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Monday, June 29, 2015


Time for another round of Marital Martian combat with my lovely wife.  She wanted to take her new Veteran Assault Tripod out for a test drive, and after my own disheartening recent loss with the tripod, "show me how it's done."

We got started late in the evening, after work, and so we decided to keep the forces limited. I told her to pick the forces she wanted, and I'd choose a bit less in points from the American forces and try to defend a town from attack. Of course, a couple of tripods isn't enough for her, so the game went later than we intended.

The scenario is simple: The humans deploy on half of the table and are charged with defending the town. The Martians deploy on the 3 edges of their half of the table, but not in the center. If the Martians have a unit within 6" of the little pile of ruins at the center of the below photograph at the end of turn 5, they win. If the humans break them, they win, if the Martians don't break, but don't hold the objective, it's a draw.

I lost the deployment roll-off and deployed heavily into cover, and used a strategy of defense in depth. My main base was going to be the big red building, but I held some forward positions I wanted to harass the approaching Martians from.

The front line. I stationed rough riders far forward in cover, on both sides of the board, hoping to tie up some tripods out of line of sight and out of range of the objective. This side had some tanks upport as well.

I held back with the big guns this game, going more infantry heavy, but I did position some field guns in the ruined church on the back of the board, and an AT Gun a little more forward.

Also decided to field a mine layer to guard the natural approaches to the objective.

On the right flank, my best forward cover was a forest where the other unit of rough riders and some infantry were placed. I hadn't planned to hold this ground long, just distract the Martians from their objective.

The Martians deployed, with the Slaver deploying on the left edge with its drones.  A strong move by the wife. The veteran assault tripod was in the vanguard, at the center of the road, leading a unit of sniper drones attached to it. Ugh.

At the last moment, my wife decided that her extra green gas tripod wasn't necessary, and removed it. I told her she could keep it, but in the interests of speeding up the game and "fairness", she took it off the table. I kind of wish she hadn't, as it nearly evened out our forces, and I had some advantages as the defender.

The mass of drones was positioned to very quickly assault the forward positions on the left. Also, since rough riders can't pass through those drones, suddenly the rough riders hiding in the building were very out of position, as reaching the slaver was impossible and there were no other targets nearby.

The two grenadiers moved immediately into cover where they remained for the rest of the game. Shooting at them was pointless but they were too far off to hold the objective anyway.

The Martians won initiative and struck out at the Rough Riders first, lobbing black dust from shock drones and firing heat rays from the lesser drones, all to very little effect.

The veteran marches forward, the snipers spreading out behind it.

The scouts begin targeting for the grenadiers, who start dropping dust on the rough riders, killing one.

The Americans strike back. It's obvious that I need to clear out some of the drone infestation. Rather than clear out of the building and give the drones good cover, I decide to abandon my plan to fall back, and instead commit to holding the building as long as I can.

Machine gun and rifle fire takes a toll on the shock drones and as the rough riders relocate (firing as they go) doughboys take up position in the house with a move order. They then throw grenades through the windows, killing most of the drone unit. The drone force is largely repulsed.

On turn two, the Scorpion drones pour in, fighting room to room with the American infantry.

The rough riders which vacated attempt a near-suicidal mission to immobilize the Veteran Assault Tripod. If they can succeed, I can strand the assault tripod and snipers far from the objective. Sadly, they miss every time, and get whittled down further by Martian fire coming from all around them. Not a total loss, one survives, and the unit soaked up a lot of shots that could have destroyed other units.

The mine layer is destroyed after dropping two mines, one right next to the objective, and the other further up the board.

The Scorpion drones meanwhile have their hands full, unable to completely dislodge a single stand of infantry from the the building. Dogged American resilience is slowing the Martian advance, and may well blunt it entirely. Tank fire from behind the building manages to damage the movement systems on the slaver. Being right next to the edge, my wife isn't risking me walking the tripod off the board with a roll-off, so this is about as far as the drones can get. In the end, I withdraw the remaining infantry stand, abandoning the building to them. They're far less of a threat now.

My delaying action in the forest works like a charm. Numerous tripods are wasting time shooting at doughboys and rough riders (nearly impossible to hit in the woods), and as the scouts near the center of the board they're taking heavy machine gun fire from the three HMG units clustered there in the kill zone. Still, with the exception of the drones, there have been zero Martian casualties. There's a long way to go for a human win.

The tanks and Artillery have, from nearly the beginning, been firing at the Veteran Tripod, and while numerous shots, especially from the MKIIIs, manage to hit it, every cannonade bounces straight off of the advanced armor.

Over the course of two turns, the remains of both rough rider squads drop four immobilization counters on the black dust tripod, keeping it way out in the corner. As it isn't much of a threat, the rest of the units don't waste their fire on it. The main idea was to keep the short range dust weapon far away from the objective where it could slaughter my holed up infantry.

Never underestimate the psychological power of mines. The Martians decide to go around the central avenue, the long way around, spending even more time at the center of the board where every single gun the humans have can fire at them. Still, I haven't managed to do more than wound them.

The Martians advance and it seems like nothing can stop them. They're moving too fast for the field guns to line up any accurate fire.

A scout is damaged and my wife looses the roll-off. I turn it around and walk it back to where it can't target anything for the grenadiers.

The immobilized black dust tripod tries to break free of its chains, only to tear itself apart, causing its reactor to explode! The first tripod down was a self-inflicted wound!

The remaining troops in the woods, units I had expected to be either dead or withdrawn to better positions by now, turn towards the center to charge against the tripods taking the scenic route away from the mines.

The MKIIIs have been playing hide and seek with the Martians since the beginning of the game, but as the Martians advance into the center, there's no longer anywhere to hide. They begin taking casualties, but make their morale check.

Even if the Martians destroy the tanks, there's a present left for them at the objective.

The two decimated rough rider units unite again to immobilize another tripod.

With another tripod immobilized and several others severely damaged, the last human turn is very dramatic. Tripods begin to fall, one by one, leaving the veteran assault tripod nearly alone to take the objective in this, the fourth round. Yet, the veteran had stopped just out of range of the mined road, and would have to risk heavy damage to advance into the town.

The Martians had managed to take only the outskirts of the city, but the spirited American defense had appeared to blunt their advance. At this point, I needed only one more kill to break the Martians. The drones seemed to be the easiest to kill, but unfortunately they'd taken cover within the ruins.

However the Martians had made a critical error. The three sniper drones following the veteran were confidently marching behind their master, in their arrogance not bothering to use the nearby fields for cover. The unit was in range of three units of HMGs. Only one unit hadn't fired this turn, and so it was all on them, firing through the legs of the Veteran Assault Tripod. With a stroke of good luck, they cut down the sniper drones, forcing the Martians to abandon their assault.

A solid human victory!  I must report that the wife took this with good humor, and pointing out that while she might have lost, her precious Veteran Assault Tripod emerged from the fight entirely unscathed and with several kills. She demands two more...

The MVPs for this game were definitely the HMGs. They toss out crazy amounts of dice (each unit rolls 9) and if well-deployed, can just unleash hell from good cover. I had three units of them with an overlapping field of fire and just slaughtered the drones with them giving me a lot of kills. They also did a lot of damage to the scouts. 

US Army: 4 Infantry (120), 3 HMGs (120), 2 Rough riders (90), 1 command unit (30), 2 MKIIs (330) 1 MKIII (225), 1 field gun unit (90), 1 AT Gun (90), 1 mine layer (160) - 1255 pts

Martians: 1 veteran assault tripod (250), 1 black dust tripod (250), 1 assault tripod (200), 2 scouts (300) 1 slaver (100), 2 grenadiers (200), 1 sniper drones (75), 1 drones (60), 1 shock drones (65), 1 scorpion drones (100) - 1600 pts

Thursday, June 25, 2015

MOAR Miniatures...

Oh yeah... Happy Father's day from my cats (and Alien Dungeon). 

Remember, if you have non-feline children, there will come a day when they want to play with your toys.  This is unacceptable.

Smoke Effects - Cheap!

If there's one thing video games have over miniature wargaming, it's the explosions. There's something slightly anticlimactic in some massive engine of war unleashing death upon one's enemy, and your opponent merely removing a model or two, leaving no trace, no carnage, no burning hulk in its wake. Thankfully, there's smoke effects. Ever since my first game with Fritz, when he pulled out his little spray-painted cotton balls, I've been in love with the idea of using smoke and other markers to gradually transform the terrain into a pocked, smoking ruin of a landscape.

Since then, I've done the cotton ball thing, which works decently well for small figures, but recently I've elaborated on the idea.  I wanted bigger smoke, the sort of smoke you see in pictures of WWII, the pillars of black reaching up over the plains of Russia from burning tanks. I mean, a cotton ball might work for a blown up tank in AQMF, but a tripod?  I'd like to think there's a bit more we could do...

So, here's the best, and by far the cheapest, method I've come up with. It's the same as the cotton ball thing - spray painted stuff glued to a bit of metal (pennies for the cotton balls).  But it's the find below that was just plain inspired.

 Got this cheap ass pillow at Kmart for $2.50. The stuffing is far better than using cotton balls. It holds together better, takes paint better, and you can make a huge varieties of sizes and shapes.

Took some tufts, and arranged them on some scrap cardboard to spray paint them. I'm just using the same flat black primer I use to prime my minis. No need to get something different.

Gave 'em a whack of paint, waited a few seconds before turning them (with a rubber glove on to keep my hands clean), and getting the other side. You don't want your smoke too even, as smoke is often a mix of black and white and maybe a touch of grey. I've found that too much black doesn't look believable (unless its black dust!). However, working with this stuff, if you overspray, you can gently pry the painted sections apart when it's dry to let the white underneath show a bit.  I find it looks more natural that way.

To make high plumes of smoke stand up straight, we'll need some metal bases.  I spray painted some basic washers. If I'd had slightly larger ones they'd stand up better, but these will be acceptable.

Then a bit of super glue, pick which way is up, and press the fluff into the metal for 20 seconds. Then done.   Each of these things cost only a few cents, with very little time and effort (maybe 10 mins total labor for the batch, and I could have done twice as many at once) and I have more of the pillow stuffing left over than I'll ever need.  Personally, I think they look even better on the table than the expensive resin ones do.

Mr. Martian approves.

Monday, June 22, 2015


 Headed over to my buddy Brian's place for some games this weekend, and found a real treat waiting for me: Dreadfleet, GW's 2-player naval game.  The 10mm scale miniatures are gorgeous, and Brian had them all professionally painted, as is his way, so they are just stunning.  And the game, a high fantasy style adventure in the age of undead pirates, is very fun to play.

For this game, I took command of the Imperial ship Heldenhammer and Captain Jaego Roth, while he took the Bloody Reaver captained by the vampire Noctilus and crewed by the dead. Looking at the ships the Bloody Reaver looked less than sea-worthy, being made of bone and pieces of other ships, but hey, magic man, magic.

This is very much a game of maneuver, which I enjoy, and the wind speed dynamics mean you have to constantly adjust your strategy to account for changes in wind directions and speed.  We did a bit of dancing at first, but Captain Roth got the first shots, shooting long range broadsides raking the front of the Reaver.

The Reaver turned hard to Port, bringing us out of each other's line of fire.

But then rose the undead sea hydra!  One of many random "Fate" events.

Captain Noctilus made a bit of an error in his course correction and got the Reaver stuck against a wreck, giving the Hydra a chance to approach and do some damage.

 Meanwhile, having drawn a card allowing me to fill a cog (the tiny launched ship in the middle below) with oil, making a fire ship to launch against the immobile Reaver.

The Reaver, however, is not to be underestimated, nor is Captain Noctilus. He not only took magical control of the Hydra, sending it towards the Heldenhammer, he launched his own cog to attempt to intercept mine.

The cogs came to battle, their crews launching themselves on to the enemy decks. The boarding action was a tie, and we both took damage. The enemy took a hull damage, sinking the ship, while mine caught fire!  The crew was panicked - the deck was on fire and the hold was full of highly flamable oil!

The cog would surely sink or explode next turn, but the crew was able to valiantly steer it towards the Bloody Reaver, which it managed to partially set ablaze. 

The Reaver, despite being ablaze used it's special ability to regenerate some damage, then extracted itself from the shipwreck, turning to fire its broadsides against Roth's ship.

Meanwhile, the hydra reached the Heldenhammer, doing some damage and forcing the crew to waste shots on destroying it, shattering the bones and sending them back into the deep.

The heavy fire from the Reaver and the attack of the Hyrdra began to take their toll, seriously damaging the Heldenhammer.

Captain Roth shouted "Hard to Port" over the din of cannon fire, launching his ship on a collision course with the Reaver.  The Heldenhammer's special ability is a steam powered figurehead that could smash the enemy's decks. I was itching to use it.

 The Heldenhammer, reaching ramming speed, collided with the rear deck of the Bloody Reaver, just as another undead abomination emerged on the other side of the foul ship.  The damage from the Heldenhammer's steam powered hammer was catastrophic, and the boarding actions damaging enough to push the Reaver over the edge.  It was a victory for the Heldenhammer, but I'm sad to say that Captain Roth was mortally wounded by the vampiric Captain Noctilus as Roth personally led the charge.  Still, a victory for humanity against the Dreadfleet!