Monday, 24 August 2015

ATZ PEF resolution

(Just to explain the title for those who are not familiar with the rules, it refers to the resolution of Potential Enemy Force counters in All Things Zombie!)

A while ago, I spoke at some length about my idea for a card deck to replace the tables in the ATZ book. My rules for this were covered here and here and a sample game was played here

The problem I've had, however, is that I don't get to play ATZ that often and I have ended up wanting something simpler. What's more simple than a deck of cards, you ask? Well, it isn't so much the deck of cards that's the problem, it's that every time I paint some figures I want to use, I have to pull out the laptop, design a new card, hope I'm not out of colour ink, print it on suitable paper and then sleeve it. Which is, I'm afraid, a bit too much work than I want to put into it. 

So what about an alternative? It needs to have roughly the same effect as the deck of cards, but be a bit more than just pre-generating a handful of encounters. 

After a bit of a think, I decided it had to do certain things. It had to allow for a decent chance of zombies being encountered. It had to provide a range of encounters of varying REP (this being the skill level of the forces encountered). It had to be easy to set up and need minimal bookkeeping. 

In the end I opted for a partially completed encounter grid. Certain aspects, such as REP, were pre-defined, as were the odds of a zombie encounter. Other aspects were defined at the start of the game by the player and allowed for variation and flexibility between games. 

I drew up a grid on a sheet of paper. Cell selection would be done by rolling d6 along each dimension. Obviously it is hard to fit a square grid on a rectangular piece of paper, so I decided that a roll of 1 along the horizontal axis would mean zombies had been encountered instead. This number could vary, but I think 1d6 would be a reasonable amount. (Personally I like to use a special die with a skull as a 1 for this axis. A nice little aide memoir!)

Next I populated each cell with the REP of the figures. Cells selected by higher d6 rolls corresponded to higher REPs and these are printed in the box as I don't expect these to change between games. Before playing, I place figures in each box, thereby pre-defining the type and quantity encountered. Going through my figures in this way takes almost no time at all and means it is easy to add in any new ones I've just painted. 

If I want any special rules or skills to apply to the figures, I can just pencil these into the box as a reminder, or just decide to roll skills up as I go. Also, if I need more encounters to be zombies, I can just mark the box as such and if that one is rolled, I can just roll up a number of zombies. Or if I don't have enough human figures to fill out all the boxes (there are 30 after all!), I could just stick a zombie or two in any left over. 

To make things more interesting, I can add a note in a few of the boxes to roll a second result and place that 1d6 inches from the first. With this additional mechanic I could stumble across a group of civilians being attacked by zombies or a pair of gangers engaging a SWAT team in a firefight. This adds an instant layer of narrative to the game. 

So when I resolve a PEF, all it takes is a simple roll of two d6 and I know all I need. Plus I don't have to manage a deck of cards or even limit what the figures are. So what was defined as a REP 5 axe wielding hero by the cards could easily be a REP 3 civilian in another game, who happened to be chopping wood when the apocalypse happened!

Simple! (Click to enlarge)

I could also happily laminate the sheet and use marker pens to note details or changes on it. And it is easy to refresh it or just print a new one for another game. Next up is a good test of the new 'system'. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Patrol Angis AAR

I've been getting into Patrol Angis by The Ion Age a fair bit recently and thought it time I posted up a game report. This time I decided to do something a little different. I'm actually doing two reports of the same game. One is a normal report with pictures and details of what happens each turn. The other is going to be a 'comic book' style report which is more focused on the narrative of the game. The following report is the normal one.

The scenario is the second one from the rule book and involves the Prydian forces trying to take a hill which has a Yordan squad and some artillery on top of it. 

I am going to command the Prydian side and leave the Yordist one to the solo play mechanics included in the book. These are described in more detail during this report.

A quick note on terminology: I have tried to stick to the in-universe terminology for this report. A squad of 10 men (or women) is called a Post,  a 4 man fire team is called a Demi, and a 2 man team is a Mina. Additionally, the forces on both sides are comprised of Retained Knights, warriors in powered armour. Their standard armament is the Angis Rifle and, among other support weapons, they also utilise the Anvil 888 missile launcher. Thought I'd mention this now in case it gets confusing later!

Finally, all die rolls are made using d8s, except for the initiative roll, which uses d6s.

Set up

The terrain was set up as close to the scenario description as I could make it. The Prydians started at the edge of a forest and the trees thinned out as the ground level rose. At the other end of the table was the highest level of the hill, with no cover but a good view of slope. 

The Yordans set up on the hill. The artillery was placed slightly to the right of the peak and the Post was located to the left. After this, their actions will be left to the solo mechanics.  

As for the Prydians I decided to keep one  Post complete with the aim of charging it forward and overwhelming the enemy. The other Post I divided into two Demis (4 soldiers)  and a Mina (2 soldiers) so they could approach on both flanks. One Demi would advance along the left flank, the other plus the  Mina would do the same on the right. The Mina consisted of a missile launcher and loader. The idea was to see if the Demi on the right could cover the advance of the heavy weapons team and shield them from fire. My overall plan was all a little 'charge of the light brigade' for my taste, but it was all I had! I also only had 10 turns to achieve my objective, so I had to move fast!

Turn 1

The Prydians won the initiative roll  3 to 1, so 3 order tokens were given to the loser and the same number with an additional one to the winner. The number of tokens is always based on the winning roll. 

The basic turn structure, following the initiative roll, involves players alternating in placing activation tokens by the elements they wish to activate. You can place them as you wish, so feel free to put all of them on your best squad, just don't expect to win any games by doing this! In the main part of the turn, players take turns to remove a counter from a unit and carry out one of several possible actions with it. 

The rules state how the AI's tokens should be distributed, basically as evenly as possible! Any left over are divided starting with the element closest the enemy. So the weapon platform was given 2 and the Post of Knights received 1.

Now my tough decisions started. I had 4 tokens and 5 groups of soldiers to split them between. I decided to focus on an advance in cover on the flanks and hold back in the centre for now. I gave two to the Demi on the right flank (to help speed their advance), one to the heavy weapons team with them and the last one to the Demi on the right flank. 

It is a tough part of the initial deployment to decide whether the flexibility from splitting squads is worth the potential of your force not having enough order tokens to activate everyone. Of course, you can join or split your elements during the game, but this does require an order and hence a valuable activation token!

When playing solo, the AI takes its turns by selecting the nearest element with an activation counter and drawing a coloured chit from a bag. Depending on the colour of the chit and the distance to the nearest enemy, the element takes an action. This is also affected by the overall stance taken by the AI during the scenario. In this case it was to play defensively. 

On with the game!

On my left flank the Demi was commanded to dash for the edge of the forest. The enemy responded to the advance by opening up with artillery fire. The weapon, a Moth 88 weapon platform, has an area effect and rolls 3 dice when it attacks. The area effect rules basically multiply the number of hits. For example, a area effect value of 3 would mean 2 hits are actually worth 6!
Ranged fire in this game is brutal without cover or armour, and even armour isn't much use when a strong enough shot hits you!

An attack rolls a number of dice depending on the type of weapon being used. The artillery has a value of 3 for this. The base to hit roll is 2+ on a d8 (yes, that is not a typo).  The Demi being attacked rush-moved, so a +2 is applied in their favour. They get another +3 for being in the woods. The weapon platform took an Precise Shot, giving it a -1 bonus. So in this case the modified roll is a  6+. The squad had a special camouflage system installed in their armour, but this only has an effect when they are stationary (think Predator).

A roll of 3, 5 and 8 resulted in 1 hit. Not so bad, you might think. But due to the area effect value of 4, it meant that the hit rolled actually resulted in 4 hits on my troops. Ouch!

The next step is to compare armour against the strength of the hit. My guys have an armour of 3 and the artillery attacks with strength 4. The difference is applied to a base number of 4. 4-3+4 equals 5, meaning each of the four hits needs a save roll of more than 5 on a d8. A handful of dice later and 2 warriors are blown to bits! Taking this hill is going to be tough!

The casualties mean the remaining two have to take a morale check. They fail, which normally means an element takes a marker that has to be removed by spending an activation before they do anything else. Fortunately, my Knights are all Veterans, allowing them to remove the first such marker taken in a turn.

Let's hope the right flank looks better...

As the Rush Move gives a good modifier, I decided to repeat this over here. Nothing to shoot at yet and right now my plan is all about closing the distance. Retained Knights all have jump jets in their armour, but they can only be used twice in a game and I reason they are better spent later to close the last gap and get in some point blank fire. Hopefully! 

The weapon platform now takes another shot at the poor Knights on my left flank.  By default, support weapons or those with an area effect can only fire once per turn, but if accompanied by a soldier with the Loader ability, they can fire twice per turn. At the time I decided to add this to give the AI more of a chance, but after the last shot only hit with one out of three dice and STILL took out half the Demi, I'm starting to regret it...

I regret it even more when the weapon platform does the same again and kills the remaining two soldiers. It seems it isn't enough to dash for it and hope for the best. Troops in Patrol Angis can also take a Self-Preservation option and dig in to increase their armour value. I think I'll need to consider that option more closely in future!

Now it is my go again. I order the Knights on the right to move forward towards the next small wooded area. Luckily this is more than 10cm across, so as long as enemy LOS passes through it my guys can't be seen and shot at. A brief reprieve from the chaos of battle. 

The final AI activation of the turn is for the Knights on the hill. The token I draw for them says they should move to the enemy and fire. However, as the scenario objective is to remain in control of the hill, they stay where they are and enter overwatch instead and receive a marker to show this. They will be able to discard the marker and fire during my future activations. 

My final activation is to move up the heavy weapon Mina into the forest behind the troops covering for them. And that ends the first turn. 

Turn 2

The initiative roll was 2-1 in my favour, so it would be a quick turn. Not so good for me in terms of speeding to the hill! As I won, I received three activation markers. The enemy was given two and placed one on each of their elements as per the solo rules. I placed one on the Demi on the right flank and two on the heavy weapons team following them. Hopefully they will make progress there. 

My first activation was used to move the Demi round the trees, aiming to still keep enough cover between me and the artillery. This meant the Yordan Post was now the closest element to my forces, so I activated them next. 

The Yordan Knights drew a token for their activation which meant they were to take a Precise Shot. With no targets in range, this converted to another overwatch counter. If these remained, the hill would be even more challenging to take!

With my last two activations on the heavy weapons team, my choices are limited. But that was a fault in my original plan I guess! It's worth noting that any activation tokens placed on a commander figure can be 'transmitted' to another element, giving additional flexibility and therefore the ability to respond to enemy activity better. They may be 'lost in transit' though, so it is a bit of a risk. Perhaps I should have considered that option more closely. Anyhow, that's by the by right now, I need to get on with the advance!

It is now that I realise a huge flaw in my plan. My distraction on the left has been taken out by the artillery. My 'cover' on the right has advanced to the woods and are out of sight. This means that any forward movement of my heavy weapon team will leave them visible to the weapon platform on the hill... and I have a suspicion how that will work out. I scan the available activation options in the rulebook, but none of them seem to help. Then I remember! Jet packs! Any other movement would be hindered by the forest the team are in and slow them significantly. But the jet packs would ignore the terrain penalty and double their normal move to 24cm. Perfect!

So my first activation sends them scooting forward to join the other element hiding behind the trees. The last activation for the enemy is on the artillery and they still have no targets, so they enter overwatch. I made the advance forward just in time to avoid that! My final activation is for the weapon team to dig in, just in case...

Turn 3

Turn three starts with the initiative roll going 5-4 in my favour. The AI gives 3 markers to the squad and 2 to the artillery. I decide it is time to take more definite action and give 2 to the Demi on the flank, 1 to the heavy weapons team, 2 to the Post hiding in the woods in the centre and the last one to my commander. 

With the enemy at full strength and firmly defending the hill, ready to shoot at anything that pops into sight, I think the time for subtlety might have passed. The one thing in my favour right now is that, having won the initiative roll, I get to decide which figures are removed as casualties when hits are taken. This will allow me to prolong the life of any heavy weapons in an element. 

My other problem, however, is that the enemy have enough overwatch tokens to make even moving forward to fire a risky proposition.

The first activation I take, combines the elements on the right flank into one. The enemy responds by putting another overwatch counter on the Post of Knights on the hill.

Now for some action. The element in the centre Rapid Moves to the edge of the wood. This brings their missile launcher into range of the artillery, but the artillery can also overwatch fire at them, which it does. With a plus 2 for the Rapid Move and a plus 3 for cover added to the base To Hit value of 2, the artillery requires a 7 on each of its 3 dice for them to hit. Luckily it fails on all of them! The overwatch token is removed.

Next the artillery activates and takes a Precise Shot at the infantry in the woods. The modifers for Rapid Move and the cover remain, but Precise Shot gives the artillery a -1 to the target number, so it now needs 6s. A roll of 4, 6 and 8 gives 2 hits, quadrupled to 8 due to the area effect. Better hope their armour works! Unfortunately I only save 2, resulting in 6 casualties. Now I need to make a Morale check, requiring a 7+. I roll a 7! If I had failed, they would have lost their second activation token immediately in order to Re-Motivate themselves, and I need that one to fire at the artillery!

I take my next activation with the battered remains of my squad and prepare the Anvil 888 launcher to fire. The weapon platform is just within range. Alas, I am unable to take a Precise Shot in the same turn I have done a Rapid Move, so I'll just have to carry on with a normal shot. On the plus side, the artillery is in the open. There no to hit modifiers, so I roll two dice needing a 2+ on each to hit. I get my two hits and, as the Anvil has an Area Effect value of four, it is converted to 8 hits! Each hit is strength 4. The enemy are wearing the standard armour of the Retained Knights, the same as my troops, giving them an armour rating of 3. They get a +1 to this as the artillery piece offers some protection itself. So using these to modify the base save value of 4 gives a result of 4 (4 +3 +1 -4). Save rolls need to be higher than this, so I roll 8 dice and score 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8. Three saves and 5 hits gone through. The weapon team can discard their activation token to ignore 2 hits if they like, but that would still leave 3, so they are annihilated!

I'm starting to wonder why I didn't do that on my first turn!

The squad on the hill is probably feeling quite concerned at the destruction of the artillery. They take a Self-Preservation action (forfeiting their overwatch tokens) in order to gain a +2 to their armour rating until they move again. Fair enough.

I decide it is time to pile on the hurt and order my squad on the flank to move and fire. They use jump jets to leap over the woods and up to the edge of the hill. There is still some cover between them and the enemy in the form of a small copse. At least they don't recieve fire from overwatch! The missile launcher that the squad has can't fire as it moved, but the other 5 soldiers can attack with their Angis Rifles. In total they can roll 5 dice to hit. The cover gives a +2 modifier and a +1 for the Chameleon Circuits in the enemies' armour as they have not moved, so they end up needing 5+.

I score 4 hits, now for armour penetration.... The base save number is 4 (as always). I add 4 due to the strength value of my weapons, subtract 3 for the armour the enemy wears. They get an additional -2 from the self protection action bringing the total to 3. They need to exceed this on the dice to save and do so with two of them. I allocate one hit each to two of the support weapons they carry and the last one to one of the riflemen. Unfortunately they pass their morale test with no problems.

The rules allow for elements fired upon to shoot back after casualties have been determined (this should have been before the morale check, but I forgot!). Support weapons are not able to do this, so the squad is left with 5 weapons which can (all standard Angis Rifles). The target number is the same as when I fired upon them, but as I moved I don't get the benefit of the Chameleon Circuits, so they need a 4+ to hit. They only score two, thankfully. I don't save either of these, so I eliminate two riflemen. The morale check is passed.

The enemy now activates and uses its last token to fire on my squad again. The only weapons in range are the Angis Rifles. They also have a Plasma Rifle, but this is a hard-hitting short-range weapon. So 5 more dice rolled and they get 3 hits! With luck I save two of these and lose just one more rifleman. Casualties have mounted up, however, and I fail the morale check and am forced to discard their last activation marker.

This is where the commander comes in handy. I put one token on him at the start of the turn. He can now take a Command and Control activation to 'transmit' his token to another element on the board. I do this and place the token by the remains of the force on the hill. On a roll of 8 the orders are lost in transit, but I score a 5, so all is well. 

As the enemy is out of activations, I now use this last token to take a Precise Shot. With this extra bonus, my guys need a 3+ to hit. All the dice are successful, meaning I get two hits from the rifle and 8 from the missile launcher. Nice! As all the hits are Strength 4 I may as well roll for the saves all at the same time. Each is saved on 4+. Three hits get through and the enemy fail their morale test meaning they lose the first activation token put on them next turn. Return fire takes out another of my men and I also fail the morale test, leaving me in the same situation as the enemy and needing to discard their first activation.

That was certainly an eventful turn!

Turn 4

Initiative for this turn is 5-4 in my favour. I use one token to re-motivate the remaining soldiers on the hill and give them another one to shoot with. The other four go to the Post loitering in the woods. The enemy only has one element left in play, so they get all the tokens, minus the one required to re-motivate them.

I fear my guys on the hill would get wiped out this turn, so my first activation is for them to fire their missile launcher. I use the Precise Shot action and score one hit (converted to 4 due to the area effect of the weapon). Two of these get past the armour of the enemy, but, having so many activation tokens, they utilise a rule that allows them to discard a token to ignore two hits. They emerge unscathed! Their snap fire in return takes out one of my men and I fail the resulting morale check, therefore placing a Re-Motivate marker. It doesn't matter in the end, however, as fire from the enemy activation immediately after is enough to kill the last soldier.

It's time to get sneaky! I move my last element so the enemy are in range of their missile launcher, but out of range of anything the enemy has. At least that way they will have to move and lose their self-preservation status if they want to return fire. 

The chit draw for the Yordans indicates they go into overwatch, not that it will help them now! I open fire with my launcher... The enemy still haven't moved, but there is no cover between us, so I end up needing 2+ to hit (Base 2+, +1 for Chameleon Circuits, -1 for Precise Shot. Two hits later the enemy is having to roll 8 dice to save! They take two casualties and also fail their morale check, forcing them to remove an activation token.

Their final activation should see them remaining still, but I choose to overrule this as it is obvious in the current situation that they will just get whittled down from long range. So they move forward and take a shot (only one of them has a Angis Rifle now). The shot causes a casualty and I also fail morale and lose an activation token. I now have two left. Two of my infantry can return fire and I score two hits! There is now one enemy on the hill, but he his only armed with a close combat axe, so I can pick him off at my leisure.

The hill is mine!

I have to say I really enjoyed this game. It was a bit of a learning experience and there is a lot I would do differently if I played it again. But to my mind that is the sign of a good game, that it reveals itself to you when you play rather than just being obvious from a read of the rules. It provides some interesting challenges and choices during play and, as someone who often plays solo, I am looking forward to testing out the solo mechanics in other scenarios.

All figures pictured are part of the pro-painted starter set, which you can buy from The Ion Age website. 

You can read more about the mechanics and why I like Patrol Angis in the review I posted on this blog and can find that here .

Soon I will be posting the 'comic style' report of this scenario and also a more detailed look at what you get in the pro-painted starter set. After that, some more reports hopefully!

I hope you enjoyed this AAR. Please feel free to post any comments and I will do my best to respond to any questions!