Game Design: Melee thoughts

I’ve been ruminating on a few game design thoughts for a bit, as I tend to do when I haven’t tweaked Dinosaur Cowboys in a while. Those creative energies have to go somewhere! Then I realized I had a few topics I wanted to talk about, so I figured I’d make some posts covering each.

Melee and a Vikings Game Idea
For the past week I’ve been considering a skirmish game that focuses on melee. Yes it’s tempting to make a modern military style game (I’d love to capture the tense firefights of Black Hawk Down, and have wanted to for a while). But I also want to try my hand at swords, axes, and spears. For whatever reason Vikings seem like a natural fit.
I did make fantasy medieval RPGs when I was a kid. So it’d be a fun exercise to try to apply my skirmish knowledge from Dinosaur Cowboys to the medieval melee arena.
And although I don’t think it’d be a good fit for a hypothetical Viking game, I do want to make an asymmetrical wargame sometime soon here. I’m sure I could shoehorn it in with Vikings (one side plays villagers who focus on healing, surviving, and win by that, compared to Vikings who go for kills and destruction) but I don’t think it’d be a great fit. I just like the idea of drastically different (but balanced) sides. Space Hulk was one of the best for that, and in fact I ended up getting a 1st edition copy off Ebay partially for that reason.

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There is one glaring problem though: melee is boring. I touched on this concept briefly before at the bottom of my last game design post.

Basically movement and positioning around the table (especially with cover, line-of-sight blocking obstacles, flanking and facing, etc.) is a lot of fun, and very thought provoking. You can see the skill of a player come through. Even firing ranged weapons can similarly have the same level of depth and player choice, as you try to get elevation on the target, shoot at someone out of cover, choose the right weapon for the job, find the best target with the best odds, etc.
But melee has none of that. Most close combat systems have two or more people standing adjacent and just wailing on each other. A lot of the time it’s just a big group in the middle of the table (especially without objectives or a reason to split up). Strangely enough a lot of systems resolve those melees entirely differently than shooting, like having BOTH sides attack, when the same game might have no concept of a return fire on ranged attacks. Other systems have locked close combat, so once you’re in you can’t leave. Others have melee take FOREVER until it’s a giant bog of soldiers. Once you’re in melee there is no more movement or positioning, so it can sometime devolve into a fancy roll off.

Vikings-ChargingIf I was to make a Viking themed, melee focused skirmish game I’d really have to think about how to avoid this problem. My ideal melee system would look something like this:

  1. Decisive, end the combat in one or two blows/attacks/turns (whatever scale fits)
  2. Escapable, perhaps at a penalty, but still have a way to move out
  3. Choices, in that players have something exciting and interesting to do to fill the void of movement

I think Dinosaur Cowboys covers the first two points well enough, unless maybe a huge dinosaur is involved to wreck the first point. So I imagine I could solve those same problems with Vikings.

So the real question is #3, how to give players meaningful choices beyond “figure out what you need to roll and do it”.

Vikings-WeaponsI kind of like the idea of Shields playing a big part, and almost making a bluffing “minigame” out of that. Maybe the defender with his Shield chooses a 1-6 number to block or parry, but has to say low (1-3) or high (4-6) block. This could represent the Shield being leveraged to cover a certain part of the body. Then the attacker could declare the style of their attack routine by choosing a number they’re aiming for when they roll. This would represent maybe an overhand chop (6), to going for the legs (1-2), maybe coming in for the ribcage (3), etc.
Likely none of that was clear. But I think the key to having an interesting melee is removing some abstraction. Instead of just two people hitting each other with swords, get into choosing attack/defense patterns, bluffing, looking for hints in the enemy’s posture, etc. Maybe there is already a game concept out there which executes this idea, but something like translating the art of fencing to a dice/card/resolution system.

Battle Report: Fight for the Tree (Merry Christmas!)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you had a great winter and a great year. I printed a bunch of posse rosters before my Christmas vacation, and intended to play a game of Dinosaurs Cowboys during that time. But family, friends, and general life got in the way, so I’m retroactively scheduling this report for Christmas day (when I really wrote it January 5th :) ).

Christmas-Vacation-TreeWhen you think of Christmas a lot probably comes to mind. If I mentioned Christmas movies the memories might narrow a bit, and definitely vary by person. For me Christmas Vacation is a classic (not quite as classic as the original Vacation, but that’s because they nailed family road trips so well). One of my favorite scenes is in fact the opening sequence of the Griswold family driving their car to chop down a Christmas tree, quoted from the movie as:
We’re kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.
I actually cut down my own Christmas tree annually with my family, because it’s a really fun tradition, and until I got a van it was hilarious fitting the tree on the roof of my subcompact. This years is pictured below to the left.

My-Actual-TreeSo translating this to Dinosaur Cowboys was a snap: the Objective would be Capturing a Christmas tree in the middle of the field. The four Griswold family members would be involved and their dinosaur would be blue and named the Front-Wheel Drive Sled.
Who to fight though? Surely not Santa, for his powers are too great (for some reason I could see Will Ferrell saying that line, haha). How about Santa’s Helpers? What about if they’re led by an old Battletech miniature renamed the Iron Arm of Santa? Maybe there can be some elves and a nutcracker?

Anyway I meant to do a Christmas report last year too, but really didn’t find the time. This year I was able to find a winter-y enough looking fabric sheet by flipping over my naval ocean mat. Why do I have naval stuff? Why for the terrific game pictured here called Sails of Glory. Then I used some small ornaments on my classic model trees, had a Christmas tree that fit well from a craft store, and put a few statues and bells out for cover.

Oh, and in case you’re still thinking of Christmas movies…there might be a Home Alone related surprise…(aka my favorite Christmas movie)

Anyway onto a battle report that turned out to be everything I hoped it would.


Festive Table Setup
I gotta admit, I’m super happy with how the table turned out. I took the leaf extender out of my games table to get back to the classic, homely, warm feeling of my traditional 4’x3′ kitchen table.
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Posse – Griswold Family – $2,000 and 160 IP
Download the Griswold Family PDF roster or see it in The Saloon
Pretty hard to not cheer a little bit for these guys. Clark spared no expense for his O’Sullivan Sixer (one of my favorite pistol names as of v2.6), and has a motivational speech prepared with the “Get in There!” trait. And unlike the movie, this time he did remember a way to cut down the tree! A terrific Mountain Man Axe.
DC-Christmas-0011His loyal wife Ellen is one of the classic female minis for this game I often name Trista (in fact she was in the first official playtest report of the game). For some reason I can’t make her anything but a sniper, so a Bolt-Action Rifle it is. She similarly has a speech ready for her family, but it’s more calming and soothing (aka “Shake it Off”).
Then comes daughter Audrey with a bunch of gizmos and gadgets like a Flare Gun and Stun Grenades.
And finally Rusty, who has grown up enough to become a fine shot with the brutal sounding Streetsweeper Shotgun (yeah, it’s a nod to a Quake 2 mod I played ~17 years ago that had a minigun firing shotgun shells). In a pinch he can use the Flagstaff to Motivate and heal the rest of his family.
And like I said the dinosaur is named the Front-Wheel Drive Sled. I had bought a new feathery, crazy eyed dinosaur recently, so this gave me a chance to use him.

Posse – Santa’s Helpers – $2,000 and 160 IP
Download the Santa’s Helpers PDF roster or see it in The Saloon

First of all let me explain the mini used for the leader. As I mentioned it is a Battletech mini, a game I played a ton in high school and still own and would play again. The exact Mech is a Warhammer IIC (considered “unseen” due to lawsuit issues with FASA and an anime). I gave it as a present long ago to my Grandad, say when I was 12 or 13 years old. Then when I got back into Battletech when I was 18ish he was kind enough to give it back. I repainted it from the original winter camo (which would have actually been so suiting here) to a nice red/white color scheme with a bunch of dirt and ding marks.
DC-Christmas-0017And yeah, I basically love the mini, the sentimental value, and the actual stats in the game (more so the original 3025 Warhammer…WHM-6D for life). Anyway he would be the Iron Arm of Santa, with a Klondike 7000 (a pretty Christmas sounding weapon).
Then for my Christmas elves and helpers I went more to the fantasy shelf. Plum Appleseed is an old D&D RPG thief I used (he has red and purple coloring to match his name). Gaston the Cook is his pal, and the chicken topped staff the mini is holding is perfect for the rarely used Dinocatcher. I have a bunch of dwarves, but I dug up an old old old plastic single-pose Chaos Dwarf I painted when I was ~14, and this guy would represent the Nutcracker (with a suiting Greataxe). Then to wrap it up an Elf, which I hummed and hawed over for a while since I used to be hugely into elven archers/rangers for RPG games, so I had lots of options.
This posse would have a Triceratops for their dinosaur, because I actually really like his in-game stats.
Some detailed pictures of the various minis, since I don’t think I’ve used any of them before for this game. They sure do show their painting flaws up close though :)
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Objective and Deployment
I decided to go with no special Features for this game, just to keep it simple for the New Year.
As I mentioned the Objective is “Capture”, with the goal being the Christmas tree in the middle of the table. I decided on a “Corner” deployment (instead of the traditional “Edge”) for a bit of variety, and to encourage flanking/splitting up.

To fit with the movie the Griswold’s started mounted riding in their car…um…dinosaur. Which actually works well for the game because the ol’ sled has the Racer trait, which is arguably the best closing mechanism for melee focused entities (tied with “Climber”). Basically Racer doubles your Hustle speed, meaning the dinosaur could go 6″+5″ (ignoring Difficult Terrain of course as a dino). Not too shabby for a Raptor.
The intent was to launch forward, unload everyone, and quickly secure the objective so Santa’s Helpers almost have to assault the high ground, instead of the fight being on even footing.
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Also I’m happy to say the snowy base I painted for my red jacketed RCMP officer finally suits the table (far right picture above).

Santa’s Helpers deployed next, in the corner opposite the Griswolds. Plum started mounted on the Triceratops, to better utilize his Carbine (thanks v2.6!). The Iron Arm of Santa was out front, hoping to activate last and maybe sneak a shot in. The remaining members were organized in a flying-V behind a tall hill. Their plan was to edge around the cover, cross the nearby fence, and storm the objective.
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Turn 2 – Nutcracker Captures the Tree
Well, call it a day! Except there are still 5 turns to go. But thanks again to his Racer trait the Nutcracker managed to reach the base of the Christmas tree objective, well within the 4″ necessary to capture it.
DC-Christmas-0059Before Plum could activate Ellen fired on him, hoping to frighten the rider into Fleeing (and taking his dinosaur with him!). Although she hit very well, Plum managed to pass his Bravery Test.
The return fire was ironic as Ellen took enough damage from the Carbine of Plum to force a Bravery Test, which she promptly failed.
Meanwhile the posses broke into smaller teams. Clark and his daughter Audrey moved along the side hill near the Christmas tree. Across the field the Elf and Cook teamed up and reached the edge of their covering hill and advanced towards the fence beyond it.
The Iron Arm of Santa mechanically shuffled directly forward. Meanwhile the Front-Wheel Drive Sled boldly advanced around the side of the objective, hoping to reach the Elf and Cook and hold them up in melee before they could assist at the tree.
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Turn 2 end – Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
As both posses were within capturing range of the objective, a special event triggered…
Kevin-Surprised
That’s right, Kevin McCallister is here to defend the tree. “This is it! Don’t get scared now!”

DC-Christmas-0031Kevin gave me the chance to make a ridiculous single character that cost $2,610 and 385 IP (hah) with 8 Defense (Hahaha) and 3 Ranged Target Number (HAHA!!!). How about a Grenade Launcher and Settler Defender and slew of useful traits (Awareness, Try Again, Escape).
In addition I could use the player character mini (a Scout named Dunhaus) from my recent D&D campaign named “Servants of Molagrath”. I custom painted this mini for the campaign (which ran for 6 months recently…basically the giant block of no blog posts here). His tunic even has the little evil red beetle cult symbol of his deity Molagrath. And craaaazy eyes.

Kevin McCallister had insanely good stats, and I had to do a bit of Saloon jigging to only have a single usable entity: Home Alone PDF roster or see it in The Saloon

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This changed the game drastically. Kevin would attack the nearest entity (regardless of posse) where it made sense. Both posses would completely gang up on him in an uneasy alliance. And before either gang could really chip away at him, he’d hop on a makeshift zip line and get away.
But until then he was going to rip everyone apart.
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DC-Christmas-0076Unfortunately for the Nutcracker, who had raced ahead to get adjacent to the objective, the little dwarf was the nearest target. I’m sure it’ll be fine…how much damage can a Settler Defender at Short Distance really do…with 3 RTN.
Needless to say the Nutcracker soon found himself clinging to life with 1 HP. In a way he was a hero though, as Kevin rolled 2 Crits but also that magical, hope granting result of 1, which meant the deadly shotgun needed to be reloaded.
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Turn 3 – Beat Up the Hero
Kevin would roll Initiative just like the other posses, but didn’t quite count for the number of activations. What this means is he would activate once, on the first initiative roll, then not again until the next turn. Which meant if the gangs could weather the initial storm they’d have a full, free turn to shoot at Kevin.

DC-Christmas-0080Luck was still with the Nutcracker, as Santa’s Helpers won the all important Initiative roll. Knowing his life was near an end, the brave dwarf roared to the god of thunder (oh wait wrong game) and moved into melee. He used the Turtle trait to desperately try to survive a counter attack. Then he feebly swung his Greataxe, but to no avail. 8 Defense basically meant everyone was hitting on 12+, so they couldn’t get Criticals, and could really only hit on a 1/12 chance per die.
The Nutcracker had a bit more luck when Kevin activated. Because his shotgun was empty, the kid needed to get outside the minimum range to use his Grenade Launcher. Which meant leaving combat with the Nutcracker. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Actually the Nutcracker managed to hit the moving opponent with his Snap Attack, drawing first blood on the seemingly insurmountable target.

The Griswolds were still in shock from seeing the Grenade Launcher wielding kid appear. And before Clark and Audrey could separate Kevin finished his move away from the Nutcracker and lobbed a grenade at the clumped father and daughter.
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Yeah, that hit. And it hurt a bunch, leaving Clark at 2 Hitpoints and Audrey at 5.

Seeing the grenade explode amidst her family, Ellen dug deep inside to unknown anger. Going “full mama bear” she landed a terrific shot on Kevin, but also emptied her gun doing so.
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Inspired by the shot, the rest of the posses circled Kevin and tried to hit him with everything they had. As an added bonus everyone got closed to the tree Objective, haha.
The dinosaurs piled in as well in an attempt to hold Kevin in place and protect their masters. It’s not like the penalty to hit Kevin in melee with a gun would really matter when everyone was already at 12+.
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Turn 4 – Zip Line to Safety
Kevin activated once more, using his Power Glove (unfortunately not listed on the PDF roster since I had to technically break the equipment size limit rules to let him have a melee weapon). He straight up punched the Front-Wheel Drive Sled in the jaw (grill?) for a bit of damage. Then as quickly as he showed up, he zip lined to safety. Probably calling the police or going through a flooded basement.
So in game terms he was done and removed from the match after 3 activations of mayhem. In the end he had 21/35 Hitpoints left, so he took a measly 14 damage.
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Turn 5 – Objective? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That
The first activation this turn was rather important. The Iron Arm of Santa had taken a bad shot from Clark, but hadn’t quite died. If Rusty could activate and blast the Leader apart the remaining enemies might Flee from the Objective.
And even though the Griswolds won the first activation, Rusty unfortunately seemed to forget how to shoot. Seriously the dude needed a single 9+ to kill the Iron Arm of Santa. And Yeehaw! had been used much earlier (I think on Ellen’s first shot when she tried to make Plum turn tail and Flee). And this was with Both Barrels being used on the Streetsweeper Shotgun!
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DC-Christmas-0106As the Iron Arm survived, he was able to move over and take Clark out of action. The Griswold family stood strong though and neither Rusty or Ellen failed their Bravery Test.
Meanwhile the Elf kept moving forward towards the Objective, his progress slowed slightly since he wasn’t full out Hustling and instead launched silver bolts of energy from his Laserbow. The Cook dove in near the brawling dinosaurs to assist the Triceratops. Honestly though the Front-Wheel Drive Sled (Raptor) was pretty badly hurt, and was clearly outmatched by the larger dinosaur. But the sooner the Triceratops could safely leave combat the sooner it could reach Ellen or Rusty.

Speaking of the dinosaur fight the Cook did manage to finish off the Griswold family vehicle/Raptor. Since the Cook had been untouched so far, Ellen focused her shot on him. She climbed up the slight hill nearby to get a better line, and landed a beautiful shot that forced the Cook to Flee. She also looked awesome doing so.
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Turn 6 – Approaching a Tense End
DC-Christmas-0116The turn started with one of my favorite subtle mechanics of Dinosaur Cowboys, and one that catches even experienced players sometimes. That is if a character cannot fully Flee, they are Stunned instead. So basically they lose their Action Phase instead of their Movement Phase.
And this is exactly what happened to the Cook. Because he couldn’t move his full 4″ due to Difficult Terrain crates and hills, he instead was Stunned. Which meant he could still advance towards Rusty. He just couldn’t attack once he saw him.

But Rusty had much, much bigger problems. About 9 tons of problems named The Hoof of Christmas. The Triceratops easily moved into melee with Rusty. And another subtle, often overlooked mechanic came into play. But the stout teen was unwounded, so a single attack wouldn’t drop him. So instead the dinosaur used his Beast attack “Trample”. Oh right, those Beast attacks! (I’m sure you’re saying)
In case you’re not familiar, for a 2 damage penalty a dinosaur can use Trample which has the special effect of 4″ Pushed. Best demonstrated with the pictures below: the peaceful tree and dinosaur before, and the super flung away Rusty after (including some minor Falling damage!)
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Turn 7 – Decision Time
This turn actually began with the last picture above, which might be obvious since all the Moved & Acted tokens are cleared. But it started with the Triceratops activating, moving back into the recently Pushed Rusty, and smashing him again with Trample for ANOTHER 4″ of Push.

DC-Christmas-0127There was no way Rusty would reach the Objective this activation. But by pursuing him the Triceratops had also placed itself outside the capture zone.
Which meant the Cook was the only person on the Objective. The Elf was close, but had failed his Bravery Test when the Iron Arm leader died, so he was still getting back to position.

So if Rusty and Ellen could kill the Cook they might have a chance of a tie game. After picking himself up from the Trample, Rusty moved slightly to get into the best distance bracket he could, and used Both Barrels on the Cook, leaving the halfling with a mere 3 Hitpoints.

All the pressure came down to Ellen’s shot…
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With her Bolt-Action Rifle and combat modifiers she needed a single 9+ on 3D12. Tense, very tense… aaaaand she managed it, killing the Cook.

The raging Triceratops remained, as did the Elf. But the turn limit was reached. There was only a single activation left, of that Sweet Little Elf and his Laserbow.

And with a Hustle he was just BARELY able to get within 4″ of the Christmas tree Objective. No one else was even close.

So Santa’s Helpers won! They were able to fend off the fanatical tree cutting quest of the Griswolds, as well as weather the storm of the McCallister kid.

Conclusion
Dinosaur-Christmas-Santa_Martin-DaveyGuess what? This match was fun. Not much else to say. The posses used a lot of neat weapons (although the Dinocatcher and Flare Gun missed the 1 or 2 attacks they tried). The Objective battle was very tense. I’m happy Trample got to shine. All in all there were a lot of tense moments and close calls. For example the Elf failed his Bravery Test from the leader dying because he rolled an 8 but had 9 BTN (default is 8). So because he gave up some BTN for a few Improvement Points he nearly didn’t reach the objective.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed the report. I know I haven’t been posting here a lot, but like I keep saying Dinosaur Cowboys is always on my mind and in my heart, and I’ll keep coming back to do battle reports when I can. They just take a bit of time (around 1 hour to play and photograph, and then 3 hours to write up and format).
I actually have another report setup, I just need to find the time and opponent to play. I’m going to flip the ocean fabric seen through this report to the blue side, then have a bunch of islands to represent the new coast of America. Basically some swamp land raiders against a coastal defense force.

Otherwise 2016 might be the first year since I first developed the game that I don’t release an updated rules version. v2.6 is in a great place, I’ve been enjoying it a ton. And like I’ve (naively) been saying since v1.0, at some point I need to stop tweaking the game.
Although it’s tempting to go back to my roots and release a set of “expansion” rules…maybe called Skies and Slums. Not that I have brainstorming notes on that very topic from March this year :).

Merry Christmas and see you in the New Year!

The many posses by “Doom Eagle”

many-peopleBack in October I had a dedicated fan who was getting into the game, and he went wild on creating posses using The Saloon online designer. He authored each one as “Doom Eagle” and has commented here a few times. So in case you aren’t religiously checking The Saloon (you’re not?!) I thought I’d take a moment to link them and share some thoughts. It’s kind of fun trying to read into the story or theme behind each posse.

All the posses use the current version 2.6 of the rules. I get a Warhammer 40,000 vibe from some of these names and ideas, but that’s not surprising as a ton of people played the “big one” before branching out into other wargames (just as I did).

I definitely appreciate this kind of enthusiasm for my game!

  • Red Sisters – A band of roving Savages, like a cliche tribe with bow and arrows, spears, knives, etc.
  • Desert Scourges – Nice mix of weapons, especially the M-2285 rifle (I love the name)
  • Wasteland Brutes – Quantity over quality, with a lineup of tough Dusters with some brutal close combat weapons, and one Neotechnoist to back them up and shoot a gun every now and then
  • The Great King – My kind of themed posse. Built around a T-Rex “King” dinosaur, with two aptly named Savages to rush in and support with swords.
  • Military Patrol – Another posse that seems like something I’d design, themed around a Neotechnoist military patrol outside the wall. Backed by their Triceratops the Korporal and two soldiers have only basic weaponry, but are all terrific shots (RTN 6).
  • ADG Troop – Similar theme to the above posse, but with a less expensive Fin dinosaur. All the extra funds went into weapons it seems, with a pair of 200kW Lever-Action Rifles putting that good RTN to use.
  • Sand Snakes – Bandit gang, probably raiders of some sort. The whole crew can mount the Terror dinosaur and rush in to put their deadly weapons to use. Nice to see the new Lasher melee weapon put to use.
  • Archer Trade Inc – Beefy Defenses on a pair of Bandits sporting dual Lever-Action Rifles. I like the addition of a Fiddle for morale and Energy Sword for pain.
  • Little Brick Town – Small town posse with a Mayor and Sheriff, perfect for an “NPC” type posse who live in a forgotten, dusty village. I like the Mayor having a Cane weapon, one member has Doctor (probably vastly untrained for the work he’s forced to do), and ol’ Pater Orvill with his Broken Bottle.
  • Warjacks – Good posse to demonstrate the flexibility of Dinosaur Cowboys and how you can clearly achieve a theme. Here the posse is designed around Warjacks from the Privateer Press game Warmachine / Hordes. Imagine this guy with a Sledgehammer and Ranch Blaster to match the model. Then we have a pure melee monster with a Staff, and finally the glorious Flamethrower / Scythe combo. All quite beefy, and all quite strong.
  • Watermill – Another posse with a small town vibe, maybe modeled after The Ballad of Cable Hogue. There is a well armed and skilled Savage with the crew who knows how to handle a Biosteel Knife. Maybe she helped defend the town at one point as was taken in?
  • Moonwalkers – Tribal/shaman theme of Savages lead by Tala Moonwhisper. To me though the fourth member Songan the Werewolf is well made as she uses Punch and has the Boxer trait, so she’s clearly meant to be a lycanthrope. Nice to see some genre mixing with a more “weird west” feel.
  • Night Breed – Similar approach to the above posse of “weird west”, as Xorag is clearly an alien come to earth to hunt dinosaurs. The Big Game Hunter trait is a perfect match, and a Blasterbow combined with Winterfrost Grenades feels sci-fi as heck.
  • Ruffnecks – “I’m from Bueno Aires and I say kill ’em all!” Oh…maybe not those Ruffnecks?
  • Los Locos – A gang of banditos with a classic west mix of pistol, shotgun, and rifle. I can just imagine this rowdy crew rolling into a saloon and blasting the place apart.
  • Rusty Rovers – Let’s be honest we’re dealing with a Grenade Launcher in a $1,000 posse…I like it. Some serious heavy hitters in this small, but well armed posse. A Plated dinosaur just fits due to it’s extreme toughness.
  • Alien Breed – Another “weird west” posse, and going with the Warhammer 40,000 visualization I could see these guys as Kroot. If they have ranged weapons I could also go with a Predator vibe. The dual wielding leads me to believe the Variant Rule “Dual Wield” was meant to be used, since a few members have two knives. Also “Alien Crusher” with the stats of a Thickskull dinosaur sounds cool.
  • Stormcasts – Taking a Sledgehammer to the face (when Attack – Puncture is used) is only mildly less intimidating than constant Laserbow fire.
  • Ravenclaws – I really feel like this posse is a reference to something, it’s just something I’m out of touch with (maybe anime?). I do like the combo of a Horned Triceratops that can Push 3″ with Attack – Forceful…especially if he chooses to combine it with a Beast attack like Trample for a total of 7″ Push, haha.
  • Redwater – A nice mix of two bandits and a sniper Neotechnoist (a style I often use). The new Tirador Rifle makes an appearance…tip on naming anything, just use a different language and it sounds cool. In this case Tirador means Rifle in Spanish, so yes, it’s a Rifle Rifle. That’s how you know it’s really good at shooting things.

Magma chambers under Mt Saint Helens

magma-chambersI’ve had this link saved for a month and kept meaning to post it, since it relates to the Dinosaur Cowboys history I created. Basically using seismic imaging scientists discovered some massive magma chambers under Mt Saint Helens. I find this interesting since such a chamber, if empty, would be exactly like the prehistoric “time capsule” that spawned the world of Dinosaur Cowboys.

http://news.sciencemag.org/earth/2015/11/deep-magma-chambers-seen-beneath-mount-st-helens

That Papo Apatosaurus

Papo-Apatosaurus
What an absolute beast! If I didn’t already own their Brachiosaurus (which I refuse to call anything but a Brontosaurus, in honor the “Bronto Gun” in this game) I’d pick one up. Anyway I know this is late news since he was released over summer in 2015, but sometimes I forget to check the new releases :) I can’t wait to see what Papo will bring in 2016.

2 petawatt laser, aka 2,000,000,000,000kW

2PW-laser
Now that’s a laser! Certainly makes a 100kW Six-Shooter and a 600kW Lever-Action Rifle look like peanuts! I don’t think a dinosaur would walk away from a hit from that thing. All in all pretty neat, even if they can only run it for a picosecond.

Credit: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/world-s-most-powerful-laser-2000-trillion-watts-what-s-it

Battle Report: Pillaging the Old Exxon Station

DC-The-Old-Exxon-Station-0011My life has been pretty busy recently so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and play Dinosaur Cowboys really since the successful release of v2.6. Plus I generally like to take a bit of a break after each release. But a few new additions to the ol’ tabletop motivated me to find the time to sit down and play.
DC-The-Old-Exxon-Station-0007First of all I painted a new mini: Mad Max. If you already read that post you might notice some duplicate pictures here, but you’ll live.
Second of all I finally based my little Exxon gas station signs. And finally I finished spraypainting the ruined building I bought a while back. I also put some paint on my Dodge Challenger model (slightly out of scale) from 7-8 years ago (time goes so fast). Still not fully finished it (as I hate painting vehicles), but close enough to look good on the table.

For some background to the game I thought I’d break the Dinosaur Cowboys history a bit and have a fueled car for one of the posses. Also the gangs would be fighting over a few liters of precious gasoline from a ruined Exxon station.

The Table Setup
Right on the northern border of Texas before the boiling desert wastes of the south is a lone two pump Exxon station, ravaged by time and long forgotten by travellers. Except one, old Crazy Carl (Mad Max), who has heard rumors of the precious black juice to fuel his “Orange Lightning” car. The station is slightly east of Perryton and was expected to be empty. Little did Crazy Carl know but the Guzzoline Expedition from the madness filled and barely habitable town of Amarillo had also set out to search the nearby country roads for precious gasoline.
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As you can see from the table I recreated the rough county road near the Exxon station. I used my new fences and cacti to create the stereotypical Texas feel. I also angled some of the fences and had them run into terrain to make it feel like sand and dirt had broken and mangled the once straight lines. The gas station itself has the skeletal remains of some giant feline beast, plus various crates and craters around the back. I used my half-painted propane tank model as well, which fits in perfectly. The Exxon signs really bring the whole scene to life, and are random purchases from a railroad set.

Objective and Deployment
I’m going to be honest, I meant to use the Capture objective (for the gas station itself, most people inside at the end of 7 turns = victory), but pretty much just did a standard Shoot Out instead, haha. For deployment the closest applicable type was “Corner”, since Crazy Carl’s Roadwarriors would setup along the northwest bend of the road and Guzzoline Expedition somewhat opposite them approaching the T-intersection.

Both posses had $1,500 and 150 IP and 4 traits.

Also the road itself was a “Road” feature, which meant anyone starting their move on it would get +1 Speed. This included Hustle and Charge as well, so you could really go far if you stuck to the pavement.

Posse – Crazy Carl’s Roadwarriors
DC-The-Old-Exxon-Station-0005First off Crazy Carl’s Roadwarriors. I envisioned the posse as a motley crew that Crazy Carl had assembled as he travelled the highways. The main focus would of course be “Orange Lightning”, the Dodge Challenger model I had. I toyed with the idea of some car-specific rules as a one-off, but decided to instead represent the car as a Horned Triceratops dinosaur. Big enough to fit everyone if needed, but bulky and powerful like a car. Crazy Carl got a Breach Gun, since a big shotgun is iconic to Mad Max. Vennie the Quick was a pretty standard midrange fighter with a Carbine in case she wanted to stay in the car and fire it. The Natural got the classic Low Burst Rifle with the Attack – Punishment trait to up the damage when necessary. Hadlock received a single big pistol. All in all a pretty standard v2.6 posse, especially when it came to stats (+1 DEF across the board, RTN of 6 or 7, etc.).
PDF of Crazy Carl’s Roadwarriors posse

Posse – Guzzoline Expedition
DC-The-Old-Exxon-Station-0025The Guzzoline Expedition was supposed to be Neotechnoist led from the extremely hot and crushingly depressing town of Amarillo. In the communal “heat craziness” of that outpost, the town leader decided to send Stefan “Blue” Stu, his best friend Hank Mardukas, and a slow-but-steady Plated dinosaur to scout to the furthest northern tip of Texas in search of gasoline. The town leader wanted the gas to power a generator for his icechest. Clearly the noblest of expeditions.
Along the way Stefan picked up an even more outlandish ally named Gary Gary Gary, who showed up in camp one day and kept saying “You’ll need my shotgun, trust me”. A dark and brooding priest named Father Richard completed the gang.
Stefan Stu would be long range focused with a Lever-Action Rifle and excellent RTN. His friend Hank would use a Blasterbow and be pretty generic. Gary Gary Gary main characteristic is his extreme toughness and Enforcer Shotgun (clearly this would be a “battle of the high end shotguns”). And Father Richard had an old Yannigan Pistol and some motivational words from his sermon days (via the “Get in There!” trait).
PDF of Guzzoline Expedition posse

Turn 1 to 3 – Posses Approach
The first few turns were surprisingly quiet. The posses started so far apart, and aside from Stefan’s Lever-Action Rifle there wasn’t much long range firepower. The Roadwarriors deployed entirely in the car (aka Mounted), mainly for flavor. The Guzzoline Expedition started in a line around their dinosaur, ready to advance up the road.

Both forces started to pull around their respective corners and take up position. Stefan ducked behind the far, far, FAR crates near the T-intersection (which would be a mistake as his 20″ range missed a lot of the initial fighting). Hank hung behind the gas station, while Gary dove right into the building to take up quite a defensive position. Father Richard started across the road to the north side of the battlefield, hoping for a flank for a few back shots.
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Right near the end of the third turn Crazy Carl lived up to his name and gunned it in the Orange Lightning car. Basically he pulled a Dukes of Hazzard maneuver and drove straight towards the gas station. Vennie and The Natural had already shoulder rolled from the speeding vehicle (aka Dismounted) and after the car smashed through the fence Crazy Carl and Hadlock did the same.
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“Those crazy Duke boys are at it again”
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Turn 4 – The Exxon Standoff
DC-The-Old-Exxon-Station-0048This turn opened with The Natural rushing across the road, and with the speed boost reaching a cacti for cover. Vennie swung around the back of the car to try to cover the Exxon station. Meanwhile the Plated dinosaur from the Guzzoline Expedition did a Charge forward to reach Orange Lightning. Dinosaur vs car!
The real issue was around the Exxon station itself. Gary and Hank were able to support each other inside the station, behind the tall walls. Outside Crazy Carl and Hadlock waited. Neither side wanted to make the first move and get shot by the enemy support team. So for now the focus shifted to the dinosaur melee as both sides tried to burn Activations before needing to end the standoff. Like I said in the preliminary comments, this really turned out to be a “battle of the shotguns”. Gary with his Enforcer Shotgun and Crazy Carl with his Breach Gun.
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Eventually one side of the standoff had to move. Hadlock fired at Rodger the Dodger (the Plated dinosaur) and backed up behind the propane tank, which meant the 2vs2 had become a 2vs1. Hank responded by advancing to the cover of a crate and shooting at the orange car. Crazy Carl responded in kind with a bold move to the opposite side of the crate, and a point blank shotgun blast (in fact he used Both Barrels)! Similarly Gary jumped over the Exxon wall, careful to stay out of sight from Vennie, and unloaded into Hadlock (causing him to Flee), but also emptying his gun in the process. Quite a flurry of activity!
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Turn 5 – Crazy Driving
The Roadwarriors were in the nerve wracking situation of giving up the first kill. Hadlock was low on Hitpoints, Fleeing, and about to be gunned down by merciless Gary (after he reloaded). To stop this from happening Orange Lightning did some crazy driving right across the fence and into melee with Gary. The Plated dinosaur did a Snap Attack as the car moved, but the risk was worth it. The car now acted as a mobile wall of cover and a line-of-sight blocking shield for Hadlock. Plus it looked awesome!
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Left on his own the dangerously exposed Plated dinosaur settled for smashing into Vennie, causing her to Flee from the damage.
Across the battlefield the Expedition leader Stefan Stu had erroneously placed himself behind crates, but too far from the action. So he had been Hustling forward each turn trying to get a shot. His chance finally came and he could fire on the wounded Vennie, landing an amazing hit from his Lever-Action Rifle which took her out of action.
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Meanwhile Hadlock ducked behind the car to be safe for a turn. Crazy Carl swung back around the Exxon station and fired into the Plated dinosaur, landing a smashing hit that took the wounded creature out of action.
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Turn 6 – Clearing Room to Room
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Now that Gary was outside the Exxon station, Crazy Carl took the opportunity to hop the wall at the end of the last turn. This put him in a prime position to fire at Hank, if he could get around the corner in time.
Instead Hank activated first, edged to the rusted and crumbling store shelf, and fired around the corner at Crazy Carl. Although hit the damage wasn’t enough to take the Roadwarrior leader out, and swift retribution was lined up at the end of a Breach Gun.
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Across the street Father Richard and The Natural had been engaged in a back-and-forth game of chasing each other around a hill. But Father Richard turned his attention back to the main battle for a moment, aimed at the orange car, and fired again and again, leaving Orange Lightning a smoking ruin (and clearing a lot of the table!). This left Hadlock dangerously exposed, but Gary decided to move back into the Exxon station to take Crazy Carl head on.
He wouldn’t get the chance. Stefan Stu, ineffective for most of the battle, moved across the road to get a clear shot through the front doors of the Exxon station. Luck was with the Expedition leader as his shot hit and killed Crazy Carl.
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Turn 7 – Cleaning up the Streets
At hearing his leader die, Hadlock tried to Flee. But he was right at the edge of the table, so he got Stunned instead. The poor old cowboy stood shocked as Gary climbed out of the ruined Exxon station and fired a flurry of shotgun blasts. After all the fancy maneuvering from the Orange Lightning car, Hadlock still died.
Across the road Stefan could turn his attention to the last survivor of the Roadwarriors: The Natural. The Expedition still had Father Richard (a bit wounded), Stefan (slight graze), and Gary (who would heal back to his full impressive 13 HP thanks to his Large IRP). The situation was grim for the Roadwarriors.
There was a ray of hope as The Natural managed to kill Father Richard after the preacher emptied his gun at him from atop a hill. But the Roadwarriors were still in a 2vs1 situation.
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Turn 8 – The Noose Closes
Although The Natural managed one more shot at Stefan, eventually the noose of Gary and the Expedition leader closed and they shot down the last survivor of the Roadwarriors. Victory to the Guzzoline Expedition! (Also quite a few turns, but that’s mainly because the first 2 or 3 were getting setup around Exxon).
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Conclusion
So the Guzzoline Expedition got what they came for: gas! And Crazy Carl was sent back into the wasteland with a ruined car and beaten allies. The game was a lot of fun, and as usual the ruined building representing the Exxon station worked well, made for a tense standoff, and naturally became a focal point for the conflict.
Initially I had planned a third posse to join the fight, to represent the wild savages roaming the Mad Max world: The Bartertown Slaggers (PDF). My plan was to have them spill out from a basement trap door of the Exxon and just attack the nearest target. This would be especially effective considering how many people were within Charge range of the building. They were definitely built as a v2.6 melee posse, with some fun weapons like the Ion Blaster, Coup Stick, Feudbreaker, etc. But in the end I figured the fight between the Roadwarriors and Expedition was close enough that it didn’t need to be disrupted. Maybe in the future I can do a rematch!

Anyway I hope you enjoyed the game session report! Like I’ve said many times, I’ll always try to get battle reports up, even if I’m not actively working on the rules, or am busy with other projects. Certainly not the same volume or speed as other months, but at least you know you’ll have Dinosaur Cowboys fights to read about!

Mad Max the road warrior – a new painted mini

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Know who’s cool? Mad Max. In case you’ve been living under a rock there was the recent “Mad Max 4” movie Fury Road. Unfortunately no “crazy” Mel Gibson as Max this time, but still quite an adrenaline filled, action packed movie.
But we’ll go back a bit in time to the classic de-facto Mad Max movie of The Road Warrior (some people think it’s the first movie, unbeknown of the first less-apocalyptic movie).

Anyway this mini is the Chronoscope “Rex, Dark Future Hero”, while clearly being Mad Max. I do appreciate the old Games Workshop reference to Dark Future though. But yeah, nice leather jacket, good double barrel shotgun, etc.

For the paint scheme I went back to my roots of flames everywhere. Otherwise fairly standard pants/shirt. I did a nice tattoo on the arm of a curving skeletal snake. I also am really happy with how the base turned out, sort of like the classic Trista miniature from my very first battle report, but with a white passing lane instead of a straight yellow dotted line. I did orange hair perhaps as a reference to an old, old fantasy Paladin character I had named Tunher. Otherwise nice copper shoulderpads, the old blackened shotgun, hand painted black glove, slick gold zippers and copper belt buckles, and you have a great looking mini!

Anyway in case the previous preview image didn’t clue you in, or the background Dodge Challenger model or interior fight, I have a battle report queued up with this new Mad Max figure. So that should be up soon!
UPDATE Read the battle report featuring Mad Max: Pillaging the Old Exxon Station

Euro Truck Simulator 2 – Dinosaur paint pack!

ets2-playingIn case you didn’t know, I really enjoy the computer game Euro Truck Simulator 2. I’ve put over 100 hours in so far, and imagine I’ll keep playing it for years to come. I actually have the full Logitech G27 wheel/pedal/shifter setup. It’s fun to just put on some British radio, hook up fifteen tons of cattle, and drive 2,200km.
Anyway how does this relate to Dinosaur Cowboys? Well, they just released a DLC “paintjob pack” that is dinosaur themed. Gotta like that!

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Pick up the ETS 2 Prehistoric Paint Jobs Pack for ~$2.

Anyway some ACTUAL Dinosaur Cowboys content coming soon, as I alluded to a few days ago with my preview post of the next battle report…

Sneak peek of upcoming battle report…

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Looks like I’ve got myself some guzzoline eh, eh?

Frontiersman – the perfect dino hunter (upcoming Infinity mini)

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This is the upcoming “Frontiersman” mini for the sci-fi skirmish game Infinity. Normally the majority of their figures are pretty anime focused, although I do have one or two I want to buy that would be a good fit for Dinosaur Cowboys. It’s hard to actually find them in stores though. Either way this Frontiersman would make the perfect Duster with his cool Laserbow and sidearm pistol. He could maybe even pull off a tougher Neotechnoist, since the gauntlets could be painted to look fancier. All in all pretty awesome, I like the dynamic pose as he aims for a Terror dinosaur.
These pictures are from this Miniwargaming Youtube video.

Picture: Volcanic Eruption

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Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala by Andrew Shepard

What I’m Up To: Dungeons & Dragons

MolagrathSo the ol’ website will be a bit quieter these days because I’m running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign called “Servants of Molagrath”. I’m the DM and am also hosting at my house, so my games room is generally dominated by character sheets, paper maps, and a slew of dice. We have SEVEN people playing, which is quite the record, so yeah, lots of prep work and general tabletop exhaustion from that. So the site will be a bit quieter, which is okay since I normally tone things down after doing a release (and v2.6 was just a bit ago). I do have one battle report in mind that I want to play out (Mad Max themed!) but no idea when that would happen.

Anyway I thought I’d share some details on the D&D campaign, for those who are interested. We’re playing 4th edition because it has the best combat balance and variety. Much like our last Edge of the Empire campaign (Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games) this happens weekly and with a similar core group, I was just able to recruit a few more people to get our numbers up so high. EoTE taught me that this group tends to solve problems in a violent way, and even though they might be “good guys” on paper they really act villainous. So with this D&D campaign we just flat out accepted that, and everyone is playing an evil cultist! They are part of the Cult of the Beetle who worships the banished god and lord of decay Molagrath (imagined like the picture to the right), and each session is more or less sowing chaos across the land. For example they started by raiding and poisoning an oasis (killing a sizable merchant caravan as well), and just recently attacked a Church of Lathander (god of spring/renewal, aka their enemy) to rescue a fellow cultist who was going to be burned at the stake. So yeah, pretty fun and interesting to try this approach.

Until you hear from me again, keep on keepin’ on!
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Antediluvian Miniatures: upcoming dinos and explorers

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I was tipped off to an upcoming line of dinosaur miniatures as well as some cool Victorian-type explorers. Sounds like the sculptor is going to model all the dinosaurs from the old Crystal Palace Exhibit (awesome read by the way).

You can see more here: http://www.antediluvianminiatures.com/

Seems like some unique dinosaurs, and the “extracted bone” base looks like it’d be good as an objective marker. So far the humans look good too, especially the pompous noble with the umbrella who just screams Neotechnoist.

ARK: Survival Evolved (upcoming dino riding computer game)

This game is buzzing on various news sites, and even though it’s not directly related to tabletop gaming I thought I’d mention it because of the possibility of riding dinosaurs! The game is survival multiplayer (what isn’t these days, between RUST and a zillion imitators). I’m tentatively excited about this, since so far computer games with dinosaurs haven’t fared well. The Stomping Land was canceled, the Primal series was just junky, etc.

Anyway you can see the Steam page and official website if you want.

I entered to get a chance at the closed beta, because who knows it could be good. If the game is as slick as the trailer makes it seem (although that’s the point of trailers) I think it could be a real gem.

In some ways I almost think dinosaurs are becoming the new zombies…add them to an otherwise dull game and suddenly it’s cool!
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