regular base of operations, in the Agrippa colony cylinder, JSS Brave laid in a course to a small, torus style space station that none of the pilots had been to before. Entering through the airlock they were immediately met by a young woman with asian features and a large bearded man, neither wearing regular uniforms but identifying themselves as Lisa Takeshi and Reginald Thomson of Nornor, the investigative branch of the Jovian Intelligence Service. Thomson, who seemed to do most of the talking, explained that things would soon be cleared up as he led them through the corridors to an anonymous looking briefing room.

Inside were their commanding officer, Noelle Bright, together with some unknown staffers and in the corner stood - holy shit - Admiral Avram Thorsen, commander of the entire Jovian Armed Forces! Not a man you meet very often as a lowly flyboy. During the following debriefing Dutronc spoke for the group with some additions or clarifications here and there from Sturmer and Swede. Commander Bright kept the pace brisk and when Dutronc had finished she nodded to Thomson to explain the situation.

The big and bearded, but soft spoken man, told the pilots about the ongoing investigation into a
Jovian Chronicles Thunderbolt class cruiser by Dream Pod 9
Thunderbolt class cruiser JSS Brave.
possible espionage threat against the Jovian States. JIS had been tracking a small group based on Joshua Station who at times relayed odd information requests to coordinates in low Jupiter orbit. They were able to intercept and, through a man-in-the-middle attack, relay different requests meaning they were actually waiting for the Nighthawk to turn up. They couldn't be sure on the exact time it would arrive, which is why the same squadron kept patrolling the same orbit. Basically the player characters were used as guinea pigs to verify that the ruse worked and to see if the freighter actually contained contraband or compromising information. As it turned out the Nighthawk was up to its ears in both.

Thomson went on to explain that this was an extremely sensitive investigation as there were signs that the group on Joshua Station might have had inside help from a person or persons within the JAF command structure. Swede noticed how Admiral Thorsen's frown grew even more grim at this point of the briefing. In fact, he seemed very different from his official persona. Using this low key space station and only handpicked personel was an effort to avoid having the operation compromised as it moved into a more tactical phase.

[Here we took a break to talk about how to proceed. As I mentioned in part one we had discussed the possibility of each player having two characters - one pilot and one agent/journo/PI - to, in a more "realistic" way combine the different play styles of the campaign. My idea was to basically have all the characters represent one large group but have them be active at different times and different locations, as needed. While I think this would have been cool in many ways we also felt that it could detract from the character driven play that is needed to bring a bare bones plot like this to life.

Mobile Suits Gundam Amuro Ray punching
Sometimes even Amuro Ray has to get his (non-mecha) hands dirty!
In the end we decided against it for those reasons, but also for reasons of verisimilitude to the source material. Look at Mobile Suits Gundam, or pretty much any other show in the genre, and the pilots are never only pilots, but fulfill all kinds of roles as required by the plot. Which, while not as "realistic", just seemed like more fun in a cinematic kind of way! So to not make them completely useless outside of mecha fighting I gave them a few extra skill points to spend on things like Investigation, Interrigation and Stealth. We simply retconned this as these particular pilots having had some cross-training and that was why they were handpicked for this mission in the first place. Anyway, back to the story!]

Still being in a delicate phase of the operation Thomson asked the three pilots of Angel Flight to travel with him and Agent Takeshi to Joshua Station where they would need assistance taking out the covert group directing the freighters into Jovian orbit. This was meant as a purely undercover op so a low key approach was needed rather than the mechanized boot of a marine assault squad.

After an uneventful trip to Joshua Station, together with Thomson and Takeshi, all five of them holed up in a small apartment located in in the central ares of The Cluster. If Joshua Station is the most lawless and cutthroat colony in the Jovian Federation (and it is!) then The Cluster is the most lawless and cutthroat area in Joshua Station. Wildly overbuilt and violating all kinds of safety codes The Cluster is a sprawl of urban development that seems to have grown organically over decades. The fringes are still fairly well lit with decent upkeep but the central parts are shrouded in a constant twilight as buildings and support structures block the light.

In the apartment on the sixth floor they were surveilling a small warehouse across the alleyway and a couple of stories down. The JIS would be able to delay the news of the captured freighter for another few of days, but time was of the essence and if it seemed like infiltration wouldn't be possible force might be the only option. The warehouse was the official locale of a small freight business, mainly doing business on Joshua Station and with private traders in the Belt and Venus.

The Cluster on Joshua Station (art by Chrislazzer on Deviant Art)
After two days, splitting the surveillance into shifts, the group had only ever seen three people come and go - two younger men and an older woman. There was always at least one person in the locale at any time and it seemed like the two men might actually live there. None of them were the actual owner of the company, a Venusian named Volondrius Ash, who even JIS hadn't been able to track down. It seemed apparent that a quiet infiltration to just get information was out of the question and plans to go in, guns drawn, were made.

They decided to go in when only the two men were inside and pick up the woman separately. It was all over in a matter of seconds as Thomson and Takeshi covered the back door, one storey down, while Swede put his considerable weight and muscle power into a kick that almost tore the door off its hinges. Swede was first through the door with his JAF issued laser pistol covering the to the right while Sturmer was behind him covering left. They found one of the men in front of a terminal, staring at them, mouth agape and hands in the air. Just as Sturmer went in to clear the kitchen there was a loud pop and he fell sideways into the doorframe. His laser pistol hummed and there was a shout and the clatter of dropped hardware. The other man had hid himself behind a refrigerator and managed to squeeze off a shot, but they were obviously taken by surprise.

Jovian Chronicles Decker suit by Dream Pod 9
A parked Decker suit.
Sturmer suffered a chest wound that would take a couple of weeks to heal properly. They picked up the woman the same day and all three were whisked away to the JSS Brave that had been assigned as a JIS and JAF joint base of operation during the investiagtion. Violent confrontations happens every day in The Cluster so even if there were witnesses it had seemed more like a "hostile takeover" than an actual police operation. Some things found in the warehouse proved disconcerting; the most apparent were the two military grade Decker suits located one storey down. They had evidently been served on a regular basis and were in good working order. Had any of the men had a little forewarning and reached one of the suits it would have been a very different ending to the assault.

The other thing, that would put a knot in the pit of the stomach on any JAF or JIS operative, was discovered when going through the computers and comlogs. The actual destination of The Nighthawk was a secret space station in an extremely tight orbit around Jupiter called the Slumbering Eidolon! Smuggled CEGA exo armours was bad, but this was starting to spin into a major solar crisis! The information on the station was very limited - it was a  Pleiades class research station and it got supply runs roughly every two or three weeks.

The time for subterfuge and sting operations was now over and Takeshi was discussing with commander Bright about how a full military assault on the station could look like. Sure, it might not be necessary, but when you have a secred research station to which a number of top-tier exo armours had been shipped to during the past year you didn't want to take any chances...

And it will be fun to read about how that turned out in part four! This session mostly revolved around cleaning up the fallout from the battle and hooking the player characters into the larger events that are starting to unfold in the solar system. It's not exactly logical to have some pilots join in as backup SWAT unit, but from a fun (and trope!) standpoint it simply felt like the best way to move forward. Next session we're back in space again...
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Friday, 20 October 2017

Jovian Chronicles Odyssey SEED - Part 2

Jovian Chronicles Damaged Pathfinder
Someone's in trouble.
I can't blame you for thinking our Jovian Chronicles campaign (or this blog, for that matter) was dead as a door nail, as the only session report so far was posted way back in March of 2016! Fear not though, we're just extremely slow burn players. In fact we played another three sessions over this past year which I'm just now getting around to chronicling. Thanks to Xander from the Jovian Chronicles group on FB for the kick in the butt to get on with this. :D

As you might remember our three pilot heroes(?), Pierre Dutronc, Leif "Swede" Ericsen and Harrison B. Sturmer had just interceptet an unscheduled cargo transport in Jupiter orbit, The Nighthawk. At first the captain blamed their current situation on reactor troubles, but when the ship suddenly started jamming the exos they knew something was wrong. Soon after two brand new Wyvern exos, seemingly of a CEGA design, broke their way out of two containers and started locking on to the Jovian exo armours...

Jovian Chronicles space skirmish
Opening moves.
Pierre Dutronc barked orders into his comms,"Angel 3, get away from that container. Swede, cover him!". Before the Harrison Sturmer could retreat, the emerging shape ignited thrusters and blasted past, knocking the Retaliator exo armour backwards and into a spin. The Wyvern was armed with a bazooka and fired several shots at Leif "Swede" Ericsen, who went into an evasion pattern.
"Are you ok, Angel 3?", Dutronc's voice was tense. "No worries, chief, was just taken by surprise. Returning fire now". The Wyvern had moved away from The Nighthawk at speed and put the cargo ship between itself and Swede's Pathfinder. Sturmer breathed out while his fingers danced across the command dials - a shot at this range would need his unfocused attention. Suddenly Dutronc's voice broke through his concentration, "They're still jamming my long range comms, but I'm pretty sure command would be angry at us if we wasted the pilots. Besides, I didn't become lieutenant to mindlessly blow stuff up. Go for engines or R-mass." Capturing an exo or two with pilots would certainly put his next promotion within reach, he thought.
Swede came out of his evasive maneuver and fired a couple of pot shots at the Wyvern while circling back to check what happened with the other container. "Angel 1, I can't see the vibro knife anymore, but there are large gashes near the hinges of the container. Please advice." Dutronc was intentionally keeping far back from The Nighthawk, trying to avoid the worst of the jamming and not wanting to be drawn in close to the heavier Wyvern, "Hopefully it stays quiet, but don't take any chances. If you see anything move out of there open fire." "You got it, chief".
Jovian Chronicles Pathfinder and Wyvern  face off
Face off.
 Finally targteing lit up green and Sturmer triggered his entire missile load at the Wyvern. Back in flight school simulations he had a penchant for using his missiles at first opportunity in impressive, but often futile, displays of pyrotechnics. Every time he got yelled at by the instructors for wasting munitions that were, generally, meant for slower targets than exos. But the missile salvoes in the action shows he had watched as a teenager were just too cool! Still, this time he knew the chances of an actual impact were slim, especially if the Wyvern anti-missile equipment was as good as the one on the Syreen, but the missiles were a distraction. A lopsided grin spread across his face as the Wyvern started blasting the missiles with it's head mounted laser array. It opted to detroy the missiles, rather than evading them, meaning it was travelling in a nice, predictable vector. Perfect. Sturmer squeezed the trigger and the Retaliator's arm mounted railgun spit two kilograms of tungsten carbide at the enemy machine.
There was no impressive explosion. No fire or smoke. There was just a bright flash and then the Wyvern's entire thruster assembly was a gaping hole with a debris cloud of shrapnel and R-mass around it. As if a vengeful god had simply snapped its fingers. "Whoa, great shot kid!", Swede's laconic voice sounded over the comms and Sturmer felt a surge of pride at the compliment from the older veteran. He opened comms to Dutronc in Angel 1, "It's drifting away from us, should I pursue?". "Negative Angel 3, I don't want Angel 2 alone with a potential bogey. Circle back and cover him as he approaches The Nighthawk. I'm joining you at 10 clicks out". "Ooh, I feel safer already", Sturmer muttered to himself while making sure the comms were off. Although he did like and respect his commanding officer, Dutronc could certainly be a little overly by-the-book at times.
Swede fired main thrusters once and slowly started his approach to The Nighthawk and the mystery container. That something was in there was clear, he was even positive that it was another Wyvern, question was why wasn't it moving. The big man streched and primed a plasma lance for potential close combat. "Still no movement. Did it malfu...", heavy automatic fire suddenly poured out of the container, giving the Pathfinder pilot no chance for evasion! Swede instinctively put his hands around his head as massdriver rounds shredded the machine around him.
"Swede! Answer! Leif!" Sturmer fired full thrust and could see the broken Pathfinder that was still drifting towards The Nighthawk. It looked crumpled and the right arm had been torn completely apart from a power relay detonation. The giant machine bumped into a container at an angle and started tumbling as it continued drifting, away from the ship. "Swede, are you ok?!" No answer. The heavily damaged container doors were pushed open and a second Wyvern emerged. This one carrying some kind of heavy massdriver rifle - nothing they had seen in the briefings on the new CEGA exo. More sensor equipment as well hinted at some kind of command version. 
Dutronc was on a steady, oblique approach towards the new threat, firing the particle cannon whenever he had a clear shot. "Er, Angel 3, keep your distance as I approach the target bilaterally for enfilade fire". But Sturmer wasn't listening. He had already ignited a plasma lance and using The Nighthawk as cover he maneuvered his Retaliator for a close combat strike in what he hoped would be the rear of the Wyvern. The plan almost worked. The plasma lance hit at an angle across the torso, but what would have cut a Syreen in two was not enough for the much more heavily armoured Wyvern. The enemy exo turned away from the blow as Sturmer flew past. The attack had exposed the flank of the Wyvern but it was still a non-disabling hit meaning it had no trouble levelling that big massdriver rifle and firing at almost point blank range at Sturmer's receding Retaliator .
As he pulled every evasive trick he had picked up during flight school, and some he had picked up through his favourite exo action show, Sturmer pushed the Retaliator to its limits. Fire kept pouring in from the Wyvern that trailed him and he had no time to line up a railgun shot. All the missiles were spent and one of the thruster cones was nearing critical temperature, a design flaw that the Retaliator was infamous for. "Pierre, I could really use a hand right now!", he shouted through the comms. "Er, yeah... just wait. Can you hold out just a few seconds?!". Suddenly a damage alarm started blaring as the Retaliator took a shoulder hit. No serious damage but the armour around the right shoulder was pretty much gone. "Make it quick, Pierre!" Sturmer shouted.
Jovian Chronicles space skirmish
The end is near.
The overheating thruster cone finally gave out and the second one wasn't far behind. Two more hits. One of them more severe this time. With only a few seconds of any real maneuverability left Sturmer started preparing for ejection when the incoming massdriver fire suddenly stopped. He had to override a number of alarms and manually take control of the visual sensors to see what had happened. The Wyvern was still floating in space behind him, but there was a large hole through its chest and Dutronc's Pathfinder CT were behind it with a plasma lance still ignited in its hand. 
"Are you ok?", he asked with a hint of tremor in his voice. "Yeah, I'm fine. I mean, my manevuerability is shot, but I'm in one piece. What about Swede?!". "Don't worry about him. His comms were crippled and I could only pick him up thanks to the enhanced sensor suite on the CT. He's fine. Would you believe it? He says he's going to take a nap as it'll be a while until we can reach him anyway!"
Sturmer's laugh came out almost sounding maniacal, "Well, that's him alright!". He released the ejection levers he had been holding on to and watched his trembling hands. 
"That," he said, "was nothing like the simulations."

This was the first proper test of the full combat rules in Jovian Chronicles and for the most part it worked out well. We made some smaller mistakes here and there, and forgot about command points, which would have changed a lot of things I think. With all the rules explanations the battle went on for about 45 minutes, which I think was ok all things considered. In total i think it ran for about five rounds of actual combat with Swede being crippled in the third round.

Speaking of that, Swede is a lucky man! That massdriver scored six hits that took out pretty much every system except the pilot. The players also learned the power of armour piercing weapons (both the Retaliator railgun and the Wyvern massdriver), the unreliability of missiles (at least versus other exos) and the potential damage you can cause with a well placed plasma lance.

I didn't intend for this to be a little short story. The plan was to just have an opening, but it kind of kept on going. Well, hope you enjoyed it. Part three next week...

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Getting back into that Infinity Groove!

Instead of blogging I've been busy with a number of different games related projects. Some of them are too early to talk about but one that I have been focusing on is just lots of fun to share - I've painted a bunch of Infinity minis and played through the Red Veil intro campaign with my buddy Claes! Woop!

I think I've mentioned earlier that we split the Red Veil starter last year and were planning to use it as a way to get (back) into the game. It would be a completely new introduction for Claes and for me it would work as a kind of recalibration as my brain shifts from N2 to N3. Our initial goal was to paint the minis before starting playing, but as things weren't moving much I thought we'd flip it around instead and play first to get our inspiration for painting!

We actually played the first two missions back late last year so it took us almost six months to get to mission three. And even though I said we'd just go on and play with unpainted minis inspiration struck as I started re-reading the Red Veil booklet and I sat down to paint my two Yaokong remotes and my two Yaozao that have been in a semi-painted state for years! After that I went ahead and painted the complete Red Veil starter and I even built and painted terrain for my own Infinity table. A frenzy of Infinity related activity in May and June as it were.

I've told myself that I'll go back and take proper photos with a camera, but who knows when I'll actually get around to that! So phone pics are better than no pics. Let's start with the Remotes.

Yaokong Remotes for Infinity

I wanted to continue the kind of police-looking colour scheme that i started with my Guija and I thikn it worked out nicely! I even updated my painting method to make it easier and quicker to paint. These are of course magnetized so I can switch loadouts at will - even so I think I might get two more. They're just so cool! Some of the best old school Infinity models for sure.

Yaozao for Infinity

The Yaozao were super quick to paint, using almost only whites to make them stand out. Just wish I had posed them a little differently!

Yu Jing mecha for Infinity

Just had to take a family picture with my mech-engineer and her robotic buddies. Considering all of these minis are from the early years of Infinity it's amazing how well they still hold up! Of course, I won't be able to resist that new Guija sculpt forever... and then this guy can work as a O-Yoroi proxy until that gets a resculpt. Hehe!

Next up we have the Red Veil minis, which I finished in batches.

Red Veil Yu Jing for Infinity

Red Veil Yu Jing for Infinity

I started with the light and medium infantry. The new Zhanshi are a great step up from the old ones and they've certainly taken their growth hormons as the scale has creeped up a bit. Really like that there are two female and one male sculpt in this box, as it's usually the other way around. Part of me would like to get the SWC box, but another part whispers at me to just use Keisotsu instead.

The Tiger Soldier has also got a great face lift, although this particular sculpt can sometimes be hard to "read". It's a cool, very dynamic sculpt, but also a bit all over the place.

Red Veil Yu Jing for Infinity

Love painting the new heavy infantry! As you can see I've changed the colours I use for the HI compared to my old stuff. I liked the white recipe I used for the remotes so much that I wanted to use it for the HI, leaving the blue-grey armour for light troops and making HI white to stand out. The Hsien got a grey collar thoug, mostly for the back spikes to have something to contrast against.

The Zuyong is one of my favourite Yu Jing sculpts as it looks like he's peaking around the corner while communicating to the troops behind him. At first I wasn't sure about the relaxed pose of the Hsien, but after painting and playing with him I've actually come to like the cocky style of it. I also gave him a red faceplace, which I've wanted to do since I saw it on Tim's (of The Tau of War) Shang-Ji back in 2011! I think it really helps bring focus to the model.

Red Veil Yu Jing for Infinity

Last out was the ninja who was quite quick to get done. She's very monochrome since it's all just different shades of grey, but since it's a ninja I think it works pretty well. I have another couple waiting in the painting queue.

And here's a group shot!

Red Veil Yu Jing for Infinity

And another one with some additional friends!

Yu Jing for Infinity

As you might have noticed I've mixed Micro Art Studios' Urban War bases with Antenociti's Hex bases and they look similar enough for it to work fine. The Antenociti bases has the advantage of being thinner but doesn't look quite as nice as the MAS ones, and doesn't have as much texture. I thikn I'll continue to mix bases, and maybe add the tri-hex bases as well, as greater variety is a good thing.

Now, let's have a look at the terrain. I mentioned Test of Honour in my last post and that it has inspired me to build some proper feodal Japanese terrain. However, I also wanted to do this as it would cross over well and work for my planned Infinity table as well. I ordered some model bamboo and trees and other stuff but when I actually got it I felt it would just be silly to start with a completely new project before I had a playable table for Infinity.

So instead I set about using part of the material for building up my Neon Lotus based table for Infinity. What's missing in the pictures here are many more Warsenal planters (as they're awaiting flowers), the actual Neon Lotus paper terrain (as it's awaiting foamcore reinforcements) and a bunch of scatter terrain I just got from Zen Terrain. But you can see the kind of vibe I'm going for. Of course, the aim is to gradually phase out the Neon Lotus terrain in favour of stuff from Zen and other manufacturers.

Sakura trees are awesome for setting the mood! Oh, and I got a MAS ITS objective set as well that I'm slowly working my way through. I have enough built and painted now to be able to play Infinity Recon, which I think will be a good next step after Red Veil.

It's great fun getting things painted and built, but the best thing about this whole project has been that Claes has gotten more inspired and is now actively working with this minis. I hope to see the first brush strokes on his Haqq fairly soon...

Monday, 1 May 2017

Buried Alive - An Update

Neanderthal solo play is awesome!
Well, that's a bit melodramatic, but fact is that while I've been able to play some games and squeeze in some time for hobby stuff I haven't had much time or energy over for blogging. My planned Jovian Chronicles month that would have coincided with the kickstarter was the first casualty, but I can happily say it wasn't needed as it still hit every stretchgoal Dream Pod 9 could come up with, including updating the old sculpts! Who would've thunk! Of course, those articles will still show up, the rpg session report is a priority, but at a later date.

So what have I been up do gaming-wise during the last couple of months? Let's take a look at roleplaying and miniature gaming first since those are quick subjects.

No actual roleplaying sessions. I've been reading Blades in the Dark and getting eager to try it, and a friend of mine just got his Tales from the Loop rulebook (the Simon Stålenhag rpg!) and is all fired up about trying that - something we might do online, just to see if it works for us or not. I also aqcuired a copy of Burning Empires, a game I don't really ever expect to run but that I want to own and read. And as always my mind keep coming back to Torchbearer and The One Ring... you know the drill by now.

No miniature gaming either, but I did paint a piece of terrain I've had lying around for a while - a Japanese torii (shinto gate) from Warsenal. I originally got it for Infinity, but what actually motivated me this time was the recent release of Test of Honour from Warlord Games. While there are plenty of cheap and well designed rule sets for skirmish gaming in feudal Japan it seems like the market really had a pent up craving for a quick and simple rule set bundled with a bunch of decent looking plastic minis in a really cheap box! The first two waves of the starter box sold out through pre-orders and it is now listed as sold out on their online store as they're scrambling to get more copies produced. Of course some can still be found in local game stores. It's really cool to see such enthusiasm for a subject matter close to my heart - the facebook group is almost 3000 members strong at this point!

All this for £35?! Yepp!
However, I havn't bought the starter myself yet. Partly because it was sold out at Warlord and I wanted to get it together with some terrain. But mostly because I'm thinking that I want to build the table first. A large part of my motivation for wanting to play games set in Japan is to make nice looking scenery. So I've ordered a number of model trees and bamboo from China for use with Test of Honour and Infinity and I'm currently considering what to do about buildings. There are some great and fairly cheap options out there, although building myself would be the cheapest of all. Having it be usable for several games is also another major reason that I felt I could allow myself to get into it. I don't have the space or budget to fuel several different terrain tables, but since I want a futuristic Japanese feel on my Infinity table too the trees and even some old style buildings will work.

Fabled Realms Eightfold Path (think Dragon Age's Grey Wardens) starter set, courtesy of @fistyglueman.
No miniature painting I'm afraid, although the CEGA ships I started earlier are almost done, and my Yu Jing starter force is staring med down as I write this. Speaking of skirmish games I have to mention upcoming The Legend of Fabled Realms from 4Ground (yes, the terrain makers!). It's a fantasy skirmish game that will launch on kickstarter in June that features 8-30 minis per side and a dynamic action/reaction system like Infinity. In fact, it seems to put a number of things I really like on collission course with each other and I just hope something awesome comes out the other end - how does Mordheim campaign + Dragon Age setting + Infinity rules sound like to you? Yeah.... not to shabby! The info so far is somewhat limited, but two of the designers had a long discussion with one of the guys at Beasts of War, mainly talking about the (gorgeous!) miniatures and background setting, but also how the rules work. Check it out here.

Damnit! I just wanted to write a quick update and it's already longer than I intended and I haven't even got to the board games yet!

Andean Abyss. I think this might have been the last turn we played. 
So... board games. When there's a lack of times board gaming is what saves the day. In early March four of us COIN enthusiasts got together to play Andean Abyss. I had told them that it's the longest game in the series and that it was dubious if we would have time to finish it, but at least one of us was adamant to start at the beginning to get a sense of how COIN games have evolved. As suspected we had to call it after five hours when we drew the third propaganda card. We still had a great time though and it finally feels like the others are as comfortable with the COIN system as I am, which bodes well for the future. We've decided to skip ahead for our next game and go for Falling Sky. I'm really looking forward to seeing COIN taking on the ancients!

A couple of weeks later we finished our Imperial Assault campaing, however as that will get it's own post I won't talk about it here besides saying we had a blast and are glad that it's over. :)

Pax Renaissance - I think I'm in love.
All of April has been Phil Eklund month for me! First I played through Pax Renaissance solo, just to grok it, and was blown away by the sheer scale of it - it's such a beautiful monster that I can't wait to get it to the table with fellow Eklund enthusiasts Jacob and Claes. It's of course similar to Porfiriana, but with even more things going on while still managing to be easier to oversee, perhaps thanks to the board.

Pax Pamir - Yes, I am trying to win through a pyramid scheme!
The Pax theme continued as me and Claes and Jacob sat down to play Pax Pamir for the first time. Again, it's Pax but quite different from both Porfiriana and Renaissance, very likely since it's done by a different designer. That is not to say it's not a great game though, because it is! Claes won by a landslide in the first game, which might have come down to us playing taxation completely wrong. We had time for another game which abruptly ended on the first topple with me winning as Russian loyalist as the other two hadn't realized how easy it can be to win in the beginning if no one tries to balance out aqcuired prestige.

Neanderthal - for when you really feel the need to get eaten by Tyrant Sea Bears!
A couple of weeks later I got to play Neanderthal for the first time and for some reason I felt if flowed much better than Greenland. Perhaps it's just the awesome graphical design by Karim Chakroun or perhaps I never really grokked Greenland, but I immediately felt Neanderthal was more appealing. In our inaugural game Claes as the promiscuous Archaic man got stuck early on and got hit by setback after setback, resulting in him feeling really frustrated during the first half of the game. He came back during the second half (when I was getting decimated!) but by then it was too late and Fredriks harem holding Neanderthal won handily. We talked about the experience afterwards and how Phil's game can be punishing and feel very random at first, but how you learn to mitigate that randomness and value tactics over strategy for day to day survival and in the end Claes said that he would be up for another game now that we've learned how it works.

I had so much fun so I played it solo a couple of times at home as well, losing once and just barely pulling off a win the second time thanks to domesticated bees and horses!

My claim to Bios: Genesis fame - mosses and insects!
Inspired by Neanderthal and the kickstarter for the new edition of Bios: Genesis I pulled out that title as well and played three solo games in quick succession. The first two ended in marine victories through endosymbionts (which always feels like cheating to me) so in the third game I limited myself to not counting endosymbionts for victory conditions. Even with this harsher penalty I just barely managed to get moss and insects earning me my first terrestrial victory! Woo! There will be more Neanderthal and Bios: Genesis in the near future.

Oh, through BGG I recently discovered the excellent new podcast Between Turns. It's very bare bones with just the two hosts talking, but they have great insights and are nicely grounded without becoming boring. Their latest episode (9) is all about Phil Eklund's games, mostly about the Pax games but also about how Phil designs in general. There will be a part two focusing on the science games, and I'm eagerly looking forward to it! So check it out for the Eklund stuff, but stay once you've listened to a few of the other episodes and realized it's good stuff!

I think that's about it for now... yeah...

Don't worry though, there will be more updates in May. Until then!
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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Jovian Wars - Hard Sci Fi Spaceships - Kickstarter Funded!

The ships in the basic pledge.
Long time readers of Fire Broadside knows that I've been a fan of Dream Pod 9 in general and Jovian Chronicles in particular since nineties when the first (proper) edition of the roleplaying game was released. After getting the core book I managed to snag the Ships of the Fleet line of books that I read and re-read several times as the ship designs not only looked great, but were well thought out from a scientific standpoint as well. I highly recommend them to anyone with an interest in spaceships, regardless of your thoughts on Jovian Chronicles.

Later as I discovered more of the miniatures line I was sad to see that none of the ships from those books had ever been made into models. Sure, the rules for them were perhaps a little over the top, and certainly took away from the earlier mecha centric position of the core book and supplements, but they just looked so cool! Since then I've slowly grown my collection of books (still missing, Spacer's Guide, Nomads, Mars and Mercury sourcebooks - drop me a line if you want to get rid of yours!) as well as added to my collection of ships and exo armours and I can now field pretty much anything from the core book and mechanical catalouges.

Still.... those newer designs from Ships of the Fleet kept haunting me so when I heard from Robert Dubois (head of DP9) that they had been 3D designing them and were preparing a kickstarter I was overjoyed! And now it's here and almost at 200% funding as I write this!

Not only has Tony Baltera, who also rendered the new fleet scale exos, created some great looking models from the design in the books but DP9 has actually scaled them up as well. The old models are 1/5000 scale while the new ones are 1/4000 - about 25% increase in size! Not only does this make them more imposing on the table, but it allows for more detailing and extra touches like having the habitats on the Valiant being posable. Just look at this picture and you'll see the difference:

Quite an upgrade I'd say! You can see the new bases that are used for Jovian Wars as well. Also, the Poseidon has been beefed up slightly to give it more of that battleship look. While I like the old design just fine the new one certainly feels more battleship-y.

As I mentioned above the funding right now is just shy of 200% meaning we've unlocked all the actual combat ships from the books as well as a large amount of extra pieces like habitation modules and cargo containers you can use to customize the models. Up next are fleet tenders and transports which might not sound all that exciting but they're always good to for scenarios and just look at that Gagarin fleet tender - it's huge!

Another four ships unlocked.

Now, about the new game itself; Jovian Wars takes the setting from the default cold-war-going-hot of the 2210s to full blown solar war, which makes for a great excuse to beef up your fleets a bit so more ships and exos are on the table! Hehe!

The rules have been designed by David McLeod who made the well received new ruleset for Heavy Gear Blitz and is quicker and a bit more abstracted than Lightning Strike while still retaining a lot of the flavour and details that makes the setting unique. This is primarily through the use of exos and fighters but also the way you take damage and keeping track of the general state of the ship in some detail. For example, while there are hitpoints they are almost secondary to a ships systems and how well they are performing - a ship without working point defence is a sitting duck for close assaulting exo armours!

The rules are still in beta phase, undergoing playtesting, but I really like what I've read. Of course, I really like Lighting Strike and the tactical rules in the rpg as well so with Jovian Wars I'll have three different games where I can use the same miniatures. I guess depending in what kind of mood I'm in and how much detail I want.

The latest unlocks including the small CEGA anti-exo Hydra defense boat!

Still, new smooth rules are cool and all but in the end it's all about the ship models. And I know there will be a number of people who aren't interested in the Jovian setting at all and simply want the gorgeous models for some other gam - and that's perfectly fine! I mean, there aren't all that many hard sci fi spaceship designs out there and with The Expanse growing more and more popular (remind me later to talk about how close that setting is to Jovian Chronicles!) I think there's a growing market for ships that are not Star Trek, Star Wars or just your general boat in space kind of deal like virtually all other spaceship battle games out there!

Not unlocked yet, but should be soon. Did I mention that the Gagarin is yuuuuuge?!!

There is a lot more to see on the actual kickstarter page, like all the extra parts added in stretchgoals and all the exos and fighters that are available too if you want a good starter fleet to get going quickly. There's another 12 days to go and I feel confidend we'll see all the CEGA and Jovian stuff unlocked at the very least, and I've heard Tony has been rendering some Venusian ships as well....

During the coming couple of weeks I'll be posting more about Jovian Chronicles, like a session report or two from our ongoing campaign, some talk about the expanse, pictures of my painted exo armours and, if all goes according to plan, a Jovian Wars battle report!

So head on over to the kickstarter and check it out and I'll be back soon with more space goodness!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Future - 2017

Quite a bit late, but I am back to have a look at the year ahead and what games I'm excited to play (and buy). Hopefully it'll be more of the former than the latter. Eek!

Board Games

The game I'm probably most exited to get my hands on is First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet by Ignazy Trzewiczek and Portal Games. Mars was the big new board game theme last year and in the end the excellent (and Swedish!) Terraforming Mars seemed to totally dominate that genre while First Martians slipped into 2017. This was probably for the better, partly to give it some breathing space, but also to let Ignazy tweak it a little more and get the two (2!) campaigns just right.

Anyway, it's a kind of sequal to Robinson Crusoe and uses very similar mechanics, except this time you are first settlers on Mars, trying to survive in an extremely hostile environment. Think a coop version of The Martian where you're all trying to be out-Matt Damon each other! The big new thing is the introduction of an app to take care of a lot of the cards and story mechanics of the game. This has allowed Ignazy to construct much more dynamic stories that change depending on how you play. Similar to the two-part cards in RC where you'd encounter the first part and then the card would be mixed in with the event deck and come back and bite you at a later time... except times a thousand!

There will be six stand-alone missions, like in RC and two campaigns - one regular and one Legacy that will change drastically as you play. Really looking forward to this! I'm ready to go to Mars!

New Angeles was a great surprise when it was announced, but a happy one for sure. I'm always eager to see more games using the interesting Android setting and one where you control the different corps and vying for power in New Angeles just seems awesome right off the bat! As more previews turned up I came to the conclusion that it seems a bit like a mashup of Battlestar Galactica and Archipelago - two games I love. While you try to win as the different megacorps, it's not necessarily about being on top of the leader board as you simply need to be ahead of your main competitor (given to you as a secret card at the start of the game) and making sure the city runs relatively smoothly so the federal government doesn't step in and take the entire cake (which would be a win for an eventual federalist player).

It seems like so much fun, although I am definetly worried that it won't fly at all in at least one of my gaming groups. Since it's built on player interaction and to always be wheelin' and dealin' I think it will just collapse when faced with a group who refuses to do that. While I don't think my friends are that bad there are certainly strong elements of "if you get a small advantage by me gaining this huge advantage I am NOT doing that!". Hehe! Even so, I want this asap!

It's not all new-fangled doodads in this list either as my quest to play more COIN games is ongoing! It actually went decently last year, with me finally wrestling the bots to the ground and figuring out how their flowcharts work. This mean I could start playing "proper" solo games so I played Andean Abyss a couple of times and about half a game of A Distant Plain, just to grokk it. It works great and is fun indeed!

Of course, living opponents are even better and our gang of COIN enthusiasts have decided to play Andean Abyss a month from now so everyone can get to grips with the core COIN experience. These days I'm feeling pretty secure with the system so my main role will be to teach the other guys who have much less experience. We have loads of more titles to play though; A Distant Plain, Falling Sky, Liberty or Death and Cuba Libre are all owned by the group but have yet to be played.

Is one of these lists complete without some title from Phil Eklund? I think not! While the 3rd edition of High Frontier is finally close to shipping to backers, and I'm very eager to play it again, I'm going to put upcoming edition of Bios Megafauna here instead as I think it has so much potential! Not only will it feature updated designs allowing you to port your organism from Bios Genesis and continue playing in Megafauna, it will also have a puzzle Pangea that you slowly split apart as the continents start to form. Imagine that together with the art of Karim Chakroun and yeah... exciting times indeed!

Other games I'm extra eager to get my hands on and/or play are Bios: Genesis, Terraforming Mars, Kanagawa, Sekigahara, Apocalypse Road, MYTH, Imperial Assault: Jabba's Realm, Pax Renaissance and Forbidden Stars. To name a few...

Roleplaying Games

Last year we got Jovian Chronicles rolling and there's no chance I'm letting go of that baby! We actually just played our third session and had a blast, even though it mostly consisted of the tactical game as the players conducted an assault on an orbital station close to Jupiter. With The Expanse just starting its second season it just feels so right to have a hard science fiction game focused on space running alongside it. While The Expanse doesn't have giant robots, there are many, many other similarities so the show works as great inspiration for our gaming sessions (if you haven't seen it, do so now. It is fantastic!).

I'll type out a proper session report soon, but suffice to say we're having fun and now we're getting into the campain proper as the last session finished off the intro scenario.

I had put Torchbearer next, but with Cubicle 7 taking over Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I'm torn! I love Torchbearer and the upcoming Middarmark world book looks absolutely phenomenal, but the possibility of getting a modernized WFRP that still retains that 1st edition feel is also very, very cool (not saying we'll actually get that, it's just what I hope for). Hmm.... but since we don't really know anything about the new WFRP yet I'll still go with Torchbearer. Because it is awesome!

It does require quite a bit of buy-in from the players though, and I'm not sure I can get mine to invest right now, but if I could have Jovian Chronicles sitting on my shelf for 20 years and then pull out and play it now I guess Torchbearer won't be going anywhere either.

Finally, with Blades in the Dark getting its final PDF and a proper hardcover book heading my way soonish I would love to play it during 2017. Blades is set in a kind of Victorian city named Duskwall and is heavily inspired by Dishonored and Thief. As John Harper writes, you play as "a gang of criminals seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of Duskwall. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had if you're bold enough."

The system of goals and heists are very interesting and (as can be seen from the kickstarter) lend themselves well to hacking. We're getting not-Star Wars, not-Black Company, not-Shadowrun, not-Dune and a bunch of other setting hacks that you can use for the game as well! I have yet to read through the game cover to cover, but I feel it coming to me soon.

Some other roleplaying games I dearly want to play or buy are Coriolis, The One Ring (always!), Tales from the Loop rpg, Ten Candles, Swords Without Master and Mutant: Year Zero (any of them).

Miniature Games

This is the category where I feel the need to really get the old axe out and start chopping at my collection. While I love miniature games and painting, it is by far the most time and money consuming part of my gaming hobby, and these days time especially is a rare commodity.

With that said I am going to invest in the upcoming Jovian Wars kickstarter. I don't count this as a new game per se, as I've had Jovian Chronicles and Lightning Strike since the ninetiees and even though I like the new Jovian Wars rules I'll be using the ships and exos to play the older games as well. Just the opportunity to finally get models for all those gorgeous ship designs from the Ships of the Fleet series of books is making me salivate! More on this as the kickstarter launchers next week.

Infinity will always have a place in my collection and as I'm kind of rebooting my Yu Jing as they get more and more resculpts I'm aiming to paint the new starter set during the spring months and follow it up with fun additions to bring it to 300 points. As my friend Claes enjoys the game as well, with this Haqq, we can paint and play in tandem. Currently we're going through the intro campaign in Red Veil so Claes can get up to speed.

I have some new markers and terrain that I will be talking about soon as well. Of course, Infinity's big drawback is the amount of terrain it requires, but if I get rid of my Deadzone and some old GW stuff I'll have more than enough space for it.

Last up is Dropfleet Commander that I got in the mail a couple of months back. So far I've barely
touched it, just divided up the bits bits that my friend is getting and then shoving my Scourge under the bed. That might not seem like it's a game I'm excited for, but I really am! I just don't want to start another project only to find myself without an opponent when I'm done. So while I'm waiting for either of my friends who also backed to finish their fleets I will keep painting Jovian ships and Infinity figures. Then when I have an opponent with a painted fleet I'll get stuck in and do mine - Scourge ships are quick to paint (I think).

As for other miniatures games, I'm really trying not to but I think you could probably count MYTH and Imperial Assault in this category as they require a big time investment for painting as well. I don't see myself investing in any other large systems, but I will be keeping my 15mm stuff and would love to try things like Rogue Stars, Ronin and Saga - games with a low model count basically.

As always there are many more games that I want to play than I could possibly make time for, but hope never dies I suppose! I will be trying to focus better this year, especially when it comes to painting, so hopefully less wasted hours and more armies that get to see action! This goes for roleplaying as well though, as I want to play a decent amount of Jovian Chronicles, at the very least 10 sessions, before we switch to something else.

That's it for new plans for 2017!

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