Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ogre 6th Edition: unboxing & playthru

Ogre 6th Edition: hard game board and 3D Ogres - what's not to like!?
Well, getting your CP squashed by a massive cybernetic monster, I guess...

I'll have to exert myself not to fawn and gush over this lovely game.  In terms of play, it is an updated set of 6th Ed. rules from 2019 with options to use the traditional Ramming or updated Overrun rules, as well as options for some of the newer units: Mobile CP, for example.  There's a lot on the internet about this boxed 6th edition of the original pocket game, and it is still in print.

Below, the counters punch out easily, are high quality, thick, sturdy, and nicely done, as you can see.  The board is the wasteland with molten craters and is a hard board old school style, not just folded glossy paper.
Speaking of folded glossy paper, you can see the large hex GEV board that came with the miniatures box set under this game getting flattened out.  Both board and the relative size of the pieces and ogres is about 6mm / 1:285 or 1:300 or so.  One could easily use microarmor on these boards, and even more easily 3mm miniatures which are growing in popularity.

Close up of the Mobile CP, CP and Mk III Ogre.  Paneuro is blue, Combine red.

You can add craters or ridgelines, OR hide craters and ridgelines, to give the board more variety - both impede movement of various vehicles so you can also use it as a handicap for either side. The small counters for ridgelines blend in well!

Above, now you see them....
Below, now you don't, and the landscape is quite different!

Below, the assembled Mobile CP and immobile CP - stand up and stand out!

Ogres in all their glory.  Large Mk V and two small MkIIIs [small...relative to Mk V]. There is a grey cardboard edge to the assembled cardboard "miniatures" but that can be hidden with a sharpie.

Closeup of Mk IIIs - nice details. Winchell Chung would approve, I believe.

Mark V - looks like it's generously weaponized.

So, how smooth does the updated 6th ed. rules play out?  Must see!  So grabbed Mr. Winkie and put him at the end of the table with me, playing against the Ogre.  The Mk III Ogre was sort of computerized, in that when it had a choice of options I just diced for them, 50-50 or 1/3-1/3-1/3 with a d6.  Our setup is below:
Ogre is salivating [dripping oily fluids] on a fairly direct route to the CP.

Below, Paneuros are looking at the approaching tower sticking out of the dust cloud. Some GEVs at the front with a missile tank and infantry, and behind a mix of heavy tanks, infantry, one howitzer and the CP.

Closeup, the counters look good. There are equal numbers of infantry figs as there are squads, so if you see three Infantry there's three squads.
above, the second line of defense - heavy tanks and infantry to get close, and a missile tank and a howitzer to strike from afar.

Below, three GEVs and a missile tank, and some infantry in the forward line.

The Ogre enters the board after dicing for which column it should enter. The GEVs dash out to harass it, hoping not to get smeared on the counter-punch.

A few turns in, the second line is engaging, and most of the first line is destroyed [at top right]. The Ogre hasn't taken much damage yet...

Finally, the moment to pounce!  Paneuros close in and hit hard on Turn 5. The Ogre rolls poorly to ram a missile tank and shoot a heavy, both are only disabled...

Turn 6, despite a bunch of firepower, the Ogre is still running full steam - the howitzer has missed every shot at the treads.  While the Ogre has lots its main gun, it still has some secondaries and all the anti-personnel guns.

Turn 7, the Ogre is starting to outrun the pursuit!  Paneuro defenders failed to slow it to two hexes of movement. You REALLY need to roll average numbers of 5s and 6s to fight an Ogre!

Turn 8, the Ogre is slowed, but it is too late...

Mr. Winkie and his unhappy face.  Our CP is destroyed by Fire.  Just to have a little more fun, we played out the Ogre's retreat back to home base.  Of course NOW our shooting starts to get hot!

"The only GOOD ogre is a DEAD ogre!"   The last of Ogre's treads are destroyed, and it will be nuked to oblivion by the missile tanks from outside of its range, but the sector's CP is down and the wetbar was nuked.  Sadness everywhere...
Sad to say, there's not a lot of good ogres around in 2080...

Well, we had a great time on a lovely board with great looking physical components.  The game is just as much fun as ever and if you make a couple of errors or roll badly the Ogre will win.  

I like that it takes a bit of finesse to make the Paneuro combined arms company work well.  I think the easiest weapon is the missile tank, especially once the Ogre has only 2MP.  The Ogre should have spent its missiles towards the beginning, and lost its main gun, so should be easily outranged.  Then it is all about slowing it down.  In this game, we failed critical rolls with heavy tanks, the howitzer, and most of the missile tanks, and then got 1:1 Hits with the infantry and GEVs, which didn't damage the treads fast enough due to their weak attack strength.

The game is a classic, and I can highly recommend the value of the latest rules, the optional rules, the lovely components and the lovely terrain as giving the game lots of replay.  I've seen it for $40 or so, and think it is well worth it.

This has me stoked to continue developing some modern rules that are fast and easy to play.  I think the basic decisions are easy to see in Ogre, a solid design, and kudos to Steve Jackson for designing and developing a classic that has people playing lots of games and thinking tactically over and over and over!

Monday, September 6, 2021

"Battlesuit" by Steve Jackson: Box opening and Playtest

Future Combat from the 1980s!
Wait...that future is, well, NOW??

Life has been Ogragious lately!  Lots of modern combat games happening in small spaces, courtesy of Steve Jackson Games [CLICK].  These included Ogre Pocket Edition, Ogre 6th Edition, and the re-issues of GEV and Battlesuit in mini box format. They've fit in to the time and space available, and I've been learning or reinforcing some game design issues that have been on my mind a while. The relatively clear-cut mechanics and quick-play scenarios make thinking about the games easier, and they are still fun!

I wasn't planning to get Steve Jackson's "Battlesuit" at all, originally.  But regarding how games come and go out of print, etc, I decided it was just easier to grab this re-release / reprint of the original game.  The bonus over the magazine release of the game [which I have un-cut] is that the counters are a larger 1" and you get BOTH die-cut and the thin cardboard counters. As I can't find the original map, and small counters are tough to handle, I broke down and bought it.

  • Rules. Small print but handy to carry around. I had to photocopy at 40% tho'!
  • Map. Interesting throwback, in an unusual reddish tinge. Woods are bit muted.
  • Counters. These came in two variants:
    • Die-cut: Thicker and easier to handle, but require a bunch of trimming to remove the little corner bits or else they stick and drag on each other when you play.
    • Thin cardboard: Bit harder to pick up, unless you have fingernails or tweezers handy. Easy to cut off - one scissor swipe carefully aimed does the trick.  
  • SJ Games Pyramid Dice. These came in purple and white. Assuming your motto is "May the Fnord be against you, always" then the emblem on the '1' side in a game where it's always best to roll high sets the suitable ambiance!
  • Giveaways. nice Box Labels, and spiffy re-issue of an old SJ Games catalogue, little zip-lock back, etc.  Fun stuff...
Final thought - is it all worth $20?  I'd say "Yes!", given inflation and the amazing amount of play in a small package, long a hallmark of the pocket games. The significantly improved carrying case over the original soft zip-lock bag releases is tight and probably water-proof. The larger counters in two sets is a big plus for me.

Below, the game in the - admittedly painful - process of having counters cut.  I got into the mood by listening to my favorite music from the 80s. Map is getting flattened under plastic weighted down by reference books and a big heavy box of - no kidding! - my cassettes from that era. Combine black and Paneuro red, with white buildings counters and pink-ish markers except for PANIC chits.
You can see the little fuzzy bits at the corners and center of each me OCD if you like, but I find them annoying, especially when they stick together in play!

First game setup - the countours show nicely in the pic.  Map easily fits on modestly sized dining table, representing 1.2 x 0.8 klick battlespace. It is presently oriented with map "North" to right, "South" to left.

Zip bags make for easy storage, altho you have to dig sometimes for the right counter you want. A comfortably sized parlor game, albeit needs more space than GEV or OGRE pocket editions. I randomly through additional buildings onto the map [white counters] as I think terrain is essential in a skirmih game.

Initial forces for Scenario 1: Training. Identical forces in a meeting engagement. Four Standard Battlesuits, one Ranger and one Assault suits, one Heavy Weapon.
Paneuro and Combine dice [sold separately] are nicely sized and roll easily, but have the cool symbols on the "1" side for a game where it is best to roll high. I find this annoying...Two Pyramid dice in center came with game, also nice dice.

Scenario has Team Red entering map first from South. They have no opposition and will be able to Reaction Fire against Team Black as they enter the map. Aside from that, nothing unusual about scenario. Faintly seen is a wood at center left, with two 'suits in it. Two suits at top and bottom are behind the hills. Don't know what I'm doing, but ya gotta learn somehow! 
NOTE: I removed the additional buildings, remembering the Golden Rule to always try Rules / Scenario as written, tempting as it is to change things up right away!

Black Team eased onto the board at the highest elevation - this gives a small advantage defending from Fire as well as attacking from higher up. The hill is 12m [40'] above the valley floor, and in general overlooks the two hills and woods Red Team has occupied. Still, after a turn of Reaction Fire then a Player Turn 2 by Red, Black Team has 4 suits in Shock with 3 damaged at the start of Black Player Turn 2.

The Morale Checks that start off the turn give some poor results, including one man panicking and two recovering but only partially effective this Turn. The panicking guy takes a shot at his closest buddy, but fortunately he misses!
Despite these problems, Red Team is also looking a bit rough by the end of Black's Turn 2, with all Suits damaged, and 4 in Shock, plus the Heavy Weapon was destroyed when the man wielding it was Hit. I think I was a bit bold in being in the open is quite dangerous, even out of line of sight.
Black finishes his Player Turn 50% effective, but better off than Red!  All this in just about 20 seconds...

Play is very choppy, with every suit on the Acting Player's side acting in sequence, with opposing Reaction Fire also occurring in sequence. The "Feel" is of a series of fragmented actions and reactions, with a lot of tension coming from trying to get the first EFFECTIVE shot off as the other uses cover and pop-ups to fight while reducing vulnerability. 

Generally speaking, the lethality is moderate because the game uses four levels of suit damage. At the first two levels suits are about 20-30% less effective. The second two levels see a suit at less than 40% effectiveness. The main reason they survive is that it is better to focus on the more intact enemy than pick the wings off the damaged enemy fly-ers!

The general tactic I evolved was to draw out Reaction Fire with less valuable suits acting first - if they hold fire, I shoot first and have a chance to reduce their effectiveness.  Generally, with even numbers, it is very difficult to wait for your optimum target, as threats are coming at you and if they get a lucky Hit you will lose the chance to Reaction Fire with a suit or two, and the enemy will still get to wind up their turn with their best suits and the Heavy Weapon.

Below, black is learning how to use cover to best advantage, as well as Jump movement [which allows holding altitude so really it's like two teams of helicopters fighting each other]. The setting may be futuristic, but it is analogous to VTOL / helo battles in the Fulda Gap, pretty much. Tense and brutal!
Overview of battlespace: Red is still working at using the hills to pop up behind and the central wood as a base of Fire. Black is closer together and using a higher hill with woods to keep his team fully engaged and mutually supportive.

Red Turn 3 starts with truly dispiriting Morale checks - the '2' & '3' result is no change, so all Red has to fight with is two damaged suits!
Despite this, they manage to Target, Shock and Damage one Standard suit that's in the open.

Black Player Turn 3 starts with two suits Recovering and two Panicking! 
The '4' result is a fatal error with suit handling - man dies. The '2' means man goes Berserk, heads in random direction and Fires on closest friend or foe!
The one guy accidentally hits sonic toothbrush and it pops his brain or something, the Berserk guy jumps off the table - can't return, either.

A lot of the chance element comes from the Morale Checks, with generally give you a 50% chance to recover, and a 17% chance at Panicking and really having a suit become ineffective or destroyed. While it isn't decisive, it certainly gives you problems that have to be worked on carefully!  As this was my first game, I didn't use any of the optional Command Rules, or even a Command Suit.

Red Turn 4 starts with some Panicking and Recovering.
The are up to 50% able to fight, albeit all damaged.
Their Fire is ineffective, however, and Black starts to do pop-ups out of soft cover, which seems the best way to "alpha strike" on your own turn, altho it means only 50% of your Firepower gets used [can only shoot twice if you remain stationary, otherwise it's 1 Shot on the Move]. 

But Black Team's Heavy Weapon is slowly grinding down the opposition, and the Ranger is nearly impossible to hit with Reaction Fire when he's doing a pop-up in the forest. He gets an occasional Hit for Shock or even Damage.
Black Turn 4 ends with all Red 'suits in Shock or Panic.

Overview of battlespace as ENDEX gets called - Black has achieved Firepower dominance with the Ranger suit and Heavy Weapon wielded by a Standard Suit shooting with near impunity while the damaged suit Targets for them - this is a deadly combination, and will continue to result in Red Team losing Combat Power. 
The Training Staff decide that Black Team is the winner!

Despite the limited tools of three moderately different 'suits apiece and only one Heavy Weapon, the fight was interesting and heavily focused on paying close attention to Fire opportunities as well as effectively using cover. At the 700-800m ranges at which most of the fighting occurred, enemy Fire effectiveness is significantly reduced [about a -3 to -6 usually, on a 2d6 added together Combat Results Table].

Staying in the open at all is risky as ALL suits can Indirect Fire and assist each other's Fire by using the Targeting Action to improve all Fire at a 'suit.  The Heavy Weapon functioned like a long range grenade Launcher, with realistic threats out to 700-1000m even with IF, especially if against a Targeted defender.

The game includes rules and counters for three types of Drones, which support Recon [Targeting], Attacking and a significant Bomb threat that comes into the effectiveness of off-board artillery Fires - only difference is a Bomb Drone can be shot down.  All Drones are hard to Hit, with significant ECM ability.

There are also rules and counters for squishy infantry without battle suits. These can represent staff officers fighting for their CP, or an uprising of local Fifth Columnists, or just 3rd-Line Troops in standard modern combat gear.

The game as presented has lots of dynamics and plenty to learn. The choppy action mechanics are fine for small skirmishes, but I think will be harder to manage in larger scrapes.

Of course with miniatures and creating one's own statistics, the possibilities for the PBI and their gear are limitless.  The map provides the largest limiting factor, being about 1:1500 and with no templates included. Adding more hard cover with the provided counters can result in some brutal fights for small towns, which will be fascinating with the Drones and militia type infantry.

I must say that altho it is a bit hard to plow thru the rules at times, and they can be a bit granular with execution, the effort was worth it. I'm sure I will fight both sides better next time, and that there is more to learn with the RAW. Altho the rules are from 1983 [when The Police, Michael Jackson and other dinosaurs ruled the Charts - CLICK!] they've aged quite well and just need a QRS and perhaps a tiny bit of streamlining to make them as contemporary as more modern skirmish rules with total OPFIRE like Infinity.

Overall, recommend grabbing this game for not only the raw rules and components, but the future possibilities with miniatures on an open table, or just making one's own maps.

JUST BUY IT - you will be hard pressed to find as much for for $20 anywhere!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Tricks with Vics: Toy cars for Modern Wargames

Well, it has been a difficult effort - much more than anticipated.  Without further ado, here's my thoughts on diecast vics in wargaming...

First it is unusual to find a line of cars that are actually all the same scale.  What the manufacturer does is say "1:43" and many of the cars are.  But all the cars are the same SIZE, which is to say about the same dimensions.  So a Mini or Fiat 500 will be about the same size as a full-size truck, which means it is NOT the same scale as it should be much smaller if it was actually 1:43.  This is a common problem with nearly all the popular lines, and has to do with the manufacturing process no doubt.

So, right off the bat you have a problem - the scales of cars in the same line by same company do not actually match up, only the sizes do. This means you have to shop around and even carry your 28 or 25mm figs with you. Interestingly, a big vic in real life - say a large SUV - in a smaller scale may actually match up in size with the sub-compact made in a larger scale. So a 1/64 SUV may match up with a 1/55 compact.

The toy industry has its own priorities, and if you go for 20mm or 1/72 or 1/76, you are probably going to find plenty to use one way or another.  20mm figures are out there, and there are plenty of nice ones, so I recommend that if you want to fit into a tight battle space.  15mm is also no big deal, you can probably start using Matchbox cars at a $1 each.

If you go for 1/48, that is quite close to 1/43 and you can probably find a lot to use.  Only problem is that the game starts to need a lot more table space.  For skirmish games, a cluttered area is great as it provides lots of cover. But the vics quickly get big enough to be more like houses, and then the houses look small because they are often undersized. Undersized houses are needed because they become mountains when correctly scaled with the figures. Again, just something to keep in mind - do you want a large obstacle in the middle of your game table?  Or will figs be able to fight within the building?

If you are looking in the most popular skirmish rule scale which is 1/56 to 1/60 or so or 25-28mm [-ish] then you gotta dig around harder.  Toy plastic or metal cars in this size/scale are a lot less common.  Siku brand is 1:55 and from Germany, therefore available in the EU.  But they are almost unavailable in the USA as they are not exported here - something to do with safety regulations.  Buying them on line and shipping them over puts the into the $15-20 range quickly.

The popular 1:43 scale Chi-Com cars are quite frankly too big.  They make most 28mm figs look like kids getting into a car, and take up a lot of table space.  Plus, they may not fit into your terrain like roads and parking spaces unless you bought / created it to match them.

As I subscribe to the theory that terrain almost always has to be shrunken a bit due to scale considerations, generally speaking terrain pieces should be a bit smaller than in real life.  So, if a building would be 8" x 8" in true scale, it should probably be 6x6" in a wargame, or else it dominates the game space. This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind unless you want to do the math of scale distortion.

What "looks right" ultimately has to trump any other decision.  A parking lot full of cars is a "terrain type" and shouldn't be represented exactly in most games.  So... what looks right??

Well, cars that are scale correct or a bit smaller.  And that means the car should be about 25-30mm wide in 25-28mm, and about 50-60mm long, for most day driver compact cars.  A few are larger, several are longer [the width of a vic is set by road / parking space / bridge widths, etc] but generally speaking, most of us drive a car that is less wide than we are tall, and 2-2.5 times our height. You can look up the 20-30 top compacts in various formats and that's about what their dimensions are.

So... what is the right choice as "scatter terrain" for urban warfare?

Generally speaking, it's a car that is smaller than 1/43 - it's more like 1/60.

Below, some trucks I got at the grocery store: a military truck, and an old-school farm / dump truck.  They were $6 apiece [thus giving its Chi-com manufacturer a mere $5 profit] but just the right scale for 28mm, IMHO.  So I took pics:

Below, another approach - buy and/or build the mat / table, then build / buy the terrain.  The parking lot sets a visual tone for the game.  These Deep Cut Studio mats are about a bit tight for 1:43 - the middle red car with the stripe is tight in the space and it's a sub-compact.  The top red car is better, but perhaps a bit small, and it is a compact. The pickup truck and the Army truck are just right. But nothing is perfect, including these mats from Lithuania.

Top is a Kidami car.  At Amazon, these are about $3 each in batches of 5, $2.50 if in a batch of 10.  They are bigger than Matchbox cars, and probably just right for 25mm, a bit large for 20mm.  Next down is a Mondo Motors [italian company] subcompact.  It is large, altho its SIZE is not bad for a 28mm car, it's just the scale is way off for a 1/56 car!  Next down, is an Adventure Force pickup truck from Walmart.  These are a measly $3.79 and come with oversize jacked-up wheels, but with a quick adjustment with a screwdriver - and alternate wheels - they are just the right size / scale for 28mm, IMHO.  Next down is the military truck from the above comment.  I got it at Acme, but it's presence is unreliable.

Another angle, same vics.  I like the relative sizes of all three without the Mondo Motors car.  They just "look right" together.

Admit it!  These match up nicely next to one another.  The Army flatbed is biggest, then the pickup, than the private auto. Overall, just right.

This makes the Midami look small. But It is probably realistic for a [sub?]compact 4-door.

Proof is in the Empress' pudding.  Two Empress Insurgents, one Terminator Genisys T-800, which is supposed to stand around 6' tall.

Let's get on the [light] truck!  These look just a tad big.  But not bad, and they fit nicely on the table, overall. Perhaps the door is a bit smallish.

The pickup looks just right here - it's the two figs that seem a bit off compared to one another. But this looks like it is a mid-size pickup, not big but not small.

This compact - or sub compact - looks about right.  The standing fig can easily shoot over the roof, and the kneeling guy can easily shoot over the hood.  The T-800 can sight over the entire vic!  This is a good size for a small red car.

This 1;43 Mondo Motors auto is a sub compact, most likely.  As such, it is far too large proportionately.  However, as a terrain piece, it is about the right SIZE for a generic car.  But it makes the figs look a bit dwarf-ish.

by width, the Mondo is too bit, and the Kidami is a tad small for the parking space. At far left, is another generic "1:43" pickup, which could be a large "Suburban" full-size truck, while the white truck is mid-sized.  The red Kidami fits nicely against the other vics, while the blue is a bit big next to the Army truck.

To get more specific, Walmart v. Acme trucks! The Adventure Force pickup is nicely sized, while the blue is very full-sized or too big-sized.  There's variety in truck sizes, more than we think...could be a Chevy Suburban pick up...but too big.

Adventure Force pickup.  Looks just about right for mid-size truck.
1:43 diecast.  It's a bit big - altho a Suburban size truck is quite large, this just doesn't look right on the table. The proportions are off.
side-by-side, not too different. But the blue has a lot more "mass".

This grouping makes the bus and truck look nearly right. Actually, the bus should be at least as tall and longer than the truck.  But the car looks good next to the light military truck.
Here, by comparison, the Mondo Motors car looks much too large. Crazy next to the bus, and obviously too big next to the army truck.
The farm truck scales nicely with the army truck.
The Kidami fits in - looks just right.

This angle really shows how oversized this subcompact is next to a truck.  The phone's camera always distorts just a bit - probably the lens is a bit small.

Below, a group of Kidami pics.

These are scaled wrong, as is the Porsche. The sort-of-hummer and the Benz should be larger and the Porsche smaller.  However, they look like other cars made today, and only a bit small compared to the figs, so I'm OK with this.

Below, Adventure Force pickup looks OK with the Kidami. Lens is distorting things a bit, however, the Kidami is smaller than it appears.

Nice shot - looks just like a small car should.
Closer - might even be a tad big.
This wagon looks a bit small next to the bulk of this guy.  Then again, Soldiers look a lot bulkier with their gear and weapons, anyway.

Below, a traffic dispute in downtown Baghdad?  Ford v. Chevy??

OK, let's pretend the SUV is a Scion, and the Posche a Panarama.  Still, not bad.

This shot makes the three look about right next to each other.  The light army truck is biggest, then the pickup, then the Porsche.  
"you cut me off, dog!"  "Take this, swine!"

Hopefully, this post will save you some time should you decide to buy some diecast yourself.  But overall, switching to 20mm is probably the easiest thing to do.  But they are a bit small for my aging eyes, so 28mm it is!