Dale's Wargames

My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No Stars in Sight AAR

You can find my review of the miniatures rules No Stars in Sight (NSIS) here.

I decided to blow the dust off of my Games Workshop, Epic scale (6mm), Warhammer 40,000 (40K) troops and try out another set of rules. (I hope to try other sets of rules soon using the same figures, One Page 40K and Hammer Wars, but that is an aside.)

I played the rules straight – or as straight as I could honestly get them – with no changes other than giving the Chaos Beastmen a special morale boost. That does not mean I always played the rules correctly, or even remembered all of the rules all of the way through. More importantly, I did not change the measurements at all, keeping the distances as they are written in the rules. I did that for two reasons: it is simpler; and I think the 6mm scale generally works better with 15mm measurements in almost every game as the figure is more in scale with the perceived ground scale.

First off, NSIS is "hard science" and 40K is "space fantasy", so there needs to be a bit of conversion.

The Forces

Space Marines: one Sergeant and five Troopers. The Sergeant is armed with a Power Fist and Bolt Pistol, one Trooper is armed with a Heavy Bolter, with the remaining Troopers carrying Bolt Rifles.
  • Bolt Rifle: nothing more than a standard assault rifle. No special rules.
  • Heavy Bolter: in these rules a SAW as he was not carrying any special ammunition.
  • Bolt Pistol: 12" range, 1 Firepower (even when wielded by Professional troops), +1D in assault
  • Power Fist: +1D in assault, ignores armor.
The Space Marines are considered Professional troops, genetically modified, and equipped with full communications gear, Assault Armor, and Exo-Suits. What does all that mean?
  • Professional troops generate 2 firepower when shooting, rather than the normal 1.
  • Genetically modified allows the troops to offset the negative modifiers for moving while using Assault Armor.
  • Full communications gear allows the members of the unit to operate anywhere on the board without regard to the location of the leader. Note that I am not referring to "comms networks", which is an upgrade of sorts.
  • Assault Armor cuts the chance of dying from a hit in half, cuts the chance of being wounded by 25%, and has a chance of reducing a hit to a pin. (That may sound complex, but it is not. I do not want to reveal the math behind the game, as that is a key part of the author's intellectual property. If you want to know it, buy the game. It is worth it.)
  • Exo-Suits allow a trooper to carry a heavier load, but provide no protection. Think of the Assault Armor/Exo-Suit combination as 40K powered armour (i.e. 3+ save). Only one problem: it doesn't work the way I think it did (or should), so I will not take this in the future.
Chaos Space Marines: one Champion and four Troopers. All are armed with Bolt Pistols and Chainswords.
  • Chainsword: +1D in assault.
The Chaos Space Marines (CSM) are considered Professional troops, genetically modified, and equipped with full communications gear, Assault Armor, and Exo-Suits.

Chaos Beastmen: seven Minotaurs. All are armed with a two-handed axe.
  • Two-Handed Axe: +2D in assault due to the size of the weapon and the strength of the Minotaur.
The Chaos Beastmen (CB) are considered Trained troops, mutated, but equipped with no communications gear or armor.
  • I wimped out by using Trained for the CB, I admit it. I did not want to deal with all of the negative exception rules for Irregular troops. Maybe next time.
  • Mutated is the same as genetically modified. Note that for them, as they have no Assault Armor to overcome, it actually gives them a benefit in rushing into cover (gray area 1), which is good when you have come to a gunfight armed only with an axe!
I added one more ability for the CB, Bloodthirsty: the ability to ignore their wounded. Their nature allows them to ignore the negative modifier against their morale of having fellow Minotaurs who are wounded. So they are less likely to retreat from combat. In hindsight I probably should have made it to not count pinned troops also. In all cases I still wanted them to take a morale check when receiving incoming fire.

The Scenario

So, the Space Marines are badly outnumbered (12 to 6), but are much better equipped and defending in hard cover although they have been caught napping. (I have no idea how it comes out in points, but that is the great thing about gaming solo: no one feels like they got the short end of the stick!)

Here is the board, empty. It is 2' across by 2' deep. Everything will be very close quarters indeed!

Each of the yellow felt squares represent in-season crop fields. They count as obscuring cover, but do not block line of sight. (Normally I use sample carpet squares, but I misplaced them. These must be GMO corn fields!)

The dark brown felt with trees are wooded areas. Straight from the rules, they count as cover and blocking line of sight past 4".

The light brown felt are roads, with no special rules.

The farm collective in the center consists of 15 buildings, with windows and doors marked. The main building is enclosed in a walled courtyard. Unbeknownst to the forces of Chaos, there are no doors or windows marked on the South side (the bottom of the picture). There are no opening in the walled enclosure to the North, East, or West. There are three two-story buildings, all of which provide good fields of fire from the second-story windows. There are alleyways between many of the buildings, so although it looks like a solid wall of buildings, it is not. (Not when you are 6mm!)

I randomly rolled to see which edge the CSM arrived on and which the CB arrived on, intending to re-roll if they came on the same edge. The intent was a two-pronged attack.

I should have had them march on the board, rather than being on it the first turn, especially as they only had to move one-half the table depth to reach their objective, but it turned out not to be that critical.

The Space Marines are spread throughout the town; all positions were rolled for randomly. (Click any image to make it larger.) Three Troopers are lounging in the main building compound, including the one armed with the Heavy Bolter. The Sergeant is upstairs, rifling through the desks, and thus not at a window. One Trooper is vaping an eCig in a smaller courtyard, while the fifth Trooper is on watch, looking down the road. (His inattentiveness has allowed the CB to get one move onto the board with no reaction though!)



With that sorted out, I allow the Chaos forces, as the attacker, to take the first turn.

The CB start moving towards the East side of town, but not without one of the Minotaurs catching fire from the Space Marine guarding the road. Fortunately, it only pinned him down momentarily, but it was enough to stall the advance a little.
A figure may either move and shoot or be unpinned in one activation round. As the CB had more troops that generally meant that there were fewer opportunities to move figures individually. A pinned trooper cannot participate in a group move, and if enough get pinned in an activation round, it may result in no one moving. As you can see in the photo below, the previously pinned trooper had to use an activation point to catch up with his group so he could take advantage of group movement in future rounds. As the leader only rolled one activation point, the advance stalled.

Meanwhile, the CSM started moving in on the North side of the town. One Trooper moves down the road in order to take the Space Marine guard from behind and hears the Space Marine in the small courtyard. He signals his fellow Troopers of the danger, and one brave CSM jumps in to assault.

Note that this move required the CSM move into the open, potentially allowing the enemy a reaction shot. Reaction fire, or even overwatch, is not guaranteed in this game. Essentially the enemy has to rush from one point to another, ending in cover. If he makes it, and the chance of success is directly proportional to the distance you are trying to cross in the open, there is no reaction fire. The enemy has essentially popped up and crossed the space before you could draw a bead on him. You may have fired, but such fire is assumed to have been automatically ineffective.
The CSM having caught the Trooper unawares, fires into the courtyard (with no result) and then assaults.
Assaults occur whenever two figures are within 6" and in sight of one another. Assaults are much more deadly than shooting and represents everything from intense, short-ranged firefights, to grenade throwing, to (abstractly) moving into hand-to-hand. Note however, that the author does make the distinction between assaults and actual hand-to-hand combat (where the figures are physically in contact with one another). The former is deadly and calculating while the latter is a crap shoot. Despite having assault troops, I never wanted to enter hand-to-hand with the Chaos forces. (Maybe I read the rules wrong. 2)

Assaults are also unlike most other games. The attacker rolls first and inflicts damage, with the defender only getting to roll if they survive. Assaults are not simultaneous affairs!
Although the CSM had the distinct advantage in swinging first and having twice as many dice to throw, he failed to hit the Space Marine, who in turn failed to hit the CSM.
When an assault results in enemy remaining on both sides, each checks morale 3 and if both are still within 3" after those checks another round of assault occurs.
The CSM finally got the better of the Space Marine as the extra dice for close combat weapons told. The Space Marine died where he stood, giving first blood to Chaos.

At this point, I have to admit, I felt like I had made a mistake with this scenario. Granted, the Space Marines had not been given a chance to take any actions, but basically the hordes of Chaos were upon  their doorstep and they were already one down! Nonetheless, I decided to press on to see just how big the Chaos victory would be.

As if to confirm my predictions, the Space Marines had a terrible turn. Although the managed to get on Trooper inside the building to the South at the second floor covering the East approach, it only resulted in a single pinned Minotaur.


The CB quickly mount an attack from the East. The Marines at the windows only muster enough firepower to pin one additional Minotaur.
I started using movement arrows to highlight where the action is occurring. It serves no function in the game, although it does help you remember how many activation points you have spent that round. They are there purely for photography. The green markers, however, show figures that are pinned, while red markers show the wounded. I use no markers to track stress; that is kept on paper.

The CB succeed in getting an unusual number of activation points each round, and succeed in getting three activation rounds. This allows two Minotaurs to breach the main building and charge upstairs. The Sergeant slaughters them both in assault with his Power Fist! The dying bellows of the Minotaurs have a telling effect on the others, and they start to withdraw 4.

Six dice and the Minotaurs whiffed with them all. The Sergeant killed one in the first round of combat, causing the Status Check, resulting in the retreat of the CB. As that only drove the remaining Minotaur down the stairs I allowed the assault to continue. The remaining Minotaur whiffed with his three dice before meeting his fate. I left the last Minotaur in the shot (on the roof) and forgot to remove him for a number of turns.
The CSM had incredibly bad luck as they were able to move only a single man into cover before their Champion became exhausted, ending the Chaos turn. Suddenly, the pressure is easing for the Space Marines.

The Space Marines get a good set of activations moving the Heavy Bolter up the stairs to the window facing West. Now the CSM will start coming under fire. The remaining two Troopers in the courtyard burst out of the gate and mow down the CB leader. This puts them within assault range of a pinned Minotaur and they take him down for good measure. Two Minotaurs are now dead and three are wounded, including the leader. However, their thirst for blood allows the CB to keep on fighting.

At this point I made some really stupid moves with the CSM. I could not let go of the idea that there was a strict turn sequence, with all movement before shooting. Thus, rather than shooting first, laying down some covering fire in an attempt to suppress the MACHINE GUN IN THE WINDOW, they bravely (but stupidly) tested the rules for crossing open ground under fire. They worked. Here they are after getting pinned, unpinning, and getting shot up again.

The one shining moment was when one CSM finally worked his way around the flank, entered the Southern house being guarded by a single Marine, and took him out in assault! That makes two Space Marines killed.5 And they were just starting to win!


Although the Space Marines had a short turn, it was an effective one. The Heavy Bolter continued to slams rounds into the CSM caught in the open ground, wounding the first CSM and causing the others to retreat. Further, fire from the Marines at the gate pinned the CSM that had taken the South building, and the morale break caused him to retreat away from the window and down the stairs.


The remaining two Minotaurs muster their courage for a final charge into the town. With so many dead, and having replaced the leader, this unit is rapidly becoming ineffective.
The basic idea behind degrading unit ineffectiveness is controlled through stress, which you may remember from the rules review is subtracted from your die roll for the number of activation points you receive that round. So for each casualty6 you receive over a given threshold you earn you one permanent stress on the leader. And if your leader is wounded, a new leader automatically takes over, but they start with one additional permanent stress for suddenly being stuck with command. So normally the CB would be at six permanent stress, if not for their Bloodthirsty ability. So let's see, that is 1D6 - 6 activation points per turn for the unit. That comes to ... oh! But with the Bloodthirsty rule the CB only have a "mere" three permanent stress!
The CSM try to get out of the killing zone, but in the process the Champion becomes wounded. The CSM to the South launches a surprise attack on the Marines at the gate killing one and pinning the other. (Yeah, he rolled one kill die and one shock die, both scoring hits, and the hit rolled a kill on the armor save! With a friggin' Bolt Pistol!) That is three Space Marines down and the Sergeant now concerned about the situation.


Making a quick decision, the Sergeant orders everyone out of the farm and to exfiltrate to the South. He charges up his Power Fist and heads down the street straight into the Minotaurs.


They did not stand a chance. Not only does the Sergeant kill one in assault and wound the other (making all in the CB unit either dead or wounded), but a Trooper forces the CSM to the South to retreat, forcing an even wider gap for the Space Marines to escape through.

Although there is an additional action, the exhaustion of the Chaos side is quickly making it obvious they cannot stop the Space Marines escape. The capper comes when the Heavy Bolter shoots at a retreating CSM in the woods, wounding him, and causing another CSM to retreat off of the board (at the top of the photo below) leaving only one unwounded CSM on the board of the original 12 soldiers. The Space Marines have won a bloody victory!


Summary

Wow! Not the way I expected it to play out! Very fun game with a lot of nail biting tosses of the dice. Unlike a game of, say Warhammer 40,000 you do not toss buckets of dice. That means that luck plays a higher factor because the rolls are less likely to even out over the course of a single game. That said, it does not feel like a heavily luck dependent game.

The Chaos forces lost because I simply did not follow good tactical doctrine of laying down a base of fire before trying to cross open ground under fire. (What do you expect from Khorne Berserkers and bloodthirsty Minotaurs?!?)

Tracking the stress was actually much easier than I figured it would be, what temporary stress, permanent stress, recovering stress, adding stress due to casualties, etc.

As stated in the rules review, the main issue was remembering to impose rule exceptions (that will get easier over time with more games) and coming to grips with some of the gray areas of the rules (see below).

Again, recommended, and a very enjoyable game!


Gray Areas of the Rules

1 Rushing requires you roll a die to determine your chance of success in crossing an open area into cover. Genetically modified or mutated troops gain a die roll modifier, increasing the chance of success. But technically, that means their rolls are from 2 through 7 (1D6 + 1), so does that also mean that they can rush up to 7" rather than 6"? The rules imply that they cannot, but I wonder ...

2 As it turns out, I did read the rules wrong. Melee weapons affect hand-to-hand combat, not assault. Whoops! So maybe it is a lot less of a crap shoot after all. I found that out while writing this report. I think I will change the Bolt Pistol to +1D for both assault and hand-to-hand combat, but keep the Chainsword as only +1D in hand-to-hand combat, as the author intended for melee weapons.

3 The rules says "test morale for both sides", but there are several types of morale tests. I was looking for one related to assaults, or just morale in general. I figured that the closest was to take a Status Check, although that is specifically listed as being taken for incoming fire, and affects the entire unit, not just the figures in the assault.

4 It is not clear to me how exactly the mechanics of retreats are supposed to work, specifically what direction troops are supposed to retreat to. Especially when the retreating troops don't have a baseline like the Space Marines in this scenario. For this game I determined what the closest source of antagonism was for each retreating figure and moved them directly away from that source. For figures grouped together I let them retreat together in a common direction.

5 The source of these deaths are not unlucky armor rolls, but one of those exceptional rules, that states: "Exo-suit figures are hit only on a 6 in assaults but are eliminated on any such hit." Um, guys, time to shed the Exo-Suits!

6 Here was where I had a bit of trouble with seemingly shifting terminology (or my bad assumptions, one of the two). In the section on Casualties and Stress the term "casualty" seems to refer to the number of dead. But in the Status Check section the term seems to refer to dead an untreated wounded (but not the wounded that are treated). I reasoned that as wounded can be treated later, changing their status from morale-draining casualty to – what, non-casualty? – then the wounded could not be a casualty for purposes of Stress, as you could not add a permanent stress and then remove it when the wounded became treated, could you? I ruled that only the dead caused permanent stress, but I can see that if you expand the definition of "casualty" to include wounded, unit degradation will occur even faster.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").