The Quest Begins

Tony F reports on the beginnings of an epic journey.

About four years ago, Games Workshop released The Quest of the Ringbearer, the latest source book in their Middle Earth Strategy Battle series. This is centred around a series of 28 scenarios which, if played in succession, tell the story of Frodo’s journey across Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring. It’s a bit of a mash-up between the story as told in the book, and the slightly different version in Peter Jackson’s films.

Phil and I have finally managed to get ourselves into gear and started on our Quest at the first meeting of the year. The initial scenarios are quite short, so we managed to race through the first four, even with the club AGM being held during the meeting ! Aiding us were Andy, who joined Phil on the Evil side, while Jon R played with me on the side of all that is Good. This report will cover the first two scenarios, with the next two in a separate post.

Scenario 1 – Farmer Maggot’s Crop
“The hounds of love are hunting”

Farmer Maggot’s cottage

This was a simple starter scenario, with the four hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) being on the evil side for once, trying to steal cabbages from Farmer Maggot’s field. Defending the brassicas were Maggot along with his three dogs, Grip, Wolf and Fang. The hobbits had to steal five cabbages from the field and get it back to their stash, while the dogs had to inflict sufficient bites on the backsides of the thieving hobbits to drive them away. Because this was nothing more than a scrumping mission, no-one could ‘die’ – when the dogs took a wound they ran back to their kennel until the Farmer sent them back again, while a hobbit that lost all of their wounds would run away and abandon the expedition.

Starting positions for scenario 1. The hobbits by their stash (giant tomato), Grip, Fang and Wolf by the kennel and Farmer Maggot asleep in his cottage.

In our playthrough, the hobbits got off to a good start, stealing their first cabbage and sending two of the dogs back to the kennel almost immediately. However, Wolf showed early form by biting Sam – in fact Wolf would be responsible for most of the wounds we inflicted. As soon as one of the dogs took a wound it woke Farmer Maggot, and as the mechanics of the scenario meant that the Farmer had to be touching the kennel in order to release any hound that had slunk back to it, Jon and I decided that our best course of action was simply to leave him there so that the dogs would be immediately be back into the fray.

Sam fends off Fang while the others gather cabbages

With two of the dogs temporarily out of action, the hobbits managed to grab a further three cabbages before they returned. When a hobbit was charged it had to drop its plunder, so not all of the cabbages made it back to the stash point when the dogs returned. As all three dogs got into action we started whittling the hobbits’ numbers down, with Wolf playing a starring role, until there was only one left facing all three dogs, with two plunder tokens still needed – a couple of good bites and it was all over.

The scenario was pretty well balanced, we felt – the hobbits managed to make it off with three of the required five cabbages, and could easily have made it further had Jon not rolled something like four successive sixes towards the end of the game.

Scenario 2 – Short Cuts Make Long Delays
“It’s in the trees – it’s coming !”

This scenario saw three of the four hobbits lost in the forest on the way to Crickhollow (Merry has already gone ahead). Three Ringwraiths are closing in on them, and only the intervention of Gildor Inglorion can save them. The hobbits started in the lee of a large hedge which runs through the forest; the Ringwraiths started in the centre of three of the board edges, while Gildor was on the fourth, Eastern edge (he got to start 3″ in because the Good side won the previous scenario). The objective was to get Frodo off the Eastern side of the table.

The Ringwraiths are in ‘Sentry’ mode – each turn they must roll a dice and depending on the result they could either move normally, at half speed, stay still or even in some cases be moved by the Good side. Conversely, the hobbits are all petrified of what could be in the woods so they each had to make a Courage test every turn – pass and they could move normally, fail and the Evil side got to move them. Once a Ringwraith spotted a hobbit (which was only at 3″ range in the woods) the alarm was raised and everyone could move normally. So these rolls would be crucial to the outcome – if the hobbits could evade detection for long enough then Frodo could escape.

Sam and Frodo make for the eastern table edge, but Pippin has been spooked by noises in the forest and has fallen behind.

The Ringwraiths pottered around pretty randomly – the one on the Southern edge came up with several 1s on his movement rolls, allowing the Good side to move him away, and he gained the nickname ‘Sh*t Ringwraith’ from has master which stuck for the rest of the day. The Western ‘wraith quickly moved up to the hedge with a decent couple of rolls. Pippin then failed a courage test and the Evil side moved him back towards the hedge and things looked dicey – one more dodgy roll and the alarm would be raised, which would allow the Ringwraiths to quickly close in with their superior speed. But the Western ‘wraith twice failed his rolls to cross the hedge, and spent two turns untangling his cloak from the branches, allowing Pippin to get away. Pippin did fail at least one more courage test but the Good side, being somewhat more decorous, decided not to christen him the ‘Sh*t Hobbit’.

Pippin on his lonesome, waiting for a Black Rider to find him…
… but the Ringwraith in question has snagged his cloak on the hedge and spends several turns trying to cross !

This left just the Northern Ringwraith as a threat – but by this time Gildor had moved up to meet the hobbits and was shielding Frodo. Since the scenario only required Frodo to escape, we decided we’d sacrifice the other two if necessary to get him away. So Sam and Pippin moved into blocking positions and Gildor hurried the Ringbearer off the table. Pippin was struck down in the last turn, but it was nevertheless a victory for the Good side again (rolling after the game, Pippin was determined to not be entirely dead, so his sacrifice was worth it).

Sam and Frodo make for the eastern table edge, but Pippin has been spooked by noises in the forest and has fallen behind.

The scenario was tricky for the Evil side, but depending on the random movement rolls for the Ringwraiths it could have gone entirely differently – and getting stuck on the hedge for two turns (only a 1-in-6 chance) effectively took one of them out of the game. What was key for the Good side was that Frodo, with his higher courage value, didn’t fail a single test and so could move towards the edge of the table at full speed every turn, making it in the minimum possible time.

‘Come on if you think you’re hard enough !’ – Gildor shepherds Frodo and Sam to safety ahead of other wraith.

So – after two scenarios, it’s

Good 2-0 Evil

Stargrave: The Next Generation

Tony F recounts a tale of woe but also tells us of new beginnings…

Kal Gaden’s week had been… interesting. Ten days ago he was near rock bottom, down to his last credit and had sunk so low that he was even contemplating the unthinkable – selling his armour for food. Then a chance encounter with Jenin Hosvarn, captain of the freebooter vessel the Empyrean Drifter, threw him a lifeline. He signed up on the spot as a general service deckhand/dogsbody for what could only be described as a ‘variable’ salary – but at least he was going to be fed.

Four days later the ship left port for his first assignment, on a distant moon many parsecs into the next sector of space, with everyone in good spirits. The regular crew consisted of the captain, his reptilian first mate Budfodo and the other two deckhands, Whibirt and Scogill. The former was also the ship’s medic, and his colleague was supposedly tech-savvy, a bit of a hacker. Kal assumed that he spent most of his time keeping B6C5, the ship’s ancient robo-pilot, and the captain’s aging cyber-dog Lucifer in working order. They also had a five-man guard detachment onboard from the local security agency – big burly goons clad in bright orange plasteel armour and toting carbines. Allegedly Budfodo was a bit of a dab-hand with his huge repeating plasma cannon (in a quiet moment, Whibirt told him that the giant alien had shot nine men on their last mission), while Pervol, the taciturn minigun-wielding guard, had single-handedly taken down a tentacled sea beast on a waterworld six months back. So no-one was worried about their safety.

And then they landed – and Kal had never seen such a fiasco. They disembarked into a dense jungle, where you could barely see the guy five paces in front of you. All around he could hear the cries and screeches of the local fauna, along with the heavy footsteps of something that was obviously really BIG. Then they suddenly came across the Big Thing – a genetically engineered monstrosity bred from the DNA of a long extinct giant reptile. No one seemed to know how to deal with it, so instead everyone just froze. After what seemed an eternity they skirted round it, and it wandered off back into the dense undergrowth in search of something a bit more lively.

Then they stumbled upon an old bunker covered in vines and creepers, decrepit but still sealed. Step forward Scogill, the tech “expert”, who made such a bantha’s ear of cracking the lock that in the end Kal just did it for him! Without a word of thanks (probably too embarrassed), Scogill stepped past him and straightaway tripped some ancient motion detector, setting off a self-destruct alarm. Fortunately the detonator circuits had long since expired and this one turned out to be a dud, but not before everyone had bolted in a rather unedifying spectacle.

Then came the one thing they did get right. Captain Hosvarn had struck a deal with the elders of a local village to get rid of a tentacled beast that had made its home in their water supply. The security detail this time managed to do their thing and get a grenade into the well. And as a bonus, at the same time they upset several other crews who’d been squabbling over the loot around the area (Hosvarn’s crew should have been there too, but they’d spent their time running from giant herbivores and antiquated alarm systems and missed out on any bounty).

So job done, after a fashion – time to return to the Drifter. Except that on the way back they stumbled upon a trio of vicious saurian critters, no bigger than dogs, but with very sharp teeth. The security detail utterly failed to do what they were hired for, the Captain tried to fend them off with an alien plasma pistol he’d found – but that misfired, and in the end it was Kal’s pistols and Budfodo’s cannon that did for the creatures. But Hosvarn had been badly hurt, and expired on the return flight despite the ministrations of the medic.

Thus ended Kal Gaden’s brief tenure aboard the Empyrian Drifter – with Captain Hosvarn gone, the crew dispersed to the four corners of the galaxy and he was once again out on his ear…

So that was the tale of woe for my Stargrave crew’s final mission. It really was the first mission for my new crew member Kal Gaden, and he really was witness to an utter disaster. Although I learnt some valuable lessons (don’t put your captain at the front, even if he does have a fancy plasma pistol) it was not my finest hour, and I’ve had to start again with a new crew since my first mate hadn’t reached a high enough level to take over. I decided to start from scratch with new figures since just recycling and renaming the old ones didn’t feel enough of a fresh start. Kal is a Diehard Miniatures figure who bears a passing resemblance to characters from a certain sci-fi franchise – and I decided to build the team around him. I took the plunge and bought Diehard’s two Elite Bounty Hunter packs, which are very good deals compared to buying the figures individually, plus “Nub Nub, Dark Apprentice“, also definitely not derived from the same franchise. This gave me enough for a 10-figure crew plus a couple of spares.

Gebro, the Mystic first mate

Let’s not beat around the bush – they’re Mandalorians in everything but name. In the series they come in all sorts of colours, so I had fun painting them in a variety of schemes. I found a Mandalorian name generator online which was very helpful in giving them all unique monikers and the crew began to come together.

In Stargrave terms, my captain (Garo Braven) is a Veteran – it seemed the closest fit. I made Nub-Nub (tentatively named Gebro) my first mate and a Mystic, complete with suitable powers to try and reproduce his fledgling Force abilities (including Void Blade for his lightsabre).

The make-up of the rest of the crew was dictated by how many credits you get to create a new outfit – not enough to set all of them up as I would really like, so some will have to be upgraded as and when I can earn some cash! I tried to at least pick soldier types that had the correct weapons, so apart from three specialists (a Gunfighter, Gunner and Sniper) the others are either Troopers if they have a rifle, or Runners or Recruits if it’s a pistol.

Following the release of the latest supplement, Bold Endeavour, which brought each crew’s ship more into the game, they also need a ride. Obviously this had to be some version of the Razorcrest, and after some searching I came up with two options – the Star Wars Micro Galaxy one, a smaller, fairly detailed and pretty accurate model, or the Hasbro Mission Fleet version, a more toy-like option that wasn’t so exact but was just about the right size for 32mm figures given the Razorcrest’s stated length of 80′. In the end I went for the former, as the more in-scale toy version was possibly a bit too big for the average gaming table at ~18″ long. The smaller model looks better and is still big enough to be a slightly cramped 10-person shuttle craft.

So that’s the new crew of the newly-named Cepheid Variable – their first mission will commence just after this post is published, so wish them luck!

DBA Tournament 2023

The DBA Tournament returned for the first time since 2019, with a new champion – the two headed hydra of new members Mark N and Bob, both new to the club and the rules, who teamed up together because Bob had to go early and they thought it would be a good idea to team up to learn the ropes. Tournament organiser Dave S loaned them his Anglo-Norman army and after a shaky first round, they soon built up a head of steam.

Three Knight and Heavy Chariot armies dominated the scoring leaving the other four trailing. Mike and Mark/Bob both finished with 22 points each, however the Mark/Bob pairing was declared the tournament winner. This was because there was an uneven number of entries and a “bye” result had to be awarded to those who had not participated in a given round. Before the start of the tournament, Dave made a ruling that in the event of tie for first place, that the non bye player would be awarded the trophy. As Mark/Bob had not taken a bye, they were deemed to be the winning contestant(s).

If there is one lesson Dave took away from the day, it is not to loan your Anglo-Norman Army to the newcomers !

Marian Roman v Marion Roman, one hard slog with Colin eventually prevailing.
Sassanid Persians getting a pasting from Mike’s Anglo-Normans
Minoan & Early Mycenaean’s teaching Mark/Bob’s Anglo-Normans why you do not let your Knights get outflanked (A lesson they did take onboard !)
Three Kingdoms & Western Ts’in Chinese just after they have destroyed the Marian Roman General element with their outflanking Cavalry just before the Gladius line could get into contact.

Battle of the Bougainville Asteroid Field

Marcus turns assassin as he tried to eliminate a Japanese Admiral.

I needed to dig out a space mat in connection with another project this week and as a result just fancied a game of Full Thrust. I’d sketched out some ship diagrams previously and done a couple of other designs. The scenario I threw together was loosely inspired by Operation Vengeance, the plan to kill Admiral Yamamoto which took place on April 18, 1943, during the Solomon Islands campaign in the Pacific. Yamamoto, the commander of the IJN Combined Fleet was deliberately targeted by USAF aircraft following US Navy codebreakers identifying his flight-plan in the area of Bougainville Island.

In this scenario, Admiral Maya of the IJN is present aboard the Heavy Cruiser Chokai escorted by the Light Cruiser Mogami and a frigate, the Fubuki, having visited an installation in the Bougainville asteroid belt. Royal Navy forces, having been made aware of his presence in the area have penetrated deep into IJN space using light forces with the intent of springing an ambush using the belt as cover. The Chokai needed to exit the far end of the table for a win.

The British forces are composed of the (very) light carrier Pandai (with just one fighter group), two destroyers, the Triton and Ganymede, and four pulse torpedo armed corvettes: Leda, Ersa, Elara and Dia. I set up the game initially and played a couple of turns but then match abandoned for dinner! More of that anon (the abandoned game, not dinner!) I set up again the next day for take two.

Turn 1
The IJN ships entered from the short navigating carefully at speed 3 but accelerate to 4 on detecting trouble. Both the Mogami and Fubuki detect the Leda and gain a hit each on the approaching corvette. The Callisto responds from beyond Leda to gain a hit on the Mogami.

Turn 2

The IJN fleet accelerate to 6 with Fubuki forced to make a slight turn to port to avoid an asteroid. The Ganymede to the port of the IJN fleet became exposed from behind an asteroid and suffered combined fire from the Japanese. Chokai put four hits on the Ganymede to her port from the A and 3 B turrets. Mogami gets an unlikely three hits from her 3 B’s to turn Ganymede into a flaming wreck. However, before she succumbs Ganymede fires on Chokai, but the one shot on target is deflected by Chokai’s shield. To starboard the Fubuki opens up on the leading RN corvette, the Leda, again achieving two hits. However, both Leda and Ersa reply. Leda gets just one hit with her pulse torpedo, but this produces a damage roll of 5. Boom! Both sides have lost one ship

Turn 3

Accelerating now to a velocity of eight, the remaining Japanese ships also make a one point turn to Starboard to manoeuvre through the asteroid field and escape. Chokai open s up with her A battery at close range on the Dia but all 3 dice miss! By contrast the 2 B turrets fired at Ersa produce 6645! 4 hits from four dice! Ersa nevertheless manages to put a pulse torpedo into Mogami at close range on a 4 and rolls 4 damage before succumbing to the fatal damage from Chokai. Leda does exactly the same; a roll of 4 and a damage roll of 4 also against the Chokai. Dia misses her shot while finally Elara rolls a 5 for a hit. Elara rolls a damage of 6! The heavy cruiser now only has two damage boxes left, but the critical damage “threshold” checks result in the A turret being placed out of action. Most unfortunately though the FTL drive has been put out of action. Callisto tries to finish off Chokai at close range but her 2 B’s and a C turret get two hits of 4, but are blocked by the Chokai’s shields.

The RN Pandia, which has been lurking out of sight behind an asteroid launches her fighter group.

Turn 4

Despite the heavy damage taken by Chokai, her systems are largely intact. However she needs to get the FTL up and running if she is to escape. The damage control party attempt this but needing a 6, only roll a 5. She nevertheless pours on further acceleration in a bid to escape the onslaught, moving to velocity 10. Mogami has to slow slightly (-1 velocity to 7) to manoeuvre.
While Pandia’s fighter close in on a Chokia which is now opening up the range from Callisto, Chokia brings Pandia under fire with her 3 remaining B turrets at short range. An unlikely 66555 results in 7 hits! With just two damage boxes remaining Pandia also loses a point defence system. Mogami finished her off with a 6 and 4 from her 3 B’s resulting in 3 damage. However, while the fighters closed in on Chokai, Callisto again fired with her 2 B’s and C (5 dice) to get to 6’s and 4 damage. Chokai is eviscerated and the Admiral lost.

Despite the conclusion of the scenario objective, I played on the next couple of turns to see if the Mogami could at least make an improbable escape.

Turn 5

The Mogami runs, accelerating by +3 to a velocity of 10, chased by Pandia’s orphaned fighters. Mogami uses her area anti fighter weapon to shoot at the fighters and bring two down on a 6, but not before they launch their weapons; 125566 results in 6 hits including a point defence system and a firecon. In Mogami’s rear arc, Callisto continues to blast away with 5 dice and does a further two damage.

Turn 6

So close to the edge of the asteroid field now, Mogami accelerates to 13. Although the fighters trail they are still in range. However, although the range has opened to the extent that it reduces Callisto’s firepower to just 2 dice, a roll of 5 and 6 did three damage, finishing off the gallant Mogami. In fact although the pictures show that Mogami was pursued by the fighters I subsequently realised that they are armed with single shot weapons. But for quite a lucky roll from the Callisto, Mogami might have escaped to at least advise the IJN High Command of the disaster.

That was not the least of my mistakes! Evaluating the game I noticed something about the corvettes and crunched the numbers on the design again. I don’t think I had ever finished the calculations on this whenever I had first made them, because I had them costed out at 42 points. I now made them 76! This meant that the RN which I had earlier calculated as being down c. 30 points was actually up around 100! I also noticed page 31 of the FT rules (ship design) which noted that fighter groups should only be carried by carriers and dreadnoughts. I hadn’t really considered what this meant before, but I wondered subsequently if that outlawed “jeep” carriers like the Pandia. I am not convinced though. Even if that was the intention, such small carriers existed in World War Two and continued with carriers such as the Invincible class in the RN and a number of others armed with V/STOLs. Balancing a scenario on points is not critical, especially in such a solo, narrative game. I tried to play a “fair” game, but it is clear in retrospect that the asteroid field gave a substantial advantage to the RN flotilla.

I mentioned the earlier, abandoned game. I only played at most three turns and perhaps the third wasn’t completed either, I can’t quite recall. What was interesting is that the corvettes acquitted themselves terribly in that game, while the fighters made very early work of the Chokai. I think that this points out the power of fighters in this scenario where there was no fighter cover for the IJN. That could be balanced out in the scenario by an escort squadron from Bougainville. In any event, I would like to give the scenario another try with a better balance just out of interest.

In discussion afterwards with members of the club, they asked how I ran the ”opposition”. As I described above I played it as a more narrative game, but this did make me think about describing a couple of options for manoeuvres (almost “matrix game” like) to myself and then rolling to select which applied. The firing/target selection is less of an issue I think.

Five Parsecs: The First Mission

Marcus begins his solo adventures across the Five Parsecs from Home universe…

Having rolled up a world, Palacco, which wasn’t entirely conducive to operations, there wasn’t much I could do in the campaign turn or ”world” phase. Palacco is tightly restricted, which means only one crew member can explore each turn. I may have misunderstood this as I thought this term limited other options too, but perhaps I was wrong. And in the end, I didn’t bother, which was probably an error as I might have gained something out of this phase. In addition, crew subsistence costs are doubled due to the high cost of living. The crew also had to pay four credits (Cr) for an operating licence.

Wellington had initially rolled up a corporate contact although the danger pay amounted to only an additional credit. It was also urgent; must be completed this turn or lost. I rolled up a sweep mission; move across and exit the table (right to left in the photos). The corporation want to clear out some rival group from the area. Maybe there has been a mineral find in the area. Who cares? A jobs a job. I rolled up a randomized layout having set out a table for this myself. Possibly there wasn’t enough cover…

The opposition looked quite tough but limited: Three “unknown mercs” whose characteristics made them faster, tougher and better in combat (+1) than any of the crew of the Pi. However, being mercs, they were more likely to bug out in good order if things got tough. One was a mysterious hooded specialist armed with a sniper rifle. The two grunts, the rotund (or perhaps muscled) Dinohed and Redd, who looked to have a more military bearing, were armed with colony rifles. These are simple, robust weapons favoured on the frontier.

The deployment conditions specified that it would be a surprise encounter in which the enemy could not move in the first round. In addition, there was a “peculiar item” located on the table which would give 2 XP if collected.

Turn 1:
During turn one the crew moved in from the right edge but observed no targets. Kel took up an initial sniping position in cover. Their opponents, caught by surprise, didn’t move.

Turn 2:
A terrible roll meant that only one of the crew would get to act before their opponents. I say terrible; in Five Parsecs, I roll a D6 for each character in the crew at the start of each turn. For each character, if I can allocate them a dice equal to or under their reaction stat., they act in the “quick action” phase. Or they can defer. Their opponents act after this in the “enemy action” phase. Finally, any character that did not act earlier may act in the “slow action” phase. Given their reaction stats are even split between 1 and 2, few if any were ever going to move in the quick action phase. In fact only Kel did, and got in a shot at long range and hit. However, this caused no damage only a stun which pushed back Dinohed 1”. After the mercs moved up to the cover of the ruin, Veyon got a shot off and hit. Rolling a 6 on damage she immediately killed Redd outright! Wellington moved in cover on the nearside/bottom of the board in an attempt to make an outflanking movement.

At the end of turn 2 the rules provide for a random battle event. My experience previously has been that these could be quite nasty for all. Let’s just say I have seen some nasty indigenous wildlife…However, what I got this time was “A desperate plan”. One random figure doesn’t move but one other character of the players choice gets two actions; one in quick time and one in slow. In the event, Pascal and Veyon both moved in the quick round. Pascal advanced and got in close for a quick shot at the already stunned Dinohed.

Hit and a damage roll of 6! Another quick kill. At this point the leader would probably have tried to withdraw and fight another day, but this might have prejudiced the crew’s post battle circumstances. Veyon immediately went for a shot at the leader. Hit with one shot from her Blast-rifle. And a damage roll of…another 6!

Given that I have previously alluded to my earlier crew’s travails, the result of this mission was a surprise. I’ve got into all sorts of scrapes and suffered various wounds previously resulting in turns spent in med bay and out of action. Treatment has also caused me to literally bleed credits. So, this very short game was unexpectedly smooth. Subsequent conversations have suggested to me that you should expect the occasional “easier” experience. To take a phrase completely out of context; “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.” You can have hard days (which I most certainly had) but some days are just easier. However, it also turned out to lack in fringe benefits. While Pascal picked up the item of interest for 2 XP, we got no battlefield finds. Very disappointing. Post-game we did pick up some loot, a “shock attachment” which imparts the “impact” trait to a firearm. Everyone picked up XP, especially Pascal (7 – including one in the after the battle phase because the local food was so good!) and Veyon as a result of her two kills. We also picked up a new patron.

But otherwise, I really think it is time to get off this unpromising rock. The crew took a gamble, paid 5 Cr for fuel and the Pi blasted out of Palacco spaceport looking for opportunities elsewhere…

Five Parsecs From Home – The Pi Campaign

Marcus takes off into deep space with his crew of ne’er-do-wells in the start of a new solo campaign.

According to the strapline, Five Parsecs from Home is “A solo adventure wargame of galactic trailblazing!”. Originally published amongst a host of other products from Nordic Weasel Games, I bought the original some years ago but never got it to the table as I often don’t with electronic products (but you can get it from Drive Thru RPG here). When Modiphius produced a lovely, updated physical version in 2021 I had to give it a try.

The game relies heavily on tables to generate characters and events each turn. It is hardly surprising that rolling up my characters was an activity redolent with memories of half-forgotten episodes of ‘80’s role playing.

Having had a couple of games which went well in terms of understanding, but very much not so in if judged by any standard of success, I regretfully decided to roll up a new crew and record the results for general edification.

Firstly, the Captain: Veyon Ostrova (human). While Veyon grew up on a Research Outpost which gave her some technical background, her family were artists. She has as a result a bit of savy and a slice of luck. She is motivated by wealth.

Veyon and Pascal

Pascal Xavier (human “bio-up”). Pascal is an unusual character. From a wealthy background he is bio-adjusted with cybernetics, (including the ability to avoid a stun on a D6 roll of 5+). Pascal has a political motivation (which I suspect gives him some revolutionary leanings) and a mysterious patron, a private organization with some as yet unspecified objectives. Nevertheless, he is also quite savvy. He is not short of a bit of cash and generated a story point, which can adjust matters in the player’s favour; a lucky break or perhaps a dramatic twist in the story…

San Holo (humanoid alien). San is particularly notable for his blueish skin tone and has innate engineering skills. Brought up on a space station, he is not as tough as the others, but he is fast. He is a bit of a scoundrel but is motivated by romance. Is he looking for a lost love? San also generated a story point.

Holo and Tigg

Nira Tigg (human) grew up in with a ganger background. Whatever happened on that mining colony she grew up on, she is out for blood! She is motivated by revenge. As a result she is tough (+1), has two experience points and faster reactions (+1) than the norm, but also has a rival. Somebody is gunning for her too!

Kel Wyre. Not unlike Nira, Kel has an unhappy background. Escaping from some war-torn hell-hole of a planet with two experience points and (+1) quick reactions, he values his freedom above anything else. And what way to assure that than a ready supply of cash? Kel is a scavenger who has his ear to the ground (+1 rumour) and has managed to acquire a sniper rifle.

Finally, Wellington Duo (human) grew up in a wealthy merchant family and perhaps not surprisingly he is motivated by the acquisition of wealth himself. He has some experience in corporate espionage and a corporate patron who has provided the crew with their first job. He has a handy way with tech (he has a repair bot and knows how to use it with +1 to repairs)

Their ship is a lowly rust-bucket of a freighter. Its registration ends with the digits …31.4. San remarked on this and Veyon replied “Then it will be Pi in the Sky” and the name stuck.

Wyre and Duo

Next time we’ll get stuck into some action…

What a (Christmas) Tanker !

Marcus takes us through this year’s Christmas shenanigans, as we all turned into complete tankers…

I think I first suggested having a game of “What A Tanker” (WAT) as a club Christmas game in early 2020. We all know what happened next. This year we finally got a Christmas outing for this Lardy game at the club, with ten participants. Thanks to Phil and Tony, we were able to choose from a wide variety of tanks, from recently painted Pz 35’s and FCM-36’s to Phil’s scratch-built Maus. (“No Phil, there are no stats for a Maus!”) No-one even noticed that I didn’t complete my ESCI Jagd. Pz. IV, or finish re-conditioning my Jagd. Panther, as Phil had managed to recondition his with a generous helping of agrax earthshade, nuln oil or some such alchemy

Between Alan and Tony, we were provided with a couple of great tables (perhaps too great…) with plenty of cover representing western European towns with villages, woods and crossroads etc. Plenty of cover…

The idea was that we would have two tables; late war and early war. If you got knocked out you would simply join the other table, not necessarily on the same side. However, while you were on a table, you would be either German or Allied; no “own goals” to boost your scoring as it were.

We also generated a simple system of scoring. If you got a kill you divided the points value of the target as listed in the WAT rulebook by the firer (TV/FV * 10 = score). Tony produced a nice table to cross reference the values easily.

Late War Table

I started on the late war table driving a Stuart, with Steve and “Baggins” (my youngest) driving Shermans. Our initial nasty Nazi opponents were Andy and Alan, both with Pz.IV’s.
While Steve and Baggins drove up the flanks, I ventured through the outskirts of a village to find Alan’s Pz.IV on the road more or less blocking my advance. Both Steve and I struggled to manoeuvre with our dice, which can be a frustration with the rules. Many modifications were suggested, and I took notes with a view to my own Grav Tanker variant. As I tried to extricate myself from the built-up area and with Steve attempt to outflank him on our left, Baggins moved up on the right all guns blazing at Andy. These two ended up in a protracted fire fight with Baggins in position behind a wall and Andy, IIRC, initially behind some hedges and the traversing between the woods and hedges as a result of a series of non-damaging hits. Eventually Andy paid a heavy penalty and brewed up and Boaz picked up the “Impressive Bush” camouflage card. Meanwhile, first Steve and then I joined in pumping rounds into Alan, with Steve finishing him off and earning a “Hell Driver” card.

Jeremy joined us having suffered brutally on the early war table, and boosted the axis forces with Andy’s departure. Baggins traded shots with a returning Alan as Jeremy moved up. Baggins then got his come-uppance and while attempting to get up close and personal with Jeremy (talk of ramming was heard) suffered a kill at Jeremy’s hands and promptly left for the early war table. Steve and I again poured fire into the luckless Alan, whose dice rolls deserted him. Somewhere amongst the melee (as it was very much close quarters stuff) my Stuart went BOOM and it was Steve again who got the kill, then promptly had to leave the game early. Meanwhile Baggins had got a kill on the early war table where Andy had suffered more ill-fortune!

Between us, we took a grand total of two photos of the late war table – a bit of an oversight when it came to writing up the game here ! Here’s Andy’s view of the table(Ed)

Early War Table
Marcus didn’t make it onto the 1940 table, so Tony F outlines what happened over there

The early war table was slightly larger with less cover than the late war one, which probably made for a more open game. We also ruled early on that the flimsy wooden fences didn’t count as obstacles – we allowed tankers to see and drive through them without penalty. There were plenty of tanks to choose from – 9 French (FCM-36, R-35, H-35, H-39/40, FT-17, AMC-35, Char D2, Char B1 bis and SOMUA S-35), 5 British (Mk.IVc, A-9, A-10, A-13 and Matilda), 10 German (Pz.IIC, Pz.IIE, Pz.IIIF, Pz.IVA. Pz.IVD. Pz.35(t), Pz.38(t), PzJg.I, StuG IIIA and a Neubaufahrzeug!), and even some Belgians (T.13B3, T.15 and ACG-1). Not all of these are in the rulebook, but coming up with stats for them was pretty straightforward – I drew up a chart for easy reference.

All tankers started the game with a Level 1 tank, and we allowed upgrades to better vehicles as the game went on. The Germans, Brian, Jeremey and Pete, started out with a Pz.35(t), Pz.IVA and Pz.Jg I respectively. Dave and Chris both chose British Cruisers (A10 and A9), while I took a French Hotchkiss H-35. All we can say is that if the Allies had performed on the battlefield like they did on our table, WW2 would have been over in June 1940 ! Chris took up a firing position looking straight down the road and proceeded to ping away at anything that moved with his trusty 2pdr, while Dave and I ‘raced’ up the flanks (in our slow tanks). Details are hazy, but we wiped out the first wave of Germans without loss, including Jeremey’s brave Pz.IVA that advanced across the fields to challenge Chris at point blank. The duel at the abandoned farm between Pete’s PzJg.I and my H.35 was a contest between his powerful Czech-made 47mm gun and my thicker-than-average armour, offset by his tin plate defence and my short 37mm popgun. In the end, unlike in 1940, it went the way of the French. As we wore down the Germans various tank commanders switched tables – Andy turned up in a StuG.IIIA and Boaz a late model Pz.38(t), but they were seen off in equally short order, although there were some interesting cat-and-mouse chases around the village. Dave and Chris both eventually lost their original mounts (Dave swapped his for a shiny new Matilda.II) but my Hotchkiss led a charmed life and survived the day with just the permanent loss of one dice (and a lot of dents in the armour).

In the end we didn’t keep an accurate tally of the overall scoring, but Dave seems to have emerged as Top Tanker with four kills set against a single loss, followed by my plucky H-35 with four kills and no losses (Dave’s kills were of higher value targets which offset the loss of his A10). Kills seemed to be harder to come by on the late war table.

Messing About in Boats

For our recent Stargrave jaunt to the planet of Aqua Sulis, the five players were required to bring a boat. It could be anything that floated in, on or above the water, there were no design rules. Here we run over the various tubs, buckets and hulks that were served up.


Eric went for a laser-cut survey shuttle from Blotz that could obviously float on the surface of the sea. He should have done a little better with the security features, since it turned out to be very easy to break down the back door, shoot the pilot and steal the boat.


A few months ago, Stephen said he would run a Stargrave scenario based on a Waterworld location, and asked us to build some form of maritime transport.
I did a web search for 28mm boats, and amongst the hits was a Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) from AnyScaleModels.

The main hull is around 7” long and 2.25” wide. Plenty of room for my crew I thought.
I needed to make it look a bit more Sci Fi than modern, so I asked Tony at Brigade if he had some suitable engine nacelles I could scrounge, he came up with some from their 15mm Perseus VTOL. I also had a few other bits and pieces from Brigade in the bits box: some Sensor turrets and some Heavy Laser guns from their Mercenary range.

Both the boat and engine nacelles had a few air bubbles that needed to be filled, I used some Humbrol Model filler for this. After drying and sanding down, the boat components and nacelles were washed in soapy water and allowed to dry.
The wings attached to the nacelles were quite thin, 2-3mm at most, this required that I drill and pin the short wings to the boat hull, as a glue only joint wouldn’t be sufficient.

I decided to mount the engine nacelles roughly amidships, in line with the pilot’s seat and control panel. I drilled a hole for the sensor turret in the front deck. On reflection I might have offset the pilot’s seat to one side rather than have it central.

Once the superglue had dried, I primed the boat with Halford’s grey primer, and then gave the boat a coat of Warpaint Soviet Green.

Once the Soviet Green had dried, I painted the sensor lens, engine intakes and exhaust matt black, I painted some of the boat’s hatches Gunmetal Grey.
I then painted the detail on the control panel, matt Black dials and Crystal Blue screens. The pilot’s seat was painted Khaki Grey. The final touch was silver on the wing leading edge lights and red and green navigation lights, touching up any errors with Russian Uniform WWII, which I found to be almost an exact match for the Warpaint Soviet Green spray paint
Once the model was dry, I gave it washes, Military shader on the green areas, Dark Tone on the metal hatches and engine nacelle grills and Strong Tone Wash on the seat.

I then had a hunt through my transfer box and found some very old decals from a couple of Airfix kits; some registration numbers from a Swedish Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight and name plates “Apollo” from a Churchill Tank kit. I also found a couple of DANGER decals from another helicopter kit.
I painted a layer of gloss varnish over the areas to which I intended to apply the transfers, which, considering their age, went on easily without breaking up.
Once the decals had dried, I gave the boat a couple of coats of matt varnish, and here she is, the Apollo, ready to venture forth in Waterworld.


When Stephen suggested the Waterworld game I thought that I would pass just because it involved building a boat and I really wasn’t sure I could be bothered. Then with a couple of weeks to go he asked me I was up for the game and I agreed.

Bum, now I needed to come up with a boat.

Fortunately this proved to be a fairly simple affair. Hidden away in a corner of my cellar were a few Games Workshop kits that I had been bought as presents many years ago. Combining bits from a couple of these gave a simple boat / skimmer that could fit my entire ship’s company.

The main part of the hull came from a 40K Tau Tidewall floaty thing. The exact model doesn’t seem to be available anymore but a couple of similar ones are still on the GW website. The dome at the back game from an Age of Sigmar Grundstock Gunhauler – another floaty thing. By chance the dome piece fitted precisely on a flat part at the back of the Tau model. Nice and easy.

Painting was also straight forward. A spray of GW Zandri dust and some complementary reds and browns from Wargames Foundry. And of course the obligatory GW washes to finish. It only took a day to make which was better than I expected.


Tim was the only one to go fully scratchbuilt, with a cross between a canal barge and a WW2 landing craft made from foam card. The cogs and wheels were ‘liberated’ from his wife’s craft supplies (we wonder if she knew ?). Looks like a bit of a pig to steer, but it was a cunning move to make it this long since the prow of Tim’s boat started 6″ further into the table than anyone else !


Finally, Tony went down the Don Johnson/Miami Vice route with a full-on speedboat. It started out as an accessory for a 6″ action figure – origin unknown. It was purchased from a bootfair for 50p, so who’s complaining ? I ripped out the existing cockpit, fitted a new plasticard floor, jump seats, engine and other bits and pieces from my spares box and gave it a quick respray complete with go-faster stripes. Only it didn’t go any faster since it spent most of the game being boarded by giant frogs or dragged down by a sea kraken.

Populating the Desert

At our recent Open Day I ran a 6mm sci-fi game using the Hammer’s Slammers:The Crucible rules. I created a lot of new desert terrain for the event and thought I’d write up some of the methods I used to create it. If you want to read about the game itself, there’s a report on the Hammer’s Slammers website with lots of photos of the game in action.

Sacred Sands
One major component of almost every item of terrain is the ground texture. I used a mixture of sand (bird cage sand from a pet shop), household emulsion paint and PVA glue in a ratio of roughly 3:2:1. I had a litre of paint mixed by my local B&Q to match Army Painter’s Skeleton Bone spray paint (I sprayed a small square of plastic card which they stuck in their scanner) for a very reasonable £18. I made up batches of the ground texture mix in an ice-cream tub so that it was always ready to go – and after building all of the terrain below I have about 2/3rds of the paint left.

Once dry, the ground was washed with a decent coat of Citadel sepia shade, then drybrushed with Citadel Tyrant Skull. This pretty simple method gave me a quick to apply, good looking and consistently repeatable ground texture.

I scoured eBay for suitable grass tufts in various sizes and shades of dry grass and found a good pair of sources in Boontown Metals and Serious-Play. These were used sparingly, the desert was supposed to be arid.

Happiness is the Road
The roads were made them from Busch model railway roads, which are a sort of very thin self-adhesive foam with markings printed on in white. The two-lane roads were 40mm wide, maybe a little overscale but some sci-fi tanks are pretty big so they look fine. As a base I used 3mm sheets of black Foamex – this is less likely to warp, as card or MDF is prone to. The edges were roughly bevelled with a knife and textured. I made some T junctions and crossroads by butting up sections of road surface and drawing in the road markings with a white acrylic paint pen.

2-4-6-8 Motorway

I had visions of making a big four-lane highway for a couple of reasons – firstly, it would be an impressive large terrain piece, which 6mm scenery can sometimes lack, and secondly it would cut down lines of fire and prevent heavy tanks dominating the battlefield and being able to fire from one side of the table to the other (heavy tank guns have no maximum range in Hammer’s Slammers). The motorway was mounted on 2″ thick insulation foam – I used normal white polystyrene, pink or blue foam would have been better but I already had the polystyrene to hand. This was cut into four 8″ wide, 18″ lengths with a hand saw – do this outside, it makes one heck of a mess! The edges were then bevelled at a 45° angle with a hot wire cutter resulting in a 4″ wide plateau. I ran two lengths of Busch roads down either side of this plateau, leaving a narrow central reservation. The edges and centre were textured as normal, and I put in a small piece of tiled plasticard in each section – the intention with this is so I could put in road signs at some point, although I haven’t done that yet.

One length was cut in half, and one end of each short length bevelled to match the sides. I scratchbuilt a simple bridge from plasticard and Plastruct girders, which was long enough so that one of my normal two-lane roads could pass underneath. The bridge was made so that it could be lifted out – this was for two reasons; firstly, I thought that attaching the bridge to the two end pieces would be too fragile, and secondly it gave me the option to add a destroyed version later.

I’ve learnt in the past that linear obstacles need more than one crossing point, otherwise you end up with a nasty bottleneck and the whole game ends up revolving around this one point. So I used the hot wire cutter to make two tunnels under the roadway – one larger one which is big enough to take a road, the other smaller one which is big enough for infantry on foot or small vehicles. For the larger one I used a piece of plastic cable trunking to make the concrete tunnel, the small one was made from plasticard. This left three crossing points so gives the attacking side more options. The sides of the embankment are rather steep, too much for heavy vehicles, but I allowed light vehicles (jeeps and infantry skimmers) and infantry on foot to climb them as if in bad going.

Houses in Motion

All of the buildings are from Brigade Models’ various desert-themed resin scenery ranges. I stuck them on more 3mm Foamex with Uhu glue and textured between them with the usual mixture. The buildings were sprayed with Army Painter’s Skeleton Bone, washed with Agrax Earthshade (GW) and drybrushed with Terminatus Stone (GW again). To add a splash of colour, doors and details were painted using GW Contrast Paints which give a decent effect in one coat.

One of my main sources of inspiration for the look of the buildings was the various Star Wars stories set on Tatooine. One standout feature of these is the fabric awnings across the entrances and frontages of many of them. I tried to replicate this using pieces of textured paper hand towels (some nasty thick industrial ones that don’t so much dry your hands as redistribute the water…) which I soaked in watered down PVA and strung across paperclip wire supports. Once dry I used Contrast Paints and drybrushing, often matching the awning colour to the other spot colours on the buildings.

I put some buildings on sections of road which allowed me to do some more interesting things such as a footbridge that passed over the road, or parking bays/side roads. The obelisk outside the tower below comes from Brigade’s 2mm range.

The objective of the game was to capture a series of radar stations that controlled the approach to the nearby starport. These all came from the Brigade range including several with ‘golf ball’ style radar enclosures and another tall tower with a radar on top. I added extra small buildings to the bases of some.

The Temple of Doom
I had a ruined ancient temple that had been cluttering up my office for ages – it was an aquarium ornament picked up from a pet shop. This was stuck on a small polystyrene hill with ramps and steps up to the summit. I repainted it in the same way as the other buildings. I discovered that the resin was rather fragile – it had an accident that lowered the heights of all the columns at one end…

Hanging on the Telephone
I scratchbuilt some simple telegraph poles using lengths of cocktail stick and short pieces of plastic strip for the crossbars superglued together, based on 20mm wooden discs from The Works. Ground texture, a single coat of brown contrast paint and a quick drybrush and they were done.

We Got the Power
In a box in my shed o’ stuff I unearthed three 3D printed power pylons, bought back in the days when they were still a sensible price on Shapeways. These were duly stuck on Foamex bases, sprayed with gray primer and drybrushed – again, job done and some welcome height added to the board.

Blood on the Track
A monorail ran across the town, made from Brigade Model’s elevated track and a selection of freight wagons. The pylons were based on 30mm wooden discs and the track was painted in the same way as the buildings. I initially painted the track silver and washed it but that made it too dull, so I went over the rail again with a silver paint pen to make it brighter.

And finally, a few shots of the game on the day. The Slammer’s Regiment (silver hovertanks) were mostly painted by Jon Roche, the Zaporoskiye Regiment in their superb green/white/brown urban camo’ were painted by Mark Johnson. The blue tracked vehicles are Guardforce O’Higgins, painted by me.

Return to Tatooine

The good weather appears to have slowed down member’s painting and modelling activities, so instead of a WIP Wednesday post, here’s Tony’s account of the Society’s game at Broadside.

At the recent Broadside show in Gillingham, the club resurrected an old game from many years ago – its first outing was way back in 1997. Originally named with the simple but descriptive title of ‘Tatooine Droid Hunt’, it was rebadged as ‘Utini!’ for this outing, which is a Jawa exclamation of shock or surprise.

The game centres around a Jawa sandcrawler during the opening scenes of Star Wars:A New Hope. Imperial stormtroopers are hunting for C3P0 and R2D2 amongst the droid waifs and strays which have been collected by the sandcrawler crew. Back in the day we didn’t take any photos of the game in action (it was before the days of camera phones) so this was a good chance to fill a gap in the club’s historical record.

The sandcrawler was scratchbuilt by Phil, the stormtroopers and Jawas are long-OOP figures from West End Games painted by Tony F and the droids are from the Galoob micro-machines range. Phil is going to write-up the sandcrawler build in more detail for the website, but for now here’s a gallery of photos from Broadside taken by Andy.