Monday, January 23, 2012

The Elder Sign

I haven't had a lot of time recently for either my regular gaming or solo games.  That's a depressing situation for me, since I enjoy gaming so much.  I had the opportunity to pick up a great board game designed for 1-8 players.  It's by Fantasy Flight Games and is called Elder Sign.  Follow the link to check it out.

In short, you play the part of an investigator who is attempting to prevent a breakthrough of the evil Old Ones by searching a museum for magical Elder Signs.  You have to accumulate a certain number of these signs before the Old One can manifest and destroy the world.  Not exactly Yahtzee, is it?

Veteran solo players are likely to have already played this game and know all about it.  But for the benefit of those who might not have heard about it, I'll make a few comments.

The Physical Game
The game uses lots of cards as both the playing field and as game pieces.  Special dice are key to the game.  Overall, the artwork on the cards is great and really has a cool, creepy feel needed for Lovecraftian horror.  The flavor text on the cards adds to the ambiance as well as creates a kind of narrative.  Overall, it looks great on your table.  It will take up a sizeable area when you lay it all out.

Game Play
The rule book was a bit confusing.  It's organized good.  But there's not an example of play and so the rules don't come together in your head.  At least not for me, anyway.  I tried stepping through with the book in order, and I had reasonable success.  I made some errors that made it too easy to win.

You will have lots of counters and stacks of small cards.  You should have cups or some other containers for all these pieces ready for when you play.  Keep your cats away from the small pieces.  As I learned, my cats turned them into toys and yours might do the same.

The basic mechanic is that you select an adventure card and complete the tasks on it.  To complete tasks you roll the dice and match them to what you see on the cards.  Sounds simple?  Not as simple as you would think.  The combinations of dice can get tricky, plus things can happen to your dice that make them unusable. Also, if you fail a task you can re-roll, but you have to throw out a die to do so.  That makes combos harder to hit.  If you fail an adventure, bad things happen.  That's the gist of the game.  

Solo play is not only possible, but it is built for it.  In fact, if you play with others, you are doing so cooperatively.  So this is not a game to "face off" against anything other than the Old One crashing into your museum.

What really topped things off for me is that Elder Sign Omen is now available for iPhone/iPad/iPod.  I immediately picked it up for my phone.  It plays beautifully, and I imagine playing on an iPad would be even better.  Nice thing is it automates rules and bookkeeping.  This helped me learn where I made mistakes in my rules interpretation.  There are some adjustments for online play, but it's still the same game. If you have an Apple product, I highly recommend the app.

So, there you have it.  That's my take on Elder Sign.  I'm picking up Gears of War next and it should be mailed to me soon.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

New 5150:Star Army Battle Report

I had such fun in my last 5150:SA game that I wanted to try another game.  I still used the 4D-Kay conversions to imitate a game of Warhammer 40,000.  Basically, I did this just to preserve the "fluff" elements.  The conversion really doesn't play too much like 40K.  That's fine by me, since I have plenty of friends who play 40K.  I can get that fix anytime.

So before I do the battle report, here are a few things I changed for my game.
  • Rapid fire: Both Tau and Sisters of Battle have rapid fire weapons.  They can stand still and shoot once up to 24" or move and fire three times at 12" range ( I know that's more shots than 40K rapid fire).
  • Sisters wore Exo armor, but only had a 10" move rather than 16".  Overall I think move and shoot distances are too much in 5150.
  • Sisters have Acts of Faith.  The mechanic is the same as WH40K, but I used the activation die result as the Faith Points generation as well.
  • Any time activation dice total seven, reinforcements are possible.  (Not just if the higher result is below the investment level.)
  • Weapon stats changed to reflect 4D-Kay conversions.
  • Squad sizes reflect 40K standards
I'll tell you what I thought of some of the changes after the report.  For now let's get into it.  I took pictures this time, too!
This is a new campaign for the Sisters of Battle.  They have beaten back an incursion of Tau into an Imperial world.  New directives have the Sisters headed into Tau controlled land to take the fight to them.  Since this is the start of a new campaign, Sisters are on patrol.  The Tau investment level and mission are undetermined at this point.

Before I go further, let me say I used special "cheating dice."  I have a brick of dice that consistently roll ones and twos.  I gave them up for all my other games.  But you should know that 5150 relies on low dice rolls, like all THW games do.  This really changed the landscape for me, making it deadlier.  Before, I used average dice and I didn't get much happening.

Turn 1
Sisters come on the board.  There's just a squad of 12.  I break them into two teams.  Team one comes behind the huge Imperial church and don't see any of the PEFs.  However, team two comes out into the open and draws LOS to a PEF behind the ruins.  It turns out to be a full two squads of Fire Warriors with their Commander Battlesuit!  The Tau take in-sight tests and open fire.  The Sisters in the open are either taken out of the fight (OOF), killed, or knocked off their feet.  My Star, a Veteran Superior, is taken OOF and her star power does not save her!  (I rolled too high on five dice.)  The Sister's are halved in strength and their leader grievously wounded in the opening turn.

Turn Two

The Emperor sees the plight of his devoted Sisters of Battle.  I roll a lucky seven for activation, with the Sisters scoring higher.  I roll on the reinforcements chart (for Star Army) and I get 14 more Sisters of Battle.  The Tau fire off shots, taking one OOF and stunning another.  But now the Sisters of Battle are back in the fight!
These courageous Sisters sweep toward the Tau hidden behind the ruins.  Once within range, they lay waste to the massed Tau.  The Sister Superior of the new squad took out the Tau Commander Battlesuit with her plasma pistol.  This is where 5150 is hugely different from 40K.  There are no multi-wound models in 5150.  One shot and you're dead.  So the Commander (as well as other powerful figures like Tyranid Hive Tyrants or Demon Princes) doesn't have a lot of staying power.

The Sisters behind the Imperial Church are emboldened, and sweep out.  They get LOS to another PEF in the woods and a full squad of Kroot are revealed.  They open fire, and despite having weak guns they halt the Sister's advance by wounding one and stunning another as they file past the Kroot position.
Turns 3 & 4
The Tau mission ended up being a fighting withdrawal.  So they fall back with a rear guard protecting them.  More Sisters are taken OOF or stunned, and another Sister is killed outright.  The fighting if fierce, nothing like the steamroller action of previous games against Tau NPCs.  These guys are deadly accurate this time! The 14 reinforcements are whittled down, and the Tau make their exit from their board edge.  This Sister's patrol is not done yet, however.

Turns 5 & 6
The Sisters have OOF wounded strewn out behind them in the wake of their advance.  The Tau have mercifully pulled out.  It seems that now they only have to complete their recon of the Tau board edges and get back across the table.  Then a random event generates another PEF in the woods near the Sisters.
Thankfully the PEF is revealed as false alarm!  The Sisters get to the table edges and move through each sector to scout.

Turns 7 -12
The Sisters complete scouting of each the three sectors on the Tau board edge.  There were lots of close calls where it seemed the Tau would reappear.  But these turned out to be false alarms.  Despite not a lot of action during these turns, there was a cinematic feel to it.  As the Sisters came back towards their own board edge, they picked up their wounded.  They gathered these to a wounded way-station where they could be evacuated.  It was cool having the models "carry" their fallen comrades to safety, leaving them among other Sisters who guarded them.  All the while, a random event could've generated more enemy.
But no more enemy came, the the Sisters of Battle were victorious.  Though their victory came at a heavy cost; 2 Sisters killed, 7 Sisters wounded, and their Veteran Superior wounded.  After the battle, I rolled for recovery for the Veteran Superior.  She recovered from her injuries and will rejoin the squad.  A new Sister will join the squad to replace the dead.  The other OOF were from the reinforcement pool and don't count.

So that was the battle.  It took three hours to play out!  It was very exciting and I hardly felt the time going by.  I really like this game, and find it plays well and has a lot of action.  But you need dice that roll low for it to be a good game!

My thoughts on some of the adjustments I did:
  • Rapid fire is nice, but requires you to get close.  I think 5150 ranges are too much. I liked the shorter range and will keep it.  I just don't know how to tweak Outgunned.
  • I liked the reinforcements tweak. The way the rules are written, it's too hard to get them. This change makes it always possible.  The tables can generate a zero result, instead.
  • This is not 40K; don't try to make it that game.  That really came home with the Tau Commander.  He died like a regular grunt.  I could do multi wounds, but that's really changing the spirit of 5150.  This goes with my next point.
  • Squad size is important.  My adjustment to large squads made the game too different.  5150 should have at most 24 or so models a side.  But one max unit of Sisters of Battle could be 20 models.  I like smaller games and will now limit myself to the standard 8-12 per squad.  This won't sit well with a 40K game, but again this isn't 40K!
  • I liked all the other changes I made and will keep them.
So that's my report.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Go out and try 5150: Star Army.  It's a very solo friendly game!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Solo Games Appreciation Month Report

A couple of things strike me about this month.  First, it was Solo Tabletop Gaming Month. Oops. Second, I have been too busy to get much solo gaming activity of any kind done this month.  That was also another surprise.

Tonight brought me a few hours of free time.  So I thought I'd get in some solo tabletop gaming in before the month closed.  Letting a month dedicated to solo gaming go by without an update would be a shame for a blog named "Solosaurus!"  To that end, I broke out 5150:Star Army and gave it a whirl.

Though I got 15mm figures for this game, I still have no terrain in that scale.  So I looked to the next best thing which were my 28mm 40K figures.  Rather than use the 5150:SA rules straight up, I went with the excellent and well done 4D Kay conversion for 5150.  This allowed me to  use 5150:SA rules with 40K armies, complete with their stats and special abilities.  It's not a straight up 40K game, but I was surprised at how well it adapted to 5150.  I had to do some tweaking of the 4D Kay project, simply because it was based on old 5150 rules and old 40K stats.  It took all of 30 minutes to do that. Then I was on my way.

I pitted my Tau against my teeny-tiny collection of Sisters of Battle (SoB).  The SoB stat lines were easy to convert.  Even their Faith powers converted pretty well with the  5150 system.  The 4D Kay project doesn't have anything for SoB.  But I gave them Exo armor, used the Space Marine bolter stats, and they were ready.  The SoB acted like Star Army troopers.  The Tau were basically all done and I just printed off their stats.  I treated them like Hishen for reaction purposes.

You'll notice that there are no pictures of the battle.  For whatever reason, the few pictures I took didn't come out.  The camera setting dial was on something other than what I usually use.  Therefore, the pictures came so washed out as to be unusable.  I didn't check them as I went.  So now you'll have to put up with words only!

This was my first game in a campaign.  So Patrol was the first mission.  My Sisters walk onto the board.  The enemy ends up being in an open field, 11 fire warriors with a single gun drone.  I quickly realized that the 4D Kay project really overstated the pulse rifle's power.  At 36" range and three shots and punishing AP power, my SoB started to evaporate as soon as they came into the Tau's sights.

I pulled my Tau codex and looked at the original stats.  I fixed the pulse rifle to be more in line with the 40K stats and things became more even handed.  The Sisters Acts of Faith really helped.  I got to re-roll any miss results of 1 when shooting.  It helped even up things.  Basically, the SoB had to close the range gap the Tau enjoyed.  They did this by forcing the Tau to go prone (which prevents them from firing back).  When this happened the incredible Exo armor move of 16" got the Sisters right into rapid fire range.  (I treated SoB like Star Army Troopers.  So they enjoyed some benefits that a SoB army in 40K would not have, like this enormous move distance.)

I lost two Sisters on the way in, one Obviously Dead and one Out of the Fight.  But I mopped up the Tau squad and cleared out the other Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) without further event.  I figured I should call it right there. But I read the mission objectives again.  Patrol missions require you to spend one turn in each of the three enemy table sections, and then exit the table from your own board edge.  That changes things a bit.

Random events started to plague me.  A Tau sniper appeared, took his shot, and disappeared.  Thankfully he missed.  Another sniper repeated the process (or was it the same one?).  Then my leader stepped on an anti-personnel mine.  Only her Exo armor prevented her and the nearby Sisters from being blown to bits.  Then as the Sisters were trekking back to their table edge, I rolled up random reinforcement result for the Tau.  More random placement put them behind a hill at the center of the table.  Another full squad of Tau Fire Warriors with two gun drones blocked my path.

In-sight tests from the Tau saw them shoot down one SoB with an OOF result.  Another Sister was merely stunned, but that silenced her bolter for a round.  The Sisters passed their reaction tests and fired back, killing a few and causing the Tau to duck back.  But now the Sisters swooped into rapid fire range.  The remaining Tau squad went down in a hail of bolter fire.  The Sisters were close to their table edge now.  Once half the squad was off the table, I rolled another reinforcement result!  But it was in favor of the Sisters.  The SoB leader declined the help at this late stage, and the rest of the SoB filed off the board with their intelligence gathering mission a success.

So it was an exciting game.  I really enjoy the complete surprise of revealing PEFs or the random arrival of of the enemy.  This is something that just can't be had in a conventional game.  I really only played with the 4D Kay conversion since I had the figures for it and was curious as to how it worked.  But it went so well and a narrative developed so smoothly from the rules, I think I'll continue in this vein.  I have more Sisters of Battle on the way, and a lot more figures that can be used for 5150:SA.  I'll definitely be continuing and coming up with a little story behind this conflict!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Solo Games Appreciation Month

If you are reading my blog, chances are good that you also follow Solo Nexus.  So it should not surprise you that I'm posting in support of Solo Games Appreciation Month.

I originally had a lot of grand plans.  Back over the summer I planned to play out all of the Stalingrad campaign from THW.  I ran into several logistical problems, the largest of which is my complete lack of Russian models.  I shifted around on the miniatures front, planning 5150 campaigns or something with Song of Blades and Heroes.  None of that worked for me.

So I think I'm back to my RPGs.  It's time for Havelock, Flavia, and Kaltos to return to prosecuting the will of the Inquisition on heretics everywhere.  But I have another idea.  How about playing the bad guy?

Black Crusade is out and I've been looking it over.  I've wondered how it would be to play a demonically possessed character who has willingly devoted himself to evil.  That's not your typical role playing game fare.  In fact, if you know anything about Chaos in the Warhammer 40K universe, these guys make Hitler look like a birthday clown.  That should be an interesting challenge. 

In any event, I'll be getting the story launched soon and I will try to complete a total story arc over the month.  How does that sound?