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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

D&D Next, Dawn Patrol, and other things

First I'll write about the trials and tribulations I went through getting the D&D Next playtest packet, they emailed me on the 24th, I didn't get it until late on the 27th. Somewhere along the way my repeated attempts to retrieve the packet got my WotC account canceled and I had to set up a new one, I got to use the same email address, but had to change my screen name. No biggie, I don't hang out there anyway.

Saturday I went and played Dawn Patrol with Darryl Sr. and Darryl Jr., I had neither John nor Dalton with me, I fear they may not be interested enough in WW I aerial combat, or that their introduction to the game has turned them off to it. I guess we'll see next weekend. The game itself was short, two turns long.

Set Up: We rolled 2d4 to advance the calender to February 17, 1917, and I rolled the weather conditions while Darryl Jr. rolled up the mission and starting altitude for our flights. For the record- there was a negligible breeze from the south west, and one thick cloud bank running from 6,600'-7,100'. Both flights actually rolled starting altitudes higher than their ceilings, so we just started them at their ceilings. We were 99 squares inside French held territory, and the front was 108 squares wide. The French mission was a Fighter patrol, the German mission was photo-recon.

Darryl Sr. and I had drawn allied counters from the hat, and both ended up flying French Spad VIIs, he was flight leader with his Lieutenant Gilles Chenault and I was his wingman with my less experienced Serbian pilot (who had barely made it home last time) Sous-Lieutenant Vaclev Petrovic, flying our squadron's brand new replacement Spad VII, since it had only been a week since I returned my last Spad badly damaged.

Darryl Jr. had his pair of Vizefeldwebels Hans Grüber and Dirk Schmidt flying a pair of Roland CII's (AKA "The Whale") at 16,500' and realizing that he had: A- Two enemy fighters at 18,000' headed straight for them.

Turn 1: Unfortunately for the French, the Germans won the initiative roll and we were forced to go first. Lt. Chenault dropped to 16,500' and so did I, only facing towards him so the enemy would have to face fire from one of us if they chose to engage rather than dive towards their mission objective. Both German aircraft dove to 16,400' and lined up on Lt. Chenault's aircraft; from their slightly underneath position both the pilots and the observers guns, they all fired long bursts and they all hit, scoring a total of 9 hits on Lt. Chenault's Spad, spread out pretty evenly across his wings and tail. I fired an interrupted burst at the nearest plane, as it turns out it was Grüber's; but my gun jammed and I only got one hit to his tail.

This was the end of turn one, Darryl Jr. stated that he figured there was no way he could complete his mission if he had to dive to below 6,600' with two Spads chasing him, so chose instead to try and make a kill or drive us off, play a little reckless since he didn't think he had a shot at winning the scenario otherwise, and, metagaming a bit, both of these pilots had zero missions/zero kills so it was no great loss to him if they went down trying to be ballsy.

Turn 2: Grüber is forced to go first and dives to 15,000'. I go second and dive to 14,950' to get below Grüber's observer's gun, I miscount the squares and end up underneath Grüber rather than behind him in tailing position, I also fail to clear my gun jam. Schmidt goes next and over dives into tailing position behind me. Lt. Chenault also over dives and fails the roll to break-up (15%, he rolled an 01; yes, we heretics use percentile dice when playing Dawn Patrol instead of the d6% charts). Schmidt, having dropped into the perfect firing position for a shot at me with both pilot's and observer's guns, naturally takes the shots, hitting with both. My plane takes 6 hits, 4 to the Left Wing. My flight leader down, and outnumbered two to one in a fairly damaged aircraft, I decide discretion is the better part of valor today and disengage.

Post Game: We just assumed that the Germans dove below the cloud cover and compled their mission. Lt. Chenault miraculously survived his 14,900' crash landing, the plane was destroyed and he was wounded, but he'll be available for duty again on March 2nd 1917. Either Grüber or Schmidt is going to get credit for the kill, we already determined which one it was, but I forgot and it's not written on the mission logs I brought home with me so I could give a more accurate blow by blow report, and Darryl Jr. didn't give me his pilot roster either. I have everyone else's, so I can be the "official" experience point tracker. I also get to come up with names for all of the, until now, nameless, faceless, rank-less and experience-less Observers. Observers are people too, they can get better at their jobs.

Since we still had a whole bunch of time left over after our two turn Dawn Patrol game, I suggested that we play some classic MB Axis & Allies, because we used to love that game, and we were masters of it, and that's not an idle boast; at Gen Con in 1990 Darryl (Jr) and I, playing the Axis as a team beat the Allies on the second turn of the game. Now, we always play with one house rule and one recommended rule. Our house rule is that in a three player game the Axis is played by one player, not split up. The recommended rule is that Russia doesn't attack on the first turn, which is pretty standard. So one player plays Germany and Japan, one plays the US and USSR, and one plays Britain.

We each have our specialties, I am best with the Axis and worst with Britain. Darryl Sr is best with US/USSR and worst with the Axis. Darryl Jr. is best with Britain and probably equally bad with either of the other powers, which is still pretty good. We drew control counters from my hat and I got the Axis, Darryl Sr. got the US/USSR and Darryl Jr. got Britain, but he hates playing Britain because of the great length between turns, so his dad traded with him when he complained about how it always seems to be the same game we play.

This game did not go well for me, Russia had an unusually aggressive build of tanks and infantry on their first turn, the tanks were built in Russia, the infantry in Karelia, all but one of the infantry in Caucasus was moved to Karelia, all the infantry and the fighter from Russia were moved to Karelia and then they moved their transport to the British sea zone, to join the British fleet there, and their submarine to the eastern Canada sea zone to join the British transport there. Out in the Soviet east they shuffled all of their troops into the Yakut S.S.R., with the exception of the tank, which was moved to Novosibirsk and one lonely infantry left in the Soviet Far East.

My first turn German build is pretty standardized by now, I build a fighter and four tanks. From Italy I sent the battleship to clear the sea zone above Egypt and the transport with two infantry. My corps of troops already in Africa, I sent the one infantry that couldn't reach the fighting down int French West Africa, blitzed my tank through French Equatorial Africa into Anglo-Egypt Sudan and waited for the sea battle to see whether or not there'd be any more troops coming in; there would be but it cost me my battleship, the start of my bad luck on this turn. I fought the battle in Egypt and took higher than normal casualties too, all three infantry dead. I had sent two fighters after the British battleship at Gibraltar, I sank it, but lost a fighter doing it, about what is usual. I sent the German sub over to sink the American transport and lost that fight, which is pretty unusual, but happens. I sent the bomber from Germany over to sink the British transport (and it's Soviet submarine buddy), my bomber hit and they took the British transport as a casualty and retreated the Soviet submarine down to join the American transport. I sent my Baltic submarine and the three remaining fighters from the Luftwaffe to attack the combined British/Soviet fleet in the sea zone surrounding Britain, they were actually quite successful and I only lost the submarine, the British lost a battleship and a transport, plus the Soviet transport. I sent one tank from the Ukraine into the Caucasus and killed the infantry there, but the lucky bastard took my panzer out too.

But this was all just the precursor to my massed attack on Karelia, the tanks from everywhere except Western Europe could make it there, and the infantry from everywhere but Germany, I used the transport in the Baltic to take the two infantry from Western Europe and amphibiously invade Karelia too via the Baltic. That may be another house rule, we rule that only units that have been involved in an amphibious invasion cannot retreat, so of course they get to be the first casualties generally speaking. Anyway, the first turn of combat went OK, I hit slightly less than the odds said I should and the Russians hit me right about on the odds, so sticking around for a second round of combat was the obvious choice, the odds were still in my favor. Then lady luck deserted me, bad, and she left me for Darryl's Russians. I don't recall how horrible it was exactly, but I am not sure I had any infantry left at all when I retreated to the Ukraine, I am pretty sure I may have taken tank losses.

So I non-combat moved my infantry from Germany to Eastern Europe, and my tanks from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, landed my surviving fighters in Eastern Europe and my bomber in Germany; built my new tanks in Germany and my new fighter in Italy.

Then Britain went, they abandoned India to drive the German forces from Africa, they had no trouble taking out my tank in Egypt. They used their two fighters from Britain to sink my transport in the Baltic, of course I missed them on my counter-attack; then they landed them in Karelia to protect the Russians from another onslaught by my depleted forces. Then they built an industrial complex in South Africa and I forget what else.

My first turn build for the Japanese is pretty standard now too, an industrial complex and a transport. The complex is so I can start building some stuff on the continent and the transport is just to upgrade my shipping capacity. Being so obliged by the British departure, I felt compelled as the Japanese to simply walk in and take India, this was the high point of Japan's turn, and possibly their biggest mistake. I sent the tank from Japan on the transport with the battleship to attack Soviet Far East, the battleship bombardment failed, do they ever work? Then the tank missed and was killed by the infantry counter-attack, a sad and pathetic end to that amphibious invasion. I used the submarine, some fighters and the bomber from Japan to attack the American fleet at Hawaii and destroyed them with just the loss of the submarine. That was the end of my attacks.

I non-combat moved my other battleship and aircraft carrier to Hawaii. I also moved troops and fighters to Manchuria, to counter the Soviet threat, and then placed my industrial complex there and my transport in the Japan sea zone.

The US wasted no time, they sent their transport across the Atlantic and took Algeria, with a single infantry no less. They also attacked both French Indo-China Burma and Kwangtung, since I'd left them empty. Then they started building a Pacific fleet off the Western USA, presumably to challenge Japan's dominance of the Pacific, but I was willing to cede the Pacific to take Asia from the Americans, Russians and British.

Now, I have always said, one of the things that sadly can't be fixed, but really does suck about this game is that the Allies get to go twice in a row, and now it was Russia's turn to attack. I remember pretty clearly what happened in Europe, because it affected the rest of the game, Asia not so well. In Europe the Red Army replete with tanks and infantry smashed their way into the Ukraine, and it was a crushing defeat for the Wehrmacht. They may have launched an unsuccessful attack on Japanese positions in Manchuria this turn as well, trying to take out the industrial complex before it could start production on this turn. The loss to the Germans was huge though, that was every remaining tank they had started the game with, except for the one from Western Europe. After taking the Ukraine, he non-combat moved the anti-aircraft gun from Karelia to there, and the one from Russia to Karelia. He also non-combat moves his submarine through the Panama canal.

Germany's turn and the war wasn't going as planned. I built eleven infantry. I used my Mediterranean transport to pick up a single tank and land it in Caucasus via the Black Sea, the rest of my forces launched an attack into the Ukraine, the odds were in my favor and it would destroy a bunch of Soviet tanks, but I had six aircraft going into the battle and he had an anti-aircraft gun. The odds said he would take out one, I thought at worst two, but no, he shot down three. The odds no longer favored my victory, but I was stuck for one round of, what turned out to be, a very punishing combat. I retreated to Eastern Europe, much the worse for wear and built my eleven infantry in Germany. You all can see where this is going right?

Britain goes, they take French Equatorial Africa from Germany, and sink my transport in the Black Sea, I believe they then landed in Egypt where they built another industrial complex and a pair of tanks for the complex in South Africa. All things considered, they're actually moving rather slow and methodical.

Japan actually had a pretty good turn, I built a pair of tanks for Manchuria, and I forget what else. I landed infantry in Soviet Far East, successfully, launched an amphibious invasion into French Indo-China Burma, successfully and launched an attack against China from Manchuria, unsuccessfully, but not disastrously. I non-combat move some more infantry from the islands with my transports to the Asian mainland.

The US continues it's Pacific naval build up, but, in a surprise move, also builds an industrial complex in Sinkiang, his sole combat move is to invade Western Europe with that Cheeky infantry from Algeria, it's an unopposed D-Day landing, it's not that I didn't see that it could happen, it's just that the Russians were the bigger threat. To be fair, if they'd noticed, the British could have done the same thing to Italy on their turn, but they were focused on Asia and Africa. All remaining American troops in Asia are pulling back to defend Sinkiang, this includes, I believe, fighters that had been spending time in Karelia.

Russia gets to go, they build a bunch of stuff, probably tanks and infantry, the Soviet juggernaut is just unstoppable in Europe at this point, they smash their way into Eastern Europe even more easily than they did the Ukraine, they also send a minimal force, one infantry and one fighter I believe, to take out the lone German tank in Caucasus before he has a chance to have any behind the lines fun. Surviving Soviet troops from the east make their way to Sinkiang to bolster the defenses of the American industrial complex, the Soviet fighters no longer needed in Karelia, also join them. The Soviet submarine non-combat moves up to join the American fleet off the Coast of Western USA.

Germany Builds ten infantry. Six infantry are sent to attack the American infantry in Western Europe, they win losing two of their number. I non-combat move the remaining five infantry to Italy so it will have some defense against either the British or the Soviets. I place my ten new infantry in Germany. Surprisingly, Germany still makes, I think, 27 IPCs this turn.

Britain goes and finally takes Libya, they build some tanks and a transport. They are going slow, I think the old man is tired and he is missing a lot of easy things. He's 70 years old now and I think maybe we should cut him some slack, the counter argument to this though is two fold, first, he didn't cut either Darryl or I any slack when we were 12 and just learning to game and second, keeping the mind active is shown in studies to prevent Alzheimer's and other degenerative mental conditions. So maybe the fact that we haven't been keeping him competitive for the last decade or so has made his gaming skills rusty, maybe he is a little slower to think his moves through, he's the man that turned me into the wargamer I am today. I owe him. Anyway, he sends a bunch of fighters to Sinkiang too, it's going to be a tough nut to crack.

Japan goes and has a great turn, they take every objective they set out for, which, in my opinion, only puts them about two full turns behind schedule. the two tanks from the Manchurian factory blitz through Yakut S.S.R., splitting up to take Evenki Nat'l Okrug and Novosibirsk; infantry and fighters attack China and win. I strategic bomb the US for free! At some point I had consolidated my fleet around Japan, so it wasn't within striking range of the US fleet with their submarines. I build three tanks for my Manchurian industrial complex and I forget what else.

USA goes, I don't recall what they did, honestly, it was short and probably just built stuff in Sinkiang for our big showdown.

Russia goes they attack the two tanks bordering Russia with one infantry and one fighter in one spot and one tank and one fighter in the other, they win both battles and take back their territories, but the real deal is the invasion of Germany, Germany's luck holding about how it had been versus the Soviets all game, they didn't even inflict serious casualties on the invading force. Germany fell, I handed the Russians my IPCs, which I think is a broken rule, but that's neither here nor there; then I considered my options for about ten seconds and conceded the game.

So, Saturday handed me two losses in one day. Sunday was Lance's birthday, and I have to say, I get the impression he isn't happy or fitting in with my D&D group. Since he's been back to work he hasn't made it to a single game. Audra is his girlfriend, so I am pretty sure she is only coming to spend more time with him and check out his interests. Lee Ann just got a new job in the ER and is working 12 hour shifts, and doesn't always get Sundays off. John enjoys playing 4th edition with his buddies more than any edition here at home with his family, he particularly hates that his mom is the de facto party leader. Ember only ever wants to play if Lee Ann is going to be here to play too. Mona is usually always up for a game, but gets sick of having to herd the cats that make up most of the rest of the party. Ashli wants to play, but her medication makes concentration difficult and she often has to leave the table for naps. Dalton is pretty much always up for a game, but I have to pick him up, and if every other player is no-showing on me, sometimes I don't feel like it.

I guess I am in desperate need of a group of players that want to play some old school D&D B/X or 1st edition AD&D with B/X leanings in the central NY area. Oswego county would be best if I have to travel, gas prices being what they are. Weekends are best for me, but I am flexible and we don't really have to play at my house, in fact my house isn't really the best place to play, we just make due.

Every single game I have had scheduled since the end of March has been canceled for one reason or another, it's almost June. This is driving me crazy. I have two different campaign projects I am running/playtesting new stuff for, cancellations kill campaigns.

Anyway, I hope Lance had a good birthday and everyone had a good Memorial Day. I haven't had time to read through the playtest packet for D&D Next yet, I hope you all enjoyed my lengthy game play reports and here's some Ebay pics of stuff I got in the mail recently.   

I already had the Rokugan book, but not the other two. The price was good though so, I figure I'll just pass along the Rokugan book to someone else.

I didn't really think about it, but did they really need a specific "Way of the" book for Daimyo? I mean, it's not like they're a dime a dozen.

I also find it interesting that the highest and the lowest were bundled together, Thieves and Daimyo. What point was the seller subconsciously making?


  1. reading that blow by blow was almost as fun as playing it...