16 January 2010

Review - Future War Commander

Happy Saturday!

Over the last two weeks, I've had a chance to read through these two rulebooks:

Alien Squad Leader arrived with my Law Officers from 15mm.co.uk, and Future War Commander (Lulu edition) was a Christmas gift from my fiance. Both games are heavily inspired by GW's Warmaster, at least in terms of command and control. But that is pretty much where the similarities end - these appear to be two very different games.

Future War Commander, at least after its initial read, looks extremely promising as a game. It definitely shows its Blitzkreig Commander roots, but adds just enough sci-fi elements to make it stand on its own. I'll go through it section by section:

Main Rules
The first 40 pages or so explain the rules in great detail. But the game itself is NOT extraordinarily complicated - it just has a fair amount of "chrome" to the main rules. For basic company-vs-company, you really won't be using more than a handful of these pages for command, movement, shooting, and saving. The rest of the rules deal with specialist abilities and weapons such as recon units, air superiority, snipers, smart missles, orbital bombardments, and the use of gunships and dropships. The best part about the rules, at least to me, is that you should be able to play an entire game using only a two-sided quick reference sheet. The game mechanics are around simple rolls with basic modifiers. There aren't numerous pages of tables, nor will playing a game of FWC feel like a math assignment.

Fighting Battles
This section covers table setup, objectives, and provides eleven scenarios. FWC includes one mechanic that I really like - variable force sizes. This means that you and your opponent may have agreed to a 1000-point battle, but that doesn't guarantee you will each have 1000 points on the table. It looks like each army's objective can be achieved even with a lopsided battle, and I can't wait to try it out.

Army Lists
72 pages of the book are dedicated to unit stats. These cover 6mm-15mm models from Dark Realm, Exodus Wars, Ground Zero, Games Workshop, and many other companies. Even if your specific units haven't been listed, it usually isn't difficult to find an equivalent unit from another manufacturer that you could use. And if that isn't sufficient, FWC includes a very simple unit creation formula. And unlike many games I've played - this formula is what was actually used to create the forces outlined in the rulebook.

FWC Skirmish
This section explains how to use the core game mechanics to fight skirmish-scale battles. I've read through it, but I think I'll really have to play it to see how well it works. It appears to be a detail level roughly equivalent to Rogue Trader, so a platoon with a few vehicles is about all you would want to use.

I hope to play a demo game very soon using these rules. Even if I'm not able to get any 15mm forces ready, I can at least use my existing Epic armies to test the rules.

Coming soon: Alien Squad Leader initial review.

08 January 2010

Skirmish trays for 15mm Sci-Fi

Good morning all!

My first package from Alternative Armies/15mm.co.uk has arrived. It contained the rulebook for Alien Squad Leader (which, for my 40k followers, is one of the 15mm sci-fi systems this blog is adapting), along with a Laserburn Law Officers value pack. The rulebook and minis will each be covered in separate entries soon, but for now I wanted to focus on assembling and preparing 15mm forces for battle.

For those of you unfamiliar with this scale, there are a variety of ways to use 15mm figures. Skirmish games such as the previously-covered Forge Of War, along with Stargrunt, Fast and Dirty, 5150, and many others call for the use of single-based models, just as one would find in 25mm/28mm games. Here are four of my shiny new Law Officer figs individually-based:

I used simple US pennies as bases for now, but there are a variety of good bases available from most figure suppliers and from Litko Aerosystems.

In any case, these models (once painted) are now three troops and a hound suitable for use in all of the above-mentioned skirmish games. In fact, they will probably be painted similarly to Adeptus Arbites, so I can use them in the 40k universe.

But this basing style doesn't cover every 15mm game available. Two major games in this scale are Alien Squad Leader and Future War Commander (familiar to many Epic players). These games were inspired by GW's Warmaster command and control system, and use "unit stands" of models (similar to Epic).

One of 15mm Sci-Fi's most appealing concepts is the ability to play different games with the same models. But in order to use the same models for both systems, hobbyists have become very creative in their basing methods. My solution to this problem was to build skirmish trays using 1/8" hardboard, some stiff card, and a 3/4" spade bit. Here is a unit of "space police" ready for use in FWC or ASQL:

It isn't pretty, but I was able to make these using only the materials I had on hand. The units stay in place very well now, but I intend to add Litko's 3/4" flex steel "dots" to the troops, and 3/4" magnets into the trays.

My ultimate goal is to have a variety of these bases completed in two or three different textures (enough to cover my eventual model collection). I can then swap out the individual models as needed for games.

Here's an afternoon's worth of work. Nine movement trays, along with the template I used for cutting the holes. The spade bit "walked" a little as I drilled the hardboard, but I think that will actually help create more dynamic poses among the models (just like the 10x40 GW Epic bases).

Have any readers tried other options for multi-use 15mm bases?

01 January 2010

2010 - The Future of the Bunker

Happy New Year!

Family and career matters have kept things fairly quiet on this front, but my passion for the hobby hasn't diminished. In fact, the past few months have renewed my desire for creative wargaming.

Last October, I posted about the Forge of War alternate rules set. This discovery allowed me to venture further into the general wargaming community than I had before, rather than just the Games Workshop community. In the process, I came to realize something about this "hobby." GW spends a lot of time and effort convincing us this is the "GW Hobby." Which means it's okay to play new armies and even new games... as long as you stay within the GW product fold. Most of us have said "the hobby" so many times that we don't even think about other companies. Sure, we all see Warmachine or Flames of War or click-base games sitting on the shelves, but rarely will that make us do anything but remember why we like 40k.

But there really are so many other options. Cruising through the TacCom Epic forums, I started reading about games like Future War Commander, and manufacturers like Baccus and DRM. I started to realize that GW really does have competition, just not necessarily in 28mm plastics. More time reading these forums led me to The Miniatures Page and Tabletop Gaming News. These two websites had always covered GW news, but I never looked beyond that.

Then I discovered 15mm sci-fi.

Okay, it's actually nothing new. GW themselves produced minis for the old Traveller system back in the 80's. A few manufacturers continued to produce from that time (15mm.co.uk, formerly known as Alternative Armies for the Laserburn range). Ground Zero Games, whose 6mm stuff I had noticed years ago, is now the leading manufacturer of 15mm troops and vehicles, and has a fantastic assortment of product. But their web-store pics are terrible, and they didn't really grab my eye.

Two other companies did: Rebel Minis and Critical Mass Games. I looked very carefully at their websites, and spent time learning about what kind of games could be played with these minis. After a few months' browsing, I've come to some conclusions.

  • Price of models. A playable 15mm army is inexpensive, usually under $50. If you already have a basic table, hills, paints and brushes, you're ready to go.
  • Price of games. This ranges anywhere from inexpensive to free (Forge of War).
  • Variety of games. These "generic" sci-fi rulesets never appealed to me before. I hated their lack of fluff, race development, etc. Those are the things I still love about 40k... the fluff and background. On the other hand... 15mm models can be used for almost any universe you want - some armies are good for multiple universes.
So here's the direction I'm taking the Bunker for 2010. Epic and 40k will still be around, but I'm going to start selling off my endless boxes of unassembled and unused models. In 40k I will focus on my Dark Angels and Orks, and save enough models for some additional forces. But realistically, I'm never going to play Chaos, Imperial Guard, Tyranids, or Necrons... so I really don't need that many models to sit in my basement. Epic isn't all that space-consuming, so I'm going to keep everything I have for now. But as Epic Tyranid models become more and more rare, I may be tempted to sell off that part of my collection.

With the additional funds and space in the bunker, I will be adding a variety of 15mm Sci-Fi armies and terrain to my collection. Over the next few posts, I will highlight some of my purchases and plans, as well as posting reviews of models and different rule sets. Stay tuned!