Archive for Review

Dropzone Commander = Win!

Posted in Battle Report, Dropzone Commander, Games with tags , , , on October 23, 2013 by stingersix

Dropzone Commander is, in a word, fun! The Dropzone was commanded!

(Scroll down for pics)

I got my first game in last night with Ian Chadwick. We used the models in the starter set – I played UCM and Ian took the Scourge. DZC was exactly what I was hoping for in a sci-fi minis game; it was dynamic, fast-paced and engaging.

First of all, it looks awesome all set up! The cityscape that comes with the starter set is an inspired bit of design. You get two poster maps, which are different and these fit together to form a grid of city streets. On top of this, you set up 10 card building that are also included. They fold out and are ready to go in no time at all. I usually don’t play without fully painted minis but Ian and I were so hot to try this game we just put them together and went for it. I did manage to get a coat of color primer on them and painted one dropship but even without paint, they looked awesome on the board! When we have our armies fully painted this game is just going to be brilliant! As a longtime Epic Space Marine fan, the larger scale is very appealing to me. You definitely get a greater sense of looking at an entire battlefield, of being in command of an entire operation instead of a smaller tactical engagement.

Any wargame that even attempts to predict the battlefield of the future needs to take the effect of technology on combat doctrine into account. Games like 40K are simply WW2 with lasers. Even Stargrunt (which I still love) is really Vietnam in space. DZC may not hit all the buttons but it certainly feels like it’s hitting a lot of them.

First off, all armies are entirely airmobile, or at least highly mobile (one race, the Shaltari, teleport around the battlefield). This means that the battlefield is a constantly changing environment as units can rapidly redeploy where needed and the game mechanics reflect this. For example, a UCM APC can move 4″ which isn’t horrible but a dropship can pick it up and move it up to 9″ in one turn. Since all units can do this, it means that simply driving forward on the ground is more of a last resort – you only really do it unless your dropships are gone. In the game we played, the APCs drove on the ground the last few inches to their objectives after disembarking from their dropships (which then pulled back into cover somewhere, waiting on station for the call for dustoff).

Many minis games I have played feel very static compared to DZC. Even mobile armies in 40K don’t move like DZC units do (of course the different scales make a difference here). In DZC, if you find that things are happening somewhere else on the battlefield, you really can redeploy all the way across the map in very short order. Early in our game, I flew in with an infantry unit, occupied and objective building on T1, located the objective on T2, then re-embarked and got it off the map! Granted I was lucky on the search roll, but man it was fast!

After that it looked like things were developing on the opposite side of the map, so I started picking up units and flying them over that way. Later, when I found my heavy tanks a bit out of position, again I picked them up and flew them where they needed to be. The ground units did drive around some of course, but when they needed to cover longer distance, they could call in the dropships to pick them up.

So, the game makes the dropships and transports extremely important. Lose your mobility and your chances of success drop rapidly. Late game, one of Ian’s APCs was hauling ass for the board edge with an objective. The only units I had in range that could stop him were my AA tanks, which are fortunately also effective against ground units (unlike Scourge AA tanks). I took out his APC, but his infantry survived (luckily for him). I wasn’t able to stop him from scoring for holding that objective, but there was no way he was getting off the board with those infantry, which wound up diving into a building to hide until game end.

The dynamic game play also means that the momentum and initiative can shift rapidly. I had the lead early on, but Ian was in position to score late game. As unit attrition wore me down, it became clear that Ian was set up for an end run, which he managed to pull off for the win (barely – had I killed his infantry in the destroyed APC, we would have been tied on objectives). The sequence of play uses alternate unit activation, which I vastly prefer over Igo-Ugo systems. Since you roll for initiative every turn, this has a big effect on tactics and your choice of what units to move and when. It also means you’re never sitting around waiting for your turn for very long.

Many weapons have infinite range (basically LOS) unless firing at a unit with active countermeasures, which brings the ranges down to 36″ or (much) less. This feels right as a railgun or laser should have no trouble engaging something it can see. Infantry in the open are thus extremely vulnerable as they have no countermeasures (usually). The best they can hope for is to be ignored. But since they are the only units capable of entering buildings where the objectives often are, they’re priority targets. On foot, they only have a 2″ move. Once they’re inside a building, it’s often better to try and take the building down to kill the infantry (though some buildings are quite tough).

This brings another element of the game into play – CQB (Close Quarters Battle). Infantry vs infantry fights usually are going to happen inside a building, and the game makes this go very quickly. One side or the other will be wiped out or broken in one round. My dice crapped out me (rolling only 3 hits on 12 dice needing 4+ – I rolled 5 1’s and the rest 2’s and 3’s!) and Ian’s Scourge warriors killed two squads and broke the other one. Despite that, I like this – the image of two opposing platoons fighting like vicious rats inside a building captures the tension and terror of CQB quite well.

So, all that put together made for a very fun game. Even though we were stopping often to look things up, I can see that once we have the rules down, this will go much much faster. Understanding how units embark and disembark their transports, the way units move and the possibilities that opens up is the key to DZC.

On top of all that, the story and background is also cool. It has shades of Mass Effect and Babylon 5 running throughout. I like the idea that although humanity lost the Earth, it has recovered and is now launching a massive counteroffensive to take it back. In that regard it is a universe where there is still hope, as opposed to the relentless grimdark of other game worlds. There is also room for more new races in the future, beyond the four already in the game. I understand the Hawk Wargames is working on a rebel army list, allowing you to play the stay-behind survivors of the Scourge invasion, and these guys roll out in these awesome looking Mad Max style trucks and whatnot. The aliens are well thought out too, and the armies really do play quite differently.

To sum up, I’m super happy with the DZC starter set! You get a ton of great stuff for about $100. Just go check it out on the Hawk Wargames website. Ian and I are already looking forward to picking up some of the other units and expanding our armies!

Pics below!

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Tomorrow’s War – Contact Front!

Posted in Games with tags , on December 16, 2011 by stingersix

Finally got a learning game of Ambush Alley’s Tomorrow’s War in last night. Although I’m sure Chris and I missed a few things and lingering memories of Stargrunt may have caused a few hiccups, I really love this game!

I mention Stargrunt because TW really is the spiritual successor to that game – unit effectiveness based on troop quality and morale is the heart of the game. The point is, a poorly trained conscript with an advanced combat rifle is dangerous, sure, but I’d rather face him than a Delta Force operator armed with a spear. In TW, what this means is better quality troops are probably going to kick nine kinds of hell out of lesser quality troops unless that difference is made up with numbers. Weapons and technology can provide an edge but it’s not a huge advantage overall.

In play, when a unit opens fire you roll a dice pool and look for 4+, and the dice you roll are based on troop quality;. Regulars roll a d8. Green troops get a d6. You roll one die per figure in the unit and add dice for other factors. For example, my 4-man fire team gets a base of 4d8 (1d8 per guy). The SAW gunner adds an additional d8 and the rocket launcher adds another 2d8 for a total of 7d8. If my troops’ Tech Level is higher than my opponent’s, I add another die for the difference (TL3 v TL2 would give me +1). So when I open fire, I roll all those dice and look for rolls of 4+ (successes).

There is no range measuring, which is nice – if you have an unblocked LOS you can shoot it. If you’re within Optimum range (8″ for Regular troops) you can add another Firepower die to your roll.

Against this the defender also rolls Troop Quality dice, one per figure in the squad, plus dice for armor, cover and other factors. A 6-man team with hard armor (2d) in cover (1d) would roll 9 dice, also looking for 4+. Then the defender tries to equal or exceed the attacker’s successes with his dice, and any that aren’t beaten indicate casualties. In play, this went surprisingly quick once we’d done it a few times. There are no pluses or minuses to figure out, only adding or taking away dice from your pool.

But the real beauty of the game is the Action/Reaction system. If I do an action with a unit in LOS of your unit, you can try to react and interrupt me. We roll off Troop Quality to see who goes first. This system can set off complicated chains of reactions but it definitely works and definitely gives the game a constant level of action. You can set units on Overwatch to try to interrupt enemy Reactions. It takes a lot to explain perhaps, but in play, it makes a lot of sense. The result is a very fluid game with a lot of back and forth and player involvement.

That’s what really sells it for me. I really dislike the Igo-Ugo sequence of play in 40K. Standing there doing nothing while an enemy waltzes right up to you is silly. Plus there’s a lot of down time while you just watch your opponent moving around and you can do nothing to react until he’s all done. Charging an unsuppressed and active enemy pretty much equals suicide, so you do end up having to employ more realistic tactics to reach your objectives. TW makes every move a potential turning point.

TW does have some issues – some rules aren’t entirely clear or even somewhat contradictory, and the organization of the rules is kind of scattered (why is it always like this?) Leaders are present but don’t seem to have nearly the impact they do in Stargrunt (and I still love how SG leaders can reactivate finished units). But just on one play I can see this is a game I can really sink my teeth into. Some more time with the rulebook and a couple more games and I’ll be deep into Tomorrow’s War!

I’ll get some pics of the game up soon!

Pig Iron Pt.3 – Kolony Militia

Posted in Companies, Minis, Review with tags , , , on June 25, 2009 by stingersix

Continuing my Pig Iron Productions posts, here are some pics of my Kolony Militia platoon. These minis seem to be some of Pig Iron’s most popular, and you can see why. They have a retro look with the gas masks and Fritz style helmets, and I understand this makes them great stand-ins for the uber-expensive Death Korps of Krieg minis that Forge World makes for 40K.

This line represents Pig Iron really hitting its stride. They did a great job with their Heavy Infantry and vehicles, and the Kolony troops really hit it out of the park! The figures are well proportioned, cleanly cast in a variety of poses, and have the same distinctive look that the Heavy Infantry have. They also come with separate heads and combined with one of Pig Iron’s head sprues, allows for customization and conversion. This makes this line, like all of Pig Iron’s stuff, extremely versatile and cool to boot!

On with the pictures!

This is one of the rifle squads.
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This is the leader. I used one of the Pig Iron heads and shaved the kepi down to make a peaked cap.
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Here’s another leader conversion. This one is a Hasslefree head and a Pig Iron head. I had to file down both to make them fit together. This would have gone a lot faster if I’d had a Dremel or some such tool…
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And a few shots of various troops.
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The Kolony range is growing too, with some Rebels that would make great Chaos cultists or other rabble or militia. I just can’t say enough good things about Pig Iron!

Stargrunt

Posted in Review with tags , , , on June 17, 2009 by stingersix

I want to talk a bit about Stargrunt, which has been my preferred minis game for the past 3 years or so. This is not a new game – in fact, it’s 13 years old, having been published by Ground Zero Games in 1996. Actually the proper name of the game is Stargrunt II, the original having been a smaller set of self published rules.

Stargrunt is designed for 25mm minis but works just as well with 15mm or 28mm minis, and the design philosophy is basically “bring whatever you want to the table”. That’s an attitude I like and it allows you to exercise your creativity when making up your forces and the fluff to go with them. Ground Zero Games has their fluff and background but by no means requires you to use it.

With the very small group of players I managed to cultivate, we’ve had a great time designing a setting in which to set our battles. Check out this thread on the Endgame forums to see what we’ve done, and this thread for a battle report.

So what’s to like about this game? Like any game, it is designed to deliver on a certain set of demands and expectations. Now, I’ve played quite a few minis games, including 40K (admittedly, 20 years ago, but anyway) and most of them at the 28mm scale focus on the individual trooper. Sure, they’re usually part of a unit but generally the rules treat each figure on the table separately.

That’s fine, but it’s important to realize that makes most games like this are skirmish games. I find that with a lot of skirmish style games, the sort of fire and movement tactics I’d like to employ are hard to use or not really effective. Skirmish games also often have a strong focus on individual hero figures who do most of the ass kicking, or suck up a lot of points and just get killed. Again, I don’t mind this in a skirmish game, but I like playing games at a slightly higher level of focus – platoon or company level tactics.

And that’s what Stargrunt does. Units act as whole units, firing, checking morale and performing other actions as a unit. When you open fire for example, you don’t roll a die for each figure in the unit, you roll one die for the unit’s overall firepower, and its training (plus a die for any integral support weapons).

I really like this, particularly the idea of the unit’s troop quality level determining the effectiveness of its fire. Green units for example, engage targets at a much shorter range and effectiveness than an elite unit, which only makes sense. The game streamlines this by matching the basic range band unit to their quality and linking that to the type of die they roll. A Green unit for example, has a basic range band of 6″ and rolls a d6. This makes it fairly easy to remember what to roll.

And generally everything is an opposed roll so you’re always involved. The turn sequence also keeps your eyes on the table since players alternate moving their units. So rather than waiting for other other guy to move all his units, you move a squad, he moves a squad, and so on.

You really feel Stargrunt’s focus on troop quality and morale in play. High quality troops truly can do more with less. Since pinning units with suppressing fire is a valid and viable tactic in this game, having good troops can make a big difference. In one game I witnessed, the attacking player had Veteran troops and the defender had Green troops. The Veteran troops kept taking Suppression markers but were able to shrug them off and keep going fairly easily. The Green troops on the other hand, tended to get Suppressed and stay that way.

In Stargrunt your commanders actually command as opposed to playing Rambo. The big benefit of having a platoon or company commander on the field is their ability to reactivate units that have already had their actions, thus giving them another turn essentially. Seeing this particular feature in play is really quite interesting. Skillful use of this ability can really widen your tactical options.

So, Stargrunt has a very “realistic” feel to it, if you want to employ squad level tactics that simulate their real-world application. The textbook way of taking out an enemy position is to suppress it with one fire team, flank it with another, and then close on it and destroy it. You can do this in Stargrunt. Charging headlong in the open against an enemy that is not suppressed results in what you would expect, your broken and routing squad.

The game is not perfect. The layout is not user friendly, with the order of the chapters not flowing intuitively from one to the other. There has only ever been one edition, and if there were to be a second, I would ask for a complete reorganization of the rules, and an index. The writing is not always clear and needs to be tightened up, and there are a lot of little omissions and things that aren’t exactly clearly stated. Plus there is a bit of a learning curve compared to many other minis games. It’s not difficult, it’s just that there are a lot of things to soak up. Despite this, once you get the game going and start to realize just what it can do, it’s a lot of fun. Stargrunt has more depth than you might think.

Stargrunt is out of print, but not unavailable. Print copies can be had (complete with a set of the game’s counters) for just 5 bucks! You can also download a copy of the rules absolutely free from Ground Zero Games as well!

There aren’t too many Stargrunt websites, but one of the best that leads to most of the others is Stargrunt.ca and HyperBear is another excellent Stargrunt site.

The Pig Iron minis I’ve painted recently were all done for games of Stargrunt, and the focus of my collecting and painting right now is building platoons for Stargrunt.

I’m always up for a game of Stargrunt! Drop me a line if you want to give it a try!

Pig Iron Productions – Pt.2

Posted in Companies, Minis with tags , , , on June 11, 2009 by stingersix

As far as I can tell, one of the first things Pig Iron Productions produced was their resin vehicle line.  This line of armored vehicles is made especially versatile by the line of turrets available. Basically, you can have a tank, an APC, or an IFV simply by putting on the appropriate turret on top of the basic vehicle chassis.

When I first came across it, I immediately liked it. First, it was big – it actually looked like it could hold 8 men and their equipment inside. Second, it didn’t have skulls all over it. Third, I could get it in any of three versions.

It’s a resin kit, but is very easy to put together. It has a few metal fittings that go right on without any real trimming or cutting necessary. The chassis is all one piece, so you just glue a backplate on to it, and then attach the turret. The IFV turret can be customized with different weapons too!

I got the Ironstorm. Mine looks like this:

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Like the infantry miniatures, the Ironstorm paints up very easily. I used Tamiya spray paint to do this color scheme, and managed to get the camo pattern without an airbrush. The insignia on the side comes out of my bits box, where I have a stack of old model decals. I made the radio antennae out of a piece of plastic sprue stretched over a candle flame (an old modelling trick). The turret rotates freely, and the chain gun on the side is metal. If you look at the model closely, it really is a very simple design, but it’s really executed well.

Maybe the best thing about this model is you can paint or convert it in all kinds of different ways. I’ve seen 40K players stick 40K vehicle bits on it (read “skulls”), other paint jobs reminiscent of WW1 tanks, all kinds of stuff. This model really sparks your creativity!

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And I also like it simply because it’s different. You don’t see this model on the gaming table very often, if at all. The few times I’ve had it out, people are always asking about it.

There’s another more in-depth review of this kit on the excellent but sadly no longer updated Wee Toy Soliders blog.

Pig Iron Productions

Posted in Companies, Minis with tags , , , on June 9, 2009 by stingersix

I’ll start by talking about my current favorite miniatures company, Pig Iron Productions. Pig Iron is a small U.K. manufacturer (as many of them are), making a very nice range of all-purpose sci-fi minis in 28mm. Pig Iron essentially has two ranges – their Heavy Infantry range (whose minis grace my header up there) and their Kolony range. In this first post, I’ll talk about their Heavy Infantry range, which initially drew me to Pig Iron.

The Heavy Infantry figures caught my eye about 4 years ago when I was looking for minis that would be a good fit for my 2300AD roleplaying campaign. These figures have a nice, clean, one-piece design that paints up really well and fairly quickly. You can use them as human troops for most SF games, as military or police. With the excellent packs of separate heads, you can make many variations. The first few sculpts had some issues with the proportions of the legs, but with the release of the Hevay Infantry booster pack, this was fixed and the figures designed to take separate heads.

The basic troops look really good as you can see.

Squad

My paint scheme is desert camo. They’re supposed to be French Foreign Legion troops in the 2300AD universe. The FFL always conjures up images of the desert for me, so that’s where this came from. The base uniform color is GW Commando Khaki, with  brown and grey splotches. GW Catachan Green contrasts this nicely for the body armor, pouches and helmets.

The special weapon teams are cool, since they have both a “ready” (weapon set up) and “moving” (crew carrying the weapon components) poses. Here’s the missile team.

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The command team includes a leader, medic, sniper, and everyone’s favorite, a pack carrying robot.

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With Pig Iron’s extra head packs, I’ve been able to customize these minis just a bit.  The guy in front has one of these heads.

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So far, I’ve used these minis to play Stargrunt and they do look really nice on the table. I could easily use them as Imperial Guard troops, police, or any other near future type troops in light or medium body armor.

I bought the platoon pack directly from Simon at Pig Iron. It was a pretty good deal I thought, since I got 3 squads, all three weapon teams, the command squad and a set of casualties for about $90 (not including shipping). But that was 4 years ago and I was in Japan at the time and I forget the exchange rate, but it wasn’t too bad. You can get Pig Iron minis now through Rattlehead Games, which I highly recommend. A single 5-man squad goes for $14 at Rattlehead.

I also bought one of the Pig Iron vehicles but I’ll talk about that in another post. Here’s my entire Pig Iron Heavy Infantry force. This is one platoon pack, one booster pack, and one Ironstorm vehicle.

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Currently, Pig Iron is expanding its Kolony range (of which I also have a platoon of – I’ll get to them too) and there haven’t been any new minis in the Heavy Infantry range for a while. I’m hoping there will be at least a couple of new minis for this versatile and exciting range in the future!

Next time: The Pig Iron Ironstorm IFV!