Nordic Weasel Games

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Miniatures gaming is not an expensive hobby

An area of particular interest to me is people who have an interest in miniatures gaming and might well be interested, but who are discouraged for this or that reason. So I wanted to talk a bit about some of those discussions and what my take is, possibly in a series of posts.

Please note that this has nothing to do with persuading people who are not interested at all, it is aimed at an audience who are or might well be interested, but who are concerned about a specific issue. 

It is also not applicable to every possible situation in the universe, so let's be reasonable.

Lastly it is intended to address common arguments I see made, in the interest of accuracy. 

Anyways, the most common objection I see is that miniatures gaming is too expensive / an expensive hobby.

This I cannot agree with for the simple reason that I began miniatures gaming when I had almost no disposable income and did much of my most energetic gaming during periods where my income for miniatures was extremely limited.

When I lived in Portland, we played a ton of miniatures gaming, particularly Nuts, Crossfire and Stargrunt 2. In all three cases I supplied the miniatures for both sides. 

Here is what armies for all three games cost me (using todays prices, not 15 years ago): 

Stargrunt 2: We played in 15mm. The figures in question were a mish mash of stuff but several squads from GZG were used. 

For a platoon sized game, you need 3 squads for each side and the GZG 15mm figures come in packs of 8. Looking at their website right now, it looks like 3.6 pounds per pack of 8 so that is 28.8 pounds for two armies. You will probably want to grab an extra pack for each so you might have a mortar team or a few officers, so let's call it an even 36 pounds. 

Crossfire: Again played in 15mm. I based mine with 3 figures to a base. I ended up buying two of the Battlefront platoon packs since that was more than plenty figures to fill out two battalions for Crossfire. 

Looking online, it looks like prices are all over the place but 20 dollars for a platoon seems average. We will want a few extra bits like some machine gun teams and my choice at the time was to fill in extra stuff with Peter Pig minis, which are 6.75 per pack of 8 from Brookhurst hobbies in the US. If we say 2 platoon packs and 4 extra packs of Peter Pig, we come in at around 65 dollars.

Nuts: This is even easier because we played with 1/72 scale plastics (though if you built the armies above, odds are you would have enough left over to mount up a squad or two for skirmishing).

A box of 1/72 scale plastic figures will cost between 10 and 15 dollars at the good folks over at Michigan Toy Soldier Company, so for both sides (and with more figures than you would ever know what to do with) you are probably below 30 dollars.


Now this is omitting terrain since I am assuming if you are highly price sensitive, you are going with paper and felt or DIY'ing from scraps, but if you want throw in another 100 dollars on top of this to get a fun table setup with some stuff. 

That puts you at somewhere around 30 dollars on the cheapest to below 200 dollars at the high end to get started. As noted this is for fielding TWO armies so it is a complete play set. If you are doing this with a friend, halve the expense and then spend the rest on buying yourself a starter paint set.

Is that expensive? Well, that depends on the person but I think we can agree that this is hardly insurmountable.

(and this is omitting that you can play miniatures games with paper minis, on a virtual tabletop or any number of other solutions, but I am focusing here on what people usually mean when they say miniatures game). 

But but but:

When I have had this discussion in the past the objection usually comes as some sort of "but I want to play Warhammer 40.000".

Sure. If the only game you want to play is an expensive game, then it is an expensive start. But then the discussion should be "is Warhammer 40.000 expensive?", not "is Miniatures gaming expensive?". 

Your turn:

Is miniatures gaming expensive? What does your other hobbies cost? Sound off in the comments if you like.

Catalogue retrospective: FiveCore Skirmish

Today a bit of a quick look at the back catalogue, particularly because it is a game I am currently working to update.

FiveCore was initially an attempt to make a generic version of the core engine from Five Men in Normandy but grew into its own game (and becoming bigger in size than its ancestor at that). 

FiveCore revolves around two specific ideas: The first is to reduce the use of dice modifiers. Instead you roll a handful of dice when attacking and look for 1s and 6s. They are divided into Shock and Kill dice, the former replacing the need for morale tests and the latter determining actual hits. The idea is that a single roll of the dice gives you all the information you need: Did we hit anybody? Is anybody running away now? Since results spill over, this works quite elegantly. If I roll a kill and a morale result, the guy I shot at is killed and his nearest buddy is now running away. 

The turn sequence is the other part that really catches peoples attention, and occasionally runs into objections. When it is your turn to play you roll a D6. A 2-5 means you activate normally. In the updated version this will be figures equal to the die roll. These can move and fight as you see fit. The enemy can perform reaction fire, which mostly produces Shock dice. 

On a 1 you "scurry". This means all of your characters can move, but cannot shoot. The enemy can then countermove if they saw you moving.

On a 6 a "firefight" breaks out. You are stuck in place but everybody gets to shoot, then the enemy gets to respond. 

The mechanic is meant to show how at times you do not have complete control over things. Sometimes you want to move, but the battle bogs down in a gun battle or your men spot an opening and you can finally get that exposed group back into cover. 

The game offers many more features including solo guidelines and material for campaign play. It is aimed at 20th century conflicts but some alien/magical abilities are included though this is not the strength of the system. Near-future stuff works fine though. 

Why not give it a look? 

Renegade Scout combat example

Today's example is for Renegade Scout. 

I trust most will be familiar with how 40K combat works, so we can examine this by looking at how it differs though I will try to explain in details for those not familiar.

Step 1 - Firing basics

We have a squad of soldiers (standard Unity Grunts) firing at a rebel unit consisting of similar troops. 

For the purpose of combat we need to know that they have a Shooting Skill of 3 and a Defense of 3.

Being a high-tech sort of outfit, the squad has 4 soldiers with laser rifles and 1 soldier with an auto laser. They are all wearing Light armour with an Armour rating of 2. 

They are 10" from their rebel targets putting them within close range for both weapons (Laser rifles have a close range of 15", long range of 30" while the auto laser reaches to 20" and 40" respectively). Lasers do not have a hit modifier due to range. 

Laser rifles have the Rifle trait which increases their long range by 4" when stationary but that won't matter here.

Step 2 - Number of attacks

We get one attack die for each laser rifle. The auto laser receives Sustained Fire which gives us 3 attack dice. 

Step 3 - Roll to hit

As the rebels are skulking in some bushes they are in Light Cover which is the only hit modifier. This means our Shooting Skill is modified down to a 2, so we have to roll a 1 or 2 on 1D6 to hit.

Rolling the dice for the rifles we get a 1, 2, 4, 5 so 2 hits. The Auto Laser rolls a 1, 5, 6 so 1 hit. If we had rolled a pair of 6s the gun would also have jammed. 

Step 4 - Roll for damage

This is quick. Since the Impact of the rifles is the same as the Defense score (3 in both cases) a roll of 1-3 will inflict damage. We had 2 hits so I roll and get a 2 and a 3. Both hits inflict damage.

The Auto laser has a higher Impact value (4) so a 1-4 inflicts damage. A 3 means it is another damaging hit. 

Not that it does not matter how much higher the Impact is. It is always a 1-4.

Step 5 - Armour

The basic roll required is equal or below the Armour rating (a 2) to deflect the hit, but laser rifles have an AP rating of 1, meaning the Armour rating is reduced by 1. The dice come up 1 and 5 so one hit is deflected and the other is a casualty.

The Auto laser has an AP of 2 so it blows right through the Armour. 

Step 6 - Remove casualties

Easy enough here. The two targets closest to the attacker are removed as casualties. 

Step 7 - Test Morale

At the end of the Fire Combat Phase the rebels will have to test Morale since they lost a figure. This is a 2D6 roll with a roll equal or below the Leader Skill of the squad. 

Since we are not within 8" of the target, they become Pinned if they fail. If they had enemies within 8" they would instead Break on a failed test.

And that is it

It looks like a lot of steps when you break it down but each only takes a few seconds to carry out. 

Some biographical questions I suppose

Once in a while, I get questions about my background and other such information. 

I am Danish by birth but have lived half my life in Denmark and half in the United States. I am in my mid 40s. Our family is owned by three cats: Lancelot, Lawrence and Ludwig. We have had two previous cats: Scruffy and Mittens.

I have lived in 4 different states in the US. 

I originally went to college to become a school teacher, after moving I worked as a representative and later middle management in a call centre. Creating and selling game rules is my full time job and has been so for years.

The miniatures games I have played the most (in terms of substantially more hours than a lot of other games) have been Warhammer 40.000 2nd and 3rd edition, Warzone 2nd edition, Stargrunt 2, Necromunda 1st edition, Crossfire, Nuts 1st and 2nd edition, 5150 1st edition. 

If board games with miniatures are included, Space Crusade, Hero Quest and Blood Bowl (3rd edition) makes the list as well.

I have played role playing games about as long as I can remember. My favourite games vary by mood but anything based on Chaosium's Basic Role Playing engine. If I had to pick one, let's say Runequest 3rd edition. I am a big fan of Swedish games like Eon and Hjältarnas Tid.

I am an avid fan of hex-and-counter wargames. If I had to pick a favourite game it would be The Great War in Europe Deluxe edition. 

My favourite films are Saving Private Ryan, Aliens and Pretty Woman.

My favourite television show is Doctor Who.

My favourite anime is either Trigun or Macross Frontier. 

My favourite authors are Michael Moorcock, Joe Haldeman, J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Water Scott.

My favourite bands, if I had to pick, would be Bolt Thrower, Blind Guardian, At the Gates and Summoning. It is hard to nail it down to only a couple though.

Squad Hammer. First there were hammers, then there were people, now there are ORCS

The Squad Hammer Core book has just been updated to the ORC edition. 

This is both a regular update, adding in and clarifying a bunch of material in the rulebook (putting it just past 50 pages compared to the original 30ish) but it also puts the rules under the ORC license (originally created by Paizo).

This allows you to create your own derivative works using any material in the Squad Hammer rulebook. Derivative works must themselves use the ORC license though any product identity you create is not required to. Please follow the links in the rulebook for details. 

Squad Hammer has always been a game "for the people" and now that is as literal as it can be. 

If you are an existing player, all you have to do is download the new rulebook. It couldn't be easier. 

Fivecore v4 update

I suppose this is the first change to Fivecore skirmish, but the version just uploaded features the removal of the Squad Morale mechanic.

I'll be honest, it never quite fit right with me. First, I suspect that the normal combat rules and Shock dice already does everything that it needs to do, and secondly the "roll to lose the game" approach is not that great.

I'll also be double honest, when I have played I usually leave it out. 

This does not mean there will not be something to replace it, but I'll be having a think about it. It does mean a couple of table entries have to be redone, they are currently marked with XX so iuf you roll one of them, just reroll or make something up :)

Game example: No End in Sight movement and reaction fire

Today we delve into an older title: The cold war platoon level rules No End in Sight 

No End in Sight (NEIS for short) does not have a standard "declare that this guy is now on reaction fire" approach. Instead any soldier that is not pinned down is on the look out and can conduct reaction fire.

When a unit is moving across ground that is in sight of un-pinned enemies, it happens by way of the Rush move. 

Let me illustrate using state of the art combat simulation graphics

We have here three Blue soldiers behind some bushes, who would dearly like to get over behind the corner of that building. 

The empty ground between the two locations is being observed by two Reds though. 

Its 3" to reach cover. So we roll 1D6 for each soldier Rushing and that is how far they can go.

Better for some than for others!

The 5s make it all the way across. The guy rolling a 2 however moves the 2 inches he rolled, then becomes pinned down and must roll to see if he got hit. 

Game updates starting

The first two updates have happened though they are in a fairly similar vein:

Dreams of Dragons and FiveCore skirmish owners will both find a separate file in their drivethru/wargame vault library with the new version.

These will look a bit rough: All images have been removed (to be replaced later) and formatting is a bit harsh. For FiveCore I had to convert it from the original file format, which makes formatting a pain to work with, but I'm getting through it.

What will happen over the next number of weeks is that I will both be working through the original texts to clarify wordings and weak explanations plus catch any bugs I spot, but I will also start updating the rules to account for general experience. This is particularly with an eye towards improving things, making the games flow better and take a critical look to which options enhance the game versus make it more cluttered (particularly for Dreams of Dragons). 

Once things are taking shape you will also start seeing new material appearing though it may be a bit before I can get to that point. 

For Fivecore, I will also be taking a look at some of the old material that used to be available and seeing what can be brought into the main rules versus what stuff was superceded by the third edition rulebook.

Dreams of Dragons is currently not offered for sale, but will be made available again, once I am happier with the state of the game. 

If you have been on the fence about Fivecore, this is also a great time to jump in so you can help shape the future of the game. 

After all, there must be a reason it has a near perfect rating on Wargame Vault :)

If you are a Fivecore player and want to support these endeavours, please consider contributing on Patreon. 

Updates to older systems

As part of the "Mark 3 Weasel" plans, I am looking at updating a range of older titles from the back catalogue.

This includes things like No End in Sight, Fivecore skirmish, Trench Hammer and more.

These updates will focus on both adding a few new features, fixing some awkward wordings and generally cleaning up the text. Some games will probably see changes that might qualify as a new edition, others will be mostly polish.

There are two big challenges up front. The first is to get the documents into the format I currently work with (Apple Pages). I originally used LibreOffice for most things, but it seems that most implementations do not have the option to output to Pages and Pages doesn't play that nice with .odt files. However, I realised if you export to the Microsoft office format, then you can carry things over.

Its not perfect, in particular document styles tend to be a right mess, but it is workable.

For a few titles however, the original documents appear to have been lost so there I have to basically try to extract the text from the PDF copies. This is considerably more work, but is at least doable.

Part of this process will include stripping out old images, since they are well overdue for replacement and a facelift. 

So the hope is that I can get these up and running over the next few months and then start having them scheduled in for regular updates. 

Id like to do all this as a free upgrade, but nothing truly is free right? So if you want to help support this process, please consider swinging by and throwing in a few bucks a month. 

Clash on the Fringe. An example of combat

Today we are going to look at Clash on the Fringe and specifically how combat resolution works. 

All references are to the revised edition but the original should work more or less the same.

Let us take a squad of 6 soldiers. They are decently armed with assault rifles (range 8"/25", Penetration 1, 1"x3" and a squad automatic weapon (SAW) (Range 4"/35", Penetration 1, 2"x4" and the Heavy and Suppression traits).

Our soldiers are typical Regulars (Discipline 5, Morale 5, Training 5) and are shooting up some opposing infantry. The enemy is wearing light armor (giving them Speed 5 and Survival 5).

Step 1 - Range

Our squad has been given an Engage order which allows them to shoot at the target. Some orders limit you to only shooting at close range, but in this case it does not. Each weapon has two ranges: The first is the Assault range, the second is the Aim range. 

Our targets are 12" away so it is at Aim range for both weapon types. 

Two quirks are worth noting: First a stationary fire can extend their Aim range by their Training score. Second weapons can shoot beyond their Aim range, to the edge of the table, but the fire is at a big penalty.

Step 2 - Areas of effect

Automatic weapons in Clash use a template. In this case the assault rifles place a template that is 1" wide and 3" deep, while the SAW is 2" wide and 4" deep. You get to roll to hit every target under the template. Don't bunch up!

For simplicity here, we assume the enemies are spread out in a skirmish line and each of our rifles only get to cover one target.

Step 3 - Roll to hit

To hit anything roll a D10 and get equal or below our Training score (5 in this case). Modifiers apply for ranges and cover and a few other things. We roll the dice and end up with 3 hits. 

Step 4 - Heads down?

Each hit die that is a natural 10 causes the target to go Heads Down (meaning they are taking cover and trying not to die).

Step 5 - Survival

For each hit, we roll the D10 again and add the Penetration of the weapon. if we get above the Survival score of the target, they are gone. If it is equal or below, they go Heads Down. (having bullets deflect off your armour is rather disconcerting). 

What is the benefit of the SAW? Well, for one it has a larger area of effect, but it also has the Suppression trait which means 9s and 10s cause Heads Down status, so not only is it a deadly weapon if the enemy is bunched up, it also is quite effective at forcing them to the ground.

So in conclusion

This is just a quick overview of how combat works with basic infantry. Of course all kinds of specific details apply to grenades and when shooting at vehicles etc.