Saturday, June 4, 2016

Simple Rules For Space Ship Battles

This is a recap of my basic rules.
They are simple and can be used on squares, hexes, or on an open starfield, it's up to you.
Movement is kept under 6 for miniatures.
Most warships move 3 or 4, slow freighters move 1 or 2 and fighters and shuttles move 5 or 6.
Weapons are largely limited to a 6 inch range, although big guns on a planet or starbase can reach out farther if you wish. Small weapons like those on fighters or shuttles are limited to a range of 3. They have 6 torpedos and 6 beam weapons. All roll individually in an attack on a ship. So an undamaged squadron of 6 would roll 6 dice if firing beam weapons. 6's are hits. as an example, 6 fighters roll 2-6's, therefore the attack strength is only 2.
Fighters firing torpedoes need to roll a 6 per fighter to hit. Each 6 rolled is a hit on the ship which is resolved individually as a hit with the strength of 6 points.
Some torpedos can have multiple movement turns of 6 if you wish.
NOTE: Ships must have a Sensor lock to fire at a target. Fighters do not need to roll for a Sensor lock.
Beam Weapons:
Range 0-3 cause 2 points damage
Range 4-6 cause 1 point damage
Fighter weapons only cause 1 point damage.
Each ship has 6 internal systems, and some external defence systems.
Defence Systems:
Shields: These are set at a maximum of 6 points. However larger ships can have multiple layers of shielding.
I took the idea for this from Lou Zocchi's "Alien Space" game.
An attacker has to equal or exceed the shield strength to cause any damage.
If a defender ship has shields with a strength of 6, and it receives 6 points of damage, the Shields will lose 1 point of strength. There is no internal damage.
If a defender ship has shields with a strength of 5, and it receives 6 points of damage, the Shields will lose 1 point of strength, and 1 point of damage will be applied to the defender's internal systems.
If a defender ship has shields with a strength of 4, and it receives 6 points of damage, the shields will lose 1 point of strength, and 2 points of damage will be applied to the defender's internal systems.
Pretty straightforward, I hope!
Armour: These are set at a maximum of 6 points. However larger ships can have multiple layers of shielding.
These are basically free hits to soak up damage.

Internal Systems:
When a ship receives internal damage, the player rolls one d6 per point of damage to assess the effect.
There are 6 systems:
Each internal system has a maximum of 6 points.(as with Shields, large ships or bases can have several layers of 6 points.)
If the hull points are all lost, the ship is destroyed.
If the crew is destroyed, the ship is a derelict and can be tractored and towed away or boarded and taken by a new crew.
Sensors reflect the "to hit" ability of the ship. The ship must roll equal to or less than the sensor number to fire the weapons. Once destroyed the ship can't fight.
Weapons is straightforward. Once destroyed the ship can't fight.
Cargo can be anything. Extra crew, supplies, spare shuttles, etc. Basically a free hit in most games.
Engines reflect the speed the ship can move. A ship with 4 boxes can move 4 spaces. Once destroyed, the ship explodes. Count up all the unused boxes from all systems and apply that number as damage to any ship within 2 hexes. Half that number within 3 hexes.
Any hit on a previously destroyed system is applied to #1 Hull.

That's pretty much it.

I do have a more "complex" set of damage rules, where the hit on #6-Engines- causes a second roll on internal systems. I created that for space carriers and to differentiate between missile weapons and beam weapons.
These secondary systems are:
1-Torpedo (this makes the first weapons (#4) Beam Weapons hits.)
2-Shields Down! Any remaining shielding is destroyed for this scenario.
3-Life Support Out! - ship crew is dead
4-Shuttles/Fighters A box is destroyed meaning the ship can't land those fighters or if not yet launched, those fighters are destroyed.
5-Fire! Roll 2-d6 damage and apply to the following in this order: Shuttles, Cargo, Hull, Crew
6-Warp Core Breach! Ship explodes with resulting damage to nearby ships.

Some Conventions:
I don't allow multiple ships to add up their attacks to overpower an opponent. Each ship makes its own attack and is resolved.
Fighters are treated as a squadron, up to a strength of 6 per model. Hits generally are applied as a kill, so fighters are pretty vulnerable to ships.
However, they can have a real punch with torpedos. I allow fighters to launch torpedoes or strafe ships with beam weapons.
I break the fighters/shuttles into three categories.
First, fast combat fighters
Second, slower torpedo fighters
Thirdly, Shuttles

Fighter/Shuttle Combat:
Fighters vs Fighters roll 1 dice per fighter, 5 and 6's are hits.
Fighters vs Torpedo Fighters 4, 5, 6's are hits.
Fighters vs Shuttles 3,4,5,6's are hits.
Torpedo Fighters vs Fighters 6's are hits
Torpedo Fighters vs Torpedo Fighters 5 and 6's are hits
Torpedo Fighters vs Shuttles 4, 5, 6's are hits.
Shuttles vs Fighters not allowed
Shuttles vs Torpedo Fighters 6's are hits
Shuttles vs Shuttles 5, 6's are hits.


If a ship or fighter wants to leave the game because of scenario objectives or if it has too much damage, it can warp out. As long as the ship has a functioning engine box, it can double its movement until it leaves the board. Simple. While it is warping out, it cannot fire its weapons, but its shields and armour are still working if available.

I hope this made some sense.
Tinker with the rules all you want, they're basically the Bang Yer Dead! variety, but I've had some fun with them.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Best Laid Plans....

I have written a narrative story for my toy spaceships, and took the pictures and was hoping to do some clever editing and present a fun little post as a prequel to some space battles on my Hotz Mat....
Well my desktop computer with my old but useful software has decided to retire on short notice.
So while I scratch my befuddled pate and stare blankly at the screen that mimicks me so well, I'll put up some pics of my space ships.
Recently a new visitor, Kid Kyoto, was interested in the Buck Rodgers ships from the TSR game.
So without further adieu, here we go:
These are my tools.
A pin vise with a .20 or .18 thou drill bit, a hot glue gun, some wooden dominos and some nails.
The rawl plugs in the top right of the picture make for some easy spaceship models. The TSR ones are fighters and warbirds on the bottom left.

These are some of the ships I use. They come in two materials. A hard plastic and a soft eraser. The eraser ships are easily carved up. As you can see, there are a variety of ships and it's relatively easy to cut off parts to use on other models.
The silly space scooter in the center is very useful for engine parts.
Here are the TSR ships and how I mount them. I drill a hole in the stand (to prevent splitting) and hammer a nail in to be the stem. Sometimes I have to glue the nail in afterward, but super glue, white glue or a combination of both work well. I set a small blob of hot glue on the flat head of the nail, then set the model on top. They have popped off if I knock them over, but a drop of super glue sets them in place. The cruiser is a bit of a funny story, but I'll save it for another time...
These are hard plastic ships, all painted up when sold. There are some useful types here, but they all have molded on half circle "wheels" underneath.
These are dollar store space stations/ships. They have an interior cockpit for a little astronaut. I think they'd make a great space station or starbase.
These are odd. They were sold as dune buggies at a dollar store. So I bought them out. Once you pick off the wheels and oddments, they make nice space ships.
Well that's all for now, I hope to convince my computer to come back to work this weekend, if not there will likely be a crater in my wallet by Sunday (*sigh*).

Finally, a little wargame I found for a dollar. Just a curiosity but interesting to me.

The english is translated from Chinese and is somewhat inelegant, but the rules are pretty straight forward.
The game is basically "Snakes and Ladders", with four players  trying to get their soldiers to the center island. You get 12 soldiers in 4 colours and a map and dice.

Well, I have the day off, it's now cold and snowing (Last week it was 34 above) and I have to head out and get parts to fix my computer and get some stuff I need for work, and I'll manage to get in an Asian buffet restaurant and freeze my wrists off along the way. Have a great weekend.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hard Plastic Marx Miniatures: Knights and Barbarians

I've found these figures in collections of other ebay purchases. There are two types, Knights in shining armour, and various barbarians.
They are produced in brittle hard plastic and hand painted at the factory.
Size wise, they are bigger than 1/72 scalle, and a few are over 30mm tall, but most are 25-28mm tall.
Here are the barbarians:
I imagine that there are some of these figures in soft plastic somewhere. I have some soft plastic 25mm copies of Elastolin Romans and Barbarians.
There are at least 8 poses in my toys.

The knights are a more ecclectic mix of knights and supporting troops:

Some of the knights are really quite impressive:

The catapults are operational, but the rubber bands are crumbling:
I really don't know much about these toys. So like the Helen of Toy stuff, I'll just keep adding to this post as time goes on.

Helen of Toy Wargames: Comic Book Toy Soldiers

This is going to be, I hope, an ongoing post as I add more items.
We've all seen those old comic book ads offering wargames to kids for a couple dollars.
I'll start with a couple incomplete sets that I have.
Helen of Toy Fighting Ships + Convoy Terror

These are basically the same sets under different names.
Here are the ads, some of which varied over time.

The basic game had 132 pieces. I don't have them all. What I do have is here:
Two identical fleets of 64 items:
2 Aircraft Carriers
2 Battleships
12 Heavy Cruisers
2 Light Cruisers
2 Destroyer Frigates
4 Destroyers
8 Destroyers
4 Destroyer escorts
6 Destroyer leaders
20 Cargo Ships
8 Mine layers
2 Mine sweepers
12 Submarines
10 PT Boats
30 Planes
8 Mines
Now if you read the rules, many of the ships are designated by markings underneath the hull.
For example, the Cargo Ships are also the Mine Layers and Mine Sweepers.
The destroyers are differentiated with numbers under the hull.
In my photo you can see I have an incomplete set. I have never yet been able to track down the tiny planes for the game, or the little mines. You can see them though, at Thor's Trains website, where they have an article about this and other Helen of Toy Games:

Here are the rules from the set I have:

Of note is the stamp on the front page:
This set was a replacement for another on that was ordered, but was out of stock.
This is how I ended up with Supreme Command.

The ships are all about an inch to 1 1/2 inch long, except the carriers that are 5 inches long.
What I'll do in the future is flesh out this set and create a new map board to game the rules.
BTW a quick look at the rules show them to be a mix of Stratego and games like Dover Patrol. There is some level of the unknown and combat is resolved by pieces with the higher number winning and removing the loser.
It is quite possible to redo this game or one like it by using some available game pieces from the Axis and Allies games:
There are a large number of these games available now. There is the original set, then other WW2 campaign sets, and a WW1 set. They  have 300-400 minis inside so they are a real source of new ships.
There is also a company called Historical Board Gaming that makes very reasonably priced models to go with the Axis and Allies games:

I've ordered from them a couple times. They are fast and the minis are very nice. The ships will have their class name under the hull. They even make tiny tanks like Sexton APC's and Canadian Ram Kangaroos. Aircraft are many and varied, including Rata I-16 and Sturmovoks and RAF Barracudas.

The other game I'm looking at is the residue of my old game, Supreme Command.

THis was an air/land/sea game with cardboard counters for infantry. The game had three kinds of ships, Carriers, Battleships and a Cruiser. Land units are two piece tanks, simple artillery markers, headquarters huts, and small landing craft to carry the troops. The planes are delta wing Mirage look alikes.
Here's the Thor's Trains article:

The interesting thing about these games is the "board" which is a small vinyl plastic sheet. You use a damp cloth to wipe a smooth table, lay the map board on the damp surface and push out the air bubbles, just like wallpaper. The sheet sits tight until you are done and peel it off..

Instead of dice, both games had a spinner with numbers 1 to 6. Supreme Command had combat resolution using a cardboard and metal spinner you flicked (IIRC). The spinner also acted as a six sided dice. The numbers were printed around the card.

These games would make great pieces for a home made wargame.
As for rules, I really like this book:
There is a simple set of rules inside that covers air combat, torpedos, supply and gunfire. I've played them before, on a square gridded board, and they are fun. The author espouses 1/1200 models, but these tiny ships work really well.

A few other titles I have are Donald Featherstone's book, Paul Hague's book and a Peter Dunn title.

Featherstone's book is not very helpful. Very simplistic and general, it isn't much help. Also the focus is on earlier historical periods.
The PSL book by Paul Hague is noted for the miniatures sea game with triremes.
The Peter Dunn book is quite detailed and fascinating, but largely focusing on steam ironclads.

Another source for aircraft are the 1/700 sets of planes from Japanese companies like Fujimi:
30 - 40 planes for under $10. They make Japanese, American, British and some German planes.

Well that's it for today, I will keep adding to this page as I go along. I occasionally pick up a few pieces of these games in bags of toy soldiers. A complete set of Fighting Ships usually fetches $75 and up. Unfortunately the interest in these old nostalgic toys has fueled the greed of accumulators looking to make a quick buck, instead of the spirit of play the games intended.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Military Artist: John Berry

John Berry, Illustrator, 1920-2009.
Precious little about this man on wikipedia, but a little searching reveals more:

He volunteered for the R.A.F. in 1940 and served in the Western Desert and the Middle East. In a holding unit waiting to enter Tobruk, he offered to produce a poster advertising a national day of prayer. When the artwork came to the attention of Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, Berry was seconded to the 8th Army as a War Artist. Some of Berry's paintings were exhibited at the National Gallery and are now in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Returning to the UK, Berry found work with a wartime acquaintance, Major James Riddell, who wrote children's and travel books. Berry drew a number of short books published by Riddell as Riddle Books, but his income was primarily from advertising.

Asked if he could draw a tiger for an ESSO oil company campaign by the secretary at McCann Erickson, Berry retorted, "Yes, put a tiger in your tank." He was paid £25 for the famous slogan, but spent ten years from 1951 drawing tigers for the campaign.

He was a prolific portrait painter, his subjects including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and Lady Astor. He also worked via Harrods, producing portraits of people who could drop off a photograph which he would turn into a oil painting. 

I realized that several titles in my own possession were illustrated by the same artist.
You'll remember the Hamlyn Book I posted a while back:
Reginal Hargreaves "Great Land Battles".
Another Hamyln title was "Military Uniforms, 1686-1918" by Rene North. This was another pocket book, chock full of colour illustrations.

"Famous Military Battles", by A.J. Barker. This is an interesting hardcover book that feature miniature portraits  of generals as well as double page artwork. The artist isn't mentioned.

"Fighting Men and their Uniforms" by Kenneth Allen. This is a specific uniform book, hard cover with some double page artwork. The artist John Berry gets mentioned in this work.

Very attractive books, useful illustrations for wargamers and painters, all passed off as children's books.