27 August, 2012

Kriegstagebuch 001: Sunday Night Firefight

One of the really appealing aspects of Cyberpunk 2020 is highly visual nature of combat. To be sure combat is gritty and dangerous - but also very descriptive. With two of my players unavailable last night, I ran the other two through a couple CP2020 combats. We whipped up characters using the Friday Night Firefight quick generation rules from the 2013 boxed set, and armed and armored them using the quick and dirty expendables chart in the 2020 core book.

Chris - armed with a HK MP2013 10mm submachine gun and wearing a heavy armored jacket.
Jon - armed with a Sternmeyer Type 35 11mm heavy handgun and also wearing a heavy armored jacket.

Fred - armed with an FN-RAL 7.62mm battle rifle and wearing medium armored jacket.

The set up was random. Fred was positioned on the east sidewalk of a city avenue, about two storefronts north of the corner with the cross street. Chris and Jon are 20m south-west, they are crossing the cross street on the other side of the avenue, about 4m from the north-west curb. Neither group is in cover when initiative is called.

Fred gets the drop and emptied the RAL's 30rd magazine at the two, at a range of 20m. Nine rounds find targets, five on Jon and four on Chris. The first round is absorbed by Jon's jacket, but the next round causes a serious wound to Jon's unarmored right leg. The following three rounds all compromise the jacket's kevlar weave and drill into Jon's torso. Jon falls to the pavement stunned with potentially mortal wounds. Chris is hit in the left leg, right arm, and twice in the torso. The leg wound is minor. The hit to the right arm penetrates the jackets kevlar layers but inflicts minor damage. The two torso hits are more serious - both penetrate and inflict serious founds. Despite these critical wounds, Chris is able to return fire with a long burst from the HK. Fred is still in the open and takes eight 10mm slugs. The first round hits Fred right in the noggin - his skull ruptures like a ripe watermelon - instantly fatal. The next round binds up in the armor over Fred's torso, the third strikes the femoral in his left thigh, followed by a round that traumatically amputates the leg above the knee. Two more rounds drill into the left leg, followed by one to the right and a final hit to the bloody stump of the left thigh.

3.2 seconds had elapsed.

Originally I'd planned to have two gunmen, but seeing the extreme havoc that the battle rifle caused I settled on one. Barney did show up for a later bar fight. Fred was taken right out and Barney, though unable to cause any significant damage to either Chris or Jon, was able to absorb a great many hits before being KO'd. I think we went about 6 rounds in the hand-to-hand... that's a bit less than 20 seconds.

Chris seemed to enjoy the system - Jon not as much. Me - I loved it - it's been years since I ran Interlock and I forgot how detailed and deadly it was. Skill sets need to be reigned in or it will be a bloody meat parade. Both shooters hit at rather high hit ratios - Fred with 30% and Chris with 25%.  Both were world class shooters (top 10%) and I was not using the 2013 rule for coolness under fire.  With some reigning in of 9 and 10 level skills, supplanting a 2d6 roll for the 1d10, and the coolness under fire rules (essentially a COOL save modified by the number of firefights you've been in) - hit ratios should drop to a more reasonable 15-25% or so.

18 August, 2012

Economies of Scale

I don't particularly care about what size cars you use with your games - but I've gotten a lot of crap over my "tiny cars," so here I present some justification for my choice.

I don't base on 5mm rounds or GW-type plastic bases. I think it makes everyone look like they are standing on a kerb.  Instead I use 1" fender washers (I actually have about a thousand black oxidized steel washers I use), and occasionally 1.5mm acrylic bases (for motorcycles and horses).  These keep the mini closest to the table top and blend away far better to my eye than the 5mm rounds.

Ground Scale
In my games 1 inch equals 5 feet. That puts my ground scale at 1/60th.  It also means that this NewRay Fiat 500 is over 16 feet long and 7 and a half feet wide.  That is a lot of movement required to round a subcompact car. Of course ground scale is easily changed and almost always slightly out of alignment with miniature scale.

Miniature Dimensions
28mm minis are poorly proportioned. By that I mean they are ridiculously wide. The biggest argument I hear for 1/43rd cars is that it looks like the minis can get in side widthwise. That is true. However I never put my minis in my cars - but they very often stand near them. So for me - height is the important factor.

28mm is a pretty inaccurate descriptor of miniature scale.  Ideally the "X"mm refers to the eye height of a standing miniature - eye height is used to avoid confusion from hair, helmets or other headwear.  Grabbing a couple EM4 Future Wars minis, it seems that they run to just about 28mm at eye level.  Grabbing a few TAG, Artizan, Foundry and Copplestone minis (in upright standing poses) shows that most measure between 28-29mm at the eye.  Taking that 28.5mm as an average and comparing it to reality - the average American male is 69.5" or 1765mm.  Normal drawing proportions of a male body is 8 heads with the eyes located in the middle of the skull at 7.5 heads height.  However the minis tend much more toward 6 heads in height... the Suit from EM4 (middle below) is 5.8 heads tall with the eyes at 5.3 heads height.  If we assume he is of average height that puts the eyes at 63.5" or 1612mm.  1612/28=57.6 giving a miniature scale (based on height of the sculpt) of about 1/57.

As I said before minis are particularly wide (not to mention 5.5 to 6 heads tall) and elevated on a base - boosting eye height by ~2mm or 7%; So I choose to scale up my vehicles about 7% to compensate. In effect that means that I lower the average height of my minis to about 5' 5", but this is replaced by the slight mound of pavement or earth they are standing on.... I can deal with that. I also use larger scale cars for very small vehicles - my Mini is actually about 1/52 and the Willys Jeep is 1/53... conversely I drop to 1:60 scale on big things like helicopters. 

In the end I have minis that can see over the roofs of sedans, and are about the same height as normal (read: no elevation kit) SUVs. It also means that my minis can even look in the side windows of an Iveco Daily or Mercedes Sprinter van - without stepping up on the kerb.

16 August, 2012

28mm Vehicles

Perhaps the most divisive issue in miniature gaming is that of vehicle scale. One camp swears by 1/43 scale diecasts, the other by 1/55 scale.  Personally I'm a 1/55 guy. I'll tell you why.

1/43 scale vehicles are just ridiculously huge.  No one, of average height,  should risk being hit in the side of the helmet by the sideview mirror of a sedan.  I have some 1/43s but they were to support my Honourable Lead Boiler Suit 1/48 Ultra Moderns - a line that is no longer supported.  Cheap 1/43 diecasts are less common than they used to be, and most of them vary significantly in scale from 1/48 to 1/32 (1/32 is plastic army men size BTW).  It also shouldn't be a 20ft movement to cross from the left fender to the right.

Hot Wheels put out a load of 1/50 scale diecasts over the last decade.  "1/50" was more of a label than an accurate scale - they were made to fit the package (my Rat Rods '52 Beetle is closer to 1/43, and the DropStars Maybach is about 1/55, with most everything else somewhere in between).  They were mostly muscle cars, all of them pimped out, but they tended to be exaggerated in width making them a pretty match for many larger 28mm minis. Yes I said larger 28s. Few 28s are actually 28mm, most modern lines are in the 32mm+ range.  Anyway Hot Wheels abandoned mid scale diecasts (Rat rods, G Machines, DropStars) a couple years ago and, with the Hot Wheels collectors' market, they've become rather pricey.

I discovered Siku, a German brand of diecast car, at the Village Vanguard store in Kanazawa about a decade ago.  The nominal scale is 1/55, with some slight variation due to package space (but far less than with Hot Wheels or Matchbox).  1/55 matches my minis very well.  Most sedans came up to mid chest and SUVs were just short enough for the tall guys to look over.  I prefer Foundry Street Violence, Copplestone Castings, Artizan, The Assault Group, and EM4s (ex-Grenadier) Future Wars minis.  These manufacturers make up most of my miniature purchases and all of them mix very well. They are also rather small compared to newer "28s" like Corvus Belli, Victory Force, Mantic, Dust Tactics, et cetera.  Scale creep.  Since my minis tend to be closer to 28mm at eye level, and I base on washers not GW plastic bases, the 1/55 scale vehicles look great beside them. Yes the minis are a bit broad, but height-wise they look great. I'd rather have them look a little crowded in the car than dwarfed by it on the table.

I've discovered over time a number of other 1/55 scale cars, older Majorettes, Matchbox and Hot Wheels casts of sub-compacts, and a number of "1/64" scale Jada releases. I'm not sure why Jada calls them 1/64 - they are much closer to 1/55 - marketing towards collectors I suppose.  I started picking up a few cars here and there that looked right.  Then Battle Machines came out and I got all of them except the rigs.  A little small (1/58 or so) but close enough.  Then came Hero Patrol.

Since the majority of my vehicles are German Siku's or French Majorettes, I was sorely in need of US police cars.  I found a supply of Corgi Crown Victorias in Chicago Police livery in 1/55 and cleaned the store out. But they numbered only six, and are nigh impossible to find on the intertubes.  Then, last year, at WalMart, of all places, I found Jada's Hero Patrol line.  Chevy Impalas, Chevy Tahoes, and Dodge Charger police cars measuring just a shade smaller than 1/55 - and less than $3 a piece. I bought dozens.  A second wave (with Pittsburgh PD Impalas!), and now third have been released, featuring numerous department schemes and I am intent on collecting more.

Recently I discovered MegaBloks Need For Speed Action Scale vehicles in the clearance isle of Target.  Basically a Lego-type chassis with a single piece front, single piece back, two doors and a top.  Easiest building set ever - and in 1/55.  The vehicles are mostly high performance cars (as the NFS license would suggest) including Skylines, Porsche 911s and the Audi R8. The Audi R8 and McLaren MP4-12C are two I models I scooped up - the supercars make rather decent near future vehicles - and McLaren MP4-12C police cars are awesome!  The body pieces are all snapped to a standard size chassis - making for some slight variations in scale, and the body parts are tight fitting and not interchangeable (no McLaren front on a Porsche), but you can "damage" vehicles by removing pieces... if you don't mind revealing the Lego-type nubs.

In addition to civilian and police cars, I've tracked down a couple Chinese made diecast BTR-80s, two Russian army trucks, a New Ray AH-64 Apache gunship, and a couple M-48 Patton tanks (plastic army men tanks are spot on - look for older Timmee casts that are much more detailed), all in 1/55.  I've also added a pair of MotorMax Hind Ds and a few New Ray UH-60 Blackhawks in 1/60.  I find that larger helicopters can be a bit smaller scale on the table top and not look ridiculous.  I'm also looking to pick up a couple New Ray CH-46s in 1/55, and maybe their 1/60 scale Chinook.

Imagine trying to field those in 1/43 or 1/48 scale... there'd be no room for the minis to move.

14 August, 2012

Chiappa Rhino Revolvers

Below find complete stats for the Chiappa Rhino series of revolvers (featured prominently in the new Total Recall) for use in modern and near future Savage Worlds powered gaming.

Introduced in 2009, The Chiappa Rhino series is a modern Italian revolver design from the minds of Antonio Cudazzo and Emilio Ghisoni. Ghisoni's previous work included the Mateba revolver which the Rhino shares similarities.

Like the Mateba, the Rhino's barrel is located below the revolver axis pin and fires from the lowest chamber (unlike traditional revolvers which fire from the uppermost chamber). This inverted design produces less muzzle flip as the recoil forces are more in-line with the forearm.  Of particular note is that the Rhino utilizes a striker-type hammer that is completely internal; What appears to be a conventional hammer is actually a charging lever that cocks the hammer when pulled back and then returns fully forward.

The revolver itself consists of an aluminium alloy frame with steel barrel and cylinder. The cylinder is flattened on the sides (like a hexagon with rounded corners) to further reduce the bulk of the weapon. The Rhino is available in four models of increasing barrel length: 20DS (2" barrel), 40DS (4"), 50DS (5"), and 60DS (6"). All models are available in a blued finish (Black Rhino) or a hard chrome finish (White Rhino), with a variety of grips in composite or wood.  An accessory rail is located below the muzzle on the 40DS, 50DS and 60Ds, with an additional rail located on the top of the 60DS.  All models and finishes are available chambered in .357 Magnum, 9x21mm IMI or .40 S&W. Both the .40 and 9mm versions use moon clips for loading.

Caliber: .357 Magnum
Range: 10/20/40
Damage: 2d6+1
RoF: 1
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Shots: 6 rds
Cost: $330, 6rd speedloader $9
Notes: AP 1, Double-Action, Revolver

Like all .357 revolvers, the 20DS may be loaded with .38 Special ammunition (Damage: 2d6). Also available chambered in 9x21mm IMI (using the same stats as the .357 version), and .40 S&W (Damage: 2d6). Moon clips for either version cost $5.

Caliber: .357 Magnum
Range: 12/24/48
Damage: 2d6+1
RoF: 1
Weight: 2.0 lbs
Shots: 6 rds
Cost: $390, 6rd speedloader $9
Notes: AP 1, Double-Action, Revolver

Like all .357 revolvers, the Rhino may be loaded with .38 Special ammunition (2d6 damage). The full size Rhinos are also available chambered in 9x21mm IMI and .40 S&W using the stat block above. Moon clips for either version cost $5.

09 August, 2012

Finished: Copplestone Scavengers & Partisan

In May I finally got some Woodland Scenics Burnt Grass flock to finish the bases of my Copplestone Castings scavengers. They actually come from three packs; Two are Sewer Scavengers (FW2), two are Scavenger Heroes (FW31) and the last is from the Partisan Fighters (FW40) pack.  I've had these minis for years - part of a large order I placed in 2004 while living in Japan.  They sat a round for quite a while, were based on washers then MDF rounds, then washers again...  Finally I decided to paint them at our weekly paint night, without an actual plan.

I don't paint particularly well, occasionally I manage to pull off something cool, but mostly I block paint and use Army Painter Quickshade.  This is mostly from a lack of patience and that if I don't do it this way I'll be repainting them forever.

My basic plan is to paint minis into 10 man units/gangs, a nice round number that fits well into VHS box mini cases.  Four of the scavengers here will be part of the same gang, noted by the red articles on all of them - I was inspired by a western gang painted with the same idea in Warhammer Historical Old West.  The tall, man-ish lady will be part of another gang noted by the blue.  Basically I ended up painting Crips and Bloods/TAP Boyz. - though that certainly wasn't planned.

The black chap was towards the end of the night and is based on a friend of mine.  You can see that my accuracy had suffered a bit from fatigue. Still on the table he looks fine and I don't think I'll repaint - though I might use a black Sharpie to nick that red fleck on his dreads.

Of all I think I am most impressed with the Crown Royal bag on the belt of the dude with the SMG.  Sitting around painting with a bunch of old-skool gamers, that part of the sculpt just screamed "Crown Royal dicebag!"  I am rather pleased how the stitching came out.

I got these guys painted in pretty much one night, a couple touch ups and the quickshade applied later in the week.  It was about there that they languished as I was without any dull coat.  Once I got around to picking that up I needed flock... thus the weeks added up.  Finally (a couple weeks later) they stood finished.

These are the first minis I'd completely finished this year, though I have a about seven western minis that were painted and quickshaded before these guys (awaiting dull coat and finished bases).  These guys have already appeared in a Daring Tales of the Sprawl game, and should work well in post apocalyptic, dirty/hard sci-fi and even modern settings. Last week an order from EM4 of ex-Grenadier Future Wars minis arrived from the UK - once my bases arrive from Litko I'll try to get them painted up to oppose these guys in Combat Zone and Cyberpunk/DTotS RPGs.

08 August, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

I started a cyberpunk themed game a few weeks ago and so I've been keen on things cyberpunk - bought Lockout on Blu-ray and loved it. Rewatching Outland and Ghost in the Shell. So I was looking forward to Len Wiseman's remake of Total Recall, which came out last Friday.  Life and flaky friends kept me away from it until Sunday, when I saw it at an early matinee.

Most of the reviews I've seen of the movie have been negative - but then again most reviewers write the review before they see the movie. Seriously. I've been to many press preview showings - if the movie is a big one, the press seats might be full. If it was something like Your Highness, there were two critics - both left before the halfway point.  Terminator: Salvation got nailed by critics (I loved it) including Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, whose 7 sentence review included the line: "Message to Hollywood: Stop with the time-travel stuff."  Yep. He disliked all of the time travel in a franchise premised on time travel - despite the fact that there wasn't any time travel in Salvation. Rea also was a fan of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - though he thought it wasn't quite as good at MI:III; So we know all of his taste is in his mouth.

Total Recall has given me a greater understanding of being a movie critic in the age of digital publishing.  Use Wikipedia and the trailer to write your review, edit it later as needed.  The Wikipedia article on Total Recall listed the power blocks as New Shanghai and EuroAmerica, when in fact the blocs were the United Federation of Britain and The Colony.  Yet, I've found over 16 reviews of the film that site New Shanghai and EuroAmerica.  NPR, Empire, DNA, Game Zone, Movieline, Cinema Source, i4u, Florida Times Union, Deseret News, Kansas City Star, Detroit Free Press - the list goes on.

Some of these reviews were then edited to remove the above terms which still showed up in Google search extracts.  DNA tried to cover up the mistake by inserting the claim that New Shanghai and EuroAmerica were the names of the nations in Philp K. Dick's short story/inspiration We Can Remember it For You Wholesale. They aren't mentioned in that story at all.  NPR did something similar, the article now reads that the names come from an earlier version of the script. Maybe NPR critics don't use Wikipedia to write movie reviews, but they do seem to base them on scripts rather than watching the released film.

I've also noticed that Verhoeven's Total Recall is now a highly thought of classic.  That's interesting because I remember how badly it was received in 1990. Of course it did very well and is now a beloved cult classic. It wasn't in 1990. It is now. Weird huh?

I like both versions. The 1990 film is a fun 80's action cheese-fest. The 2012 version is a sci-fi flick for a more savvy audience.  Living Daylights versus Casino Royale. Beckinsale is freaking awesome - hands down enough to carry the entire film. She is hotter than Stone and more dangerous than Ironside; She kicks more ass in Recall than any film I've seen recently (yeah I'm looking at you Dark Knight Rises - Batman/Bane fight was a preschool slapfight in comparison). Visuals kicked ass, and I found the film entirely enjoyable and a must-buy on Blu-ray.

So much so I went and saw it again Sunday evening.

Arasaka Corporation Ltd.

The Arasaka Corporation is the primary antagonist of R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk RPG.  I love this game. It was pretty much all I played in junior and senior high school.  I've been continually amazed at how prophetic both Cyberpunk and Robocop have been over the last twenty years. I noticed when the Pittsburgh Police started driving Ford Tauruses. The rise of the PMC and Blackwater. The Citizen's United verdict greatly increasing the rights and powers of corporations, and the financial disaster precipitated by virtually unchecked corporate greed.  A decade of warfare leaving millions dead, and thousands of veterans disabled; The rise of advanced prosthetic technology, biofuels, and near universal computing access.  We live in the dark future.

Of course the game (written in 1988 and set between 2013-20) has had some misses as well. Fax machines are not the epitome of digital publishing technology. Hacking is still more Wargames than Tron. And true cybernetic prosthesis are awaiting the nerve-circuit connection.

This has left me with some choices in running Cyberpunk.  I don't want to run it as written - it's too retro.  Revamping the timeline and pushing the action into the 2050s or beyond is a possibility that, I think, engenders a more sci-fi mise-en-scène bordering into transhumanism. The option I'm left with is an adapted modern setting... merely a couple years in the future. The world is as it is now, a bit darker, with more cyberware (no full 'borgs, cyberpsychosis is still being identified), and technology and equipment that we see everyday - perhaps a more than a little inspired by Millennium's End. I think of this as the Robocop version of Cyberpunk.

The more I think of this the more appropriate it sounds. The first edition of the game was set in 2013 - next year!  A low tech campaign requires very little modification to adapt it to the modern day.  My favorite miniatures (Copplestones and EM4) have a rather modern look, and mix well with my fleet of modern vehicles. Such a setting requires less preparation for a adult rather than teenage players - who have less time to read background. It's now, but with robotic limb replacements.

So I guess I have some work to do... What stays the same, what changes, what needs to be added, and what dropped? Do we play with Interlock, or with Savage Worlds powered Daring Tales of the Sprawl or Ghost Protocol rules?

Cyberpunk NOW

R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 was a watershed game for me.
At a comic book convention in 1991, I picked up a bootleg of Akira and Appleseed. This quickly lead to Cyberpunk SWAT gaming – powered by the only modern rules we had – Palladium. We’d been playing Palladium for a while in a Macross game (Robotech with all the Macek inspired crap stripped back out) and I grabbed Ninja’s & Superspies to use as a basis. Well, as anyone who’s ever played a Palladium game can tell you – the rules suck.  It embodies the worst of power gaming and is inconsistent.  Following an adventure where I’d emptied a 30rd mag from my M16 into a terrorist’s chest at close range, and a 30mm grenade… leaving the man wounded but still in the fight – we decided to look elsewhere.
Relating the adventure to some fellow (sadder and older) geeks, we were turned on to Cyberpunk 2020. I ordered a copy immediately.  It was the only thing I played for about 5 years and then it shared time with Star Trek gaming.
Eventually I fell out of Cyberpunk gaming… the late 90′s made a dystopian future seem improbable. Crime was down, economy was good.
Suffice it to say that the last decade has done much to validate the Cyberpunk premise.
And I have returned to Cyberpunk.  Last month we began a Cyberpunk game, two characters were generated using Interlock, but with an influx of players we switched to Savage Worlds in order to get down to playing.  The game is pretty much ad hoc and I’m still figuring out what exactly to do with it.  Do I stick with Savage Worlds, or do I Interlock up the new players and run Cyberpunk rules.  Very different play styles, CP is extremely deadly and a bit crunchy. Savage Worlds is rules light and cinematic.  Do I update the setting, the timeline? Cyberpunk play was set between 2013-2020. The way I see it I have three choices:

1. Play the Cyberpunk Setting as written – RetroDark Future
2. Advance the timeline adapt the tech (no faxes) to reflect modern cyberpunk a’la the new Total Recall, Red Faction, and Deus Ex.
3. Play modern cyberpunk, the Dark Future is now (or tomorrow) basically a darker version of today with emergent cybernetics (the Robocop option).

Of these three I’m drawn to the second two. I have lots of modern vehicles and minis, and many older cyberpunk minis (Copplestones, EM4 et cetera) lend themselves more to the Robocop style of cyberpunk than the universe of Infinity.  This does mean a bit of a drawdown in tech – basic cybernetics – full borgs very , very, very rare. Netrunning becomes more like hacking, the game ends up being Millennium’s End with cybertech like that in I Robot.  If I want to preserve those two aspects of the tech I need to advance the timeline and end up with a more sci-fi type universe  (Lockout, Total Recall, and Infinity).
If I go the Robocop option I can keep Saburo Arasaka… hmmm… I think that’s the ticket.