Monday, 28 September 2015

The Empire slaps back - Planning phase round 4.

Round 4 and things are starting to heat up.

The postings phase led to the first major shake-up with Del kern being removed from command of ground forces and replaced by Hallarn Yarn. This gives the People’s movement their first military command and takes one military command away from the Republicans.

Deals were made for this position involving a trading of clout from the People’s movement to the Luxon militia in exchange for an unopposed run at the Squadron Leader position.

X-3PO, a free protocol droid turned assassin was surprisingly promoted to the new “Head of Strategic Alliances” position, giving the Luxon Militia control over interactions with allied partners.

This left the Luxon militia in a position to gain two positions this round, but in a surprise move they back out of their unopposed run at the Squadron Leader job and instead gave it to Torryn Farr of the Republicans.

Wheels within Wheels……. 

Discussions were also had about podcasting these planning phases, as they are hilarious at times.

Oh, if anyone is interested. This is what the game board looks like during the planning phase. So many moving parts!

Imperial Phase

I place down my three “trap” cards, worlds where the first action hits imperial forces waiting in place and causes extra red and purple dice on rolls.

Intelligence update

Well, things are clearly heating up for the rebellion. The biggest news was that the Luxon blockade is over as the Empire has decided to invade and go after dissident elements.
The strategic map was covered in item updates, here’s a picture.

The key is as follows
Yellow – Diplomatic and intelligence missions
Purple – Ground Missions
Blue – Fighter missions
Green – Ground missions
Purple – Imperial actions

Conflict and problems were occurring across all sectors, from the Luxon invasion, the Nimbala breaking into civil war, Nadir and Zenith being blockaded and more. This was the first turn the rebels could not hope to deal with every issue, so difficult decisions had to be made.

The Plan

The Rebels wanted to cover a lot of ground, delay the Empire where they were strong and hit them where they were weak. So that formed the corner stone of their decisions for the rest of the phase. Tie the empire up, as a stand-up fight on all fronts will go badly for them fast.

The command team planned out every possible move, but that relied on everything going well…. As you will soon see, that was not the case.

Reminder, success points are as follows 1 for an advantage, 2 for a success and 5 for a triumph.

Oh, and Aurek team has been dispatched to investigate what the Empire is doing with the Crystals on Solitude X.

Strategic alliance Phase

The Alliance phase is new and uses the new alliance cards. There is only one action that the alliance commander can take, and that is negotiating with Alliance partners.
It is a social roll, and each “point” of success (uncancelled advantage = 1, Success = 2 and triumph = 5) allows the Alliance commander to activate one alliance partner during the round. They may take any action appropriate based on their alliance card (see below), but the Alliance Commander and the owner of the alliance leader must agree on that course of action. If they cannot agree, the alliance does not act (But may act later if they spend another point).

All alliance partners’ actions score half glory.
An average roll for Alliance Command (only one activation), so there is already a spanner in the works for the complex plan this turn. Making a quick decision the Alliance Commander decides the priority it to get the Wookies in the fight at Luxon.

The 2nd snag emerges as that is where the first imperial trap is waiting. So the Wookies walk right into an ambush laid by General Paulus of the Imperial Army. Not a good start and the wookies are rolling more negative dice than positives.  The Rebel commanders spend a fate point, a big call.
A miraculous roll and two successes, the Wookies successfully engage and blunt a part of the invasion of Luxon.

Logistics Phase

With a 2nd Special forces squad and a 3rd fighter squadron joining the alliance command from the last turns recruiting, pressure on Logistics Command to obtain the resources needed to fight has gone up dramatically.

Logistics command improves manufacturing,  now the alliance has one of each core resource available to purchase from in-house suppliers. A good start.

The rest of the management phase does not go well and the long term investments do not increase the overall income stream for the rebellion.

Smuggling goes smoothly, and for the first time the squadron escorting the smugglers does not suffer any casualties.  

Among other supplies, logistics also secures contracts to be able to buy Y-Wings and YT-class freighters. As the only fighters previously available for purchase were Z-95’s, this is a big upgrade. Still, with too much to do this turn, and not enough cash, the rebellion doesn’t buy any new fighters.

Intelligence Phase

Faced with a massive PR blitz from Imperial Intelligence in regards to the capture and death of Fleet Commodore Anto Salamon, Chief of Intelligence Nibb Nibb decided to hack the holonet on Talathen Prime during a news broadcast, and substitute his own message.

A difficult task, but Nibb Nibb is an expert hacker,  6 points of successes later and the Rebellion briefly seizes the airwaves to tell the truth of the Korvas raid and Salamon’s death.
With a lot of missions ahead this turn, Nibb Nibb gets Ged’Ruh to gather information to build up the intelligence pool. Ged fails to deliver any results, so Nibb Nibb cancels a planned mission for Sly and puts him on gathering intelligence, an excellent roll generates 8 intelligence points to be used this turn.

Diplomacy Phase

The Diplomatic core has been on a roll and that did not stop this turn.

Jah Dooza, Ithorian hippy and force sensitive was dispatched to Nimbala, to get to the bottom of the crisis. Rolling 11 points worth of successes the force just happened to drop him right where he needed to be. He encountered the Twi’Lek force user that had been sighted by him and Aurek team in the jungles of Axamar only a few months ago. A full report to command will be coming soon.

Gidd was sent to open a diplomatic station on the Chiss fortress world of Kronos. A modest success means that process will be successful, but no earl information was available.

Lianna Tell responded to a request to our new embassy on Cahn to help them with a problem. With 6 points of successes, it was quickly revealed that the “Devourer Cult” is not as malicious as the name sounds, but does have dissident elements within their faith they are having problems with. The cult has offered, that if the Rebellion helps them with their dissents, that they will help the Rebellion in turn.

This was another good round for the diplomatic team.

Fleet Command

After last turns stunning raid on Korvas, Fleet command opted for a more conservative option. A Victory Star Destroyer had been sighted near Samoth, in the process of deploying probe droids to scan the planet. As the Rebellion has few forces on Samoth, the plan was to hit this Star Destroyer hard and destroy it, in order to convince the Empire that Samoth was important to them.

Unfortunately, supplies of Starship fuel are low, so only 4 class sizes worth of ships are available for the mission. Due to “The Beast” bringing over his fleet, the Rebellion now has 4 CR-90 Corvettes and has sent them to do the job.

An excellent planning roll by Admiral Cracken sees the Empire losing initiative, unable to reinforce and without the majority of it’s fighter screen.

This should be a slam-dunk for the Rebel fleet, but this attack is occurring while Luxon is being bombed and Nadir and Zenith are blockaded.

Squadron Command

The post Blount era begins in fighter command with Torryn Farr taking over the planning duties for Squadron Command. I guess this means she won’t be getting to Echo base to say “Stand by ion control, fire” in our timeline.

However, the post-Blount era began poorly when X and Y-wings deployed from Zenith to interfere with the blockade ran straight into a prepared Imperial force. Another one of my “trap cards” was revealed and the planning roll was not good, giving the Empire 4 planning points to use to disadvantage the rebellion.

Lt Telsji commanded his squadron of Headhunters to Luxon to interfere in troop landings of the invasion. A close roll, but they will have the initiative and will deploy 2nd during this raid.

Ground Command

Del Kern has been demoted and is now a squad leader. Hallarn Yarn promised a new decisive era of tactics, but so far has failed to deliver.

Keel’s team has targeted the orbital base that has nearly finished construction around Selano. As the Imperial Fleet has moved away, it seems like a prime target. The goal is to break into the station, seize it and booby trap it to explode when recaptured if possible. A poor planning roll means the Empire will have extra reinforcements for the mission.
Del kerns team is deploying to Nimbala to target Czerka forces and fly the Rebellion flag. A modest roll means they will deploy 2nd.


Recruitment gained three successes, and wants to recruit Operatives, Ground Commanders and Aces.

Training got 10 points to spend on training skills

R&D got 12 points to spend on Fighter research. 

Intelligence spent 5 points to find out exactly what was going on with a series of shipments going through Axamar’s Tane station recently. This was revealed to be dozens of self-contained survival pods, miniature bases that can be dropped from low orbit and act as hidden supply caches in hostile terrain. They were destined for Nimbala, and records show that hundreds have been deployed over the last few months.    
Well, that’s the turn planned out. RPG session starts this week as the team investigates the mystery of Solitude X. Ice caves, strange crystals, Imperial secrets, silent monks and spy games await.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Round Three end phase - Talathen Sector Campaign

Our ¼ way break is over and the campaign resumes this week. I thought it best to leave the results from round 3 until we were ready to start round 4.
From this point on, all glory rewards and research points are increased by 25%. At turn 6 that will go to 50% and 75% for the last three turns.

The idea behind that is to ensure that no one is totally out of the chase for glory, and final victories mean more than early ones.
The map is updated on the right, Red for Rebels, Grey for Imperials, Pink for “the devourer cult” and Green for an unknown faction.

Mission reports

Luxon – Feeling frustrated at being at being unable to break the blockade over Luxon, fight command decided to conduct a flyover raid, in an attempt to show the flag and boost morale. What they didn’t count on was this being seen as an opportunity by civilians to follow the fighters through the blockade and escape.
Most of the civilian ships made it through the blockade, but the members of Red squadron, and their Z-95’s paid a high price. Fighter Commander Lt Blount died in this incident.
Zenith – Following up on a lead from a new pilot joining the rebellion, Special forces hit an old republic storage area to capture a squadron of mothballed Y-wings. This was a rousing success and the storage facility also included a small number of X-wings. 9 Y-wings and 3 X-wings were obtained for fighter command with no casualties incurred.
Korvas – A daring raid was conducted on the imperial space dock facilities on Korvas. Despite the Empire being ready for the attack, they were not ready for the approach speeds and cavalier attitude of the fleet. Although they lost on cr-90 and it’s commander Anto Salamon, they have prevented the Empire from being able to service Imperial class star destroyers in sector.
The Boneyard – Cresh squad special forces have been expanding operations in the boneyard and have received additional support from high command. An intelligence intercept allowed Cresh Squad to intercept the prison ship that was transporting Anto Salamon. An attempted rescue operation was repelled by elite zero-g trained Stormtroopers. Anto’s body was later displayed on an Imperial broadcast as the Empire gained a PR coup from branding him “the mastermind of the Korvas terrorist attacks”.  
Cahn – A diplomatic mission to Cahn has revealed the Devourer cult, despite its name, is open to discussion with the rebellion about combating the Empire. More information is required before a deal can be struck
Imperial Purge – A massive crackdown on the core worlds of Talathen Prime, Talathen VII and Korvas is underway. Rebels are being actively sought and rewards offered, this has eroded rebel support on Talathen, although the resounding victory on Korvas has undermined these efforts.
Nimbala – Something unusual is happening on Nimbala outside the rebellions view. Another force on Nimbala has begun undermining Czerka operations and conducting guerrilla warfare, Czerka’s share price for the Nimbala holding company is plummeting.
Mysterious contact – Someone hacked into the Rebellion secure channels and asked to discuss a shared interest in defeating the Empire. This individual eventually revealed himself as Professor Hodda, a Hutt exile who claims to be more concerned with science and legitimate business than most Hutts. He has offered to work with the Rebellion against the Hutt Cartel, Black Sun and Empire in return for defence related contracts.
Dealing with the Beast – As noted in the previous RPG report, Aurek Team was dispatched to meet and recruit the legendary “Beast of Luxon”, a famed naval officer with a sizeable following. His recruitment brings in a Nebulon-B frigate and two cr-90s to the fleet.


As we are introducing a new mechanic, alliances, recruitment went a little differently. Alliances are powerful characters who have a special bonus. Alliance characters are never “directly controlled” by the players, but they always have closer ties with one faction over the others.
Any actions by alliance partners generate half-glory. But they can do a lot more than a normal single character. The first two alliances represented, are Hodda and his business enterprise and the Wookie clan that was rescued on Nimbala in turn 2.
Professor Hodda went to the people’s movement for 13 clout. More concerned with the Hutts operations than the others, the People’s movement wished to keep the closest eye on the Hutt.
Attatark, Wookie chieftain went to the Republicans for 18 Clout. Always on the lookout for military assets, the Republicans did not hesitate to spend heavily to obtain an army of loyal wookies.

After the alliances were recruited, we moved on to the normal passage of recruitment. All blind bids.

X-3PO, A protocol droid reprogrammed into a Assassin Droid. X-3PO is a capable assassin and diplomat. Respecting such a dual threat, the Luxon Militia paid 21 clout to obtain his services.
Gaarkan, A Wookie warrior and brawler, good for smashing things and not much else. 15 clout to the People’s movement as the shore up their interests in Special forces
Salin Hoark, an excellent smuggler and light transport pilot. Continuing the complete lockout of smuggling operations, she went to the Basra Consortium for 10 clout

Tarn Mison, an average X-wing pilot but quite a good squadron leader. He also went to the Basra consortium for 10 clout.  With a vacant Fighter Command position following the death of Blount, are the Basra Consortium about to push for a military command?

Oleg Thrax, the Beast of Luxon, a great fleet officer with his own ship. Went to the Basra consortium for 21 clout in another military move. It’s worth noting that the basra consortium went into this round with a lot of clout to spend.
Horton Salm, in a surprise twist, the Basra consortium gave 17 clout to the Luxon militia in order to lock anyone else out of obtaining the service of legendary Y-wing ace Horton Salm. The Luxon militia paid 24 clout for him, of which only 7 came from their own supplies.
This left the Republicans with 13 Clout and the People’s movement with 14 as they did not make a similar deal in response.

Glory updates. 

After three rounds we have two divisions in Glory, the leading pair are virtually in a dead heat and well clear of the trailing two.

The Luxon Militia – 62 Glory
The Republicans – 61 Glory
The Peoples movement – 43 Glory
The Basra Consortium – 34 Glory

Nine rounds to go, and still a lot to play for.

Monday, 7 September 2015

A tribute to Nick Garden, my friend.

Nick picks up one of many tournament awards
It is with profound sadness that I write this post.

Nick Garden, a friend and former work colleague of mine passed away over the weekend. It was not expected and has come as a terrible shock to the Wellington gaming community and Nick's friends and colleagues. 

Nick was a unique presence, when you first met him he seemed like a bit of a grumpy sod. But you quickly realized that was just his way, softly spoken and a little bit curmudgeonly. But the grumpy exterior hid a guy who was thoughtful, patient, fair and with a wry sense of humour. 

Nick's top hat wearing swamp troll was a local icon. 
He was the kind of guy who would play hard but play fair, if you were learning a game, he would show extreme amounts of patience to walk you through it, and he would always offer sound advice and feedback afterwards. 

If you ever wanted to talk about any aspect of the hobby, Nick had ideas on everything. And he played everything, Nick had armies for dozens of games. 

For some of Nicks models, check out here

He was also a fair umpire and volunteered time to help with events and add to the community. A man who was greatly respected by his peers, for his passion for the hobby and his good nature. 

More important to me was the time we spent outside gaming. I worked with Nick for 18 months, on a programme of work that was at time frustrating and frantic, and the other times dull as dishwater. 

Without Nick and the rest of the "Ministry of Wargaming" crew to talk to at lunch, or chat with over internal messenger I would have been completely miserable there. Knowing that I had a lunch break to sit around with fellow geeks and relax for an hour kept me going, and I don't really know if that crew realized just how important those lunches were to me. 

Earlier this year, Nick devoted a lot of time to the ANZAC miniatures memorial, you can see the full work here. While this is a memorial to our fallen soliders on the cliffs of Gallipoli, from now on i'll have a hard time thinking about it without also thinking about Nick. 

A few words can never tell you the full story of a man, his life and the impact they have had on their friends. Nick was a great guy, and we will miss him, I guess that's all I really needed to say.

Gallipoli Memorial

Nick working on the diorama with Simon (Standing, top left of interior cutout) 

The last time I played Nick at Warmachine

Using cannons, why? because they were cool. 
Nick and I played about a dozen games of warmachine, this was the only time I ever won. 

US Civil War

Flames of War


Friday, 4 September 2015

Arkham Investigator - Beta testing a new boardgame

First off, i'd like to thank the designers of this game for making a beta available on Boardgame geek. If you find this article interesting, I highly recommend popping over there and downloading the demo set. 

So what is Arkham investigator?

Put simply it's a deduction game. One that can be played in a group or alone. In a lot of way's it is like an old school "fighting fantasy" book, asides from you a never told what the next entry will be and the choices are not binary. 

The backdrop of the game is HP Lovecrafts Arkham, a city any reader of this blog will be familiar with. You are graduate students at Miskatonic university investigating a series of unusual events in the city, with each event being a separate case. 

You are given a briefing of what the case is, a map of the city, the local newspaper and a phone directory. You must move from encounter to encounter solving the case.

This is the meat of the game, there are virtually no "mechanics" and no dice rolling whatsover. You read the encounter, make notes of each one, and then decide where to go next. The locations of the game are in the directory and each location pertains to an entry in the case file.

For example, say you come across a package that was dropped on the street. You see a mailing address on it, deciding that this is your best clue, you go to the directory and look up the address. That would inform you of what the next entry is. 

You can go to as many entries and locations as you feel you need to, but the game is a race against the clock and the goal is to solve the case perfectly. 

At the same time you are investigating, Professor Armitage, your mentor, is also solving the case, and he will do it perfectly. He ask you questions about the case when you feel you have solved it and your score is based on how long it took you to solve the case, and how many question you got right.

Armitage will then tell you exactly how the case was solved.

If this all sounds a little familiar, it is because the game borrows it's core system from a Sherlock Holmes game. 

Normally, i'm not kind to games that lift systems from other games and reskin them. But in all honesty, the system is a tiny part of the creative effort in this game. The real work is in world building and creating the cases and stories. 

How it played

Normally in co-op games, i try not to be too vocal, but I couldn't help myself this time. In future i'll dial down my insistence at doing things my way :)

We divided up responsibilities so that one player had the casebook and read the clues, one had the directory, another the map, and the fourth the "list of allies" page. Each turn we rotated the components clockwise, so that the same person was reading each time. 

The rules say the current "lead investigator" makes the final call for what passage to read, but that really didn't become an issue. We, after some banter and debate normally settled on one or two primary targets each turn. And decided as a group where to go. 

The bit that tripped us up was knowing when to stop. We felt we had a pretty clear idea of what had happened and the last two entries we went to added nothing much asides from making us feel we had gone on to far. I guess, that because the game doesn't have a fixed ending, knowing when to call it quits takes some experience. 

I'd also say that each case has very little replay value, so while the game will come with 10 cases or so, once you've played a case, it would be very difficult to replay it.

Still, it actually felt like we were solving a case and that clues were being followed. And while we didn't score the perfect 100 points on our first outing, 65 seemed like a good first effort. Especially as we missed out on a 25 point question that we had deduced from partial information, but gotten slightly incorrect.  

The team enjoyed the experience, and feel a second attempt would be warranted.

Although one of our players is a designer, and was critical of the fonts in some sections being quite difficult to read. I concur, while gothic fonts are probably timely to the game, they are a pain to read. 

Spoilers below, How our case went. (highlight page to read)

Don't read this if you wish to play game one. 

We started out by going to the crime scene. Big mistake, while criminology 101 might say going to the crime scene is the best plan for starting a case, that doesn't take into account that the victim was screaming "the trees are alive". We encountered a Dark young and freaked out.

As a first encounter, this had the team saying "well that escalated quickly", it was a little bit too much mythos in the face for a first entry, or first case for my liking. Dark Young are a big bad, revealing them in an entry that would be quite logically the first one read was a distraction. I would have preferred if it was hinted at, rather than shown so dramatically.

From there, we went to the hospital to talk to the victim, who was in bad shape with something cracking her open from the inside. We then went to the forensics guy, found the victims address, went to her place, and found the offenders address. Discovering the evil seeds and ritual blade. Finally, we went to the diner and missed the exchange but rushed to the train station. Feeling the last clue we spent was a waste, we then wanted to checkout the library about some goo, which also told us nothing new. So we called it closed.

What we thought was that the offender had attempted to put a seed in the victims chest, but had chickened out and redressed her. We got the order wrong, but were definitely on the right track, but those 25 points hurt our final score a lot. We got implantation, instead of extraction. So close. 

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