Monday, October 17, 2011

Introducing...Disposable Heroes: Point Blank!

With the imminent release of Iron Ivan Games newest wargame system, Disposable Heroes: Point Blank, I thought I would take the time to post a short 1 turn battle report to show how the system plays.

Disposable Heroes: Point Blank is our newest system and is our first 1:1 individual skirmish set. The rules are designed to allow players to game pretty much any modern fire arms period from WWI all the way up to today and beyond. Players will find that Point Blank allows for fast and intense tactical action while allowing for an almost role play element without all of the complexity of an RPG or traditional overly detailed crunchy simulation. The focus of the rules is on tactical decision making and every player's action can alter the course of a fight. There are rules for infantry, support weapons, vehicles and artillery. The scope of the game is squad level, where players control roughly a squad of soldiers and perhaps a support weapon or vehicle. Players are controlling individual soldiers, weapon teams, and vehicles. Larger games are possible with multiple players, yet even single players can handle two squads. The rules provide lists for WWII, Vietnam, and modern forces.

On to the battle!

For this battle, I chose one of my favorite conflicts: WWII, and one of my favorite periods of the war: France 1940.

The forces:

German Motorized Infantry Squad

Accuracy: 5, Close Combat: 6, Guts: 9/8/7, Training and Experience: Trained +0.

Squad Leader (Sergeant) with MP-38 and Luger pistol.
Squad Leader (Corporal) with Kar-98k rifle.
2x Light Machine Gun team with MG-34 LMG and Kar-98k rifle (assistant).
4x Riflemen with Kar-98k rifle.
Anti Tank Rifle Team with PzB38 and Kar-98k rifle (assistant).
Anti-Tank Gun Team with Pak 36 and Kar-98k rifles (assistants) (led by Corporal).

French Dragons Portes Squad

Accuracy: 5, Close Combat: 6, Guts: 8/7/6, Training and Experience: Veteran +1.

Squad Leader (Sergeant) with Fusil Mle 1916 rifle.
Squad Leader (Corporal) with Fusil Mle 1916 rifle.
2x Light Machine Gun team with FM-24/29 LMG and Fusil Mle 1916 rifle (assistant).
3x Riflemen with Fusil Mle 1916 rifle and 1x rifleman with Fusil Mle 1916 VB grenade launcher.
Panhard 178 Armored Car.

Both sides are roughly 200 points. The system has a points system available for those who like to use them, but it is NOT designed as a tournament style points system. It is just a way of coming up with a number for when you create historically based squads and their worth in terms of rules function only (stats and weapon costs).

My rationale for the French having a higher T&E score is that these are Dragons Portes. The kind of troops in the French Army who had been given special training in combined arms warfare and who had the higher esprit de corps of armored infantry units. Their Gut score is standard reflecting that they might have at one point had a higher morale score but the French campaign in 1940 was not going well, so it evened out.

The German Guts and T&E was based on the idea that they had a higher Guts because they were on the winning side in the campaign of 1940 and were pushing towards a (hard fought) victory, but their T&E was simply trained (+0) to show that while the unit might have had experience in Poland in 1939, with the high casualties in that campaign and the influx of new recruits for this operation, it evened out. What this meant was that the French were better trained, but slightly more shaky in morale, while the Germans had higher morale but were nothing special in training.

One of the fun parts of the game is coming up with interesting combinations of stats that reflect lots of different potential troops types. That way you aren't stuck with "Germans are always elite with better morale". Now you have two dimensions with which to represent troop quality. Want to do fanatical but poorly trained troops such as the Hitlerjugend units in the fall of Berlin? Give them an Elite Guts score (10 scale) but poor Training & Experience (Poor -2). There are tons of possibilities.

The scenario itself is a pretty straightforward meeting engagement type of combat patrol, though the Germans are in a slightly more defensive posture. The table set up is as shown below. The German deployment zone goes down the left side of the table while the French deployment is on the right. The scenario is that a French R-35 has been knocked out on a road leading to a German salient (the crew escaped). The French are attempting to locate and destroy the Pak 36 that knocked out the tank. The French Dragons Portes squad is attacking just as the Germans are moving up troops to expand out of the salient.

Here is the table:

The game began with a roll for initiative. The Germans rolled a 9 and added their Guts of 9 plus their T&E of +0 for an 18. The French lost by rolling a 4 and adding their Guts of 8 plus their T&E of +1 for a 13.

The German player receives 9 Activations he may use during the turn (Guts of 9 plus T&E 0=9). The French also get 9 Activations (Guts of 8 plus T&E of +1=9). The report is a single turn from a game.

German Activation 1: The Germans decide to go first. The German player moves his LMG team up to the corner of the farm shed.

French Activation 1: The French LMG team moves up to the edge of the road looking down a long gulley alongside the road and sees a column of German troops. The French let fly with a burst of LMG fire and manage to suppress one of the German riflemen at the lead of the column.

German Activation 2: The two rifles behind the lead share their Action Points to scatter out of the ditch and onto the road or into the bushes. This leaves the lead and the last rifle in the column exposed in the ditch.

French Activation 2: The same LMG that had suppressed the lead German in the ditch puts more fire downrange. After failing his Gut Check and becoming suppressed, the German player decides to have his rifleman Fall Back. This move allows him to shake off some of his suppression now that he is in a better position away from the deadly hail of fire.

German Activation 3: A second German LMG team moves up into a firing position and is able to set up a Crossfire with the other German LMG team (this makes LMG fire more effective). The first burst does not find its mark, but this Crossfire will come into play later.

French Activation 3: The French LMG team continues to pour fire into the ditch, this time dropping one of the exposed German riflemen, wounding him and removing him from the game.

German Activation 4: The 2nd LMG team begins to bring it's fire to bear on one of the French LMG teams that had been firing down the ditch. The fire causes the French team to become suppressed, momentarily silencing their gun. The German LMG's assistant was able to help keep the German gun in action, despite a jam during firing.

French Activation 4: A French Panhard 178 Armored Car arrives on the scene and moves onto the road. It turns it's turret and finds a German LMG team in the sights. After acquiring the target, the Panhard lets loose with a blast of 25mm cannon and some machine gun fire. The German LMG team is hit and the assistant is wounded while the gunner is suppressed.

German Activation 5: The German player does not like this new French arrival and sends his Anti-Tank Rifle team over to try to knock out this armored threat. The ATR moves up and finds a firing position. He hits the Panhard, but the round bounces off. He then quickly reloads so he is ready to fire again next time.

French Activation 5: The French corporal wants to get the LMG team back into action, so he rallies them by waving his arms wildly and shouting.

German Activation 6: The ATR team once again puts a round into the side of the Panhard. The shot bounces off, but the ATR gunner reloads and lets fly again. This time the round penetrates the hull. The vehicle suffers minimal damage but suppresses the crew.

French Activation 6: The Panhard decides that discretion is the better part of valor and pulls back down off the elevated roadway and out of sight of the ATR team.

German Activation 7: The German LMG fire is beginning to take it's toll. The French LMG team is now heavily suppressed.

French Activation 7: A French rifleman makes a dash forward to attempt to get into a better position.

German Activation 8:The German LMG team's fire is becoming so effective, that the French LMG team decides to Fall Back away from the fire and into a (slightly) safer position.

French Activation 8: A French rifleman lets loose with a rifle grenade at the German LMG team near the shed to try to take them out. The round explodes harmlessly nearby, but does cause the LMG team to be lightly suppressed.

 German Activation 9: The German Corporal rallies his LMG team to get them back into action. They quickly draw a bead on the French corporal who had been rallying his men while standing along the road. The burst misses, but causes the corporal to become suppressed after ingloriously diving off the road and into the ditch away from the fire.

French Activation 9: The French player moves up an LMG team desperately needed to try to wrest control of the firefight away from the Germans. The team moves up into an orchard.

With that, the first turn of the game comes to an end. The next turn would begin with a new roll for initiative. The Germans have taken two casualties, so would be down two Activations on the next turn, and their initiative will be taking a hit. The French are not in a good position, but they have not taken any casualties. However, their firepower is either not in a good position, or is heavily suppressed. It will be hard to tell how the next turn will go.

Will the Germans be able to even the score? What is the Panhard going to do? Do the French have enough maneuver room to bring up their firepower and push the Germans? Where is that Pak 36 lurking? Will the French be able to move some of their rifles into close range and unhinge the German position? Will the Germans launch their own counterattack now that they have suppressed some of the French?

I hope you enjoyed the battle report. This is only a small taste of what the rules set allows you to do. This game went very quickly and the action flows from moment to moment in ways that are tense and challenging. We didn't even cover the use of skill checks or spotting and hidden rules. That will be another game for another day.

Disposable Heroes: Point Blank is a 100 page book crammed from cover to cover with solid gaming action. We hope to release the game at Fall In this year in Lancaster, but this is depending on printing time. As always we will be taking preorders for the book as soon as we are sure we ready to go. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Something a Little Different. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PC game) Review.

Something a little different than my usual wargaming related posts. Recently I picked up and have played part way through the new PC title Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

Overall Review: Excellent game on almost every level with only a few minor quibbles.

Visuals: Amazing. To start, they really took the 40k gothic visuals and created a convincing and awe inspiring landscape. Amazing detail down to the very nuts and bolts. Dark, gritty, ruined, gothic. Everything 40k is supposed to be without going over the top, which is even more impressive. The models look amazing. This is what space marines are supposed to look like. Plus, the animations are fluid and realistic, and the voice acting and characters are done really well. What's more, the action animations and the pure carnage factor is stunning. The power a single marine is able to unleash in this game truly does these 40k legends justice. You can literally become a walking engine of death and cut a swathe of destruction.

Gameplay: This is where it gets even better. This game delivers on the action. What I really like is that not only does the game allow you to seamlessly switch from ranged to melee combat, both styles of combat have their place. There are parts of the game where it is better to stay ranged, use cover and gun down the waves of enemies. Other times there is nothing for it but to wade into the enemy and brutally hack and slash your way through. In fact, there are times when if you choose the wrong approach, you will find yourself gunned down from long range or swamped and cut to pieces in a wave of death. This balance of gameplay is not only important, it is impressive that they executed it so damned well. Space Marines are great at both roles. I personally prefer the ranged approach, and there is something satisfying standing back and gunning down waves of Orks with head shots from a standard bolter. Even more awesome is the power of a melta gun at close range.

Story and Level Design: This is a mixed bag. The story is very cool and the plot is pure 40k. Ork invasions, an Inquisitor, a Forge World, and even a somewhat competent Imperial Guard force swirl around the intrigue of a secret weapon and the attempt to prevent it from falling into Ork hands (or worse). So the story gets a plus from me. The only detraction was that there was not that much character interaction beyond short (sometimes too short) cut scenes. But hey, this is an action game and we are playing a Space who cares?

Level design is where I will say that the game falls short, but only in some minor ways that can be easily overlooked. The levels are very linear. That's ok, but added to the next factor, I think it becomes mildly annoying. At every part of the level where your character needs something it just happens to be lying in an open crate, on the ground, or in a drop pod or Adepticus Mechanicus machine. In fact, the game delivers your skill ups in these awkward Adepticus Mechanicus consoles. Get to a part where you need to fly? Oh look! A jet pack conveniently located in a drop pod. Done with that zone? The jet pack runs out of fuel just in time. Does the zone ahead have a few mini boss type enemies where you need to use a Lascannon? Oh look! There's one! Done those mini bosses? Oh well, no more ammo for that weapon. I don't mind crates of ammo throughout a game, but the way this game delivers not only ammo, but the very tools you need to complete a part of the game comes across as kind of silly and predictable. Also, there are times when you lose a weapon you had, only to come across another one later on. It's all a very awkward element of the game design.

The strange part is the fact that while they handled level ups and weapons so awkwardly, they handled health really well. You regain your power field after waiting a short time out of combat. That makes sense as it recharges back up to full. Health is handled even more uniquely and in two related but different ways: you build up rage as you are in combat. Once your meter is full you can unleash the rage in a storm of energy. It adds health to you, slows time slightly and turns you into a killing machine. Even neater is how it can be used both in melee and ranged combat (melee allows you to land devastating blows, ranged allows for super accurate shooting). It functions as an almost trance like Matrix style state without being cheesy. Plus it is easy to use.

Also, there is the ability to regenerate health by first stunning an enemy and then delivering a killing blow. It is kind of awkward at first, but it quickly becomes second nature. Though sometimes it is a pain in the ass to line it up right, but that is part of the challenge. Also, you must time it right. Not all enemies can be stunned right away but must be damaged first. Also, if you don't time it right, your foe can counterattack. There is nothing more aggravating than being picked up and slammed down and then stomped on by an Ork nob. Of course, there is nothing more satisfying than delivering that vicious and gruesome killing blow back on him...

One of the things I really like is the way they designed the actual enemies you fight. The Orks are far more than just waves of chainsword and axe wielding maniacs. There are nobs, stormboys with jet packs, shoota boys, Weirdboy psykers, Armored boys with huge shields, gretchin mobs...everything you think of for the Orks which makes an old school 40k fanboy smile (my only gripe would be that it would be nice to see some variety of color and details on the models-every type of Ork always looks the same even though there are a bunch of different types). The best part about your enemies is that each type of encounter requires you to think about how to handle it. Shoota boys will quickly reduce your power field and start taking chunks out of your health if you stand in the open. If you get swamped by Orks you will find yourself unable to fight your way out.

So taken overall, this is one amazing game. It is a lot of fun. It is challenging in all of the ways I like, yet not needlessly frustrating or difficult for the sake of being difficult. The few minor gripes are annoying and mildly detracting from the experience. But overall, it is one solid game. I recommend it for anyone that is a big fan of 40k. I really hope they continue this series. I would love to go up against Eldar, Tyranids, or the other 40k universe baddies. Note: I have not yet completed the game. I understand that chaos forces make their appearance...I can't wait.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"All Gone Dead"

Continuing with the 80s post nuclear project theme music: Subhumans "All Gone Dead" was always one of my favorite punk songs of all time. I used to think it was such a powerful expression of the fear of a nuclear attack. Growing up near TMI, I always feared hearing the sirens for either a meltdown or some other kind of emergency. Add to that some powerful movies from the time and an active imagination and nuclear war was something that really worried me when I was younger.

Today, as a history teacher, I sometimes find it hard to explain to young students the feeling of growing up during the Cold War. How do you explain the fear of the real possibility of a nuclear war between us and the Soviets? (What's a Soviet?) It's just hard to put into words sometimes without sounding strange or silly. Maybe that's because our worst fears from the Cold War never happened, but in light of our recent experience with real terrorist attacks, the 80s US vs Soviet nuclear war hysteria now just kind of seems like something from a strange dream or a bad movie.

I was a little young for the "Duck and Cover" of my parent's generation, but I remember well things like Red Dawn and The Day After (and then later, the blast scene from T2). Punk really pulled all of that hysteria and fear together into some powerful imagery and music. It all sounds and looks kind of silly now, but back then the feeling of fear was palpable at times.

Inspired by my teenage fears and taste in music, I decided my post nuclear what-if project needed some appropriate scenery to go with it. I need that burned out landscape. The ruins I already have covered. What I don't have is cars. Burned out husks of cars. Nothing says post apocalypse like burned out cars.

All I had in my basement was a box of 1960s die cast cars (Franklin Mint I believe). Most of them weren't worth much or were too bad a condition to sell. So I decided to wreck 'em. I took the windshields out and removed the tires (those never survive nuclear blasts). After Googling some pics of burned cars, I decided I wanted to go with a extremely wrecked and completely torched look. I kept thinking of the kind of cars you see in the future scenes of T2 and stuff like that.

Here is the result. They are 1960s American cars, but they look sufficiently wrecked to fit into any post nuclear landscape. I need a lot more of these though, and I plan on hitting the cheap die cast sources this week to see what else I can find.

The paint job is done by spray painting a base coat of Krylon Flat Camo Brown. After that I drybrush and stipple a gray primer color onto the flat areas and on the major body panels. Follow this with a drybrush of metal to stripped areas and other metal parts. After that I drybrush and stipple a rust brown color onto most of the edges, blending into the other colors. Finally, a last layer of bright rust orange is applied by drybrush to the edges and heavily rusted areas. A final very light drybrush of white overall pulls it all together.


Remember kids! Duck and Cover! (and kiss your ass goodbye!)

"We've Got a Bigger Problem Now."

Following up on the Soviets are my US in MOPP Gear. These are some amazing minis, with great detail and accurate weapons and gear. You can see the faces inside the lenses. I hope Eureka follows these up with more heavy weapons and support like they did the Soviets.

While working on the Soviets put me in the mood for Sisters of Mercy, the US called for some classic Southern California 1980s punk...such as the Dead Kennedys. The song I thought of most was "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now" off In God We Trust Inc.

Here are the first painted examples. I have to finish painting the pack with helmets to make a more complete force.

Group shot.

M-60, M-16s, and M-203 Grenade Launcher.

1/50th scale M113 Armored Personnel Carrier from Corgi. This was my first attempt at MERDEC camo, and I liked the way it came out. I never used to be a fan of that pattern, but I think it is growing on me.


Debussing from M113.

"Mother Russia Rain Down, Down, Down!"

I have been in an 80s mood lately. Especially after picking up Eureka's 1980s US in MOPP Gear (not on their site yet). I had been hoping they would release them to go against my Soviets, seen here. Eureka did not disappoint, with yet more amazing work by Kosta Heristanidis. These US in MOPP were released just in time for Historicon. Now my Soviets have something to fight other than zombies.

I really wanted to use these minis for a post-nuclear/chemical/biological grim and gruesome as that is. I began to look into some WWIII trigger ideas starting around the early 80s and came across some ideas from asking around on the TMP Modern "What If" message board and reading some of the other topics. Besides the massive NATO training exercises called Exercise Reforger (Return Forces to Germany), I came across this little lesser known trigger:

Able Archer '83

What if this had set off WWIII? It is an interesting what if, is around the right time that fits the miniatures, and it is a good wargaming scenario design basis for anything from full scale global nuclear war down to limited tactical nuclear exchange followed by conventional warfare. With this in mind, I got busy painting up the rest of the Soviets I had to finish and starting on my US.

Here are the Reds. You'll just have to forgive the amateurish artistic license I took with the photo editing. I couldn't resist the grainy film setting to help add some period style to the otherwise crappy pics I ended up with.

Command HQ.

Fire Team 1.

Fire Team 2.


For inspiration, I have been listening to Sisters of Mercy's "Dominion/Mother Russia".

"Mother Russia...Mother Russia...Mother Russia rain down, down down..."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Soviet Vehicles.

From the factories of the Motherland come T-34s and some T-34/85s. Crush the Fascist Vipers!


U.S. Vehicles.

Some U.S. tanks and vehicles to round out the Allies. These are all late war and are made by either Army Group North or Warlord Games (ex-Bolt Action Miniatures) 1/56th scale kits.

This unit of Shermans hails from the Five Boroughs of New York. The tanks are from Company B, and all of the tank names reflect this. They are: Bronx Bomber, Boilermaker, Babydoll, Berlin Bound, and Brooklyn.

A platoon of M3 halftracks for my Armored Infantry.

M8 Greyhound Armored Car and some Jeeps of the Recon platoon.

German Vehicles.

No collection is complete without some Germans to fight against. These are mostly Army Group North and JTFM 1/56th scale kits.
From the Blitzkreig collection.

Panzer I.

Panzer 38t.

Panzer III C.

Panzer IV D.

Sdkfz 251 C halftrack Platoon.

Sdkfz 11.

Stug III D.

From the Mid to Late War collection.

Panzer IV Js minus the armored skirts.

Sdkfz 234 Pumas and 2cm cannon makes nice little recon unit. The Puma is one of my favorite WWII vehicles. I don't care if they only made 101 of them, they make it into my games (and they did see a lot of action-most of them were destroyed in France).

Sdkfz 251 D halftrack platoon.

Don't forget some big cats. Panther Gs.


British Vehicles.

British tanks. All kits are JTFM 1/56th scale kits.



Sherman V Troop.