Archives for June 2009

ASGARD rules meta system coming soon

Vincent Yanda and myself have been working on the VictoryPoints website again. After aborting our first attempt with Joomla I’ve decided to build it from the ground up using ASP.NET (I wrote one of the first web applications using that in the mid-90s and I’ve been meaning to bone up on it again with ASP 3.5 having some maturity.)

That effort is going well. We are focusing on developing the content at the same time that I am building the infrastructure for the website. The site is based upon the idea of showcasing complete projects. ASGARD is a free meta gaming system you can use to remove the Game Master from most war games and the Dungeon Master from most RPGs. It is not a weak system but one that allows for complex results. It is based upon the Markov Chain and is in fact a paper based computer. It maintains most of the state of the evolving plot line and is incredibly easy to use with very little overhead. It allows for complex solo play. I was inspired by Victory Game’s Ambush! series which I have played numerous times over the years. What I didn’t like was they didn’t give you any information on creating your own modules and that the modules were on a fixed, known map. I wanted a system that you could create your own modules and have it work on an arbitrary map. I’ve spent months developing it with earnest work starting in October of 2008 and a workable system being ready in May of 2009. We are currently working up the documentation for the system along with several initial scenarios. We want the VictoryPoints site to be the home for it and for people to produce their own ASGARD projects and post them there.

That said we would love to negotiate with free lance artists to do some artwork. We unfortunately are not able to pay anything for this work but once the website is up we can offer to build up your online presence. For a starting (and starving!) artist like Vince and I this might be a good combination.

More details to follow. I finished the first sample scenario last night in which the players must find a key to open the gate in the wall imprisoning the village. It is a one page scenario that shows how the system can easily maintain complex state.

Leading Edge Alien Warriors for sale – hard to find!

Hello! I am selling off some of the more interesting things from my collection to help pay bills. Today I am selling off Leading Edge’s Alien Warrior set. These are 6 licenced miniatures of the creatures from James Cameron’s film “Aliens.” They are faithful reproductions and in some dynamic poses. I had thought about doing a full scale mockup of the major fights in Aliens and using these but times are hard right now so they must go.

The link above is an eBay auction. If you don’t like eBay and want to tempt them away from me in private contact me and we can see if we can come to a deal. If you are a miniatures collector and have a keen interest in these figures now is the time to get them. I know how hard it was for me to find them the first time around!

It’s all about the Lewt, baby

The FTC is tracking blogs because many make claims without revealing that they are being compensated. For example, lets say I review a game or a movie. My opinion may be corrupt if the game company or the movie production house gave me some sort of compensation. You the consumer would be unaware if I didn’t say anything about it and my so-called independent review would be tainted.

So as a service to all, I will state that even with the ads displayed here, I have not received anything at all from any company whose products I have reviewed.

And that is not true. Not in the least. Wargames LLC helped support the Greater Pacific War with greatly reduced prices on figures. Sergent Major Miniatures also supplied a lot of figures for one of the games on that project. Sabol Designs gave me an extra tray when I ordered the Division Army Transport system.

The ads on this page have not produced a check but in 3 years have gotten me close to getting my first $100 check. For the number of visitors I get here it is not unexpected that I don’t have a lot of income generated by that.

Bob Bowling of RLBPS painted up 3 LCMs for me a few Japanese pill boxes. I still haven’t gotten to use those in a game but one is planned.

And that is it. The FTC rules make sense. It wasn’t until I read that article that I really thought about the issue and the responsibility of blogs. We think of them as just personal opinion pages. But there is a link to the readers and their potential buying habits. Readers SHOULD KNOW when there is compensation so that they know the opinion isn’t totally independent.

So what do you think? Bloggers should, in my opinion, be upfront. The article suggests self-policing. I think that can make sense if all bloggers work together to keep each other “real”.

Please add your comments!

Ninja Revenge AAR

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

I Bathed in Blood.

Yes, that is right. Bax, Al, Ed and I all bathed in Samurai blood and I can’t say I regret it one bit. This was the first test of a system I’ve been cooking up for a while now. I mainly intend it for modern asymmetric warfare and in this case it was simply an ancient version of SpecWarfare (Special Operations Warfare). The scenario was simple – Samurai came into the village and drove off the peasants, killing not just a few in the process. These peasants were loyal to the local Ninja Ryu which took upon itself to avenge them. 4 highly trained Ninja came with just one mission – kill the leader and hurt the minions as much as possible. Let’s take a look at the board.

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

Here we see the village. The Samurai have built a camp here that consists of some outward facing simple revetment made of earth and small logs. Mainly it is useful to slow down formed units and to give cover from archery. To a single Ninja, however, it poses no difficulty. Dotted all over the place are Litko Skull Tokens. Their use was to indicate possible locations for enemy troops. The idea is to eventually have a system that doesn’t rely upon a GM. A carefully laid out table with smartly laid out encounter tokens will produce enough interesting engagements, in theory, to have a fulfilling game. Enough conditions and events will produce a good story.

Here is how it worked. The players each had a single Ninja. They moved onto the table from any point on the edge. When they got within both line of sight of a token AND within 18″ (it is night after all) they made a stealth check and then a perception check. If the perception check failed than another perception check was made in reverse using standard modifiers for range, darkness and the results of the stealth roll. If the player’s perception check was successful a card was drawn to see if there was anything there. This card draw not only told us if something was there but also it’s attitude (backs to us, facing us or neutral stance). There was a modifier to the target’s perception check based on that stance. If the player failed their perception check and the token succeeded in it’s then the card was drawn to see what the unit was – that unit was then placed facing the player’s Ninja and already aware. The player was then considered flatfooted. If either made their perception check the token was removed. If both failed then it remained in place. One token survived 6 repeated checks this way!

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

“You’re goin’ down!”

Here we see the Ninja Master giving the severely beaten and bleeding Samurai “a fresh one.” This was our first encounter. It took several turns to defeat these guys. It was a smallish group of Katana wielding Samurai that we did not take by surprise. The Sumo Wrestler (day job) Ninja was hiding behind some barrels and peeked over the top. He saw them and they saw him! They charged, katanas akimbo, and he got up on the barrel for the flying tackle maneuver. The Ninja Master has such amazing stealth that he managed to run into the battle totally unseen or heard and landed a surprise flying kick into one of the Samurai. One of the best moments was when he surprised another, turned him around, poked him in both eyes Three Stooges style and turned him back around temporarily blinded. Well it would have been temporary but pretty soon the Speed Ninja showed up with his razor claws and pretty much finished off everyone.

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

Ok here are some Samurai who were spotted heading into the compound. They have Naganata which are great against slow, heavily armored opponents. However when out of the darkness of the night comes a screaming foot they are less useful. Here we see our leader again kicking ass, literally, and making a mockery out of the Samurai.

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

“Knock Knock… Whose There?” Gurgle.

Meanwhile Sumo (Day Job) Ninja decides to take a peak inside the compound which is lit by a couple of campfires (+2 PERception, 12″ radius).

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

Ok… these guys have arrows and will fill his fat a$$ with them if he decides to bust a move. Now is the time for the Supreme Ninja Aura to come out and for him to think very small thoughts as he crosses the plaza to the tea house for a closer look! Meanwhile Baxter is also trying to think small thoughts as he has been making his way around the compound looking for patrols!

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

Through a lot of luck we converge on the archer squad. Considering we are in the radius of illumination the two fires give this is a blessing from the Dice Gods. While we have shuriken throwing stars (well Bax and Ed do) those are pretty pitiful compared to the long bows of the Samurai. Cautious advance is the only way to take these guys out. In fact most of our attacks are magnified while they are unaware. If the surprise is blown then so is a good 50% of our advantage.

From 2009-06-13 Ninja Revenge

Severed body parts? Check

Ringing ears from Ninja flashbang ‘nades? Check

No one left standing? Uh wait. Baxter!

So Baxter left one standing. The dude made his armor save. Which all things considered went poorly for him as that meant he now had the attention of 4 Ninja.

We called it at that point. The major successes here were the use of the encounter system with conditions that made it less and less likely that the Samurai would be surprised (luck really was with us this last round) as was much of the non-combat aspects of Hero I used. The Hero System combat mechanics while great were a bit much for people new to it to grasp so I went from player to player and without looking at their sheet asked what did they really want to do – not what game mechanic was best. Then I discussed mechanical options. That really was fun. I think if you had 4-8 Herophiles it would have been a bit faster and I would not have had to nerf the Samurai as much. I’ll rework the system so that just the essential elements that we used will be shown to non-role players. Overall the combat was fun though and while it is helpful when players know what they are doing it isn’t necessary if the GM knows what he is doing!

This project started about 3 weeks ago at Nashcon. I picked up 10 ninja figures (or 9 plus the sumo wrestler who was too cool to not use as a brick ninja!) I painted them in two weeks (yes, I am slow/don’t paint every night) and then worked on the rules. For this game I opted to do a mix of my encounter system (which this was the first public playtest) and the Hero System RPG. For source material I used the following:

Gold Rush Games
“Senjoku” RPG and Source Book
“Shinobi, Shadows of Nihon” Source Book

History Books
“Ninja, The True Story of Japans Secret Warrior Cult” by Stephen Turnbull

Hero Games
“Hero System”, 5th Edition Revised, RPG
“Ninja Hero” Source book
“The Ultimate Martial Artist” Source book
“The Hero System Combat Handbook” (all the combat rules and options in one place!)
“The Ultimate Mentalist”
“The Ultimate Speedster”
“The Ultimate Skill”
“The Ultimate Brick”

All of these books were very useful and I plan on doing another similar game in the future. With Hero 6th Edition coming out this summer it will be interesting to see how things cleanup or change.

I do plan on creating a new variant of this for Historicon this year. I am really excited that this first game went as well as it did. It needs simplification such that players don’t need to know a lot of nuances. However it was a lot of fun. It really did feel like a Ninja SpecOp with suspense and drama. I’d like to thank Bax, Al and Ed for playing and playing well and to Wargames, LLC for giving us the place to play!

By the way, Wargames is moving. Not far away either, just down the street into a MUCH NICER PLACE! Thank you Miss Nancy for your hard work finding the new space! It really is great looking. We got a tour of the facility and I’ll be posting pictures of it on a later date. If you are looking for a great place to game then you’ll have to check out Wargames.

From Ninja Revenge

Simple ideas for trackable head display for gaming consoles

This guy just got hired for Project Natal for the Xbox. Absolutely great stuff. I was greatly impressed with the appearence of 3D and the fact that he was able to mimick the effect using a camcorder. The fact that he was able to do this on such a small budget and with pretty simplistic tools is what really amazes me here. The concept with the wii is to track where the controller is, as a point in space. By “reversing the triangle” this system is able to track two other points which is needed for the steroscopic view. Great stuff.

If you have not heard of Project Natal (pronounced new-tal for some reason) it is a 3 dimensional sensor, plus biometric sensor. It can tell if it recognizes you by how you look or your voice. It is a key component for future sensor work by Microsoft for game control. No longer will games be just simply about sitting on the couch. Now the machine will be able to order you to scrape and bow to its all mighty presence before allowing you to play and it will know if you did it or not! Seriously though, it should make for much more immersive games. I’m looking forward to it actually.

Battle Chronicler

How did I get so far behind as to miss Battle Chronicler? This cool piece of software is used to make battle reports with high quality maps. It look quite a bit easier to use than Campaign Cartographer (which is wonderful in its rich set of commands, templates and options – but quite difficult to use in my opinion.)

I saw it first at the Chicago Terrain Factory but it appears to have been mentioned is various podcasts and the like. Anyway, if you are like me and missed out on it take the time now to check it out. It looks quite good. I may use it to write up my after action report for the Ninja Revenge game this coming Saturday.

Ninja Revenge

I’ve been working for the past two weeks fleshing out my Ninja Revenge game idea. It came about at Nashcon. I didn’t have much money so there wasn’t much I could buy until I was looking through the Dixson stuff Wargames had for sale. 10 Ninja or related 28mm figures for $10. Well heck, I’ve got $10! So I picked them up. I finished painting and basing them last night.

From Ninja Revenge

The game idea is one where I will bring out my Samurai miniatures that haven’t seen the light of day in years and have an excuse to put them on the table again. I’ve been working on this simulation system that allows all of the players to be on the same team with the enemies run by the system. I borrowed ideas from Victory Games’ Ambush! game. There are major differences in my system but the basic core idea is the same – various encounter point on a 3D terrain produce some effect or encounter.

From Ninja Revenge

Generally what happens is the players have an overall mission. Accomplishing that mission comes about by seeking out the encounter points and prosecuting them whatever they turn out to be. The mission starts in Condition 0 whose basic parameters are defined by the mission. You may be on patrol and so at equal odds with the enemy. You may be surrounded and/or cornered with the enemy coming in on you, or you may have a very specific mission to find and defeat some specific target. There are many types of mission I’ve been able to devise for this system. I am doing my best to get it written up and playtested. So far it has been fun.

From Ninja Revenge

In this particular scenario, 10 very powerful shinobi are on the trail of the local Samurai garrison in hopes of assassinating the leader. This is in revenge for the burning of a village associated with the shinobi. It is not historically based on any one incident and the history of the Ninja is mainly unverified. They did exist. Some of their tactics are known. Their philosophy is known. They didn’t start wearing black commando outfits until long after Japan had been unified – but that won’t stop us from having fun with them. In many ways the mission is standard SpecOps 101 – infiltrate, prosecute with extreme prejudice, exfiltrate. You could replace the Ninja and Samurai for Rangers and Nazis or SEALS and Sandinistas.

From Ninja Revenge

As the conditions progress they have a chance to branch depending on what has happened. Condition 0 doesn’t need to lead to Condition 1 for example. Condition 1 might represent the Ninja getting ambushed while Condition 2 might be the Ninja finding a vital clue that gets them closer to the target. Condition 3 might be the target is on the offensive and Condition 4 might be the target is on the defensive. So depending on how lucky or unlucky the players are might determine how hard that condition is. As always, good tactics will mean the players are able to hunker down and survive onslaughts while pushing to complete the mission.

The combat rules are taken straight from a role playing game I very much enjoy called the Hero System. It is the most mechanically consistent game around and actually bills itself as a game toolkit. It will give me a lot of ability to keep things balanced and to handle complex game play. The rules are complex enough to build a connection between the player and the game piece for a more immersive game experience.

Hopefully next week I’ll have everything ready for the game to kick off. I’ve been reading a lot of Ninja mythology just so I can get this ready to go. Check out the full album of photos I took of the finished Ninja pictures here.

From Ninja Revenge