Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Yes I Am (almost) A Pirate, Part II

So after lunch on Friday, I ran my second game of the day.  This time, it was a much more modern game of Save the Whale.  Anyone who has read the blog regularly has seen those models being painted up; now, it was time for them to be used. 

One thing that I think is important for players of the game (and readers of the blog) to understand is that it is NOT a “serious game.”  I mean, the object for one side is to kill a whale, for goodness sakes!  Instead, the game is much more fun when both sides fulfill the stereotypes that are expected of them.  Fortunately, I had a group of players that were more than ready to embrace said stereotypes.  The whalers not only wanted to harpoon a whale; they were bound and determined to do as much damage to the Greenpeace ships as possible.  My Greenpeace players were equally hardcore:  At the beginning of the game one of them said, “We don’t care about casualties and damage.  We ONLY. WANT TO. SAVE. WHALES!”  With that, I knew we were going to have a rollicking game, and we did.

There are no setup rules per se, so we just rolled random locations for everybody (including the whale) and got started.  For whatever reason, there aren’t as many pictures of this scenario as there are of the earlier one.  I didn’t even start taking pictures until several turns into the game, so this time they are going to be of more interesting moments in the game.  The Greenpeace rubber boats rapidly headed towards the factory ship, which decided to use fire hoses to keep them away.  I explained to the factory ship captain that this would give his side negative publicity points, but to his credit he didn’t care.

Damn the publicity, fire hoses away!
He was successful too.  The die next to the boat means that it can’t move for the next 4 turns.  At the same time, Solo decided to get into the action and turned their hoses on one of the harpoon boats:

"Well, if they can do it. . . "

The brown thing behind Solo is a mooring line.  Ships can drag those behind them to try and foul their opponent’s propellers, but if they roll a 1 on a D6 the line breaks and is lost.  This mooring line is probably in the Greenpeace museum, as the player kept it for the entire game, even after fouling one ship.  The harpoon ship Solo snared was  so badly fouled that with other damage it was down to only one knot of speed.  The players agreed to give him some speed back, as he was out of play otherwise.  He also tried to foul the factory ship but was unsuccessful.

"Somebody's getting a taste of this rope.  Oh, guess it's you."
The one rubber boat swamped by the factory ship wound up not mattering much, as the rest of them swarmed the factory ship and got out the spray paint.  Both of them passed their die rolls, although not on the same turn, and applied slogans to the side of the factory ship.  Fortunately for the whalers, only two slogans counted for publicity points, and the boats ran off to interfere with the harpoon ships after that.

Like fleas on a dog. . . .

"The different colors of paint make it ART, not GRAFFITI!"
The  captain of the factory ship decided to use his ship as a sort of mobile battering ram, trying to force a collision with any Greenpeace vessel he could get close to.  He was remarkably successful in this, giving damage to both protest ships and reducing Rainbow Warrior to no speed by the end of the game. 
Despite all their aggression (and attendant negative publicity) the whalers did not succeed in killing a whale, so the protesters won this game.  Given the laughter around the table for the great majority of the game, I’m going to assume that everyone had a good time.  That ended Friday for me.

On Saturday, I had a chance to play some games, so I took advantage of that.  The first one was a game called Conn, Sonar!  This is a beer and pretzels modern submarine game, and the scenario was the final battle from Hunt for Red October.  Yours truly got to drive the Alfa class sub looking to kill Red October.
1/700 scale subs are oversize, but sure look good.
 The core mechanic of the game is getting a fire control solution on your target.  Every time you are successful using passive or active sonar, you get a solution counter for your target.  Once you have three, you can fire.  You can also try to take back your markers from others by being quiet.  I had an intermittent solution on the US sub, but could get nothing on Red October, as her commander kept extra quiet by using the caterpillar drive.  Fortunately, the Dallas couldn’t fire until he was fired on.
Once I realized that I couldn’t find Red October by being stealthy, I filled the water with active sonar waves.  I finally got a solution and fired two torpedoes before I lost him again.

Things are starting to get a bit crowded.
This is where things REALLY got interesting!  Of my two torps, one did not acquire, and began a circle to the right.  The other acquired Red October but missed her.  Going past the ship, it acquired and began to track Dallas.  That fulfilled her Rules of Engagement, so now she could start shooting back.

"Sorry about accidentally starting WWIII, guys." 

My first torpedo then acquired ME, so I decided it was time to leave the area at full speed.  Dallas turned in front of Red October and fired two torpedoes that had no trouble acquiring me, given the noise I was putting out at 40+ knots.  However, my second torpedo switched from the US sub to the larger target and hit Red October.  Good news for me!  However, a target that large requires two hits to be destroyed.  Bad news for me!

"So, do you want the good news, or the bad news?"

After a turn or so of running like mad, this is my situation:

"Looks like we made someone mad."
As my quarry was only damaged, I decided to try and get out of the torpedo’s seeker heads, and head back towards the (now damaged) missile sub.  They turned tighter than me though, so I wound up taking two USN Mk-48 torpedoes in the side and one was enough to kill me.  Game over.  Being a movie game, the movie quotes were flying around throughout the game.  Among them:

“We’re going to kill a friend, Vasily.”
“Set safeties to zero.”
“You fool, you’ve killed US,” and finally
“You mean you have TWO subs missing in the North Atlantic?”

Overall, they’re a fun set of rules that let us play a game of 19 turns to conclusion in under 2 to 2 1/2 hours, which included explaining the rules.  It manages to capture the feel of submarine combat, or at least what we think it’s supposed to feel like 🤔.

The last game of the day was Check Your 6! Jet Age.  This was another movie game and was actually two scenarios in one session.  To teach everyone the basic movement and combat rules, we did a scenario from the movie Top Gun of students versus instructors.  So, it was F-14's against A-4 Skyhawks with guns but no missiles.  After everyone understood the rules, we reset the game.  This time though, it was the final battle from Top Gun.  You know the one:  “Somewhere in the Indian Ocean.  Present day.”  And yes, we even had the dreaded MiG-28's.  They have missiles and afterburners, so are a much more even fight for the Americans.  The picture below is just after the merge:

Yes, there's an F-18 in the game.  Didn't bother the players, so don't
let it bother you.
THIS time though, the forces of Somewhereastan got their teeth into the Americans invading their airspace.

That is a dead Tomcat.  Note that there's no parachutes, either.
We played a few more turns, but weren't able to complete the game, as we were running out of time.  The end of the game looked like this:

Note that the other Tomcat is smoking.  Black smoke indicates engine damage
and orange indicates afterburner use.
With one F-14 shot down and another damaged, the forces of the People's Democratic Republic of Somewhereastan immediately declared victory.  The funny thing in this game were not the movie quotes (although there were a few), but this:

Remember me?

Yes, the Broadside! token that I mentioned in the first post.  Apparently it is the official currency of Somewhereastan, as over 20 of them were used during the game with the great majority being played by the Commie pilots.  I think at one point we were accused of flying this mission straight from the strip club, due to all the tokens we used!  The money used to purchase them goes to the Battleship Texas though, so it's worth it.  After this game slot, we had our convention speaker and then retired to the traditional after convention dinner.  There were other games played during the two days, but I didn't get any pictures of them.  Whether this is due to being busy, or being lazy, I will leave up to the readers to decide.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Yes I Am (almost) A Pirate, Part I

Clearly, the title for that British 74 post came from Pink Floyd's song Another Brick in the Wall.    Since there are three parts to that song on the album, I guess you can choose for yourself which one it's from.  Personally, I'm more inclined towards part I than the more famous part II but that's just me.  This post title is a song from one of my favorite artists for many years (no, not Warren Zevon) and also describes the events of the day I'm writing about quite well.

Since it's October, that means it's time for another Broadsides! convention.  This year though, because of changes in the management of the Battleship Texas, we had to find another place for the convention at the last minute.  Fortunately, the convention organizer found another venue that is almost as good as the battleship:  The Houston Maritime Museum.

It is a small, but very nice facility and their website is: https://houstonmaritime.org/ .  Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of their exhibits as I was busy running and playing games.  If, however, you are in Houston I recommend taking the time to visit.  They have a 1/48 scale model of HMS Victory that is so nice that I wondered if I could sneak it out under my shirt!  No, I didn't try. 🙄  What I will try is to go back and get some pictures, even if they are only of her.

Since the convention was starting over in a new location, I decided to revisit the scenario I ran from the very first Broadsides; a scenario I call "Jamaica Mistake."  It is a what-if scenario based on the idea that, instead of missing the Jamaica Convoy in the fog during the War of 1812, John Rodgers and his US Navy squadron find a section of the convoy.  All players are on the US side, and the object is to be the player with the largest amount of prize money when the scenario is over.  There are British escorts but they don't show up until after someone starts shooting.  Even then, the actual ship and its entry point are randomized so that I (playing the British) don't know exactly what I will get.

Since the scenario starts with a visibility range of 200 yards (6 inches), there are no ships on the table.  Instead, there are blinds that may or may not be a merchantman and the US entry is randomized for each ship entering on the table edge.  

Not as pretty as I'd originally hoped.
The idea was that each of those black rectangles would be wooden blocks, painted gray, with a discreet number on the back so I could match them to ships.  Well, since I waited till the last night to make them, my mini table-saw blade gave out.  I then discovered that I couldn't cut a straight line with a Dremel tool attachment.  Consequently, I got some craft foam out of the closet and used that.  
Not every one of those squares is a ship; in fact, only about half of them are.  The rest are shadows in the fog, false sightings and the like.  The only way for players to tell was to get within visibility range and actually see what is there.  To make things more fun, the visibility can change every turn.  In the Post Captain rules, you roll a D12 every turn and that is the visibility in yards.

There were only two players, so they drew their ships at random.  One player drew USS President and came in from the top short edge of the table.  The other drew USS Argus and came in from the opposite short edge.  

President from one short edge

Argus from the other
The first couple of phases (remember: for Post Captain there are three one-minute phases in a turn) were not good for either US player.  They discovered that some of the blinds were just empty ocean.  By the end of the blue phase though, they had started finding some targets.

Merchantman: "Oh.  Uh, hello."
I'm blaming any blurry photos on the "fog".  Yeah, that's it. . . .

Luckily for the Americans, the visibility went from 200 yards (6 inches) to 800 yards (24 inches) at the end of the turn.  This made everything but the center of the table visible, and let the commander of President realize that the entire convoy was coming right at him.

The fog begins to lift.
As the game sped up, my picture taking began to be a bit more erratic.  Everything that came within range of President decided that surrender was the wisest option, but the ship that Hornet sighted decided to try and run.  A single broadside from Argus was enough to make that merchant change her mind, but it also let the escorts know that something was wrong.  I rolled, and it would take one of the escorts three turns to reach the table.  Argus' merchantman had decided to surrender, but once the US captain saw the other ships ahead of him he simply sailed right past heading for the other prizes.

We wound up calling this a "naval drive-by."

At the end of this turn, another player came by a put down a Broadside Token. 

If a player puts one down, it lets him redo a die roll, or force another player to re-roll their dice.  If an onlooker puts one down, the game master has to modify something on the next turn.  As I was going crazy trying to keep my makeshift blinds associated with the right ships, I decided that next turn the fog would lift and everything on the table could be seen.

Over the next three turns, Argus kept chasing ships while President had so many surrendered ships around here that there was a bit of a traffic jam. 

In fact, President was in danger of running out of ship's boats.

"You bring that BACK when you're done, Midshipman,"
It was at this point that the Royal Navy finally put in an appearance.  The convoy was escorted by a 64, a 38 frigate and a brig.  My random die roll brought on the frigate, HMS Thalia.  Unfortunately for the Americans, she showed up behind President.  A third player joined in at this point, and wanted to run the British frigate, so I let him do it.

The watchdog arrives.
In our eagerness to start the real fighting, I didn't take any more photos.  Thalia got off a broadside before President could bring her guns to bear, and caused a rudder critical hit.  President  did manage to get turned though, and the two frigates had just settled down to pounding each other when we ran out of time.  All the players enjoyed themselves and said they would play the rules again, so I consider that a successful game.

I had planned on covering the entire convention in one post, but looking at the length of this one battle report makes it clear that I can't pull it off.  So, I'll talk about the rest of the games I played as part II.