Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crimson Skies? What, no French and Indian War?

Crimson Skies is a blast. We're talking about FASA's 1998 boardgame, not the Clix version. A simple aerial skirmish game with lite Roleplay aspects, and a great Alternate History of the United States leading up to 1937 as a backdrop for the action, Boardgamegeek describes Crimson Skies thus:

Crimson Skies is a character-based board game of dogfighting and dive bombing in an aviation-dominated world; a simple, fast-playing game of pulp-fiction-style air combat. It is a game about the men and women who pilot flying nightmares, the metal-sheathed birds of prey that spit death from the sky.

In Crimson Skies, you are at the top of the aviation food chain - a fighter pilot, one of the fearless men and women who take to the skies each day for honor or profit. Each player generates a minimum of two characters, a pilot and his or her wingman. If your characters survive from mission to mission, they gain experience that can translate into better skills, and thus even better chances for future survival and success. While this is a combat board game, not a roleplaying game, telling tales about your characters will invest the game with action, drama and humor, making the game-playing experience even more enjoyable.

This is a fun game that I haven't played for a couple of years; since I moved from Tulsa to the Twin Cities. In Tulsa, we played every couple of months or so, alternating Crimson Skies with other favorite games. In place of the printed map boards and paper counters, we used Hotz Hex mats and the metal models originally from Ral Partha, now available from Ironwind Metals

We played a campaign of sorts . . . I would generally bring a couple of rough scenario outlines to game day, and then try to adapt one to the players and Militias that showed up to play. Afterward, I would create a narrative based on the actual game we played, adding some back story and intrigue, then publish an episode of "Air Action Weekly," which helped to set up the next scenario. 

The casualness of the campaign - such as it was - really fit our style of play and made the games a lot more fun. Another fun aspect for us is that we based our Militias on local history and geography, so we centered our ongoing narrative on Oklahoma.

If you want to follow our campaign, you can download each edition of "Air Action Weekly" below. You'll get a sampling of our toys, too.

Jewel Shot Down Over Ozarks!
Governor "Alfalfa Bill" Murray outruns "Thievin' Savages!" 
German Chancellor Hitler Gives Speech on Foreign Policy 
Victorinox Payroll Object of Ferocious Dogfight over Dixie! 
Blood Feud Lures Patrols into "Thirty Seconds of Fiery Death!"
Renegades Deliver Response to "Thirty Seconds of Fiery Death!"  
Texas Fliers Spank Collective Raiders - But Lose New Oil Well.
RAF Earns Collective's Wrath!
More Like Sour Grapes of Wrath!
Mick "Movie Star" Mannock is Hero in Reel - and Real - Life!
Pirates Have Tulsa TransNational "On the Ropes" After Latest Attack!
Texas Threatens War; Collective Denies all Republic Allegations.

Will Texas and the Collective actually go to war? Not sure we'll ever know. . .

And if reading these makes you want to play Crimson Skies, but you can't find the OOP game, despair not, because you can download PDFs of all the original rules and background books from the game below. You'll still need to provide your own hex maps.

Book 1 - The Rules of Air Combat
Book 2 - Warriors of the Air
Book 3 - Aircraft of North America
Record Sheets

And two supplements you should have (there are several book supplements available, too, but you're on your own for those):

National Air Races 
Zeppelins and Bombers

You're welcome!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Got my Studio Tomahawk on!

Last week at my FLGS I picked up some new rulebooks. Saga has been all the rage lately and since I love me some Dark Ages, particularly the Norman Conquest kind, I decided to give it a closer look. Since we know the French and Indian War has some appeal for me, Muskets & Tomahawks, from Studio Tomahawk, the creators of Saga, seemed a natural pick-up, too. And since I like my current French and Indian War rules of choice so much, This Very Ground by Iron Ivan Games, I bought their World War Two skirmish set, Disposable Heroes & Coffin for Seven Brothers.

So if I like This Very Ground (TVG) so much, why bother with Muskets & Tomahawks (M&T)? Shiny object - I couldn't resist. And I have an ultimate plan. . .
A campaign, of course. I want to use GMT's boardgame, Wilderness War, as the basis of the campaign. 

I have been building my 10-man units with the John Jenkins miniatures to each represent 1 Strength Point from the boardgame. TVG perfectly handles the army level battles generated by the boardgame, but there's a "frontier ravaging" sub-game that is happening simultaneously with the army level that feels like it needs a more intimate scale than the army level. Hence I keep looking at rules. . .

After reading through M&T, I think it could easily fit the bill. In fact, it reads (disclaimer: I haven't played, yet) a lot like TVG. Both games are unit-based; each unit comprised of 4 to 12 soldiers in M&T, 5 to 20 in TVG. Both games activate a unit at a time, and alternate activations. TVG has a more interesting activation system, based on Initiative and player choice; M&T is card-driven, with an option to build hands instead of relying on the draw (I like the option). Again, in both games, each unit moves, shoots and fights before another unit activates. In TVG the soldiers are required to be in a formation and all take the same action. In M&T the soldiers can do different actions, which means that some can fire while others reload, and individual figures have to be marked for reloading. TVG uses a "Volume of Fire" mechanism that allows a single marker to be used for a unit, which I like.

In both games, each combatant has 3 defining characteristics. TVG bases these characteristics on a D10, M&T on a D6. This permits TVG to differentiate unit quality with numbers to a greater extent, M&T relies a bit more on "traits."

Shooting is handled the same in both games; each figure gets a die, rolling to hit and then rolling each hit to wound. Morale tests are taken by unit each time casualties are incurred. Both games handle morale degradation with 3 levels of decreasing effectiveness.

Officers are treated as individual units in both games; unit leaders are handled differently. In M&T, each unit has a leader who by virtue of being a leader is the last casualty in the unit. In TVG, each unit has one or more leaders (non-coms) that can become casualties as part of normal combat, and their loss can have a detrimental effect on unit performance. As officer mortality was quite high in the French and Indian War, I think TVG gets this right.

TVG provides some sample scenarios that can be strung together to form a mini-campaign and encourages the reader to devise their own scenarios, while M&T provides a neat scenario-generation system. M&T also has a system for random events and for "Side Plots" that add some fun and fanciful elements into the canned scenarios.

I like M&T enough to play a few games to get the feel of it, but I am not convinced I will switch from TVG. I may just be able to switch to smaller 5-man units to get the more intimate feel I want for the "frontier war". 

I'll get to Saga and Disposable Heroes later.

See ya.