Kill Team

September 17, 2018

 

Kill Team 2018b

So, Games Workshop released a new version of WH40K Kill Team about a month ago (give or take).  For the uninitiated, Kill Team basically uses Warhammer 40K 8th Edition rules (with a few modifications) to fight smaller skirmish battles instead of large battles.  Battles use between 3 and 20 models per side, and take about an hour or so to complete (once you’re familiar with the rules).  If you’re curious about Warhammer 40K, or wargaming in general, Kill Team can be a relatively inexpensive way to explore the hobby.

Earlier this year I’d gotten into Necromunda, which is another skirmish game published by Games Workshop.  Overall I liked the game, especially the premise and fluff behind it, but found the rules to be rather fiddly and, at times, downright grating.  My hope for Kill Team was that it would be simpler, cleaner rule set to work with.  And in most respects, it is.

Shooting combat in particular has been vastly simplified, at least compared to Necromunda.  Instead of having to subjectively judge whether a model has partial cover or full cover, Kill Team uses obscurement:  if any part of a model’s body is obscured by terrain, the attack has a -1 to hit.  That’s it.  Likewise, instead of Necromunda’s numerous range modifiers varying by weapon, Kill Team just applies a -1 to-hit penalty for any attack between 1/2 and the weapon’s maximum range.  Clean, elegant, objective and simple.  I love the shooting rules.

Kill Team 2018a

However (you knew it was coming), other parts of the rules are far more fiddly.  Particularly dealing with movement, close combat and firing pistols in close combat.  Kill Team uses a hybrid of IGOUGO mechanics (for movement), and alternating activations (for combat).  It also uses measurement of inches to regulate movement (like a traditional wargame).  And it is the combination of these factors that I think causes problems for me.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  1. Can that model slip around two models in close combat without coming within 1″ of them, or going over the edge of the board?  Maybe, but measuring it out with rulers can be a pain in the ass.
  2. If you charge, but fail to roll high enough to reach your target, you can still move towards your target, but it also still counts as a failed charge.  This can affect the order in which close combat is resolved if that model is then in turn successfully charged (something I got wrong in a recent game, much to my chagrin).
  3. Pistols are the only ranged weapons that can be fired at models less than 1″ away (i.e. in close combat), but not on a turn in which they charged or were charged.  Again, a fiddly little distinction rule tacked on, required because of the hybrid movement/alternating action economy of the game, and a rule that causes considerable confusion.
  4. A model in close combat can choose to Fall Back (i.e. move out of close combat).  But only if it began its movement phase within 1″ of an enemy model.  That’s another way of saying that a model can’t Fall Back on the turn it was charged, a rule that is required so that a model that was charged cannot then fall back and shoot its charger in the same turn (again, because of Kill Team’s hybrid action economy).  But what if the model started its turn in close combat, and was then charged by a different model?  Can it still Fall Back?  Turns out you can’t, but I had to look it up, because the whole sequence of events is not intuitive, or well written.
  5. If your model is charged, you can choose to Overwatch.  However, all other shooting rules apply, such as line-of-sight, whether the overwatching model did a regular move, advance move or charge, the weapon it is equipped with, etc.  Yet more side rules to keep track of, and could have been vastly simplified without breaking the game by just saying models always get to Overwatch, unless they’re already locked in close combat.
  6. Alternatively, a charged model can react to a charge by Retreating.  But if that model is charged a second time in the same turn, it can’t retreat a second time.  Also, if the model already moved in the turn, it cannot Retreat.  More fiddly side rules.
  7. It also doesn’t help that rules for the same concept are sometimes spread over two or three different pages.

I don’t think I’m the only person having problems remembering all these “side-case” rules.  Read any Kill Team forum and questions regarding the proper sequence of movement and close combat are, by far, the most common.

Kill Team 2018d

I wish Kill Team used a more regulated system of movement.  In other words, a grid, hexes or at least some form of zone-based movement (similar to Deadzone or Deathwatch Overkill).  Kill Team is already firmly wedded to a literal game board, so it wouldn’t have been much trouble to print a grid or hexes on top of it.

With a grid (or hexes), you don’t have to worry about whether your model’s base is going over the edge of the board, or whether it will cross the base of another model, or whether you’re within 1″ of an enemy model.  The grid handles all of that for you (and so much more)!

Combining grid-based movement (or something like it) with full alternating activations (like Necromunda) instead of WHO40K’s IGOUGO mechanics would eliminate the need for most of the fiddly side-case rules, which cause the most confusion.  And not having to spend mental processing power on tracking lots of little annoying detail rules leaves more processing power for actually playing (and enjoying) the game.  It would also make the game more accessible to new players, making Kill Team a gateway to the wider world of miniatures wargaming (a good thing for GW, and the hobby as a whole).

One final thought/suggestion:  Kill Team uses Tactics, which are similar to WH40K’s Strategems.  Players spend Command Points (CPs) on tactics/strategems to gain temporary bonuses or advantages.  One nice improvement is that Kill Team allocates CPs on a turn-by-turn basis, as opposed to WH40K’s approach of dumping all your CPs on you at start of the game.

Kill Team 2018c

However, there are simply too damn many tactics to keep track of:  there are 6 general tactics any player can use; each faction has 10 to 12 tactics; kill team specialist models have their own tactics (up to 4 specialists on a team, including the team leader); specific kill zones have special tactics; and some missions have their own tactics, as well.  With so many tactics to keep track of, it’s very easy to forget to use them at the right moments (or at all), especially if you’re already trying to keep a bunch of other rules straight in your head.

It would have been great if Kill Team had used a card-based mechanic instead of Command Points.  Each player builds a Tactics Deck of roughly 12 cards, drawing 1 or 2 of them every turn to create a hand, and then playing them when needed.  Faster, cleaner game play, more opportunities for strategy in designing a deck (and building a kill team around the deck, or vice versa), you only need to worry about the tactics in your deck, and it creates interesting fun-hard choices during the game (“I only have 2 of this tactic in my deck – do I use it now, or wait and hope a better opportunity presents itself next turn?”).

Okay, so overall I like Kill Team (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I really do).  However, the fiddly bits are starting to wear on me some.  I feel like GW missed (another) opportunity with this game.  I wonder if the design team felt they needed to adhere closely to the game’s WH40K roots, so they weren’t willing to go too far afield.  It’s hard to argue against the game’s success so far, but I think just a few more flourishes could have made Kill Team a classic for the ages (like HeroQuest or Necromunda), rather than just another good game people will play only as long as GW supports it.

Still, if you’re already an experienced wargamer, then most of the things that grate on me will probably be old hat for you, so no worries.  And if you’re new to wargaming but thinking of giving it a try, then Kill Team is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get into the hobby, and the rules are cleaner and simpler than most I’ve read (despite my issues with them).

Thanks for reading.  Cheers!

Starfinder Beginner Box

August 5, 2018

SFBBpic

So, this might be old news to some of you already, but Paizo is going to release a Beginner Box for Starfinder sometime next year.

Starfinder was sort of a fizzle for our group.  We played it for a bit, but it didn’t really spark much interest for us.  None-the-less, I’ll likely pick up the Beginner Box version just to see what’s in it and how it differs from the core rules.  Plus it’ll have mats and pawns, just like the PFBB.

Cheers!

My First Painted Army

July 19, 2018

A couple of months ago I posted about how I’d gotten into the new edition of Necromunda.  Well, now I’ve gotten into the current edition of Warhammer 40K (thanks Randy), and soon, Kill Team and Adeptus Titanicus – I’ve been bitten by the GW bug hard.

I painted up a gang of Orlocks for Necromunda, which was my first experience painting minis.  They turned out decently, though I may be biased. 🙂

This, however, is my first time painting an entire army: Adeptus Mechanicus and Imperial Knights.

AdMechArmy2

About 750 points worth of AdMech and Knights

Again, while not professional level quality, I think they turned out pretty decent, especially considering my lack of experience.  And it was a lot more fun than I’d imagine it would be.

AdMechArmy1

This is a better picture

I’m looking forward to painting up some Kill Team, uh, kill teams in a couple of weeks, and in late August some warlord titans from Adeptus Titanicus.

Cheers!

DCC – Spell Addiction

June 7, 2018

dcc-wizard-1

For the uninitiated, in Dungeon Crawl Classics wizards roll a d20 to cast spells and compare the result to a chart to determine the spell’s ultimate effect.  However, if you roll a natural 1, you get a thing called spell misfire.  Basically, you screw up the spell and something bad happens.

So, a new idea for a spell misfire effect is Spell Addiction.  In essence, a caster becomes addicted to casting a particular spell.  If they don’t cast that spell at least once a day, they suffer a -1 die step penalty on all action die rolls until they do.

If the wizard happens to gain a second instance of spell addiction for the same spell, then they need to cast the spell at least twice a day, or suffer a -2 die step penalty on all action die rolls.  A third instance of spell addiction with the same spell is even worse, and so on.

How do you treat spell addiction?  Hell if I know, but I’m guessing it’s probably really difficult and involves a quest for some rare ingredient, or a visit to a health guru living on some distant mountain top.

This concept could be extended to other magic items as well.  Say, developing an addiction to healing potions, or an inability to ever part with your awesome magic sword, or you develop an intense fear of ever removing your magic armor because it would leave you vulnerably “naked.”

Granted, to a certain extent players already do some of these things, it’s just largely hand-waved or glossed over.  But there are times when it could be really interesting (“Sorry, you can’t bring your chaotic magic sword Lifebane to your meeting with the king, no matter how badly you ‘need’ it.”)

Another possibility, in the spirit of DCC, is to gain Spell Addiction on a spell check roll of natural 20 instead.  All that magical power going to your head, it’s a rush!  Every spell casting after that is just an attempt to chase that initial high of arcane power.

Cheers!

Big Book of Battle Mats

May 1, 2018

 

bbobm

Now this is one of the coolest gaming ideas I’ve seen in a long while.  Its an A4 size book of laminated battle mats.  Some 58 mats in all – though most of them are meant to be used together,  so more like 29-ish unique maps.

This helps solve a problem I’d been pondering with the Long Winter Campaign (yeah, still working on it – it’ll be a reality some day!).  I didn’t want to stop the action to hand-draw encounter maps, so I’d been slowly collecting old 4E D&D maps and Pathfinder flip-mats.  However, carrying around all those maps and mats would be rather bulky, and sorting through them kind of a hassle.

But with this book, just drop it down on the table and turn it to the appropriate mat.  BAM!  Done.

bbobm3

Roll initiative!

Now, you might say those maps are a bit small for many encounters, and I’d agree with you.  Fortunately, this company is currently doing a Kickstarter for larger A3 size (11.7 x 16.5 inches) book.  They’re also putting together a sci-fi book of battle mats.  Win-win, as far as I’m concerned.  So, yeah, I backed it.

If you want to buy the current book, you can order it here.

If you want to check out their Kickstarter, you can find it here.

Cheers!

Zombicide: Invader

April 23, 2018

zombicideinvader

Just FYI, Cool Mini or Not has another Zombicide Kickstarter going, this time for a sci-fi version of the game.  If you want to pick up a bunch of sci-fi minis at a good price, it’s a great deal.  Just 10 days to go on the Kickstarter.

Zombicidepic

Cheers!

Necromunda

March 29, 2018

necromundabox

My friend Randy recently got me into Games Workshop’s new version of Necromunda.  It’s been decades since I’ve played a GW game (I fell heavily for 2E epic scale Space Marine back in college), so I wasn’t sure how I’d take to it.  I don’t have a lot of patience for fiddly rules any more.

Overall, I really like the game, to the point were I’m probably spending too much money on it.  But I love the setting and, for the most part, I love the components that come with the base game.  And while there are some fiddly rules, for the most part they aren’t too bad.

However, it’s not all wine and roses in the Underhive.  Necromunda has traditionally been a game that really emphasizes WYSIWYG modeling.  To that end, the sprues for the figures are insanely customizable.  As in way too customizable.

 

orlocksprue

The Orlock sprue; note all the little individual heads.

 

Trying to glue a tiny Orlock head to its body is a very frustrating process.  It was almost enough to make me give up on the game.  The fact that I haven’t (yet) is a testament to how much I like it.  But I’d have been much (much) happier if they’d just included five or six standardized bodies and then let us glue on the appropriate weapons, because this level of minute customization really adds nothing to the game (imo).

And while the rules aren’t too bad, there are still a few fiddly things that set me off.  One is the Stray Shot rule, which is convoluted, easy to forget and exploitable.  Something else are the skills ganger’s can acquire through experience.  Most of them work well enough, but there are some that require a dice roll for something to happen.  More dice rolls just slow the game down, and when a ganger has a bunch skills it can be easy to forget about them in the heat of the action.  Frankly, they remind me somewhat of Pathfinder feats, and I’m not really a fan of complicated, situational feats to begin with.  It really feels like they layered on extra complexity to give some of these skills meaning.

Which leads to yet another annoyance.  Originally, Necromunda only had one “mental” stat, called Leadership.  The new version adds three new mental stats:  Cool, Willpower and Intelligence.  Of these, only Cool plays much of a role, to the point it now even diminishes the importance of the original Leadership stat.  But Willpower and Intelligence are barely used, and it feels like GW went out of its way to add more rules (and thus, complexity) to justify these new stats.  However, I imagine Willpower will play a bigger part in the game when they eventually get around to adding psykers.

One final, minor, gripe:  the game shipped with a beautiful set of map boards (called “Zone Mortalis”).  As you can see, the boards have a grid on them.  Unfortunately, the grid is 2″ instead of the standard 1″.  Which means it’s difficult to use them for other games, and makes it more difficult to use the boards for a converted version of Necromunda.  On that note, it might have been nice if a “basic” version of the rules was released that did indeed use those grids.  It just seems like a lost opportunity, and would have made the game more accessible to new players.

underhive-09

Also, if you’re a fan of the original Necromunda, this version does not come with 3D terrain.  The vanilla rules only include 2D battles on the aforementioned “Zone Mortalis” boards.  You need to purchase a separate supplement (Gang War) to get the campaign rules (which really make Necromunda shine) and the rules for 3D terrain (which GW calls “Sector Mechanicus”).

So, despite spending most of this write-up complaining about Necromunda, I actually really like the game.  The components are top notch, the models look great (once you assemble them) and it plays fairly quickly.  We’re still mastering the rules, so we often forget something, or get the rule wrong, but that’s really just a matter of playing more.  I can’t wait to play a campaign, though preferably a map-based strategic campaign rather than the abstract campaign rules that come in Gang War (but that’s easily house ruled).

And as for a “basic” version of the game, well that’s something else I can work on after I’ve had more time to master the rules.

Cheers.

 

 

The Avenging Sun – Another Grim Dark Future Funnel

February 28, 2018

wh40kpic

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to run another Grim Dark Future Funnel session, my DCC/WH40K(ish) mashup.  This was a going-away game for a member of the group who’s moving out of the area.

Charon B had been shrouded by warp storms for over 5,000 years until, one day, it suddenly wasn’t.  Long range auspex scans revealed the presence of an intact Imperator class titan – the legendary Avenging Sun.  The 7,540th Free Company, the Lupus Dei (their god being money, not the Emperor), set their sights upon retrieving the long lost titan.  If successful, this would be their greatest pay day yet.

The PCs made up the insertion team, who’s mission was to enter and clear out the interior of the titan, as well as place four teleporter beacons, which would allow squat technicians to teleport the entire titan into the hold of an orbiting super-freighter.  Covered by 5,000 years of debris and sediment, there were only two points of entry:  a hatch on the top leading into the titan’s temple, or a massive pipe sticking out of the side of debris pile.

The party commander choose to enter through the pipe, which turned out to be the barrel of the titan’s mighty Hellstorm cannon.  They discovered this entry point was protected by a group of Nurgle cultists, who were easily dispatched with only a few rocket mishaps (explosive friendly fire FTW!).  Fortunately they didn’t set off the live shell nestled in the gun’s breach.

Unfortunately, all the corpses started moving again.  Another fight ensued, and the players found that dispatching Nurgle zombies was much harder than dispatching Nurgle cultists.  Careful to destroy all the bodies this time, they entered the titan through the barrel’s gas vents.

They had another encounter with a powerful Nurgle warband on the titan’s bridge, which was dealt with in fairly quick order.  Unfortunately, we were running short of time, and I didn’t want to miss the big event, so I hand-waved clearing the rest of the titan to get on with things.

grim dark future funnel 3

Here comes bad news.

While clearing the titan, cultists outside the titan had initiated a ritual, which culminated about the time the last teleport beacon was placed.  A colossal rift formed, belching forth a mighty daemon of Nurgle, easily as tall as a building.  The teleporters weren’t calibrated yet, so the team had to power up the old Imperator titan and go toe-to-toe with a mighty daemon for several minutes.

grim dark future funnel 2

Titan and daemon going toe-to-toe…along with a giant bag of Cheetos.

It was a close fight, for the Avenging Sun was almost destroyed.  But the teleporters activated just in time to save them.  Most of the insertion team made it off the planet, to retire to lives of unbridled decadence and luxury…save one chap who thought they weren’t going to make it and decided to jump-pack off the titan at the last second.  He got left behind.  Oops.

Thanks to my buddy Randy for the pictures.  Cheers!

Edit:  I should also give thanks to Randy for providing many of the Nurgle minis used  in the game, including the very nice Mortarion daemon figure shown above.

Jury Rigged Weapons for Crawling Under a Broken Moon

January 15, 2018

umerica

Reid San Fillipo recently released the Umerica Survival Guide, based on his DCC fanzine Crawling Under a Broken Moon.  It’s a post-apocalyptic setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, sort of a mix between Mad Max and Thudarr the Barbarian.

The Umerica rules add a new piece-meal armor system.  Instead of increasing Armor Class, armor mitigates damage.  Armor is represented by a die step (d3, d4, d5, etc.), which you roll to see how much damage is reduced by.  The really neat thing about this is that you can increase your armor die step by adding scavenged materials to it, and if you roll a 1 on the armor die, your armor degrades from the damage it’s taken.  It really gives the game a nice Mad Max vibe.

I thought a similar system for weapons would be cool, too.  What I propose is you start with some kind of base weapon.  In this case, let’s say it’s a wooden baseball bat.  Adding scavenged materials to the weapon increase the damage die by one step.  For example, say a bat starts with d6 damage; then you hammer some nails into it, increasing the damage to d7.  Then you find a strand of barbed-wire, and add that on, increasing it’s damage to d8.  After that, you wrap some duct tape around the handle, for a better grip, increasing damage to d9 (or d10, depending on how you follow the die chain), and so on.

However, each time you roll maximum damage on the die, it degrades a die step.  You swing the bat so hard, some of those bits and bobs you added break off.

A few weapons roll two or more damage dice.  In these cases, each modification upgrades all the dice rolled for the weapon.  However, if even one of the damage dice get a maximum result, the weapon degrades.  These are usually more sophisticated weapons which are more likely to break down in harsh apocalyptic conditions.

More advanced weapons with higher damage dice, like firearms and energy guns, are less likely to degrade, but they can still do so.  And players can add scavenged technology to try and repair or upgrade them in a similar fashion.  You could also use this as a system for improvised explosives.

You may or may not want to require a roll of some kind to see if the modifications are successful.  If you want to keep things simple, just assume that any character with an appropriate occupation, and the right tools, automatically succeeds.  Otherwise, require a Luck check, or an appropriate ability check vs. DC 10 for simple things (like baseball bats), DC 15 for modern firearms, or DC 20 for advanced technology, such as lasers and deathrays.

Cheers.

Podcast – The Dungeon Master’s Handbook

December 14, 2017

Michael Shorten (aka ChicagoWiz) started a new podcast he calls The Dungeon Master’s Handbook, covering topics of interest to GMs.

I’ve listened to the first four episodes and found them to contain useful advice and tips.  In particular, episodes 3 & 4 covering planning and starting your own old school D&D sandbox campaign.

If old school gaming is your bag, then I highly recommend giving his podcast a listen.

Cheers!


%d bloggers like this: