Power Armor

Power Armor
Khurasan power armor infantry with conversions

Monday, September 19, 2016

Playtesting A Sergeant's War scenarios and Rail Gun spaceship gaming

Hey all, some playtesting updates here.  I'm currently working on a new scenario book for A Sergeant's War, tentatively titled 24 Hours on Okinawa, and a near total overhaul of my in-development spaceship game Rail Gun. Some general notes after the bump.
Gunship, art by Andy Nelson

I am working on another scenario book for my WWII rules A Sergeant's War, this time covering the US Marines on Okinawa.  Rather than recreate a particular battle, I'm making a set of 5 linked scenarios that represent a typical day of combat for a Marine rifle company during the brutal assaults on the Shuri Line and afterward.  The Marines, armed to the teeth and well led, must try and reduce Japanese fortifications in very rugged terrain.

In the linked scenarios, the Marine player will have to deal with the problems that US troops on Okinawa faced: tough Japanese fortifications, terrain that inhibited close armor support, the Japanese use of reverse slope tactics that trapped Marine units on exposed hillsides outside of their own fire support, and the difficulty Americans faced in keeping their attacking units supported.  Marine players have to keep their losses low enough to sustain the attack but still have to achieve their objectives.
Handrawn map, counters made on MS word. I play at half scale (1/2"=1") , giving me, on a 24"x30" paper map, the equivalent of a 4'x5' table).

The Japanese have other troubles to worry about. The terrain favors them but if the Marines can penetrate their defense lines, their flamethrowers will eat up the Japanese bunkers.  Furthermore, Marine firepower is sufficiently ferocious to annihilate Japanese counter-attacks unless those attacks can be made in concealing terrain.

I tested the first scenario on a simple paper map and with counters. I've found this makes set up and take down much faster and lets me track important notes on the map while playing.  The Marines destroyed the first line of Japanese defenses but got chopped up by overlapping fields of HMG fire and artillery support.  By turn 7 they had reached their Breaking Point and failed most of their unit morale tests, sending them into general retreat.  13 Japanese casualties, including two bunkers destroyed, vs about 22 Marine casualties, including all ten leaders (ouch!). The scenario worked out pretty much exactly as intended and was very nearly a Marine victory.

Development also continues on Rail Gun. I've had a lot of trouble refining this to something I want--a lean, fast-playing spaceship game that emphasizes crew quality over technical data and gun charts.  I feel that I have finally cracked the problem by fully integrating crew quality (CQ) into every aspect of a ship's performance: targeting and firing at the enemy, avoiding hits from enemy fire, successfully applying thrust and maneuvering, and repairing damage.

 Instead of tracking damage to individual systems and the bulk of the ship itself, I have limited damage to either causing "Stress" or damage to the ship's hull.  Stress, which represents minor damage, crew casualties, and other "soft" factors, reduces the ship's CQ and makes other tests more difficult to successfully undertake.  Players must try and balance keeping their ships' functional with attacking the enemy.

The best part of this is it removes the need to track all of your ships' systems' damage; you're mainly concerned with hull damage (representing critical blows to the ship's frame and bulk) and managing Stress, represetning all those other factors that games typically represent with "critical hits". This significantly reduces the length of the rules, the size of the quick reference sheet, the number of modifiers, etc.

Corvette, by Andy Nelson--game counters with this art appear in the playtest version of Rail Gun

I hope to update the playtest version of Rail Gun soon. Thank you to the players who took the plunge and spent a couple bucks to get the playtest version. Remember that the download comes with Andy Nelson's awesome top-down space ship playing pieces--you get 15 different ships and fighters to use with Rail Gun or other games.

(While you're at it, you should go check out Andy's other games, especially the Table Air Combat stuff!)

Thanks for reading!


  1. Rail Gun almost convinced me to get into Space Fleet miniature gaming. But instead I took the plunge into WW2 6mm inspired by your AARs of A Sergeant's War. Will be picking them up when I have money again.

    1. James, thanks! That means a lot. I hope you like the game. I think Rail Gun will be something pretty different than what's on the market once it's done and will still be there if you want to get into space fleet gaming later.

      It's awesome that you're getting into ASW with 6mm. That's what I do most of my WWII gaming in, aside from some 15mm for the Pacific.