Monthly Archives: November 2012

You’re doing it wrong!

I have been reading up on the Pirates of the Broken Coast to figure out how they can be better used, and I have come across an interesting sentiment out there.

Several of the commentators out there in the webosphere have mentioned the “amphibious” capabilities of various jacks as being “fluffy” or “useless”.  Why?  The standard answer is because there is usually no deep water on the battlefield.

Folks, much as I HATE that ability, I have to say YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!  Sophie has the right of it – if you have ‘jacks that are amphibious, have some deep water terrain to put on the table for them!  One of the great features of most miniatures games is how you set up the battlefield, and setting it up for the Pirates shouldn’t be any different than setting up a game where you put some hills in for your Cygnaran Long Gunners.

Does this mean that you are going to play a lot of games near sinkholes, ponds, and rivers?  Yes.  But so what?  Deep water is just another type of terrain, to be used to your advantage – if you can afford to buy a Pirates army, you can afford to get out there and hustle up some deep water terrain to plop on the table for it. Deep water is absolutely lethal to most warjacks, so the Freebooter’s ability to pick up ‘jacks and throw them is really terrifying close to water.

I am looking at some terrain design info on how to create water obstacles.  If and when I get it done, I’ll show it off here.

Battle of the Ponds

Tonight Sophie and I played the first tabletop minis game we have played in years – a “Warmachine” game.  Sophie played the Pirates of the Broken Coast and I played Cryx.

“Why are these pirates always hanging out around sinkholes?”

– Wraith Witch Deneghra

Cryx                                                                                   Pirates of the Broken Coast

87 pts.  Wraith Witch Deneghra                                  Phineas Shea                              67 pts

63 pts.  10 Mechanithralls                                           10 Sea Dogs                               95 pts

31 pts.   Necrosurgeon and Stitch Thralls                      3 Marksmen                               33 pts

18 pts.   Brute Thrall                                                    Mr. Walls                                   22 pts

113 pts  Reaper                                                           Mariner                                    110 pts

90 pts  2x Defiler                                                          2x Freebooter                          184 pts

76 pts  2x Deathripper

16 pts.  Skarlock Thrall

494 pts.  TOTAL                                                          TOTAL                                  511 pts

Looking at the two armies, it was obvious that I was going to have a clear advantage in Warcaster power  – Wraith Witch Deneghra is seriously powerful, and having a Skarlock Thrall tagging along would juice her up even more.  On the other hand, those three heavy warjacks were a serious threat, and my one helljack and four bonejacks weren’t going to measure up.  Also, as I would discover, the Sea Dogs were pretty tough, especially when bolstered by Mr. Walls and some marksmen.  I was in danger of being shot off the table.

We rolled for scenario and got “Killing Field” – three objectives in the middle of the board, you got one point per turn holding each, play to 7 points.  Casualties weren’t relevant.

Now I really hate how Sophie’s Warjacks can just dive into deep water and lurk there, so I decided that I was going to go for minimal terrain to reduce the amount of water I would have to deal with.  I conceded that I was satisfied as soon as Sophie had put down one pond, allowing her to place one additional piece of terrain…  which turned out to be another pond.  This was probably not the best idea I ever had, as it gave broad fields of fire to the gun on the Mariner and the marksmen with the Sea Dogs – and we only had two pieces of water terrain.

Sophie dropped one of the ponds on top of the leftmost victory objective, and the other one in between the middle and the rightmost victory objectives.


I was player 1, so I got to choose sides and set up first.  looking over the board, I decided to abandon the leftmost victory objective entirely.  My Mechanithralls might have been able to take it, but I didn’t want the unit way off on one side of the board.  Instead I decided on a two-pronged advance – my main thrust would be up the center of the board towards the middle objective with the ‘thralls, the Reaper, and D.  My helljacks would make a run for the rightmost objective, and try to hang on until I could secure the middle and send help their way.  Since casualties didn’t matter, I hoped to use the speed of my army to jump on objectives first, then just hold them long enough to get an unassailable lead.

Anyway, that was the plan.  By turn two it was pretty much shot to hell.

Then Sophie set up. with Shae and the Mariner on my left (her right) going for the submerged objective, the Sea Dogs heading up the middle, and the two Freebooters heading down the right flank towards the rightmost objective.  Seeing those two heavy warjacks going in the same direction as my Bonejacks completely unnerved me.  My plan changed, and I decided to shift right with D. and the Reaper.


Ah, turn 1 – ever exciting.  My M’thralls moved up the middle, my Helljacks sprinted (or waddled) towards the rightmost victory objective, and I kept D and the Reaper headed down the center, but shifted them from the left to the right so they could lend more support to the Helljacks.  The Sea Dogs moved up and shot three of my M’thralls off the table (I had carelessly let them get out of range of the Necrosurgeon), The Mariner headed towards my left, followed by Shae, who dropped a little squall on some of my M’thralls.

And that’s when we realized that there was a big problem – the Freebooters were out of Shae’s control range, and could only walk.


I moved the M’thralls up to capture the middle objective, and the Helljacks got the one on my right.  D. and the Reaper finished repositioning near the edge of one of the ponds so they could support both the M’thralls and the Helljacks.

Sophie’s damned riflemen got a LOS on my Necrosurgeon and blew her off the table, as the Sea Dogs prepared to contest the middle objective.  Shae dumped another squall on me, which would prevent some of my M’thralls from charging next turn.  The Mariner fired, but missed.  The Freebooters continued to walk forward

Victory Points

Edmund:  2     Sophie:  1


I set my Reaper up to take a Harpoon shot at one of the Freebooters.  And that’s when I realized that the damned harpoon was useless against heavy jacks.  In fact the only target that was worthwhile for the Reaper on the whole board was Shae!  Durp.  D. used Tenebrious Exile to make one of the Freebooters incorporeal.  In the center, the M’thralls charged the Sea Dogs, smashing five of them to a pulp with their steam fists.

Sophie snagged the leftmost objective with the the Mariner and Shae, and got the Freebooters into deep water.  A countercharge by the remaining Sea Dogs demonstrated amply the “hammer and eggshell” nature of the M’thralls, trashing all but three of them (plus the Brute Thrall).

Victory Points

Edmund:  4     Sophie:  3


D. spent focus points on her jacks this turn. but much of it turned out to be wasted.  The few remaining M’thralls continued to stubbornly defend the central objective, and the Brute Thrall managed to beat Mr. Walls paper thin.  The Reaper headed back towards the center to hold the objective, since I didn’t think that the M’thralls would be alive the following turn.  D. managed to hit one of the Freebooters and toss it up into the shallows like a speared fish, whereupon all my bonejacks set upon it with a fury, doing it some severe damage.

Sophie’s surviving Sea Dogs massacred my  M’thralls and claimed the middle victory objective.  Shae popped his feat, moved everyone around a bit, then charged the Reaper (and one poor M’thrall), pulping the latter, and doing severe damage to the former.  The Mariner then charged and immobilized the Mariner with an anchor to the knees!  This left the leftmost objective unclaimed, but she still got a point for the central objective.


Edmund:  6     Sophie:  4


I still held one victory objective, and I only needed one point to win, so I knew the game was in the bag at this point.  Still, I thought I would play it out for my turn.  The Reaper tried and failed to pummel Shae, despite making no less than three attacks on him.  D. fed all her Focus points into her bonejacks, which proceeded to gnaw the Freebooter to pieces.  D. and the Skarlock went after the other Freebooter but didn’t scratch the paint.  My last point went in the bank, and the game was over.

Victory Points

Edmund:  7     Sophie:  4


There were a lot of little errors in the game, but really only one big one – leaving the two Freebooters without focus points for the entire game turned a major threat to my right into something that was not nearly so worrisome.   Had Shae left the Mariner over by the victory objective and headed over to back up the Freebooters, their rather nasty claws could have made short work of my Helljacks with a couple of boosted attacks and boosted damages.

On the other hand, I used Wraith Witch Deneghra really poorly.  I should have had her in the thick of the fight between the M’thralls and the Sea Dogs, scooping up corpse tokens and turning them into a factory worth of Focus points.  As it was, I never got a single corpse token throughout the game.

Other small mistakes I made included the terrain set-up, and a) taking a Reaver in the first place, b) having taken one, not sending it after Shae.

I learned that my M’thralls can really tear the living hell out of anything they get into combat with, but they had best do it quick because they won’t last long in a counter-attack.  The Necrosurgeon did nothing, and will need to be more heavily protected in the future.  My Bonejacks performed superbly, as they always do.  Sophie’s Sea Dogs are far more dangerous than I thought they would be, particularly those Marksmen.  Shae seemed to be a bit costly for what you got for him.  His feat was pretty weak compared to D’s, but he did seem pretty lethal in combat – certainly he was having more luck beating up my Reaver than D. was beating up his Freebooter.

Post Script

I made two errors in army design – one actually illegal, and the other one legal but probably a bad idea.

First, I should not have fielded Wraith Witch Deneghra.  As an Epic caster, she should only be available for armies of 750 points or more.  This probably wasn’t decisive, since I didn’t bond her to any of my ‘jacks and used her really poorly throughout the game.

Second, I should have given Sophie the Commodore Cannon.  It isn’t required, but you can only take it with Shae, so in retrospect it seems like a pity not to have fielded it, and given that Shae is an average Warcaster it might have been better to drop one of the Freebooters, or at least downgrade it to a lighter ‘jack, so his Focus points could be spread a little less thinly.

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The Oubliette

Photos of the gaming area we have set up downstairs.

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Convention games

This is NOT the sort of game I am talking about.

You have your bag full of snacks, your dice, your rulebooks, your props.  Your convention badge is proudly displayed somewhere on your person.  You have written an exciting, interesting, and punchy description of the game you are excited about running, and there it is on display in the convention program (with your name spelled correctly even!).  It’s fifteen minutes to go time, and you have your game face on as you head to the room/table/area listed for your game.  You plop down at the table, set up the screen, put your notes in order, and put the handout material out for the players.

Then you wait.

Five minutes.

Ten minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

“I need at least three players….”

Game time!  Any minute now there should be players – excited players ready to adventure in the game you have so lovingly crafted, ready to make a great story from the foundation that you have provided for them.

Twenty minutes….

It starts out slowly, in the back of your mind – a nagging feeling that something is wrong, that things are not going as planned.  The soundtrack in your head slowly shifts from whatever music was appropriate for the game you are preparing to run, to the soundtrack for “Identity”, and you flash to that moment in “Training Day” when Ethan Hawke realizes that things are about to go very, very wrong for him.

It begins to dawn on you that your game isn’t going to run.

This is almost always a big disappointment for a GM – you have put together something cool, and have frequently even gone the extra step of creating characters for the players.  In addition, in most cases you are surrounded by other people who ARE gaming and having fun – and other GMs who are practicing their magic while you sit forlornly at your table with metaphorical tumbleweeds blowing all around you.

What do you do when your game doesn’t run?  Here are a few suggestions:

1)  Help your players!  The saddest thing that can happen to you as a GM is when you decide that you don’t have enough players to run, but there is SOMEONE who has shown up for your game.  These people are your disciples – value them!  Treat them right.  Maybe you hadn’t thought of it before because your mind was too filled with the idea of a table full of raucous, excited gamers having a blast with your game, but take a moment to ask yourself “Can I run this game with the players I’ve got?”  “Can I run this as a solo adventure?”  If you can, do that.  You owe it to yourself for making up the game and you owe it to the players who showed up for it.

If you just can’t run the game for the number of players that you have, help them find another game.  Seriously.  You should.  They put their trust in you by signing up for your game.  Don’t just abandon them with a shrug of the shoulders and a “sorry”.  Maybe you could play a board game, or you could all try to get into a different roleplaying game that needs players.  Now is not the time to mope, as tempting as moping might be.

2)  See if you can reschedule the game for Open Gaming or another timeslot.  Let the convention organizers know that you would be willing to help out if one of their games cancels by covering that time with your game.  Put up a few announcements about when and where your game will be running and try to generate some buzz.

3)  Ask yourself why your game didn’t run.  Was it scheduled at the same time as one of the major convention events such as the address of the keynote guest, a major tournament, or the time when the party rooms are giving out free booze?  Did you schedule your game for 2:00 am because you thought it was the perfect time to run “Don’t Rest Your Head”?  Was your game actually listed in the program, or did someone put it on an addenda sheet at the last moment (or maybe not advertise it at all)?  Was all the information about your game correct and was the gaming area marked so people could find it?

4)  Read over the blurb that you put in the convention booklet and ask yourself it was REALLY as enticing and evocative as you hoped it would be.  Get a friend to look it over and make recommendations.  The punchier your game description is, the more likely you are to get players,

5)  Put that game in your hip pocket!  OK, so the game didn’t run…  this time.  Well, now you have a fully written game, all ready to go for the NEXT convention that you go to, without you needing to do anything more than put all your handouts, characters, and notes in a safe place so you won’t have to reprint/recreate them.  Your work is done – you can now use the scenario to get credit at two conventions instead of one, with very little extra work.

6)  Go game hunting!  Several hours of convention time just freed themselves up for you.  Don’t sit around sulking or feeling bad.  That way lies madness!  Go wander the convention and see if you can find a different event to get into.  Do something fun!  Find some game that it struggling (and if your game didn’t run there is almost certainly another game out there at the convention that is limping along with fewer players than the GM would like) and get into it!  Go to the Dealers Room.  Get food!  Check out Open Gaming!  Don’t let the time go to waste!

Having your convention not run is a lousy and sad experience for any GM, but there ARE things that you can do to make it easier, for you, for any players who might have shown up, and for the convention.  Take it in stride, be flexible, and turn the problem to your advantage as much as you can.

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