More Papo dinosaurs

No real time to game recently and very little to design, but I can stare at some new Papo dinos! Two are recolors, and two are some really slick dynamic poses.

Pentaceratops – Great skull size, and I’d be interested to see how it looks if put on all four legs, since it seems like the toy could be repositioned that way. Definitely more detailed than the Triceratops I have.

Gorgosaurus – Cool but pretty T-Rex-ish.

Allosaurus recolor – Really like this one as the original was pretty muted in color. I remember the toy not being super stable though.

Stegosaurus recolor – Interesting camouflage style recolor from the previous green model. Now they just need to repaint the Ankylosaurus.

Four amazing 2017 Papo dinosaurs

Happened to check in on Papo dinosaurs and they have some pretty cool new releases that I’m definitely gonna keep an eye out for at my local stores. Some are just recolors, like a blue velociraptor and “egg stealer” oviraptor, but those are likely reliable sellers for them.

First of all my favorite: the humble and almost-smiling Polacanthus. In other words a different Armored version for me.
polacanthus

The other dinosaur I’d most likely buy is the Cryolophosaurus, for his upright, almost birdlike pose. Very unique look for a predator, and depending on the size a cool alternative to a t-rex.
cryolophosaurus

Very nice looking Acrocanthosaurus (brutal name to say though). I didn’t hugely like the tail-in-the-air pose from a few previous Papo designs (namely Carnotaurus and Dilophosaurus because I found it unbalanced depending on the casting. But it’s certainly a dynamic pose. Very nice blue/orange skin too.
acrocanthosaurus

Then a Ceratosaurus. Very nice coloring and skin detail, but I worry about how well he’d balance since it looks like only one foot is the point of contact. Interesting take on the crested head though.
ceratosaurus

Battle Report: Operation Black Box

Finally a battle report! The elapsed time since my last game session here is criminally long, and well overdue for some new content. So I wrangled together a few posses, grabbed a pal, dug up an old childhood F-14 Tomcat airplane model, and set out to play some Dinosaur Cowboys v2.6!

Also some of the inspiration for one of the posses comes from the Defense of the Ancients computer game. In other words the moba Dota 2, which just had a huge 7.0 patch update. The largest tournament for professional e-sport players of Dota 2 has a prize pool of $20 million plus. So yeah, players of that game should recognize some familiar names and roles, like Vanguard the tanky leader, or Desolator the ranged sniper.

Also I realize I mix up my past and present tense when I write these. I really don’t mean too, but it’s such an ingrained bad habit I have trouble breaking. I think it’s because I writing the session report after the fact, so I tend to the past tense, but sometimes think of new information and use the present tense. Hopefully it doesn’t throw you off too much.

Background
Rumors have started of a strange new allegiance in the wasteland: Ascendants. Some sort of sky people…old tech scientists drifting down from on high…power and concepts beyond Dusters and even Neotechnoist reasoning. Word of an artifact spreads to eager ears in the noble, wealthy circles in the city of Hope. Some kind of aerial war machine was found. Records were searched in secret, and a highly specialized and trained commando squad was dispatched to recover a “black box” from this old tech airplane.

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But the commando squad was not quite as airtight and flawless as their Neotechnoist hirelings would like. One of the members, fearing the corrupting influence of old tech, went rogue and started trying to raise a posse to fight off the commando squad, destroy the black box, and stop any war machine from being recreated.

Setup
dc-operation-black-box-0019The central feature of the table was the crashed and decaying F-14 Tomcat. I used a bunch of trailing rocks to make a slide/crash zone and hopefully give some sense of weight to the plane. The pilot was likely heading for the softer jungle at the edge of the table, but fell short and crashed into a solid stone hill. Otherwise an old corral/pen containing barrels and a sabertooth skeleton, a few hills and the usual trees, and the table was set.

A simple “Edge” deployment would be used, along the long table edges, to really start close to the airplane.

A turn limit was set: 6 turns, with a situational 7th if either the black box or engine parts were still in play at the end of the 6th turn.

Objectives
dc-operation-black-box-0016For this game Secret Objectives would be used. Specifically the Delta Commando Squad had to “Smash & Grab” the black box and engine pieces from the airplane. The Eastwood Rovers had to “Demolish” the same pair of objectives. And there was a main public Objective of “Capture” with the F-14 Tomcat being the contested objective.

dc-operation-black-box-0024The black box and engine parts were represented by pieces of actual computer RAM, which looked pretty neat and fit well! They would have DEF 2 and HP 10.

Features
As for Features a few “Weapon Emplacements” were used as part of the airplane. Specifically a Flare Gun (represented by the black minigun on the model), and a pair of Wagon Blazer equivalents (basically flamethrowers) which originated from the missiles hanging under the swing wings.


Posse: Delta Commando Squad – 130 IP, $1,700 ND, 4 traits – PDFSaloon
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I busted out some old, old figures for this posse. Like high school era Plague Marines from Warhammer 40,000. One of the few times I tried to do a consistent, matching color scheme. I also used my new-ish Dilophosaurus toy dinosaur, made famous as the “spitter” from Jurassic Park.

As mentioned above the intent was the mirror some of the functionality from Dota 2 items into Dinosaur Cowboy characters. Starting with Vanguard (a shield in the computer game) who is represented here by DEF 3, HP 14, and the Thick Skin trait (a one time boost of +2 DEF). Next up was Bloodthorn, a midrange damage dealer with a Volcanic Pistol and Coil Gun for utility. Then the sniper Desolator who has a Twin Rifle, but the miniature has a massive lascannon haha. And finally Skull Basher, a melee monster with a Claw Axe and one of my favorite close combat traits: Onslaught (+4 Attacks instead of +1 on Charge). The Dilophosaurus was bought as a Raptor, in this case named Iron Talon, who is Feral but has no traits.

The strategy and plan was to rush and capture an objective and hurry it off the table with Skull Basher. Sort of a trade off since he ideally wants to be moving forward into melee, not away from the violence. But he’s also significantly faster than the rest of the human members. Otherwise the rest would setup a perimeter, rain down fire, and let the dinosaur distract and hold off the enemy.

Posse: Eastwood Rovers – 130 IP, $1,700 ND, 4 traits – PDFSaloon
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dc-operation-black-box-0004I think this is the debut of one of my new-ish (notice a trend?) miniature that looks vaguely like Clint Eastwood from his spaghetti westerns. I mean not as much as another mini I have, but certainly a generic looking cowboy fellow. I had painted a “fan the hammer glove” on his hand, to help grip the hammer. Otherwise the miniatures should look familiar, except maybe the defector Plague Marine. He was actually from an old, old game I wrote called “Twilight” (yes, before the movies), which is why he’s customized for an RPG and on a hex base.

Also yes I know the posse picture above is washed out. I didn’t have much luck, but the rest of the photos are spot on, thankfully.

Anyway to celebrate the newly painted miniature the rest of the posse is somewhat Eastwood themed. The leader is named Pale Rider and has a massive Ranch Blaster, with the usual plan of using Fan the Hammer weapon ability then the Speed Reload trait to be ready to rock. Alexander Keith is my recurring bartender character, and a paintjob I love. He had the mighty Streetsweeper Shotgun and the dicey, but potentially life saving trait Inspire. Sister Sara is the medic, because I really like the healer type traits like Doctor. D12 times two is a lot of potential healing. Powder Monkey was a funny case, since he looks like a Savage but is actually a Neotechnoist. So a reversal of the usual “going native” empire soldier, and is instead a naturalized wildman trying to meld with the upper classes. And finally the defector from the Delta Commando Squad was represented by Dominator (from the Dota 2 “Helm of the Dominator”). He had a Cutlass but likely not enough Defense or Hitpoints to reach combat with it. The dinosaur was a Fin, one of Papo’s better sculpts (which is saying a lot considering their high quality!) who is named after a less popular Eastwood movie: Eiger.

The plan is simple: shoot objectives. Pale Rider will be the main attacker in that case. Sister Sara will move forward with Keith, Powder Monkey, and Dominator, and try to keep them all healthy. Eiger will likely shield Dominator, or try to get into close combat as a team.


Turn 1
The Delta Commando Squad setup first, opting for the right side, or east, or kitchen-ward, haha. They were able to deploy Skull Basher far enough forward that he could reach the black box objective on the first turn. On the opposite edge the Eastwood Rovers set up in a fairly tight formation, since there were no explosive weapons to fear.
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The first turn more or less nullified the Secret Objectives, which was kind of funny. Pale Rider and Alexander Keith were able to destroy the engine parts objective on their side of the table. And Skull Basher grabbed the black box on the other.

In terms of shooting at living things Powder Monkey managed a lucky hit on Iron Talon that caused Panic. The dinosaur had edged forward around the hill, but still presented a fairly big target. Iron Talon attempted a far 5″ Charge against Eiger, but failed and was a bit exposed. From on top of the hill Desolator hit Alexander Keith for 6 damage. The bartender then failed his Bravery Test and would be Fleeing. The Commando sniper had a fairly good view of the battlefield, but the F-14 Tomcat did a good job of blocking line of sight for some of the approach.

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Turn 2
This turn the dinosaurs met in combat. For all the thematic dinosaur training and discpline, and both player’s idea of using the dinosaur to distract human enemies, the beasts still went right for each other and started tearing in. Iron Talon succeeded at his much closer 1″ Charge, hitting Eiger quite handily. Bloodthorn mounted the tall hill the F-14 Tomcat had crashed into, and fired down at Eiger. The Fin dinosaur took a pounding and was quickly down to 6 HP.

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Meanwhile Skull Basher rushed the black box towards the table edge, as was the Delta Commando Squad secret objective. Vanguard mounted the plane, trying to draw a bead on an Eastwood Rover. The leader trusted in his DEF 3 to keep him safe in the mean time.

Sister Sara did her medical duty and healed Alexander Keith back to full Hitpoints, thanks to her Doctor trait and Small IRP. Keith had fallen back from Fleeing. The pair were a bit away from the plane, under the wing of which Dominator advanced to try to avoid shots from Desolator.

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Turn 3
Both dinosaurs were in rough shape after being the focus of various attacks. Dominator rushed out from under the plane wing, used his Berserker trait for +2 Attacks, and managed a Charge against Iron Talon. The Cutlass did solid work, hitting for 9 damage, which left the surprised Iron Talon with a mere 1 Hitpoint. The dinosaur Panicked at this.

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dc-operation-black-box-0073Unfortunately for the Delta Commando Squad player, Iron Talon had a 1A-5D claw, Eiger had 6 Hitpoints, but because Iron Talon had 1 Panic he suffered -1 Damage. Amazingly though the attack was a Critical hit, resulting in exactly 6 damage, so Iron Talon killed Eiger. But Sister Sara was quick to finish up Iron Talon, similarly killing the wounded beast.

At this point Skull Basher successfully captured the black box objective by bringing it to the table edge. Hooray for them!

On the deadly hilltop, Powder Monkey hit Bloodthorn quite hard, making the commando Flee. In return Pale Rider takes a tiny shot from Vanguard, who then ducks off the exposed top of the airplane.

dc-operation-black-box-0077dc-operation-black-box-0079dc-operation-black-box-0083
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Turn 4
dc-operation-black-box-0094So far Dominator has been called a defector. But from the Delta Commando Squad point of view, he’s a stone cold traitor. The voodoo of dice agreed, as Bloodthorn lined up a pretty tough shot from his elevated perch. Then proceeded to 1-shot Dominator with an amazing roll. He hit for 10 damage, and Dominator only had 8 HP. So that was a surprising turn of events.

Unfortunately for Bloodthorn this was also his doom, as Powder Monkey returned fire and avenged Dominator’s death by killing the enemy commando. So far Powder Monkey’s Bronto Gun hasn’t been hugely needed, as he’s shooting DEF 0 or 1 targets.

Meanwhile Pale Rider hugs the rear fin of the airplane, and not to be outdone, returns the 1-shot by outright killing Desolator. There was some concern for the Eastwood Rover player whether they’d ever be able to safely advance under the sniper fire of Desolator. But a solid roll with a Ranch Blaster sorted that problem out right quick.
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In response to the unspoken leader-to-leader challenge, Vanguard boldly stepped onto the top of the airplane. He activated the Thick Skin trait, which gives +2 Defense until the start of his next activation. So total DEF 5…wow. Call the Bronto Gun pronto!

As if to demonstrate how feebly the enemy shots will be, Alexander Keith climbs up the airplane wing and tries to hit Vanguard with his Streetsweeper Shotgun…on a 13+. Needless to say he doesn’t have much luck with 2 Attacks.

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Turn 5
The Delta Commando Squad started the turn with just Vanguard and Skull Basher left, whereas Eastwood Rovers still had four survivors.

The use of Thick Skin by Vanguard was interesting, since as mentioned the trait stays in effect until the start of his next Activation. Which means he wants to delay activating as long as possible, to tank as many shots as he can.

The turn starts well in that regard as the Eastwood Rovers win initiative and have to activate first. Powder Monkey moves to the edge of the stone hill and tries his Bronto Gun, needing a mere 8+ to hit. No luck, a miss!

Pale Rider sees the armored beast of Vanguard, and decides to switch targets to Skull Basher instead. He moves to Short Distance, grips his Ranch Blaster, and uses Fan the Hammer for a brutal 6 damage hit that makes Skull Basher Flee.

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Vanguard is still trying to hold his activation, so Skull Basher runs away due to Fleeing, then tries to Hustle back. Certainly not the most effective posse member due to spending half the game herding an objective, then getting shot in the face when it’s time to chop things.

The Eastwood Rovers win the next initiative, so Vanguard gets possibly the best value out of Thick Skin ever as he maintained it through 4 enemy activations. However Alexander Keith and Sister Sara are focused and on a mission to roll some hot dice. Keith hits for 7 damage, even though he needs 11+, and this makes Vanguard Flee. Then Sister Sara hits for another 7 damage (at 10+ to hit) which outright kills Vanguard! And to add insult to injury Skull Basher fails his Bravery Test for having his leader taken out of action and is Fleeing.

Turn 6
At this point the game was pretty much over, but the Eastwood Rovers player wanted to get a bit showy in how they kill Skull Basher. First they won initiative, and moved Alexander Keith to the Flare Gun mounted on the F-14 Tomcat. The intent was to get the Illuminate effect on Skull Basher, applying a -2 DEF penalty to make the rest of the posse hit a lot easier. But instead Keith got a Critical hit on the Flare Gun attack, resulting in 4 damage which killed Skull Basher!

So a win for Eastwood Rovers by both objective and posse wipe!

dc-operation-black-box-0127


Conclusion
Quite an interesting game. The F-14 Tomcat made a great centerpiece with lots of nooks and crannies to block line of sight in. The game certainly spiralled out of control for the Delta Commando Squad player. Pretty rough having Skull Basher moving the objective for a lot of it. And of course the luck of Keith and Sara both hitting such unlikely, highly damaging shots on Vanguard. Just goes to show as intimidating as high Defense is, eventually weight of fire can bring the target down.

Anyway hopefully you enjoyed the battle report! And maybe the black box will make another plot appearance in a future session…

Looking ahead to v2.7

incremental-changeDinosaur Cowboys v2.6 is amazing. I’m super happy with the rules, which is why I haven’t felt the need to touch them for over a year and a half. And I know I’ve been saying it for 5 years (since v1.0), but I’m almost done tweaking the rules. I mean at some point I have to be. And I’m very tempted, like a 50/50 split, on whether I should even do a v2.7. But I have accrued a minor list of changes. No timeline for this, and like I said I’m still on fence on whether it’s even worth doing.

Savage Allegiance: The biggest one (and impetus for a possible release) is around balancing the Savage Allegiance, which if you “zero them” back to Bandit status (of having no stat changes) they actually GIVE you +2 IP. So you could recruit and entire posses of Savages, zero them to normal, and get +10 IP. Like I said, minor…but also very annoying to have. I’m a bit miffed with myself for even missing it this long. Dusters technically have the reverse problem (of resulting in -2 IP to zero), but that’s mostly due to Hitpoints costing 6 IP to increase but only giving 4 IP to reduce.

The fix for Savages is simply to change Speed to cost 10 IP to go from 4″ to 5″, instead of 12 IP. This has the side benefit of bonus movement being cheaper and easier to attain. I always want entities to move further. Heck it’s one of the main reasons the base number of squares someone could go in Life of a Dinosaur Cowboy RPG was a generous EIGHT!

Otherwise a few style tweaks to the rulebook, a bunch of trait adjustments and trivial rewords, and maybe a few new weapons or features. Here’s my entire list:

Other Changes
– Add an image to the footer
— Small dinos, jungle grass (similar to Saloon), cactus in the corner, maybe image wrapping page number, etc.
– Add some “Rain” features?
– Add some alternative weapon names for famous mountain men, like the Jeremiah Blaster or whatever
– “Turtle” trait needs to say “apply Stopped to self _next Activation_” in the same way “Rush” does
– “Try Again” should say “re-roll an entire set of attacks”, as should “Lucky”. Maybe “Attack Roll” to be consistent with things like Hail of Shots?
– Whirlwind should specify Close attack affects all adjacent enemies, since otherwise it sounds like a free/bonus attack. Maybe should be Attack – Whirlwind?
– Shake it Off should be applicable to nearby ally as well. Maybe be 2/all instead of 1/2 negative effects? Also rename to “Shake it Off!” (exclamation mark for shout)
– Attack – Forceful should be buffed to +4″/+6″
– Attack – Punishment should just be +2/+4 damage (lowercase too), not specifically saying _weapon Damage_
– Attack – Headshot should say (instead of 12+) in brackets
– Eagle Eye should be +4″/+6″. Should technically be an Attack – Eagle Eye?
– Rush and Turtle should say “but apply” instead of “and apply”
– Add second tier Racer for +2/+4?
– Add an Attack – Quick Shot that gives a free attack at -4/-2 Dam (min 0)?

Saloon Updates
Of course there are also a few Saloon bugs I’ve run into, or improvements I want to try:
BUG – Selling weapons still show up in inventory?
BUG – Dino selling is not saved to the URL or reloaded at all
IMP – Allow dinosaurs to “buy” Trample and Gore beast attacks
IMP – Add an option to select Variant Rules to apply to a PDF?
IMP – Generate QR codes for The Saloon links?
IMP – Make a mobile version of The Saloon pages?

Recent fan posses

lead-adventure_game-postRecently I noticed a few hits coming from Lead Adventure Forum, specifically a thread about cowboys vs dinosaurs where my game was mentioned. I always like free exposure for my game. The cool picture to the right (with some of the nicest buildings I’ve seen) unfortunately used a different ruleset, but is still in the right genre.

Simultaneously some fans created almost ten posses on The Saloon. So I’m gonna go with my gut and say these items are related. If the fans wants to speak up and comment here I’m more than happy to hear from them – see if they played any Dinosaur Cowboys games, and how their posses worked out. :)

EDIT: I was way off, the forum post and posses were unrelated. See the user comment below for details of a cool battle report and setup!

Anyway I thought I’d highlight a few of the posses (much like I did with Doom Eagle’s creations), since I see a lot of interesting and fun elements, and you may not check The Saloon as regularly as I do.

  • The Bloody Rustlers – Some real cowboys in this posse. The Leader is armed with a Rope Lasso and Harmonica, which is an interesting combo, especially since they also have the Wrangler trait. Nice to see a unique approach to combat beyond “pistol and good RTN”. I also like the hardcore member who has a Stick of Dynamite and a focus on Punching. I can only imagine them running forward, throwing the grenade, and following up with some savage melee. Anytime the Boxer trait is used I consider that a win.
  • Exodus – Posse built around the massive $1,000 Titan dinosaur, but also having a powerful leader with a Grenade Launcher and the Strong Rider trait. A brutal combination to be mounted on such a beast. I like the remaining member being a support type character with a Flagstaff.
  • Jungle Gentry – I really like the name of this posse, and the split of 2 Neotechnoists and 1 Savage. Especially because the Savage is a “by the books” doctor statistically (Triage and a pair of IRPs), except I like to imagine him themed as a rustic shaman hired by a pair of foppish nobles.
  • Dem Bois – Cool gang with lots of elements I like. First of all a minor doctor character with Triage and a Large IRP. Second an Energy Sword…enough said (love that weapon). And of course the Big Game Hunter with a Bronto Gun. Even the name “Myrtle the Turtle” for the Armored dinosaur (who hilariously has Sprint for a nasty surprise). I could see myself playing a posse like this.
  • Professional Funyuns – A bigger posse with some solid members. Nice to see the Broken Bottle and Serrated Knife being used…both of which seem like pretty brutal/vicious weapons. Another good Boxer trait usage. And a member with dual 100kW Six-Shooters, perfect for the “Dual Wield” Variant Rule. I’d be interested to know if the intent was to pile on the Ducky dinosaur to move into melee, or slog forward (as the Speeds are a bit low) and try to survive on healing and high Hitpoints.

Project status, aka what have I done for 8 months?

my-posts
Been a while? Yes, it surely has! Last post was about 8 months ago. What have I been doing since then? Where are all the projects I was so excited about? How can time fly this fast? In summary to every question you might ever have: I wrote and extensively played 2 RPGs, I combined all my rules into 1 blog, and was repeatably interrupted and distracted by general life stuff.

Overview

house-of-the-dying-sunHorizon Games Blog Consolidation – Done – This is related to my new project Fickle RPG (mentioned below). Long time readers or the especially observant might notice a new logo and link in the right sidebar. Well I was about to create yet another WordPress blog for my Fickle RPG rules when I realized I would have over half a dozen blogs if I did. That’s ridiculous.

So instead I painstakingly consolidated ALL my projects, rules, and ideas into one place: Horizon Games. Seriously that was quite an effort, but I’m happy with the result.

I collected content from all my childhood games, brainstormed projects, and rules in progress and put them onto Horizon Games. I covered Life of a Dinosaur Cowboy and Dinosaur Cowboys there as well. So for any non-DC related news or updates check out that blog instead. In other words if posts and content are dead here look at Horizon Games as I might be working heavily on another game at the time.

Bad News

Life of a Dinosaur Cowboy RPG – Cancelled – Perhaps “postponed indefinitely” would be more accurate. I still like a lot of ideas in this game, but two issues are holding me back:

  1. Playtesting: Nearly impossible to solo playtest 4-5 unique PCs plus enemies. A large component of the DC RPG was the idea of turn collaboration and that’s also lost in a solo test.
  2. Too Many Mechanics: From the neat D&D Next style advantage/disadvantage, to Echo Death style skill/power lists instead of classes, to allocated damage dice pool, to shared action points/orders per turn, to codified non-combat solutions, DC RPG has a TON of unique game mechanics thrown in. And I say thrown in very specifically, as I more or less dumped every single cool mechanic I had thought of or seen in the past while into this game. Which results in a mechanically overwhelming game, and one that is arguably doing a lot to achieve very little.

What I instead am doing is splitting a lot of the neat mechanics out into separate games, namely Echo Death and Fickle RPG.

Skies and Slums Expansion – Postponed – This is basically my “catch all” for future Dinosaur Cowboys development. I’m pretty tired and fatigued with tweaking the core rules, which I’ve mentioned before (basically the past 2-3 years have been “this is the last version”). If I ever DO get the urge to add or tweak a bunch to this game, it’ll be under the guise of the Skies and Slums expansion.

So until I DO get that urge, I’m going to postpone this expansion. I could add a whole bunch of new features, allegiances, weapons, dinosaurs, etc. But I want to do so only if I’m excited with the idea, and involved with the project. Which right now I’m not. My focus is elsewhere.

Mixed News

Dinosaur Cowboys v2.7 – Soonish – Although I just said I don’t want to tweak these rules much longer, I actually admittedly have a few minor changes and balance updates I need to do. They are so incredibly minor that I could realistically call it version 2.60001. Also because the changes are so small I’m not hugely motivated to do them.

Regardless I’ll cover the specifics in a post very soon, and look for the release a bit after.

Good News

Dinosaur Cowboys Battle Report – I want to sit down and play DC again very soon, mainly to use a childhood jet airplane model (specifically a swing wing F-14 Tomcat) as a center piece for posses to fight over. I also want to do my “Civil War” style game with the same posse on both sides.

So with luck I’ll get my table setup, wrangle a player, and get a battle report going before the new year.

fickle-logoFickle RPG – Released – What is Fickle RPG? Well if you paid close attention to the DC RPG mechanics, you might remember the concept of “fickle” vs “flat” allocation for a damage dice pool. Great mechanic! But as mentioned above pretty much tacked on to a cumbersome, overburdened RPG.

So instead I split that mechanic out, polished it, and made a (get ready for buzzwords) light cooperative narrative RPG with interesting and choice-drive mechanical resolution ready for any genre/theme. That game is Fickle RPG

Quite a history behind the game. You might remember a year or so ago I made a post about game design, and asked the critical question “what if there was a tabletop game where combat resolution was as involved, interesting, and full of meaningful and unique decisions as the movement phase?” I think Fickle RPG answers that by having an interesting resolution system full of choice.

I had the basics bouncing around my head for quite a few months. Meanwhile I was playing a Star Wars RPG called Age of Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games) which my friend was running. But they needed to take a hiatus. So my weekly gaming night was free. On a whim I asked the other players if they wanted to playtest a light RPG I had been working on. The interest was there…the rules weren’t. As in I hadn’t actually sat down and written the rules. So having scheduled a session for a game that didn’t exist, I hastily wrote the rules, and we played.

This initial session of Fickle RPG went really well and gave me hope that I was onto something. So I ended up running the game many more times in the past ~3 months, for around a dozen different people, between 4-5 campaign threads. Some of the players hadn’t even touched a game more complex than Settlers of Catan.

So anyway if you take one thing away from this blog post, it’s that Fickle RPG has been my focus for over half the time since my last post.

Party of Light – Played – Somewhat related to Fickle RPG, I also made another light RPG called Party of Light. The intent was to play a one-off session with my family and nieces. So the core concept is to teach roleplaying basics, different dice, etc. to kids. I’ve since played this game 4 times (so far!) and it’s been great at achieving all those goals. My nieces have had a lot of fun with it, and the game is still engaging enough for adults. Win-win all around.

If that sounds interesting be sure to read more about Party of Light. Notice how handy that Horizon Games blog is already?

Other News

Besides that what have I been doing? Preparing for my wife to give birth to our second kid. That’s been a pretty central focus. I’ve switched office locations with my work, which added a lot of commute. I’ve been running a lot of Fickle RPG nights with friends. I’ve been playing a ton of computer games like Heroes of the Storm, Vermintide, and Zombasite. I failed miserably at writing Nanowrimo this month. All in all plenty of non-Dinosaur Cowboys stuff. :)

I’d probably write more here, but I literally just finished describing my new rules on Horizon Games, so I’m tired of repeating the same text.

Announcement #2: “Skies and Slums” Expansion

HelicarrierI’m happy to announce plans for a Dinosaur Cowboys skirmish expansion called Skies and Slums. I first considered this idea last year in March, but I’ve decided to make it public now. When I was a kid designing games I used to make expansions that included a bunch of outlandish rules or crazy stuff that changed the game. Skies and Slums won’t be quite as drastic but there will be some neat new mechanics and ideas introduced.

First of all some off-the-cuff fluff to set the mood:
The year is 2291. Dusters and Neotechnoists are still in a stalemate, with people switching sides fairly evenly, and no real land grabs or differences there. However new slums and shanty towns have organically sprawled outside around The Wall. Most of the occupants are desperate outsiders who want to get back in to New Hope and the safety of the Neotechnoist allegiance. Others are born and raised outside The Wall and make a pilgrimage for their chance to go inside. These Slum Dwellers are resilient but poor.
But the biggest change are the Ascendants. Once the scientists, politicians, and other important officials of the world they escaped Eruption Day by taking to the skies in solar powered Sky Barges. These massive ships are like floating cities capable of sustaining a population for years. As society collapsed below they retained advanced knowledge and studies. However as new generations were born aboard the Sky Barges the knowledge was slowly lost and became a misunderstood magic. The most notable are the solar panels of the Sky Barges, which slowly began to fail in the year 2290. As this happened dozens of Sky Barges drifted to the ground. The Ascendants have managed to train Flappers for combat, as the skittish dinosaurs see the sky people as kindred spirits. From the ruins of the Sky Barges the Ascendants emerge in their Exosuits, nervous of bacteria and germs and with weak immune systems from generations in an enclosed environment.
As the communities outside The Wall become wealthier and want more entertainment travelling circuses have popped up across the country. These shows are staffed by roving performers of the Nomad allegiance.
From the ashen wastelands of the north that was once Canada comes the Ashlander allegiance. Rugged individuals have been surviving under the cloud of ash and dust from Eruption Day. Although unaccustomed to large cities and tending to seclusion and secrecy, the Ashlanders have started to spread further south in search of food and supplies. They tend to be extremely brave except for a strong fear of capture and closeness.
And finally an oversea presence has finally landed on North American shores. Hailing from the ruins of Europe the Crusader allegiance braved the rough seas to pay respects to the focal point of dinosaur activity.

Time-to-Fly_alexandreev
From http://alexandreev.deviantart.com/art/Time-to-fly-163578668

So what does all this mean in game terms? Well first of all the timeline will be moved forward 6 years to 2291, whereas the core game is set in 2285.
The expansion will add 5 new Allegiances:

New Allegiances

  • Ascendants: +1 Defense, +4 Bravery Target Number. Wearing Exosuits to protect from ground viruses and bacteria makes the Ascendants durable, but years aboard the safe Sky Barges has made them cowardly. Or maybe they don’t have stat mods and instead get a risk-reward movement mechanic via jumpjets/jump packs?
  • Slum Dweller: Grit mechanic (like a saving throw), first weapon costs $50 more. These poor scrappers are resilient from a tough life. Grit will work like some kind of shield/saving throw where incoming damage can be negated.
  • Ashlander: -3 Bravery Target Number, cannot attack in melee. Brave for almost every situation except having someone near them. Alternatively so skittish and good at hiding that if attacked at 5″+ treat that attack as 5″ further (so 6″ is really 11″, 14″ is really 19″, while 3″ is just 3″), but then have to take a Bravery Test every single time they take damage, regardless of the amount.
  • Nomad: Roll 1D12 at the start of each encounter, check table to see which statistic is temporarily changed. There is around a 60% chance a statistic is improved but a 40% chance it’s worse. Nomads are unreliable, flighty people who tend to shine unexpectedly.
  • Crusader: Follows laws and codes. Such as no ranged weapons, won’t exercise a Snap Attack, won’t attack an enemy in the back, but are nigh indestructible due to fanaticism and devotion.

UPDATE: I think I’ll call rename the Ashlanders to “Uplanders” instead (yes, you can thank the Chevy van in front of me for the inspiration). This avoids multiple Allegiances started with the same letter, or sounding similar.

Obviously the stats and ideas are in the brainstorming phase. I really like Ascendant, Nomad, and Slum Dweller and think they bring something neat to the table. I’m not as sure on Ashlanders and Crusaders. I do want to include at least 4 new Allegiances in the expansion though to mirror the original amount.
I did consider the “Sky Warden” allegiance that is the military/police/tough guy branch of the Ascendants, as compared to the scientific/nerdy branch. Sky Wardens could even be robots or androids that were built before Eruption Day and have just been maintained since.

I also somewhat wanna rename the basic “Bandit” allegiance to “Cowboy”, which would be a bit of annoying find-and-replace in documents and The Saloon.

Tiny-CompyNew Dinosaurs (including Flappers)
In addition to the Allegiances the Flapper dinosaur type will be hireable now. I’m thinking if your Leader is Ascendant or the majority of members or something. I think of the Flapper as a mobility dinosaurs with incredibly far movement and the ability to launch into the sky (taking them off the table) and land at a later turn.
There would be a slew of other new dinosaurs, but more focused on specialization and unique niches. For example a tiny type (can’t even be mounted) that is super fast and has a single strong attack, almost like a “missile” that is launched across the field. Sort of like the Compsognathus from Dino D-Day. I’d like another type that is faster/easier to mount. Also maybe going wild and having some ranged dinosaurs.

New Weapons, Features, Traits, Objectives
I want to add some oddball weapons, stuff like The Tombstone that functions in a neat way. Maybe an Airstrike that can be called in from Sky Barge drones or something. Or single use or dangerous-to-use jumppacks / jumpjets from Ascendants.
I could see Allegiance specific weapons too, just technology and abilities that are unique to each group, to further distinguish them beyond stats.

There would be lots of new Features as well. Having some that are Allegiance specific (especially around Sky Barges and slums and travelling wagons) would be cool. Obviously some new Traits too, again with an Allegiance specific leaning. I could see some weapon specific Traits too, like expert/specialization/training named stuff around a class or type of weapon. Maybe a new Objective or two if I can brainstorm them up.

Drugs-and-StimsDrugs and Stimulants
I’m thinking of having drugs/stimulants available for purchase, sort of like a mix of existing Healing items and Active Traits. They could even do Hitpoint damage for some good effect. I could imagine the Ascendants having totally different social standards from their isolation, where recreational drug use is just part of life. Almost like Plasmids in Bioshock. Similarly some new Healing items could be cool, since the Ascendants do have somewhat advanced technology in comparison to the ground.

Similarly the Slum Dwellers might add poisons and toxins to the mix, that have debuff or negative effects when applied to enemies.

Conclusion and Timeline
I have no idea when this expansion will be done. But I figured the current v2.6 of the rules is great, stable, and with no glaring issues. So any further changes or tweaks I want to do should be moved to a separate project. Also if I’m under the umbrella of an expansion I can add in wild, possibly gamebreaking stuff, or rules that change the tone or feel of the game. For example having new Allegiances that have a bunch of custom differences beyond just stat modifications. Or dinosaurs that you don’t even mount, or can shoot/spit projectiles.

Either way I wanted to share, because like I said I’ve been sitting on this for a while, and it’s pretty exciting. Not as exciting as tomorrow’s announcement though…stay tuned…

Original Brainstorm List
In case you want to read my original brainstorm notes, or in case I need to reference them when I start work on the expansion, well, here they are…
Read the rest of this entry »

Battle Report: Coastal Raid of New Iberia

Background
the-bayouIn the year 2285 the small Louisiana town of New Iberia is now coastal property, thanks to the floods after Eruption Day. The location is far enough east to avoid the wasteland temperatures of the desert, and surprisingly wealthy from pelt hunting of rare bayou dinosaurs. A ragtag group of ex-sailors and dino hunters have established themselves as the Coastal Defense Force. Their leader is Ronan Cioni, a descendant of the Cioni family who were the original post-Eruption reclaimers of the town.
Although their wealth is not advertised in a flashy or grandiose way, one eager and angry man knows all about it. Dash Cioni, the only brother of Ronan, was exiled from the Coastal Defense Force and the town of New Iberia after a messy situation deep in the swamp that resulted in the death of a travelling merchant and his family. The details are hazy and rumors are whispered behind Ronan’s back about the split.
But now Dash wants revenge, and he has used the promise of New Iberia’s riches to lure Captain Pellham and his Murkfoul Raiders, a rough band of pirates and poachers.

Table Setup
I decided for this battle to use my new naval ocean looking cloth from Sails of Glory to represent the watery swamp along the outer coast of New Iberia. I used the underside of this very same cloth for my last Christmas battle report. The downside is my camera gets a bit confused and tries to balance the colors to a yellow/orange tinge, which you’ll see in the pictures. Just think of it as the gross, unbearable humidity of the southeastern USA coast.

For the table setup I went with an open ocean on one edge, where the Murkfoul Raiders would have their small sailing ship. Then inland from that a series of shoals and sandy beaches. I setup an old iron cannon on a high cliff surrounded by sandbags, which ended up looking great. Then the rest of the map is scattered islands, old ruins, a mishmash of bridges, and eventually the Coastal Defense Force “clubhouse” that is a rundown, swampy looking shack.

I decided to start this battle after the Murkfoul Raiders had left their ship and successful taken the cliffside cannon. Meanwhile the Coastal Defense Force would be responding and further out from their bayou shack. This meant a slightly modified Deep Corner deploy, in that each posse could deploy up to HALF the table width. Which made for some immediate, deadly fights.
For Features the water is Populated Water (2A-2D CTN 7 attack if you end in it). This wouldn’t affect dinosaurs who are used to living in the swamp environment, but would somewhat dissuade characters from entering the depths.
To balance this and still allow mobility I did a houserule that if you could move from island to island (across the water) you could basically “jump” and ignore the Difficult Terrain. This meant all the middle islands were easily traversable as you could hop from landmass to landmass.
For Objective I considered something fancy, but went with a straight up Shoot Out (aka kill ’em all). There is a Turn Limit of 5 for this battle.
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Posses
The first thing you might notice with the two posses are they have a lot of money, to the tune of $3,000 each. The reason for this is to play the rarely utilized “top tier” dinosaurs of Titan and Longneck. The Titan would be represented by the old crocodile toy I bought for the Battle to Seattle campaign, and the Longneck would be the Papo Brachiosaurus from the same campaign.
I can imagine the Titan crocodile swimming alongside the Murkfoul Raiders skiff, then bursting from the depths to bite an enemy in half. Similarly the Longneck would be at home in the swampy terrain, with it’s long legs carrying passengers clear of the muck.

Posse: Coastal Defense Force (310 IP, $3,000)
Get the PDF Roster or View in the Saloon
DC-Coastal-Battle-0011As mentioned this posse is lead by Ronan Cioni. I wanted to get the “pelt hunter” feel so I went with my newish scale cloak wearing pistol and warhorn guy, in this case a Carbine and Totem.
Ronan’s two closest friends also happen to be brothers, just ones who are on better terms than Ronan and Dash. Arnold Bridgers is a sniper who is very far from his Neotechnoist home. In his travels south Arnold discovered a bit of a medical leaning, so he has Triage. The Try Again trait he also has fits pretty well with the “all or nothing” 1 Attack rifle. Luke Bridgers is the opposite of a sniper, preferring an Enforcer Shotgun and a bit more toughness. I could see the two of them having a storied past from their ~1,700 mile trek from New Haven. Also a note on miniatures, I LOVE the old Space Marine Scout sniper that I used for Arnold, he reminds me of a Ghost from Starcraft, and I’d really like to get and paint a new one. I can’t strip the old one because it has so many memories (playing cards on the shoulder because I was obsessed with 58th Wild Cards in Space Above and Beyond, kill markers on the gun barrel cause that was 1990s cool, bright green nightvision because what other color would I ever do, cliche camouflage cloak, etc.).
The next member is an old timer named Donato the Blue who is the one true sailor, having built and used his own ships for decades. His nickname is from his love of the ocean. He uses a decommissioned Rotary Rifle found in an abandoned silo, and keeps a Clark Airgun handy to push foes away if they get too close to him and the gun.
The final member is Ali Paek, an ambitious youngster from New Iberia with plenty to prove. He wields a hand-me-down Ultra Repeater and tends to be the happiest and most motivational of the group, thus the Get In There! trait.
For the dinosaur the Coastal Defense Force got a Longneck, rightly named Queen of Iberia. I could see this gentle beast covered in streamers and flowers while parading down main street. She’d be fiercely loyal and have many years of experience hunting smaller dinosaurs as part of the New Iberia pelt trade.
DC-Coastal-Battle-0007

Posse: Murkfoul Raiders (310 IP, $3,000)
Get the PDF Roster or View in the Saloon
The Murkfoul Raiders have a loose ship crew feel to them with various named ranks. Captain Pellham is the natural leader with a Rustler Revolver (a suitable pirate/bandit-y gun), and wears extremely sturdy armor as a sign of his station.
First Mate Quinn is older than the Captain, but still loyal and happy with his lot in life. He mirrors the Captain by using a powerful Stampede Pistol. Somehow after years raiding and pillaging and living in muck and swamps Quinn hasn’t died yet, so the Lucky trait fit well. Speed Reload seemed like a neat story point in the sense of a quiet, unsuspecting old man who can rapidly load a gun out of reflex from some past military service.
Quartermaster Hank is potentially more loyal to his Laserbow 80, lovingly named “Starfire” from some sci-fi book he found as a child. Hank is the prime poacher in the group, preferring to use Attack – Surprise and a single arrowbolt to kill a foe in one shot.
Officer Russell is a disgraced serviceman who is dour and unhappy as he drifts from one depressing raid to another. He uses a Superior Bronto Gun, wears a dark, grumpy cape and big Witch Hunter style hat.
The final member is Dash Cioni, who motivated the Murkfoul Raiders in the first place to attack New Iberia. Unlike his brother Dash focuses on melee with an aptly named Feudbreaker. He’s ripped the Harpoon Gun from the Murkfoul ship and plans to skewer the first enemy he sees. His combination of traits is set to work WONDERFULLY in the swamp, as cliffs will be no problem to climb, especially in combination with his faster-than-a-dinosaur base Speed of 8″.
And as mentioned the dinosaur is a Titan named The Deep One (very Cthulhu vibe), carrying a swarm of ravenous young on it’s back as it waits to feast on entire villages after the Murkfoul Raiders attack.
DC-Coastal-Battle-0004

Game Summary
Instead of turn-by-turn notes I wanted to highlight some fun parts and then show a bunch of pictures.

  • Like a cheesy horror movie the upbeat and hopeful whippersnapper died first. In this case Ali Paek got charged by The Deep One on the first turn and died in a single hit. Thematic as heck, but sad to be Ali!
  • Donato the Blue then had an ongoing battle against both The Deep One and Dash Cioni. Dash failed a 2″ Charge up a cliff, which was hilarious. Even more so when Dash was STILL trying to be greedy and Charge (1A-9D Feudbreaker to 2A is so tempting) and failed AGAIN. Basically Donato survived an extra turn or two thanks to Dash’s ineptitude. Eventually Donato did get cornered in melee with The Deep One and couldn’t use any of his guns (minimum on Rotary, and Push wouldn’t work on a dino in melee), so he tried to escape combat and died to a Snap Attack. Donato did at least mow down Dash first.
  • The middle of the map was a bit of a positional shoot out, with Ronan doing his best to fight there while still supporting his right flank. He was against a mix of Quartermaster Hank and Officer Russell (who also split his attention until The Deep One had the situation near the shack under control).
  • Quartermaster Hank missed his Attack – Surprise shot that could have done 12 damage, and died soon after from Ronan’s Carbine.
  • Since the big dinosaurs had deployed on opposite sides of the table they didn’t end up in a massive fight. Instead they did huge damage to the lowly humans. Both were more or less ignored for return fire and took less than 10 damage apiece.
  • Arnold Bridgers the sniper was the most sniper-y sniper I’ve seen in a while. He stayed planted on top of the hill he deployed to and consistently hit his Lever-Action shots. Near the end as The Deep One closed in (after killing the entire left flank) Arnold even busted out his shotgun. By that point BOTH his guns ended up needing a Reload, but that was right at the turn limit so he survived.
  • Luke Bridgers had less luck than his brother, taking an early shot from Captain Pellham and then scrambling the rest of the game to reload, heal, and survive. He didn’t get to use his Enforcer Shotgun to it’s full potential unfortunately, as the Murkfoul Raiders had such a commanding position to assault on the right flank.
  • Captain Pellham was fearless the whole game, moving forward TOWARDS a Longneck dinosaur to secure the kill on Luke Bridgers, then Fleeing melee after getting Trampled by the dino, only to heal using his Small IRP and survive a whole extra turn. Him Fleeing was especially beneficial as the Rustler Revolver has a minimum range of 1…always keep a way to shoot people in melee! Eventually the Captain was sniped by Arnold though as revenge for the death of his brother.
  • First Mate Quinn had the best use of Lucky I’ve ever seen, although he still did eventually go down. After being engaged by the Longneck the Quartermaster managed to turn a 1-hit kill into surviving with 1 Hitpoint thanks to Lucky. Quinn even managed to Flee and keep away well enough to survive (with 1 HP) until the end of the game.
  • As for the “special weapons”, the Harpoon Gun of Dash was never used (sadly), and Ronan’s Totem was but failed to hit enough to trigger Terrify. The Rotary Rifle (in combination with Attack – Dire) did a terrific job of consistent damage though. The Bronto Gun, even with the post-BTS-campaign nerfs, was excellent as always, especially in these higher level battles with more Defense.
  • The Populated Water resulted in the only damage Officer Russell suffered. The underwater dinosaurs also tried to bite Dash Cioni (after he failed to Charge up the cliff) but didn’t manage to hit him. Jumping between islands work wonderfully and meant the middle saw lots of movement and action.

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Conclusion
In the end the turn limit was reached before a decisive victory either way. The Coastal Defense Force was down to Arnold Bridgers (unwounded but with two empty guns) and the Queen of Iberia with 27/37 HP. The Murkfoul Raiders had First Mate Quinn on 1 Hitpoint, Officer Russell with 7 HP, and The Deep One relatively untouched at 28/32 HP.
So a technical win to the Murkfoul Raiders for having more survivors, or really to Quinn for escaping death that whole time. I think given another turn or two Arnold would have been eaten, Quinn would have been shot, and the dinosaurs would have ended up duking it out. That would have been an interesting fight, especially since both still had their Attack – Inspire left (they could eat/stomp a character with it and recover HP) and the Longneck’s lower damage profile was balanced by her Big Game Hunter trait.
Regardless the Murkfoul Raiders broke through the Coastal Defense Force just enough to grab a bit of loot and damage the clubhouse shack, but certainly not enough of a rout to completely pillage New Iberia.

Anyway the game was lots of fun and I liked the varied terrain and background story (amazing how much a little story adds to the tenseness and excitement of a situation). I had these posses built over the holidays and meant to play back-to-back with my Christmas report, but didn’t find the time. So I’m glad I got to the battle report pretty soon after.

v2.6 rules are feeling terrific, no glaring changes that I want to do. I might have finally tweaked and modified the game to it’s final state?! What does that mean for this blog? Well…an exciting announcement soon will shed some light on that.

Game Design: Randomness in tabletop vs video games

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.

Randomness and the Purpose of Dice
The topic of pure determinism vs random elements is endless and has been discussed on forums since the first boardgame (I’m sure of it). Basically there are two main camps:

mmm-dice– Deterministic: Minimal or no random elements allowed, if the player chooses to “execute XYZ” it succeeds as expected. There are no percent to-hit or miss chances. Chess is the best example. These games have a lot of planning and quick execution. They can also become “solvable” where the best, most rewarding play can be absolutely decided because there is no random chance. The better player will always win. That Hackers game I was working on is the closest personal example I have.
– Random: There are random elements in the game. Normally categorized as “input randomness” (drawing from a deck of cards, having a generated terrain setup, etc.) that players see, accept, and have to deal with. And “output randomness” like dice rolls to succeed that players have little to no control over. Sometimes this means a worse player will win. A lot of people in the Deterministic camp will accept Input Randomness (normally for replayability and variety) but scour and scoff at Output Randomness. So that’s the one I wanted to talk about.

What it boils down to is you either like rolling dice in a game, or you don’t. And like I said this topic has been talked to death, so I won’t talk too much about either approach. Instead I want to highlight and interesting thought I had today: I don’t hugely like output randomness in video games, but I adore it in tabletop games. But why? This entire section will be dedicated to answering that, so don’t construe it as anything else.

xcom-please-hitThe easiest way to tackle this question is to look at video games first. The modern X-COM remake is a good example of output randomness that can be frustrating. In that game you have a percent chance to hit the target you’re firing at. The chance varies based on soldier skill, weapon, range, and enemy cover. All that is calculated and abstracted and you see the percent chance before you shoot, click the mouse and a little animation plays showing whether you hit and did damage or not. Maybe your soldier has an audio file that plays when you miss, as you sit alone in your quiet office.
Ever miss in that game with a 90% hit chance? How did that make you feel? Frustrated and like it was out of your control?

DC-Cavalier-Border-Battle-0115Now let’s look at a tabletop example, of course using Dinosaur Cowboys. You physically pick up your hand painted miniature, move into Short Distance to hit easier, and try to improve your odds further by choosing to shoot an enemy who hasn’t moved yet. You ask your opponent across the table what their Defense is, add that to your Ranged Target Number, factor in a few mods, and figure out what you need to hit. Let’s say 9+. The chance to hit feels a bit abstract, but at least you know how you arrived at it. In terms of a percent chance you know you have a 4/12 chance per dice…but your Six-Shooter has 4 attacks, so you’re rolling 4 dice. Hmm remember your math class on probabilities? Silently hope to not roll any 1s, in fact a full roll of 12s would be perfect. You pick up the dice, get a nice tactile feel from their edges, shake them in your clenched fist. The pleasing sound of clattering dice fills your games room. Both you and your opponent are staring, waiting for the roll. The dice tumble, building anticipation. 1, 5, 9, and 12. Your eyes see the 9 and 12 first and your cheer a bit. Your opponent sees the 1 and 5 and also cheers. A hit and a Crit! But also a Reload! You curse the dice that rolled a 1, consider putting it back in your bag and getting a different one.

Those examples were a bit embellished, but they hopefully highlight my point. And that is dice and randomness in tabletop games are not just about cold numbers, chances to hit, and reflecting player skill. They’re about a tactile element, and that impossible human nature feat of thinking we can control the outcome of falling plastic if we really believe hard enough. Also depending on the system the randomness covers a lot more than just hitting the enemy, such as above with running out of ammo for a Reload and the excitement and bonus damage of a Critical Hit.
Somehow it’s less frustrating in a tabletop game to miss a shot with a 90% hit chance when it turns into a talking point or good story with your opponent. Miss that kind of shot 5 times in X-COM and you’ll probably take a frustrated break for the night. Have it happen in a tabletop game and you’ll be laughing while gnashing your teeth and bantering with your friends.

dice-shaming-why-a-thingA lot of the deterministic vs random discussions don’t account for this. And a lot of the randomness DOESN’T translate well to computer games because of all the positive elements surrounding dice on the tabletop. Not just computer games, but even online software for playing tabletop games virtually, like Roll20. Seeing a virtual result of 12 isn’t the same as the whole ritual and process of rolling a 12 on a physical dice in the real world. Or boiling down a fun and unique dice system with multiple side effects into a single dry percent chance resulting in “hit” or “miss”.

Do dice objectively make for a worse game (don’t get me started on “game” vs “toy”)? Or do they represent everything a computer game can’t capture, and the tactile elements we keep coming back to boardgames and wargames for? While it does sometimes make for a worse determination of player system knowledge (not really “skill”), is that the be-all-end-all measurement for every game?
Does anyone talk about their crazy 7 Wonders or Puerto Rico win where they added up a bunch of points in a deterministic system? “Dang I really built that Market and figured out the Science combo!” Or do gaming friends talk about that time Peter rolled six 1s in a row, then came through with a Critical Hit at a key moment?

More on the topic:
Our Destructive Love Affair with Random Number Generators
and
Games, Randomness And The Problem With Being Human
Mainly for:
“Perhaps, once again, this difficulty with true randomness in video games is down to our cognitive biases; in board games and tabletop games alike, it is we who roll our own dice. Therefore, we perhaps feel some sense of control over the outcome; as though, by rolling the dice, we are the masters of cold, impartial randomness. However, with video games, the computer rolls our dice on our behalves.”

Game Design: Throwaway Fights

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.

RPGs and Throwaway Fights
not-me-playingThis section is specifically in regards to Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition), but the concept applies to many other RPGs (both pen-and-paper and computer games). Before I get too far into the topic let me say a brief disclaimer that yes, I am aware a lot of people don’t like D&D, or 4th edition, or “it’s like an MMO”, and the rules don’t lend themselves to roleplaying. And let me just say D&D isn’t meant to be some artsy fartsy indie RPG where you collectively tell a story and have quirky characters and stuff. When people say “D&D is a bad RPG” they aren’t far from the truth, because although you play the role of your character, there aren’t a ton of in-game rules or systems to do so (I don’t think you need many, but that’s beside the point).
But what people should focus on is D&D is a great cooperative fantasy battle system. 4th edition is meant to have balanced classes, combat roles are interesting and focused (Defender, Striker, etc.), every character has a lot of neat choices on their turn (as compared to other D&D versions where a Fighter would eventually be outdone by a Mage, without fail), there is a team element of combining abilities and planning, positioning matters, and the mechanics and rules for combat are clear.
So to the above topic, D&D fulfills that vision and design very well. In some ways this focus on grid-based combat means D&D is closer to a skirmish game with a campaign system than a full fledged RPG.

But that’s leads to my one complaint: throwaway fights in RPGs.

snoozeD&D has some elements of resource management. You have limited consumable potions, you have “Daily” powers that can’t be used every fight (so you often save them for the big boss fight), Hitpoints and healing wears down slowly from damage, etc. The rulebook recommends around 3 encounters per day before the players get a chance to fully recharge their resources. And a common problem is avoiding this 3-fight rule of thumb by resting after each fight, resulting in the term “15 Minute Adventuring Day”.
As an adverse effect of this some of those 3 fights would be throwaways meant to grind down resources. In these fights the players weren’t in any real danger of dying, being defeated, or failing to complete their goal. Instead a group of goblins would throw a few spears, shave off a few Hitpoints and potions, then die/flee.

Going back to video games this problem still exists and is endemic to the genre.

Action RPGs like the Diablo series, Torchlight, Path of Exile, etc. might suffer the worst. You kill hundreds of thousands of monsters that are little to no threat.

This throwaway fight concept spans the globe, right into Japanese RPGs (JRPGS) like the Final Fantasy series. There are numerous encounters in that game which you can autoattack through with no thought at all, just to get more experience points in a grindy fashion. You also had consumable potions and items you didn’t need for the easy stuff and wanted to save for boss fights.

Are throwaway fights fun? Maybe once every 10 fights it’s nice to just steamroll your enemies and completely crush them, to give a sense of power and progression (especially if the fight used to be hard). But after idly clicking and sleep walking through the twentieth easy, meaningless fight, it can be a bore and really turn people off the genre.

What can be done? Well the long titled Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 had a few neat concepts I thought I’d mention here. First of all potions and items aren’t traditional consumables, instead they are available on a per-fight basis. So they aren’t single use items anymore, but instead single use PER FIGHT. Similarly Hitpoints and Mana/Magic is restored after each fight, instead of grinding down the life of characters in a feeble attempt to make a later fight more challenging. And best of all the majority of fights are life or death affairs where you need to pull out the big guns and can’t just autoattack your way to victory.
An older, quirky game Earthbound tried to avoid the throwaway fight problem by having enemies automatically flee if you were high enough level above them, thus avoiding the boring part of going through the motions when you know the outcome.

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But what could be done for D&D 4th edition? Try to make almost every fight matter, and every fight be a life or death, success or failure affair. Flatten out the resource grind down, let the players recover all their abilities and Hitpoints because they’ll need them for the next fight!

What I find very interesting is if RPGs get to that point, their combat starts to resemble that of a skirmish game. Which means the RPG/skirmish distinction is even closer. In a skirmish game you have a complete, rested, fully ready force at the start of each battle. The battles are normally one-off, so consumables don’t matter as much. Normally the opponents are more closely matched in strength, meaning either side could prevail. There is no concept of wearing down a player through throwaway fights. Multiplayer online battle areans (MOBAs) like Dota 2 and League of Legends have adopted this match approach and fresh start idea.
But for some reason those elements haven’t caught on in many RPGs. There is still this taboo about having “match based” RPGs fight where all the cards are on the table and there is no saving (or any need to save) for some future conflict.

Game Design: Focus Your Concept

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.

Execute Your Concept
focus-upThis could similarly be titled “Fulfill Your Vision” or “Have a Clear Design” or the blog post itself of “Focus Your Concept”. But basically when making a game decide what you want that game to be, what it should do well, and who it should appeal to.
To me the worst games (both virtual and table) are those that try to appeal to everyone, or are a mishmash of unclear ideas. The best games realize a laser sharp vision the designers had. In some ways good games should be divisive: either you like the topic and concept and thus the game, or you don’t. There should be no middle ground of “I didn’t like the shooting but I had fun capturing animals”, because you know neither of those executions were as fleshed out as they could be.

ets2On the video game side you might know I play a lot of Euro Truck Simulator 2. If you aren’t familiar with the game you drive a semi-truck around Europe, completing jobs and tasks for money which you use to buy different trucks/upgrades/garages and so on. When I talk to people about this game I get a lot of strange looks, like “How is that fun?” or “That seems boring”. And to those people ETS 2 probably IS boring. But that’s because they don’t like the topic and concept, and the game isn’t designed to appeal to everyone. Whereas I love the romanticized road trips of semi-trucks, so ETS 2 fulfills that niche very well. Let me list your options in ETS 2:

– Drive, buy, and upgrade a semi-truck
– Sleep in the parking lot of hotels and gas stations
– Take your truck on a ferry
– Do quick jobs in a company truck or choose your cargo
– Buy garages and hire drivers

Notice how the list entirely relates to truck driving and the simulation of supporting tasks? You can’t get out of the truck and choose food at a restaurant and have it affect your character. You don’t have an option to drive a car instead or walk around a town sight seeing.
So if you LIKE simulated truck driving, you’re in for a real treat. And if you don’t the game is CLEARLY not for you, and you move on.

gta5-just-stuffOn the opposite side would be a lot of open world games, namely Grand Theft Auto 5. GTA 5 tries to appeal to everyone, and ends up with a foggy concept and half-hearted implementations of mechanics. First of all imagine an elevator pitch for GTA 5, and what you’d say the game is really about. Then let me list a few things you can do in the game:

– Play tennis, golf, or darts
– Go base jumping off a mountain or for a skydive
– Manage real estate properties
– Go hunting for deer and other animals
– See short films at the movies
– Go for a ride on a ferris wheel or rollercoaster
– Run a triathlon
– Play in the world as a bird or cat
– Fly an air blimp
– Go out for a drink
– Go scuba diving or for a jet ski
– Complete the storyline missions and watch all the cutscenes
– Play the stock market
– Drive around listening to the radio
– Rob a convenience store
– Steal cars and from people
– Shoot people

Is the hunting of animals as good as a dedicated, single purpose hunting game? No, of course not, because it’s just one of twenty bullet points. Do you think riding the rollercoaster is as neat as Rollercoaster Tycoon? Yet again it’s just another feature to make the game seem like it has a ton of depth. In fact this type of game has very little depth, but a lot of breadth. And in this way the game can somewhat appeal to a lot of people, while not truly satisfying anyone.

super-meatboy-not-for-me-but-for-someSo where am I going with all of this? My summary would be if you’re going to design a game choose your concept and stick to it. Do one concept really well, per game. If you want a realistic modern military shooter you might have bullet drop, armor penetration, cover vs concealment, gun attachments, etc. But you don’t tack on zombies and a survival mode and laser guns. You don’t throw in robots after the fact because deep in your heart you wanted to design a robot game. Keep your concept, delivery, and execution of a vision as clear as possible.

Apparently I’m not some genius who is the first one to think of this (imagine that!). Read some similar articles written by actual journalists with talent (found accidentally when searching for images for this post). Note the issue I’m talking about is not just for open world games, I just happened to use GTA 5 as it’s well known, and most of these articles happened to be about similar games. There are plenty of messy, unfocused, confused linear games too.

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.

Vikings-on-the-Shore
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.
DC-Christmas-0036DC-Christmas-0038DC-Christmas-0043
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