Wednesday 29 August 2012

Full Thrust: The Evacuation of Eridani Prime


The remote Kzinti farming planet of Eridani Prime has been plagued by minor raids from Orion pirates for some time.  However, worrying news has just come from a spy; the Orions are planning a much larger assault that will overwhelm local defences.  Hurriedly, the Kzin gather what ships they can muster and prepare to leave, but just as they set off sensors indicate the arrival of a number of unknown vessels!

The Scenario

Beginning of turn 1.  Half the Kzinti forces are leaving the planet, but Orion raiders are poised on the left and the right.
On the face of it, this is a fairly standard convoy "gauntlet" scenario:
  • The defenders have about 400 NPV of warships and a large number of assorted freighters; any of their ships that can reach the far end of the table (and still have a working hyperdrive!) are deemed to have escaped.  To prevent overcrowding, half the defender's ships will leave the planet (i.e. arrive on their baseline on the table) on each of turns 1 and 2.
  • The attackers have about 600 NPV of warships and will arrive on turn 1, on any edge in the further half of the table.
However, just to ring the changes, I decided to randomly assign each of the 4 naval captains (but not the freighters) a random objective; these would determine the winner of the game rather than the capture, destruction or escape of the convoy.  The possible, vaguely worded objectives for the Orion were:
  • The enemy killed your brother!  Vengeance will be yours!  Destroy as many enemy warships as possible.  Nothing else matters!
  • Look at all that loot! You’re going to be rich!  Capture at least one merchant ship.  Nothing else is important!
  • Don’t take risks with your nice, new ships!  It would be nice to stop the convoy, but you must try to avoid getting damaged!
Possible Kzinti objectives were:
  • It’s not safe here!  You might get killed!  Run away!  Exit your ships from the table.  However, you must wait until at least one other ship has left; otherwise you’ll be accused of cowardice!
  • Save the children and women!  Use whatever means you can to protect the merchant ships!
  • Treachery!  At least you’ll go down fighting!  Destroy as many enemy warships as possible.  The merchantmen can look after themselves!

The Forces

From the right came the Orion forces of Rear Admiral G: the heavy cruiser Erebus and the corvettes Pirate and Buccaneer.  This was a very powerful force, but the admiral's objective was "Don’t take risks with your nice, new ships!", so any damage taken would count against the player when deciding who had won.

From the left came the slightly weaker squadron of Commodore A: the light cruiser Pegasus and the frigates Magician and Sorceror.  Their commander drew the "Look at all that loot! You’re going to be rich!" objective; this looked like a very good fit as the Pegasus was equipped with a needle beam that was perfect for selectively knocking out engines or other vital systems without too much collateral damage.

For the Kzinti, Strike Leader M entered in the middle of the first wave of merchantmen on turn 1.  He had the light cruiser Fang and the destroyer Tiger under his command, but was secretly thinking "It’s not safe here!  You might get killed!  Run away!"

The rest of the Kzinti warships came on in the second turn and were controlled by Pack Commander J.  His squadron comprised the destroyers Panther, Leopard and Lynx and his objective was to "Save the children and women!"

The Early Turns

From the beginning, both Orion groups advanced cautiously, whilst the convoy and its escorts accelerated as hard as they could, aiming to breeze past the raiders' lighter squadron whilst keeping the Orion heavy cruiser on the far side of the asteroid field.
The Kzinti light cruiser launched a salvo of missiles at her Orion counterpart but badly overestimated the enemy ship's speed; the missiles were well short of the target.  The Orion heavy cruiser managed an immensely lucky long-range shot with her beam weapons and gutted the leading Kzinti destroyer (Tiger).  So much for her commander's secret objective of "Run away!  You might get Killed"!  This did trigger some retaliatory fire from the Kzinti fleet; whilst the shots didn't cause any systems failure on the Erebus, they unwittingly hurt the admiral's victory conditions of "Don’t take risks with your nice, new ships!" by bending the hull plating.

As the merchantmen swept past the barely-moving Orion ships, the Santa Teresa (dark blue, to the right of the first line) was targeted by the Pegasus' needle beam.  She suffered major engine damage, just as the Orion commodore hoped.
On the other side, the Orion's Erebus unleashed a full cruiser volley at the bulk carrier Pride of the Orient.  She survived, but took terrible damage.  Most of her systems were wrecked and her holds breached.  Since she was determined to be carrying flour (see here), she left a long cloud of fine, white particles in her wake.
Other exchanges of fire between the various warships left several of the smaller combatants on both sides scarred.  In particular, the closer Orion squadron suffered as the Magician was reduced to a hulk and the Sorceror took an unlucky hit to her fire control (and thereafter played no useful part in the game).

The Trap is Sprung?

The raiders were now well placed to turn after the convoy and use their superior acceleration to run it down.  However, as the freighters and their escorts went hurtling past, both Orion commanders made terrible blunders!  The Pegasus turned right instead of left; while on the bridge of the Erebus confusion reigned as her captain failed to give any orders at all (In past games, I've been quite relaxed about allowing some of the younger club members to do what they intended rather than the orders they actually wrote.  However, the Full Thrust rules are very clear about the penalties for impossible or unintended movement orders).  This left both Orion heavy units badly out of position, while their lighter ships were either on the wrong side of the asteroid field or were battle-damaged and ineffectual.

To add to the farce, both sides fired on the damaged, drifting bulk carrier.  The Kzinti warships beamed the crew off and then the Leopard tried to scuttle her with phaser fire, but missed.  At the same time, the Erebus fired at long-range, but this time her near-legendary accuracy deserted her and she also missed.  This was much to the relief of the other Orion commander, who was still hoping to capture a prize!  Erebus did manage to destroy a couple of small freighters instead (the Olympic and the Martian Princess).

As the convoy fled and left the Orions in their wake, a few parting shots finally managed to destroy the Pride of the Orient as well as the destroyer Lynx.  But this was too little, too late and the pirates could only watch as their targets fled into hyperspace.


So, who won?  Let's see:
  • Orion Rear Admiral G was fuming because of the minor damage to his flagship (Erebus) and moderate damage to the corvette Pirate.  He hadn't wanted any risk to his shiny, new ships.
  • Orion Commodore A failed to capture anything and was left without any loot.
  • Kzinti Strike Leader M (in the light cruiser Fang) did manage to run away, but his other ship (Tiger) didn't make it.
  • Kzinti Pack Commander J tried to protect the women and children in the merchantmen, but couldn't prevent the destruction of the Pride of the Orient, Olympic and Martian Princess.  At least he beamed the crew off the former before she was destroyed.
The victory conditions were deliberately left a bit vague and open to interpretation.  Who do you think deserves the medals and who should be demoted for this encounter?

Monday 27 August 2012

Various Game Cards


By now I expect that most of my audience know that I make my own cards to support the games I host at the Helensburgh wargaming club.

I had planned to use this article to describe the design processes behind my ATZ random event deck. However now that I look at the pictures I've made available, none of these really support such a discussion.  They are all Data Cards rather than Deck Cards.  Since I'm out of time/can't quite make up my mind, I'll postpone the in-depth description of the methodology for another time.  Instead, here's a quick showing of some of the cards I've made in the past:

Data Cards


A data card is a quick reference card for a character, object or enemy (example: my ATZ character cards).  Mine are printed at index-card size (A6 or roughly 5"x4") onto thin cardboard and are then laminated.  They are not designed to be shuffled and dealt, so they don't have (patterned) backs and they don't need to be absolutely identical in size and shape.

Deck Cards

These are intended to be shuffled and drawn randomly.  They may be for events (as in ATZ or Doctor Who Miniatures Game) or for determining turn sequence (The Rules with No Name).  Whatever the game, they typically have a small amount of transient data on them, but there's a much greater need for the cards to be homogeneous in size and shape.  Ideally, each deck will have a distinctive back on it as well.  These requirements make such cards more of a challenge to produce at home.  Fortunately there are now services on the internet where you can upload designs and have them create the cards on high-end printers.  I've used before (as I'm sure you know by now, if you've read any of my past blog entries) and am a very satisfied customer.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

HOTT: The Knights of Lyonesse Strike Back!


The local schools have now restarted after their summer break.  This means that my games club in Helensburgh has restarted; tonight was the first session after a long, empty spell.  I decided to take Hordes of the Things; this always goes down well!

The last time we saw the Knights of Lyonesse was something of a disaster for them (here).  They lost a number of heroes and quite a few of their nobles in a failed attempt to defend the Tower Perilous from the encroaching Black Mountain goblins.  However, the Knights aren't beaten so easily.  Lord Vesper, Saint Florence of Artenay and the Red Knight all survived the previous battle (just!) and have raised another army.  Their bold plan is to strike at the source of the goblin's power: the Dark Tower itself!  To that end they have bolstered their force with a contingent of mercenaries.

The Setup

The Knights of Lyoness appear on the left of this picture.  They have 1 command (24AP) of knights, archers and squires (split on both sides of the wood with the small cabin in it) and another command (24AP) of Tilean mercenaries (pikes, crossbows, a cannon and a weird flying machine).

The Black Mountain goblins have 2 commands of 24AP each and are drawn up in front of the Dark Tower.  Their army consists of a mix of wolves and trolls, backed by hordes of infantry.  They also have a ballista!

The Game Starts

Immediately, the knights started to work their way round the wood with the cabin, intending to flank the goblin horde.  Saint Florence, the mercenaries and the longbowmen stood firm in the centre, awaiting the inevitable onslaught as the goblins surged forwards.

Suddenly, with a braying of horns and the clatter of hooves, reinforcements arrived (more players, arriving late!).  Each side received another contingent of 24AP, taking the totals to 72AP apiece.  Oddly, both sides decided to deploy their extra forces on their left flanks, so the new armies entered at opposite ends of the table from each other.

The Red Knight and Lord Vesper saw the huge swarm of enemies now approaching them and immediately decided not to continue their flanking move.  They started to retire back round the wood, to jeers and boos from the Goblin players ("Run away!  Run away!").

In the centre, the longbows and cannon took a savage toll on the approaching hordes, while on the far side the goblins moved to occupy the wooded hill.

The Far Side

The goblin's right wing attack went in piecemeal.  Firstly, the two trolls attacked the Tilean infantry, but were quickly surrounded by large numbers of men with long, pointy sticks.  It took a while for the trolls to die, but die they did!

Huge numbers of goblins poured over the wooded hill, only to meet a line of stout billmen.  The goblin horde was so tightly packed that they couldn't retreat and the front line was cut down mercilessly as soon as they came out onto the clear ground.


The Tilean aeronaut had flown near to the Dark Tower early in the game, in the hope of drawing some goblin attention away from their huge attack.  However their generals had figured out that he couldn't do any harm to the tower itself and couldn't be caught by any of their troops, so they just ignored him.  Equally, the Tilean general was too preoccupied to issue the flyer with fresh orders and so he sat on the hill to have a drink from his flask, compose a poem, and watch the battle in the distance.

The Centre Ground

By the time the central goblin force reached the opposing lines, they had been shot to pieces and were much reduced in number.

Seeing this, the goblin reinforcements gave up chasing Lord Vesper and the Red Knight.  Instead, they came round the wood to join in the fight in the centre.  One troll raced ahead of all the others and immediately flattened the knights who fought beside Saint Florence.

With this encouragement, a band of greater goblins including their chieftain took on the paladin herself - and won (from memory, this was a 6-1 roll in favour of the goblin warband!).  Saint Florence left the field, wounded and ashamed; it seems that purity of spirit isn't always enough to win one's battles!

The goblin's success didn't last long, though.  Seemingly from nowhere, some Tilean assassins sneaked through the melee and assassinated their general.  Although a nearby troll tried to avenge him, the sneakers just dodged and ran away.

Despite being disappointed in their heroine, there were plenty more knights to fill in the gap, especially when Lord Vesper and the Red Knight came back round the wood.  In particular, the archers fought like demons, killing huge numbers of goblins in hand-to-hand and with their shooting.

The Knight's Reinforcements

Unopposed, the fresh body of knights on the extreme end of the table came round the wooded hill and marched straight for the Dark Tower.  Their hero (a distant relative of Sir Roger the Castellan, who died at the Tower Perilous) saw the goblin's ballista all on its own in the middle of the battlefield.  He spurred ahead of the main body and charged it, slaughtering the crew and destroying the apparatus with a few mighty blows.

He then paused for breath (a series of '1's rolled for PiPs) while a significant part of the goblin reinforcements bore down on him.

The goblin wolf riders ran straight over the exhausted hero, but then had to face a line of knights.  Worse, the Tilean pikemen were marching forward to lend a hand.  A number of goblin foot warriors stood nearby, but they were the demoralised remains of 2 broken commands; they just huddled in front of the tower and waited for their end.


Between them, the knights from the reinforcement column and the mercenary spearmen wiped out most of the wolves and their riders.  They also slaughtered many of the demoralised hordes.

In the last few moments of the game, a pair of knights broke off from the killing to attack the Dark Tower itself.  The Tilean aeronaut put away his quill and parchment and joined in.  Together, they forced an entry and captured the enemy stronghold, thus turning a rout into a crushing victory!  The Black Mountain goblins will rue this day for a long time to come!

Sunday 19 August 2012

ATZ Event Cards: Finally!


Some of you may remember that I started a project to create a set of random events for All Thing Zombie (ATZ).  I initially announced this to the world at the start of June this year, some 2.5 months ago: atz-event-cards.html .  My intention was to generate 54 different events, turn them into designs for cards and then have them made into a deck of cards by one of the "print your own" shops that have sprung up on the internet over the last few years.

Original design for ATZ random event card

Well, the time has now come to announce a successful conclusion: they're here!

I will describe how I designed these cards in another article some time (if there's enough interest), but for now I just want to show you the finished result.  Update: article on card design is here.

The Event Deck

Soon after my return from holiday at the end of July, I uploaded my designs to and placed an order with Artscow.  I could have done this a little earlier, but that company has periodic discounts which are well worth waiting for, at least in my opinion.  Artscow are also very quick to fulfill orders.  Despite being on the other side of the world, I received my cards within a week or so!

The deck comes in a fairly plain, green box.  That's OK; I could have paid extra to design my own box, but I didn't wish to do so.  Indeed, I might even use a plastic deck box for them; I've not really decided yet.

Inside the box are 54 cards.  These all have the same back (of course) and I'm slightly annoyed to notice a stray, dark rectangle near the "EVENT!" text.  I've gone back to my original source files and corrected this, but it's irritating to see it on the printed version.  It's entirely my fault for not proof-reading the card back as carefully as the fronts and I won't let it stop me from enjoying them during games of ATZ!

Here's how the front of the cards look.  I'm not going to display every one (it would take far too much time and space!), but this should give an idea.  The cards are printed on thinnish material, but not unusually so.  Unlike regular playing cards, they won't be repeatedly dealt and held in hands, so I don't expect any problems with durability.

This is a closer view of 3 of the random events.  The resolution of the text and the colour depth is excellent; I'm very pleased indeed with the result.

Using Event Cards

How to use random events in ATZ is described in ATZ:BDTZ, though for simplicity I'll repeat it here.  Each time the initiative dice come up as double-6, choose and apply an event.  If I'm playing with more than 2 factions then for this purpose I use only the initiative dice for the first 2 factions (typically player characters and zombies).  If using the deck, choose an event by drawing a card rather than by rolling on the table in ATZ:BDTZ.  Don't worry; the original events from the rulebook (or adapted versions of them) have all been included in this deck.

The random events themselves are intended to add colour to the story, rather than to penalise one side exclusively.  As such, some events favour the zombie side, some favour humans and some are strictly neutral.  Anything could happen!

Obtaining the Deck

If I've understood correctly then anyone who desires can order my deck from Artscow by following this link: .  You'll have to open an account with them first, of course!

[Edit: alternatively, the source PowerPoint file for the deck can be downloaded for free, ==> Here <==]


With modern computers and do-it-yourself publishers, it's quite easy to create your own game aids.  It's also cheap; this project may have taken quite a bit of my time but has cost very little money.  The sense of satisfaction that I feel when I hold the almost-professional result in my hand is hard to describe.

I'd like to say a word or two about those who showed an interest in this project, especially during the early days when it all looked fairly crude and amateurish.  The encouragement I received has really spurred me on to do the best I could.  Thank you!

Making custom card decks for your games is simple; if I can do it then so can you!

Friday 17 August 2012

20 Questions

 OK, I'll bite...

I just saw Ray and Fran answering 20 questions on their respective blogs The Angry Lurker and Don't throw a 1.  Seems harmless enough so here goes:

  1. Favourite Wargaming period and why?
    Used to be biblical, in 15mm.  I have an army for the Assyrian king Sennacherib (700BCE) and planned to collect armies for all his enemies.  I have the Kushite Egyptians, Hebrews and Midianites, but never got as far as the Elamites and Babylonians.

    Now I'd be hard pressed to name a single period.  I dabble in so many different things and enjoy them all.

  2. Next period, money no object?

    Probably pulp or spy-fi.  I really like some of the stuff that Crooked Dice are putting out.
  3. Favourite 5 films?
    Tricky. There are so many, but let's go for:
    1. Something from Pixar.  Probably The Incredibles.
    2. Something with Bogart in it.  But which: The African Queen or Casablanca?
    3. A war film.  Zulu, perhaps?
    4. An adventure story.  Raiders of the Lost Ark has to be it.
    5. Something funny.  Possibly Life of Brian, though almost any of the Charlie Chaplain feature films are contenders as well.
  4. Favourite 5 TV series?
    Um, I don't think that's possible.  I might get as far as 2 or 3, but 5 TV shows to which I really look forward.  Hmm.
    1. The Walking Dead
    2. Doctor Who
    3. ...
  5. Favourite book and author?
    What, just one?  That's not possible; I have thousands of books.  I can't pick only one!

  6. Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!

    Napoleon, hands down.  He not only won some incredible battles, he also set up legal and other institutions that still exist today.  Eat your heart out, Alexander the Great!
  7. Favourite Wargames rules?Hordes of the Things.  No, All Things Zombie.  No, wait: Full Thrust.  Argh, I don't know!

  8. Favourite Sport and team?
    Nope, not interested in team sport.
  9. If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
    Probably back to the 1970s to see my adolescent self and try to convince him not to be so painfully shy!

  10. Last meal on Death Row?
    How on earth would I end up on death row?!  Ah, OK - something Italian, decent pasta, white wine, salad.  Then sticky toffee pudding and ice cream for dessert.

  11. Fantasy relationship and why?
    Holly Hunter's really cute.
  12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

    Got to be George Clooney.  After all, he's almost as good looking as me!

  13. Favourite Comic  Superhero?
    Um, I've not got much to draw on here.  Does Judge Dredd count?

  14. Favourite Military quote?
    "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!".  Attributed to Rear Admiral Farragut, battle of Mobile Bay, 1864, but almost certainly paraphrased.

  15. Historical destination to visit?
    Petra or Machu Picchu

  16. Biggest Wargaming regret?Spending my younger adulthood playing computer games instead of finding fellow miniatures players.

  17. Favourite Fantasy job?

    Isambard Kingdom Brunel, hero engineer.
  18. Favourite Song, Top 5?
    1. "Hey Jude", Beatles
    2. 5th Symphony, Shostakovitch
    3. Mozart Requiem
    4. "When the Wind Blows", Eric Bogle
    5. "Summer Nights", John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
  19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?
    A long, long time ago we used to play a lot of WRG 6th edition Ancients rules.  I never did very well, but one day I sent all my Assyrian mounted troops on a single flank march.  They arrived perfectly on time just behind Robert's Saxons (yeah, I know!) and rolled his army up like dominoes with barely a scratch.  It helped that his Huscarls rolled a treble-1 for morale when they saw the threat from the flank!
  20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
    I get so fed up with junk mail and junk phone calls.  Not so much with the people who make such calls or send such mail; I understand that theirs is a simple commercial proposition, even if I don't approve of it.  But I just don't understand why anyone ever responds to them.  After all, if we all just ignored such approaches then the hucksters wouldn't bother; there would be nothing in it for them!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Dice! Thousands of them!


Hello.  My name is Hugh and I'm a dice collector.  It started when I was a child; about the same time that I began to play wargames.  Now I have more than I'll ever need...

Let's leave out dice games, at least from this article.  Yes, I have a fair number of these, from straightforward sets of poker dice to a modest collection of collectable dragon dice (and much else in between).  However, for now I'd like to talk about general-purpose dice.

The "Ready Box"

This is my "ready box".  It contains all the dice I need for the various miniatures games I play, either at home or at my local games club.  Of course, it's about 5 times bigger than it needs to be and contains a certain number of fancy dice that never get used in "anger".  These do have a purpose, though: if the box is left uncapped at the edge of the table then it tends to attract interest from some of the younger club members.  Once they've come over to have a look, they'll often stay for a while to observe whichever game I'm hosting.  And who knows, they might then decide that it looks like fun and want to join in, if they can get over their bafflement at the lack of Space Marines.  This isn't quite as partisan as it might sound; my official title at the Helensburgh club is "Gamesmaster" and it's my job to involve the shy, the newcomers and the undecided.

Contents of the Ready Box

So, how many of the dice in the box do I really use?  It depends on the game, of course, but roughly speaking, this many:
  • Multiple small d6s in 2 different colours are useful in ATZ (especially for melee), for Full Thrust and for the Rules with No Name.  From memory, most other games I play typically use only 1 or 2d6 at a time.
  • Direction dice are very useful in ATZ when spawning new zombies.  I measure 12" from the spawn point in the direction indicated and place the new figure there.  To save time, if the indicated location is impossible (off the table or in the middle of impassable terrain, for example) then I just select the diametrically opposite direction instead of re-rolling the dice.
  • Percentile dice are something I use only occasionally; a few rule sets need them.  Tooth and Claw springs to mind.

The Home Collection

Most of my dice don't travel much.  Instead they are kept in dark boxes at home, only to be brought out on rare occasions when I feel the need to gloat.  They're all mine, preciousss.  Oh, yes...mine!

However, today I'm feeling generous and I'll let you have a look.  Here's a sampler:

Dice with varying numbers of sides:

 From left to right, top to bottom:
  • d3, d4, d5, d6, d7, d8
  • d10, d12, d14, d16, d20, d24
  • d30, d100

Dice with unusual distributions:

- On the left are some weighted dice.  These are watched carefully when they come out of the packet, so as to make sure they don't get mixed up with any regular dice!
- On the right, from top to bottom:
  • Average dice (2,3,3,4,4,5)
  • Demon dice (1,1,2,2,3,3)
  • Extreme dice (1,1,2,5,6,6)

Dice with unusual shapes:

 Casino dice, bouncy dice, "bone" dice, round dice.

Double Dice:

Translucent dice enclosing another dice with the same number of faces: 2d10, 2d12, 2d6.

Decision dice:

Where to go, what to drink, how to spend the evening, what to have for dinner.

 Dice with unusual faces:

Artillery dice, weather dice, mood dice, direction dice, blank dice.

Dice made of unusual materials:

Wood, rubber, stainless steel, pottery.  The rubber dice lights up when it is thrown.  The steel dice would probably kill someone if thrown hard enough (it's very heavy).  The pottery dice might break if thrown; I've never dared!

Barrel dice:

Just to show that a dice doesn't have to be a regular polyhedron.  d4, d6, d6, d8, d12, d20, d%.

Big dice

There's a regular 10mm at the bottom of the picture to give the scale.  The digi-die is electronic; you press the button rather than throwing it and the lights show the result.

And finally...

Fluffy dice.  A present from my loving wife, who thinks that I'm bonkers.  They roll really poorly...

So, what's in your collection?  Do you stick to "working" dice for games, or do you have a vanity collection as well?  Do you call a single one "a die" or "a dice"?  It's not a subject I've seen discussed much by gamers, yet it is central to our activities.