Quick recap of my weekend games

I played two games of Dinosaur Cowboys this past weekend with my friends, which were a lot of fun. Then we went on to play some local video games like Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm for a gross amount of hours, but at least we got some tabletop gaming in too. As a point of interest the two friends involved were the same guys from the “Four Player Madness” report almost exactly 3 years ago. Back then we used wooden tokens and the v1.2 rules, whereas now we had nice jungle terrain, plastic tokens, and the upcoming v2.6 rules to play with.
We used the desert looking table with a standard 8″ Edge deployment along the long table edges. There were a few different posses (built around the upcoming v2.6 rules):

DC-Friend-Rematch-0002The first game had a raised jungle ruin surrounded by crates. Whoever had more entities on top of the hill by the end of turn 6 (with a possible turn 7) would win. There was also a nearby wagon that had a cannon in the back, facing the hill, and the weapon could be used by an adjacent character with the stats of 2A-7D, 20″ distance.
The posses involved were the Horizon Unimatics Company (me) agains the Nashkel Miners (my friend). There was a lot of positioning and clever range band usage this match. Eventually the Thickskull ended up in melee in the middle against the T-Rex (you can imagine how that went). Although Horizon got the first kill, they had a lot of damage spread around their own posse and eventually the focus fire started enough to kill almost everyone off. Having a person sitting by the wagon cannon the whole game didn’t help the situation in the middle (which really acted more like a deterrent than anything, since I think the cannon was fired only once or twice).
In the end the Nashkel Miners were able to win, both by kills and by objective.

DC-Friend-Rematch-0001The second game we lowered the raised ruin section and replaced it with a patch of crates. The objective this time was to collect a smattering of dinosaur eggs, although the focus ended up being more on killing each other.
This time the Deseret Raiders faced the Nashkel Miners. There was a lot of nervous ducking behind hills and almost getting pot shots at each other, but eventually the Nashkel Miners rushed their T-Rex forward to force the issue. The Deseret Raiders tried to respond (and if they had hit with the Riot Grenades the game might have gone differently), but eventually the T-Rex got stuck in, tore the Deseret leader apart, and eventually brought down the enemy Horned dinosaur as well. There was a lot of damage spread across the Nashkel posse, but not as many kills, and eventually the Deseret Raiders surrendered when they had a single entity left.

As I played with friends there weren’t as many pictures, just the few scattered through this text.

Battle Report: Thermopolis Outpost Raid with Lego!

Boom, it happened, I finally sat down and played Dinosaur Cowboys with Lego Minifigs like I’ve been meaning too since September (jeez has it been that long?!?!). I’ve had all these Lego buildings sitting around just waiting to go. So last week I set everything up, scrounged up enough vaguely weaponized Lego pieces, wrote two full 5 man + 1 dino posses, and played (using v2.5 of the rules). Of course the town used here is different than the one I took pictures of in September, obviously because I’m not going to leave the first town setup for ~6 months haha. I have a few Lego fences and trees that also made an appearance in addition to my normal terrain.

I focused on playing, not taking notes, but I’ll recall the general story from memory as much as I can.

Location, Terrain, Objective, Deployment
First of all the location is Thermopolis, Wyoming, which is fairly close to the Old Faithful geyser (and subsequent volcano) as well as the heart of the Neotechnoist empire: Haven, inside The Wall.
So I thought I’d do a bit of a narrative reversal, where Neotechnoist colonists have expanded to the outpost, outside The Wall. And then Duster locals see this as an enroachment and raid the outpost to try to drive everyone off.
Side Note: Funny how Neotechnoists are “colonists” when Dusters would be “settlers” or “pioneers”, and I call it an “output” instead of “town” or “hamlet”. Just the language that fits each Allegiance.
Panoramic view of the town from the road and horizontally (note the various vehicles are non-functional). The jungle area with the ruined motorcycle and semi-truck I saw as a kind of rusted junkyard. Then a cool little dinocart (no in-game effect), and a view of the jail building.

So Thermopolis Outpost would be the center of the conflict, with the “Good Ol Raiders” being a posse of Dusters doing the attacking, and the “Thermopolis Outpost Residents” defending. The Dusters would try to steal food crates in the hope of shutting down the town and driving everyone out, while the Neotechnoists would try to hold onto their supplies.

DC-Lego-Battle-011To achieve this I used a custom mix of the Objectives of “Capture” and “Smash and Grab”. There would be 5 food crates (pictured right) scattered around the table, each could be picked up in the Action Phase (and would be dropped on death). Whoever had the most food crates in their possession, or the most entities within 4″ of crates, at the end of Turn 6 would be the winner. To add another element I made the jail building an objective, since it represented a place of strength for the Neotechnoists, so again whoever had more entities within 4″ at the end would get the same value as 2 food crates.

To continue with the slightly custom rules, I decided to do a “Diagonal” deployment, which mean each posse could deploy in a table half made by drawing a line from corner to corner. This deployment will actually become official in v2.6 of the rules (more on that release later) in place of the current overly complex and overly pop-culture-y “Clever Girl”. Basically this:

And to add to the Lego flavor I will be using yellow 2×2 Lego blocks to mark Moved & Acted instead of my usual tokens. If the Lego block is right side up (bumpy part up) then they Moved & Acted, if it’s flipped then they just Acted without moving. This also highlights that I REALLY need to rebuy my Litko tokens to say “Moved” instead of “Move”…bah grammar mistakes!
Similarly I “based” each Minifig with a color coded 2×2 block to help them stand up.

Posse – Good Ol Raiders – 150 IP, $1,500 ND, 4 Traits – DOWNLOAD PDF or View in Saloon
We’re back to the classic text-names-on-posse-image era. Terrific looking group! No real plan or structure to the design, just picking a bunch of neat weapons and stuff that matches the Lego. Both Posses went for a cheap Dinosaur, and the classic approach of Neotechnoists taking herbivores (Runner) and others taking carnivores (Ripper). Also a lot of the names are not the most serious thing of all time…so a perfect fit for playing an already silly themed game with silly Lego :) You can hopefully tell I tried to put in some thought to the character of each Minifig, such as the “grumpy old man” Leader in Old Anderson. Similarly the rough bandit looking Gogocha and his “Lucky” trait since he seems like he’d survive rough patches. It’s a bit hard to see but Cool Kid has sunglasses on his face, and obviously a hip hat, and the “Inspiring Shot” trait to match his big ego. One Handed Bernard is one of my favorites, since obviously he’s missing a hand (pulled him outta the Lego box like that), but has clearly been scarred by the experience and now wears a helmet everywhere and carries only a shield to desperately protect himself from further harm (and in the game is the only one in the posse who wears Armor).

Posse – Thermopolis Outpost Residents – 150 IP, $1,500 ND, 4 Traits – DOWNLOAD PDF or View in Saloon
Again no real plan, sort of just went with weapons that seemed to fit the character of each Minifig. Usual smattering of traits, and only a few noticeably lower Hitpoint members compared to the Duster posse. And the “SP” for the Leader Drapkin and his wife Antoinette I decided off the cuff to mean “Sergeant Primary”, which sounds like a very Neotechnoist outpost kinda rank. And yes, Mr. The Plague is a Hackers (1995) movie reference. Similarly Hank “Mars” is because that Lego chestpiece used to be the Mars faction back in the 90s. Similarly Frosty is from the ice faction. In true Neotechnoist fashion almost everyone is wearing a sci-fi helmet. I also made the Leader look more supporty (and have traits to match) by having a walkie-talkie and a “stick of command” (which is a Variable Pulse Rifle in the game, but I imagine it as sending out shocking waves or pulses from the stick).

Starting Ugly!
So everyone deployed, with the Neotechnoists taking the “north” half of the Diagonal deployment, and the Dusters opposite that in the south. I think the Diagonal was a perfect choice for this terrain setup, because a lot of people could start right in the town in buildings, instead of having to trudge forward. I actually could see the Dusters coming into town peacefully, walking around a bit, and then BLAM just starting to shoot and sow chaos.
Here’s a bunch of pictures of how everyone setup:
Clearly some initial setup right by objectives with the intent to secure a food crate early on. Also with the Diagonal there were a lot of nearby enemies which should make the first turn intense (spoiler alert: it did! :) ).

Turn 1 – Let’s Lego Party!
The Neotechnoists managed to get the first Initiative, so Frosty moved back to the safe cover of a hill and bonus support of Hank Mars. Bernard shifted forward behind a wall, likely figuring to hop the hill next turn and attack.

On the opposite end of the table the Neotechnoist Leader Drapkin, astride his Runner mount “Eggy”, grabbed a food crate and moved far into town, behind the cover of a building. But guess who was waaaaaiting for him behind the building? Keel Greenpants and his massively oversized gun!

Back to the west side and the “duel at the hills”, the Duster dinosaur crept forward and tried to Charge 3″ into Frosty. Which meant of course that I ended up rolling a 2 for distance and failing to reach combat. Nearby behind the jail building, Cool Kid did a bit better and made his Charge (funnily enough ended up being 3″ distance as well) and started Scything ol’ Frosty. Those chainsaw thingies look hugely menacing. Also ironic because the Lego set they came from was the same ice stuff as Frosty is built from.

Meanwhile in the center of the town a duel was emerging between Gogocha for the Dusters and Antoinette for the Neotechnoists. What was really interesting is both had non-traditional weapons of a Laserbow 60 and Big Blasterbow respectively. Should be a good one! Antoinette didn’t want to be the first to leave Cover so the food crate right outside sat untouched for now. This shootout makes me REALLY want to build some roofless (or removable roof) buildings for traditional 28mm miniatures.

Turn 2 – Outpost Firefight
This turn started with the first death of the game, and that was thanks to Cool Kid slashing Frosty down. Thanks to the deployment melee was quite viable this match. Since Cool Kid uses his Action to attack and take Frosty out, he could still Move right into his next target: Hank Mars
But Mr. The Plague, after grabbing a food crate last turn, had walked down from his hilltop perch and now had a clear shot at Cool Kid. He managed to hit and force a Bravery Test from Cool Kid, which he failed (the punk!). Bernard, having heard the muffled screams from the other side of the hill, and remembering his own horrible dismemberment, climbed up and fired down into Hank Mars.

Meanwhile in the middle of the town the Neotechnoist Leader moved in. First he motivated his Antoinette with the “Get Up” trait, which restored her from 2 HP to 7 HP (that Laserbow 60 hurt). Then he fired at Gogocha to even the odds. But Keel Greenpants was still nearby, having fired and dropped back down from the building rooftop (otherwise he’d have a Shot in the Back at Drapkin). After grabbing a food crate the Duster Leader Old Anderson was slowly truddling his way to the fight, and actually was barely in range this turn to fire at the Neotechnoist Drapkin or his mount.
(Apologies for the wacky spacing and sizing on the images, I’m just lazily doing WordPress Medium size so horizontal vs vertical clearly doesn’t match)

And finally the Duster dinosaur Tangy Fangy, a Ripper, figured that One Handed Bernard had Hank Mars handled (bad pun). But Mr. The Plague would keep raining fire down from a distance, so that’s who Tangy Fangy moved to engage instead.

Turn 3 – Wait Weren’t There Objectives?
Speaking of One Handed Bernard, guess who opted to Activate first after the Dusters won Initiative? “Say Hank Mars, what’re your Hitpoints at? Hmm, ever been hit by a 3GJ Auto Shotgun at Short Distance?”
After killing Hank Mars, Bernard was very close to a food crate (somewhat stained with melted Lego Minifig).

On the other side Eggy wasn’t looking so good, nor was his passenger Drapkin (who had taken the brunt of the Duster fire). But wanting to protect Mr. The Plague, the pair rode forward and unleashed on the Duster Ripper dinosaur. First Drapkin shot, then Mr. The Plague fired his backup 1GJ Pump Shotgun, and suddenly Tangy Fangy the dinosaur had two Panic tokens and a sliver of health.

But like a well trained bloodhound, Keel Greenpants was still hot on the trail. From beneath the reins of the dinocart he took an almost-out-of-range shot at Mr. The Plague and brought down the sharpshooter.

Back in the middle, Antoinette was wounded and alone. She had backed herself into a corner of the building (thankfully without windows), which meant Gogocha and Old Anderson had to advance out of cover to try to eventually reach her. Gogocha could still reach a fence at least (and look awesome behind it).

Here’s the state of the table at the end of this turn:

Turn 4 & 5 – The Noose Closes
First of all the Neotechnoist Leader Drapkin continued his western run and ended up in the junkyard, hoping to have one turn without getting shot. At this point he had basically traversed the long side of the table.
Also I thought I’d mention the awesome orange semi-truck is actually from a new Lego set (whereas everything else I have is from my childhood). My wife bought a pair of 3-in-1 Creator sets recently as something fun to do, so this one is from the Sunset Speeder box. Being a fan of Euro Truck Simulator 2 a semi was obviously what I’d keep the set as (the other option being a convertible sports car and an F1 racer car).

Knowing that her turns were numbered, Antoinette decided to risk a shot at Gogocha, which meant leaving the safety of her building corner. The “Get Up!” heal from Drapkin meant she likely wouldn’t get one-shot killed at least.
The shot paid off, as Gogocha needed a Bravery Test and failed, so he’d be Fleeing.
Her husband was in an even more precarious position as One Handed Bernard, the seemingly unstoppable shield wielding, helmet wearing, disabled man fired super accurately at Drapkin.

As expected, the much shot Drapkin finally died. With his death a ripple of panic spread through the tattered remains of the posse (which at this point was Antoinette and Eggy the dinosaur). Antoinette actually failed her Bravery Test (necessary when a Leader is taken out of action), which is super important because she’s in a building. In the case of a Fleeing character NOT being able to move their full distance, they are Stunned instead. So basically she couldn’t run backwards through the wall, so she’d lose her Action instead. More or less a death sentence, and also a lucky save for Gogocha who would have died after another shot.

Turn 6 – Where Do We Stand?
With fewer entities left alive the turns were just flying by.

Keel Greenpants focused on taking out the Eggy dinosaur, who was trying to snatch up as many food crates as possible to try to win-by-objective. Unluckily for Keel, he missed his shot AND had to Reload.

Meanwhile Gogocha, confident in Old Anderson to finish off the Stunned Antoinette, moved backwards to secure the jail.

Old Anderson was also confident in Old Anderson (even if he’s a bit senile and talks in the third person), so he strode into the building and shot point blank at Antoinette. To add insult to injury he actually did “Fan the Hammer”, so +2 Attacks AND Antoinette would be 2″ Pushed. Since she had backed into the corner (again) this would result in additional damage. Even with all that Old Anderson still barely managed to kill her, but a kill is a kill.
(Actually this was a slight rules error on my behalf, and perhaps something I should clarify in the rules text. You take 1 damage per 1″ Pushed, BUT that’s if you actually go that distance. If you’re backed up against a wall you don’t take the damage. Which meant Antoinette technically should have lived. She wasn’t carrying crates so the overall game outcome would have been the same though.)

Feebly Eggy moved to the nearest food crate (dropped a while back when Mr. The Plague died).

In total the Neotechnoist “Thermopolis Outpost Residents” had 2 food crates (thanks Eggy!). But with the jail firmly in Duster hands, plus 2 crates on Old Anderson and 1 on One Handed Bernard (how fitting), the Duster “Good Ol Raiders” won the day! So in the words of a Duster: “Go hide inside your Wall, ya sissy Volkies! This here is our land!”

Anyway hopefully you enjoyed the report and visuals. I certainly had fun using Lego Minifigs and terrain. I think the flexibility of building and arming your Minifigs really helps for a “what you see is what you get” match to your posse. Also it’s a terrific gateway for kids to wargaming, since 28mm minis can be a bit intimidating (especially with the owner fussing over fingerprints or damage to their little pewter soldiers).

I think this match also highlighted that objectives need to DO something immediately beneficial during a standalone game, since otherwise everyone just rushes for them in the last turn and focuses on killing the enemy the rest of the time. I mention this same issue in the rules themselves, and recommend applying a Feature bonus. So I probably should have made it that you could re-roll 1 Attack die per food crate you’re carrying, or maybe re-roll Bravery Tests, or just use a normal Feature like “Ammo Container”.

Cowboy artwork by Frederic Remington

“What an Unbranded Cow Has Cost” by Frederic Remington. He was a terrific artist from the late 1800s who did many paintings that evoke the loneliness and desolation of the wild west (at least in my opinion).
(From http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

What will v2.6 of the rules have?

Wagon-RaidI mentioned the next rules release of v2.6 a few times, so I thought I’d dedicate a post specifically about what will be changing. In a word: weapons!

As usual you can grab the latest copy of the rulebook PDF updated directly from my computer to Dropbox from http://bleedingedge.mine.nu/.

Example v2.6 Posses
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what value does that give a posse roster? Here are two posses built for v2.6 with plenty of gimmicks and wackiness around the new weapons and trait combinations. I’m going to playtest using these (and others) to ensure the math and feel of the new weapons and other changes works.
Both of the posses were built until I felt happy with them, so don’t worry about the IP/ND values. Similarly everyone was given very similar stats and Hitpoints to help with testing.

General William’s Brigade v2.6 Posse Roster – I see the General riding into battle on his Triceratops, with his steadfast doctor Unit 4-15-3 supporting him from a seat further back. And I can’t wait for Tom West to punch someone for 2A-8D. Think of this posse as a USA Civil War era cavalry gang.

LeDorf’s Royal Force v2.6 Posse Roster – Lots of neat ideas here, from The Tombstone weapon (only 12-12″ range, but crazy damage and effects) to the Madhat grenadier (who will square off against the flamethrower wielding Malius in the enemy posse quite well), to Glargamar grabbing someone with the Dinocatcher and then slicing them to ribbons with the Rattlesnake Axe. Instead of a pure doctor this posse is using the new Motivate weapons with the Lend a Hand trait. I don’t think it will be quite as effective, but it’s an interesting idea none the less. Think of this posse as an American Revolution era British response force (thus the aristocratic name).

Minor Changes
Before I get to that, there are also a few other changes and improvements. Some minor stuff like the table of contents being clickable and reworked to one page. +2 HP to the Leader when playing the Assassinate objective. Removing the “Clever Girl” deployment for “Diagonal”. Some clean up of the Quick Reference Sheet. Clarifying Cover to be 25%+ obscured. Adding a few new sepia toned images and a new gameplay image. Removed the campaign based Medical Devices for healing Wounds/Injuries. Cleaned up the Yeehaw! ability and split Bravery Test on Leader death to a separate section. Even super tiny stuff like using ÷ instead of / for division and defining Defense for Armor as +X instead of a flat X. So just the usual tweaks and poking and prodding.

Trait Changes
But the core changes are around weapons, and to a lesser degree Traits. For Traits they have been split from a single complex table to one for Active and one for Passive. Similarly the less used Traits have been balanced and buffed. And Passive traits now use the highest stage, exactly like Active, instead of stacking. So Bonus HP went from +3 per stage to +3/+6/+9…same effect, but more consistency between the two types. My favorite example of a trait change is “Boxer”, which now has 2 stages of +3/+7 damage with Brawl attacks. What this means is a character can take both stages and be dishing out 2A-8D punches or 1A-9D kicks, or 1A-8D trips with Stopped. So basically you can make a Jackie Chan / Jet Li martial arts style character and still have it be viable.
Viable is actually a good word here, as something like “Racer” shows. Previously this Passive trait was +1 SPD to Hustle…but that begs the question who would ever take it over a flat Bonus SPD +1 trait? So now Racer is +2 SPD to Hustle. Again, just little tweaks to ensure variety and choice when building your posse.

(“Big Iron” picture by MMoussee, and based on the Marty Robbins song that I based the upcoming “Big Iron” weapon in this game on!)

The Main Event – Weapon Changes
Now for the weapons, which again have that focus on viability. Most of these changes are lingering leftovers from the Battle to Seattle campaign. The campaign and subsequently v2.5 were terrific for expanding the list of choices (especially the delicious pistols!), but also had a few rough edges. One important lesson I learned is once a posse is at the $2,000 level, and even more so beyond that, they can more or less afford any weapon they want for anyone (aside from crazy stuff like the $1,500 Field Gun). What this means is (eventually) price is no longer a balancing factor for weapons. “This gun does more damage, but costs $50 more!” means nothing when you have $700 in the bank.
So in the end players went for “top tier” guns, regardless of price. In case you haven’t noticed, range weapons are capable of 9 damage (before Crits), in a variety of attack-damage patterns, while close combat weapons can reach 10 damage. For range this means 6A-3D, 1A-8D, 4A-5D, etc. The problem was a lot of weapon “lines”, like the Laserbow or Pump Shotgun, didn’t reach that “top tier” 9 damage category. For example Laserbows topped out at 1A-6D. So for $1,000 posses they might be used, but anything above that and they’ll be left by the wayside in favor of more damaging guns.
Because of this a lot of the weapon lines were fleshed out to top tier. This means a “Laserbow 80” with 1A-8D, a 6GJ Pump Shotgun with 3A-6D, a Coach Gun with 2A-7D, etc.
Similarly close weapons recieved the same treatment. Axes were split and are 4A-XD weapons now, the high attack no damage weapons go up to 10 (like 2GJ Tumbleweed with 8A-2D to follow the Thunderstick), etc. I split out Natural Weapons to their own page (and subcategorized Brawl/Beast) so the wireframe weapon image got moved too.

Shotgun-HospitalityThe other focus was on special abilities, and making those weapons less expensive and more viable. I also added, changed, and removed some of the abilities. Say goodbye to “Cover Breaker” and the related Defoliant Grenades, and say hello to “Cavalry” (+1 Damage while mounted). Both Barrels is now +2 Damage instead of +2 Attacks, to differentiate even moreso from Fan the Hammer. Sap was renamed to “Motivate”, and now has a slew of awesome ranged and close weapons like the War Horn, Harmonica, Battle Standard, etc. There are also Pulled range weapons now in the Harpoon Gun and Dinocatcher. To utilize the new Cavalry special there are Carbines, which have a short and long distance but no medium, and also close combat weapons (like the Dragoon Sword).
Another push was to get alternative names for commonly used guns, especially top tier stuff. So now instead of everyone having 500kW Six-Shooters you could use the “O’Sullivan Sixer”, or The Stampede instead of a top tier Volcanic Pistol, or Judge instead of a Peacemaker, or Enforcer instead of the 5GJ Auto Shotgun, etc. I love so many of these new names that I’m just gonna list some here…

Some Range Weapons: Ranch Blaster (600kW Walker Revolver), Ace in the Hole (Derringer), Yannigan Pistol and Big Iron (Handcannon line), Tirador Rifle, Frontier Twin Rifle (300kW Twin Rifle), Streetsweeper Shotgun, Coach Gun, Settler Defender (6GJ Pump Shotgun), M-2285 Rifle (Assault Rifle), Klondike 7000, Prairie Carbine (400kW Carbine), Boss Bow (Laserbow 80), Geyser Grenades (Tangle Grenades), Homesteader (Barbed Lasso), The Tombstone, Wagon Blazer (more viable Flamethrower!), Pepperbox Pistol, Clark Airgun, Hangman’s Noose (with 5″ Pulled)

Some Close Weapons: Biosteel Knife (same damage as Biosteel Lance, clever!), Mountain Man Axe, Horned Axe, Rattlesnake Axe, Knuckledusters, Dinofist, Power Knuckles, Sledgehammer, Spike Driver, Feudbreaker (Pickaxe), Lacerator (Whip), Boot Blade (Switchblade), Coup Stick, Overcharged Dinoprod, Hafted Blade, Dragoon Sword

So all in all lots of fun new toys to play with. The list is definitely intimidating at first glance (Range Weapons has spilled over to FIVE! tables now), but a lot of the weapons are just repeats with better damage and a higher price tag.

Bronco-BusterSaloon Changes
The Saloon posse designer will receive these changes as well, and also has a few improvements. The most loved will probably be the fact that weapon special ability names are written on the roster themselves to the far right of the weapon name, woot woot! So you’ll see 300kW Six-Shooter*, but now also in a smaller font “Fan the Hammer”. This helps players remember exactly whether the shotgun had Both Barrels or Open Choke, without having to check any list. The actually effect isn’t written on the roster, but experienced players will know them by heart, and they’re not hard to learn or leave the rules page open as a reference.
Also the free Brawl and Lasso attacks are “buyable” now, so that players who DO build that Jackie Chan character can actually see the base Punch/Kick/Shove/Trip on their roster without having to calculate it.
And an old bug was fixed around Clear Sight, which adds +1″ to all weapon ranges. Previously this effect was blindly applied, so a Repeater would get 1-14 Medium distance (because it’s the first range band) instead of 0-14. Bug fixing isn’t the most exciting news, but it’s important to do.

So all in all v2.6 is shaping up to be a release focused on weapon and trait polishing, with a few rules clarifications as well. No drastic core changes which is always nice. I’m eager to release the rules so I can do many battle reports with the slew of cool weapons.
The ol’ TODO list is actually pretty short now, and in some ways the release changelog will mimic a lot of what was said here. I need to retake a gameplay photo, finish updating The Saloon lists, and then do the usual double/triple/quadruple checking for any inconsistencies. There is nothing more annoying than going through the rules release process and noticing a tiny error immediately afterwards.

As for the rules in general, I think at some point I’d be done revising them…right? Right? In some ways I wish I could just stop poking and prodding them…but I said the exact same thing in 2011! And look at how much better and more refined the game is now. Maybe it’s just fun to have a project I can return to every now and then and update. One thing I DO want to avoid is tacking on rules or complexity. I might add “expansions” that do that, but for the core rules I don’t want to add a bunch of flavor-of-the-month cruft and baggage.
I know it looks like I’ve been at this blog for ~5 years, but with the big posting gaps and shift from RPG to skirmish (which was basically a rewrite) I bet you could narrow down the actual project to a 6-8 month task.
Besides at some point I’m going to want to make my diceless Hackers game, or damage template Barons game, or my blue ocean navy Privateer game, or my asymmetrical Viking raiding game, etc.

Anyway look for v2.6 near the end of March, or April at the latest (it will depend a bit on my playtesting schedule).

(Credit for the other art goes to Frederic Remington from the late 1800s)

My previous Nanowrimo novels

You might remember that besides game design as a hobby, I’ve also taken part in various National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) events, wherein the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November (averging 1,667 words a day).
I started these in 2009 with a few friends, and we competed through the various years. I thought I’d share my completed stories. In 2011 I tried to write a series of Dinosaur Cowboys short stories, which have been posted here before, but unfortunately didn’t complete the 50,000 goal. And after 2012 I took a break.
So anyway if you want to check out various stories in various genres, download the PDFs and let me know what you think…

Anubis Rising – 2009 – 53,048 words
A modern story about an old man in a small town which is getting invaded by the ancient Egyptian god Anubis. Think of it as a mix of Vanishing Point, The Mummy, and Red Dawn.
2009 Nanowrimo: Anubis Rising

Highway Cowboys – 2010 – 50,017 words
My fan fiction piece of the Steve Jackson game Car Wars. The story chronicles three unique characters across America. Sunny, Sassy, and Pike (yeah, similar to Preacher Pike you see in battle reports here).
2010 Nanowrimo: Highway Cowboys

Far From Home – 2012 – 50,988 words
This story is tied with Anubis Rising for my favorite, and one I’d love to develop further (since it’s word complete, but not a complete story arc).
The story is set in a sci-fi universe where mankind achieved faster-than-light travel and communication, expanded through the universe, then lost the technology. Now years and years later Earth is ready to return to their lost colonies, which have vastly deviated to the point that most inhabitants aren’t even called Human anymore. Basically the “Sol” empire rediscovering their old “Terran” empire. I love the background and planet hopping so much that I’d consider designing an RPG around it, in fact.
2012 Nanowrimo: Far From Home

Battle Report: Birthday Bash

I had a pair of fun games of Dinosaur Cowboys around my birthday. The first was with my gaming group and the second was having my parents try the game.

First Match – Friends
DC-Birthday-Bash-Friends-0001The first match was a 4 person team game with 2 people per team. Each team had one new player, who got a melee based posse, and then another player who had taken part in the Battle to Seattle campaign.

We used a simple Edge deployment, and the objective was basically “Smash and Grab” but with 5 objectives (dinosaur eggs in this case) spread evenly across the table. Having a dinosaur egg in your possession meant you could re-roll 1 die per carrier activation. The game was set to last 6 turns with a possible extra 7 turn on a D12 roll of 7+ at the end of the 6th turn (which we ended up having). And finally the building in the middle was set to collapse one activation into turn 5 (which the players didn’t know in advance).

The posses involved were…
Team 1: Sundance Stompers and Sassy Slashers (new player)
Team 2: Death Snakes and Path of Rage (new player)

The game went well, Team 2 pushed forward early with their dinosaur and Path of Rage posse, and held back on their left flank with the Death Snakes. Team 1 had the Sundance Stompers in reserve on their right flank, and the Sassy Slashers were fairly outnumbered for the first bit of the game. In the end both teams had 2 eggs each, but the Sassy Slashers were able to dive their dinosaur into the garden to get the last egg. The dinosaur died, but the Sundance Stompers leader was right nearby to pick it up and run far enough out of range. So in the end 3 eggs and the victory for Team 1.
Since I was playing with friends I didn’t take a zillion photos, but the one above should give you an idea of how the table was setup.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, although one new player would have liked to roll more dice (like the fistfuls in Warhammer 40,000), so I’ll have to stick to 6 attack and up weapons for him in the future, haha.

Second Match – Family
This game was a couple of days later but I used a very similar table setup. I swapped the Mordheim inn building for my new resin structure (still need to paint it), and also a hill on the side for my old aquarium terrain that looks like an Indiana Jones ruin.


Anyway like I said this game was between my parents, who haven’t really ever played a wargame. So I left out a few rules, mostly around Traits and Dinosaur Panic, and I didn’t list all the weapon special abilities until they were relevant. They both seemd to take to the rules well and enjoy the game. I took a few more pictures during a break.

The two posses were: Sarge’s Lost Platoon vs Meadowlarks

DC-Birthday-Bash-Family-15The setup was similar for this game, using the Edge deploy, but a single Capture objective instead of the Smash and Grab approach from the previous game. So whoever had the most living entities within the resin ruin or garden (anything inside the fences) at the end of turn 6 would win. No special rules or cases otherwise.

Both posses defensively manuevered for the first couple of turns, but eventually the Meadowlarks dinosaur leapt forward with a Charge into Jim Baker. The Lost Platoon decided to focus all fire on the Fin dinosaur, who was eventually brought down after a full turn and a bit of shooting. But Jim Baker had died as the first casualty. Inside the building Preacher Pike from the Meadowlarks was the first person in, but he was charged by the enemy Raptor and slowly brought down to 1 Hitpoint.
Near the end of the game the Meadowlarks were able to bring Alizzar and Sarah Love into the building, which meant they had 3 entities inside. The Lost Platoon moved The Red Stinger from his sniper perch on a far hill a bit too late, and he wasn’t able to reach the building in time. Their leader Sarge was also inside the building, but outnumbered and unable to kill enough targets. So in the end the Meadowlarks won!
The Lost Platoon was close though, as Preacher Pike had 1 HP left, and Samurai Jack (the Meadowlark leader) had 4 HP left, so one good shot on the leader could have made everyone in the ruin Flee away. But that was not to be.

Lots of fun all around, and nice to get some new people to try out the game.

From here I’ll be focusing on getting v2.6 of the rules done (again I’ll post details about that in the future), and maybe painting a few miniatures (although I need to rework my painting table so it’s more comfortable, right now I’m way too hunched over).

Battle Report: The Mountie Chase of Samurai Jack

Cavalier_townWell this week is my 30th birthday (gulp) so what better way to celebrate than a battle report? I mean, there are definitely better ways than tediously formatting text and images, but you know what I mean :)

So the motivation for playing a game was simple: I had 3 new miniatures, I had new fences, and I love Dinosaur Cowboys.

Of course a little narrative goes a long way for giving a greater meaning to the conflict. So I took my usual approach of choosing a random small town in the USA, thinking about the posses involved and their motivation, and making a simple backstory from that.

First of all, the place: Cavalier, North Dakota. You can see it on Google Maps here, and they actually have a nice little quaint town website. Apologies if that sounded condescending, I actually really like the traffic cam of their main street, looks like a nice mellow place. The town actually reminds me of the recent Arnie movie The Last Stand (I don’t care what the critics say, I enjoyed it). Plus, simply put, the name of the town is awesome.

The Villains
DC-Cavalier-Border-Battle-0017Obviously my new samurai-with-a-shotgun mini would be used. He looked like a bandit and highway robber straight up, especially when I dubbed him “Samurai Jack”. I could see him living up in Canada (the border of which Cavalier is very close to), hiding out in the wasteland of ashes, and raiding across into what’s left of the States.
But who was Samurai Jack? Just a dude with an awesome name and a yin yang on his chest? Probably. But I figured anyone crazy (and lonely?) to live alone in a desolate, ruined, ash covered country wouldn’t like human contact much. So his only other non-dinosaur Posse member would be a robotic servant (yeah yeah I know I don’t account much for robots and androids in the backstory of the game) named Sir Javier. And to truly strike fear in his victims Samurai Jack would need an intimidating dinosaur, so T-Rex obviously.
For armament and customization I knew Samurai Jack would need a shotgun (to match the mini), and the top tier 4GJ Auto Shotgun fit well. A backup 100kW Peacemaker would give him some range (16″) until he could get to 9″ and unload with the shotgun. And even though he wouldn’t have any improvement to CTN a Short Sword was necessary for flavor and to match the mini. Then some really good armor (Mesh Armor), buncha Hitpoints, and RTN improvements. No traits for Jack though, he doesn’t need gimmicks to raid caravans.
Sir Javier was purely meant as a support type character. I gave him a Variable Pulse Rifle because it’s nice and versatile, and Boom Grenades because you never know when you’re gonna need grenades. I think of him like a robotic butler for Samurai Jack, haha. Anyway his traits really supported his supporty-ness with “Get Up” and “Retreat”.
Finally the T-Rex, “Red Dragon”, who got the “Sprint” trait. What that meant was if Sir Javier used “Retreat” on the T-Rex who also used “Sprint” the dino would be hauling it 13″ + 6″ for a run, so a 19″ threat range ignoring Difficult Terrain. Kapow!
I called the posse “Jack’s Highway Terrors”, and you can download the PDF of it here: Jack’s Highway Terrors – Roster.

The Story
For every villain there is a hero, and in this case Francis Fitzgerald (named after a real Mountie of course) would wrangle in Samurai Jack.
Obviously the borders are a little looser in the year 2285, so Francis would actually be a lawman modelled after the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with officers called Mounties for short). But he lived in the US, in Cavalier, as part of the “perimeter force”. Samurai Jack had been a constant, uncatchable thorn to the town, and finally after a farm was burned to the ground Francis had enough.
Pooling almost all the resources of the town, Francis hired a Neotechnoist sharpshooter, took his second in command Sergeant Kolden, fired up the old cop car (well, Thickskull dinosaur) named Herschel, and headed north to bring Jack to justice.
Of course as most stories are, this one would be told from the “heroes” side.

The Heroes
DC-Cavalier-Border-Battle-0022So as I said, the leader of this posse is Francis Fitzgerald, and he’ll be represented by the new red jacket wearing Mountie mini. The pistol I painted just SCREAMS Volcanic (mainly because it has a glowing orange energy chamber), so a 400kW Volcanic Pistol would do. Yes yes I know Volcanic pistols were lever-action and have nothing to do with actual volcanoes or lava, but this isn’t 1887. Francis seemed like the type of guy who could shoot the dots off a playing card at 100 yards, so “Knee Shot” and 6 RTN would be his specialty.
Next up was Sergeant Kolden, the only other Mountie in the area. I was considering just calling him Deputee or Corporal, but I could also see Francis feeling bad for “the kid”, and wanting to give him a better title and higher standing. Maybe it also helps Kolden stomach the fact that his day-to-day is saving Raptors from trees and he hasn’t had a raise in two years. Kolden would be represented by my classic Ghengis Khan / Russian looking guy.
Finally the hired Neotechnoist, a by-the-book, tight lipped sharpshooter dubbed Winter Council. The name suited the mini I had in mind, since I used the newly painted Necromunda Van Saar with his “sparkling Crest blue” armor. His stats were as by-the-book as his attitude, with 6 RTN and a 200kW Twin-Rifle. “Piercing Shot” as a trait seemed like a good pick, since he’s a sharpshooter after all.
Herschel would be a Thickskull, because I somewhat associate civilized towns and “good guys” with non-carnivorous dinosaurs. Maybe because they seem a bit softer or something? He got “Bonus Speed” to round out his Hustle distance.
So with that the Cavalier Perimeter Force was created. Grab the PDF here: Cavalier Perimeter Force – Roster.

The Setting
New fencessssssssssss! *laser show and pumping music*

And a nice little 3’x4′ chunk of land. Considering Samurai Jack has “Highway” in his posse name, a road down the middle seemed fitting (and the fences fit so perfectly against it). Then the usual smattering of terrain, plus some of the real world fossils I used in my last report.
And yeah, I played the game solo. Which always sounds a bit sad to be playing with toy dinosaurs and rolling dice alone, haha. But I actually enjoy it quite a bit, as I get a chance to play whenever I want, without any rule arguments or stress. And on the flipside by the time this post goes live I will have had a nice team game of Dinosaur Cowboys with my gaming group of four other people (two of who have never played it before, always exciting).

I didn’t take detailed notes for this game, so I’ll do a broad play-by-play from memory and pictures, like I did for the last battle report.

Deployment and Objective
The setup was nice and standard: Edge deploy (on the long 4′ edges) and play until one Posse is wiped out. Sometimes a nice old fashioned extermination is great, especially when there is enough of a backstory to add flavor.

The Perimeter Force deployed in tight formation, with the hope of using the tall hill in front of them to shoot down into the road as the enemies advanced. Herschel the dinosaur would likely end up a distraction and method of stalling the enemy approach. Meanwhile on the opposite flank across the road Kolden waited, hoping to swing in from the side as the enemy approached. So basically, lots of “do something deadly when Jack gets here”.
The Highway Terrors went for an opposite approach with Samurai Jack deployed far to their left flank, and Javier and the T-Rex on the right. The hope was to jump the T-Rex right into threatening range, while Javier hung back as support and Jack moved up to get into shotgun range (and minimums of Winter Council’s rifle).

Samurai Jack is Found, Attack!
The Highway Terrors won first initiative, and Red Dragon the T-Rex was off to the races. Like I said base Speed + Retreat trait from Sir Javier + Sprint trait from the T-Rex himself meant he could Move and Hustle a total of 21″ (while ignoring all Difficult Terrain, as dinosaurs do). So basically a big green missile with teeth instead of explosives. You can see how awesome the dive was:
And also how Red Dragon would pretty much catch Sergeant Kolden no matter where he went.

But the T-Rex was now unsupported and alone with a huge gap to the rest of the posse. And across the road trouble waited:

I mean, still, it’s a 2 Defense beast with 24 Hitpoints and a 1A-8D attack:
(And yeah the framed picture on the wall is totally the Dinosaur Cowboys cover art)

DC-Cavalier-Border-Battle-0060The Perimeter Force responded by moving over Herschel to hopefully tie up the T-Rex (and also likely become a light dinner in the process). Sergeant Kolden edged as far back across the road as possible. Then the three humans poured everything they had into the T-Rex, but the titan still stood. Meanwhile the rest of the Highway Terrors advanced without problem, since the good guys had bigger (literally) problems to worry about.

Time to Eat
As expected the T-Rex tore into the Perimeter Force. Herschel tried to ram the side of the T-Rex, and more shots were put into the beast, but none of it compared to the amazing bite attack Red Dragon got:

In case you aren’t familiar with the mechanics of the game (although I assume every reader has read every battle report for 5 years), the T-Rex succeeded at a Charge to reach Sergeant Kolden. This meant he got +1 Attack, so his 1 Attack, 8 Damage chomp became 2A-8D. He then hit with both dice, AND got a Critical on one, for a total of 11 damage. Guess how many Hitpoints Sergeant Kolden had? 10…so…hooray one shot kill!
DC-Cavalier-Border-Battle-0071(Also I like the far left image so much I’ll likely use it somewhere in the upcoming 2.6 version of the rules)

However at this point Red Dragon the T-Rex was a mess. I think he had ~10 Hitpoints left. But Sir Javier had the “Get Up” trait, which restores 5 Hitpoints to an ally in 8″. Since Red Dragon had jumped so far ahead the initial measurement was just a scratch out of range. Thankfully Sir Javier could angle his move differently, and since the measurement is to the closest point on the ally (which in the case of a big T-Rex adds a few inches), Javier was eventually able to use Get Up on the T-Rex and heal some Hitpoints.

At the end of the turn the board looked like this:

Fall of the Dragon
Even with Sir Javier healing the T-Rex, the sustained fire of 2-3 members of the Perimeter Force, plus the slamming attacks of Herschel the dinosaur, meant the T-Rex died almost immediately this turn.

Samurai Jack was getting quite close to the action now, and ducked behind a massive fossil left in the middle of the road. After the T-Rex had fallen Francis the Mountie moved back behind the tall hill to block line of sight to the Highway Terrors. Similarly Herschel had cut across the road and into Cover, with the hope of swinging around and taking out Javier. As for Javier himself he stood behind one of the new fences and hoped to get a shot or two on the Thickskull dinosaur before it pummelled him.

Tensions Mount
Samurai Jack was behind the big fossil, Francis and Winter Council were likewise behind a tall hill, which meant the game settled into an uneasy tension of “who will pop out first!”. Because if Jack rushed forward he’d take two shots from the waiting Perimeter Force members. Likewise if one of the good guys hopped up the hill they’d get a shotgun to the face.
Meanwhile Sir Javier and Herschel had basically started their own deadly game on the other side of the road. Herschel needed to reach Javier, obviously, but with the versatility of the Variable Pulse Rifle (it has “Power Settings” which allow it to change the configuration of Attacks and Damage from say 5A-1D to 3A-3D) Javier could likely hit the dinosaur wherever he went.

The next turn the tension ended and blood was spilled. Herschel managed to Charge Sir Javier and do quite a number on him. But this also exposed the dinosaur to Samurai Jack, who could simply pivot in place and pour fire into the Thickskull, all the while remaining safe behind his fossil from the rest of the Perimeter Force.
(You can see in the right picture how invisible Jack was from the position of Francis and Winter Council, even if they had climbed the hill)

Standing Alone
The Perimeter Force managed to get the first Activation, which meant Herschel could attack Sir Javier again and destroy the poor robot. After that Herschel could still move (so nice to have rules that allow you to attack then move, instead of being forced to move and attack in a set order) so he went into close combat with Samurai Jack, in the hopes of doing a bit of damage, holding the villain in place, and potentially letting the rest of the good guys get into a spot to kill Jack.

Keep in mind Samurai Jack has a 4GJ Auto Shotgun, which gets the “Open Choke” special ability of +1 Attack at Short Distance. So Jack was firing at 5A-4D on Herschel, who had already taken a bite from the T-Rex and a pair of shots from Sir Javier. So when Samurai Jack held down the trigger the Thickskull just evaporated into a pool of superheated plasma (Fallout 2 style! :) ).
Which meant Samurai Jack was now alone against two enemies: Francis and Winter Council. The pair had used Herschel’s attack as a distraction to climb the tall hill in front of them, so they now bore down on Jack and waited for him to move from behind the rock.
The following turn Francis actually moved down from the hill to the other side of the fossil. Again the tension returned in what amounted to a standoff. Who would move first from their unassailable cover?! I could also imagine Francis yelling out “Throw down your gun, we have you surrounded, come out with your hands up” and other such cliches. I love it when the game ends up playing out the natural progression of the backstory.

The Final Firefight
Samurai Jack had killed dozens of people and raided and pillaged his way across the north. He wasn’t scared of an 8 Hitpoint Neotechnoist in a blue jump suit! So Samurai Jack broke the stalemate and edged around the fossil and simply UNLOADED into Winter Council.
And the Neotechnoist folded like a book. In other words, Samurai Jack 1-shot killed Winter Council.

And so the battle came down to the classic protagonist vs antagonist match up. But the firefight wasn’t in the favor of the good guys this time! Francis could hit Jack on 10+, or 9+ if he managed to get into Short Distance, using a simple 5A-4D weapon. Whereas Samurai Jack was hitting back on 8+ (7+ at Short Distance) with a 4A-4D weapon (or 5A if he could again get to Short Distance). And Francis only had 12 Hitpoints while Jack had 14.
Having his whole Perimeter Force wiped out, and now facing the terror of the highways, outskilled and outgunned, Francis wasn’t in the best situation.
(Keep in mind these are actual gameplay photos, not posed. So the game literally came down to a dual in the street between the main hero and villain)

Then an amazing miracle happened to save Francis’ life. He rolled AWESOME:

Oh 9+ at Short Distance you say? Let me hit you 4/5 times for 8 damage says Francis! Samurai Jack did the complete opposite and actually had to Reload his Auto Shotgun (that’s why he has the Reload token in the second picture).
And if the first shot from Francis seemed good, look at that second one! Hit 5/5 with a Critical Hit for a total of 10 damage!

So on that cold morning on an empty street north of Cavalier, the lone Mountie Francis Fitzgerald found and dueled the notorious Samurai Jack and was victorious. Time to take the villain back to Cavalier to pay for his crimes!

So Fun
That was fun! I said it above as well, but I’ll re-iterate it here (in case you just scroll through the pretty pictures, which is fair :) ). I really love it when game mechanics and the flow of a battle end up exactly how you hoped they would. In this case the backstory was a classic matchup of cop vs robber (more or less), and to come down to a duel in the street was too perfect. I remember one of my Windy River campaign games having a similar outcome, where I had setup a caravan raid (using the Line deploy) and it felt exactly like the frantic, chaotic mess getting attacked while spread out in the jungle would be.
I always take such gameplay-fits-narrative (or supports the narrative, however you want to word it) as a good sign for the state of the rules. I also am happy that, at the end of the day, I wrote and developed Dinosaur Cowboys to be the game I want to play. Sure I like suggestions and feedback, and enjoy hearing of other people playing the game, or showing to to friends, or whatever. But in the end my goal was to design my own favorite game, and so far it’s worked wonderfully. I mean, it took ~5 years of on-and-off work, but still!

Blurry and dark pictures of my miniatures collection!

Straight from the cabinet, here’s my miniature collection from the past, well, probably 15-17 years:

The top shelf is pretty much entirely fantasy minis from my years playing Horizon (my own game), Advanced Heroquest, Mordheim, and more recently D&D (the majority of the front row were painted in the last ~3 years when I was going to D&D Encounters at my local shop. For example the purple and green Mordheim cultist was a Binder. The pirate looking guy with the red scarf was a ranged Thief. The big red Minotaur was a Battlemind I think…some kind of psionic guy regardless). Also I loved little goblin figures growing up so I have a wide variety of those. So much character and zaniness in those early GW sculpts. Anyway some of these actually made appearances in Dinosaur Cowboys battle reports, such as the repeat usage of the far front, far left Dark Sun Mul as some kind of axe wielding Savage.

Click to see the rest

Primal Frontier, a story that fits right in

Primal-Frontier_coverToday I have a cool story from a commenter (Eccentric Cowboy) that I wanted to share because it’s basically Dinosaur Cowboys but in the 1860-1870 era instead of future-retro-ey like the game :)

The author seems like a gun enthusiast so all the good stuff like lever-action and elephant guns are there (he’d probably love the “Bronto Gun”). As well as important questions like What Kind of Gun to use Dinosaur Hunting? (the answer is obviously a laser based Lever-Action rifle).

Anyway you can see his announcement here and read other dinosaur + explorer related info at his main blog: http://eccentriccowboy.blogspot.ca/

From the author:
“Primal Frontier is a Weird West alternate history setting in the 1860’s and 1870’s on a massive continent that is populated by all sorts of exotic creatures from our past, the most prominent being dinosaurs. It is a primitive and savage land, bristling with dangerous animals and hostile natives. This land of mystery and peril has been only scarcely explored. But brave men and women will venture into the unknown and encounter all manner of adventures.”
(From this blog post)

Yes please!

So far the story is meant to be the first in a series. It’s only available for Kindle on Amazon (if you don’t have a Kindle there is a downloadable PC app, or you can read in a webrowser with their great Kindle Cloud Reader page). You can buy the story here for less than a cup of coffee:

I picked up a copy today so I’ll update this post in the future to let you know what I thought.

Two games I’m designing, and a general ponder

This deviates a bit from the usual Dinosaur Cowboy fare, but I had a few topics I wanted to cover.

First of all I’ve been vaguely designing two games. I like to say “vaguely” because I haven’t put a ton of time into either, and both are fairly experimental, and they’re more an exercise for my brain than something I’d put the same amount of time/effort into as Dinosaur Cowboys (I think?).

On general tabletop combat resolution
Warhammer-40kChessThe first topic is one I have been ruminating over for a while. Quite a brain teaser and design conundrum: combat resolution. While commuting home I thought that once combat resolution starts in every tabletop game (I can think of at least) the player doesn’t matter at all. What I mean is whether it’s Warhammer 40,000 or my much beloved Dinosaur Cowboys, once you start rolling dice ANYONE could be rolling those dice to the same effect. So that means combat resolution generally removes the player from the equation, and gives them no meaningful decisions or influence.
So what does that leave tabletop games as? Chess with dice to resolve attacks? What I mean is if combat resolution WASN’T dice based, and was simply automatic, then the only differentiation between players is how they move/maneuver troops, and what troops they decide in the first place (ie: army building). And then does the game become solvable, like Chess?
This becomes a problem if the combat resolution system is particularly onerous. Again Warhammer 40,000 comes to mind here. The system basically removes the player for 3 rolls in a row (roll to hit, roll to wound, roll to save). But if you revert to a “simple” combat resolution system (such as a roll-off), then why even have dice involved at all?
What this boils down to is 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? Before we talk more, realize that I don’t have an example of a system where this IS the case…if I did there wouldn’t be as much to discuss.

2016 EDIT: Thankfully I did eventually crack this problem, and created a game called Fickle RPG as a result. The core resolution mechanic has plenty of decision points that differs between players and situation, while still being fast playing and fun.

Part of the problem is if the options provided to the player can easily be broken down into odds, the player will inevitably gravitate to the best odds. So that goes back to the “meaningful decision” aspect.
Part of this also comes down to melee vs ranged, because melee normally ends up as some kind of roll off. Sure both players might roll differently, such as a 1 Attack 4 Damage melee weapon in Dinosaur Cowboys vs 6 Attack 2 Damage, but in the end they’re both taking turns rolling dice (no control) against each other, without moving, positioning, or making any decisions in between. To a certain extent ranged attacks result in the same…in a “shootout” both players are just rolling dice against each other, one might just roll a more favorable set of dice if they’ve moved into cover or are shooting at a better range bracket.
So movement then plays a deceivingly BIG part of a tabletop game. Deceivingly because if a random player was asked “What’s important in a game?” I doubt many would say movement. But at the same time it’s often ignored by systems, or left to tiny, obvious moves when you only have 3″ or 4″ to choose from. Similarly army building/drafting is important, but if you have a system where you can win by building a superior army alone, what exactly is the point of playing out the game itself?
Let’s look at alternatives. Computer games do a good, but untranslatable job, by having muscle skill and reflex play a factor. For example in something like Starcraft 2 two players can have the exact same army, and the combat resolution could even be non-random, but based on player skill one person will win. Where player skill is that untranslatable element of position, reflex, “micro”, etc.
Ninety-Percent-PlanningNow if we look at systems where combat resolution DOES have meaningful choices, does movement matter at all? In most cases, no. For example Magic the Gathering could be viewed as one big combat resolution mechanic (of mage vs mage), but movement/positioning doesn’t play a factor at all…thus why it’s a card game not a tabletop game.
So does that mean that tabletop games will always have movement as an important factor? Probably. But is there a way to have combat resolution have as MUCH meaning and player input? And if so, would that system work? Or would it become too complex and lengthy if “both phases” had a lot of involvement instead of a brainless section of dice rolling? What about if combat resolution was stressed over movement, then do you even need movement?

Going back to the two games below, the Hackers game unexpectedly gets closest to covering this. This is because the combat mechanism is diceless, so it’s completely plannable (for lack of a better word). It’s also very fast because the outcome is decided immediately and repeatably. Similarly there is no army building because all “troops” (Nodes) are the same. Choosing “Programs” fulfills a similar niche though.
The result in my playtests was actually a surprise. Turns would be 90% planning and 10% execution. Whereas I feel like in Dinosaur Cowboys (or other games with traditional resolution mechanics) you get closer to a 50%/50% split. So in Hackers you plan and puzzle a whole bunch, and try to “solve” the best approach for that turn (very thematic for a computer-y themed game), then the actual resolution is basically “bing bang boom” because there are no dice to roll.
So again, what if the resolution was the opposite, where 10% of the turn was planning and 90% was execution? And that execution didn’t just take time (aka Warhammer 40,000) but actually had meaningful player decisions the whole time? I guess I should have defined this earlier, but with “meaningful” I mean there are choices that different players will choose differently (so no automatic “best path”, best odds, or obvious choice that all players would do), and those choices have a noticeable effect on the outcome (so not just “roll 4D6, the same 4D6 any other player would roll, and it doesn’t matter how you as a player are”). So for example Mech Attack might give the illusion of player choice during combat (because you choose which weapon to shoot first), but the options are so obvious that it’s meaningless (shoot the narrow, long damage before the wide, shallow damage with the hopes of collapsing armor).

Anyway I’m getting rambling and (perhaps?) incoherent at this point, so I’ll stop. But the fundamental idea highlighted above really got me thinking: 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?

Hackers – Diceless Skirmish: Download early rules Hackers-v0.1.pdf
Hackers-lolHaving said that, the first game is more interesting to me, and is temporarily called “Hackers”. Before you get too excited it’s sadly not based on the awesome 1995 movie with the same name. Think more based on Tron, the book Snowcrash, and bits of the movie Johnny Mnemonic. The main gimmick of the design is it’s totally diceless, so no “output randomness”.
Players are hackers and battle over “The Grid”, a virtual overlay on the real world with device nodes (like a cellphone or computer server) represented by avatars (aka use any miniature you want). What’s cool is the “Nodes” are completely interchangeable and faceless; they don’t have different stats or attacks to begin with. Instead the hacker chooses a series of Commands and Tasks programs (think “spells” in a fantasy setting) that can be executed on Nodes. So in other words if you have the program “Break Firewall” it can be used from any Node, instead of being a specific ability tied to a specific Node. Actually the game started themed as duelling spellcasters so Nodes were Vessels, programs were spells, etc. but after playtesting the theme didn’t fit as well as it could, so I went with the Hacker/computery thing instead.
BECKLots of other neat ideas, like Tasks (buffs/de-buffs) that affect a Node until they are Shutdown (dispelled). That’s a nice departure from having to track durations of effects (like +1 Attack). The game is played on a square grid, with random terrain. Deployment is cool because you can deploy anywhere (as long as it’s not within 3 squares of an enemy Node), so the action starts right away (instead of the traditional “table edge” deploy).
So all in all some neat ideas, and something I definitely want to pursue.

Barons – Mech Attack Rework: Download early rules Barons-v0.1.pdf
Damage-Template-System The next game is basically an afternoon of effort to rework Armor Grid: Mech Attack that I (again temporarily) call “Barons”. This is a little light game that captures the spirit of Battletech but plays a lot faster. What’s funny is their main selling point (the “Armor Grid” idea) is actually pulled from FASA (the original owners of Battletech), since it was used in their Renegade spaceship series and eventually Crimson Skies. The idea is almost as good as Silent Death and their Damage Track, and perhaps the original implementation IS better (I’ve only played Mech Attack, I’ve just read the other two games).
But to be blunt, Mech Attack is not that well written, and besides the Armor Grid system it’s rather bland and has some glaring flaws. First of all I challenge any owners of the PDF to find the section that actually outlines HOW to destroy a Mech, haha. Similarly they reward NOT moving (it’s easier to hit if you “Stand Fast”), which combined with a base movement of 3″ (in a 3’x3′ area) for Heavy Mechs means games end up as a roll off with very little movement. This was especially noticable in the last game I played, where me and my opponent ended up more or less sitting in the corner and rolling off with our two surviving Heavy Mechs (literally just sitting on opposite sides of a hill and shooting, since whoever moved would have lost cover and the Stand Fast bonus).
So yeah, me and my friends mentioned a couple of these flaws and I thought I’d take a crack at a slight rework. What I ended up with so far is Barons, which is medieval based (not sure if I want to go the full fantasy route). The system moves from D10 to D6, and a simple roll-off for combat resolution instead of D10 + many mods > target profile. So it still keeps the core Damage Template system but tries to be a better game outside of that. For example “activation” is simply issue a Command to one character, then alternate to the opponent. But what’s neat is you can Command the same character multiple turns in a row, instead of having to mark activated like Dinosaur Cowboys. And also that Commands are simple, as in Move is a Command, as is Attack. So it does away with the usual “move and attack each turn, oh and you can run as a double move and stuff”. Weapons use the Damage Template system, so a Dagger pierces 1 square wide and 2 squares down, while a Mace does a big 2×2 chunk, and a slashing weapon like a Long Sword does a 3 wide and shallow 1 square down template.
We’ll see where this game ends up…in the end if the gimmick of a game (in this case the Damage Templates) could be removed and the remaining game is boring maybe means the game isn’t that great.

Giant Siberian crater pits

Wow pretty cool to think something like this can happen in the middle of Siberia without people knowing. Also interesting how more have appeared and scientists seem out on the cause. I like this idea though: “sudden release of natural gas that had been stored in the permafrost but was kept under pressure by the weight of the pingo.”

I post this because it’s pretty close to the fun little backstory/history I made for Dinosaur Cowboys. Except of course that I use Yellowstone in Wyoming and the geyser eruption. But the idea that huge changes to the Earth can happen is the same. Heck if I had more winter terrain maybe I would have centered the game in Russia :)

Article: http://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/news/now-two-new-large-holes-appear-in-siberia/

Anyway the above image might make its way into the rulebook eventually (in sepia tones), since it looks exactly how I imagine the post-eruption Old Faithful geyser to look.

Three new painted minis (a record?!) and some exciting new terrain!

Well if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might know I’m a bit exhausted of painting. I did a ton of mini painting as a kid, then kind of burned out on it, and now only do the odd character figure. So I’m excited to say I have THREE new minis to show you, all fully based, painted, and sprayed. That must be a new record for minis shown at once on here, right?!

The Neotechnoist
Before you look at this first miniature, I want to confess something. When I made the Neotechnoist allegiance I had a lot of imagery in my mind, and some of that was from Games Workshop’s Necromunda faction called the Van Saar. They are basically high tech nobles with super cool suits and laser weaponry. I’ve have this mini for a while, since I bought a few Necromunda figures off Ebay a long while back. But I finally sat down and painted him.
I used one of my favorite new paints that is basically a clear sparkle/shimmer that can be added to any other color. In this case I added it to an (already) sparkly blue to get what I call “Crest Blue” (like the toothpaste!). I used this color for his undersuit, and then copper for the raised plates. Pretty standard weapon (black, gold, green) and wiring/cabling of a nice washed green. One thoughtful touch is his backpack has a few squares on it, which I painted to represent a charging level (red to green).
Anyway a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s the first mini, the de-facto Neotechnoist:

(And before you ask, yes the little bum plates are sculpted on…it was the 80s!)

Samurai Jack
Next up is, well, what I can best describe as a samurai with a shotgun (who I’m calling Samurai Jack for now). I got this figure, um, maybe 15 years ago? I had spray painted him gold for whatever reason, and so he sat for the last decade and beyond. He’s a cool and unique mini though, so I thought it was time to finally paint him. I have a painting night with friends to thank for motivation for this one, as I painted the entire mini while hanging out hunched over a table with other painters.
Anyway first of all I went for a nice and classic scheme, which is purple + green with some bright gold to tie him together and make him look pretty noble. There are some pretty cool touches as well, like the central chest plate being a yin yang and the “kill scratches” on his shotgun. And I actually painted the Japanese kanji for “strength” on his sword sheath. Definitely happy with the result! I haven’t done kanji work since I wrote “Hyena” on the back of a Battlemech for Battletech about 7 years ago (I should post a picture of that!)
Also you might have noticed the strange egg ball shapes on his base. What could they be? Well it’s actually trick from the oddest of places: my mom! Normally moms are great for saying “That looks good dear!” but coming up with a genius hobby idea is even better. In this case the eggs are unground black pepper glued onto the stand (in this case mostly unpainted). Really has a great texture with the lines, and the size is perfect. If no one told you it was pepper you’d probably just think it was some cool “green stuff” sculpting.

Mountie Duster
And finally is another Games Workshop mini, of course not even remotely recent (screw those prices!). Best I can tell this guy is a Rogue Trader (ie: Warhammer 40,000 first edition) era mini, some kind of Imperial settler or colonist. Either way he basically looks like a farmer Han Solo, and certainly has a dated look to his sculpting (such as his bulgy jacket and squat stature). Great pistol though, and I decided to paint him like an RCMP / Mountie, which just semeed to fit for some reason. So that meant a blue stripe on the pants and a red jacket. His shirt, while not a wild color, turned out nicely with the copper buttons.
I also like his base, which is sort of snowy/ashy looking like Canada is in Dinosaur Cowboys.
Unfortunately I didn’t have as much luck with the pictures for him (also he has an annoying piece of fluff stuck to his hat), but I can guarantee you’ll see him again in a battle report soon.

The New Crew

The Terrain!
I recently did some overtime at work, and my wife and I decided to spend some of the extra income on fun stuff. So I headed to my local hobby shop and browsed around for an hour. Oh man I love good hobby stores. I ended up with some new paints, but more importantly some new terrain!
Anyway I have been extremely pleased with Pegasus Hobbies in the past, since I bought pre-painted barrels and crates (image here) from them in the past.
Now I bought their pre-painted fence set and stone wall set. The fence set is so thematic and fitting to this game that I might go back and pick up another! Definitely going to be a dinosaur corral in the future. The walls are great as well, especially if I ever do some fantasy gaming again in the future. All I need now is the oil barrel set and I’m golden.
(Funnily enough this is actually a pretty good picture of the Mountie Duster…)

Next up are two resin pieces from a company called Novus Terrain. The first is a really cool looking propane tank (“Exploding Crates” feature in the game much?!) and the second is a nice sci-fi looking ruined building. Both of these will require some painting, but I figure a bit of spraypaint and highlighting the details should do it.

I mean just look how cool the camera shots will be when someone is sniping from the building with a Lever-Action Rifle!
(For once my old trusted camera really came through on this shot, look at that sick autofocus)

Upcoming Battle Report
Obviously three minis and new terrain means a battle report is necessary to try it all out! I had actually hoped to play tonight, but finishing up the bases and protective coating everything took longer than I expected.
But I’m thinking Samurai Jack is some kind of bandit raider near the Canadian border, and the Mountie is dispatched (with his Neotechnoist hireling) to stop the problem. Walls and fences will be involved just because! I won’t use the resin terrain yet since I want to paint it before the tabletop debut. Anyway pretty exciting times!
I still have probably 12-15 minis I’ve dogeared for Dinosaur Cowboys, so I’ll slowly work through those. And no offense to my friends at the painting night, but I don’t know how they can paint rank and file troops the same color scheme for 80+ minis. I’d blow my brains out (or just stop halfway through). Even having to do consistent bases would be a drag, since as you can see I had quite the variety in my recent works. Anyway I think I’m pretty much going to stick to single character models, be they for Dinosaur Cowboys or some RPG or whatever. Just way easier to think up your own paint scheme, inject some spice (like yin yangs, power meters, etc.), and end up with a diverse crew of people.

Imaginative art from Simon Stalenhag

There are a couple of dinosaur related pieces that the artist Simon Stalenhag has done, as well as some really imaginative robot related work. All in all a nice dark style with moody forests and the suggestion of tense situations. All the images below came from his website, where you can visit and view more:


Instead of flooding the main blog page with huge pictures, click the link below to see the rest that I chose from his full collection.

Signalling Click to view more pictures…

Battle Report: Get to the Flapper!

ChoppaFirst of all, how has it been over 6 months since my last post?! Well, after the Battle to Seattle campaign and v2.5 release I took a bit of a breather from Dinosaur Cowboys. Then before you know it Christmas came around. And then here we are in 2015. Like I mentioned in my last post my wife and I had a kid, so that’s also been a big factor. Also getting into the computer game Euro Truck Simulator 2 (of all games?!) and back into Awesomenauts also took some time. Regardless my apologies for the lack of posts here.

But I finaaaaally took the time to sit down and play Dinosaur Cowboys yesterday, which I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. I used a single 3’x4′ board covered with a lot of terrain, as well as some real-life fossils that I collected when I was a teenager. The Flapper area was designed to look like a small landing pad/airport with crates and a wagon nearby.

There aren’t a ton of pictures or notes because I ended up playing with my wife, so there was less time to catalog every turn.

Deployment and Objective
First of all for the sake of simplicity no Features were used. The Objective was “Escort”, where a Civilian has to basically traverse the board and escape. The Deployment was “Layered” to give the impression of fighting through a series of enemy lines (with the unspoken exception that the Civilian would be deployed in the further region from their escape area).
To add a bit of narrative flavor I figured the Civilian is an Archaeologist who found a rare fossil in South Dakota. Before he could return to the nearest city with his find the Black Hill Raiders descended on him and took him prisoner. Now the Raiders are trying to move him to a Flapper (aka the Arnold Schwarzenegger “Get to the chopper Flapper!”) to escape the area, return to their hideout, and ransom the fossil (and Civilian) to the highest bidder. Local homesteaders the Birkshire Family get wind of this plot and assemble to stop the kidnapping. So a fun little twist on what’s normally “good guys escorting through bad guys”. Remember that Flappers are Pterodactyl replacements for airplanes in Dinosaur Cowboys.

Now the posses involved might sound familiar, and that’s because they are pulled directly from the 9-page Quickdraw Rules. Both posses have $1,000 and 100 IP, so pretty standard. The Black Hill Raiders use a Raptor and focus on melee, so the Layered deployment really helped them. The Birkshire Family have quite a few powerful guns like an Ultra Repeater, 500kW Walker Revolver (when explained to my wife she said “That seems like it does a lot of hits”), etc. So the match up should be interesting. I played the Raiders and my wife played the Birkshire Family.

You can get the PDFs here:

Setup and A Few Pictures
The game lasted 5 turns.
The Layered deploy REALLY made a mess of everything. There were some possible “Shot in the Back” moments right from the get-go, due to later groups ending up behind enemies.

For the Black Hill Raiders, Betty One-Eye (Necromunda Escher Juve figure) and The Blade (Dark Sun Mul figure) deployed far to the north of the Flapper, with their Civilian nearby. The plan is to use the mix of melee and firepower to escort the Civilian and distract enemies as they went. Opposite them from the Birkshire Family is Brother Jerrid (preacher figure) and the trusty Ducky mount Drake.
The final deployment zone belonging to the Black Hill Raiders consisted of Maynard Dereus, the shotgun wielding leader (Necromunda Ratskin Shaman figure). Behind him is Malice, the Raptor dinosaur. I had wanted to use the Papo “alternate” paint scheme for this dinosaur, but I think it got bent in the storage bin as it wasn’t standing up properly.
And the last deployment zone for the Birkshire Family, which included the Flapper, had Mama Hanna (Warhammer 40,000 Schaeffer’s Last Chancers figure) with her Ultra Repeater on a hill, and nearby Papa Jonas (bartender figure) blocking the east flank.

Here you can see a few views of the deployment:
From left to right: View from the southern Flapper end of the table, focus on the middle deployment zones, high level view looking west (you can see how everyone ended up pretty much on one flank).

I can’t speak for the Birkshire Family, but I know my plan with the Black Hill Raiders was to split my enemies up. So the Raptor would move south towards the Flapper zone to lock down and distract foes there (classic dinosaur move really), while Maynard would flank into the northern split of Birkshire Family. The Civilian would Hustle every turn in a desperate attempt to stay in cover and not get killed.

Here are a few more pictures of deployment, since like I said once the dice started rolling the photos stopped coming.
On the left you can see the northern deploy, with the Civilian visible (he’s the Prospector looking fellow in the blue hat). Notice how close the Ducky is…could get ugly right away.
On the right is the Flapper “end zone”, with a few supply crates and a nearby wagon. For the purposes of this game the Flapper and wagon dinosaur are just scenery and not something you interact with.

If you’re into fossils, well, here are some zoomed in shots of a few. They make great, thematic terrain pieces, just a bit drab in color (maybe they need a gloss spray). In general they vary from nice cover pieces to full on line-of-sight blocking hunks o’ rock.

And finally some cinematic shots, first of the Black Hill Raiders leader Maynard overlooking the battlefield from his perch. Then a shot of Mama Hanna awaiting her foes in the Flapper area.
DC-Flapper-Escape-0019After Action Report
As for the game itself, Birkshire started by Charging the Ducky into melee with Betty One-Eye, thankfully avoiding the Civilian for now. The Blade counter-Charged into Brother Jerrid, who was nearby on the hill. Of course he then promptly got blasted backwards when Brother Jerrid did “Fan the Hammer” with his 500kW Walker Revolver, followed by a Speed Reload. Maynard had a terrific Saber weapon, so in the interest of utilizing that as soon as possible he climbed down the cliff and moved towards the Ducky. Meanwhile the Civilian ran forward as much as possible. On the backline the Raptor moved towards Papa Jonas but couldn’t quite reach him and didn’t want to risk a Charge. Mama Hanna fired at the Raptor to begin whittling down his Hitpoints.

Turn 2 saw the start of some long dinosaur combats. The Ducky did consistent, but LOW damage to Betty One-Eye, while she alternated between pistol fire and using her Flail depending on what the best odds were. Meanwhile the Raptor Charged at Papa Jonas, but ended up missing nearly all of his 1A-5D attacks through the course of the game. The fact that Mama Hanna used “Get Up!” on Papa Jonas meant he survived the initial Charge and then stayed in combat to futilely try to use his Scattergun.
First blood went to The Blade, who Charged in again and managed to kill Brother Jerrid before being shot down by Mama Hanna in turn. A worthwhile trade as the Civilian had a nearly unobstructed run to the Flapper now, with just Mama Hanna standing in the way.

Turn 3 was much of the same, with the Civilian taking a shot from Mama Hanna. But his substantial 14 HP pool meant more than a few Ultra Repeater hits would be needed. Eventually Maynard Charged into the back of the Ducky, and the pain started…like really, really started. The Saber hits at 3A-6D, with +1 Attack on Charge, so you can imagine how long the Ducky lasted. He basically never cleared Panic and took 11 HP of damage on the first Charge. Unfortunately the Black Hills Raider player (me, haha) didn’t use the “Berserker” Trait for a glorious 6A-6D attack (which likely would have one-shot the Ducky, combined with the existing damage from Betty One-Eye).

Turn 4 saw the Raptor and Papa again fail to hit each other. Papa unfortunately needed a Reload on his pistol fairly early on in the fight, otherwise he could do more reliably done damage that way instead of a risky 1A-5D Scattergun shot hitting on 8+. Luckily the Raptor is hitting on 8+ as well. The Civilian is within a turn of the Flapper now, but took another shot from Mama Hanna on the way and is down to 5 HP. As expected the Ducky didn’t last another turn against Maynard’s wrath, freeing up the two Black Hill characters to move towards the Flapper area.

Turn 5 wrapped up some of the attacks. After killing the Ducky last turn, Maynard had moved south, and this turn could move again and Charge at Mama Hanna. The successful Charge dropped her like a sack of bricks. This left Papa Jonas alive, and the Civilian one Activation away from the Flapper. Summoning his courage the Birkshire leader left combat with the Raptor (who failed to Snap Attack, which would have killed Papa), and angled his line of fire to get one last shot on the Civilian.
Annnnnnd promptly missed! Because he is the Leader he can’t “Yeehaw!” himself, so with that, the Civilian activated, moved to the Flapper, and the game was over. Victory to the Black Hill Raiders!
Here you can see the final, desperate shot of Papa Jonas as the Civilian rounds the hill towards the Flapper.

What’s Next?
Great fun all around! With deployment and rules explaining the game still only took about an hour. As you know I’m so happy with the state of the Dinosaur Cowboy rules. I do have some very minor tweaks (this is literally one of my TODO items: – Fix capitalization in Quickdraw rules for “100kw” instead of “kW”), but otherwise it’s all good.
I won’t make any promises of getting another game in on this table, or doing the Lego town I mentioned in my last post. Instead I’ll just say hopefully I talk to you again soon!

Lego town mixed with normal terrain

March 2015 Update: I finally played out this battle report (albeit with a slightly different Lego table). Take a look at the Thermopolis Outpost Raid with Lego!

Been a long while since my last post! I had a kid, so that’s definitely shifted my focus elsewhere :) As life starts to settle back down I’m hoping to get back into tabletop gaming.

In the meantime I’ve noticed my Lego Lone Ranger post gets a lot of hits from searches. So I figured it would be fun to eventually try a battle report using the Quickdraw posses, but in a Lego town and with Lego minifigs.

Here’s the table I setup to get a feel for how viable the idea is, complete with a dinosaur towing a Lego cart, a jail cell at the end of the road, some rooftop planks to climb between buildings, and various Lego chests scattered around the map (which I’ll use as some kind of Crate feature in the game):