Monday, December 12, 2016

A-Wings and B-Wings and TIEs Oh My

A-Wings are fun to fly
After our rousing game of Retro Raygun last week, Jon and I kept to our space theme and headed to a galaxy far, far away for a game of X-Wing. I hadn't played in a long time, and was very rusty on the rules. But in the end, we muddled through for a fun game.

Jon (who always seems to end up playing the bad guys!) took a pair of TIE Interceptors and one TIE Fighter, while I countered with a pair of A-Wings and a B-Wing. We just put some meteors on the table and started at opposite sides and went at it.

And, of course, the Rebels won. :)

We didn't play with any additional special attributes or anything. But we discovered the A-Wings are quite maneuverable, if a bit light on weaponry, while the B-Wing drives like a tank but if anything gets in its way it's toast. And the general commentary was the Empire clearly is not concerned with pilot safety. How about some shields here, your eminence?!

I'd like to get this one out more often. I've tried it with my kids with mixed results, but they are getting older now and may be able to handle it better. I did end up buying one of the starter sets for my nephew/brother-in-law for Christmas, so maybe I can get a game or two in there.

B-Wings = tanks


This could get interesting....

Where'd all the TIEs go?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Retro Raygun: Mission to Riderso

Ace McGuire and Jane Hunter crouched, hidden - for the moment - in a small copse of trees near their target.

"I don't like it," Ace said quietly.

"You never do," replied Jane.

The pair were the leaders of a crack unit of Galacteers sent down to the surface of the planet Riderso, which had recently come under attack by the Robot Legion. The settlers of Riderso, mostly farmers, were no match for the legions of Queen Mechanika. Her centurions immediately began the task of "cleansing" the planet and turning it into another factory to produce more of her minions.

Ace and Jane were studying the Robot Legion primary base on the planet. It had been a long slog to get here, but if they could take out the main shield generators, the rest of the Galacteer force could strike directly at the base, hopefully convincing the 'bots to leave Riderso.

"No, I mean I really don't like this," Ace repeated. "Look, hardly any cover once we get past these trees. Just those small structures. This is gonna be tough."

"And you always say that," replied Jane. "Come on, let's go."

Reluctantly, Ace gave the signal. To his left, Yellow Squad was ready with its ion blaster, as was Red Squad right behind him, along with his old friend, Rocky Rizzo. To his right was Blue Quad, with Dr. Zahn and an engineer assistant.

"Oh, nuts!" said Ace just after his Galacteers fired up their jet packs and started heading toward the objective . They had been spotted already! How?

Two Robot Squads started heading toward their position and, worst of all, Ace saw to of the giant Warbots heading their way. No choice now but to keep going.

It was a disastrous start. The squads took what shelter they could behind the round Ridersoan structures, but Ace cringes as he saw a Robot unit take out Yellow Squad. Jane yelled and pointed, and Ace turned just in time to see Blue Squad go down. He feared the worst, but his spirits lifted when he saw Rocky emerge from the smoke and start running toward where he and Jane were hunkered.

But right away, he saw they had bigger problems.


Ace brought up his raygun, but the mechanical lady was too fast! One shot from her stunray sent him flying through the air - all the way back to the copse of trees! Jane screamed and went to her knees from the force of the blast.

Meanwhile, Rocky had his own troubles as one of the giant Warbots blocked his path to Ace and Jane. Thinking quickly, he jammed the butt of his raygun rifle into the back of the giant robot's knee joint, causing it to stumble backwards. It was just the opening he needed to turn back toward Ace and Jane. But where was Ace?
Recovering quickly, Jane got back to her feet and faced her female nemesis.

"Guess it's just us," Jane said.

Mechanika made no reply, but the mechanical noises - was it laughter - from her made Jane shudder. Jane tried to take a step toward the bucket of bolts, but again Mechanika was too fast. One blow sent Jane flying as well, toward where Ace had landed.

"No!" screamed Rocky as he rushed toward Mechanika, with two of the pestering little minibots nipping at his ankles. But even the galactic brawling champion was no match for the metal beast this day, as he, too, was sent spiraling through the air after his companions.

That left just Red Squad to try to complete the mission. They used their jet packs to reach their assigned shield generator, with the Dr. Zahn immediately setting up his demolition gear while the squad provided a screen. Right away one of the Warbots headed their way. While the Warbot and Yellow Squad exchanged fire, Dr. Zahn managed to destroy the shield generator!

But as he looked up in triumph, he saw the Warbot heading right toward him, with no sign of Yellow Squad in the smoke. Before he could react, the Warbot was on him. He stood his ground, but he felt the world going dark around him...

Back at the trees, Ace was helping Jane and Rocky to their feet.

"Come on, we've got to get out of here!" he yelled at them.

"But what about the rest?" asked Rocky.

"What rest? They're gone!" Ace replied.

"No!" said Jane. "I saw a generator blow. Someone got through. It must have been Zahn! We can't leave him!"

"He's a smart guy, and a survivor, he'll be OK," said Ace. "We'll get him later. For now, we need to move!"

As if to emphasize his point, raygun fire from an advancing Robot squad knocked down a branch above their heads.

The trio ran back in the direction of their rocket, discouraged by the outcome, but more determined than ever to come back to finish the job - and to rescue Dr. Zahn from the clutches of Queen Mechanika before she could extract Galacteer secrets from him!

To be continued....

OK, now some thoughts:

I played this game with my friend Jon at Rider's Hobby Shop in Flint yesterday using the scenario more or less straight out of the rulebook. In short, it was a blast! We attributed the difficulties of the Galacteers to three factors:
1. Bad initiative rolls. The first two turns, initiative went to the Robots. As the attacking force, that was bad news for the Galacteers. The Robots were one step ahead of them the whole way.
2. Crazy Robot rolls. Geez, Jon, how many sixes can you roll!
3. Lack of linear cover. Some walls, pipelines, crevasses or even rock piles would have provided better cover for the advancing Galacteers. Need to work on some terrain.

But regardless, Retro Raygun provided a fun game, and I can't say enough how absolutely gorgeous these minis from Hydra Miniatures are. We both agreed they perfectly represent the spirit of the genre, and are a delight to paint. He's already talking about expanding his Robot force, and maybe getting into Imperials. I'm pretty set on Galacteers, but having started Valkeeris, may have to pick up some more to expand that faction.

We will definitely give this another go!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Day of Infamy

Today seemed as good a day as any, ahem, to give Day of Infamy: The Attack on Pearl Harbor from High Flying Dice Games a try. I've had it in the stash a while, but just hadn't gotten to it. This is one that seems particularly suited for solitaire, so I gave that a whirl first, though I hope to try with a live opponent soon.

Pearl Harbor is one of those events that at first glance seems impossible to wargame in any meaningful way. As some astute readers from years past may have noted, I have successfully gamed small, individual plane-on-plane actions as part of the Pearl Harbor attack using Check Your 6 miniature rules. Having P-40s and P-36s scramble to do what they can against individual formations of Zeroes, Vals and Kates is one thing, replicating the entire attack is another.

And yet, this game manages to do it in a reasonably convincing way. I admit I had my doubts, but it managed to hold my attention, offer me options (as the Japanese attacker, anyway, though the Americans do have some choices of their own to make), and leave the outcome in doubt. Well, relatively in doubt. Let's make no mistake here, the Japanese are going to "win." But with an interesting set of victory conditions provided, the American player can more than hold his own. In fact, in the end, my game ended in a US "victory." As an interesting aside, each victory level states that ultimately the US wins the war.

As for game play, rather than a hex map, the map features an overview of Pearly Harbor, with five attack zones delineated: Battleship Row, Hickam Field, Ford Island and two tank farms. The game is card driven (I sprung for the special set of cards from HFD, which I think greatly add to the level of enjoyment of the game), with each card indicating how many actions a player gets, or whether there is a special event, etc. Players use actions to move forces onto the board, conduct attacks, etc.

A very clever system allows for the US awareness level to increase throughout the game, meaning its defense capabilities increase throughout the game. In effect, this means that the Japanese player is likely to enjoy his greatest success on turn one, then find the going more difficult with each successive turn. (The game lasts six turns.)

Indeed, that's how it worked for me. A wave of Kates really hit Battleship Row on turn one, but had only a few hits after. Same with Hickam and Ford; I used Vals to hit those, but all the damage was done early. By the time I turned to the tank farms, I only managed one hit. It should be noted the US player can exercise a "repair" option to reduce damage levels. I was able to that a few times with Hickam.

As for fighters, the Japanese player can escort bombers to minimize the effects of AA fire or take opportunity attacks to minimize repair capabilities. It's done abstractly, but very effectively. US fighters have a difficult go of it - I was never able to do a lot, and found it virtually impossible to hit the Zeroes. Probably accurate!

Other features included that didn't play into my game are Japanese midget subs, the possible escape of the USS Nevada and even the arrival of a flight of F4Fs from the Enterprise. What that adds up to for me is replayability potential!

One production note, the included game tracker has one line that is supposed to be used to keep track of the level of everything: damage, alertness, victory points and all. That got very cluttered very quickly and was difficult to use. I quickly whipped up another sheet that broke them all out into individual tracks, and it was much easier to follow. Other than that, counter quality/readability and the map are very nice. Some rules concepts a bit difficult to grasp when just reading the rules, but make much more sense when actually playing.

Kudos to game designer Paul Rohrbaugh for tackling a difficult subject and yet making it work and an abstract, streamlined fashion that still yields believable results.