Saturday, February 24, 2018

Post Captain Conventions Modifications

Post Captain (slight) Modifications:

As stated before, I really like these rules, and one can read my review HERE.  And as I say in that review the only thing that annoys me is the crew management aspect.  Not that you have to manage the crew, that part I like, it's that the crew assignments use fractions, and everyone hates doing math with lots of fractions. Even simple math like addition and subtraction gets complicated when you throw in a .75 here and a  .50 there.  Plus, I want to run this game at a convention sometime, so imagine the math being done by over-caffeinated, perhaps slightly drunk, definitely hopped up on sugar, sleep deprived gamers.   Actually that description can apply to me nearly all the time....

Also I want a gamer to run 2 ships at a time, to minimize the effect of a lucky shot taking out a ship early in the game and leaving the player with not much to do.

Now usually I am not much of a tinkerer with rules, I tend to just play them as written and use common sense when needed, but in this case I see a need to be filled and felt inspired, so here goes:

Two 3rd rate ships square off!
The French ship Scipion and the British ship Spencer

Fractions fractions everywhere:

(I know that this will only be of interest to a very small audience (those that have PC and those that hate fractions, imagine the Venn diagram! ), though still, read along if you wish for fun nautical terms.)

in PC. a 32lbs gun box requires 1.75 crew factors; which makes sense in that each crew factor is 24 men, it took 14 men to work a 32lbs cannon, each gun box is 3 cannons, so 3 x 14 = 42 men / 24 = 1.75 crew factors.  A lower deck, where the heaviest guns would be,  is typically 5 gun boxes, so what's 5 x 1.75?  can you do that in your head easily?  I can't.  It's 8.75.  how many for 4 gun boxes?  4 x 1.75 = 7.  (I can't do that in my head either).  To work 3 gun boxes needs 5.25 crew factors, 2 gun boxes needs 3.5 crew factors, and of course 1 gun box needs 1.75 crew factors.  This sort of fractional math is repeated on all the gun decks, and it all becomes rather messy.   Lets take an example and examine the crew requirements for a 74 gun third rate ship the HMS Spencer (because I really like the name Spencer, because it sounds terrible!).  If you have the rules you can look at the ship card and follow along..  The Spencer has a lower deck of 32lbs, a middle deck of 18lbs, and an upper (or weather) deck with one 18lbs, one 18lbs cannonade, and two 32lbs cannonades.  It has 21 crew factors (504 men).  So to work and fight the ship the basic crew layout is:

8.75 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6.25 - Middle deck (18lbs)
1.25 - Upper deck 18lbs long cannon
1.50 - Upper deck cannonades (both of the 32lbs and the 18lbs)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1.25 - surplus crew members
21 total.

That's 5 fractions to keep track of; which is a lot.  Maybe you think I'm making too big deal of this and you're right; I'm not in a state of nerd rage or anything.  The rules are also specific in that the intention is NOT for the player to keep track of every crew factor every turn, but only when it's important.  However I've found through playing that it's important more times than you think.  There are some critical times when you have to decide; how many crew to work the guns (and which guns), how many to sail the ship, what are the marines doing (working guns or firing volleys), how many crew for repairs, boarding parties (though that is rare), complicated by subtracting losses of crew, marines, and gun boxes.  Yet there are several times when a ship will take a crew casualty in the Red phase, and the player must decide from which deck / task the loss come from, (the effect of the loss is applied immediately), which then will effect the blue and white phases and perhaps the rigging / repair and this needs to be apparent.

A solo game of PC, that I did because I was BORED at home and wanted to test stuff out.
The ships are in their starting positions, the wind is from the right.

This pic gives an idea of how far ships move in one turn.  Close to a foot.

Rounding is Easy

So step one is easy and just round everything to it's whole number (you can fudge it a bit if ya want).  I also just combine the Upper / weather deck into one category as well to make it easier to track and this deck is filled with the lightest guns anyway.  And now have:

9 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6 - Middle deck (18lbs)
3 - Upper deck (18lbs long cannons, and the 32lbs and the 18lbs cannonades)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1 - surplus crew members
21 total.

People just grasp whole numbers easier, and one can honestly say that while the layout with fractions is more accurate, the one with whole numbers is much easier and faster to understand.
Added bonus! using whole numbers make it easy track when you use Marines to sub for crew.  (2 marines equal 1 crew for manning the guns in PC).

Here's a table for the actual crew numbers rounded to whole numbers for the most common cannons lbs.

crew numbers for 5 gun boxes of 32 lbs, 24 lbs, ad 18 lbs cannons.
(12lbs cannons are the same as 18lbs cannons BTW)

But One Change Produces Others...

SO this means we have to change (slightly) the way that we track crew assigned to guns, as the standard rules still require fractions.  This again is easy enough:  the first loss of 1 crew should reduce 1 gun box from being worked (reloaded)  and and then at a ratio going down keeping as close to the original numbers as possible.  sounds more complicated than it is.  let's continue with the Spencer and the lower deck:

9 crew = 5 gun boxes  (fully manned)
8 and 7 crew = 4 gun boxes
6 crew = 3 gun boxes
5 and 4 crew = 2 gun boxes
3 and 2 crew = 1 gun box.

--This creates a minimum number of crew factors per number of working gun boxes.  I then figured it out for ALL types of cannons for all decks on ships.  this makes it very easy for the player to know how much crew is needed to fire which guns.  I then put this info into a table for each type and you can see it here....

For example: to reload 5 gun boxes of 24lbs, you need at least 7 crew factors.
 if one has only 5 crew factors working the 24s, it's 3 gun boxes.  

For the weather deck, which usually has the carronades and the lightest guns which require 1 or .5  crew each, just add it up and round as appropriate.

It's really just the same info as above, but in this way a player can immediately see how many gun boxes can be worked by looking at how many crew factors the player has assigned to the deck.  I'll provide a better example below....

Putting it all Together

The deck log that comes with PC is pretty good as is, but as I'm messing about with the crew numbers and providing additional information / tables regarding how the crew and guns interact; I also made a table laying out all the crew assignments.  This is essentially the same as the deck log:

The initial crew assignments of the Spencer in whole numbers.
Multiple columns to the right are there to provide space to do new assignments.  

Now, using power point (power point is your friend, you can do cool wargame stuff with it), I took an image of the ship card, my gun tables, my crew assignment table, and any other info I think is important to be handy (like when to take a command check) and put it all on one sheet.    Here is the Spencer in all her glory:

This ship goes to the Captain

I also added little numbers next to the gun box rows so players can more easily ID which is which.

Overall what this does is make the math easy, and put all the info in one place.  Now when a crew factor is lost, a player can cross it off the ship card, and remove it from the crew assignments, and easily know just how much man power is remaining to sail and work the ship and when a ship needs a morale test.  

(This is NOT close range.) 

You still need the standard deck log to track MFs, reloading, and repairs.  But since a deck log can track two ships, a player only needs to have a deck log and 2 enhanced ship cards to play.  Which is the same sheets of paper one would likely need to play anyway without modifications.  

Here are a few other examples:

You get the idea..

An Example:

So here is the enhanced Spencer Ship card with some damage marked off...

Add caption

So over game play Spencer here has taken 2 hull damage, 3 crew losses, 2 rigging, and a marine loss (Just enough damage to be worrisome).  The crew assignments table clearly shows that the Lower deck has 8 crew, the middle 5, the weather 1, sail 2, 2 assigned to repairs (these are in hash marks  and probably assigned to repair the rigging and the hull, that's what I would do), and with the 3 losses.  The idea with the crew table is that as one column gets messy, just move over to the next.

using the tables on the bottom of the sheet, the player instantly knows that:
8 crew on the lower deck will work 4 gun boxes.
5 crew on the middle deck will work 4 gun boxes
and 1 on the weather deck will work 2 gun boxes (probably the 32lbs carronades).

And since Spencer still has 5 gun boxes on the lower and middle deck (good for it!), the player uses 2 marines each to work the gun boxes (as 2 marine factors equate to 1 crew factor).  The player notes this by drawing a line under the marine factors and just writing M or L under it to mark their assignments.  If the Marines move (or die), then these can be erased.

Other Small Game Play changes:

BUT wait!  there's more!  after doing all this work to avoid fractions it make sense to modify the instances in the game when damage is halved, just to continue to have whole numbers.  Fortunately, there's only 2 instances where a ship would receive half damages:  Bow rake and Volley Fire.  

Bow rake produces an effect of  EDR (damage rolls)  x 1.5.  so 2 EDRs would produce 3, and 3 would produce 4.5.  Easy, just round  round up or down to the nearest whole number depending if you want more carnage or less.  Rakes are pretty rare anyway...

Volley Fire:  the table has some instances with 1/2crew or 1/2 marine.  just modify these to be misses or 1 damage as you see fit.


The Cannon CRT table has sections of "1/2 PRG"  In a convention setting,  I would have players ignore this option; ie, don't roll, it;s not a shot.  It's kinda long odds anyway that the shot would result in significant damage, and I think taking the shots will ultimately result in players just watching each other miss.

The Star of our examples, the Spencer.

The French 74:  the Scipion


That's it.  I hope that was useful to someone.  PC is a great AoS game for small actions.  These mods are not at all necessary to play, but I think are good tweeks / streamlines for a wargame convention to make the game more accessible.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Make like a tree Part II: Completion

Make Like Many Trees

I finished up the remaining 5 CD bases along with a batch of 7 or so singly based trees to add to the collection.  I added some rock piles to these CDs just to vary up the terrain some.  The single trees are based on a large washers to make them bottom heavy, just like me.  Came out looking like this:

unfortunately, I forgot to take pics with figure in for scale.  I am lame.  I owe Lasgunpacker one awesome pic in the future....

Stick to the Plan man!

As discussed in the previous post (see HERE), the idea is in future 15mm games to shake out some Woodland Scenic Earth Blend onto the wargame mat to make the area for the the woods, and put the trees on top.  The bigger idea being that I could then make woods in any size/shape that I want.  I tried the plan out on my old GW wargame mat.  I don't use this much anymore because I have homemade wargame mats that I prefer that I use for my gaming because they are 5x7.5 or 6x10. (If interested in that process you may look HERE )   But those were all-the-way-in-the-garage and I was feeling lazy.
So the mat goes on the table and I laid down a layer of the earth blend and placed some CDs on top.  Looked like this:

The ground cover in these photos is off it color.  In real life the color is much more brown than it is yellow in this pics...

Meh, it looks alright but I was not over awed by the effect.  Somewhat disappointing, but close to what I am thinking.  Maybe it'll look better on my actual wargame mats which are a darker green than the bright green this mat is....  time will tell.

However, I'm not saying it's wasted effort because one can never have enough trees. 

and everything together; the whole collection:

Which lead me to think, "how many trees do I actually have anyway?"  And as the night progressed and I found that I strangely had access to a clean kitchen table while other family members were engaged (daughter #1 in bed, Wife in the bath) I decided to put out all the trees for 15/18mm gaming to see what I had.  This meant I had to walk to the garage after all.  OH the constant toil...

Gonna need another 10 CDs...

The table is just shy of 3x3 feet, so I'll say I have 9ft square of trees.  NOT BAD, if I do say so myself, which I just did.  I do like the way that the CDs seem to cover more area than if I had just based all the trees individually.

Side discussion: Pine trees:

Dai asked about some conifers and I answered I had the problem already solved (well 'problem' is a strong word for anything in a wargame blog) in that a looooong while ago I invested in some of the  Battlefield in a Box Pine woods  during my Flames of War days.  In fact, I bought these so long ago it was before they reduced the amount you got in the box (it's less now, the sneaky devils, I think when I bought it you got 4 bases versus 2).  I still use the bases on occasion but since they are large and rigid don't get out a lot.  But with those I have a modest assortment of lone tall pine trees and small ones grouped together that go well with 15mm figures, and these trees are really durable and have stood up well over time.

Put that wood away...

And because I am super-nerd-wargamer-genius, how to store the things was always part of the plan, so each has it's own tub from Target...

Individual trees in their own box...

and a tub for the CDs

This completes the Tree project.  Thanks for reading and comments appreciated.