Wednesday 30 November 2011

Blasters & Bulkheads Part Three - The Escape

This is the second AAR from my Blasters & Bulkheads micro-campaign, pitting adventurer Gann Helray and his Black Falcons against Beros, Chosen of the Shadow Worlds (see the forces I created here).  After the last scenario (full AAR in the previous article), Helray learned that an old flame was attempting to smuggle an artifact out of the spaceport of Zillium.  She is being pursued by Beros, who has been sent by the Shadow World Elders to retrieve the item in question.  The orders didn’t specify anything about keeping the courier alive - but the item must be retrieved intact.


Alina Jax had almost reached her ship when she caught site of Beros The Chosen.  She cursed the alien who paid her to steal this artifact - he had obviously lied to her about its origins and importance.  She’d have to pay him another visit... if she managed to survive the next few minutes.

Scenario Two Setup
This scenario takes place just after the last battle.  Helray’s alien companion Kwah’Koo was badly wounded (KO’d) in the last game, and operates at a speed and strength disadvantage for this battle.

This game is the second scenario from the Blasters & Bulkheads rulebook, with just a few minor changes.  In the book, both parties are trying to stop the Courier (basically a moving objective with character stats).  In my storyline Helray wants Alina to escape safely, so his side’s objective is simply to delay Beros’ forces long enough for Alina to escape.  Beros’ objective is to take the artifact from Alina before she can reach the ship.  She can move up to 10cm per turn, so Beros must act quickly to stop her.

Alina is a GZG Civilian Colonist.  A mix of other GZG and Laserburn civilians were scattered around the table.  Scenery is a mix of GZG Shacks, Battleworks Studios Startown Slums, and The Scene Desert Dwellings.  Alina's ship is a Titanium-series Battlestar Galactica Raptor toy (which I need to repaint).


Alina ran toward her ship at the start of the turn.  Helray won initiative and charged to intercept her.  Beros also charged directly forward.  Kwah’koo charged as well, but couldn’t keep up with Helray due to his injury.  Nazaeran advanced and had a clear line of sight to Helray.  He fired his Sun Gun at the young nobleman - Helray lost two Vitality.  Sarge and the Black Falcon Troopers couldn’t activate until the end of the turn (see last AAR), so the activation passed to Beros’ Guardian henchmen.  Beros ordered them to set their rifles to Stun and fire on Alina.  They weren’t successful due to the range.

Sarge caught up with Kwah’koo and took a potshot at Beros.  It was unlikely to succeed at this range, but Sarge likes saying a proper “hello” to old friends.  Surprisingly, he was able to knock a couple Vitality off the dark warrior.  Sarge ordered his troopers around a nearby shack, hoping to gain to a better firing position.


The spaceport civilians were now fleeing into their buildings.  Alina managed to find temporary shelter behind a rusted shack, still inching closer to her ship.  Helray won initiative again and caught up with Alina.
"Gann Helray... We must stop meeting like this."
Kwah’koo moved to a cover position with the Falcon Troopers.  Beros ran to intercept Alina and Helray, while Nazaeran advanced and fired on Sarge.  Sarge was hit for three Vitality.  Beros’ Guardians charged towards Alina’s shuttle.

Sarge aimed and shot at Nazaeran, but his rifle was no match for the Enforcer’s heavy armor.  The Falcon troopers took a firing position behind a pile of containers... all they could do was wait for targets.
"No, Trooper, you may NOT stop to pet the dog."


Helray escorted Alina to her shuttle.  They almost made it when Beros caught up with them.  He struck, draining two Vitality from each.
"What, you mean this package?  It's just a birthday present for your mother..."
Kwah’koo scurried to assist, but ended up in Nazaeran’s sights once again.  Kwah’koo had some miserable rolls for the attack - he lost six Vitality to the Sun Gun’s blast.  He was KO’d for the second straight battle.
"Dear Santa - Power Armor.  Soon . Thank you."
Beros’ Guardians attacked Sarge.  The dice finally went against Beros’ forces - the Guardians only rolled a single success on their attack.  Sarge happily returned fire, dropping three of the Guardians.
"I get the feeling they don't like us."
His troops abandoned their cover and raced to the aid of Kwah’koo.  They broke out his Med Kit, but were unable to revive him.


Alina was unable to break away, and Helray couldn’t harm Beros.  Beros used his “disarm” Essence Power to grab the artifact from Alina.  He left the melee.  Once he was clear, Nazaeran slipped around the corner and fired his flamethrower at Helray and Alina.  They were both KO’d while still on fire... not an impressive end to their mission.
"Boss, you need anything?"
"An ice pack would be lovely. It's a little warm in the middle of this bonfire."
Sarge managed to shoot down the last two of Beros’ henchmen.  The Falcon Trooper who attempted to help Kwah’koo carried him back to the table edge.  Two Falcon troopers laid covering fire towards Nazaeran while the other two ran to extinguish Helray and Alina.

Sarge took a potshot at Beros, then assessed the situation.  The boy, the girl, and the blue thing were all down, possibly dying.  Sarge himself had also been wounded in the firefight.  He ordered his troops to grab the wounded and fall back... if they didn’t receive medical attention soon, the baron would probably execute Sarge for allowing his son to die fighting a Chosen Warrior.  

Beros and Nazaeran had no problem reaching their ship.  The elders would be unhappy that Beros’ Guardians had been killed, but he had accomplished his mission.  He had also dealt a blow to that Helray boy... a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget.  Nazaeran set course for the Shadow Worlds, and Zillium quickly became a speck behind them.  

Yes... that Helray boy was proving to be quite troublesome...

That's all for my little Blasters & Bulkheads field test.  A detailed review of the rulebook will follow shortly... in the meantime, pleas send flowers to Helray and Alina in the burn unit.


Monday 28 November 2011

15mm RPG Skirmish Games

I’ve read quite a bit recently about how 15mm sci fi is for massed battles of vehicles and infantry and 28mm is for skirmish games. With respect to those who hold this view, I think its rubbish.

Currently gamers can chose from some great rule sets such as: Laserburn, Blasters and Bulkeads, In The Emperor's Name, The Department, 5150 New Beginnings and AE Bounty; all of which RPG elements such as player controlled characters and scenario driven games play and table top wargame skirmish elements. And there’s also a rumour Ambush Alley Games maybe working on something as an add-on to Tomorrow’s War.

When we look at some of the first 15mm sci fi figures ever available, the Laserburn and Classic Traveller ranges of 15mm sci fi figures, we can see that 15mm sci fi figures produced were for small scale skirmish / RPG type games such as Laserburn (the predecessor to Rogue Trader edition of Warhammer 40K) and Traveller and it’s skirmish wargame counterpart Striker.

A common complaint is that there aren’t enough character models in 15mm. There are quite a lot of individual character models available in the ranges mentioned above but there are also loads available from Rebel, there's Khurasan's Heroes and Villains of the Sepulvedan Resistance and the DPLS Crew, there's GZG large range of civilians and colonists, ravagers and free trader crew, the excellent Critical Mass Games Mercs, to name but a few. I'm very slowly accumulating 15mm sci fi character models over on my own blog so I know the options are there!

That said, there’s plenty of room for new models with bags of character; there’s a notable lack of “force users” and “psychers” and there’s also a shortage of “evil masterminds” in the style of Ming the Merciless or Darth Vader and “heroic types” such as Commander Sheppard or Luke Skywalker who are suitable to represent RPG characters on the table top.

Of course, rather than waiting round for someone to sculpt and cast the model you’re looking for, you can always convert an existing figure. Some gamers may think that 15mm figures can’t be converted but there are quite a few examples of very heavily and very nicely converted 15mm sci fi figures. A little bit of green stuff can go a long way in 15mm but it does take a degree of modelling skill. Fortunately this is something you can pick up with a bit of practice and a degree of perseverance.

Probably the simplest conversion is a head swap. Just look at all the 15mm heads available from Peter Pig for head swaps! And don't forget GZG’s conversion heads and also Astro Miniatures offerings. Perhaps in a future article we’ll take a more detailed look at converting a few different 15mm sci fi figures.

Small scale skirmish gaming is great in 15mm for all the reasons that gaming in 15mm is great. As I’ve said before; 15mm allows you to build forces that don’t take an age to paint and you won’t have to mortgage your home to fund your obsession, or build an extension in order to house it!

What do you think about 15mm sci fi wargaming; are you into gaming massed planetary assaults on rebellious colony worlds, or shoot outs between rival gangs on the mean streets of the far future? I think 15mm sci fi wargaming has room enough for both, and everything in between!

Brigade Models announces annual Xmas Sale

From Tony at Brigade Models-

"Welcome once more to our Xmas sale. As for the previous couple of years, we're running a blanket discount rather than specific special offers, since everyone seems to like them. Although there are a few exceptions*, this isn't a '15% of selected items' or 'Up to 15% off' sale, it's a real '15% off everything' sale.

So once again that's 15% off all of our models* - Aeronef, starships, Land Ironclads, 15mm and 6mm tanks, Squadron Commander, Iron Stars, WWI Belgians ... all except Celtos, where the Celtic Gods are being even more generous ... 25% off Celtos miniatures!

And that's it - no minimum or maximum orders, just a blanket discount for the whole of December. So what are you waiting for ? Go out there and shop !

* - There are just a few exceptions and conditions, as you might expect ... percentage shipping rates will still be charged at the full item cost, since we were unable to persuade the post office to match our offers ! The discount covers our metal and resin models - it doesn't apply to rulebooks, dice, bases, game mats, Xmarx buildings or anything else that we don't manufacture ourselves, simply because the margins on those items are much tighter. However, starter packs with rules, dice or bases in are covered. Even with these limitations, we're sure you'll agree it's a mighty fine offer !"

Click on the link to see full details.

Spartan 117

Saturday 26 November 2011

Review GZG New Releases – Humanoid Bots, NAC and UNSC

Jon over at Ground Zero Games was kind enough to provide the Dropship Crew with samples of his latest releases.

First up, and the most interest to me, is SG15-V16 Humanoid ‘Bots. These are 3 different humanoid-styled servant robots. Jon describes them in his news feed as “the offspring of an illicit liason between C-3PO and Gort with a strong dash of Hajime Sorayama thrown in for good measure.” I think the picture below illustrates this point!

There are two well proportioned human-sized "male" and "female" bots, but the gem of the 3 is a larger cargo-handling bot who’s exterior plating closely resembles the armour of GZG’s New Israeli range (perhaps it’s a product of the NI arms industry!?!).

I’ve been crying out for more 15mm humanoid robots and these guys certainly fit the bill. These could be used as anything from casual bystanders in colony space port to murderous Fabricated Human Simulants for the game The Department. The pack contains 6 figures (2 each of the 3 different bots) and is £3.00 inc. VAT.

Next up is SG15-A22 NAC Power Armour with Hand Weapons. This is the second pack of the newly re-sculpted NAC power armour and contains 6  figures (3 each of two, quite similar, poses) with hand weapons, supplied with separate (optional) assault jump packs - pack contains 3 "standard" jump-packs, 2 jump-packs with over-shoulder micromissile clusters, and one command jump-pack with sensor/comms systems.

As you can see from the pictures above, these new sculpts compare well with the older NAC PA sculpts but are a little but thinner and have different integral back packs. You can particularly see the benefits of the resculpt in the details on the legs of the new figures. You can see our review of the first pack here. The weapons and pose options available also expands the possibility of fielding larger power armoured forces without the same few poses repeated over and over. The pack contains 6 figures plus 2 sprues of jump-packs: £3.00 inc. VAT.

Lastly we have SG15-U26 UNSC Light Troopers with GMS(P) light portable anti-armour missiles. This pack contains 8 figures, four each in prone and kneeling poses, all with single-shot missile tubes in firing positions.

The prone figure is the same that which is currently supplied in pack U24 and Jon will probably revise U24 into a different figure mix in due course. Pack contains 8 figures (4 each of 2 different) and is £3.00 inc. VAT.

All in all some nice, useful, releases. That said what I, and many other 15mm sci fi gamers, really want to see is what GZG are going to produce as part of the official figure line for Tomorrow’s War!  But we may need to be patient... Jon has a Christmas Sale on at the moment so what better excuse to pick up some GZG stocking fillers!

Breaking News - Sale Season


GZG logo - used completely without permission

In breaking news, the long anticipated Ground Zero Games Christmas Sale has been announced.

This just lifted from the Ground Zero Games Webstore:

"Our 2011 Xmas Special starts from 00.01 (UK time) hours on SATURDAY 26th NOVEMBER and runs until MIDNIGHT (UK time) on Wednesday 21st December. All qualifying orders (which are all those for over £30 of product, EXCLUDING VAT AND SHIPPING*) will get TWO specials included:

"1) All orders for £30 or more of goods at list prices EXCLUDING VAT* get a FREE GOODIE BAG of extra minis and stuff - how much you get depends on the size of your order, and we'll tailor most of the contents to fit the kind of items you are ordering (plus the occasional odd item that might tempt you into other ranges and scales...). What goes in the bag is OUR choice, so no cheekily asking for particular things please, but those of you who have had our previous Xmas deals will know that we give you a generous selection of things that you can actually use for your armies/fleets!
Sometimes we put in the odd special or unreleased item too, so you never know what you might get....

"2) In addition to the Free Stuff, qualifying orders will also get a VOUCHER that you can use to get a generous DISCOUNT off a further order placed after Christmas - so you can get your pre-Xmas stuff now, and then use the voucher up when you have some gift money from all those relatives who have absolutely NO idea what to buy for you!

Read the full text on the Ground Zero Games webstore.

## ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ### ##

And from Splintered Light Miniatures via their Facebook page:

"Greetings. I will be putting this up on the website with the sale prices changed but my web-guy is very busy at the moment so I wanted to go ahead and send out the announcement and let everyone know they can start the sale in the old fashioned way. I am going to be offering a 20% off sale from today through midnight December 31, 2011. For anyone who responds to this post and as thanks for another year of great customers, I will be offering you 25% off.

"I do have some new items not on the website. Feel free to include them in the list of what you want.

WOEL08A Wood Elf Cavalry Command on Elk (6) $12
WOEL08B Wood Elf Cavalry Command on Horses (6) $8
WOEL09A Wood Elf Light Cavalry on Elk (6) $12
WOEL09B Wood Elf Light Cavalry on Horses (6) $8
WOEL10A Wood Elf Medium Cavalry on Elk (6) $12
WOEL10B Wood Elf Medium Cavalry on Horses (6) $8
WOEL11 Wood Elf Eagle Riders (3) $12
WOEL12 Wood Elf Princess on Unicorn (1) $2
ORC15 Orc Warriors 2 (12) $10
MISC23 Elk (6) $9
MISC24 Eagles (3) $9
DWARF14 Dwarf 2-H Axes
DWARF15 Dwarf Cutting Edge Axemen (12) $8
DWARF16 Dwarf Rune Guard (12) $8

"If you email a list of what you want, I will be happy to send you a paypal invoice. Also. The goblin huts will be 10% off. I have the following available

Set of Four Huts (4) $8
Shaman's Hut (1) $8
Chieftain's Hut (1) $8
Lean-To Tents (6) $8
A-Frame Tents (6) $8


While Splintered Light specialise in Fantasy figures, they do stock a very nice Science Fiction freighter crew, and some of their Fantasy figures could easily be repurposed as low-tech alien hordes, exotic animals, or modified as character figures. Their Dark Elder make very nice Darrians with a little modification.

Friday 25 November 2011

Playing By The Rules - A Guide to 15mm Rulesets

UPDATE - A more updated version of this guide is permanently available on this page.

For new gamers, one of the most daunting aspects of 15mm Sci-Fi is the wide variety of available rulesets.  When it comes to traditional "big games"  (Warhammer 40,000, Infinity, Battletech, Firestorm Armada, etc.), you typically buy your rules and miniatures from a single company.  Sure, you can proxy other minis or use those minis with other rules, but the overwhelming majority will use those rules and figures exactly as the manufacturer intends.

15mm is different.  The manufacturers are one- or two-man operations, so you won't find much of their product in game shops (yet).  Some do publish their own rules, but all expect and encourage their figures to be mixed, matched, and used in any way we desire.  But if you're a newcomer, or even an experienced 15mm gamer wanting to try something different - where in the world do you start?

There are numerous rulesets available - we cannot hope to cover them all, or properly illustrate the differences between each set.  But we can break them into general categories, tell you how much you should expect to pay or where to download the free PDF, how many figures you can use, and maybe some of our personal opinions on how they handle 15mm games.

Battle Rules with Multiple Figures Per Base.  These games are generally played by mounting fireteams of 2-6 infantry onto round, square, or rectangular bases.  Ideal for balanced tournament-style play, or for playing massive armor-heavy games.  The main options in this category are:
  • Critical Mass.  The flagship game from Critical Mass Games - it is specifically tailored to their factions.  £11.99 for a 100-page printed book.  Available here.
  • Future War Commander.  A very flexible and open game system, reviewed awhile back by Mark.  It did feature premade army lists of the 15mm lines at its time of publication, but it hasn't been updated with any of the last few years' worth of new products (it does have a robust system for generating your own stats and forces).  Publisher's webstore here for £20, also available from many online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • Hammer's Slammers: The Crucible.  Plays armor-centric battles in the style of David Drake's novels.  The game's homepage is here, with a collection of eye candy you'll have to see to believe.  The rulebook can be purchased here for £25; there are also starter sets with Old Crow tanks.
  • Alien Squad Leader. Designed to capture that classic b-movie feel.  Also reviewed earlier by Mark, so we won't go into many details here.  Available here for £12.
  • Galactic War I.  Blue Moon Manufacturing's game supports the Space Opera styling of their miniatures, but it's open enough to use with any models you have.  Available here for $25.
  • Valkyrie.  Designed to support ArtCrime Productions' line of miniatures.  Currently available as a PDF download with their boxed army sets - soon to be available as a standalone product.
  • Traveller: Striker.  One of the granddaddies of 15mm Sci-Fi gaming.  No matter which versino of Traveller you prefer (Little Black Books, GURPS, New Era, etc.), there's a Striker game available.

Battle Rules with Single-Based Figures.  These are probably the most common type of science fiction wargame.  You'll have anywhere from a few fireteams to a platoon-plus per side, along with some support vehicles, flyers, walkers, tunnelers, and just about anything else you can imagine.  This is a very broad category - feel free to let us know (and don't be offended!) if we missed any major player.
  • Tomorrow's War. Ambush Alley and Osprey Publishing's beautiful sci-fi game, based on their successful Force On Force engine.  You can read Matt's detailed review here.  
  • 5150: Star Army.  A unique game from Two Hour Wargames, using their Chain Reaction engine to provide some very unpredictable situations.  Available here as a $20 PDF or $25 printed book.
  • Gruntz 15mm. Instead of creating a generic book, author Robin Fitton made a tremendous effort getting the 15mm manufacturing community's support in this ruleset.  Thomas' detailed review is found here.  PDF format, available for $9 from Wargames Vault.  
  • Fast And Dirty. Author Ivan Sorensen offers one of the most complete game systems you'll ever find for free, and it gives most pay-to-play rulesets a run for their money.  Available here.  
  • FUBAR. A very enjoyable one-page game from Craig Cartmell's Forge Of War Development Group.  Experienced gamers will appreciate not having to flip through pages of rules, charts, or reference sheets to figure out what's supposed to happen.  Free download here.  
  • USE ME (TITLE 001). A very slick little game.  These are generic rules, but it takes very little time to create detailed stats for any model in your collection.  You can buy the printed A6 version here for 3.50, or as a downloadable full-sized PDF here for $5.
  • Forge Of War. The flagship game from the development group of the same name. This ruleset started out as an alternate way to use Games Workshop miniatures, but has grown into a very solid game system.  Free download here.  
  • Beamstrike.  An open-source game based on the old Imperial Commander rules.  Download rules and supplements from here.
  • Defiance: Vital Ground.  We can't find many reviews or battle reports with this system from Majestic 12 Games.  But it appears to have a very robust points-based army creation system.  There is a free demo on their website; the full version is a $20 PDF or $30 printed book.
  • Stargrunt II.  Jon Tuffley's classic game, designed for the Ground Zero Games ranges but suitable for any miniatures.  Free PDF download here.  
  • Imperial Commander.  The battle version of the Laserburn skirmish game (see below).  Printed book available here for £5.50.
  • WarEngine.  A free online continuation of the old ShockForce game.  These are presented in a Wikipedia format.  Available here

Small Skirmish Games.  These games are played with just a handful of miniatures per side.  They usually have an emphasis on heroic characters, cinematic skirmishes, tracking money, resources, and injuries between scenarios.  These are hybrids between Role Playing Games and full Tabletop Wargames.  We should mention that most were originally designed for use with 28mm figures, but they still provide very satisfying games with 15mm minis.
  • Blasters & Bulkheads.  A cinematic space opera game pitting bounty hunters, smuggler captains, Essence warriors, and teams of henchmen against one another.  $9.95 PDF, available here.
  • 5150: New Beginnings. A very detailed RPG-with-miniatures set in the 5150 universe (see above). Available here as a $20 PDF or $25 printed book.
  • Mutants and Death Ray Guns/Flying Lead.  Both titles are from Ganesha Games.  MaDRG has a post-apocalyptic feel (mutated animals, broken-down cyborgs, etc.), while Flying Lead can very comfortably handle conventional near-future skirmishes.  Both are $8 PDFs available here.
  • AE: Bounty.  Publisher Darkson Designs uses a unique system of templates to create crews of mercenaries, bounty hunters, and other types of intergalactic scum.  $25 for the printed version here, $15 for the PDF here.
  • In The Emperor's Name. In its current form, ItEN is designed to play small skirmishes in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  However, it does have a robust character creation system, and its scenarios and campaign system are equally suited for 15mm games.  The Forge Of War Development Group is adapting it into a generic sci-fi skirmish under the working title of Blaster.  Free download here.  
  • Gut Check/Throwdown.  A solo game developed by SpaceJacker.  It's still a bit of a work in progress, but the game is playable with just a bit of troop-creation effort. Free download here.  
  • Laserburn. The father of Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader.  40K fans will quickly recognize the concepts presented in this skirmish game.  Printed book available here for £6.50, advanced rules and record pads are also available.
  • We Can Be Heroes II.  Designed to be a very light-hearted game - imagine playing out an action/adventure movie on your tabletop.  $12.95 PDF available here.  
  • Star Mogul/Salvage Crew.  Pits crews of adventurers, mercenaries, and alien treasure seekers against each other in small skirmishes, with an emphasis on campaigns and resource tracking.  Free PDF download here.  

So which is best for you?  There are no right or wrong answers (no matter what you might get told on some blogs or forums). If you really don't know where to start, the best thing you can do is paint up a few minis, download a few of the free games on this list, and try them out.  From there, you can try out other free sets, or purchase one or two of the commercial options.  You'll quickly discover what kind of mechanics you like, what you dislike, how much of your own work you're willing to put into the game, and what type of game experience you ultimately want to have.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Blasters & Bulkheads Part Two - Shootout at Zillium Spaceport

Today we continue in our Blasters & Bulkheads series, using the two forces I described in the first article.  I’m going to make this first AAR a bit detailed - if someone familiar with the game notices that I made any obvious mistakes, please tell me in the comments!

Scenario #1 from Blasters & Bulkheads is a straight line-up-and fight set in a bustling spaceport.  A good learning scenario, but it doesn't offer much in terms of built-in background.  So here’s my own attempt at filling it out...

Kane Beros was recently chosen to wield the Shadow Blade, one of the most ancient and powerful weapons in all the Shadow Worlds.  As a final test, the Elders sent him on his first mission.  Alina Jax, a free-lance intelligence agent, was going to take posession of a small artifact in the spaceport of Zillium.  Beros was instructed to retrieve that artifact - Alina's life was of no consequence.  Since this was his first mission as The Chosen, the Overseers sent Nazaeran, one of their most experienced enforcers, to advise him.  Beros was allowed to take five of his best disciples for this mission - each one training for the day they may succeed him as The Chosen.

Gann Helray, a young adventurer and son of a prominent baron, had meanwhile been looking for a way to prove himself to the nobility.  His dearest friend Kwah’koo learned of Beros’ and Nazaeran’s mission, and they decided to act.  Taking out the Chosen would certainly earn Helray a title of his own, and Kwah’koo had long held some sort of vendetta against Nazaeran.  Helray ordered his bodyguard, Sarge, to grab a squad and accompany them to the spaceport.

I rolled for initiative - Gann Helray scored four successes on his seven dice (Mind 3, 2 for being the leader, 2 for the Born Leader trait) while Beros rolled two on his five (Mind 3 and 2 for being the leader).  I assigned the +2 Edge bonus to Gann, and the +1 to Beros (need to make counters for these!).

You know you're a villain when even the guard dogs back away from you..
Gann is only armed with blaster pistols, so I charged him into the nearest cover.  Beros, utterly fearless and focused on his quarry, charged directly toward him.  Kwah’Koo joined Gann in cover.  Nazaeran decided to allow Beros the pleasure of killing Gann, and brought his Sun Gun to bear upon the Black Falcon troopers.  He rolled four successes on his attack, while the Falcons only rolled three succeses to oppose.  A hit. I rolled the Falcons’ damage resistance (six dice with re-rolls on two ) against the Sun Gun’s Damage Number of 7.  Even after the re-rolls, the Falcons only managed three successes - four were KO’d.

"How much is this kid paying us again?"
Sarge moved toward the cover and fired his rifle upon Beros.  He burned two Fate counters and hit Beros with four successes - Beros added two fate to his opposed roll, but only scored three.  Beros added three fate to his damage resistance rolls.  He was able to defend the shot.  Beros’ henchmen then inched forward - moving only 2cm so they could use their heavy weapon.  They scored six successes against Helray, Kwah’koo, and the Sarge - but those characters were at maximum range and in cover.  The dice did not favor Gann and his companions - none were able to stop the blast.  Gann and the Sarge each lost a Vitality - Kwah’Koo lost two.  The surviving Falcon Trooper also took a shot at Beros, but missed.

The victory conditions specify that a side that loses a character may choose to withdraw... henchmen don't really count as characters in Blasters & Bulkheads.

“Lord Helray, were are quickly losing our bodyguards.”  “I’ll buy you some new ones tomorrow, Sergeant. Fight on!”

Beros charged forward.  Helray, staying in cover, moved to within 10” of Beros.  Helray unloaded with both pistols, taking four Vitality from Beros.  Nazaeran advanced and fired his Sun Gun at Sarge, but didn’t hit.  Kwah’koo moved to Helray’s side and fired his pistol at Beros.  He missed.  Spurred by their previous success, Beros’ henchmen tried again with the launcher, this time using all their Fate counters.  Eight successes!  Helray rolled four successes against that, but Kwah’Koo only rolled two.  That put the DN +1 against Helray and a whopping +2 against his alien friend.  Both were reduced to 2 vitality.

Sarge marched forward to intercept Beros.  Even at close range, he only managed to hit with two successes.  Beros easily deflected this.  Sarge’s last Falcon Trooper also closed in on Beros and took a shot.  He hit, knocking one more vitality from Beros.
"What... do you guys not like me or something?"
Beros won initiative.  Since Sarge was so eager to protect Helray, Beros charged him.  He used the Cloud Minds ability first - Sarge lost two Fate for the upcoming melee.  Beros’ attack successes outnumbered Sarge’s by five.  Sarge burned his last three Fate on his Damage Resistance rolls, but still lost two Vitality.
Helray charged out of cover and attacked Beros.  Two measly successes, even with the charge bonus and burning some Fate counters.  Beros deflected.

"Fine... I'll swat both of you like the insects you are."
Nazaeran ignored the melee, looking instead at the lone surviving Black Falcon trooper.  Caught in the open, the trooper couldn’t hope to withstand the attack.  Kwah’koo saw this and took a shot at Nazaeran.  He hit, but Nazaeran’s armor absorbed the shot.

Stand tall, look imposing, and blast anything wearing blue
Beros’ henchmen advanced and fired their blaster rifles at Kwah’koo.  He was KO’d.

"I'm not WEARING blue, you bastards - I AM BLUE!"
This was too much for Helray.  He ordered an immediate retreat...  today was clearly not the opportunity he had hoped for.  Beros ordered his henchmen to search the spaceport.  A frightened civilian worker finally answered him - Alina had escaped during the fighting.  She was making her way to the opposite end of the port... a small courier ship was waiting for her to make a quick getaway.

First and foremost - what was the fate of poor Kwah’koo?  He passed all of his Resolve dice - that should help him on the post-battle roll. He suffered “Serious Injuries,” and would suffer from weakened stats during the next scenario.  Each character gained +1 experience.

Then I rolled for income.  Helray’s group didn’t earn enough credits to pay everyone’s upkeep - two characters (or henchmen groups) would have to suffer a shortfall next game.  I rolled “must activate last each round” as the shortfall.  I assigned this to Sarge and his Trooper group - it made a certain kind of sense since they would all be replacements.

Now we move on to Beros’ group.  Beros earned one experience, and Nazaeran earned two for delivering the KO to Kwah’koo.  They also rolled well for income - three extra credits in the bank after upkeep was paid.

Beros led his men through the streets of Zillium, searching for Alina Jax and the item in her possession.  Helray carried Kwah’koo to Zillium’s med facility, while Sarge called in another team of Falcon troopers.  A spaceport worker raced into the med facility to tell Helray what was going on - and who Beros was trying to get.  Helray only needed to hear her name.  The memories of that one unforgettable night gave him a new sense of purpose.  Kwah’koo was patched up - he’d be slow, but was eager to have another shot at Nazaeran.  And now they knew they didn't have to kill Beros and his men - just slow them down long enough for Alina to make a clean getaway.



Monday 21 November 2011

Blasters & Bulkheads Part One - Force Creation

Now that I've read through the Blasters & Bulkheads rulebook, I think I have a good feel for the rules.  Here are two forces I've used for In The Emperor's Name, adapted into B&B teams.

I started with the bad guys (not sure what that says about me), working from my Laserburn Redemptionists.  In the world I'm slowly developing, the main antagonists will be from a demonic or religious cult.  This will be a very large and powerful organization... it will have basic cannon fodder troops (haven't selected these yet), a group of elite warriors (my Redemptionists) which follow one of the paths to power (I'm going with The Path Of The Chosen for now), and yet another group (my Redemptionist Dreadnought) who wield the deadliest ancient artifacts associated with the temple.  One of the warriors on the Path is granted special gifts or trained in special abilities, which I will use Essence Powers to represent.  So, after spending some time in the Character Creation chapter, here's what I came up with:

It's obviously been awhile since I've played an RPG... my first attempt had some very underpowered characters compared to the book's sample forces.  I originally went with one or maybe two traits per character, but I beefed them up a bit more.  These printed out to twice the size of ordinary playing cards - 5" x  3.5" - and I actually printed two per page plus two card backs.  Since I would be using these cards for bookkeeping instead of one of the paper rosters, I made some counters for Fate and Vitality.  

Then it was time for some heroes.  I decided to go with my G.I.Joe Cobra Viper-inspired Rebel Minis Earthforce Troopers, with a Laserburn character and a Critical Mass Merc as an alien companion.  If you're wondering where the "Black Falcons" name came from - take a look at classic Lego Castle sets.  I'm going to base a bit of this still-unnamed universe's background off of some of my childhood Lego adventures. :)  Gann Helray will be a brash young Imperial Baron (or maybe just an heir at this point)... Black Falcon will be part of his family crest.

Neither force costs the full 80 points suggested by the book, but I figure I'll do some tweaking or adding after my first few games.  In any case, it's time to see how Blasters & Bulkheads performs on the tabletop.  So watch this space for Blasters & Bulkheads Part Two - Scenario AARs.


Saturday 19 November 2011

Odds and ends for the week...

We didn't see as many new 15mm items this week as last, but there are definitely a few things we need to mention.  In addition to the release of the Blasters & Bulkheads rules, we have a few minis... new and old... to put on our Christmas lists.

ArtCrime Productions have released Makat, Nationalist, and Fed starter forces for their flagship Valkyrie game.  Each set includes 250 points worth of minis, along with the PDF version of  the Valkyrie rulebook.  Or if you just want to use ArtCrime's great minis in your own games, Mechanized Infantry Platoons are also available.

For brand new minis, Khurasan Miniatures released the Federal Police/Security Guards.   These are lightly armed, lightly armored, and would be ideal for small skirmishes in urban settings.  They are also valuable minis for anyone collection a Human Colonial force in Alien Squad Leader.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, RAFM has resurrected the ancient Martian Metals Traveller Grav Armor range.  They are certainly older designs, but they still hold up against today's releases.  And talk about heavy metal - the vehicles themselves are 100% finger-smashing pewter castings.  The interior detail kit for the APC is resin - and a pretty neat piece for diorama modelers.


Thursday 17 November 2011

Warning - Tekhnolog ZOD "15mm" Plastics

A range of Russian toys was recently brought to the attention of the TMP 15mm community.  They are from a company called Tekhnolog, supposedly for the ZOD 15mm battle game.  There are several different items available on eBay - mecha, flyers, tons of tanks, and an infantry sprue.  They certainly looked interesting - who hasn't thought about 15mm plastics?  So a few gamers (including me) took the plunge and bought a few items.

The results?  Pretty darn bad.  The detail is soft and the plastic is low-quality - I had several broken (and missing) items in the box.  The most glaring problem - all of the vehicles are roughly 1/144 scale, not 1/100.  The tanks are roughly the length of Matchbox cars, and the Mech hatches and cockpits are so undersized that even Games Workshop wouldn't try to sell them.   

Now, because some TMP'ers can't get past the "ooh, shiny!" factor, there are heaps of justifications on those boards.  Everything from "The mechs could be large battle robots" to "there are plenty of light tanks and tracks in the real world with an even smaller footprint than that."  Well, these aren't supposed to be Wiesel AWC- or FV101 Scorpion-sized vehicles.  These are clearly designed to be futuristic Abrams or Challengers.  Don't try to rationalize yourself into buying the tanks and giving them a different purpose - they just aren't worth it.  And maybe the Mechs could be used for conversions, but why buy these when we have so many good walker options in the 15mm market already?

I have contacted the individual selling these, both via TMP and eBay.  I asked that the listings be changed from 1/100 to 1/144, so they could at least try to be sold to the right people.  The seller simply said that the manufacturer claims these are 1/100, and has (inaccurately) listed more items since that contact.

And now we move on to the infantry.  Here's the biggest problem of all (credit to Mark H. for seeing it first):

Look familiar?  They should.  They are slightly modified recasts of Ground Zero Games' SG15-F01 FSE Legionnaires in Helmets.  

I wish I'd taken a detailed look at the eBay seller's feedback before I bothered with these.  This seller has already been caught recasting Forge World minis.  So it shouldn't be a surprise that they would steal from someone else - namely GZG.  I brought these to Jon's attention - he confirmed that he gave no permission or license for his minis to be recast by Tekhnolog.  Producing these figures is theft, plain and simple.  

Even after all this, I know some of you are still wanting to find a way to use them in your 15mm games.  People, I can't tell you how to spend your money - throw it away if you like.  But please think about these last few points before you do:
  1. This company (or someone at it) is a thief and a re-caster.  The infantry were stolen from GZG.  It's a good bet the vehicles are also not original designs - we just haven't yet discovered where they were stolen from.
  2. These are not 15mm vehicles or mecha.  Yes, I can read.  No, I don't care what the manufacturer says they are.  These are 1/144 vehicles, and you can't just say they are light tanks or robots and call it a day. And if you are a 1/144 gamer?  Even with the low price, these are flimsy and poorly-detailed toys compared to miniatures from Reaper or DP9.
  3. Yes, these are cheap.  How unlimited is your wargaming budget?  Would spending a single penny on these deprive you of a purchase from GZG, Khurasan, Rebel, Combat Wombat, Old Crow, Mad Robot, Critical Mass, Micropanzer, Astro Minis, or anyone else we see on this blog?  When it comes right down to it - who would you rather support? 

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Blasters & Bulkheads Released!

The Dropship caught up with Scott Pyle author of the blog Four-Color Figures to find out about Scott’s new wargames rules, Blasters & Bulkheads. Scott was kind enough to me a give a peak at the pre-publication draft of the game and respond to the questions I bombarded him with!

So first off, what is Blasters & Bulkheads (B&B)? B&B provides rules and scenarios for playing skirmish games in a science fiction universe of exploration, adventure, and cosmic mysticism. These rules strive to emulate conflict with a “Space Opera” or “Science-Fantasy” flavour rather than near future, hard science fiction conflicts. You've probably noticed something a "not-Star Wars" theme from the pictures... This is a table top wargames rule set for fast-moving, heroic or “cinematic” skirmishes.

Whilst this isn’t a detailed review (there's a good, more detailed, review over on TMP), it’s worth mentioning that the goal system is based on a simple system of successes (or ‘goals’) achieved on a fixed target number of 4+ on one or more d6, with a 6 counting as two goals. The number of goals achieved in a roll is counted against a required target number based on the difficulty of a task or the power of a weapon for example.

Characters are made up of 4 attributes: Strength, Agility, Mind and Resolve rated in terms of numbers of dice, as well as a variety of background traits, combat skills, special traits and equipped with a variety of weapons and equipment.

The system is IGOUGO, with players determining initiative each turn with dice roles and taking turns to move characters or units in descending order of initiative until all models have had the opportunity to move and the turn ends.

DH: First up, what makes Blasters & Bulkheads different from the 15mm science fiction wargames rules available already?

Scott: Blasters & Bulkheads has been written as a small group action, character driven skirmish game.  It contains rules and material inspired by the Space Opera genre.  It is less hard sci-fi and more cinematic sci-fi.

DH: What's special, innovative or interesting about the Goalsystem?

Scott: Goalsystem has been around since 2002, and it has grown and matured over time.  It utilizes a D6-based dice pool mechanic to help players decide the action.  It features henchmen rules that allow players to move a lot of models around with minimal bookkeeping, a full-fledged campaign system, a system for mysterious powers, and a character-driven sensibility.

DH: A large proportion of 15mm sci fi gamers seem to want to wargame 'hard' sci fi conflict between platoon to company sized 'conventional' forces, do you think there's a market for a smaller scale 'space opera' alternative?

Scott: I sure hope so!  Of course, you adjust the measurements to play with 28mm figures, but I wrote this with 15mm figures in mind. I believe 15mm fans will also want to delve into skirmish, playing their games out on 2' x 2' squares, or even in non-traditional environments like old space-ship toys or play-sets.  These sorts of pieces can be re-purposed nicely as play environments for 15mm skirmish.  Also, imagine how much farther your resin Dwarven Forge sci-fi corridors will go in 15mm.

DH: What type / size of forces do you need to build in order to play Blasters & Bulkheads?

Scott: At the minimum, you'll need 3 figures per side, but most warbands will consist of 4 - 5 character models and a 5-10 henchmen group.

DH: When are the "Space Knights" used in many of the pictures in Blasters & Bulkheads  and on your blog going to be available?

Scott: Great question!  I am hoping they'll be available by January, 2012. Blue Moon has been really busy with a host of other products, so we'll see.  The idea is to release the two figures you've seen the Four-Color Figures blog along with at least a half-dozen others. Thanks for the opportunity to answer questions on Blasters & Bulkheads!

Blasters & Bulkheads is available now from For $9.95 you get the full-color version (at 101 pages) and the printer-friendly, largely black and white, version (at 100 pages). You can also view full colour sample pages here.

Several of the Dropship crew are now planning to putting together forces to play this fun looking rule set! It's a great excuse to paint up Khurasan Miniatures' DPLS Crew, some of the figures from the Laserburn range, some of excellent Mercs from Critical Mass Games or a host of other unique and interesting 15mm sci fi figures!

Friday 11 November 2011

New Releases This Week

We already showed you preview pics of Brigade Models' new Mudd Eisley-style dwellings.  Tony has made them available for sale this week:

Meanwhile, Khurasan Miniatures has reinforced the Federal Army with a few new items.  The infantry forces receive the Smart Mortar Army Team and the Medical Diorama, and the DIMOG Walkers receive a conversion kit to make these beauties:

We also showed you preview pics of Ravenstar Studios' upcoming heavy walkers earlier this month.  Those are now available, along with a host of drone walkers and other goodies:

And finally, for all you VSF 15mm gamers, Lead Bones has added some Hard Suits and two different sizes of Alien Pods to their Pulp range.

Apologies if we missed anyone else's goodies.  What an eventful week for 15mm Sci Fi!


SATURDAY EDIT: 15mm.Co.Uk also released some Heavy Weapons for their Cultists range.  As with most of their offerings, you can buy these as single castings if you don't want a full pack.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Combat Wombat's "Holy Crap it's Almost Christmas" Sale

To celebrate Scotty's recent bout of pneumonia, Combat Wombat Miniatures is having a sale.  (don't try to make sense of it - just enjoy it!)  

WZ-1551 MICV

Through 15 December, orders under $100 (before shipping) are 10% off.  Orders Over $100 (before shipping) are 20% off.
Bullfrog Landing Craft

CWM recently started to accept money orders, as well as traditional PayPal.  Antibiotics may also be valid currency, subject to local laws.

Scorpion Recce with optional brass barrel

If you've had an eye on any Combat Wombat vehicles or buildings, or just want to use some of his brass barrels to upgrade your existing armor, now is the perfect time to buy!


Monday 7 November 2011

Preview: Grunts Imperator Mecha

Robin Fitton got in touch with the Dropship Crew and shared some sneak peek photos of the Gruntz Imperator 60 ton mecha. You might have seen the concept sketch of it in the main rulebook, but here it is in the resin (which in Robin's words is "a bit rough")! The final model will be in metal though and stands about 80mm tall.

The legs will be posable to make it either standing or walking and some torso twisting is possible as well. It comes with a particle cannon, a missile launcher and the multi-barrel cannon lying in front of it. The metal master has been cast and ready to go into production so we should hopefully see the Imperator available for sale before the New Year.

There are three more mecha from Gruntz in the pipeline as well (you can see one on the Gruntz front page). They range from smaller to larger with one that might be almost twice the size of the Imperator! So get your mech pilots ready...

While it's not up for pre-order quite yet, you can head over to the Gruntz Yahoo group and voice your interest to help gauge how large the initial production run should be.