Monday, 5 December 2016

Building a wargaming river

Following on from my last post where I made a table for SAGA, I have decided to make a river to add to my table.

One of the main scenarios in SAGA involves crossing a river with two bridges/fords, and my collection was lacking a river which meant I wasn't able to host this scenario. I looked at several of the commercially available options:

The Pegasus Hobbies river: I don't like the paintjob, it's probably a little narrow, and is also too short (I need a 4' river). Not a bad product though, if you're looking for a quick and easy way to toss a river on your table, and very hard wearing.

The Amera river: Not a bad product at all, and I was extremely tempted by this one! However, being that it is vacuum formed plastic means there is a fair bit of work involved in getting it ready for the table top. You need to cut a base board to size and glue the river down, then trim the edges, sand the whole thing so it will take a coat of glue/paint, then texture and paint it, etc. Frankly, I think there's just as much work involved in making your own river from scratch.

Flat rivers: There are a variety of flat rivers available printed on neoprene sheets that you just lay on your table. Obviously the images are very nice and the river just rolls out where ever you need it, but they're also two dimensional with no depth and that's a deal breaker for me. Have you ever seen pictures of Warmachine tables using nothing but 2D printed terrain? It's just sad.

The GF9 river: Much the same as the pegasus hobbies river, I avoided this one for the same reasons. A very nice product though, and one I was sorely tempted by.

In the end, I decided to build my own. I was being quite fussy about the width and the shape of the banks, so rather than buy something and spend ages trying to adjust it, I decided to just make my own.

I bought a 900 x 1200 x 3 MDF board, and drew a large river on in, between 6" and 7" wide. I cut it out using a handheld coping saw, then used a dremel with a sanding attachment to bevel the edges.

I bought some acrylic builders caulk (it's important to use acrylic! Silicone is NOT suitable for modelling purposes!) to make the banks with. I put two or three layers down, letting each one set before I did the next, and smoothing them out as I went  with a spatula and a wet sponge. I would lay a thick sausage entirely along one bank, smooth it to shape with the spatula, and let it dry a bit. Then I would add the second layer, blend it into the first, and use the damp (not dripping) sponge to smooth out some of the bumps and ridges. You really need to let the caulk set for a two or three days before you sand it. This is the first time I've used this material, and it's great stuff, easy to work with and dries hard. And if you buy an earthy brown one like I did, then it's very forgiving when it comes to painting.

For the water itself I considered several options. There's the resin option, the acrylic artists gel option, varnish, and plain old paint. I discounted the resin due to the size of the project, and after looking at several on-line tutorials I decided I liked the look of the artists gel the most. Unfortunately, the product I used (Derivan artists medium gel) didn't perform quite the way it was advertised. The container said any depth less than 3mm would dry clear. False. While some patches did dry clear, they were MUCH thinner than 3mm. Anything over about 1.5mm stayed cloudy to one degree or another. Also, during the curing process the product develops tiny air-bubbles inside it. Probably not noticeable on a smaller project like a thinner river or a fountain, but for a large 6" wide river it was quite noticeable.

Luckily, the supplies I had bought for the first attempt were more than enough for a second attempt. I decided this time I'm going to try varnish. Resin is the other option but in the amount I'd need it's quite expensive and it would be an unknown entity. I don't know if it will react to the paints I'm using, how much it would shrink, if the shrinkage would warp the MDF I'm using as a base, and at the end of it all you get a gloss mirror finish which isn't very river-like. So I decided to use varnish. Again the width of the river presented some problems, because on such a wide surface any brush-strokes would be very visible. So I opted for a can of spray varnish, and put down several coats. In the end, this didn't provide quite as much coverage as I had wanted, but I can always go back and apply some varnish with a brush, before coating it with spray varnish again to even the texture out.

First I undercoated the entire project in black. Then I sprayed the river a dark green, leaving the centre of the river black the darkest to simulate depth. Then I airbrushed a sandy brown colour on the edges to simulate sandy/earthy shores. At this stage the river looks like this:

Then I followed the same basing technique I use for everything: Paint the shores (which were covered in sand to provide texture prior to commencing any painting) in dark brown, drybrush in light brown, then bone. Then apply static grass, leaving patches of earth showing through, before applying foliage, tufts and flowers/weeds. I used tufts from Gamer's Grass which I am really happy with. I've been using these tufts for basing models and terrain for a little while now and have no complaints at all.

Here you can see the finished product, a small village nestled against the banks of the river:

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Ragnarok 2016

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending Ragnarok 2016, a SAGA tournament in Melbourne hosted by the League of Ancients. This was a really terrific event, with a laid back atmosphere, and a great venue.

The tournament was held on the Sunday, as it was timed to coincide with League of Ancients regular monthly meeting, held on the third Sunday or each month. The wife and I stayed in Melbourne for the weekend, and she did some shopping while I played toy soldiers. A win-win weekend away!

I had wanted to take an Anglo-Saxon warband led by Alfred the Great, but the Northern Fury sourcebook that contains the Anglo-Saxon list is currently out of print and my copy didn't make it to me before the event. So I went with plan B, which was a Viking warband led by Harald Hardrada and including 8 Varangians. I had wanted to include 12, but in the week before the event Studio Tomahawk released a new FAQ/Errata and reduced the maximum unit size for Varangians from 12 to 8. Oh well, them's the breaks!

My warband was:

Harald Hardrada
8 Varangians
2 x 8 Warriors
4 Berserkers

Game 1 was against Pip's 'Anglo-Danish' warband. Pip had elected to take Hereward the Wake ('the wake' meaning 'the watchful') as his warlord. Hereward unlocks Flemish Mercenaries for your warband, and gives them access to the AD battle-board abilities. The Flemish Mercs natural defensive abilities (armour 5, and always counting as being in hard cover) coupled with the naturally defensive flavour of the Anglo-Danish battle board makes these warriors formidable to say the least.

Our scenario was Clash of Warlords, which is basically a straight up battle with the condition that you lose the game if your warlord dies. Pip made the mistake of deploying one of his units of Mercenaries far off to his right flank, and since Flemish Mercs can only move S, I was pretty confident they were out of the game. In the picture below you can see the table as it lies after the first turn. You'll have to forgive the photos, the lighting wasn't great and I was using my phone.

I deployed centrally, hoping to get a big haymaker in and knock out Pip's warlord early in the game. Pip deployed Hereward surrounded by two units of Mercenaries. I had hoped to be able to draw Hereward out by placing my warlord at M of him, while being outside of S of his bodyguards. But Pip was a canny opponent and kept Hereward well shielded. I made the mistake of charging Harald and his Varangian bodyguard into some Flemish Mercs with a loaded battle board, and the result was from my 21 attacks, I landed 17 hits. Of which Pip saved 16. Now sure, he had some pretty good abilities loaded, but still! 16 saves from 17 hits! The picture below shows my Varangians and Warlord having bounced off the Flemish shieldwall, fatigued and isolated. Oh dear.

Needless to say, my haymaker swing come unglued pretty quickly and the game evolved into a cat-and-mouse match with each of us trying to pin the others warlord down. In the end, our warlords dealt each other their death-wounds in the same combat, and the game ended in a draw. The picture below shows the board on my final turn. From here, the Berserkers (behind the spear armed Bondi warriors) were moved up and charged into Hereward alongside Harald, both of whom were slain in the ensuing combat.

Due to the constraints of the dice and the need to win this round or have my warlord slaughtered in the next, the Berserkers had to accompany Harald. In the end, I used Valhalla on them and sacrificed three of them for extra attacks. It turned out to be overkill, and also fatal for Harald since he had only a single 'bodyguard' on whom he could redirect a wound, and as a result Harald fell, turning a potential win into a draw. Well played Pip! In hindsight I probably could have kept Harald back from the fray and just let the Berserkers do their thing, but I got caught up in the theme of the game and the heat of the moment, and so Harald went in swinging!

Game 2 was against Steve's Scots. Our scenario was a pure victory points knock-em-down and drag-em-out game. Steve deployed in a solid line of warriors with hearthguard support, which gave me pause. Any unit that I isolated and picked on would probably be destroyed, but would also leave my units isolated and surrounded. You can see our deployments in the picture below.

As it turned out, I managed to get a triple activation going in my turn which resulted in the destruction of a Scottish Hearthguard and Warrior unit, and also left his warlord within Warlord's Pride range: when a warlord activates for a 'move' and he is within a single move of the enemy warlord, then he MUST engage the enemy warlord. Due to some lucky positioning on my part, Steve's warlord was unable to activate any of his units for a Side by Side move, which is where the warlord drags a friendly unit with him to fight in the combat. You can see the situation in the picture below. Steve's warlord, if activated, must engage my warlord. His hearthguard are too close to my Varangians to do anything except charge them, and his warriors are too far away to accompany his Warlord.

Nevertheless, the ensuing Scottish counter-attack was bloody. Steve's warlord was slain, and his warriors defeated and forced to withdraw. The Vikings took heavy casualties, with only a handful of models surviving, but a handful was more than the Scots had remaining and with the death of last of the Scottish warriors, the Scots lost their ability to generate SAGA dice, and therefore lost the game. NB: When your warband is unable to generate any SAGA dice, then you automatically lose the game.

Game 3, the final round, was the Feast for Crows multiplayer scenario vs Christian's Jomsvikings and Tylers Saracens. Clearly two separate bands of Norse mercenaries fighting for the Byzantines, with their own grudge to settle! Early game sees my Varangians take out a unit of Saracan HG, but then become entangled with an unwinable war of attrition against Bedouin mercenaries. Among their other abilities, these can activate for as many times as they want, for free, until they are exhausted. And if you end a move within M of them (and did not engage them in combat) then they get a free move (which also allows them to throw javelins).

Importantly they CAN'T make this free move when exhausted, so the owning player needs to be careful not to leave them exhausted in his own turn or they can be caught and killed.

The Saracens and Jomsvikings slug it out, and by the end of the 7th turn there is only a handful of models left on the board, with the Saracens being ever so slightly ahead in points. Tyler finishes on 23 points, I'm on 20, and Christian on 17. As the game was finishing I realised there was a priest in the building you can see in the picture, and my Varangians had spent many turns just sitting outside the building doing nothing when they could have been inside butchering the priest! Oh well, something to remember for next time!

Overall I think the Vikings finished in fourth or fifth place, from a field of 14 or 16 or something like that. I forget exactly. I was happy with my performance, and can see where I made mistakes and where I will need to pay attention in the future. I also met lots of great people, played three fantastic games, and got to use some models I'd never used before. And the wife got to do lots of shopping and we got a nice weekend away in the city, so everyone was happy! I'll definitely be marking this one on my calendar for next year, and hopefully I can drag a few of the local gamers along with me as well.

Final thoughts:

1 - Ragnarok is cool.
2 - The League of Ancients seem like cool guys.
3 - Don't take unnecessary risks with your warlord.
4 - Be well aware of what all the pieces on the board are, and where they are.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Making a gaming table for SAGA

To play SAGA, I've been lugging my large 6'x4' table out of the shed and laying it on the table in my dining room. This is because my shed isn't climate controlled and frankly it's starting to fill with junk, so it doesn't make a great playing space. And moving that large board around is a pain, usually requiring the aid of my darling wife. So I decided to make a smaller 3'x4' board, which is the size for most SAGA games and would make it easier to move it in and out of the house.

My large board is covered by a static grass mat. You can buy these from a couple of suppliers, and they look very nice, if a little uniform IMO. Since most of my terrain was based to match my current grass board, it was the natural choice for my 3 x 4. Now, my current board was actually a hand-me-down from a friend, so I can't say for sure exactly how he glued the mat down, but I seem to remember him saying something about PVA glue. I had previously put together a table for X Wing so I figured I would have a pretty good handle on this one.

Apparently I was wrong.

I bought a 900 x 1200 MDF board from Bunnings, and a grass mat from eBay. A proper 3 x 4 is actually 914.4 x 1219.2, but finding a board large enough and having it cut to the exact size seemed like a lot of work, so I compromised and got a board that's a tiny fraction smaller.

My mistake was to try and use some spray adhesive I had left over from my X Wing table. This stuff is great, works just as advertised and provides a very strong bond. For my X Wing table, using a printed vinyl space mat, it was perfect.

For gluing down a paper grass mat it was not.

Firstly, the grass mat doesn't 'roll' as nicely as the vinyl, leading to lots of creases in the table and secondly, the bond created by the spray adhesive is so immediately strong that I was unable to tug the edge of the mat to remove the creases. This wasn't a problem with the stronger vinyl mat, since I could pull quite hard on it to get the creases out. But pulling that hard on the grass mat would have simply torn it. It was about halfway through the application of the mat that I realised the project was doomed and aborted it, with much cursing and a foul temper. In hindsight I should have used PVA glue watered down and through a spray bottle. The less adhesive PVA glue would have allowed me to adjust and remove wrinkles and creases as I went. Also, I could have been more careful with the application, trying to avoid wrinkles in the first place. As it was, I assumed it would be a similar process to applying a vinyl sheet and was a bit carefree with the application.

Anyway, after much cursing and deliberation, I returned to Bunnings and bought some paints (A light brown spray can, and small tins of green, bone and yellow) some painting sponges and a spray can of satin topcoat. This turned what should have been an ~$80 project into a ~$150 project, much more than I wanted to spend, but I was angry and wanted the project done. The paints were expensive, but I didn't want to use cheap poster paint since the table would be getting a bit of wear.

Once home, I sanded the glue off (mostly) from my MDF, then flipped it over and started painting on the 'clean' side. I sprayed the whole thing brown, then dappled bone all over it with a sponge to give a dead grass/dry earth impression. Then I worked it over with the sponge, mixing up different shades of green as I went. If you're working on a project like this, it's essential to have a large working space that you don't mind if you get some paint on. And don't be afraid to experiment with the application. If it doesn't look like how you wanted or imagined, you can blur it out with the sponge and try again. Try out different pressures with the sponge, different grips, different amounts of paint, etc. You are trying to mimic a 'realistic' grassland effect, so you want different patches of green, but you want them to blend into each other subtly.

I wound up with an effect I was pretty happy with, and after a few topcoats of satin varnish to protect the playing surface, the board is ready to go. And a good thing too, since my 6 x 4 is starting to look a little haggard.

Here is the finished board, with some terrain:

I didn't take any pictures during the painting process, it's a bit of an organic development and once I was in the zone the thought of pausing to take some photos never occurred to me. There's a bit of glare in the photo, but under normal lighting there is much less glare. If I'd gone for a matte varnish there would be less glare again, but a matte coat tends to get grubby quicker and isn't as hard wearing.

Stay tuned in the future for some more terrain related blog posts!

Monday, 4 July 2016

SAGA at Pandacon

This weekend I got to play some games of SAGA at a great new little convention in Melbourne.

The Pandacon is the product of Kayjays games store and café, and this was the inaugural event. There were a couple of teething problems as happens with any new event. Namely some issues finding my name on the list of attendees, and the venue operators didn’t arrive until just after 9 when the rounds where scheduled to start at 9. By the time you factor in all the ‘where are we playing?’ ‘where can I get a coffee?’ ‘does anyone have a spare battle board?’ and the other essential pre-tournament negotiations and pleasantries this meant we were probably an hour or so behind right from the start, which would have ramifications for the rest of the day.

The tournament was 4 points, to be played over three rounds between 9am and 1pm. I had taken Vikings as the idea of running a Vikings warband was what attracted me to SAGA in the first place and I have still, to this point, only played them in about six games. My list consisted of my Warlord (free) two points of Hearthguard, one point of Berserkers and one point of Warriors. Berserkers in SAGA are Hearthguard, who trade two points of defence (lowering them to 3+) for two extra attacks per model. Their low armour makes them extremely susceptible to return attacks and incoming missile fire, so they’re not always the best choice tactically speaking, but they’re very cool and I like them so I took them.

My first game was the Sacred Ground scenario vs Richard’s (nearly) all mounted Milites Christi. This was the first game Richard had played with his Milites Christi, and I haven’t much SAGA experience full stop, so this was a learning game for both of us.

Sacred Ground is a scenario where there are only three terrain pieces. A central hill, and a piece to the left of it and a piece to the right. I chose a forest to be placed to the right of the hill, and Richard chose a piece of scrubland to be placed to the right. The name of the game is to get as many of your models into those terrain pieces as possible, and to keep them there as long as possible. I rushed my right flank, stacking models into the forest while Richard rushed my left, stacking his troops into the scrubland.  I also moved my unit of Warriors onto the central hill.

Richard’s warband featured a unit of eight crossbow armed warriors, who now started to fire their bolts into my warriors who hunkered down behind their shields to weather the storm. At this point I realised that I couldn’t afford to simply hold the central hill, since Richard’s crossbowmen would tip the balance in his favour. So I rushed my Hearthguard unit out from the forest where they were sheltering on my right flank, and caught a unit of Richard’s mounted warriors unawares. They then used several activations to get back into position on the central hill. The crossbowmen continued to be a problem, but through judicious use of the Odin ability (turning a shoot into a move) and manipulation of fatigue I was able to keep casualties to a minimum. I still lost all my warriors, and eventually had to charge my berserkers into the crossbowmen to end their threat once and for all.

The state of the board in the mid game. You can see my Hearthguard on the right, having destroyed some of Richard's mounted warriors, and you can see my lone Warrior and my Berserkers on the hill, being threatened by the Milites Christi crossbowmen to their left. Unfortunately during the heat of the moment I neglected to take any more in-game photos on the day!

I had initially wanted to send my Berserkers into the eight man mounted Hearthguard unit that Richard was keeping in reserve on my left. But after taking a couple of casualties from the crossbows they were too depleted for that task, and the crossbows were presenting a thorn in my side and needed to be dealt with. So with a cry of ODIN! My berserkers went charging across the table and after a furry of axes and a spray of blood, not a single figure was left standing.

By now I was slightly ahead in points since my warriors had died while standing on the hill earning points, while Richard’s had died standing in open ground. Yes, he’d forced my hand, but not until I’d earned a handful more points than him.With the last turn looming Richard sent his eight man Hearthguard cavalry unit crashing into my eight man Hearthguard unit occupying the central hill. It was to be a pretty even battle, but since I was ahead on points I only needed to not die, while Richard needed to defeat or at least heavily deplete my forces. I traded in as many of my attack dice for defence as I could, and kept the melee to a draw forcing Richard to withdraw. Final tally of points was 55.5 to me and 52 to him, a VERY close game!

My second game was against Tyler with his all cavalry Saracens. Our scenario was the Challenge, and the objective was to slay the enemy warlord. In this scenario, both warlords deploy in the centre of the table, while the rest of your warband deploys normally.

Given that Tyler’s entire warband was mounted, AND he would have the first turn, I was worried that he would gain a strong advantage in the first turn. But luckily for me the dice were not with him and his forces inflicted only a handful of wounds.

In my turn, I managed to triple activate my Berserkers into his warlord, using Ullr to re-roll misses, and Frigg and Njord to shed fatigue. After the dust had settled, I had inflicted 11 wounds on Tyler’s warlord. Just 1 shy of killing him! Now that Tylers warlord was so close to death he had to be very careful with him, activating his units to shield him from harm and not being confident enough to send him into combat. This gave me an edge that allowed me to engage the rest of Tylers warband piece-meal in decisive engagements. Once again the Bersekers were wiped out, but they had more than done their job and went to Valhalla with a smile on their faces.

By the mid-game, Tyler’s entire warband was destroyed bar his Warlord, where I had six Hearthguard, my Warlord and eight warriors. In a last ditch attempt to take the last four hits off my warlord, Tyler engaged me in combat but it wasn’t to be, and his warlord was cast down and a pagan banner raised over the battlefield.

Now, there was to be a third round for the event, but given that we had gotten off to such a late start and we had another group wanting to utilise the space after 1pm, we decided to call the event there. As I had won both of my games, I was declared winner! I have to say I was pretty surprised and excited to have taken home the top prize at my first ever event, no matter how small it was! Both Richard and Tyler are members of the League of Ancients, a historical wargaming society that meets once a month in Melbourne. They are hosting another, larger event in September and I’ll definitely be attending that one as well. They were both great, laid back opponents and I learned a lot about the intricacies of the rules that I hadn’t previously understood and I hope to be able to make it to some of their monthly meets!

The overall feel of Pandacon was great, very laid back and relaxed with an in-house café and bar, easy to get to with plenty of parking space. I really hope this thing gets some more promotion next year and can draw a bigger crowd!

Saturday, 4 June 2016



If anyone has actually been reading this blog, it might seem that the only game I play is X Wing. This is not the case! I love X Wing and Star Wars in general, but have been playing wargames since 1994 and I was lining up my little Napoleonic soldier and making pew-pew noises long before that!

While I have models for a wide range of games, if I'm honest I really only play a handful of them. Most of the models sit in storage, hopeful of one day being the flavour of the month again. My current passion is SAGA, and now that I have a regular opponent I'm hopeful of it being one of my gaming mainstays since I absolutely love it. The game play is simple, the application of the different factions battle boards is complex without being complicated, the forces are small enough to be easy to prepare and reasonably priced, it plays on a small board (36" by 48") and it features Vikings, Saxons, Franks and other Dark Ages factions for which I have a passion.

Basically, SAGA is a dark ages skirmish game. It features anywhere from 25 to 73 figures (one of which will always be your Warlord) in units ranging from 4 to 12 models. Models for all factions are broken down into three broad types. Levies are your conscripted peasants, unwilling warriors forced to fight for their lord. Warriors are the men who form the backbone of your force, stern and determined men. Hearthguard are the born warriors who love to fight, the elite and highly trained core of a Warlords forces. These are your Viking Hirdmen or Saxon Thegns.

Each faction shares these three classes of warrior, but many have some small variation within them. For instance, the Welsh may take lots of javelins on their units, the Normans may mount their warriors and hearthguard on horses, the vikings can take one unit of hearthguard as berserkers, etc. Further flavour is given to each faction by their battle-boards.

Each faction has SAGA dice. These dice are rolled at the start of each turn, and may be placed on the corresponding box on their battle board. This gives a player a range of choices to make, varying from how many dice to roll (you get one dice for each unit, and two for your warlord to a maximum of 6 dice. Levy units don't generate dice) to where to place those dice after they're rolled. Activating a unit costs a dice, so you need to balance the cool abilities on your board with the need to activate your units at all. And each faction has wildly varying battle board abilities so, despite sharing common troop types, each faction plays very differently and in many cases each faction can be played in a variety of ways, depending on which types of builds you prefer and which battle board abilities you favour.

SAGA is not a dry historical simulation game. The game and it's effects are gamey, but never so much so that they break the theme. If you're looking for something historically accurate, this game is not for you. But if you're looking for a tight, fun skirmish wargame where your Vikings can plunder and pillage the Saxon lands, then SAGA is right up your alley.

And one of the things I love about SAGA as opposed to X Wing or Armada is that not only is it a much more traditional wargame (no faffing about with tokens and upgrade cards!) but I get the opportunity to make my own terrain and paint my own figures! Yes, I know I can do this with X Wing but there's much less motivation when all the bits are provided pre-painted with press-out terrain. I've been happily putting together all sorts of plastic soldiers and buildings and forests and stuff:

This church was built using plaster bricks made from Hirst Arts molds, with a roof made from cardboard tiles and mounted on an MDF base.

These four buildings form a village which was the scene of three battles last weekend, with my Vikings being victorious twice, but then get trounced in the third game by the Irish!. They're made from balsa wood for the frame and walls, with teddy-bear fur roofs and MDF bases.

The bases aren't finished, since I ran out of tufts and flowers and what-not, and they need some extra detail like spears leant against door frames, shields hung on walls, stacked firewood, etc, but they're finished enough to see some action on the table top.

And of course, there are the models themselves!

My Viking Warlord and his faithful banner bearer.

His loyal retainers, 8 Hearthguard.

And some frothing loonies, 4 Berserkers! I've decided to go with the 'warrior cult of Odin' interpretation, rather than naked lunatics with wolf-skin hats. These guys have an increased attacks value, but reduced armour.

Overall, I've gone for a darker palette with the Vikings to make them look more menacing. Their opponents, the valiant Anglo-Danes, have some brighter colours:

Here are my Anglo-Dane Warlord, and his noble Thegns.

The models are all plastic from Gripping Beast and the shields make use of transfers from Little Big Men Studios.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Heroes of the Aturi Cluster

So some time ago I worked up a campaign system for X Wing. After that, I discovered the brilliant Heroes of the Aturi Cluster co-op campaign system which I have since downloaded, printed, played, and absolutely loved. There are some similarities between this system and my own, but there are also significant differences not least of which are an obvious talent for design and extremely high production values. The fellow who created this, Josh Derksen, has immense amounts of talent and skill and has invested a lot of hard work.

Heroes of the Aturi Cluster is a completely new way to play X Wing. It sticks to the basics (move with a dial, roll red dice to attack and green dice to defend) but introduces a host of new mission objectives and several new actions (like jumping to hyperspace or defending a target). The missions tend to start with a handful of Rebel ships on the board, and a handful of TIE fighters. The TIEs are controlled using a brilliant AI chart:

You follow the steps on the left, roll a D6 and see where the TIEs will end up. Charts in the same style exist for a variety of different AI controlled ships, and contain an immaculate blend of random and predictable moves so that even the most seasoned X Wing player will sometimes be caught out by the AI. Using the AI chart seems complicated to start with but it's very intuitive and once you've played a mission or two it will come easily.

As most missions progress, more and more waves of TIE fighters will enter the fray, keeping the pressure on the Rebels the whole time.

My local group has played probably half a dozen missions and so far only been successful once. We've come very close a few times, and had to end some missions early because of time constraints at the local store, but we've never really felt like we didn't have a chance. And now that most of us are a level or two into the game, I think we've got a really good chance at rolling along now.

I took the files downloaded from Dockingbay416 and had them printed at Pazzaz Printing in Morewell, Victoria, which is near where I live. These guys were very professional, and got the job done quickly and to an extremely high standard. I then spent two evenings watching Star Wars movies and cutting the various components out. I initially tried to get the files printed by Office Choice or Office Works or one of those printing services, but unless you literally just want to print a Word document, these places lack the facilities and experience to do the job. You will need to go to a professional printing shop. To get the booklet, all the cards and the various terrain and stuff printed cost me ~$150. This is pretty expensive compared to some of the prices from America that I've seen posted online, but after getting quotes from several Aussie printers, it seemed to be pretty competitive. I can only assume printing is just more expensive here.

In our specific campaign we have allowed two players to use scum ships, fighting alongside our rebel squadron for personal gain. There's a long history of scum and villainy aiding the rebellion after all. Han Solo himself was a smuggler before he was a rebellion general! So we've slightly modified the rules, allowing our Scum players to start in Z-95 Headhunters, and upgrade to Scyks and Starvipers as they desire. We've allowed one player to upgrade to an E-Wing despite them being the ugliest thing to ever fly, because they're his favourite ship and it felt a bit mean to disallow it. 

For the Starviper and E-Wing, because their stats and actions are straight up better than a lot of other ships, we insisted that a pilot must be level five before moving into them, as opposed to level four to access A-Wings, B-Wings and HWK-290s, and that moving into an E-Wing or Starviper would impose a 5 point fee. This means they can have their favourite ships, but it'll take them a bit longer to get all the flashy upgrades to go with them.

We've got another games night this week so hopefully will get two missions in. Maybe we'll get lucky and get a win this time!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


I've played a lot of games over the years, and no matter what game I've been playing the games I've enjoyed the most have been campaigns. From skirmishing in the streets of Mordheim to enormous battlefleets clashing in the space of the Gothic sector and everything in between, the ability to string games together and develop units as they earn experience, the ability for each player to tell his own story and have an effect on his own future as he progresses through the campaign is what I really love about gaming. I realise that X Wing caters to a slightly different crowd than traditional wargaming, drawing from CCG and LCG gamers as well as board gamers, and that it has a very strict competitive scene with only a single type of mission played so a campaign like I'm about to outline below might not be for everyone. I want to outline right at the start that some missions will be unbalanced and asymmetric. This is not a pure competition like most X Wing games are, instead it attempts to reflect the vagaries of war in a fun and engaging way on the tabletop. So without further ado:

An X Wing campaign.

1 - Build squads.

Each player in the campaign may choose a single squad of no mare than 200 points. A player must choose the lowest possible pilot skill version of any ship he wants to include. For example, if he wants to take an X Wing he must take a rookie pilot and if he wants to include a TIE Fighter he must take an academy pilot. 

Each player may take one generic pilot who has access to an Elite Pilot Talent slot. This ship may be any pilot skill but cannot be a unique ship. This ship is your squad leader. He automatically has the Squad Leader EPT. This EPT does not take up an EPT slot (and may be taken in addition to another EPT)

Ships may take any titles they are allowed to, and may purchase any ordnance they wish, but no other upgrades are available for purchase at this time. The only ship permitted to take an Elite Pilot Talent is your squad leader. If you want to equip your ships with Mangler Cannons or Shield Upgrades, then you will need to request these upgrades from sector command during the campaign.

From this 200 point pool, players will select smaller squads in order to complete various missions. If a ship is destroyed during a mission, it is replaced for free by the generic version of itself at no cost. However, it will lose all titles, modifications, upgrades or EPTs that it had when it was destroyed. In the opening stages of the campaign this will mean little, but during the later stages losing an experienced pilot with a heavily upgraded ship might be disastrous.

2 - Reputation and Renown.

This campaign represents two or more squadrons operating in a single area of space. They will cross paths many times and their reputations and renown will grow over time.

After each battle, squads earn renown points for the following:

 + 3 points for winning a game
 + 1 point for losing a game
 + 2 points for destroying an enemy ship
 + 3 points for destroying a large based enemy ship
 - 1 for losing a large based ship
 - 1 for losing your squad leader
 + 1 for fighting a squad with a higher reputation and losing
 + 2 for fighting a squad with a higher reputation and winning

Renown points can be spent exactly like squad points to purchase upgrades, ordnance, modifications, titles, etc for your squad. These points can even be used to buy new ships if you want, although those ships must adhere to the same rules for squad selection outlined above.

Reputation: Reputation is the running total of how much Renown a squad has earned over the course of the campaign. Keep track of how much Renown a squad has earned after each battle.

 - Only ships that have PS4 or greater can purchase Elite Pilot Talents. The only exception to this rule is the Squad Leader.
 - A squads total renown earned for any given battle can never be less than zero. A TIE swarm that is obliterated without killing any enemy ships will earn renown of 0, not -8.

3 - Damage and Experience.

Each time a pilot survives a battle, roll a D6. If the score equals or exceeds their pilot skill, then that pilot may either increase his pilot skill by one point or, if they do not already have one, they may add an EPT slot to their ship. A score of a 6 always counts as being higher than their pilot skill. Note that even if he has an EPT slot, a pilot may not purchase an EPT unless his pilot skill is 4 or greater.

Ships may spend renown to repair damage points. Both hull and shield points cost 2 renown points to repair. This represents both damage to the ship, damage to the squads renown, and injury to the pilot.

This brings us to an important new rule for the table top: Disengaging.

A ship may disengage at any time by executing a maneuver that takes it off the edge of the play area. If a ship moves off the table, move the ship backwards along the movement template (in the same way you would as if it had collided with another ship) until it's base is touching the edge of the play area. Leave the ship in place. It may execute any action, except those that would cause the ship to re position (so no barrel rolling or boosting). If the ship is still on the table at the end of the turn, it has successfully disengaged and is removed from the table.

This ship does NOT count as destroyed for the purposes of calculating victory points. 

4 - Playing the campaign.

Players may play each other any number of times during the campaign period. There is no requirement for players to play an equal number of games. The only limitation is that players may not play blue-on-blue matches. Simply arrange a game with a friend, and play it. Make sure to keep track of your renown after each match.

The player at the end of the campaign period (say, six weeks? Pick a limit that is applicable to your own club) who has the highest reputation is the winning player.


The Campaign uses several different scenarios instead of the normal dogfight.

Unless otherwise stated, all scenarios use 100 point squad lists.

NOTE: When a ship receives an upgrade, adjust it's point cost accordingly. However, increases in pilot skill are free. For instance, a rookie pilot is 21 points. If it buys an Engine Upgrade then it's point cost goes to 25 points. However, if it's pilot skill increases from 2 to 6, then it's point cost remains 21 (or 25 with an Engine Upgrade). Increases in pilot skill are free.

Before deployment, but after selecting squad lists, players must roll a D6 to determine which scenario they will be playing.

1 - The Bait
2 - Escalating Engagement
3 - Blockade Run
4 - Escort
5 - Furball
6 - Furball

1 - The bait. One squad has spotted a lone enemy ship and has given pursuit. But they've been lured into a trap!

Players pick even sized squads, and roll off to see who is the pursuing player and who is the fleeing player.

The fleeing player must deploy one ship in the centre of the table, facing directly towards his own board edge. The rest of his ships start the game in reserve. The pursuing player deploys all his ships within range 1 of his board edge. At the end of the first turn, the fleeing player deploys the rest of his ships anywhere on his board edge, in ascending pilot skill order. These ships must be placed with part of their base touching the board edge.

Normal victory conditions apply.

2 - Escalating engagement. Two squadrons are patrolling an area looking for each other. One element from each squad encounters the other and signals for reinforcements.

Each played divides his squad as evenly as possible in half. He randomly selects one half of the squad to start on the table, and the remainder of his ships start in reserve. Before deployment, each player randomly selects one of the neutral board edges to be his reinforcement edge. At the end of the first turn, roll a D6 for each friendly ship that was in reserve. On a 4+, that ship may be placed anywhere on that players reinforcement edge, in ascending pilot skill order. Second and subsequent ships placed in this way must be placed within range 2 of the first ship.

Any remaining ships in reserve are automatically placed at the end of turn 2, and must be placed by the same method.

Normal victory conditions apply.

3 - Blockade run. Your ships are trying to push past an enemy blockade.

Randomly determine one side to be the attacker and one to be the defender.

For the purposes of deployment, each defending ship counts as having a higher pilot skill than any ship on the attacking side.

If an attacking ship disengages via the defending sides board edge, the attacking player may add that ships value to his victory points for this match. When the defender destroys an enemy ship, the attacker must subtract that ships value from his victory points.

For example, the attacker flies a rookie pilot off the defenders board edge. He scores an extra 21 points. However, another of his rookie pilots is shot down, so he subtracts 21 points from his total.

4 - Escort. Your ships must push vital supplies through an enemy attack.

Randomly determine one side to be the attacker and one to be the defender.

The defender must deploy a GR75 touching his board edge. If he can move the freighter off from the attackers board edge, then he wins the game. Players without access to a GR75 may re-roll this result.

5-6 Furball

This is the basic 100 point, 6 rock deathmatch

A final note:

There are many ways to score this campaign and many potential ways to win. You could have the side with the highest total reputation being the overall winner, or the player with the highest individual reputation being the winner, or the player with the highest reputation on the winning side, or you could have awards for the winning side, the top individual scorers on each side... there's a lot of potential ways to decide on the winners. Really, it doesn't matter too much because the really exciting thing is watching your pilots learn from their battles and grow over time. You'll remember the battles long after you've forgotten who won.

The ideal market for this campaign is groups of three or more players. With only two players interested you can get much more involved in terms of narrative. With more players you need to keep the campaign loose enough that any time two players meet up for a game, they are able to play.

And finally, I do not own these rules. They are just ideas, so feel free to adapt them or change them as you see fit. I've tried to keep the mechanics simple and easy to remember while still encouraging the narrative aspect of the game.

I'm hoping to bang together some rules for two player narrative campaigns in the future so stay tuned!