Sunday, January 26, 2014

Angels 20

I've been searching for good air combat games for a while. I found Wings of Glory and enjoyed it, but didn't get too far into it. It's a great game with a lot to recommend it, but I've recently found another game that I like better: Axis & Allies Angels 20 Air Combat.

This is an enjoyable, easy-to-learn game that doesn't rely on guessing mechanics like Check Your Six or Wings of Glory. I much prefer that to planning two or three moves ahead, but that's just individual preference at work. The core of the game is centered on rolling 2d6 plus various pilot skills to perform maneuvers and rolling a d6 to hit target numbers. Initiative goes back and forth, with the winning player moving second ( a definite advantage in this game) and shooting first. Planes are modeled on their historical roles and I think they work fine. I'm not an aviation expert and can't say how well they did in that regard.

Like all Axis & Allies, this is a collectible game. I've read a lot of complaints about this aspect of it, and frankly that kept me away from the game for a while. However, it should not be a concern. Starter boxes are reasonably priced and come with a good selection of planes (Brits and Germans in one, and Japanese and US in the other). While you can buy booster packs, you can easily find the planes you want on eBay or Miniature Market and other stores. The individual planes are cheap, and the start set gives all the cards you need for every plane in the game (for that starter's series, of which there are two).

The fact that the game is no longer supported is both good and bad. It's good because now you can collect the planes you want on eBay, etc. However, one big con is that the game doesn't have a lot of the famous planes you might expect to find, and so if you want those you'll have to house rule them and find models.

The models are 1/100 scale and look great. I've got both starters and two booster packs worth of planes and already have a decent-sized collection. I'll be adding in individual planes from eBay to get what I want.  Here are the planes with their pilot cards kept under the bases.

The game is played on a hex map which they include. It's made of paper and is a prime candidate to be replaced with something better. Unfortunately, those hexes are about 5" wide and so finding a replacement is not going to be easy. For now, I make do with the starter box maps and hope they don't rip.

So I took pictures of a game I played with just the contents of a starter box. I did a standard scenario, with a little more than 100pts in planes per side. Victory points are awarded by the cost of the planes destroyed, and the first side to score more than 60VP wins.

Here's the set up, with two German BF109E and one BF110 versus two British Spitfires and a Hurricane.  Initiative is rolled for each turn, with both sides enjoying a +2 to their initiative rolls due to their planes. This can change as planes are destroyed, as we'll see later.

Turn one
The Brits win initiative, meaning the Germans go first. The Bf110 has to move first due to a special rule. Planes can move either high or regular speed, with more restrictions on maneuvers and turns when going high speed. For now, the Bf110 moves up at a  cautious 3 hexes. The model is then banked to the 2 o'clock position to show it is evading. That's a cool part of these models, being able to articulate their positions for in-game results.

The other planes on both sides swarm forward, with one of the Bf109E pilots climbing to altitude 4. There are six altitude bands shown on the bases and this game started at altitude 3. When a pilot climbs you rotate the plane on the base so it's nose is over its altitude. Slick!

Here's the set up as we move into T1 shooting.
The Spitfire threatening the Bf110 misses on all rolls (evasion wasn't even necessary). To-hit targets are determined by the "firing aspect" of the plane. So here the Spitfire is in the Bf110's 10 o'clock aspect and therefore needs sixes. However the Bf110 has good range to the Hurricane only 2 hexes in front of it and on the same altitude. The Brit did not evade, but it needs to also roll sixes to hit (the 2 and 10 o'clock aspects are the hardest to hit). In this case, the Bf110 does six hits!  Each natural six rolled does 2 hits. The goal is to exceed the plane's armor rating to score a wound. If you exceed the plane's vital armor rating, you destroy it out right.  The hurricane is armor 3, but vital armor 7, so it takes a damage. It can take only two more hits before being destroyed.

More shooting takes place and the Hurricane damages the regular Bf109. The Ace Bf109E does a dive attack on a Spitfire and scores damage. Here's that exciting attack in action. Looking at this picture now, I see the Bf109 could not have made the shot because the Spitfire was out of the Messerschmidt's firing arc. In the excitement, I guess that was overlooked. Well, live and learn!
Turn Two
The Germans have the initiative, so Brits move first. There's lots of zooming past each other and some maneuvers to gain altitude and advantage.  The damaged Bf109 fails a climb check because he's moving fast and therefore remains at the same altitude and advances a hex.  When it comes time to shoot, all planes are out of position, except for the Bf110 which an fire 4 hexes. This is very long range for this game, where most planes max out at three. Of course, the shots were ineffective at that range.  With nothing more to do, here are the planes at the end of the turn.

Turn Three
The Germans win initiative once more, and Brits move first. There's a lot of maneuvering happening in this turn, and since both sides are trying to catch the other it's happening at high speeds. This results in a few failed attempts to turn and climb. The damaged Spitfire climbs to altitude 5 to line up a dive shot on the damaged Bf109. The other German ace makes a tight turn to line up at the undamaged Spitfire ace. Here's the set up, with Spitfire and Hurricane banking to evade.

When it comes to shooting, Germans go first and the Bf109 ace shoots at his Spitfire target. Even with the -1 to evade the German ace scores 10 hits in one go! The Spitfire's vital armor value is 7, so this blows the plane out of the sky! As if to retaliate, the diving Spitfire shoots down the damaged Bf109E Messerschmidt!  Two planes on both sides are destroyed. In game terms, they're removed from the map, but if you were running a story campaign you can decide some other fate for the planes.

Turn Four.
Now that the Brits have lost a plane, their special initiative bonus is nullified. So the Germans roll at +2 and easily win again. There's lots of frantic circling and banking to adjust positions, but it ends up looking bad for the Brits.  The damaged Spitfire is sandwiched between the German planes and the Hurricane is at a bad angle to help (due to a failed maneuver check). Here's a picture.

Despite tailing and having the easiest shot in the game, the Bf109 only scores one damage on the Spitfire. This now cripples the plane, which is a bad thing. Crippled means the plane has one hit point left. Everything that plane does is going to be at -1, and it can't perform hard maneuvers or go at high speed.

The Spitfire shoots at the Bf110 in front of it, but with only two hits it's not enough to damage. The Bf110 returns fire, a stunning 8 shots, and lands three hits. Damage on the Spitfire is enough to down it, and the plane spins to earth. The final Hurricane lands two hits on the Bf110, again not enough to equal its armor, and so the turn ends.

At the end of each turn VPs are counted, and the Germans have scored 92 and so win the dogfight.

So that's a game of Angels 20. Even if you're a fan of Wings of Glory, you really need to check out this game. The planes look awesome and the game play is very satisfying. Don't let the collectible aspect put you off, as a starter is inexpensive and individual planes are available for cheap. I will continue to buy into this game, and am hoping to start lining up some historical flights for my games.

There are more advanced rules for clouds and other conditions. You can easily house-rule a few other things for added complexity or realism. I recommend combining these rules with Squadron Forward to add in pilot personalities and some back story. Highly recommended game!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Models of the New Year

After a short break from painting models I'm back at it. I've got a lot of miscellaneous stuff sitting on the table to paint. Up first are three vehicles I need for my on-going 15mm WW2 project. They're relatively small and painted up quickly.

Here we have, from left to right, SDKfz 250/7D 8cm Mortar Carrier, Panzer II, SDKfz 234/4 Armored Car. These are all Battlefront miniatures.

The tank is probably the most unique choice here. In my games of Platoon Forward, I often roll up light tank support options and don't have any suitable models.  After some research on what might serve for this in a German list, I found out that the Panzer II was still in use during the late war, albeit in a reduced role for scouting / recon. I tried to research camo schemes for the PZII at this stage of the war, but found nothing but early war stuff. Well, since it's only me, I went with this late war camo thing I've been doing. Made sense to me, anyway.

I also tested Plastic Soldier Company's Dunkelgelb spray paint. I've used Vallejo's Middlestone for this color, but I'm sick of wasting time with brushing on this stuff. The PSC spray paint was much brighter and more intense in color. I have no idea what real dunkelgelb would've been like, but I bet it was quite varied in intensity due to a lot of factors. So, I was happy with it.  I also used their decals which I got at the same time. For what they charged, I'd have liked more decals than I got.

So, not much else to say about these models. I'm at work on more Bones models, working on the fantasy version of "tanks" for my tribe of orcs!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Warhammer Diskwars

While I've not done much on the miniatures front due to building all the models for Samurai Battles, I have been playing some new games during the first weeks of the new year. Warhammer Diskwars recently released and it is great! I've already played three games (four if you count the mini-game I did for this blog) and I see lots of potential for this game.

Follow the link I provided above to see some nice pictures and details of the game mechanics. Fantasy Flight Games does a nice write-up with good illustrations. In a nutshell, this is the same game as the original Diskwars with a Warhammer theme. I'd never heard of Diskwars, but I understand it was popular and just as fun as this version. At the heart of the game are your units, which are represented as disks. The disks have a move value, which represents how many flips edge-over-edge that each disk can take. So a Move 4 disk can flip in any direction up to four times. When a disk lands on top of another disk, it has pinned the unit and once all disks are activated you will resolve close combat by comparing attack and defense values along with any existing damage. A disk is destroyed when you exceed its hit points and wounds totals. Most disks have only a single wound, but some of the tougher heroes and disks have two or three wounds.

So rather than try to explain all this, I ran a short game with one hero per side. The starter comes with Chaos, Orcs, High Elves, and Empire. I chose Orcs versus Chaos. Here's all the disks available for each of these forces. Sorry for the glare.

I just picked one hero per side and their associated disks from the constructed armies in the book. You have freedom to built your own armies, but using the book is faster for this example. The game is played on a 3x3 area. Michael's sells a 3x3 piece of green felt for $4, so instant playmat! After I select the disks, I pick four command cards to use.  Command cards determine initiative order as well has how many disks can be activated. Some cards also give special abilities.

With my forces selected, deployment zones are established. Players pick cards which determine how many disks can be placed within that zone, with one side of the card giving a perk and the other defaulting to three disks. You can set up deployment cards wherever you want, but it's a good idea to keep them together to form one big zone.  Here's my set up and the forces involved.

Chaos has Archaon the Everchosen as its leader, with a Bloodthirster (the giant disk) and a unit of Flamers to support him. His mission is to kill the orc leaders, five victory points per disk. You see how both zones make one larger area to accommodate these disks. I could place a total of six disks here, and any more would have to remain in reserve until there is room to deploy them.

Orcs are led by Azhag the Slaughter mounted on his wyvern. He takes a unit of wolf riders, arrer boyz, a big boss, and boar boyz with him.  Like Warhammer, orcs are cheap, numerous, and tough. I split their deployment zones, mostly because I wanted Azhag on the flank to take advantage of his flying and terrain. It wouldn't matter much, as we'll see. The orc's objective is to kill as many enemy disks as they can, for one victory point per disk.

Terrain is laid out with players taking turns. I just flung some pieces on the table. The terrain is dual sided with different types. There are game effects for the terrain that are fairly intuitive and work much like other war games. Here's the table to start. It looks underwhelming with so few units, but in a normal game you'd have two times or more the number of disks here.

You roll for initiative advantage once in the game, and after that command card priorities will determine who goes first. The initiative roll determines who has the edge, which breaks ties when cards of the same type are played. In this case Chaos wins and gets a warhammer token to show it has the edge in ties.

Turns progress by playing command cards, activating the number of disks the card allows, and then repeating until all units are activated or pinned. For turn one, The Orcs play the Approach command card, which allows them to activate four disks and has a slow strategy.  Chaos plays Assault which also allows four disks but has a bold strategy. Strategies are a rock, paper, scissors approach to determining initiative.  Slow always goes last, so Chaos activates first. They move to the center of the board.

The orcs now go, and I flip the disks according to their move values. This scenario has a special rule that adds one flip to each move, so the orcs become even faster. The arrer boyz move into the ruined fortress while the boar boyz and the big boss are able to reach Archaon the Everchosen in one turn. You can see the big boss barely made it, but it counts. The boar boyz do 4 impact damage, which is assigned as soon as they touch a disk. That's a powerful hit and will help whittle down Archaon. The other orcs move around but don't do much. The wolf riders move and shoot but have no luck.

Now with all activations done, close combat starts. (You can see activation tokens on all the disks along with hit point markers.) The orcs put a wound on Archaon and he strikes back at the Big Boss to destroy him. The disk is removed, but the Boar Boyz are still pinning Archaon.

Turn two:  Chaos plays Storm of Chaos, Devious 2, and Orcs play Fist or Mork Devious 3. Since Chaos has the edge, they go first. Chaos uses their command card's special ability to empower Archaon (giving him boosted stats). Then the Bloodthirster, which can also fly, zips overhead and lands on Azhag. The Flamers shoot at the Boar Boyz and put 3 damage on them, but not enough to kill. They can take 5 hit points before taking a wound.

Now the Orcs activate their units. Both the Arrer Boyz and  Wolf Riders shoot Archaon and put four damage on him. The Boar Boyz activate but don't move. With everything activated or pinned, it goes to close combat. Archaon kills the Boar Boyz, but since he is so wounded the Boar Boyz second round of fighting is enough to kill him, so both disks are removed. The Bloodthirster does two wounds to Azhag, which would normally destroy any model but Azhag is exceptionally tough with three wounds.

Here's combat just before I resolved the Bloodthirster.

Turn Three: Command cards are played and initiative goes to Chaos. The Flammers fry the Arrer Boyz with three hits in one roll, which is very good. The Bloodthirster remains pinning Azhag, since he doesn't want that bad boy getting away. Now the Orcs activate, Azhag can do nothing, so the Wolf Riders shoot at the Flamers then run away after missing completely. Azhag activates a special power from his command card, but the spell fizzles (he does d6 - 2 damage, and he rolled a two).  So now it goes to close combat of the two giants of the battlefield.

The writing is on the wall (or in this case, right on the disks), without help or some boosts to his powers Azhag doesn't have the juice to kill the Bloodthirster. He dies and Chaos wins, 5VP to 1VP.

So that's a small, short game of Warhammer Diskwars. The army construction rules are fun, and to really do this right you should get a second starter box. Like so much of what FFG does, they almost always make buying a second set a good idea --but it's certainly not necessary for playing the game. I just want multiples of some of the more powerful units. Armies like the High Elves need units with more juice than what is provided in the box.

The game is tremendous fun. What at first seemed to me a silly concept (flipping disks around a table), turned out to be quite an engaging experience. I highly recommend this game, and with it being under $30 is a great value. I can't wait for expansions to be announced. I'll be all over it!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Looking Forward to 2014

Here I am in 2014, a year that sounds to me like a date from a science fiction novel, but I guess that will only get worse as time goes on. Anyway, enough about how old I'm feeling. It's time to think about what I'm going to focus on this year.  If I don't do this post, I'll have nothing to look back on and laugh about in twelve months.

Miniatures Games

Bolt Action: I plan to keep going with this for the near term at least. As I push the rules a bit with my historical scenarios I'm finding a lot of limitations that I haven't seen before.  Still, I expect to keep up with the game.

Other WW2 Rules: I've got at least two teed up to try out: Battlegroup Krusk and Chain of Command. Both look to be great games, but I've got to get my head around CoC. I will probably continue to explore different rules.

Campaign Games: I much prefer the historical scenarios to the generic "kill each other" or "steal the same prisoner/object/thing-a-ma-bob" scenarios of most rule sets. I'm going to do Operation Bagration this year in honor of its 70th anniversary. (Actually because I have a bunch of 15mm Russians unpainted, but the timing is right.)

Air Combat: This is a no brainer, as I've already bought the planes! I'm jumping into 1/600 scale planes, focusing on Guadalcanal to start but later shifting to Battle of Britain. There are two rules sets that work well for this. I plan on using Bag the Hun paired with Squadron Forward for solo campaigns, and Check your Six! for games with friends.

Additionally, I want to expand my Wings of Glory collection. It's a great game and deserves more attention than I gave it last year. I'm going to stretch myself a tiny bit and say Angels20 is also interesting to me, but the collectible aspect may kill it.

Naval Combat: I don't know what I'm doing for this, but want to try. I've kicked the idea around forever, but it might be time to do something about it. Sails of Glory will hit the stores soon, and I'm likely to get hooked on that. Not sure about this one, but on my mind.

15mm Fantasy: I've got an itch for large fantasy battles, but just don't want to do it in 28mm.  I have five viable armies for Kings of War (six if I throw in my Vikings), but the scale does not fit the size table I have. When I deploy my orcs, the units line up end to end from one side of the table to the other. What fun is that? You just move forward and die until you win or lose.  Smaller sized bases will work better on a 4x6 and still preserve maneuvering room.  Anyway, my mind has been coming back to this constantly.

Samurai Action: Ronin looks hopeful for 28mm, and I am sweet on the idea of a large 10/15mm samurai force for some as-yet-unspecified rules set. I just keep seeing ranks of colorful samurai and want to play something like that without breaking the bank and renting a new house to store it in.

Figure Scales: Each different scale has its good and bad points. I have been consistently getting smaller in scales and have settled on 15mm as a preferred scale for cost and storage considerations. I will probably continue to go smaller, and have been considering 10mm for company sized actions for WW2. So I expect to continue this downsizing, for larger scaled games of course.

This does not mean 28mm is dead, and in fact I'd like to put some 28mm squads together for more skirmish / squad level actions. Plus 28mm is the "social scale" as few other people are prepared to game at any other scale, so I'll continue to invest here as needed. Sign me up for at least a few more squads for WW2 at 28mm. I also have a lot of Reaper models in this scale... ahem.

Other games I'm expecting to be a focus for me in 2014: Malifaux has been great and I want to go further with this.  Savage Worlds will provide for my fantasy skirmish replacement that LotR created when it went ridiculous. That's about it here.

Board Games

Whereas last year I wanted to try more, this year I want to try to get more play time for some of my favorites and work in new games.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: I can't believe I left this off my list of most played games in 2013! I love this game and will play all the campaigns completely, maybe even with multiple characters.

Combat Commander Series: These games have proven to been excellent investments. The games are not too difficult to teach to new players but have a lot of depth. Also, they play well solo, which is a huge consideration for me. I hate to drop $80 on a game and play it only three times, particularly when the game is as good as this series.

Descent 2: I've been playing in a campaign which is close to finished. I know the expansion introduces another campaign, which I hope to play in. It has been a great game and I expect to continue to enjoy it into 2014.

Elder Sign: While the expansion prolonged the game somewhat, I enjoy this game a lot and try to show it to anyone with interest. It will get played more often this year, at least that's my plan.

DVG "Leader" series games: I've got Phantom Leader and Thunderbolt Apache Leader, which I plan on playing to death! I may get Hornet Leader as well.  These will be a mainstay throughout the year.

Living Card Games: Time to finish my Call of Cthulhu collection and keep up with Warhammer Invasion, Netrunner, Star Wars, and LotR!  I want to play more LotR than I did last year, and get CoC back on the table too. 

Since new games are coming out all the time, it's hard to say what else should be on this list. For Christmas I got Conflict of Heroes:Awakening the Bear. I expect to love it. Discwars: Warhammer is also out and I'm sure to like it as well. I also have Command and Colors Samurai Battles, which is a huge game.

Other Hobby Stuff

Divesting from old games: I'm not playing 40K, WHFB (or Kings of War for that matter), nor am I playing LotR SBG or WAB or Warmachine. So why do I have so many of these armies? It's time to sell them off. Right or wrong, I have some emotional attachment to my Space Marines. My son and I spent a lot of time painting them together and many models were gifts from him to me (which he bought with my money, but that's beside the point). Maybe they won't go. Everything else should go, along with other games I'm not playing.  I need storage space.

Painting: I've got to take a chunk out of my pile of Reaper Bones models. This has to happen because (allegedly) in nine months I'm going to get hundreds more dumped on me. My wife will kill me if she sees models pile up!  Plus I WANT to paint the stuff.

Storage Solutions: I'm cheap when it comes to storing my models. If I invested in some nice KR Multicases or Battlefoam stuff, I'd have compact, portable storage. I need to get serious about this in 2014.

Well, I'm probably the only person who thought this was an exciting post. In any case, I'm excited for 2014 and the various projects I've outlined for myself in the upcoming year. We'll see what I get through, but it's an ambitious list.

Happy New Year to all!