Monday, May 29, 2023

Last in Space


It's Memorial Day weekend and that means all the cool gamers in CA. head off to Kublacon; the largest, most diverse, most fun convention on the west coast.

I am not a cool gamer, and I didn't go.  Again.  Life is lame.  Now it's been several years and I am out of the loop.

Instead, I had over some other non-cool gamers for one last super big, GIANT, but actually medium sized space battle; before I pack away all these starships and give space a rest for awhile.  I managed to entice my good space buddy Mr. DJ (from the Lasgunpacker blog), Mr. PC, and Mr. AM.  As a bonus everyone had played this game before within living memory.  So it wasn't so much teaching the rules as it was recovering lost memories...

Pew Pew!
Zip Zip!
And other Spaceship noises.
(except there is no sound in space,  I KNOW!)

I Shouldn't Host at My House Anymore

Because it's embarrassing.  My family had multiple meltdowns the morning of the game while they were getting ready to get out of the house (I never tell my family they have to leave.  And I don't mind if the kids see me play miniature games or want to come hang out and whatever, but on this occasion my wife decided to take them to her parents house in the bay area kinda at the last minute) so while my friends are pulling up and getting out of their cars; We are all in the driveway yelling at each other.  I'm yelling at my daughter for being spaz and over reacting and just get in the damn car already, my wife is yelling at me to stop yelling  in front of the neighbors, and etc..  

So friends get of their car, wave hello, realize we're having a big fight, and then stand there awkwardly for it to finish.  

Family finally drives away and then they have to stand around some more while I finished setting up the game because I was too busy yelling.  And now I am grouchy.  Grouchy on Game day no less.

Sometimes families are hard.  Sometimes more than sometimes, it seems.

BUT!  I recovered quickly, the game sets up fast (a hex mat, a few asteroids, oh look done!)  and we're off zooming in space.  


The scenario was a simple shoot the other side's ships till they die and the bodies of the crew are blown out to the vacuum of space.  That's right;  I said blown out to space, not sucked out.  That's correct, look it up.

Players were able to choose their fleets using a pool of victory points.  Each Federation player would have 16 points, and each Klingon player would have 14 and be able to cloak two ships at once.  

For the Federation: I chose a Galaxy class (8), an Akira Class (4), an Excelsior class (2), and a Defiant Class (2).  Mr DJ chose a Sovereign class (10) and 3 Excelsior class (2 each). 

For the Klingons: Mr. AM chose 3 Vorcha class (4 each) and 2 Kvort (1 each, but not worth any points if it's destroyed because it's so small).  Mr PC chose 2 Vorcha Torpedo Module class (4 each), a Vorcha class (4), and a Makesh class (2).  

I know that many of you while reading that your brain went "blah blah blah - spaceships."  Don't worry about it.  My brain does the same thing on posts about Napoleonics: I read dragoons, cuirassiers, carabiniers, lancers, or chasseurs and my brain says  "blah blah blah - cavalry."  then I look at the pretty pictures.  

(you can look at this previous post HERE if inclined to read about ship classes).  

Here are some pretty pictures.

Players could deploy half their fleet at the start of the game and the other half were off table.  During the end phase of each turn each off table ship rolls a die and keeps a running total.  When it hits 7 or greater the ship arrives, "it warps in" and is placed on the table and is available next turn.
Which means that a ship MIGHT arrive at the end of turn 2, would most probably arrive at the end of turn 3, VEEY LIKELY to arrive at the end of turn 4, and anything beyond that is just your bad luck stop rolling 1s and 2s already.

Victory was set at half the total points for the entire enemy fleet (so the Federation had to destroy 14 points of Klingon ships, while the Klingons had to destroy 16 points of Federation ships).  Ships that flew off the table or into an asteroid count as destroyed.  Ships that used their warp drives to escape would count as half victory points.  

We all had a good time.  The Starmada Unity rules with my small tweaks seem to be working great, and are a lot of fun.  Plus, when the game ended I was family free for the evening.

I Should Host at My House all the Time

because people bring gifts.  When the game was over and we were all kibitzing about Star Trek This and Star Trek That, whether the old style ships of TOS are better than the TNG ships, attractive alien women, and why haven't I done the Romulans yet?  Good space buddy Mr DJ presented me with a gift of a DS9 style starbase that he 3D printed...

That is Awesome.

Size reference shot.
The Defiant class ship in the pic is about an inch long.
Huge bonus points for it being in the same scale as my ships are.

I was bound to get one of these, eventually, one day.  That day has come a lot sooner thanks to Mr. DJ's generosity.   

Thanks again Mr. DJ.

Also, my long time buddy Mr. PC brought over a tub of Star Wars X-Wing (1st edition) stuff and told me to take it because he hasn't looked at it in years and years.  "there's more somewhere in storage too."

Course, I haven't touched my X-wing stuff in years and years (and years) either.  But these are small details best forgotten.

Thanks again Mr. PC.  

So all this wonderful stuff just for having people over
to play a game I WANTED to play and the cost
of two frozen gluten free pizzas.

Miniature wargamers are the best people and this is the best hobby.

And to think that when I go over to someone else's house to play a game; I don't bring bupkis and I steal the toilet paper out of the bathroom.

Thanks for reading.

Double Thanks for writing a comment.

Till next time.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The McPherson's Ridge Project (part 1: The Plan)

 Sing it! 

is the best CW,
All you other CWs are through!
Because the ACW
is the best CW
with armies of Grey and Blue!

is the best CW,
come on, you know it's true!
that the ACW
beats your CW,
the ECW, SCW, just to name a few!

is the BEST CW
All the rest to the back of the Queue!
Time for ACW
(the best CW)
ACW time with Stew. 

That's me. 

--that's an original composition and I am insanely proud of it.  Though I admit that it looses something without the accompanying musical score; mostly kazoos and cymbals.   

Time for some ACW

terrain.  Because I am SO tired of painting miniatures.  In the last year and a half or so I've probably painted over 200 miniatures.  GAH! it's soooo many.  It's exhausting. How can anybody paint so many  miniatures all the time..... 

HEY!  I can feel you smirking through the internet.  You, Jonathon.  Mark S.  Probably Keith.  Probably Iain.  Definitely Norm but he's too much of a gentleman.  Lawrence H, you too.  Matt C.  Carlo.  Dave S.  maybe Neil.   Point is... that's a lot of smirking.  

 200-ish is a lot for some of us mortals.  Especially because painting miniatures is a tedious business and If I had more money I'd be paying one of you to paint them for me.  
Maybe I should of done model trains as a hobby?
maybe I should get a box of those speed paints?  

maybe I should get over myself.

The Hills That I Always Wanted.

Besides, I have plent-tee of miniatures for the ACW (the best CW), so what I really want are some gorgeous battlefields.  Previously in my ACW (the best CW) games to make elevations / hills I placed materials underneath the mat.  It worked, but it was sometimes hard to represent features that I wanted, and my favorite gaming mats are the canvas, caulk, and flock creations that I did YEARS ago and they tend to to do large hills really well but smaller or rolling hills tend not to show through.  IN those cases I've used my fleece mats from Cigar Box miniatures which are really nice and the job gets done and the game get's played.  

Because of the under the mat technique I've never really made hills.  I'm so bored of painting miniatures that it seems like a good time to do something really exciting and expand my terrain collection and skill set and make some cool hills.  

I have lots of ACW (the best CW) scenario books and lots of the scenarios have specific elevations that represent key features on the battlefield.  One scenario that I've always wanted to have in my arsenal is the fighting outside Gettysburg on McPherson's Ridge.  One unique feature of this battlefield is that there is an unfinished railroad cut that literally goes right through several hills; which I always thought would be hard to feature with my previous methods.  The fighting on Day 1 of Gettysburg is so fascinating, and I love it all so much. that these are the hills that I always wanted, so a good place to start. 

And I love me the rules Regimental Fire and Fury (they're my favorite rules out of all my rules, just like YOU are my favorite blog reader out of all the others) aaaaaaannnnnddddd there just happens to be a RFF scenario book that just happens to have a McPherson Ridge scenario with a really great map and now you know where this is all headed.  To McPherson's Ridge! 

Actually it's a two-fer!  Because the same ground is fought over in the morning and in the afternoon; two scenarios for the price of one.  

Instead of making some generic hills, I'm gonna make the rollin hills of Gettysburg.  
Specifically I'll try to match the terrain as laid out in the RFF scenario book.   

Morning Scenario 

Afternoon scenario
Images of the scenarios from the 
Regimental Fire and Fury Scenarios Vol 2
are shown with permission from Mr. Hasenauer.
I emailed and asked, he said Yes.
He is a nice man.

The full scenario is a 5x7, which fits well in my standard 6x8 set up.  The map is really nice but doesn't provide exact measurements, and I'm gonna make some small changes just to make it a little easier. 
I can omit the dip in elevation around the stream and I don't trust my geometry skills enough to try some of those angles, especially of the angle unfinished railroad cut.  

I took pen to graph paper with each square representing 2 inches to simplify the map just a little bit, straighten some things out, and came up with this master blueprint:

I added some color pencils just to make it pretty for the internet.

I think overall it comes close enough to the actual scenario map while offering a more precise guide going forward.  I made the railroad cut parallel to the pike and slightly changed the orientation to make it easier to measure.  Why are roads during the ACW (the best CW) called Pikes?  Now your just fishing for trouble.  

Where to Begin?

Where it matters least of course.  As this is a new project without much experience for me I'm gonna start with hills the hills at the bottom left and top left from start to finish as a proof of concept.  These hills won't matter much for game play as it's just the CSA starting off point.  Least  that's what I think.

There are many ways to make hills, but the most common way is to carve them from foam and flock them.  Since I'm initially thinking of placing these on top of the mat that's what I'll do.

Starting with 2 squares of the pink home insulation foam from Home Depot
that come in 2 foot by 2 foot by 1 inch thick.

Using my Master Plan; draw out the shape.
The carpet in my hobby room really is kinda ugly.

Cut out the shape and then carve out the slope using a variety of sharp cutting things.
I can do this without cutting myself because I am grown up
and in Boy Scouts I learned to cut away from myself.
(you know who you are)

I tried to get 3" of slope for the 1" of elevation.  

Once the slopes were rough carved I used my palm sander to smooth it all out.
This is already more exciting than painting miniatures because I got to use power tools.
But then again I had to go outside...

There's no point in having a slope if miniatures can't stand on it.
otherwise might as well do terrace hills.

Not bad.  The regiment on the right is supposed to be at that angle.
How many pics have had my socks poking into them?
that's embarrassing.

And that is where the project stands for now.  If anyone has any advice on such matters as Hills and foam please do share. 

This was a Long Winded Post Just to Say You Started Two Hills

Yeah it was! That's very 'on brand' for me. But it was also something of a mission statement.  

More to come. Just gotta go buy a gallon of glue.
EDIT: Part two can be seen HERE

Thanks for Reading
Double Thanks for writing a comment.
Till Next Time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Starmada Unity Star Trek TNG ship builds


Hello faceless space fans!  In this post I share all the ship builds I did for gaming Star Trek TNG using the Starmada Unity system.  Federation and Klingon, and there are quite a lot of them.  It's a monster post.

But First Back on Earth:

This Terrible blog is lucky enough to have some folks who routinely / foolishly read and comment on many posts that I write.  Thank you.  However, this post has a much more narrow focus and target audience that's best illustrated by this compelling Venn Diagram...

If you don't find yourself on this diagram then you can feel free to to skip this post.  I won't hold it against it you.  There's nothing here that will really interest you.  So don't worry about it.

I mean I read ALL your dumb posts about Napoleonic wargames but you know, it's cool and whatever.  

Now we leave earthly concerns behind and get back to space.  Where the real action is. 

Starmanda Unity Star Trek 

When I wanted to start gaming some Star Trek star ship space combat I found some sites on the internet that helped guide the way.  This is meant to be one of those sign posts in the internet to help guide others in the same direction.  To give a starting off point.  It should not be taken as cannon and I should not be mistaken for someone who knows what he is doing.  It's just meant to be helpful.  If you like, you can click the 'Star Trek' label over on the right (if your seeing the webpage version) to see more Star trek posts on how I got here.  Ok, fine, you can just click HERE.  

Designing Star Trek Ships was something of a laborious process.  First I went to several websites to get the specs on these fictional ships most which vary slightly.  Then I had to come up with a clever formula to convert things from universe terms to game stats; for example if a ship had  16 phaser banks then how many phasers should it have in the game?  THEN I went along and categorized every type of warp engine and shield generator to cross reference the power output across different hulls and I"M JUST KIDDING I DID NONE OF THAT. 

What I did do was start with a medium ship and designed that till it 'looked right' and did my best to scale up or down from there depending if the next ship was larger or smaller / more powerful or less powerful / a personal favorite or fleet filler.  Something of an Endless Tinkering but not hard (especially with the dry dock spreadsheet) and in this way whole fleets started to take shape.  

General Guiding  Principles

All ships like to shoot straight ahead, but the Klingons doubled down on that principle.  

Klingon ships are faster and more maneuverable than Federation ships (Klingons have a higher engine) because of above.

All Ships have some Screens that I call 'plot armor.'  This is to represent that the first couple of times a ship gets hit you see the crew stumble around, a panel bursts into sparks, someone says "damage report!" and someone else says "damage to decks 3, 5, and 12 and shields weakening"   but the ship is totally fine and working 100%.  Some ships have more 'plot' than others, probably because they have a sex-ay main character or something. 

I use the optional rules Free Form Turns and Graded Turns.  A ship must move 2 hexes forward between turns (a side slip counts as going forward but after a side slip a ship must move forward) and some ships have tight turns and wide turns abilities.  Small ships also have the Evasive optional rule which I paired down to "-2 to hit/be hit for double the Engine requirement."  

I picture Star Trek kind like Sailing ships of the line (but in Spaaaaaaace) which is cool because the TV show was kinda like Hornblower (but in SPAAAAACE).  So just like the sailing navy and the rating system, Star Ship ship classes across the fleets have their rough equivalents in the enemy.  More on this later.  

These ships are designed that a player would control 6-8 ships in mind.  

There's more to say but one can ramble on.  Everything else is mostly about preferences.  Preferences that are mine and maybe not yours.  that's one of the strengths of the rule set is that there are several dials that can be turned wherever one likes.    For example: I tend to like the simplicity of shields being a protective egg of constant strength around a ship.  It makes the game play faster because when Directional Shields are used then you have to worry about defensive arcs and then players always want to reinforce shields and etc..  

Now lets present the ships from smallest to biggest.



My complete Federation fleet.
Known as The Grey Menance.
All saucer and rocket thingys.


The Saber class is the Federation escort ship.  It's fast, it's maneuverable, and has a smattering of phasers.  But it won't give any ship bigger than it any worries.


The Defiant class is technically an escort ship, but it's super up-gunned and up-powered.  That's because it's the hero ship in the DS9 series so it's gotta be cool. It's a tough little ship with lots of guns; when the players realize that the phaser cannons shoot with 3 dice each (because that's what it did on the show) the Federation players smile and the Klingon players say "that ship's gotta go."  


The Excelsior is the Federation's medium sized ubiquitous work horse.  It's the upgraded version of the Constitution class (the Enterprise in The Original Series was a Constitution class).   Any Federation fleet is gonna have a couple.


The Ambassador fills the role of the large ship in the Federation fleet.  I actually don't think you see a lot of Ambassadors class ships in the TV series but the concept of there being a ship class in-between the Excelsior and the Galaxy is good for game play.  Plus I just think it looks cool.  


The Akira is another large ship like the Ambassador class but more modern.  It's faster and basically a torpedo ship.  


The Galaxy is a capital ship.  It's also my favorite and we already know everything there is to know about it from many episodes of The Next Generation.  I tried to design it as dangerous and tough as it would go out and explore all by itself but not really a full battleship.  


When the Federation finally got around to making a capital war ship; the Sovereign is the result.  It's got a ton of guns, even more deadly torpedoes, it's fast, and got strong shields.  It's a super-duper-uber ship.  But at a TON of points and the hero ship from the movies so it's a got a lot of space to fill.  


My complete Klingon Fleet.
Christmas Trees of Death.

KVORT CLASS (Bird of Prey)

The Kvort is really just a small gunship / raiding vessel.  It's a very iconic Klingon ship so the temptation is there to make it really dangerous but it's just a small thing after all.  


This is the medium sized Klingon battle cruiser.  I figured that if the Federation replaced the Constitution class with the Excelsior class then the Klingons probably replaced the D7 with something.  They didn't, and I have talked long and eloquently in previous posts about how I dislike the overall look of the D7 so replaced it with this model from Star Trek Renegades.  


The Large Klingon ship is the Vorcha and it's the fleet's mainstay.  Besides the Bird of Prey this is the type of ship seen most in the TV series.  I love the look of the ship, kinda like an angry crab.  It's got a nice mix of weapons but like all the Klingon ships so far it can't shot behind it.   


This is just the Vorcha chassis with a head module outfitted for Torpedoes, essentially it changes out the heavy disrupters for extra torpedo launchers and gains a cool looking hammer head shark look that makes all the Klingon ladies growl.  


The Klingon capital ship and big ol' battleship.  While other Klingon Ships are sleek, fast, and maneuverable, when they designed this one they thought "screw all that showing who the best warriors are by using skill and tactics, let's just make a big, slow moving, hard thing."   It's not very fast and can't turn very well but can take a lot of punishment and dish it out too.


The Norgh class is another capital ship. This ship is not in the TV or movies but it's a cool Klingon-ish model and for game play the Klingons needed something approximating the Federation Sovereign class. So it's a Made-Up Made-UP ship.  Aren't they all.

An Exciting Discussion on Cloaking Devices

And other fun stuff: As I mentioned way before, I wanted the fleets to basically have rough equivalencies between them.  For example a Klingon large ship is about the same points as a Federation large ship:  a Klingon Vorcha class at 300 points is about the same as a Federation Ambassador class at 330. 

You will see that across the fleets most of the ships in a given size are roughly within 30 points of each other.  You will also see that every Klingon ship has a cloaking device because they all have it on the TV show and cloaking devices are part of the Klingon "Klingon-ness" and are just fun.  However, none of the Klingon ships actually paid the points for having a cloaking device because cloaking devices are SUPER DAMN EXPENSIVE.  CDs should be expensive because they are powerful.  If included in the point cost each Klingon ship would be really expensive and therefore hard to balance for game play.  So instead I hit upon this clever strategy that I will share with you now.  because it's a blog and it's all about sharing.  And telling me how clever I am in the comments.

First off, the Klingon ships pay for a tractor beam which I just renamed a cloaking device in the SSD so that the loss limits come out right.  Second, I introduce a rule that Klingons CANNOT cloak all their ships at the same time, but can ONLY have a certain number cloaked at once.  I say to players this is because Klingon battle doctrine is not about all the ships being cloaked and doing a mass ambush out of nowhere to an unsuspecting enemy nor is space combat about a big game of hide and go seek; those are things that Romulans would do.  Everyone hates the Romulans.  

Klingon doctrine dictates that honorable combat means that there's always uncloaked ships and its a matter of shifting targets / out smarting the enemy so that the enemy always knows it's under attack but does not know what to do because Klingons are better at combat.  I made all that up but it sounds very Klingon right? 

I usually set the limit of cloaked ships to be 1/4 of the total Klingon ships in a force.  In effect this means that every Klingon ship CAN cloak but they all can't.  And the player has to decide how to use that, has to think it through for the best advantage, like a WARRIOR.

However Klingons still have to pay some points from somewhere for the CDs or it gets unfair really fast.  To make up the cost I have the Klingon side reduce their fleet total by 100 points or 5% (whichever is higher) for each ship that is able to be cloaked at any given time.  example: if playing an even match game of 2000 points then the Feds get 2000 and the Klingons get 1600 and they can cloak up to 4 ships at once.  it helps that most Klingon ships are a little cheaper than their Federation counterparts so maybe they can squeeze in an extra ship.  In any game where the points are uneven (because one side is attacking or whatever) make the Klingons the aggressor, it fits their personality.

Or if all that becomes a pain or I don't want cloaking devices I can just use the points as is.  

Experimental Victory points:

One more thing before I go.  Obviously I really like the Starmada rules though there is one little weakness I have discovered over playing the game a half dozen times: small ships and victory points. 
In the scenarios presented in the rule book, victory is determined by the point value of ships destroyed, like victory when one side scores 600 points.  This means that large ships are really motivated to attack small ships because they are easy victory points; A 555 point Galaxy class can easily take out a 95 point Kvort.  

The small ship is helped by having the Evasive rule, but it creates situations where large ships go hunting for smaller ones which does NOT match my Ships of the Line (in SPAAAAAACE); because in the age of sail, Ships of the Line would not worry about enemy frigates in a battle unless they got annoying.

To fix this I hit upon this clever idea which I will now share with you, because it's a blog and it's all about sharing. That and hearing about how clever I am in the comments.  (Does it sound like an echo in here?  I feel like I am repeating myself).

Instead of using the actual point values of the ships; I assign each ship class to be worth a number of victory points that is roughly related to it's actual point value.  And then the victory condition is some fraction of the total for the whole fleet, like half or so.  These values are:

Saber and Kvort - 0pts
Defiant, Excelsior, and Makesh - 2pts
Ambassador, Akira, Vorcha - 4 points
Galaxy, Neghvar, Korgh - 8 pts
Sovereign - 10 pts.

So lets say a Federation fleet is composed of 1 Saber, 1 Defiant, 2 Excelsior, 2 Akira, and 1 Galaxy which makes the fleet a total of  22 victory points.  The Klingons would score a win if they destroyed (lets say) 12 points worth.  

Since the Saber is worth 0 victory points,  Any shots fired at it are kinda a waste, so the Saber is free to fly around all super fast and try to be annoying.  However, if it's too annoying (that Saber has hit twice with it's proton torpedo, it's gots to go!) or maybe is getting close to completing some other objective; it's still gonna find itself at the center of attention.  It creates a nice dynamic.  When a small ship looses half it's hull or one complete damage track it will warp away.  

Also, if the Galaxy gets blown up that's like 3/4 of the victory points right there, and that just feels right.  Because that was the Enterprise  BLOWN UP!  


Plot Course for Away from Here. Anywhere.

And there, my internet friends, is how I have tweaked the Starmada system to Star Trek, and my fabulous ship builds that impress all the SevenOfNine types and makes them want to assimilate me. There are worse fates.

and so it is.
Thanks for reading.
Double thanks for leaving a comment.
Triple thanks for writing a comment even if you have no interest in Star Trek or Starmada but that must mean you are also a SUPER NERD!