Going into cold storage

JP-Frozen-EmbryosWell my personal life is going to intrude with ability to sit down and play Dinosaur Cowboys for the foreseeable future. I’m looking at moving houses and the dinosaurs, terrain, and figures just went into cold storage (aka a cardboard moving box) last night.
But yeah, I might try to post here and there, but any content would just be related to the game as compared to battle reports. Plus I figure I’ll be swamped doing showings, viewings, paper work, etc. When everything is settled I’ll definitely be eager to try Dinosaur Cowboys in some kind of half-imagined games room!
And obviously if you can’t identify the movie scene featured in the image then you need to see more dinosaur movies!

Update end of May: I’m still alive, and still unable to get back to Dinosaur Cowboys at this point. All my figures and dice are packed away. By the end of June I’ll be moved to my new house, so hopefully sometime in July I can start posting again. Definitely missing my tabletop fix!

G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. and Pulp Alley dinosaurs pictures

I thought I’d mention two rulesets that sometimes end up including Dinosaurs. The first is G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. which is terrible to type, and has sort of a goofy looking website, but is definitely a labor of love and quite a cult classic. I wanted to share a bunch of pictures from the Boardgamegeek gallery, pretty much all from the user Yugblad. Pretty awesome looking games going on. Definitely a Victorian flair, since the game focuses on that era, but yeah, looks like a fun time.



The porter carrying the ivory tusk and running from the dinosaur reminded me of Kwabena from my Windy River test campaign. Also it makes me want to get a few porter figures, most likely these three 28mm porters from Reapermini. I don’t really have any non-combatant figures, so that’d be an interesting change.

Pulp Alley
The second ruleset is Pulp Alley, which is a bit smaller and looks to be focused a bit more on gumshoes and the Indiana Jones style of gaming (and that era). The official site has a Pulp Alley battle report forum with plenty of cool games. I thought I’d focus specifically on Dinosaur Plateau, a battle report that had some good pictures that I’d duplicated below. In general the reports (especially from the game designer) seem to have really great, imaginative terrain. Makes me wish I had some of those adobe houses.

Considering an update to Equipment

So the current (v1.9) Equipment list has been carried forward since the early, RPG focused Dinosaur Cowboys days. And I feel that these items might need to be revisited. There are 38 available Equipment choices, but of them only 8 have any listed, in-game effect (in this case all the medical equipment).

I had made a note a while back to consider changing these items so that they all do something. Here is that chunk of good ol’ brainstormin’:

  • Split the Equipment lists into “Common” and “Combat”, maybe call it Gear instead? Or something more flavorful
  • Helps for campaigns so that players have more disposable things to buy
  • Need a new framework for consistent timings. Like “Use Once”, “Once per Encounter”, “Constant”, etc.
  • Basically like buying Active Traits, since some of the effects would be similar
  • Items like Bugle (re-roll 1 dice), Banner (+2 to Initiative once per game), etc.
  • Tobacco, can choose to be chewing for the whole game at the start of each game. +1 BRV -1 HP
  • Alcohol to reduce damage from first shot

So let’s look at this in terms of pros and cons:

Pros of Reworking Equipment
– Provides more options per turn, per character
– Could potentially restrict the number of items to ease rules confusion
– Fun and flavorful and a bit less abstract than Traits
– Can be a useful way to advance a posse with Neodollars beyond just better weapons
– Good money sink, especially for veteran posses and those in campaigns

Cons of Reworking Equipment
– Easier in campaigns than one-off games since players will know their posse better, so they won’t get overwhelmed with choices each turn
– May water down the effect of Traits by duplicating or replacing some of the functionality (for example Rope providing the same bonus as “Climber”)
– May add unnecessary extra special rules, again using Rope as an example it might be “Roll a D12, on 8+ move up a hill without penalty”
– More rules to potentially forget, as sometimes happens already with Traits in the heat of battle
– Hard to track on the roster
– Additional complexity around duration of items, etc.


My biggest concern of all that is: Traits getting watered down and less unique, and more rules that might be forgotten during a battle.

The other (nearly unspoken) alternative to this is just remove all the items, or trim them down to 5 or 6 choices. Right now it feels like I’m sort of on the fence since a few items have effects but most don’t. And although some of the items provide good choices for roleplaying in a campaign, in general I don’t think they’d come up that often. So it might be time to trim the fat instead of revising the list.

But if I WAS going to revise the equipment, here’s a general idea of what I would do. I’m not going to bother with prices at the moment, more just getting a feel for the number of items and their effects…

…Haha, so when I started typing (beginning with the effects) I realized I was basically listing Traits. So that doesn’t make sense to me. In the interest of completeness here were some of the ideas before I stopped:

Ignore Difficult Terrain from slopes (hills, cliffs, etc.), +1 to Initiative, Ignore Difficult Terrain once per encounter, Ignore Difficult Terrain on 9+ on D12, Reduce Falling Damage in half, +1 to Hustle distance once per encounter, Re-roll a Charge dice, Mount or Dismount a dinosaur for free (some kind of Pony Express saddle)

What I’ll Try
So here’s what I’m going to try instead! I’m going to remove Equipment, add a Medical chart (to the right of Armor items in the rulebook), and add a bunch of new Traits. New Traits are always fun, and I’ve considered updating that list for a while. I’m also going to revisit the Trait formatting since right now the big page long list of items is overwhelming. I might break them down by categories or something. I also want to change how they are used to be a bit more clear, so some will be “Before Attack”, others will be “Start of Turn” and so on…maybe.

I’m also going to rename the Medical equipment. I don’t know if I like “IRP” anymore. We’ll see though.

Anyways look for more on this topic later!

Another 4-player game and some minor fixes

Recap of 4-Player Battle
Well yesterday I played a nice lengthy 4-player free-for-all game of Dinosaur Cowboys using the latest v1.9 rules. Unfortunately no pictures.
We introduced a new player to the game, and they seemed to take to it well enough. In terms of setup we used a 5’x4′ table, so a bit bigger than usual. There were some dinosaur eggs scattered across the middle line (giving +1 DEF to all entities within 3″) as well as each posse putting an additional dinosaur egg somewhere in their deployment zone. The idea was to try to motivate people to move to the center and not camp, but that ended up not being necessary since everyone was in for a big firefight. Each posse deployed in a 10″ square in their respective corners, and we started the game.

The posses involved were:
Nathan playing Crevan’s Outriders, a posse he designed that focuses on a low number of high quality troops. Nathan has helped me a bunch with brainstorming a lot of the objective and deployment rules as well as general help leading up to the v1.9 release.
Timmy playing Tribe of the Blood Pact, an old posse that I revamped for v1.9. They are melee focused which hurt him a bit in the showdown. Timmy had played once before a few revisions ago.
Paul playing Drylands Hunting Party who are basically a current version of the posse I use in the Windy River campaign, so they tend to be fairly versatile. He was the new player.
I was playing The Death Snakes, who you might remember from the old Across the Street battle report. They of course have been updated for v1.9 as well.

Cowboys-Return(From Interfacelift, alas horses instead of dinos)

Nathan took the north west corner, Paul the north east. I went south west and Timmy was south east. Basically the board split into two firefights, with my Terror (fully mounted with everyone in the posse) rushing east towards Timmy. Meanwhile Nathan and Paul maneuvered their snipers towards each other. Timmy eventually mounted up with everyone on his Plated dinosaur and headed to meet me.
The south was a big messy melee, but I was able to dismount my characters while Timmy kept them on the Plated, which meant he was basically losing Actions since his big, burdened dinosaur activated as a single entity. Eventually I was able to overcome his posse, but he took my Terror down to 4 HP.
Up north Paul started strong but eventually lose the momentum due to Nathan’s extensive use of some line-of-sight blocking cover to fire and then duck back into safety. Paul also was uncertain about committing his fragile Runner dinosaur to try to shut down Nathan’s snipers.
Eventually I headed north with the rest of my scattered forces, who got peppered on the way in as Nathan and Paul allied to face my fresher force (I had two characters with their full 16 HP). Paul eventually shot Nathan’s leader in the back, which threw a wrench into their allegiance.
As the battle wound down we ended up in a situation where Kallas of The Death Snakes (me) and Mirax of Crevan’s Outriders (Nathan) had empty guns and were within Charge range of Quidel of Drylands Hunting Party (Paul). So we both Charged in with Brawl type Kick and Punch attacks. This turned into a big fisticuff match until Paul eventually swung his sniper Trista in and shot Nathan down. Seeing that the fist fight was over I killed his Leader with Jordana who was approaching.
Then a big cat and mouse game ensued between the only three survivors of the grand battle: Trista (Drylands), and Kallas and Jordana (Death Snakes). Eventually we headed back south on the board, and had some crazy rolls. Paul rolled 3 Critical Hits with Trista against Jordana. So his 3A-4D weapon did a smoking 10 damage. Kallas moved around the hill Trista was by and replied with 2 Critical Hits of his own, which turned his 2A-5D Double Barrel Shotgun into a 9 damage killer. The last survivor was Kallas, with 8 HP (after having two Small IRP’s used on him).

Cowboy-BrawlFixes and Changes
As a result of the game there were a few “duh” changes I made to the v1.9 rules, since (as usual) actually playing the game exposed some issues that weren’t obvious from reading the rules.

– Changed the Posse roster to use the abbreviations for each stat. The main reason for this was there was “Range” (for Range Target Number) BUT also “Range” for the weapon range. This was very confusing. Hopefully now by going to “RTN” people will say that over two Ranges. I had considered renaming something to “Distant” or “Distance”, but decided to keep the stats and weapon brackets as is.
– Brawl and Beast type attacks now specifically have a note that they cannot be used in a Charge OR for Snap Attacks. The main reason for this is Snap Attacks, since otherwise everyone gets a free shot as someone moves out of melee, instead of just people with dedicated close weapons (as was intended). This also prevents people from using Trip (which has the Stopped special ability) to lock down someone who is trying to leave combat. To keep consistency Charge was also affected by this.
– The Saloon now has “Passive” in small font where the Trait checkbox is, so that people can easily see at a glance if their trait is Active and can be used during combat, or if it’s Passive and already has the bonus applied.

So nothing major, but every little bit of polishing helps.

Old rulebooks now available

ArchiveI’m a big fan of looking back at the progression of a ruleset and seeing how it evolved over the many months. So I combed through this blog to find every Dinosaur Cowboys release I’ve done, and have now linked to them on the main download page. For easy access here is the list repeated as of the v1.3a release. These are links directly to the PDF file. I definitely like perusing those pre-v1.0 releases and seeing all the big TODO chunks. Also fun to see what sections I’ve rewritten and a few of the sentences that have made it all the way from the first version.

Old Versions: 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 0.91b, 1.0, 1.1, 1.1b, 1.2, 1.3, 1.3a

Speaking of rules the development version of v1.4 was generously edited for typos, grammar, and structure by a fellow Boardgamegeek website user named Grusome99. I’ve rolled his changes into the document so those nine or ten fixes will be part of the next release.

In terms of the next release I am thinking sooner is better. This has been one of the larger gaps between releases, but more importantly v1.3a is getting fairly far behind the current v1.4. There were enough changes with campaigns, objectives/deployments/features, Gutless, etc. that you can expect a new version early March.

Problem with the Bravery stat

BraveryThe picture to the right is about Courage, but I figured it fit well enough for Bravery. In Dinosaur Cowboys the Bravery stat is used to see if a character will run away after having overwhelming damage dealt to them. Sounds great right? Higher is obviously better. The downside is…dun dun dun…rolling LOW on the Bravery Test is the way to pass it. So if you roll a 12 you actually fail and run away for your next activation.

Originally in 2010 (has it really been that long?!) I had this mechanic as a “Fear Test”, and each character had a Fear stat. Then the idea was rolling >= Fear resulted in a failure, although it should have been >= success. Back then having a higher Fear stat was better (should have been lower). Obviously in the old implementation (of high = fail) Fear didn’t make sense, so I changed it to Bravery. The downside of high stat = better means low roll = better. I’d rather have a high roll be better, like for RMC and MMC, with the downside being you want a lower stat for it. I was able to get around this for those two by having “Miss Chance” in the name. Fear worked okay as a stat, but it felt more like a condition than a built in facet of a character.

Currently this is the only roll in the whole game where lower is better (even including Charge distance, healing, everything). So I’d really like to get it changed. But that means figuring out a good stat name that conveys lower = better, sounds good in a sentence (“Now take your XYZ Test”).

So basically the ideal would be:
Fear Test: Roll 1D12, >= Fear is a success. Lower Fear is better

But I don’t like Fear as the stat, so I’ve been trying to think of some better alternatives. Here are some ideas:

  • Exhaustion
  • Weariness
  • Fear
  • Cowardicy
  • Craven
  • Scared
  • Scare
  • Gutless
  • Spineless
  • Faint
  • Meek
  • Fright
  • Terror

So far I think I like Faint, Gutless, and maybe Cowardicy (although that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue). Hmm.

Exhaustion, Weariness, Fear, Scared, Fright, and Terror all seem like conditions that would grow over time during a battle, as compared to an inborn stat.

Scare and Spineless are good, and sound okay in a sentence, but I’m not sold on them.

Craven is cool but is more of an insult than a stat.

So anyways, I know I didn’t plan on making any big changes after v1.0, but this is an annoying enough issue that I’d like to change it. The only other larger change I’d want to make is figuring out a way to remove the custom non-D12 dice from Dinosaur Panic Movement, while still keeping the underlying feeling.

Two rulesets and two miniature ranges

I’ve had these four items sitting around for a while, but I thought I’d link them and talk about them.

First of all two miniatures ranges that could be used for Dinosaur Cowboys.

Foundry Old West Miniatures
Foundry-Old-West-MiniaturesFoundry has a great variety of realistic miniatures. I’ve purchased a couple in the past when I was playing The Sword and The Flame (phenomenally fun Victorian era stuff). The miniatures themselves are a little “flat”, in the sense that they feel very 2D and don’t have a lot of depth to them. But for the price, variety, and accuracy they can’t be beat. The image to the right are some of the Mountain Men line, but they have a full range of cowboys, indians, etc.

Spartan Games – Dystopian Legions
Dystopian-LegionsI’ve played Firestorm Armada from Spartan Games, and have read about Dystopian Wars (a large scale steampunk naval game). Well the company has just recently released a 28mm skirmish game that “zooms in on the action” of Dystopian Wars. This new game is called Dystopian Legions. They have four unique looking armies available. I particularly think the Kingdom of Britannia and Federated States of America figures would work great. Britannia are steampunk Victorian era, and the American ones are a mix of cowboys and civil war style troops. As with most figures that try to combine old west with modern technology they ended up going the steampunk route, which you either like or loathe. No idea how the game itself plays, but the miniatures would be a great addition to a posse.

And then two rulesets that involve either cowboys or dinosaurs. Again this is still a very niche genre, so I’m happy to find anything even roughly related.

Wild West Exodus
Wild-West-ExodusThis company is creating both a ruleset and a miniature line. The miniatures are styled in an extreme steampunk manner. No dinosaurs in sight, but you never know with this type of game. I think some of the figures (like the one pictured to the right) would work well for Neotechnoists. I read the beta document of their rules and wasn’t overly impressed. The system seemed clunky and seemed to take all the bad elements from Warhammer 40,000 without adding or innovating. Different statistics for every troop type, entire turn based UGO-IGO, etc. Maybe in the future they’ll clean up the rules, but as of this writing I’d stick to the figures and stay away from the game.

Wildly Heroic Action Pulp (WHAP) Cowboys vs Dinosaurs
No idea what this ruleset plays like, but from the product description I’d imagine light, fast, and fun. They have an adventure based around cowboys hunting and fighting a dinosaur using a similar plotline to Valley of Gwangi. No picture for this one unfortunately.

Deployments, Objectives, Features, Showdowns

As part of the extended campaign rules I also want to codify a bunch of different setups for each game. These would also apply for standalone games. The idea is to extend the options players have beyond the standard “line up and kill each other”. To this end I’m working on a new set of rules for Deployments, Objectives, Features, and Scenarios. I would love more wild west sounded names for these (as well as some of the individual points), but no luck thinking of any so far.
My friend Nathan from the game last Thursday was interested in helping me, so he’s been brainstorming these new rules. He’s played a bunch of tabletop games and I figured it’s hard for just one person to think up enough varied deployments and scenarios.

Deployments: These pertain specifically to HOW the posses are deployed. For example the current deployment is “choose a table edge, deploy 8 inches in, and fight”.
Objectives: These would be WHAT the posses are fighting for. There are two types of Objectives: Public and Private. A Public objective is known and shared by all players, such as “Kill Everything”. A Private Objective would be on a per posse basis and would differ, so that one posse might have “Kill the Enemy Leader” and the other might have “Capture a Cabin”. The players could either choose these objectives or roll for them.
Features: This is HOW the posse is fighting, in the sense that Features would be special rules or terrain that affect the battle. Maybe a saloon in the middle, maybe an underground tunnel, etc.
Showdowns: These are prepackaged scenarios with preset deployments, objectives, and features. Normally there is more of a story or background behind it, and these would be used for a Standalone game. There might be IP/ND restrictions, posse build restrictions (ie: must take a dinosaur), or even prebuilt posses to fight against each other.

I’ll be editing this post throughout the coming week as we brainstorm up ideas for these four categories. Then I’ll format the ideas and put them into the rulebook (although Showdowns may end up as a supplement instead of core).

Read the rest of this entry »

Three dinosaur video game mods

I was randomly looking around the internet a while back and decided to see if there were dinosaur related mods for various video games. I didn’t find as many as I would have liked, for example I was hoping to find a Left 4 Dead 2 mod that replaces the zombies with dinosaurs, but regardless here are the results:

Left 4 Dead 2 – Velociraptor Survivors
L4D2_VelociraptorsBasically replaces the standard survivor models with Velociraptors. Even has the hands modeled when you’re in first person view, which is a nice touch.
Get the mod

Skyrim – Dinosaurus Era
Skyrim_Dinosaurus-EraGreat looking mod that adds dinosaurs as enemies. So far they have a couple of the standard creatures done. Really nice animations.
Get the mod
See the video
Also I’d love to find out what this cool looking T-Rex is from, also for Skyrim:

Half Life 2 – Jurassic Life
HL2_Jurassic-ParkBuilt on one of the best engines ever (Source Engine) this map for Half Life 2 looks really immersive and interesting. Plus the project seems relatively alive, which is rare these days for a mod.
Get the mod
See the video

Doc, they got me!

Normally when I make rule changes or additions I have players and the general spirit of the game in mind. However there is one supplement I want to do totally for myself. What is this mystery supplement? Medics! Doctors! Shamans! Clerics! Okay, not the last one, but that’s the general idea. In online games and tabletop RPGs I love playing the support character that heals, buffs, and protects his allies. In the first Guild Wars MMO one of my main characters was a Monk. The class was exceptional awesome because they didn’t just “push red bars up” (aka flat out restore health), but instead could use protective prayers to negate or deflect incoming damage. Just look at some of those cool mechanics: Incoming damage is reduced to 10% of target’s maximum health, reduce damage by 5 each time an ally takes damage, heal 80 whenever an ally takes more than 50 damage.
This same idea of support classes being more than “healbots” has rippled across the industry. In 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons the Cleric went from having to memorize a bunch of Cure Light Wounds spells to being able to spontaneously cast them, which freed up slots for funner spells like Bless and Endure Elements. Genius!

So what I’m rambling on about is I’d really like to have a Dinosaur Cowboys supplement for healers. Neotechnoists would call them Medics, Dusters and Bandits would call them Docs, and Savages would call them Shamans.
This wouldn’t be a standard hire for your posse. Instead it’d be closer to a “Hired Sword” from Mordheim, aka a prebuilt mercenary. So you couldn’t customize the Doc with additional Traits (although you could change equipment). You’d just pay a flat Neodollar (and maybe IP) cost to bring them onboard.
A Doc would have a list of powers/abilities that act similar to Traits, except they can be used at different times. These would be supporting and motivating shouts and chants, sort of like “Get Up!” and “Inspiring Shot” that already exists as Traits. Some would be interrupts, so you could make an enemy re-roll a single dice, or stuff like that.

Like I said this Doc “class” or mercenary wouldn’t be an official part of the game, but an optional supplement. And it’d totally be a selfish project done simply because I enjoy that type of role. Right now I’m still working on the extended campaign rules, but my next TODO item will probably be the Doc.

I could actually see doing a bunch of these classes. They’d be called something more wild west-y like “Gunslingers” or “Outlaws” or whatever, but the basic idea of a prepackaged, hireable asset with unique abilities would remain the same. I could also see potentially having these abilities as a “kit” that you could buy/train for an existing member of your posse. For example “Doctor’s Bag: Use the Doctor class features. Costs 20 IP to train and $200 to purchase.” I’m actually liking this idea more. There could be a “Gunslinger Poncho” that lets you go all Clint Eastwood on the opponent, and so on.

Heroscape-Ticalla-JungleAfter Action Report of Yesterday
The game I hosted yesterday was a lot of fun! Two of my friends made it out so I let them have a 1vs1 showdown. The posses involved were Copper Ravens and The Runaways. In terms of building the posses the Copper Ravens were the result of a request to have a few higher quality troops focused on melee. The Runaways had one request to include a Horned dinosaur, as my friend had a new Triceratops he wanted to use on the table.
The scenario was a simple “kill everything”, which I find is easiest to introduce new players with. There were a few dinosaur eggs scattered around the table that would give +1 to a single dice roll (could be an attack, could be a Bravery Test, etc.) if you were adjacent to it.
I ended up not getting any pictures of the game, but a brief summary was both posses moved forward, and killed a bunch of stuff. But really, there was some melee in the middle, dinosaurs taking the brunt of the early fire and attacks. A late game flank by the last survivor of the Copper Ravens, who was surviving pretty well with his AR 4, until The Runaways sniper hit him with 2 Criticals. A great time was had by all and I potentially might try a short campaign with one of the players sometime this year.

The picture above are some jungle trees from a Heroscape set. My friend brought a bunch over since he bought them way back and they make perfect replacements for my somewhat non-tropical trees. The actual set is called Heroscape Expansion Set: Ticalla Jungle, and I’d love to pick one up. Too bad they are out of print and go for $200-$250 on Ebay! Can you imagine paying that for 9 trees?! Neither can I, neither can I.

Post Battle Injuries – Example Table

Progress on Campaign Rules
As I mentioned a couple days ago I’ve been thinking of expanding the campaign rules for Dinosaur Cowboys. I took my first step towards that with a bunch of new additions. The biggest was an early version of a Wounds and Injury system that is used after the battle. Also there are rules for bonuses for an underdog posse against a superior force (such as one campaign player who is doing really well against one who keeps losing). I added rules for night combat, since that might happen in a campaign. Also I fleshed out the overland travel rules for difficult terrain (going through jungles and so on) as well as travelling using a Forced March.
But yeah, the most exciting part (and I think you’ll agree, at least based on requests and expectations people have of skirmish games) is the injury system. I think I was able to avoid the death spiral by making the injuries fairly soft and easy to choose. Here is what the process looks like…

For every entity Taken Out of Action during an encounter do the following:

  • Step 1: Roll a D12 to see if the entity is hurt or not. Dinosaurs receive +1 to this roll and Leaders receive +2.
    If the result is greater than or equal to 8 the entity is unharmed, otherwise continue to Step 2.
  • Step 2: Roll 3D12 on the Taken Out of Action Effect table below.
  • Step 3: If the entity has no existing Wounds in the Location specified apply the result immediately as a Wound.
    Otherwise they will suffer an Injury instead. The entity can choose to make the rolled result or the existing Wound a permanent Injury.
  • Step 4: Unless otherwise specified, any old Wounds are healed.

So basically if you roll under 8 you don’t even get hurt from being Taken Out of Action. But otherwise you get a temporary Wound (basically lasts a battle), and then if you get ANOTHER Wound in the SAME Location then one of them is going to become a permanent Injury. I like this approach.

Here is the table that the instructions mentioned. As you can see I went for some flat out stat reductions, but also some funner ones (like starting the game with an empty gun, or having a random Facing). I’m not sure on the names yet, I don’t know if I want to try to keep some consistency, or go for funny names, or what. I wanted to mention I like the organization of the table where the lower numbers are low on the body, and as the result increases the damage goes up to your head, with the top being pretty brutal.


Obviously there will be a Dinosaur specific injury table as well, which should be interesting.

I’ve decided not to have “positive” injuries, such as “You got tougher from your ordeal! +1 AR” for two reasons. The first is they really don’t work under the Wound/Injury system. Second is characters are taken out often enough that eventually, statistically, you’d probably come out ahead.

Once I get a first pass of the extended campaign rules done I’m going to play on the test hex map and make sure everything meshes well and is balanced.

I’m also waffling around the rulebook structure. On the one hand I like having everything in one place, with all the charts, weapons, sheets, campaign info, etc. in a single PDF. But on the other I think having a 60+ page document makes the rules feel overwhelming to get into. So I might strip out the “core” rules into a smaller, separate document. Or maybe just do a simple quickstart set, with two prebuilt posses and a map of terrain and stuff? I just feel like the rulebook is approaching the level of “everything thrown in!”, especially as the campaign rules climb to 4 or 5 pages.

Game Tonight
In other great news I have wrangled in some friends to play Dinosaur Cowboys tonight. Should be able to get one or two games in. Some of the participants are the same folks that took place in my last four player game, and one is a friend who hasn’t tried the game before (but we’ve played other tabletop games).
I’ll try to take a few pictures and post them here later on.

Campaign Ideas

firestorm-armada-campaignSo I was working on some ideas for a simple campaign system and map for use with friends in Firestorm Armada. I had created the map you see to the left when I thought, “Wait, why am I going to use all this energy for FSA when I could devote that brainstorming fury to Dinosaur Cowboys?!”. Of course I didn’t actually think of the words “brainstorming fury”, but you get the idea. The star map looked neat and all, and was loosely created using this creating Traveller maps tutorial. I had seen fantasy maps created with the same software before, and knew I could make something nice and jungle-y for Dinosaur Cowboys.
In terms of the software, I’m using Hexographer, a Java based program that allows terrain, features, lines, text, etc. to be placed on custom maps. There are a bunch of other useful features, but the end result can look something like the map below. And just a note, if the map doesn’t make you want to round up a posse and start delving into the jungle the rest of this post might not be for you.
So you can see I put some basic settlements, roads (the black lines are paved, the tan lines are makeshift trails), hunting grounds, camps, rivers, jungles, deserts, mountains, and more to make an exciting slice of the shattered USA of 2285.
Now a campaign system has been asked for a few times, mostly from players who had tried Mordheim or Necromunda (pretty common due to Games Workshop’s popularity), and enjoyed the “post battle wrap up” where you get new territory, roll for injuries, etc. Both of these games abstracted the territory management instead of using a hex map with defined movement.
With Dinosaur Cowboys I had been aiming for campaigns to be more like RPG style games, with an overall Sheriff organizing encounters, detailing travel, and basically handling everything the rules don’t. Currently there are some notes for overland travel (recommended using real world roadmaps compared to a custom hex map), encounter chances, healing, etc. But I’d like to expand on these and flesh them out, especially around example encounters and some other details of posse management.
To this end today I’ve made the test map above and I’m going to start brainstorming additional campaign rules.

General Ideas
– To start the campaign would be structured around either a single posse against the Sheriff, in a more open ended structure. The other alternative, that is a bit easier, would be posse vs posse with the victory condition of controlling all the towns/areas on the campaign map. This is slightly less dynamic than a game with multiple armies per player since you’d just be moving a single posse around. The idea of managing multiple posses is fairly interesting though.
– Control of towns would grant bonuses, for example Neodollar income per campaign turn, maybe bonus Improvement Points and equipment and so on.
– Towns and other points of interest would have a preset defense force of some kind. A camp may be protected by bandits, a town by lawmen, etc. The Sheriff would control these entities during combat.
– Overland movement would use the existing “By Ground” travel rules under Campaign Game in the rules, which says “Movement statistic is converted to Miles per Hour in a 1:1 to relationship”. Which means the scale of the hex map would be 1 hex = 1 mile, so 3 MV would be 3 hexes. Currently terrain has no effect on Overland movement speed.
– Encounter chance may be changed to be percent based (currently a D12), and also effected by the terrain that is passed through. For example a base encounter chance could be 30%. If a road is travelled on the chance is reduced by 5%. If a posse moves through a heavy jungle this percent might be increased by 10%. Then the encounter chance is rolled at the end of the travel, with all modifiers.
– After battle injuries are really tough to do well. Just flat out reducing stats (“Leg Injury, -1 MV” for example) can lead to a posse “Death Spiral“. What is a Death Spiral? Basically:
Something that can happen in games where your combat skill is affected by your health (or similar attribute). If you take a hit, your combat skill decreases slightly (making it harder for you to hit the opponent and/or easier for the opponent to hit you).
While there is a certain realism to this, it can often quickly lead to the “Death Spiral” where each hit makes it increasingly unlikely for the loser to come back, as they are getting consistently worse at attacking and/or defending.

In the case of Dinosaur Cowboys this would mean if your posse loses, they get injured, but then they are MORE likely to lose their next battle, thus suffering further injuries, and certainly losing subsequent battles, until basically it’s a gang of gimps incapable of winning.
Financial loss can be similar, since losing 100 Neodollars while the opponent gains 100 ND is closer to a swing of 200, and can significantly reduce a posse’s effectiveness in future combat.
But there should be SOME kind of penalty for losing. In a player vs Sheriff game this is less of a problem as encounters can be scaled down. But in a posse vs posse scenario this is tough to avoid and can make it so early losses can stop a posse from ever being competitive.
I’ve started a discussion on The Miniatures Page forum about this to see what ideas the community has.

Where to Start
I think I’ll start with player vs Sheriff style. What I envision is similar to the old computer game Strange Adventures in Infinite Space or even Flotilla where the posse travels around, has a bunch of random encounters and events, and has a set endpoint (in the case of both those video games it’s limited by game time or number of turns).
In the case of player vs Sheriff the goal could be “completing” a posse, which means reaching the cap of total Improvement Points (in v1.3 this is 400 IP). Since you start at 100 and get 3 IP per kill this would take a massive 100 kills! Perhaps setting a goal IP up to the max would be a better and easier way to customize the game length.
Anyway part of this would be working up stats for generic NPCs and enemies that the Sheriff can throw at the posse. So lots more dinosaurs, bandits, drifters, etc. that can be combined to create an interested battle. I’d also work up some additional deployment scenarios to represent different situations that might come up in a campaign (such as having your camp surrounded).

For now I’ll start small and work on cleaning up the overland movement, encounter chances, etc. All these changes will go into the core rulebook and be part of the next release. Depending on the length of the rules I could consider splitting them, especially if a list of enemies and encounters grows too large and bloats the rulebook. That’s a bit down the road so I won’t worry about it right now.

I’ll try to do more posts here as I develop the campaign system, similar to the volume I had when I was fleshing out the original core rules. That way everyone can see how the campaign system is developing and the choices and challenges I’m facing.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2013!

Secret-of-SinharatWell we aren’t quite at the year 2285 yet, but 2013 is certainly a step in the right direction. The year just SOUNDS so futuristic, even if we’re severely lacking in flying hover cars, laser pistols, and any chance of dinosaurs coming back.

Considering I haven’t posted since Halloween I thought I’d drop in and say I’m alive. I have been distracted by Nanowrimo (which I completed, woo hoo), the holiday season, a plethora of computer games, and some Firestorm Armada. Sometimes I get in space sci-fi moods, so battling big ships on the tabletop has been quite fun.

I do hope to get another Dinosaur Cowboys game in sometime soon and post up some fresh pictures. Not much to say otherwise, the rules, posse designer, supporting materials, etc. are all at a stable enough point that I don’t have as much to post about anymore. But Dinosaur Cowboys is always in my heart, and with luck I can keep some slow buy steady updates going.

Anyway Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lego Posse!

How’s that for a fun looking posse! My friend sent it to me a couple of days ago. I especially like how the Raptor has studs on it’s back so you could take the legs off a minifig and easily mount them. It’d be easy to swap weapons to match what each member is equipped with. And there are enough wild west Lego minifigs to really get that cowboy look going.
It looks like Lego has a whole new line of “Dinohunters”, and four of the popular dinosaurs (T-Rex, Raptor, Triceratops, Pterodactyl). You can see the official site if you’re interested.
This makes me want to play a game of Dinosaur Cowboys using Lego posses. I think I could even use my original terrain, with perhaps some Lego buildings to keep it interesting and different. I know that there is an unofficial Lego wargame called BrikWars, and other games have been converted to Lego successfully. For example here is a set of photos from someone running Song of Blade and Heroes as Lego. Pretty cool stuff!

Related: Dinosaur Cowboys battle report using Lego posses! Read the Thermopolis Outpost Raid with Lego.

In terms of the game I’m hoping to get some expansion Undead rules brainstormed before November hits. I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month again…hopefully with more success than last year where I started strong and then totally teetered off and gave up. This year I have a couple more friends than normal writing and I’m trying to stay psyched about my topic (sci-fi space exploration).
Of course it’d be great to get one last game of Dinosaur Cowboys in before November, but we’ll see!

Video Game: Primal Carnage

Update Oct 29 – This game has been released

While perusing various video game sites I came across Primal Carnage, an upcoming (Fall release date) multiplayer FPS game involving humans vs dinosaurs. They title it as an “indie” game but in this case I think that’s a cover to produce a lower quality project…hopefully not though. The human classes seem sort of like a mirror of the popular Team Fortress 2 game, which is a bit of a pity. I’m probably just being negative and pessimistic.

The upside is the game looks good visually and could be simple fun. Sort of like Jurassic Park if the crew had started fighting back. The screenshot page on the Steam site looks like some neat ideas such as net launchers. I’ll have to wait and see what the gameplay looks like as it gets closer to the release date. But hey, at least dinosaurs are getting some more attention, since as they say on the website “Primal Carnage is one of the few games based around Dinosaurs.” Too true, too true.

I think part of the issue is these developers keep doing dinosaurs vs humans, instead of humans + dinosaurs vs humans + dinosaurs, which I think would be better and more interesting (maybe because that’s the type of game Dinosaur Cowboys is). Otherwise you end up in a situation where you’re on the human team and you just want to play a dinosaur, or you’re stuck with limited strategies because everyone on your team is melee based. I think Dino D-Day was one of the better approaches to this since at least the dinosaurs did something more than just charging forward blindly. Plus these games tend to put dinosaurs in the spotlight…which makes sense in a way, but at the same time I find dinosaurs do better as supporting characters and background pieces compared to the focal point. What I mean is if the human vs human aspect (without any dinosaurs) is boring, adding dinosaurs won’t suddenly turn a bad game into a good one.

And since everyone loves pretty pictures: