Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

This will be a very short blog post – but for those of you who love the old Archive Star Rovers figures, this will touch your heart!  As many of you know, I have been collecting and painting Duck Wader, Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx, and a number of other Archive gems.  I use them in Combat Patrol™ retro-sci-fi games – many of which my daughter Ellen Morin and her fiance Chris Smedile have played in and enjoyed.

Ellen’s birthday is in September, as is mine, but we did not get around to celebrating until the first Saturday in October.  She got me a couple of very cool gifts.  One was an awesome Boston Bruins sweater (cannot have too much Bruins gear by the way).  The other was a painting of Duck Wader and some Frinx breaching a wall, with Star Ducks jet-packing through the air above!   She used photos from my blog to sketch and ultimately paint the scene.  I think it was an awesome gift!  Here is the painting below:

2 painting

I’m a lucky Dad!  Thanks Ellen, love ya!

“Attack of the Warbots” at September Mass Pikemen Gaming Session

We had a good showing on Saturday at the September Mass Pikemen Gaming Club session.  We played an “Attack of the Warbots” scenario using the Combat Patrol™ system.

The biological Alliance (Star Ducks, Space Dwarves, Frinx, and Aphids) have captured a Warbot Mark 1 Sphere tank and are attempting to repair and convert it to their use. The Warbots have landed a large force and aim to deny their enemy this loss of technology. Can the Warbots be stopped? 

This one, like all of the games that I run, was modified for playability based on experience and the number of available players.  This time I also got to add some new terrain and my new Wastelands gaming mat (which I described here and here).  I did not take as many pictures as I had wanted to – but what I have is below.

The game went well with a victory for the biological alliance of Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx (with glyptodon cavalry), Space DwarvesAphids, and RT22 (and his Robo Sentry guns).    The Mark III Warbots were supported by Roberker and two Mark 1 Sphere tanks – and the Robot Peacekeepers.  Most are all old Archive figures from the 1970’s.

The Aphids held up the Warbot attack and were almost wiped out by the Warbots.  However, they did delay them enough to achieve a victory, however, the tide of battle was about to turn so it could have ended differently.  Time just ran out on the Warbots.

The photos below are the set up and a bit of initial play.

1 set up defender side
The set up from the defenders’ side.

2 set up attacking side

Set up from the attackers side.  Reinforcements await deployment on the table’s edge.

3 PSG Juggerbot blows up from Aphid critical hit
Aphid casualties pile up as the Warbots move forward.  The Aphids, defending the middle crater, were able to get a very lucky critical hit on the Warbots’ platoon sergeant, causing a catastrophic explosion of its power plant (the smoke plume in the center above).  This explosion also killed and wounded several Aphids, and dented a couple of nearby Warbots.
4 Mortar Rounds and Plasma Breaching
The Warbots move into the smoky crater that once held a squad of Aphids.  The Warbots used a plasma ball breacher to fry the bugs, hence the smoke plume.
5 wide view
Aphid and Star Duck mortars add to the chaos of the battlefield as the Warbots breach the initial wall defense and roast an unlucky Star Duck alive.  Biological Alliance reinforcements move up on the right.

This fun scenario, with some minor tweaks, will be coming to BARRAGE on 9/28/2018!

 

Casualty cards for Combat Patrol

I have been getting ready for Christmas, but I wanted to get at least a few things done hobby-wise before 2018 rings in.  Last month, we had a rousing sci-fi game using Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™ card-based rules (you can read about that game here).

We were able to use the new Japanese South Pacific decks for robot morale checks, and incorporated many of the rules from Greg Priebe’s superb Star Wars supplement.  We also used some of my rule additions for Mark III Warbot casualties, special weapons, and a few other nuances.

One of the issues came in the way of finding an easier way of denoting casualties on the table and making play a little easier.  As you can see below, we just tipped over the figures, and that became crowded!  I do like to see the casualties on the table as it gives a nice account of what occurred in the game, but perhaps there is a better way?  Also, given that the Warbots take many wounds, I also am making some play aids specifically for them and their weapons (and I will cover this work in a future blog entry).

8 Ma'kcon
Casualties litter the field/table last month

As for the casualties, Buck suggested that I could create some cards for the casualties that would take the place of the “dead” miniature on the table.  This would allow for showing the results of the battle, and enable an easier playing experience.

For this project, I bought a Fiskars® paper cutter from Michael’s.  I had a 40% off coupon so I got it pretty cheaply.  I used white 65-lb. card stock from Staples for the cards.

8 Star ducks card
Fiskars paper cutter

6 Star ducks card

I started out last week with the Aphid platoon.  My goal was to make the card sizes as close to the actual miniature sizes as possible.  The Aphids are really small, so their cards were small.  I experimented with Microsoft PowerPoint, using the grid lines tool, and comparing what I printed with the actual miniatures.  I ended up making the Aphids cards about ¾” – 3/8″ high by  ¾” wide.  I had a lot of variability as I got used to using the paper cutter.  The pictures that I inserted into PowerPoint had different aspect ratios, and I remedied this when I moved on to the Star Ducks.

I do recommend using the aspect ratio tool when cropping pictures for this type of work.  Additionally, the grid line tool in PowerPoint allowed me to make exact front and back cards by making sure that the sizes were the same and aligned.   The easiest way to do this is to import your photos first, and then copy that slide.  Then, you replace the photos on the second slide with the written cards.  By printing these on both sides of the paper (use regular paper first, not card stock to check), they will line up perfectly.  The only caveat I need to add is that you need to pay attention to the cards as you will need to reverse the text in the blocks so as to match the pictures – see below.

Aphid Dead Cards 1
My PowerPoint page of 39 Aphid photos – note the reversing of texts below on the text portion 
Aphid Dead Cards 2
The text section – I numbered these text box blocks and put up to the light to see which text went where – each is an individual text box

I printed these on card stock with a “thick paper” setting on my printer, and used two-side printing.  I then cut them out using the Fiskars tool.  There is a learning curve to the tool, and it worked out fine.  The Aphids on Grav-Cycles were not sized to the miniatures, but I wanted all of the Aphids cards in their deck to be the same size, so I can live with that discrepancy.  I did however want to improve for the next group of cards – which was for the Star Ducks.

Here, I needed to make bigger cards, and went with 1½” by 1½”.  I made a few important changes in my processes.  First, I used the “aspect ratio” function when I cropped the photos – in this case using the “square” aspect.  I also added a 2-point thick line on the pictures and the text boxes, which really made cutting easier.  Lastly, I colored the cards text-printed side with light orange hue, to match their bills!  I plan on having future unit casualty cards with different colors on the printed sides.

1 Star ducks card 1
Page 1 of my cards (photo side).  These when printed on a standard sheet of paper approximated the true sizes of the miniatures.
2 Star ducks card 2
The text block side of the PowerPoint, with adjustments so that the two-sided printing would line up properly.  These were then colored orange as below.
5 Star ducks card
The photo sides of the cards after cutting – they are 1.5″ square

 

3 Star ducks card 2
The printed sides of the cards with the orange backgrounds
4 Star ducks card 2
Close up of the cards

These were much better – and I feel confident that I can finish off cards for the Frinx and Mark III Warbots soon.  My goal is that when I next run a game that these aids will make play even easier than Combat Patrol already is!  These are not perfect, but are close enough and stiff enough to avoid becoming paper canoes!

7 Star ducks card
Casualty cards, Death cards, whats the difference!

Please let me know what you think in the comments section – thanks for looking!

 

Mark Con 2017 (aka Ma’k Con 2017)

I have been accused of having a Boston accent, but this is not really true – I have a Worcester accent, or properly a Worcester County accent.  Throughout my military and civilian career, my pronunciation of my name, Mark, sounds to others like Ma’k.  My good buddy Buck Surdu has often shortened it to “Ma’k” on his blog posts.  Last weekend (right before Thanksgiving) he and my other good buddy, Dave Wood, made the drive up from Maryland on a traffic-filled Friday afternoon for a Saturday full of gaming – and it was called “Ma’k Con”.  My wife Lynn really helped out as well with her keeping us well fed.  This blog post is about the gaming we crammed into that Saturday.

Buck and Dave got me into tabletop wargaming when we were back at West Point.  Since then, Buck has published a myriad of rules for gaming, and Dave has contributed to many of those rule sets.  The most recent rules that Buck published is a fantastically easy to play and streamlined card-based system for skirmish-level combat in WWII called Combat Patrol™.  It is truly flexible, and has had optional rules and supplements written to cover different possible scenarios, to include the South Pacific theater, the Winter War, the Falklands War, the Napoleonic era, and even the Star Wars universe.  These can be downloaded for free from his website, and the cards are available in the US from Drive Thru Cards and in the EU from Sally Forth. The rules are also available in book form from both On Military Matters and Sally Forth.

Buck recently added a new set of cards for the South Pacific, which have different morale results for Japanese troops.  Readers of this blog know that I have been collecting and assembling units from the old Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures, specifically Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx, Aphids, and Mark III Warbots.  Additionally, I have been supplementing these forces with Khang Robots, weapons, Robo-Sentry Guns from War Games Supply Dump, and my own sculpt of a sphere tank.  I also used some weapons from Bombshell Miniatures.

I decided that I would combine aspects from different Combat Patrol™ rules for a fun retro sci-fi game.  Specifically, I would use the new South Pacific deck for morale results for robots, the new vehicle-mounted flame thrower template for my sphere tanks’ death rays, and the Sith rules from the Star Wars supplement.  Also, I added in several rules from the optional rules.  Lastly, I added my own special rules for the Mark III Warbots and their leader, Juggerbot, to account for possible effects that weapons fire could cause on their behaviors and capabilities.

Upon arrival in Massachusetts, Buck surprised Dave and I with uniform t-shirts from West Point that we would have worn to gym or when we played sports.  It was called Gym-A (Gym-Alpha) and we wore it for Saturday’s game marathon.  Admittedly, both Buck and Dave wore it better than I did.  We were also joined by my daughter Ellen Morin and her fiancé Chris Smedile.

0 Ma'kcon
Buck Surdu, me, and Dave Wood (US version for you UK followers) in our Gym-A shirts

The scenario was one where the Star Ducks, Aphids, and Frinx were allied against the cybernetic horde of attacking robots.  The non-metallic forces had captured a robot Mark 1 Sphere tank.  The Frinx were attempting to repair it so it could be used against the robots, who were to have two Mark I Sphere tanks of their own in the assault.  The tanks have two side mounted laser cannons, and a Death Ray (think 1953 War of the Worlds movie).  Dave and Ellen had the robots, while Buck, Chris and I defended.

1 Ma'kcon
Dave and Ellen prepare to attack.  The Aphids are in the ruined building to the front, and there are the Robo-Sentry Guns acting as speed bumps to their front.

The Robo-Sentry guns slowed the attacking robots slightly, but allowed Aphid and Star Duck mortar fire to hit the Warbots near Juggerbot, damaging the robot leader, and causing some of his robots to go rogue, or blow up.  When they went rogue, they would attack the nearest figure.  Juggerbot ended up dealing with such a problem.

2 Ma'kcon
The battle begins with the Warbots clearing the Robo-Sentry gun defenses.

Normally, in Combat Patrol™ games, figures can take a certain number of hits, usually three wounds, before they die or are incapacitated.  In this game Frinx had 4 wounds (because of their power-armor), most line Star Ducks had 3, and Warbots had 6.  However, I allowed for critical hits as outlined below.  This had a nice balancing effect on the game.

Warbot critical hit
Warbot Critical Hit Chart – lots of 4’s and 5’s happened!

The Warbots also had some devastating energy weapons.  The opposing forces had two “Sith Lords” (Duck Wader from the Star Ducks and Lt. Ma’k from the Frinx) with special powers from the Star Wars supplement.  Early in the game, Buck moved Duck Wader up to engage the Warbots, only to get vaporized along with some Aphids by an arc weapon blast.

3 Ma'kcon
Duck Wader (center) near the corner where he was shortly vaporized thereafter
4 Ma'kcon
The Frinx AT section moves up – only to never make an impact

The other Sith, Lt. Ma’k, used his Force powers to fly into the middle of a group of 8 immobilized Warbots (they had drawn a “Hold until Death” morale result due to Frinx fire, but the robots could still fire).

Lt. Ma’k (a Frinx) then tried a Sith power – Force Blast – which damaged some robots’ weapons and caused them to explode.  Additionally, friendly mortar rounds landed there (Lt. Ma’k did not care) and eventually he succumbed, as did several Warbots. Simultaneously, Juggerbot finally was destroyed by Aphids on Grav-Cycles.  As he was the platoon leader, his destruction led to his unit becoming pinned – and only activating on black cards.  This really had the effect of reducing the entire robot platoon’s combat effectiveness.

5 Ma'kcon
Lt. Ma’k (by the purple die) makes his last stand.  Note the black die for the Warbot Green Team 2 due to a “Hold until Death” morale role.  Later the entire Warbot platoon would get black dice (“pinned”) when Juggerbot was destroyed.
6 Ma'kcon
The death (destruction) of Juggerbot
7 Ma'kcon
Aphids an Grav-Cycles make a desperate charge before dying to the last bug – but they sealed Juggerbot’s fate
8 Ma'kcon
Frinx on Glyptodon cavalry move up before being taking heavy fire and being routed

At this point, the carbon-based living got very lucky and fixed their captured Sphere tank earlier than would have been expected due to Chris pulling some great cards.  However, the robots got reinforcements in the form of two of their own Sphere tanks, a squad of Warbots, plus 2 self-propelled robot guns.   Chris and Buck were able to immobilize one tank with some very lucky shots.  The other annihilated a squad of Buck’s Star Ducks with a Death Ray Blast.

9 Ma'kcon
Buck’s Star Ducks are hit by Death Ray fire
10 Ma'kcon
Some of Buck’s Star Ducks jet pack onto the immobilized Mark I Sphere tank.  Their satchel charges (6) attacks all failed to destroy the tank.

By now it was dinnertime and pizza called, plus we wanted to move to the next game.  It looked like a slight victory for the living forces, but casualties were high!  The game turned out well and I may redo this scenario at Barrage in Maryland in January.  Buck’s account of the battle is the next entry in this blog.

11 Ma'kcon
Surveying the carnage
12 Ma'kcon
Great Game!

Then we moved onto a play test of Dave’s micro-armor game of “The Battle of Nikolayevka (Nikitowka)” using the Look Sarge No Charts rules.  This was a breakout of Italian forces on the Eastern Front in 1943 as part of the Battle of Stalingrad.  So we had Italians and some Germans attacking a small town held by the Russians.  The link above describes the historical battle well.

Buck attacked with a combined German/Italian force on the right half of the battlefield and I attacked along the left half.  Dave defended.  It was a tough slog, with the Russian artillery (they had no armor) making progress difficult.  Later in the game Dave had us command reinforcements in the form of the Italian stragglers from an earlier phase in the battle.  It was a good scenario, and interesting to see a primarily Italian versus Russian scenario.

13 Ma'kcon
Initial set up – Italians and Germans (on left) fight into the town to the right of the railway crossing (in light orange)
14 Ma'kcon
Another view showing the town in the upper right.  The attackers needed to get into the town so as not to freeze to death.
15 Ma'kcon
Assaulting the rail line defenses
16 Ma'kcon
Buck tries to get into the town

I think Dave will have a very good scenario for an upcoming convention!

The day flew by, and I am so appreciative that we West Point Old Grads had the chance to game together.  Thanks to Buck and Dave, and Chris and Ellen!  And of course, Lynn for her logistical support!!

September 2017 Gaming Night – Star Ducks Attack The Frinx!

To round out September, the Mass Pikemen Gaming Club ran a game during which the Star Ducks attacked the positions held by the Power-Armored Frinx.  Both of these forces are from Archive Miniatures circa 1979-1981.  You can learn more about their origins here.  Click on Star Ducks or Power-Armored Frinx to learn more about their platoons.  We used the Combat Patrol™ system, with modifications to approximate the abilities of the Star Ducks to use their jet packs, and the durability of the Frinx as a result of their power armor.  The Frinx also had the support of two Archive RVS86 “Robot Cooks” which were analogous to small self-propelled guns.

 

3-archive-robot-group-2-2011-completed
Two RV86 supported the Frinx

The scenario was one where the Frinx, led by Lieutenant Ma’k were defending some old ruined buildings that held some lost technology – and the Star Ducks, led by Duck Vader, were hell-bent on getting into the building and killing Frinx in general.  The Frinx, on their part, desired to dispatch the Star Ducks with extreme prejudice.

 

 

01 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
The Star Ducks advance in the foreground, the Frinx defend the buildings and barriers.

The Star Ducks used their jet packs to quickly advance towards the buildings on the Frinx’s left flank.  You can see the small purple rubber bands on the Star Ducks, which indicate the number of “jumps” that they have taken.  Due to limited fuel, the Star Ducks have only three jumps per game, but they do help!

 

 

02 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
Approaching the Frinx positions, the Star Ducks move quickly using their jet packs.

The initiative switched to the Frinx, who then bracketed them with bazooka fire.  The white rubber bands indicate wounds, while the glass beads indicate a team must take a morale check for each one the next time they are activated.  We use red rubber bands to denote a weapon that has jammed or is out of ammunition.  We also use black rubber bands to denote figures who are stunned.

 

 

03 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
The smoke from the Frinx anti-tank rockets surrounds the Star Ducks, as they take wounds from the explosions

In the middle of the table, a pitched ray gun/blaster battle left several dead and wounded Frinx.  The Star Duck team making this assault was however, annihilated, as Frinx Staff Sergeant A’Haze led his Frinx ably and directed their fire.

 

 

04 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
The Star Ducks do significant damage to the Frinx defending the barriers and slag mounds – note the dead Frinx, the multiple wounds, and the multiple morale pips.  The Star Duck A team was wiped out here.

The only Star Duck survivor in this area was Staff Sergeant Bufflehead.

 

 

05 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
SSG Bufflehead watches his A team die valiantly.

And then this happened…and the other RV86 was immobilized as well by bazooka fire from the other flank.

 

06 Sep 28 MP Gaming night

Meanwhile, back at the buildings, the Star Ducks jumped again, going over the ruined buildings, and assaulting the Frinx from the rear.  This move was met effectively by the Frinx with Platoon Sergeant First Class Grengelu’s automatic grenade launcher, wounding and killing several Star Ducks.

 

07 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
After the vertical envelopment, the Frinx make the Star Ducks pay.  Note Frinx LT Ma’k in the upper floor on the left – his blaster also hit several Star Ducks.

However, there were enough Star Ducks to close with the Frinx in hand-to-hand melee (or is it claw-to-wing?) and begin to clear the buildings.  SFC Grengelu was overcome and killed in the scrum.

 

 

08 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
Everybody gets in the fight!

 

 

09 Sep 28 MP Gaming night
SSG Bufflehead is surrounded by Frinx in melee

At this point, the game was called due to time and was determined to be a draw.  While the Star Ducks had cleared one building completely, and another one partially, they still had a couple more to go.  Casualties were high on both sides!

The game was a lot of fun and the battle was touch and go all night.  Once again, Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™ system demonstrated its great versatility and ease of play!

 

I hope you enjoyed this battle report – please share your feedback in the comments section!

Combat Patrol with Star Rovers and an X-Wing game

It’s been a bit busier on the gaming front.  Jared Burns (USAFA ’04) and I (USMA ’84) got together last Sunday afternoon in preparation for the launch of the Mass Pikemen Gaming Club .  We play-tested Combat Patrol™ with Star Rovers figures that I have previously posted about in this blog, as well as an X-Wing game.
The scenario was one where the Frinx and some Aphids were protecting RT22 in a bunker behind an old factory.  The Star Ducks, led by Duck Vader, were attacking to seize RT22, using their jet packs to quickly assault through the open ground which the Frinx had covered with anti-tank weapons.  I gave the Star Ducks 3 chances in the game to use their jet packs at 3 movement cards per try – and that worked well rules-wise.
Highlights of the battle!  There was a grenade-throwing fest in the center (one of my grenades scattered back into me adding to my losses) between one Star Duck team and a green Aphid team.  This resulted in multiple casualties, especially when one of my Aphid’s grenade attacks rebounded from a rock, but the Star Ducks had the better of that fight.
I gave Duck Vader the ability to deflect incoming direct fire, but I got lucky.  Duck Vader was in the open at short range and got lit up by two Frinx bazookas and the Frinx platoon sergeant with an automatic grenade launcher.  End even though I gave him a 5 endurance, his goose (or rather duck) was cooked with about 7 wounds.  His demise  then caused the entire Star Duck force to lose heart, effectively ending the game.
1 Ducks hit right flank
The Star Ducks effectively advance on the escarpment.  The purple bands indicate jet pack uses.

 

2 Frinx defend with AT
The Frinx guard the factory ruins with anti-tank weapons and an automatic grenade launcher.

 

3 hapless Aphids defending
A green (in terms of morale and literally!) Aphid Squad awaits its doom from a storm of grenades.

 

4 Ducks prepare to move out
Star Ducks deploy.

 

5 Hey, who shaot at us with Bazookas
The Star Ducks take multiple incoming rockets, wounding a team leader.

 

6 every body throw grenades
The Star Ducks put the hurt on the Aphids with a storm of grenades.

 

7 top of the hill while behind grenade hell
In the foreground, the Star Duck AT team prepares to rain doom on the Frinx.  In the upper left, the Aphids attempt to return grenade for grenade, only to bounce them back at themselves.

 

8 Duck Vader dies
In the upper center, the Star Ducks jet pack and prepare to flank the Frinx.  However, in the foreground, Duck Vader is mortally wounded. 

 

9 end game
The viewpoint of the Frinx who killed Duck Vader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then played X-Wing, and it was time for the USAF guy to beat (really thrash) the Army guy…ironic…he was the Empire so the day evened out.  It was a good playtest for our first game night on July 27th.  Jared did a nice job in teaching me the game – and then avenging the previous game.  He was the Empire, and I was the Rebels with two ships each.
10 xwing
I successfully pilot my X-Wing into an asteroid…and fail to hit the Empire’s ships.

 

11 xwing
With my X-Wing dispatched, the Empire finishes off my hapless B-Wing.

 

I really liked the game and the ease at which I learned the basics.  Thanks to Jared for a great day!