Art by Al "Alface Killah" Brady
Yes, I am enjoying my time away from PC gaming! It feels good to get involved with a fresh game genre again. And I couldn't have picked a better time: board games and miniatures seem to be going through an veritable explosion of creativity, something that is, coincidentally, being fueled through Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced methods that are also popular with the PC gaming crowd (but I think with better results).
To be honest, I have begun to believe that not all of the problems that are plaguing PC gaming is due entirely to shoddy business practices. Rather, I think video games have hit a brick wall of realistic possibility. That is, while the technology to make a super-realistic, super-immersive games might now exist, the programming skills to take advantage of that possibility don't exist. Or, perhaps more accurately, those skills do exist, but the task of programming such monstrously complex games requires more time and money than any game developer has available, hence why so many exciting games arrive incomplete with the promise of "fixing it" later. Gamers are demanding the impossible, and in short order no less! This is something that is just not humanly possible. Sadly, game developers currently seem to prefer over-promising and under-delivering rather than have a frank conversation with their customers about just what is and isn't realistically possible in a given time frame when it comes to game development.
However, board game design, being free from the horrible complexities of modern software design, doesn't need to contend with such impossible tasks since every board game depends on just one thing: the human brain! Well, that and some cardboard or plastic. Much simpler. Point is: board game design, while still a challenging art and science, is naturally limited to more realistic expectations due to its very non-CPU dependent nature. Even better, unlike a PC game where if a particular rule is broken or poorly implemented, the gamer will need to wait days/weeks/months for a dev to fix it, the board game can be "patched" by the user with just a little initiative and imagination on his part.
Yeah, I am really starting to appreciate the advantages of a board game in this time of shoddy video game development.
Oh, I just had another advantage pop into mind: board games are not dependent on hardware! In other words, no need to ever worry about not being able to play your favorite game due to an OS complication, or a dated video card or what-have-you! Board games and miniatures never need an emulator! Case in point: Steve Jackson's Ogre. Even though this game first arrived on the scene in 1977, the game still 'runs' as good as ever! Hence, why it was bound to be one of the first games to be dusted off by me!
[NOTE: Because my gaming table is currently being used for my session of Tomorrow's War, I played this game out using VASSAL, a board game emulator for the PC. And, yes, I realize the irony of that in light of what I just wrote above! LOL!]
I decided to set up a basic scenario: an Ogre Mark III versus a standard deployment of Combine troops. Using some dice, I randomly determined that the Ogre was going to make an attack on the less defended right flank. Three of my fast moving GEVs, and one long range missile tank moved to engage. The Ogre was NOT pleased. It closed and engaged using its main battery, obliterating one GEV that ventured too close:
The small crater on right is all that remains of the destroyed GEV
The Combine missile tank would exact a price for that: it destroyed one of the Ogre's four secondary batteries.
The AI of the Ogre was...annoyed. It would get its revenge by combining the firepower of all three of its remaining secondary batteries and obliterate the missile tank! It's main battery then fired at the a GEV, disabling it in the process.
The remaining GEV in the area zoomed in for an attack on the Ogre's treads - it being too weak to do anything else alone - and then quickly retreated. Sadly, its attack had no effect.
In light of this growing threat, the Combine CO began to shift his forces eastward in a long scrimmage line:
I have to tell you: every time I play this game, the tension of having that beast bearing down on you is palpable. Few strategy video games have ever come close to creating a similar sense of impending doom!
The Ogre rumbled on....
The next round of combat was more of the same: the Ogre continued its merciless rampage. It first rammed and crushed the disabled GEV to its north, and then fired its three remaining secondary batteries and utterly destroyed the Combine's last GEV:
All the Combine commander could do in response was to continue to reposition his forces and await the final battle.
The Ogre slowly crossed the no man's land between the two forces. With the exception of some weak and ineffectual fire from a lone missile tank, the Ogre was untouched. Combine forces continued to reposition themselves.
The title fight was about to begin....
After pondering its options, the Ogre decided to break left, shying away from the congregation of heavies waiting for it on the right. It moved into position and proceeded to blast everything in site. First destroyed: the Combine's last missile tank. It was taken out with a single blast from its formidable main gun! Not sated yet, the Ogre then fired two of its secondary batteries at the infantry unit to the left of the big crater (above), in the process inflicting casualties and reducing its strength by a third. It then trained its last secondary onto the infantry unit to the right of the same crater...and obliterated it with a single shot!
The casualties were stacking up.
Sadly, the Combine could not claim the same. Two heavy tanks swung in from behind and made an attack on the Ogre's treads in a desperate attempt at slowing it down - it was now only nine hexes from the CP! - but both tanks missed their mark! The only good news was a single Combine artillery battery successfully getting a hit on one of the Ogre's two long range missile launchers. At least the Ogre's long range threat was neutered...a bit.
The following turn demonstrated that the Combine really needed to work on its gunnery skills. The Ogre began the round by overrunning an infantry unit and firing two rounds of anti-personnel weaponry, eliminating the unfortunate soldiers caught in the hex with it. It then fired two shells from its secondary battery, eliminating yet another infantry unit! Fortunately, the rest of its fire proven ineffective.
The Combine moved in to attack:
It was agreed that the Ogre's mobility would remain the prime target. With that in mind, every infantry unit attempted to bring the Ogre's remorseless treads to a halt. But all failed. Then two heavy tanks attempted to do the same. Both also failed to score a damaging hit! The third heavy changed its mind and instead decided to focus on the Ogre's powerful main battery. A hit! The big, bored gun was destroyed! Lastly, the Combine's immobile howitzers had the range and opened fire, one took the Ogre's last missile, the other its treads. Both failed to score any damage. Sheesh! They might have just have sealed their own death warrants!
After crawling its way across the map, the Ogre was finally in striking distance of the enemy CP. With a renewed purpose it trampled upon two squads of infantry, eliminating both in the process, and fired its last missile at the CP. Doom screamed down from the heavens....
But the missile missed (Note: I am using an option rule whereby the CP is given a defense rating of 2. The base surived a 3-1 CRT roll)! For once in this battle the Combine forces had some luck! Out of anger, the Ogre destroyed a heavy tank with its secondary batteries.
The Combine opened fire with both howitzers, this time chosing to focus on the Ogre's last ranged weapon systems, its secondary batteries. They struck home, eliminating two of its three remaining batts! The rest of the surviving combine units again focused on bring the beast to a halt by destroying its tread system. And again all failed miserably! The final(?) SITREP:
It was all over but the crunching. The Ogre continued to advance, but yet again was unable to destroy the hardened CP with its last remaining secondary battery. No matter, its AI calculated. The next turn it would crunch it beneath its treads!
The Combine made the same realization and decided to focus all their firepower on its treads. The CP was doomed no matter what, so might as well try to stop this thing from exiting the map in victory. At least that would offer some compensation. With that strategy in mind, every unit targeted the Ogre's treads again and, unlike previous rounds, actually hit! Nine treads were knocked off.
But it was not enough. In the final moments of the battle, the Ogre didn't even need to fire its weapons, it just ran over and crushed the CP (and, next, the howitzer to the north of the CP!):
Before it victoriously left the battlefield, the remaining howitzer knocked out the Ogre's last secondary battery. Call it spite.
The Ogre was victorious!
Wow, the Combine could not get its act together. The early moments of the battle were the decisive ones: the Combine just could not shoot straight, especially when it came to knocking off some treads to slow the beast down. The Ogre, on the other hand, was deadly accurate.
I am eager to re-run this basic scenario to see if I can stop the beast in a return match. Think I will try again real soon!
Almost a year ago to the day, I posted a blog entry entitled "You Made Me Do This!" In a nutshell, it was my rant about the terrible state of PC gaming. At the time I had every intention of checking out of PC gaming and devoting my free time to board games and miniatures, something I hadn't done since the mid to late '90s. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. Shortly after setting up my first game of Tomorrow's War, I became ill and had to let it sit fallow for a few weeks. By the time I felt better, the madness of the holidays had arrived and I just didn't have time. Then the holidays passed, and while I did finish painting a few more miniatures, I never did recover the impetus to return to the game.
Winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer and, as is usually the case, summer turned to autumn, and now here I am, right back where I started. With the exception of needing to clear off some dust, and making a few repairs (I am discovering rubber cement cannot be trusted), the game board is almost exactly as I had left it. Seeing how PC gaming has only marginally improved over the last year, this has proven fortuitous as I am, once again, seeking an exit.
So let's return to this futuristic battle, shall we? It is long past due for this battle to be resolved!
1) Obviously, all images are heavily touched up. I have done this because a) I have become addicted to fancy PC gaming screenshots (LOL), and b) I am just a beginning miniatures player, so both my artistic skills, as well as my paltry collection of minis and terrain, need all the help they can get! Plus, I like the graphic novel look I came up with.
2) I make no pretense about the accuracy of my rule interpretations. I am finding Tomorrow's War to be a bit hard to digest at first. I am also finding myself deliberately changing things just to suit my own sensibilities. One of the great things about non-PC gaming is that I can tinker with the 'programming' all I want!
3) I added graphical snow and, sometimes, a bluish tint to the images because I love winter fights when it comes to a sci-fi setting.
With that out of the way, let's begin!
This is based on Lost & Found, the infantry-based training scenario found in the rule book. Here, a technologically superior USMC force (on the left of the board) needs to cross a river and rescue a downed fighter pilot who is sheltering in some ruins. A force of technologically inferior DPRG troops (deployed on the right of the board) are going to attempt to stop that from happening by ambushing the Marines.
I began by sending Fire Team 3 from its patch of wooded ground in an attempt to cross some open terrain and make it to the crashed fighter (the fighter is my personal addition to the original set-up). Meanwhile, Fire Team 2, which was hunkering down in the same patch of woods, would provide overwatch fire if needed.
As they left the woods, Fire Team 3 came under heavy fire from a five man DPRG squad that was hiding in the patch of woods on the far right of the game table. My overwatch team preempted their ambush by bringing them under heavy fire:
The more advanced technology of the Marines made a big difference in this long range shoot-out: they inflicted casualties on the enemy, stopping their ambush, and pinning them down. The Marines received no casualties in return.
While that fight was taking place, Marine Fire Team 1 to the far north quietly made their way to their first objective, a patch of trees crowning a small hillock, meeting no resistance.
Before the battlefield could completely quiet down, however, the enemy decided to make a move of their own. A large, seven man squad, including an officer, departed some ruins and made a quick run at the ruins where the pilot was hiding. Their intention seemed not to be to capture the pilot, but to make a firing line along a low brick wall the lined the property, something that could prevent any attempted river crossing. Fire Team 2 spotted the movement and open fire on the column of troops:
Again, the superior technology of the USMC weaponry took a heavy toll on this unit, pinning it down and inflicting casualties while receiving none in return. So far, the Leather Necks were in control of the situation!
A medic was attached to the DPRG squad that was caught moving to the stone wall, something that helped lessen the severity of the casualties.
The medic (front) treats the man behind him (standing on a wound marker) while the CO orders everyone forward!
The most seriously wounded were stabilized, while the lightly wounded were stitched up and returned to duty. Good thing, too, because they were going to need it!
The next few minutes of combat were furious as every DPRG soldier opened fire on Fire Team 3 as they attempted to cross the open ground and, eventually, ford the river and make it to the pilot's location. Fortunately, Fire Team 2 was still on the ball and delivered devastating overwatch support to interrupt many of the planned DPRG ambushes:
Superior technology continued to prove decisive for the USMC. Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time before the tremendous volume of low-tech enemy fire took their toll on the Marines. Fire Team 3, as it neared the crossing, took its first casualty.
The team leader was seriously injured by the squad of DPRG troops that was sheltered near the pilot's building:
Their morale held, but would they be able to make it the rest of the way with such a badly wounded man? Guess I would find out!
The SITREP at the start of Turn 4:
Despite successfully wounding the team leader for FT3, the situation looked grim for the DPRG. Casualties were mounting, and morale was breaking. Surely the Marines would be able to dash across the river, snatch the pilot, and get back to base in time for dinner!
Well...not so fast. Even though the superior USMC tech had been savaging the DPRG, their troops were still a tough, committed lot. They weren't going to allow these leathernecks to just waltz into their territory and snatch a high value target! Whether by willpower or, more likely, by the threatening muzzle of their CO's sidearm, the DPRG suddenly roused themselves into action. In an unexpected flash of fury, the DPRG regained the initiative from the USMC and unloaded on Fire Team 3. Their fire was so intense that Fire Team 3 was forced to abandon their attempt to cross the river, and needed to flee for their lives!
These DPRG troopers mock the retreating Marines. On a nearby hill, a USMC squad leader can be seen calling FT3 into cover
Even Fire Team 2's overwatch proved ineffective. In a rare reversal, the dependable Fire Team 2 proved ineffective against the enemy. This left Fire Team 3 totally unprotected. Enemy fire nipped at their heels the whole way back to cover:
But the DPRG wanted blood this day. Even though the Marine fire team made it to some light cover in the form of sheltering pine trees, the DPRG fire exacted a heavy toll as the seriously wounded team leader would be hit again, this time fatally:
The Marines had suffered their first KIA of the battle. Fire Team 3 was now thoroughly shot up. One man KIA, one man seriously wounded, it was down to half strength and incapable of fulfilling its mission.
In revenge, the USMC overwatch team did manage to shoot one member of a DPRG squad:
If the news was bad for Fire Team 3, the USMC did get some good news further north. Fire Team 1 had managed to gain the upper hand in an attack launched by a DPRG team on the opposite hill. This attacked proved to be a very bad idea as the DPRG squad wound up with three severely wounded men, one lightly wounded man, and just one man intact. This enemy squad wouldn't be much of a factor anymore.
A calm descended on the battlefield, leaving both sides to lick their wounds. The SITREP:
The original USMC plan was now in tatters as FT 3 was no longer in any condition to rescue the pilot. It looked like Fire Team 1 might have to leave the fringes of the battlefield and attempt a crossing at the ford located further north, near a lake.
With time running out, the success of this mission hung in the balance!
With Fire Team 3 being a shadow of its former self, Fire Team 1 took the lead. Taking the initiative back from the DPRG, Fire Team 1 dashed from cover and quickly forded the northern crossing. They were covered the whole way by Fire Team 2:
Every unit still capable of firing on the DPRG side did so! Fortunately, Fire Team 3 continued to provide deadly accurate fire, pinning almost every unit that tried to make trouble for the would-be rescuers. The plan worked: Fire Team 1 made contact with the downed pilot shortly before 1530z hours. The celebration was short lived though as the DPRG squad that successfully fought off the crossing by Fire Team 3 now made a furious charge and attempted to smash FT 1 in hand to hand combat. The remnants of FT 3 and the overwatch team opened fire in an attempt to pin them in place before they could do much damage:
The USMC overwatch team was as deadly as ever, killing the DPRG leader mid-stride, and pinning the rest of the team. Emboldened by the awesome "can do!" attitude of their fellow Marines (officially, a "It's a Good Day to Die" Fog of War card), Fire Team 1 redoubled their efforts to bring back the package. Grabbing the pilot, Fire Team 1 let loose one last volley at the pinned enemy before attempting a getaway:
Meanwhile, in the north, the savaged DPRG squad's morale finally broke - no surprise with one dead, three seriously wounded, and just one effective! Disgusted, they trudged through the snow and left the battlefield:
This was now crunch time for the DPRG. If they didn't stop Fire Team 1 from getting away with the pilot, they never would. With the unit CO killed the previous turn, it was up to the squad leader to rally the men. With a bellow, the DPRG squad picked themselves up from the ground and charged through the snow at their USMC enemies once more. Fire picked men from their ranks, but they managed to close with the enemy nonetheless:
But it proved to be not enough. The full strength USMC fire team was ready for a fight and met the enemy gun barrel to gun barrel, iridium bayonet to iridium bayonet. Despite their best effort, the DPRG squad was beaten to ground again, this time losing yet another member of the squad, with the rest receiving various injuries. It was too much. The DPRG had to break contact. The USMC fire team was free to take their charge across the river:
Liars! With their last rounds of ammo, the DPRG squad attempted once more to pin the Marines but failed miserably due to their casualties. All they really accomplished was to get another squad member killed as he attempted to rush across the ford.
Fittingly, it was the shot-up Fire Team 3 that stopped the attempted rear attack. They might not have been able to complete their mission to get the pilot, but they certainly helped Fire Team 1 get the job done!
And with that, Operation Lost & Found came to an end as the remaining DPRG squads were all rendered combat ineffective due to casualties sustained during the course of the battle. Victory for Charlie Squad of 1st Platoon!
Dead 1 11
Seriously Injured 1 9
Lightly Injured 1 1
Overall, I really don't have any thoughts on what I might have done differently as the DPRG player. This was a messy play-through as I was just too busy coming to grips with the rules to have keenly focused on the optimal tactics. Truth be told, I often just threw the troops at each other to see how the rules worked! I will say that the quality difference between the USMC and the DPRG definitely swung the balance in favor of the Marines. Even though the DPRG had far more troops, a d8 roll for the Marines versus a d6 for the DPRG was just too great an advantage at times, hence all the DPRG casualties. Still, I like to think that the DPRG put up a good fight nonetheless!
Wow, that was tough! This PC gamer isn't used to doing so much work myself to play a game. Usually I just sit back and punch buttons. LOL! Being in total control of a game - not just moving the pieces, but also applying the appropriate rules and calculating the results - can be a shock to the system after having a computer do the heavy lifting all these years. Still, it was a refreshing experience because it was nice to have such control. Not having to wait for a dev to fix a bug or tweak a sub-optimal rule is a breath a fresh air (seems like PC gaming these days is 25% gameplay, 75% waiting for a patch). Also, knowing just why a certain result was reached - that is, seeing all the usually behind-the-scenes calculations for yourself - makes for a much more transparent experience. I found these factors made this a much more memorable gaming experience.
As for Tomorrow's War itself, I have to say that I find the rules to be a bit cumbersome. Even though each part of the game is relatively straight forward, I find putting it all together can get confusing at times. I think this might be do to how dicey the game is. A d6 for this, a d10 for that, an initiative die for this, and quality die for that...it can all get very muddled. I think I would have appreciated some streamlining abstractions instead as having to constantly recall which die, not to mention how many of them you need for a roll, can be a pain. Still, I have no regrets about trying this system. And I am looking forward to seeing how vehicles are handled....
Speaking of, that is the next chapter in the book that I need to learn. However, I don't think I will be getting to it any time soon because I haven't even began to paint the three tank miniatures I received as a gift last Christmas, and I doubt I will get to do so anytime soon what with the Christmas rush kicking off NOW. Not only that, but having the infantry portion of the game sitting on my table for so long has made me a bit tired of looking at this particular game (this is no fault of TW, of course!). LOL! So I think I will shelve this minis adventure for a bit and explore the many, many other board / minis games out there in the short term. Still, I am eager to return to Tomorrow's War ASAP!
Addendum: I would like to thank Prime Dice D&D Pro for its assistance. Without this excellent dice roller for my Amazon Fire, playing the dice heavy Tomorrow's War would not have been such an easy experience!