Monday, 23 April 2018

Full Thrust: The End of the World


Star-rimed space whale,
Cosmic nomad, absolute alien,
Devourer of planets, eternal wanderer, 
Beware!  The Kraken approaches!

I created a scenario for Full Thrust some time ago in which an uneasy alliance of starships attempted to destroy or divert a space monster that was intent on destroying a rich planet: .  Astonishingly, this was over 5 years ago and I haven't reprised it since - until now!

The Scenario

In short, 2 factions are rivals for influence at the neutral planet of Trondacolmakus.  The Magister of Trondacolmakus has made it clear that he will not be happy if either force should attack the other.  Peaceful negotiations are well advanced when an urgent message is received from a scout: a space monster is approaching and making directly for the planet.  Its intentions are unknown, but if it tries to siphon off the atmosphere, lay eggs on the surface or take a bath in the oceans then it would be a disaster for the planet's population.

The Magister begs the visiting navies to drive the monster away.  Together they have more than enough firepower to defeat it - but clearly the side with the most surviving forces will have an advantage in the continuing diplomacy.  Can the Ferengi and the Federation cooperate well enough to defeat the monster?  Or will narrow self-interest cause either side to hold back and give the monster its chance to ravage the planet?  Read on...

The Battle

The Kraken advanced steadily, only to be stung by early long-range phaser fire from a Ferengi vessel.  Infuriated, the monster launched a huge plasma bolt at the gap between two asteroid fields, hoping to catch 4 assorted cruisers in the huge explosion.

Sadly (for the Kraken, at least), only the Federation escort cruiser Phoebe was caught in the blast; the other targets were moving slower than anticipated.  Phoebe's shields did sterling service and saved the ship from total destruction; instead she was just badly damaged.

A smaller, but still potent, plasma bolt was fired from the monster's side at the Ferengi ships which were attempting a wide flanking move.  The opposing player was having none of that; he dissipated the threat with a handy Torpedo Malfunction event card.

The Kraken plodded on, swatting the occasional frigate without even really noticing them.  It reloaded its prow plasma and spat out a bolt at the collected cruisers in front of it at very short range.

This time, there was no mistake in its aim; all 4 of the enemy ships would be hit.  "All power to the shields!  Brace for impact!" roared the captain of the Ferengi battlecruiser Krayton [courtesy of a "Reinforced Shields" event card.  Honestly, the Ferengi player seemed to have all the good cards this game!].

It helped, but the shock wave from the class-6 plasma bolt was immense.  Endeavour disintegrated under the force, both Krayton and Danube were heavily damaged, while the already-hurt Phoebe only survived through a superb piece of damage control [a "Legendary Engineer" event card caused the warp core to be damped down instead of going supercritical and exploding].

The Kraken had a clear run between the asteroids now.  One of the cruisers in front of it was so heavily damaged as to be combat ineffective and the other two were facing the wrong way; they would have to turn laboriously before they could pursue the beast.

There were a pair of Ferengi warships (a light cruiser and a destroyer?) and several smaller ships hovering around in the distance, but these would need to move quite quickly if they were to engage the creature.

Of course, nothing is ever a certainty.  As the Kraken passed the Ferengi battlecruiser, a few weapons from the latter were able to bear.  A short volley hit the Kraken right up the backside and caused it to shudder with pain. [In game terms, the shell armour was penetrated and the damage caused triggered a threshold check.  This damaged the creature's "engines" and therefore reduced its available thrust]

A swift calculation revealed that with its reduced thrust, the Kraken was travelling too fast to be able to slow down before it hit the planet.  If its roll for damage control failed to repair its engine then it would have to turn slightly and skim past the planet at too high a speed to enter orbit - and therefore it would be unable to complete its mission.

The game therefore turned on this single roll.  Fortunately for the Kraken [not so much for the humanoids], it was able to repair the damage, or at least to overcome the pain and use the damaged system normally.

Now that it could decelerate as originally intended, the Kraken performed a 6" microjump straight forward [via a "Picard Manoeuvre" event card.  Hah - the Ferengi weren't the only ones to hold some interesting cards!].  This opened up the distance between the monster and its pursuers nicely, which was especially important now that it had its back to them [and therefore couldn't bring any of its weapons to bear].

The event cards were coming thick and fast now [indeed, I don't think I've ever seen a game of Full Thrust where so many cards were used!].  Firstly, the Kraken played an "Organian Peace Treaty".  A bunch of super-beings from another dimension turned out to be whale-lovers; they forbade anyone to fire at the injured animal.

This respite allowed the Kraken time in which to position itself near the planet's upper atmosphere ready for spawning.  The Organians soon lost interest in protecting the space beast, but before the monster could do anything else the Federation played a "Static Warp Bubble" on it, thus causing it to be time-stopped for a complete turn.

Initiative on the last turn was critical!  If either the Federation or the Ferengi beat the Kraken then they still had ships which could hurt it badly [especially as the Kraken was a mere 2 damage points off a further threshold check].  On the other hand, if the Kraken won then all it had to do was to "fire" on the planet to win the game.

This time, the monster won.  It spawned in the upper atmosphere and the thousands of eggs caused havoc on Trondacolmakus.  Large areas of the planet were rendered uninhabitable, whilst many others required a constant border watch to prevent infestation from the new badlands.  The resources needed to protect the population dragged the economy down to poverty levels unimaginable to the previously wealthy citizens and neither Ferengi nor Federation were particularly interested in trade deals with the inhabitants any more!


Sometimes you kill the monster and sometimes the monster gets you!  This was a very close-run game, where early losses didn't matter too much because the defenders could just bring in more ships.  Mind you, it wasn't really a place for corvettes or frigates; such small vessels had virtually no chance against such a huge attacker.

Had the monster been defeated then the Ferengi would probably have won, as they looked to have the larger of the remaining fleets.  But the monster wasn't defeated...

Monday, 16 April 2018

ATZ: The Lost Sheep (part 2)


In the last installment, Reverend Green was about to be jumped from behind by a couple of zombies.  He was following a member of his congregation (Kimberley) who had run from the horror and not really paying attention to anything else.

A long way off, Ricky and George could see what was about to happen.  Could they run fast enough to save the priest?  If they joined in, would they end up as zombie chow themselves?  Read on to find out what happened next...

The Game (continued)

The two trailing zombies reached for Rev. Green, but some sixth sense must have warned him of the danger at his back.  In a bravura piece of brawling, he knocked them both down.  One of the monsters fell awkwardly, split its skull open on the concrete pavement and lay still for ever more.

Hearing the sounds of fighting, Kimberley plucked up enough courage to look back around the corner.  More zombies were approaching and the young woman couldn't leave the minister to face them alone.  She swallowed hard, then charged into the fray.

The young woman pushed the nearest zombie to the ground and started to hit it with her tennis racket - again and again.  When she had finished, the "fat lady" zombie was clearly not moving any more.

Ricky and George charged towards a third zombie which was threatening to outflank the reverend and attack him from behind.  Neither of them had ever seen a zombie before and neither had ever been involved in any violent activities, so it was no great surprise when Ricky bottled it and pulled up short.

George, on the other hand, charged straight in.  Despite being REP5 and facing only a single zed, he lost the fight badly and ended up on the ground, stunned.  This was extremely dangerous for him, as he would require a complete activation to recover his wits and another to stand up before he could defend himself to any great effect.

The players' luck was amazing, as once again the zombies fluffed one activation roll after another.  They moved like molasses, moaning and reaching for the living, but never quite reaching them.

George finally threw off his daze and got back onto his feet, just as Ricky pulled himself together, ran forward and whacked the zombie hard with his cricket bat.  It crumpled to the floor at the same time as Rev. Green finally dispatched his final opponent.

Suitably wary, the party continued in their quest to find Laura.  They hadn't entirely believed the news reports or government advice before, but zombies were real; there was no room for doubt any more.  This made their search all the more urgent!

The Long Search

Note the very large potholes all over the road at the end of the cottage, courtesy of a "rough terrain" random event card.
From this point on, the party decided on two things that they would do differently:
  1. They would stick together - no more splitting up.
  2. They would try front doors - no more breaking and entering.

The next house they tried was full of zombies [especially the bathroom; what's that all about?].  Fortunately, both Kimberley and George were quick enough in reacting to retreat without a fight.

"We did remember to lock the door, didn't we?"
The party became slightly strung out as they ran away from the zombie house, towards the burger bar...

...but all they found there was a single, slightly dirty man who (a) didn't know anyone called "Laura" and (b) had staked his claim to all the Doomburgers(TM) in the restaurant & wasn't prepared to share them with anybody.

George might have tried to reason with him, but the man had a very functional-looking rifle and was clearly getting a little bit agitated by their continued presence, so they left him to his food.

On to the next house, then.  This time, Kimberley kept watch outside whilst George opened the bedroom door.  There were 3 more zombies in there, but the little man quickly shut the door again, then started to drag the settee across the opening..

Ricky went into the bathroom, where his natural propensity to acquire things kicked in [remember that 'greedy' trait?].  The Reverend followed and started to remonstrate with him, reminding Ricky that this was someone else's house and in any case they really didn't expect to find weapons, booze or car keys in a bathroom.

And so it was that no-one was looking in the right direction when another zombie crawled out of a broom cupboard in the corner.

Mind you, I should read my own event cards more carefully.  The zombie ought to have attacked straight away, but we played it that the monster was just placed.

George was too busy holding the bedroom door shut to notice anything amiss, but Ricky and Rev. Green left the bathroom before the zombie could move.  Without hesitation, they both set upon it and by the time that Kimberley came to see what all the noise was about, the creature had been pummeled into the ground.


Hoping that the barricaded bedroom door would hold, the group ran from the third cottage into the fourth and final home.  This time, George stood outside whilst Rev. Green and Ricky searched the main room.  The minister found a crossbow hanging on the wall, though was somewhat chagrined to find that it only had a single arrow [courtesy of another event card, a few turns later].  Ricky hunted through the cupboards and came away with a number of tins of food [fruit cocktail, chopped tomatoes, cherry pie filling...].

Meanwhile, Kimberley investigated the bedroom.  Again, there were 3 zombies in it; all young women in various states of undress [another WTF? moment; the models were drawn semi-randomly from the box...].  Once more, the zombies were slow to react and Kimberley shut the door quickly - but only just in time to prevent the zeds' reaching arms from grabbing her.

Rev. Green ran over to help Kimberley; between them they piled trunks, the TV and chairs against the bedroom door.  On the other side, the zombies were tearing at the barricade with their bare hands, but weren't making much impact on it.

George stepped into the cottage's front room.  "Guys, it's getting quite busy out there!" he said.  "I think we should be leaving".  Several zombies were approaching from the square, but there was probably still time to escape.

"I'll just have a look in the bathroom", replied Ricky - and there was Laura, cowering in a corner.  Of course, Ricky then wasted time by looking for stuff that he could take [greedy, remember?].

I love my random event cards.  Sometimes [quite often, really], they're just so appropriate for the story.  On this occasion, the bathroom door couldn't be reopened.  Maybe Ricky had locked it inadvertently behind him and was panicking too much to realise?  Or perhaps the door was badly fitted and stiff?

Whatever the reason, the party now found that Laura and Ricky were locked in the bathroom.  There were 3 zombies in the bedroom and more approaching the front door.  What would you do?

The party quickly locked the cottage's front door, then Rev. Green and George tried to force their way into the bathroom.  Meanwhile, Ricky and Laura climbed through a back window and out onto the street.

What with the zombies trying to break their way in as well, there was a fair amount of tense action happening!

For some reason, the zombies found the locked and barricaded doors to be quite tough going.  In contrast, Rev. Green kicked the bathroom door in quite easily.  Seeing the open window, they guessed where Ricky had gone and a few moments later the party was all reunited in the street.  They paused for a moment, hugging the building's gable wall to avoid being seen by the zombies who were all congregating on the house.

"OK, everybody ready?  Let's RUN!" called the minister - and he took off without waiting to see if the others were indeed prepared.  "Wait, what?" responded George, but everyone else took to their heels and he had to follow.

Zombies in the square saw the fresh meat and moved to intercept the people.  Although slow, they were able to cut the corner and one of them got close enough to George to trip him up.

This time there was no miracle respite and the zombies tore George apart in a brief, but violent, feeding frenzy.

The remaining humans fled, appalled at the sight and in no mood to do anything other than escape.  As they did so, Laura screamed imprecations at Rev. Green.  "You IDIOT!" she shouted.  "We could have waited until they had gone the other way.  We would all have made it!" [courtesy of an 'Argument' random event card.  Laura won the argument's first round very convincingly (and very loudly!), but soon ran out of breath].

As a final kick in the teeth the heavens opened and it started to pour, soaking the survivors and lowering their spirits even more [one last event card.  Tragicomic, really].


As so often happens in games of All Things Zombie, the party ended up with a similar number of people as it had at the start; it just wasn't the same people.  I suspect that the zombies' early inertia had given the players a false sense of security, so that when the double zed activation came [as it always does at some point], they lost a party member.

Still, for a bunch of citizens, half of whom didn't even have an improvised melee weapon, they didn't do too badly.  The mission goal was achieved [how unlucky was it that Laura was found only in virtually the last possible hiding location?!], so perhaps they should be eligible to test for REP increases after all?

Saturday, 14 April 2018

ATZ: The Lost Sheep


It's been quite a while since I played All Things Zombie.  Fortunately, there were four willing victims players last Thursday at the HAHA club, so I put together a quick scenario and let rip...

The Setting

It's day 5 of the zombie apocalypse.  Most civilians don't really know what is happening; a few are still trying to go about their normal lives; others have heeded the authorities' advice to stay off the streets.

In St. Mary's church (just off High Street), Reverend Green has gathered together a few of his parishioners - the ones who live really close together.  He's concerned about another of his flock: Laura hasn't responded to any phone calls and no-one can remember seeing her for a few days.

The Christian thing to do would be to check that she's safe and unhurt, wouldn't it?  Including the reverend, there are four members of the group, all young(-ish) and reasonably fit.  They should be safe enough, right?

The Searchers

  • Reverend Green. REP 4, Brawler, unarmed.  We reckon that this priest must have had an interesting past; perhaps he worked the mean streets of an inner city parish before this, or maybe he was an amateur boxer?  Anyway, he's better than average in a fight.
  • Kimberley.  REP 4, Poser.  At least she's got a tennis racket; it counts as an improvised melee weapon.  Not a very good one, though: I gave it a 1 in 6 chance of breaking each time it was used in a fight.
  • Ricky.  REP 4, Greedy.  The cricket bat is a useful improvised weapon (the group as a whole is short of clout), but Ricky's greed could be a problem.
  • George, REP 5, Free Spirit.  Now here's an enigma!  On the face of it, George looks like a sober, respectable businessman.  However, it seems that this is just a front.  Perhaps he secretly longs to hike round the world or to party all night long?  Maybe he spends his weekends at nudist colonies, or creating performance art?  None of his friends know...
All of these characters are Citizens and have not encountered a zombie before (therefore they are eligible to take the Zed or no Zed and Brown Pants tests when appropriate).

The Game

Initial Moves

The players decided that they would search each building in the area for Laura as they went.  After all, the woman might have taken shelter with neighbours or in a local business, if people were frightened enough to band together for safety.  Mind you, the district seemed quiet enough; only a few people were shuffling about [suburbs setting, encounter rating: 3].

They started by moving up to the garage.  Kimberley kept watch whilst the three men tried to open the door - but it was locked.

The party decided to split up (yes, I know!) so as to search more area.  Rev. Green and Kimberley ran to the back of one of the houses.  The young woman was somewhat surprised when the minister broke a window and prepared to climb in, but she held her tongue.  After all, she was distinctly nervous about the whole mission, despite having agreed to come along.  Perhaps it was better not to show themselves out front...

Before Reverend Green could enter the building, a disheveled, blood-splattered woman lurched round the corner.  Her clothing was torn, half of one arm was missing and she stank of putrefaction.  "My goodness, it's Mrs. Hibbert!" exclaimed the priest - as he recognised one of his less-fervent parishioners.

The creature snarled and reached for Rev. Green with bared teeth, but the shocked man knocked her down and leaped through the window.

As he untangled himself from the curtains, the priest heard a voice exclaim "You nearly got yourself shot, mister!  The wife and I don't take kindly to strangers busting into our bedroom like that.  If you weren't a man of the cloth then we might not have been so forgiving.  Now, out you go, back the way you came..."

This was all too much for Kimberley.  As the reverend climbed back out of the window, she ran away, heaving with dry sobs of pent-up fear.

The zombies were rather slower to react and hadn't moved much since the window was broken; surely their lassitude couldn't continue for long?

Kimberley paused for breath around the next corner.  Rev. Green followed her, calling out in an attempt to calm her down and reassure her.  While he did this, he was oblivious to the two zombies that were now tailing him, growling softly in anticipation of the warm flesh they might tear and chew...

At the Garage

What of the other two?  Having failed to open the garage from the front, Ricky and George crept round to the back door and tried to smash it down.  They spent several turns kicking the door and hitting it with fists and bat, without making any obvious difference.  The garage owner obviously believed in making his place burglar-proof.

Their attempts to break in were noisy.  Although this didn't spawn any new zombies, the sound attracted the attention of several that were nearby.  It was only their persistent sluggishness that prevented the intrepid heroes from being overrun and attacked [in other words, I couldn't roll a successful activation for the zombies, despite trying for turn after turn].

Eventually, a strange, lurching man came round the far corner of the garage.  The pair ran, afraid that they might have been seen.  Seeing the Reverend and Kimberley in the distance, they sped up to try to rejoin them - but the other members of their party weren't alone!

To be continued... Part 2 is now here ==>

    Tuesday, 10 April 2018

    SAGA: The Red River


    Last Thursday, my son A. and I went along to the Helensburgh games club (HAHA) again.  I had arranged to play an introductory game of SAGA with another club member.  In the event, my son played the game and I acted as umpire, dispensing advice and rules knowledge with complete impartiality.

    We were still playing SAGA version 1, though this may well be the last such game before I upgrade to v.2 .  I set up "The River" scenario from the original rule book: this has an impassable stream with 2 crossing places.  The winner is whoever has more of his force on the opposite side after 7 turns.  Simple enough!

    The Vikings

    A. took control of a Viking warband, comprised of the following:

    • 1 x Warlord ("Leif")
    • 1 x 4 berserkers
    • 2 x 4 hearthguard ("hirdmen")
    • 2 x 8 warriors
    • 1 x 12 archers (levy)

    The Scots

    Sorry for the out-of-focus shot.  I'm not sure what happened here...

    Facing the Vikings was a similarly-sized formation of Scots:

    • 1 x Warlord ("Macbheatha")
    • 2 x 6 hearthguard ("thanes")
    • 2 x 8 warriors
    • 1 x 12 angry monks (levy)
    Note that we were not playing with any advanced rules for this game, so the Scots banner-waving hearthguard was counted as just a regular hearthguard.  Mind you, A. nominated the banner as a self-proclaimed objective.  I forget his exact words, but the sentiment was very much along the lines of "I'm going to capture that!"

    The Game

    For the first turn or two, both warlords used pretty much all of their SAGA dice to advance their bands.  At this stage, they were trying to maintain some semblance of order (and didn't want to leave anyone behind!); nothing fancy happened.

    Macbheatha stayed in the middle (i.e. between the ford and the bridge) with his angry monks acting as a spiritual reserve (generating an extra SAGA dice by being near to the seat of power!)

    Leif encouraged his Vikings to cross the bridge, though he was conspicuously not in the front rank.

    First contact occurred soon enough, of course.  Scots thanes had barely set foot in the ford when a bunch of yelling, semi-naked madmen ran at them from the Viking lines.

    The berserkers stumbled, though.  Even though they threw a significantly larger number of dice than the defenders, they couldn't penetrate the Scots's armour and only 2 of the thanes fell.  In return, all 4 of the frothing loonies were cut down.  Someone's been eating their haggis this morning!

    Losses were mounting as the Scots thanes charged across the river and all but obliterated the Viking warriors who were facing them (a single soul survived).  Then, the Scots thanes were eliminated in turn by some fresh Viking hirdmen just before the Scots spearmen could cross the river to join them.

    At the bridge, an initial Viking rush was met by a wall of Scots warriors and repulsed.  The Scots thanes (with banner) then counter-attacked the retreating raiders and slew them.

    Another wave of Viking warriors charged forwards, but again the Scots thanes held their ground and sent the attackers reeling with heavy losses.  Mind you, the Scots were not without loss themselves.

    Continuing to advance, the Scots thanes finished off the last warriors in front of them.  They were tiring now, but only warlord Leif himself stood in their way (the levy archers don't really count; they were not very useful all through the game).

    Leif cut down one thane, then a second and finally a third!  However, the fourth and final thane was just too much for him; the Viking warlord fell and there was nothing left to prevent the Scots from following their banner and streaming over the bridge (again, the levies don't really count as they had all the stopping power of wet tissue paper).

    Back at the ford, the Viking hirdmen were forging forwards.  They entered the river and pushed back the Scots spearmen, but it was too little, too late.  Macbheatha shoved past his crowd of holy men and ran towards the norsemen.  Even though both sides were fatigued, the Scots lord had no difficulty in cutting down the two remaining hirdmen.

    That left just a solitary Viking warrior (plus their levy archers) on the west bank of the stream.

    With a cry of "Valhalla!", this likely lad charged Macbheatha.  There was no realistic chance that he could injure the experienced and armoured warlord, but the audacity of his attack must have caught the Scot unawares.  The Viking's spear thrust bounced off the Scot's shield without any attempt at a return stroke.  Honour satisfied, Sigvald ran off into the dusk.


    Although technically we had 2 more turns to play, we decided to halt the game at this point.  It should be fairly obvious to anyone who has followed the story that the Scots had won a significant, if bloody, victory; there was nothing to stop them from advancing the remnants of at least 2 units over each of the ford and the bridge.  The lone Viking warrior would have been cut down easily by a counterattack and although the levy  archers might possibly have inflicted a casualty or two in melee, they didn't generate any SAGA dice and so they they would have been easy prey, unable to activate to move, shoot or rest.

    It is true that the Vikings had some poor luck in the first two turns of the game (they didn't roll even one 'rare' face on any SAGA die and their combat rolls were less than stellar).  Neither side made a lot of use of their battle-board's SAGA abilities, which isn't really surprising considering that both players were relative or complete beginners.  Still, as far as I can tell, both players enjoyed the game - and that's the main thing.

    As you can see from the casualty markers, the river ran red that day!