Scary Times.

I, like many others, am working from home for the foreseeable future. Everything is so uncertain, it’s quite stressful. I worry about friends, loved ones, and, to be honest, myself. All any of us can do is what the doctors and scientists (note I did not say politicians) tell us: stay at home, flatten the curve, and wash your damn hands.

The general consensus among gamers is that this is a prime opportunity to work on all those projects you’ve been saying you would, if only you had the time. Well, now many of us have more time than we know what to do with, although there won’t be much gaming going on (at least none that involves other people).

Atom Smasher from Tabletop Minions put up a pretty good video about this. He also suggests it’s a prime time to play with new techniques and to develop some skills you may otherwise not want to spend valuable hobby time doing; such as learning to sculpt (I hate green stuff). It’s worth a watch.

My problem is loss of focus. It’s just too hard to think about anything other than what’s on the news lately. I haven’t painted a miniature in months; all my time is either spent watching TV or playing The Witcher 3; which is a huge time-sink that greatly helps me to tune out. The problem is that although it’s fun, when I’m done playing it I won’t have anything to show for my efforts other than fond memories. On the other hand, if I actually get off my ass and do some hobbying, I may have a completed project or two when this is all over.

In the meantime, we are left with some sobering decisions. Most miniatures companies are small operations, and many are not full-time enterprises. They’re being hurt especially hard by the situation worldwide. As many of us are living on reduced income, how feasible is it to support the hobby industry, much of which is struggling right now? One position is that we should save what we can to weather our own tough times, another is to throw a few bucks at your friendly game company to support them.

True, it’s not like most of us don’t have a ton of unpainted lead already; and that may be justification enough not to buy anything new. But I say, if you can afford it, spend a little. It might make the difference between a company being able to survive and one that’s not around in a few months. If your FLGS is still open (mine isn’t), this goes double for them; brick and mortar places are going to be among the worst casualties of forced closures.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I have a few options. I’m waffling between what I think would be the most fun and what I think would be the most practical. With that in mind, I’ve constructed a strategic plan to weather the storm:

  1. Make a list of all the projects you’re considering.
  2. Rate them from 1-5 (5 being best) in the following areas: Fun, Gaming Potential. (If you don’t like my categories, then choose your own). This will give you a total score between 2-10.
  3. Total your scores. The highest scores are the projects that will most likely be the ones you want to do.

My projects are:

  1. Gaslands Cars/Terrain : Fun: 3 Potential: 5 Total: 8
  2. Old West Miniatures/Terrain: Fun: 4 Potential: 3 Total: 7
  3. Wargames Factory Shock Trooper Army: Fun:3 Potential: 2 Total: 5
  4. Clan War Miniatures: Fun: 4 Potential: 0 Total: 4
  5. Old School Miniatures: Fun: 5 Potential: 0 Total: 5
  6. Spaceship/Dungeon Tiles for Gaming: Fun: 1 Potential: 5 Total: 6
  7. Star Trek Miniatures: Fun:3 Potential: 5 Total: 8
  8. Warhammer 40K Orks: Fun: 3 Potential: 0 Total: 3
  9. Warhammer Fantasy Empire: Fun: 3 Potential: 0 Total: 3
  10. Space Hulk: Fun: 3 Potential: 2 Total: 5

A quick look at the totals, and the things with the highest scores are Star Trek and Gaslands, both of which are already on my desk, followed by Old West miniatures and scenery which has been a project I’ve put off for a long time. Since it also has a decent potential for gaming, this looks like it’s going to be my main project. Because I’m kind of Trekked out at the moment, I’m going to finish up what I’m doing and devote most of my attention to Old West stuff.

BUT: the project that would be the most fun for me would be a return to some Old School Miniatures. Although I never paint these with the intent to game with them, I do enjoy the nostalgic aspect of painting stuff I painted as a kid. So I think I’ll do some of these, too. The project that would be most practical (but not much fun), is the construction of gaming tiles. This may have to wait, as I don’t have an inkjet printer that I want to drain dry, and I don’t have any 2-ply cardboard. It would be a good project to do while doing other things, if I only had the materials. Bummer.

I have some other projects in mind. This shit happened right as I was trying to get my Star Trek RPG off the ground, and I’m not ready to abandon that just because I can’t be in the same place as my players. I’m going to attempt to keep the game going through Roll20.net. Perhaps I’ll be able to find some new players that way, too!

Star Trek Adventures: Shakedown Cruise Part 2

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here, with COVID-19 scaring everyone shitless. Although our governor has resisted implementing a statewide shelter in place order (for now), there are plenty of closed businesses and people working from home; including me. You think I’d be happy about being required to stay home and play video games, paint miniatures and work on gaming projects; but as a guy who owns a business, I can tell you that this whole situation sucks out loud. Yesterday I got together with two friends at my office, which isn’t getting used much lately, to play what will probably be our last session for a while, at least in person.

So, continuing where we left off…

Commander Logan didn’t let on that she knew Hoddek was concealing anything, after discovering that Hoddek’s “temporary mining license” was a forgery. She and the away team returned to the Adventure to discuss strategy. On their way out, everyone noticed that for a mine, there was a distinct lack of mining equipment around.

Gathered in the Captain’s ready room, the crew informed Captain Boardman of the situation on the moon. Although no one knew what the “miners” were doing down there, there was no doubt that it wasn’t mining. Hoddek told a convincing tale and said all the right things, but he didn’t count on Logan spotting the forged license. The Captain ordered the away team to return to the moon with some science and engineering personnel, to give the unregistered operation a “safety inspection.” Because the ionic interference on the moon, communication between the Adventure and the mining outpost was impossible. This actually worked to the crew’s advantage as Hoddek would have less time to prepare for the crew’s return once they showed up at his door. Nonetheless, Lieutenant Commander Pak pointed out that a return trip would certainly signal to Hoddek that Starfleet suspected some shenanigans were afoot, and cautioned the team to be ready.

Once again, Lieutenant Beta skillfully piloted the away team down to the moon’s surface without incident. This time the team included Lieutenant Ditko from the Science Division, and Lieutenant J’Zahra from Engineering (two supporting characters). Hoddek opened the airlock at the team’s request, and once again met them at the elevator. He looked puzzled, but seemed resigned to the inspection. He informed the away team that unfortunately, they could not enter the mine itself, as it was currently undergoing radiation decontamination. Radiation was a natural product of vionium mining, and the mine needed to shut down periodically for a couple of weeks at a time until rad levels returned to normal.

While Logan was talking to Hoddek, Lt. Ditko went inside Hoddek’s office and hacked into his computer. He noticed a few things. First, the computer was surprisingly difficult to access, with many layers of security that would certainly be uncommon for a mining operation. Second, the computer was devoid of any programs or files that would indicate mining was occurring: no manifests, supply requests, geological reports or anything similar. It seemed the only thing the computer was doing, other than running the facility’s power and life support, was running a generator projecting a high level of ionic interference on the surface. Lt. Ditko shut that off, and discovered he could immediately communicate with the Adventure if need be.

Meanwhile, Lt. J’zhara and Commander Logan scanned the huge blast door to determine if there was any radiation beyond it, as Hoddek claimed. Their tricorders couldn’t penetrate the door, so their readings were inconclusive. For the first time, Hoddek seemed to be angry. He claimed he had cooperated fully, that any omission of registration was an error of the Harelian Mining Authority, and that Starfleet had no right to treat him and his men like criminals.

That’s when Commander Logan informed him that his mining license was fake, that they knew this facility sent the coded transmission and deliberately projected ionic interference to block communications and transporters, and that she knew he wasn’t running a mine of any kind.

Hoddek sighed resignedly and told Commander Logan that if she keeps looking into this, it’s on her head. He claimed he and his team are part of a top secret project for the Federation Science Council, which is why it’s unregistered. He can’t tell her what they’re doing on the planet, but he can show her and she can decide what to do. He took out an old-style communicator and signaled someone behind the blast door to open the lock.

With the door open, Hoddek led the away team down a corridor towards what looked like a lab. The path took them through stacked crates of supplies and machinery. All the while, Hoddek apologized about the necessity of the deception. But Lieutenant Commander Pak spotted the ambush a split second before it happened, anyway.

Several of the miners, brandishing old-style phasers, began to fire on the away team from the cover of the boxes. Hoddek took off towards the lab while his men traded shots with the away team. Pak blasted a miner off his feet, but was soon felled by a phaser shot herself. Stunned, she was out of the fight.

One of the miners blasted a crate of some kind of particulate, and the dust further hampered visibility. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with her tactical officer down, Commander Logan signaled the Adventure for an emergency beam out. A medical team met them in the transporter room, taking charge of the unconscious Lt. Cmdr. Pak.

Meanwhile, a small ship had entered the system, flying in the general direction of the moon, but not coming too close. They answered a hail immediately, and identified themselves as couriers just passing through the system. They seemed intimidated by the Adventure and its obvious superior armament. Now that the ionic interference was gone, Lt. Beta was monitoring the moon closely, which is how he noticed the fourteen life signs in the mine were suddenly reduced to nine. The ship was beaming the miners aboard!

By the time he could alert Captain Boardman, the ship had managed to beam out six more miners, leaving two on the moon. The ship immediately took off at warp, making a run for the Cardassian neutral zone. The Adventure pursued them and caught them just shy of the neutral zone, but before they could lock on a tractor beam the ship fled again. The Adventure gave chase and caught it just inside the neutral zone.

The turbolift doors opened, and a grim-faced Lt. Cmdr. Pak stepped onto the bridge. She quickly took her position at the tactical station and fired the Adventure’s phaser arrays, targeting the engines of the small courier craft. The ship was quickly and efficiently disabled, but not before Lt. Beta reported a new threat: three Cardassian Hideki-class corvettes entering the neutral zone, on course to intercept the Adventure!

The Cardassians hailed the Adventure. On the view screen, an imposing Cardassian stared down his nose at Captain Boardman. He identified himself as Legate Jabrel, and demanded to know why the Adventure had crossed into the neutral zone. He also said that they have identified the courier ship as a Maquis vessel wanted for crimes against the Cardassian Union, and demanded the terrorists be handed over to them for prosecution, conviction and eventual execution.

Captain Boardman had no intention of complying with this order, and pointed out that the Cardassians had also violated the neutral zone. He beamed the Maquis aboard the Adventure, where they were promptly taken into custody by Lt. Cmdr. Pak and a team of security officers. The Adventure was well-suited for combat, but three-to-one odds are still three-to-one odds. Boardman ordered the Adventure to set course for Federation space at maximum warp, knowing the Cardassians would not cross over the border in pursuit and risk open conflict.

The ship returned to the moon to round up the last two Maquis members, only to find that any evidence of their activity was destroyed by Hoddek prior to his departure from the moon. Now, however, he was sitting in a holding cell, so Starfleet could question him at their leisure, once the Adventure got back to Outpost 51.

First, though, the ship had supplies to deliver to the science outpost on New Coriolanus, which is where it was originally bound before getting sidetracked by the strange transmission broadcast by the Maquis. But that would have to wait until next time…

Star Trek Adventures: Shakedown Cruise

These are the voyages of the U.S.S. Adventure. It’s mission: to patrol the Cardassian Neutral Zone and provide support to Outpost 51, a Federation bastion on the fringes of the Alpha Quadrant.

My Star Trek Adventures game kicked off on Sunday with the first session. Sadly, only two of my three regular players were able to attend, but we managed nonetheless.

I decided the first adventure would serve several purposes. First, it would introduce my players to the dramatis personae of my campaign, particularly the personnel of Outpost 51 and the Denali Docking Substation, as well as other captains and vessels using the outpost as a base of operations in the quadrant. Second, it would give the players a familiarity with starship rules, particularly starship combat; which is something we haven’t really done a lot of in previous games.

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63088705

With that in mind, I decided to adapt a published adventure from the previous Star Trek game; “Shakedown Cruise”, from the Last Unicorn Games Star Trek TNG RPG. I made some minor changes to make sure it fit snugly into my setting, and so far, so good.

The first thing we needed to do as a group was create a captain for the U.S.S. Adventure. The captain will usually be a NPC, but the role of the captain can be taken by any of the players in any scenes where their primary character is not present. We created Captain Frederick Douglass Boardman, a veteran of Wolf 359 and of the Cardassian Wars of the 2350’s. He’s an experienced military officer with a lot of combat experience, which is why he’s been given command of the new Akira-class vessel, Adventure. We didn’t get too much farther into Captain Boardman’s history and background, other than he was born in the United States of Africa (much like Nyota Uhura and Geordi La Forge) and is a veteran officer (like Picard).

With this detail ironed out, we dove right in to the story.

Outpost 51 is commanded by Captain Tomek, a Vulcan veteran of the Klingon-Federation War of 2256-2257. (Yeah. That was over 100 years ago.) Tomek is a military genius whose treatises on tactics are required study at Starfleet Academy. He’s a Starfleet legend, on par with Zephram Cochrane or James T. Kirk; the difference being he’s still alive in 2369.

The Adventure is one of several vessels that will be using Outpost 51 as a base of operations in the Alpha Quadrant. Starfleet command hosted a reception for the captains of these ships in the main observation lounge of the station, which allowed the captains and crews of the respective ships to meet and exchange information. Also in attendance were the Klingon ambassador, K’Varg, and Captain Brule, the Klingon captain in charge of the small detachment of Klingon troops stationed at Outpost 51.

Captain Tomek didn’t make an appearance until about an hour into the reception, when he quickly took the podium to extend his greetings and welcome to the new arrivals. Then he requested a meeting with the command staff of the vessels, to take place in one hour. So much for the party.

The captains met with Tomek and he briefed them on the situation in the Alpha Quadrant. He explained that a stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant had opened in the Bajoran system, and that, in light of this information, the Cardassians were reconsidering their military withdrawal from Bajor. Only the Federation presence in the quadrant seems to be keeping them at bay, so it is imperative that the Federation-Cardassian treaty be enforced. The Cardassians would like nothing more than an excuse to break the treaty and resume their occupation of Bajor, thereby seizing control of the wormhole, the strategic importance of which can not be overstated.

Tomek made clear that he considers the Maquis, a group of former Federation citizens who lived on worlds ceded to the Cardassian Union as a result of the treaty, to be a terrorist organization. The Maquis often attack Cardassian targets in retaliation for aggressions perpetrated by the Cardassian government on those it considers its subjects. Tomek stated flatly that any captain who holds Maquis sympathies should inform him of the fact so that they may be transferred to other assignments, without fear of repercussion or consequence. Likewise, if any captain is aware of such sympathies among their crew, those crew members should likewise be transferred. Maquis sympathies are, quite simply, incompatible with Starfleet’s mission at Outpost 51.

This was chilling to all the captains seated at the table, as Tomek was essentially calling for a purge, albeit one with no negative consequences other than reassignment for those with Maquis sympathies. Tomek ended the meeting by saying he would meet with captains individually to give them their assignments.

The next day, the Adventure got her assignment: a shakedown cruise to test the capabilities of the new ship. It would be a typical run to New Coriolanus to drop off some supplies to a science outpost there. Along the way, they would test out the sensors and weapons systems.

The Adventure detected some drones hiding in an asteroid field and obliterated them with her phaser arrays (phaser arrays are cool). Then, without warning, a Klingon K’Vort class Bird of Prey, the Vorath, decloaked off their port bow. Captain Brule hailed the Adventure. “Today is a good day to die!” yelled Brule, before firing a warning shot that rocked the Adventure from bow to stern. Then, the Klingon ship cloaked again.

Captain Boardman assessed the situation and noted that unfortunately, he was now dead, so command of the Adventure must now pass to Commander Logan, the first officer. (He was sure to whisper “no torpedoes” in his “dying” breath, indicating that this attack was merely an exercise.)

Commander Logan efficiently took command and blasted the Klingon vessel, blowing away the shields in one shot (I told you phaser arrays are cool). The Klingon vessel hailed them again, grudgingly conceding defeat. Nonetheless, Captain Brule warned them that the adversaries the Adventure would face in the Alpha Quadrant, particularly the Cardassians, would not abide by any “silly rules”.

The Adventure continued on towards New Coriolanus, but detected a strange transmission coming from what was supposed to be a barren, lifeless moon. Attempts to decode the transmission proved futile, but the fact remained that nothing should be there at all, so they decided to investigate.

Scanning the moon from orbit revealed a relatively new structure on the surface: a dome, not more than a few years old. There were a few life signs centered about a kilometer below the dome, under the moon’s surface. There was no response to hails.

Strong ionic interference prevented transporter use, so they took a shuttle down. The moon had no atmosphere, so the crew was forced to use EVA suits to get from the shuttlecraft to the airlock of the dome. Once there, they used a comm panel to communicate with the people below the surface. These people let them in to an industrial elevator that pressurized slowly as it descended. By the time it got to the bottom, about a kilometer below the surface, the crew could remove their EVA suits.

They were met at the elevator by a green-skinned Harelian named Hoddek. Hoddek claimed they were a vionium mining operation. He seemed surprised to see Starfleet officers, but not particularly concerned. Several other miners were lounging about. When asked why Starfleet had no record of this operation, Hoddek blamed the Harelian Mining Authority, who “couldn’t find their backside with both hands, never mind file paperwork on time.” He denied any knowledge of a transmission and showed the crew into his office, where he produced a temporary mining license.

Upon closer inspection, the crew determined that not only was this license expired, it was a forgery. Rather than confront Hoddek about his lies, Commander Logan opted to return to the Adventure to plan her strategy from there.

And that’s where we left off….

Star Trek Adventures: My First Campaign

Since I purchased Star Trek Adventures a couple of years back, I’ve wanted very much to run it as a campaign. I have been fortunate enough to run two “one-shots” for some old friends; the first, The Vanished, featured the crew of the Original Series; while the second used the Next Generation characters. Both were a lot of fun and gave me and my friends a good opportunity to learn the rules.

Since then, I came across RFord’s (blackjack071 on TMP) blog, Over The Hill Gaming, in which he details several aspects of the Star Trek Adventures game (for STA noobs like me), as well as several YouTube videos, both from Modiphius (these are ok), and the Complex Games Apologist (these are better). To top it off, I listened to a few podcasts that showcase actual play, most notably The Terrible Warriors (thumbs up on this one, even though they sometimes get the rules wrong, they don’t let it stop them from having a great time). I purchased every supplement currently available for Star Trek Adventures, and I subscribed to the Living Campaign. In short, I’m ready to go.

With that in mind, I got my friends together and we discussed what era of play we would be most comfortable with. We decided on the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine era over the Original Series, as TNG was “our” Star Trek growing up. I decided to set my campaign in the year 2369, which, in Star Trek continuity, puts us somewhere around TNG Season 6 and DS9 Season 1. In other words, the Enterprise D hasn’t been destroyed yet, Commander (not yet Captain) Sisko still has hair, and Voyager hasn’t even been built.

Notable recent events include the disastrous Battle of Wolf 359 (2367), in which the Borg, with the help of an assimilated Jean-Luc Picard, annihilated the Federation fleet in that system, destroying 39 ships and killing lots and lots of people before being destroyed by the Enterprise D; and the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor, subsequent formation of the Bajoran provisional government and discovery of the Bajoran wormhole (2369). It’s an exciting time.

I decided the action would take place in the Alpha Quadrant, close (but not too close) to Deep Space Nine and the goings-on there. Home base will be Outpost 51, a Federation facility in the Kratos (yep, named after you-know-who) System along the Cardassian neutral zone. Outpost 51 shares orbit of Kratos 4 with a small asteroid which has been converted to a docking station. Between the main outpost and the asteroid, there’s a lot going on at any given time.

I managed to get three of my friends together to make characters, with the hopes of having another couple of friends join the crew at some point. The Lifepath creation system Modiphius uses is quite involved; by the time you’re done making your character you know a lot about their upbringing, training, personal values and beliefs and the events that have shaped their life thus far. It’s a lot of fun, but it takes a session all by itself. Meet the characters:

My friend Matt is playing Commander Sarah Logan (First Officer, Human). Matt played Spock in The Vanished and Commander Riker in the TNG one-shot I ran, so he’s experienced in the first officer role. He dislikes playing pregenerated characters, even established ones like Spock and Riker, so he was happy to finally get to make his own. Logan is a rising star in the Command Division and has been recently assigned to act as First Officer aboard a new starship, the U.S.S. Adventure.

Chris is playing Commander Daris Pak (Security Officer, Bolian). Bolians are generally well-liked and friendly, so his security officer is from the “you catch more flies with honey…” school. If honey doesn’t work, though, she’s a bald, blue-skinned Gina Carano, and you will respect her authoritah. She’s the new Chief of Security aboard the Adventure.

Finally, Thom is playing Ensign Kl’rt Beta (Helmsman, Trill). As the sixth host to the Beta symbiont, Kl’rt has five previous lifetimes of memories to draw upon. His own personal experience is as one of the most talented Conn Officers Starfleet has recently produced. He’s a veteran of Wolf 359, which claimed the lives of many a skilled helmsman. As such he is currently awaiting reassignment to a starship at Outpost 51. (Hint: it’s going to be the U.S.S. Adventure.)

And the final character in the campaign is the ship herself, the U.S.S. Adventure, an Akira-class dreadnought (see above) newly-commissioned in 2368, now awaiting command assignment at Outpost 51. The Akira design was a direct response to the costly battle with the Borg at Wolf 359. As such, she is equipped with extensive shuttle bays, phaser arrays and a state-of-the-art, rapid-fire photon torpedo launcher. (Just in case.)

Our first “official” session with all players (and the ship) is this Sunday, and I’m brimming with glee. I might even record it for eventual podcast…but I’ll have to look into that a bit more.

Tug of War: A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log Supplemental: We have escaped the Klingon prison and regrouped in the jungles of Hubbard’s World. Mr. Scott has beamed down a security team to assist us. We managed to retrieve our tricorders and have set off in pursuit of the source of the strange energy that seems to be the cause of the unchecked, sentient plant life here on the the planet. Being above ground again should feel good, but the oppressive humidity hasn’t gone anywhere and once more, it’s difficult to breathe. None of us, except perhaps Mr. Sulu, will be sad to leave this place.

The air shimmered as three humanoid forms began to take shape. A moment later, Lt. Hikaru Sulu and two Starfleet security officers stood in the clearing. They glanced around for a moment before Sulu approached the Captain.

“Security team reporting, sir,” Sulu said.

Kirk grinned. “Nice to see you, Mr. Sulu.”

“Nice to be seen, Captain.”

“Glad you could join us. Although I was expecting Mr. Chekov.”

“I pulled rank on him, sir,” said Sulu. “Sentient plants. I wasn’t about to miss that. Hope you don’t mind, sir.”

“Not at all. Your knowledge of botany could come in handy. It’s a…rather unique…place.”

McCoy grinned at Sulu. “Glad to have you along. At least now we won’t have to hear about how the Russians invented plants.”

“Now that we are all present,” said Spock, “I recommend we proceed with haste to the site of the tricorder readings. The Klingons are certainly not waiting.”

“Agreed,” said Kirk. “Fan out, everyone, and watch for threats. Spock, take point. We’ll follow you.”

A few minutes later, they followed Spock into another underground cavern. They could hear the echoes of raised voices arguing in Klingon. Kirk motioned for the team to take up positions silently and crept forward, accompanied by Spock and McCoy. In the midst of the cavern was a strange machine pulsing with visible energy. The Klingons kept a healthy distance from it, but it was clear it was the focus of their attention.

“That machine is the source of the energy, Captain,” said Spock. “It is almost certainly extraterrestrial in origin; nothing like it has been observed on this world.”

“Jim, look!” McCoy pointed. Guarded closely by a pair of brutish Klingons was a bedraggled and exhausted-looking Dr. Hubbard. A Klingon with the unmistakable aura of authority barked an order and Hubbard began working feverishly with his tricorder. Whatever he attempted must have failed, as a moment later, the Klingon captain swore loudly. He whirled on Hubbard and the scientist quailed.

“Looks like they’re trying to beam that doohickey out of here,” said McCoy. “Hubbard is probably being forced to help.”

“Agreed, Captain,” said Spock. “However, removing the doohickey would ensure the catastrophic destruction of this planet’s ecosystem. It is therefore imperative that the Klingons not succeed at their endeavor.”

Whatever reply Kirk was about to make was cut off as the ground began to tremble violently. “All right,” Kirk said when it subsided, “it seems time is against us. Rescue the doctor if possible, but make sure the Klingons don’t get what they’re after. Let’s go.”

Scenario: It’s the final showdown with the Klingons over the alien technology responsible for the plant life on Hubbard’s World. The Klingons are trying to beam the machine off-world, but they need Dr. Hubbard’s help to do that. The Enterprise crew is trying to stop them and rescue Dr. Hubbard. Meanwhile, the strange alien machine is protecting itself…it doesn’t want to go anywhere!

Victory Conditions: The Klingons win if they succeed at beaming the machine off-world, or if both Kirk and Spock are KO’ed at the same time. The Enterprise crew wins if they manage to KO both the Klingon Captain and the Klingon Lieutenant before the machine is beamed off-world. Should this occur, the remaining Klingons surrender.

Forces: The Klingons have a Klingon Captain (Grade 3), a Klingon Lieutenant (Grade 2), and four Klingon Warriors (Grade 1). The Captain also has two more Klingon Warriors in reserve, not deployed at the start of the game. Starfleet has Captain Kirk (Grade 3), Mr. Spock (Grade 2), Dr. McCoy (Grade 2), Mr Sulu (Grade 1), and two Security Officers (Grade 1). The two teams deploy on opposite table corners, with the alien machine smack in the middle.

Special Rules:

Countdown: There are no encounter markers in this scenario; rather an event deck randomly determines what occurs at the beginning of each round. Three of the cards in the deck represent a Klingon transporter lock; once the third such card is in play, the machine is beamed off-planet at the start of the next round and the Klingons win. If Dr. Hubbard is rescued before the Klingons achieve the third transporter lock, Starfleet wins.

Dr. Hubbard: Dr. Hubbard is crucial to this scenario. The Klingons are holding Dr. Hubbard hostage and forcing him to work for them, as their transporter technology isn’t as good as Starfleet’s. As long as there is a Klingon model within 2″ of Dr. Hubbard, he is captive. If that ever changes, Dr. Hubbard makes a run for it. He can’t sprint of fight, but he will move towards the nearest Starfleet model at his full move. He is recaptured if a Klingon moves within 2″ again. He is automatically rescued if a Starfleet model moves within 2″ of him and there are no Klingons within 2″.

Dr. Hubbard is scared, but he’s still a Starfleet officer and he doesn’t want the Klingons to succeed. Two of the cards in the deck represent intentional miscalculations designed to give the Enterprise crew more time to stop the Klingons. If one of these cards is drawn, shuffle a transporter lock card back into the event deck.

Dr. Hubbard cannot be the target of an attack, nor is he affected by any events in the Event Deck.

The Alien Machine: The machine cannot be attacked or destroyed. The Klingons want it too badly, and Strafleet would never risk damaging the planet.

Turn 1: The Klingons get the first turn. Before they act, an event is drawn from the deck: Dr. Hubbard manages to get a transporter lock on the alien machine! Not off to a good start for Starfleet! The rest of the turn is taken up by movement. The Klingons move towards the machine, maintaining cover for the most part, while the Enterprise crew splits up, attempting to flank the Klingons. One Klingon soldier tries to shoot Ensign S’lyr, the Vulcan security officer, but he misses.

Turn 2: The Klingons retain initiative. The event deck draw is a cave-in! The Klingon player nominates an enemy model-in this case, he decides to stick with the Vulcan security officer, Ensign S’lyr. She fails her Dodge test and is buried under a ton of cascading rock! Oh, the humanity (Vulcanity?)!

Now, sadly, as I write this, I have discovered that my iPhone’s voice memos, which I use to record these little game sessions for later transcription, just decided to NOT FUCKING WORK. So, apologies to all. I am winging the rest of this, because my FUCKING iPhone FUCKED ME. So, no turn-by-turn anymore. I’ll just give the general results as I recall them. Above: Kirk kills a Klingon soldier. I forget the context.

At some point, the Klingon Captain made use of his “Meet My Minions” ability, which allows him to instantly “summon” two low-grade henchmen to his person. These Klingons were the models not deployed at the start of the game.

Captain Kirk promptly shot one of them after shooting the Klingon above. He spent Hero Points to do it. The Klingon Captain shoots Kirk, and uses his own Hero Points to activate his Deadly Accuracy ability. This increases the strength of his disruptor enough to cause 2 wounds instead of one. Ouch!

Spock shot the Klingon Captain and managed to KO him. I forget how. I think Kirk might have shot him first. But I forget.

Meanwhile, the Klingon Lieutenant snuck around the rock, trying to flank Sulu. Some Klingon shot and killed the Andorian security officer, Ensign Vendax.

Not sure of the Turn here (FUCK YOU, iPhone!), but the Klingon Lieutenant charged Sulu and put him down hard. I made the Klingons beasts in melee, as they should be. Sulu’s no slouch, but he got charged from behind.

It looks bad for Starfleet, but the event deck draw is an energy burst from the machine that knocks down anyone who fails a Dodge test. Everyone above who is on their ass, except for Sulu and the Klingon Captain, who are both Ko’ed, got knocked over by the burst.

This gave Starfleet some breathing room. McCoy shot the Klingon Captain, who had revived but wasn’t able to stand up in time. He KO’ed him again. Kirk shot the Klingon Lieutenant, KO’ing him, too. With their leadership decimated, the remaining Klingons surrendered!

Victory for Starfleet!

R.I.P. to the fallen Starfleet security officers of the Hubbard’s World campaign. L-R: Ensign Gatwick, Ensign Heathrow, Ensign Stansted, Ensign S’lyr, Ensign Vendax.

Cue the bagpipes, Mr. Scott.

Analysis: This short campaign was a lot of fun. I’m happy with the changes I made to the Fantastic Worlds rules, as they only served to speed play by eliminating some of the bookkeeping. If I had opted to track wound locations and effects, the games would have undoubtedly been longer, but I’m not sure anything would have been gained by it.

To be honest, Starfleet was on a losing streak and I didn’t think they would pull it off. I do know there was an event in the deck that could have made things more interesting: the machine would have animated some of the Deathspitter plants, which would have been another obstacle for both players to deal with. The luck of the draw was with the players, however, and that particular card never appeared.

Starfleet tried to get close enough to the Klingon guarding Dr. Hubbard in the hopes of shooting him and freeing the doctor, but he was deployed too far away.

On a personal note, I am really annoyed with Apple, as my voice memos recorded, but can’t be played back. A quick visit to the Apple forums shows that I’m not the only person to experience this, and Apple doesn’t seem to have a solution beyond “upgrade to the latest iPhone.” Bullshit. From now on I’ll use a digital recorder, circa 1999. At least it will do what it’s supposed to.

I want to do another FW Star Trek campaign soon, perhaps using the TNG crew. I have an idea already…

The New Golden Age of RPGs

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I got a notification from Amazon that my package had been delivered, which I found odd because I did not recall ordering anything. I ventured outside and lo and behold, a mysterious box was resting comfortably on my doorstep. I opened it up and found this:

I checked my order history and sure enough, I had ordered it the night before, but I had no memory of doing so. I opened up the liquor cabinet and regarded the level of gin in the bottle with a critical eye.

Well, that one look explained a lot.

My first impression of the game is that it looks like a lot of fun. With rules for running both cinematic games (where you’re likely to die) and campaigns (where you might live), it’s a comprehensive system that’s very true to the source material. The book itself is beautiful, but to be honest it could be about half the size; much of the pages are light on actual text, taken up instead with (beautiful) illustrations and lots of empty space. It’s a design choice, but it also contributes to the cost of the finished product. I don’t know if I’ll ever run it or play it, but it’s a great read nonetheless and it has inspired me to dig out my Dark Horse Aliens comics for some re-reading.

I have been on a RPG buying spree lately. It started before Christmas (when I was supposed to be shopping for others) and hasn’t really let up. In addition to my unexpected Alien purchase, I bought all of these:

Not to mention several supplements and sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures and Red Markets not pictured here. (Addiction is a disease, people, and it’s real. Sadly, one addiction often feeds another, as in the case of my gin-fueled Amazon binge that made me the owner of a hardcopy of the Alien RPG.)

The keen-eyed among you may notice I haven’t even opened my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons set or my Delta Green set yet. This is because I have been all-in on getting my Star Trek Adventures game up and running (more on that soon ) and delving deeply into Red Markets, which is a 400+ page hardcover I had printed at Indie Press Revolution. (I just can’t seem to navigate PDFs very well. I prefer books.)

What do these games have in common? Well, all of them have received stellar reviews, and all of them are extremely well-produced. I became aware of some of them from listening to various podcasts and watching YouTube videos. The small press is king nowadays, and Kickstarter has a lot to do with that. Otherwise it’s unlikely games like Red Markets would ever get made, and that is a shame indeed, because it’s pretty damn cool, with a system that is unique, innovative and often very harsh.

I have been a Call of Cthulhu player since I was in high school, and D&D since well before that. So why buy into new editions? Put simply, because that’s what people play nowadays. My last edition of CoC was the d20 OGL edition, which was great (at least I thought so, but I like the d20 system). Previous to that it was 5th edition. Now I can’t hear enough great things about 7th edition, and it’s what my friends play. If I want to run a game (and I do), then this is the way to do it. Ditto with Dungeons and Dragons. My last edition was 3.5. I skipped the horror of 4th edition entirely, and would have been happy to play 3.5, Pathfinder or even go back to 2nd edition for the rest of my life. But once again, I hear the buzz, and it’s pretty universally great. I picked up the core rulebooks to give it a shot.

I never played Delta Green in its earlier incarnation. Listening to actual play podcasts has given me the fever to run a few games of this, as it’s pretty much made for the one-shot scenario (and that’s about all I can seem to get going nowadays). This current edition has received almost universally positive press. Much like Alien, I don’t know if I’ll ever actually play it, but I know I will enjoy reading it.

Finally: Savage Worlds. I’ve been hearing about this system for years now. Much like Fate and GURPS, it’s a universal roleplaying system that gives players a lot of agency in how they create and play their characters. I haven’t had much time to look these rules over and it’s unlikely that I’ll run a game using them, but I collect rules sets, and always like to see what various systems offer.

I mentioned I wouldn’t have even heard of some of these games if it weren’t for my new love of actual play and gaming podcasts. (Since I don’t get to play very often, I can at least listen as others do.) I’ll list my favorites here, along with my pithy commentary. You can obviously find them anywhere you get podcasts, but I’ll link to their respective homes on the web.

The Roleplaying Exchange: These folks play a lot of games I like, like Star Trek Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Slasher Flick. This is the first podcast I found, and through it I discovered many of the small-press games I’ve bought since. They share the Red Markets 10K Lakes campaign with Technical Difficulties, so you can find episodes crossing over on both podcasts. In addition to actual play, they do a lot of interviews with game creators and discuss topics related to the roleplaying hobby as well.

Speaking of Technical Difficulties, they play a lot of Red Markets (among other things). I have mixed feelings about this podcast, good and bad. The good: They play small press games. They have a handle on the rules and illustrate them well during the podcast. They have interesting ideas for game scenarios. The bad: they’re mostly annoying people to listen to. You will lose track of how many times someone utters the sentence “That’s fair”, often when there was never any question of the fairness of anything. (It’s like a shared nervous tic.) Not everyone is insufferable; some regular players are funny and interesting in spite of the podcast’s shortcomings. But sadly, it’s often true that there’s always at least one huge asshole in every gaming group. (If you don’t think there is one, then chances are it’s probably you.) This group has more than one. I won’t name names, but let’s just say there’s a guy who has to correct everyone all the time, another guy who only plays asshole characters because “that’s what I like to do”, and another guy who always wants to start some player vs. player bullshit. Luckily, not all of these people are on every podcast. Assholish behavior is generally not my cup of tea (YMMV, of course), but I can grit my teeth and enjoy what they do offer, which are some good examples of various games’ rules in play. I learned of several games I would have otherwise missed through this podcast. And I DID subscribe to it, so obviously I feel there is some value in listening.

Terrible Warriors: This is hands-down my favorite actual play group to listen to. The podcasts are all about an hour or less, the pacing is top-notch, they play REALLY interesting games, and the players are fantastic. I would love to play in this group. Unfortunately (for me), they’re based in Toronto. They play a lot of Star Trek Adventures (which is how I found them), but they play a lot of Kickstarter-funded games as well. It’s through them that I discovered so many indie games I would have otherwise never heard of. Recent highlights are Bluebeard’s Bride, a feminine horror game in which the players all play a part of the Bride’s persona (an awesome concept I wish I thought of) as they explore her new home and create their own version of the classic fairy tale; and Zombie World, a diceless card-based rpg that plays so smoothly, I’m dying to try it out. Both of these are from Magpie Games and use the new Powered by the Apocalypse Engine. Well worth a look, and I can’t recommend the podcast enough. Sometimes they get the rules wrong, but they always manage to have a lot of fun nonetheless.

The Lovecraft Tapes: This is an actual play 7th edition Call of Cthulhu podcast that uses Roll20. (It doesn’t look like they’ve done anything for 2020 yet, so maybe they’re on a break.) Although it’s a horror game, it’s often quite funny rather than scary, and the amount of time they put into editing it is apparent. Once again, each session is usually about an hour long. Great fun, with a talented GM.

One Less Die: I became aware of this actual play podcast through the creator’s appearance on the Roleplaying Exchange. It’s still in the early stages, with the beginning episodes focusing on the latest edition of Shadowrun. The Shadowrun campaign is still ongoing, but I started listening when they began a Call of Cthulhu campaign. I got annoyed because one of the players is playing a Russian investigator and he insists on talking like the most over-the-top Pavel Chekov you can imagine, so I bailed on it for a while. It sounded promising, so I’ll probably give it another shot at some point.

Coming next: the conclusion to my Fantastic Worlds Star Trek campaign: Hubbard’s World!

Captured! A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log Supplemental: Commander Spock, Dr. McCoy and I have been captured by Klingons and taken to an unknown location. It appears we are in a subterranean cave the Klingons have modified for use as a base of operations. At least we are out of the oppressive heat and humidity of the jungle. They’ve taken our phasers, tricorders and communicators and left us here. Every once in a while, one of them comes by to laugh at us, but for the most part we are left alone. Their arrogance can benefit us. They think we’re helpless. Attempting escape is our first duty. We won’t discover the fate of the science team or the Klingons’ plans by sitting here.

“Klingons sure like their caves dark,” said McCoy. “I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”

“As your hands are presently bound behind your back,” said Spock, “you would be unable to see your hand in any event.”

“The Klingons must want this…strange energy source…very badly,” said Kirk. “Otherwise why risk breaking the Organian Treaty?”

“Klingons aren’t the sharpest tools in the galactic shed, Jim,” McCoy scoffed. “They probably haven’t thought this through very well.”

“Neither are they fools, Doctor,” said Spock. “The energy source seems to have a profound effect on vegetable life, causing exponential growth.”

“That much is obvious, Spock,” McCoy snapped. “You think they’re doing this out of some desire to take up gardening?”

“On the contrary, Doctor, I believe the Klingons are considering harnessing this energy for military purposes. Consider the effect on populated worlds should it be introduced. Plant life would grow unchecked, soon taking over the entire planet.”

“Mother Nature run amok!” Kirk exclaimed. “That has to be it, Spock!”

“It is the most logical of my several working theories, Captain.”

“Well,” said Kirk, “one thing’s for sure. We can’t do much sitting here in this cave. We need to get to the source of that energy and find out what happened to the science team.. We must stop the Klingons!”

“How can we find the source?” McCoy said. “They took our tricorders. They took everything.”

“The tricorders should contain all the data we collected prior to our capture,” Spock said. “If we can recover them, we should be able to find the source.”

“Getting our communicators back would be nice, too,” said Kirk. “We could contact the ship, have Scotty beam down some reinforcements. But first we need to get out of these bonds.”

“How do you suggest we do that, Jim?” asked McCoy. “I’m a doctor, not an escape artist.”

Spock casually dropped his restraints on the floor. “If you will permit me, Doctor, I believe I can soon have you both free.”

McCoy stared at the Vulcan in shock. “Are you telling us you’ve been free this whole time?”

“No, Doctor,” said Spock. “I slipped my bonds 38 seconds ago. I merely thought it prudent to formulate a logical plan of action before we proceed.”

Kirk cut off what was certain to be a loud oath from McCoy. “Gentlemen, I suggest we act quickly, and silently. Our main priority is to locate our gear. We won’t get far without weapons.”

Scenario: The Enterprise crew has been captured by the Klingons and are being held in a cave below ground. They must escape and continue their search for the mysterious energy, and for Dr. Hubbard.

Victory Conditions: In order to win, the Enterprise crew must find their equipment and escape the board via one of two board edges chosen by the Klingon player as escape routes. The Klingons must prevent at least one of the Enterprise crew from escaping in order to win.

Forces: The Enterprise player has Captain Kirk (Grade 3), Mr. Spock (Grade 2) and Dr. McCoy (Grade 2). They begin play in the center of the board. The Klingon player begins with 4 Klingon guards (Grade 1). He also has a Klingon Lieutenant (Grade 2), who is not deployed at the start of the game. The guards are placed at least 10″ away from the Enterprise crew, and at least 6″ away from each other. They begin on guard duty (see below).

Special Rules:

Guard Duty: The rules for guard duty are in effect for this scenario. I won’t reproduce them here: just understand that the Klingons act like guards (which they are) until the alarm is raised. Once the alarm is raised, they act normally, and the Klingon Lieutenant is deployed immediately.

Darkness: The cave is dark and the Klingons didn’t bring much light. This limits visibility to 8″.

Stealth Takedown: If an Enterprise crewman can engage a Klingon guard in melee and defeat him in one round, then he does so silently and does not alert any other guards. He can then take the Klingon’s weapon. If he fails, the alarm is raised automatically. In addition, if melee occurs within spotting distance of a guard, the guard gets +1 to his roll to spot the attacker.

Initial setup.

The Enterprise crew must exit the board by either the right edge or the bottom edge in order to escape.

Turn 1: The Enterprise crew gets initiative. Kirk activates an encounter marker but it turns out to be nothing. McCoy triggers a restless guard, who activates out of sequence but fails to spot the doctor sneaking around in the darkness. Spock activates an encounter marker and startles a cave-dwelling critter, which makes a noise loud enough to alert the guard nearby. Unfortunately for him, the guard fails his brains test and doesn’t bother investigating the sound, so he doesn’t see Mr. Spock at all, despite being only 6″ away from him. The remaining Klingons all move around, but fail to spot any of the Enterprise crew.

Kancho!

Turn 2: Spock activates first and stealthily moves towards the closest Klingon guard. He applies the Vulcan nerve pinch and the Klingon goes down silently. Spock helps himself to the Klingon’s disruptor. (Game mechanics: Spock and the Klingon both have “Dirty Tricks”; Spock wins and gets an extra d10, which represents his nerve pinch. He handily defeats the Klingon in melee.)

I see nothing.

Despite being within spotting distance and despite Spock engaging in melee, one of the Klingons fails to spot Spock and turns away. Nothing to see here. McCoy activates another encounter marker, but it’s nothing. The remaining Klingons move. (It’s around now that we realized we’ve been playing guard duty rules wrong; that until the alarm is raised only ONE guard is supposed to move each turn. The others can change facing, but that’s about it. We decide to play it correctly from this point on.) Kirk activates and moves closer to the action, but doesn’t really do anything substantive.

Some folks wouldn’t think to use a giant penis as a weapon. Kirk isn’t one of those folks.

Turn 3: The Klingons gain initiative. One of them moves towards Kirk, but he fails to see the Captain. Kirk activates an encounter marker: “I got a rock.” He finds a heavy, interestingly-shaped rock that he can use as a weapon (functions as a club).

Kirk wastes no time, immediately taking a Heroic Action and charging the closest Klingon from behind. He brains the Klingon into unconsciousness and takes the Klingon’s disruptor. (He also inexplicably holds onto the rock.) That’s two guards down, and the remaining Klingons are none the wiser. Spock and McCoy both move off towards other encounters. The remaining Klingons change facing.

Turn 4: The Klingons activate and one returns to his original position. Kirk activates an encounter: reinforcements! Two Klingon guards enter via a table edge that is not an escape route. They’re loud and obnoxious, which makes it harder for the Klingons to spot any of the Enterprise crew this turn. The downside is they’re here to stay!

Turns out those GW artillery dice are still useful.

Spock triggers another restless guard, who moves in a random direction. He walks right between Spock and McCoy, but doesn’t see either one of them. (These guards are bad at guarding.) McCoy ignores the guard and activates an encounter marker. It’s the crew’s gear: communicators, phasers and tricorders! Now that the Enterprise crew has secured their gear, they can move off the board! McCoy and Spock are relatively close to the right edge, but Kirk is still pretty far away…The other Klingons change facing, etc. No one spots any of the Enterprise crew.

Turn 5: The Klingons activate and one immediately spots Mr. Spock. He sounds the alarm and fires at Spock, hitting the Vulcan and inflicting 1 wound!

Behold! I walked through this wall!

The Klingon lieutenant is deployed immediately, from a board edge that is not an escape route. Spock returns fire on the Klingon guard, killing him. The lieutenant charges into combat with Spock. Klingons fight better in melee than with guns, but not this time. Spock wins, inflicting one wound on the Klingon lieutenant!

McCoy adds injury to injury, firing into the melee with his newly-recovered phaser. He hits the Klingon lieutenant and puts him down for good!

The closest Klingon to Kirk charges him from behind, but it doesn’t go well for him. Kirk swings his big, manly rock with abandon, clubbing the Klingon to the ground.

Kirk sprints towards the right side of the board, spending two Hero Points to gets some extra movement.

Turn 6: The Enterprise crew makes a run for it. They can all reach the edge of the board, but can’t exit until next turn. The Klingons pursue, but fail to catch them.

Turn 7: The Enterprise crew gets initiative and escapes! Victory for Starfleet!

Once he realized they were not being pursued, Kirk slowed to a halt. “Now we can contact Scotty. We could use some reinforcements. We have to find Dr. Hubbard and stop whatever it is the Klingons are doing here.”

McCoy stared at the rock in Kirk’s hand. “You know, that thing looks like just about the biggest-“

“That’s enough, Bones,” said Kirk.

“I concur, Doctor,” said Spock. “It certainly bears a remarkable resemblance to a-“

“Yes, yes, Spock,” snapped Kirk, impatiently.

“Look, Jim,” said McCoy, “I’m a doctor. I’ve seen a million of ’em in my day. That one’s definitely noteworthy.”

“Whatever! It served its purpose!” yelled Kirk.

“Right,” said McCoy. “Can’t argue with that. But Jim… why are you still holding it?”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

Kirk tossed the rock aside and flipped open his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise…come in, Scotty.”

Analysis: We played this scenario a couple of times. This was the most fun. (The first time we played, the Enterprise crew found their gear on the first encounter marker and it quickly degenerated into a firefight with no stealth at all. Boring.) It played very quickly, only about 25 minutes or so.

When creating the encounter markers for this scenario, I just had to include the infamous phallic rock from the classic episode “What are Little Girls Made Of?” Watching that scene really makes you wonder if the props department was deliberately fucking with the network, or if maybe Gene Roddenberry was. How could anyone see that and just see a rock? It had to be deliberate.

This was my first time playing a scenario with the guard duty rules in the 2nd edition. I was struck by just how difficult it is for guards to spot the heroes, even when they’re standing right in front of their faces. At least, it turned out that way the second time.

Coming soon, the final chapter, as Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise face off against the Klingon Captain and his men for control of the strange energy of Hubbard’s World! Watch for “Tug of War!”

2019 Resolutions Revisited

With the dawn of a new year, it’s time to look back on my 2019 resolutions to see how many of them I actually did and how many of them I failed. It’s also time to make some new ones for 2020, but that’s going to wait for another post.

Best. Game. Ever.

Last year I listed my top 5 games that I wanted to play. They were: Gaslands (nope), Star Trek Adventures (yep), Legends of the Old West (nope), Dungeon Saga (nope) and Super Mission Force (nope). This is truly abysmal. This year I bought the second edition of Gaslands without ever having played a game of the first edition, which I have owned since its publication. Also, despite painting the entire Dungeon Saga board game, I haven’t played one game of it. Most surprising is that I didn’t play any games of Super Mission Force all year, despite getting the 2nd edition and despite the fact that I LOVE the game!

I DID manage to run two games for Star Trek Adventures for some old friends; one using the Original Series bridge crew and one using the Next Generation crew. I really like the game, but so far my attempts at starting up a campaign have come to nothing.

Grenadier Dwarves, Army of the Gold Mountain

Moving on to projects I wanted to complete in 2019, I wanted to paint more old-school miniatures, which I did. I wanted to write a game of my own; I am happy to report I have at least made a start at that. I wanted to start a gaming club (perhaps my loftiest goal), which I did not meet (or even try to start). I wanted to paint a new army or complete an entirely new gaming project, which I think I did, although “complete” may not be accurate (see below). Lastly, I wanted to paint my Star Trek miniatures, which I certainly did.

TOS Era Landing Party
Enterprise-D Bridge Crew

In fact, Star Trek gaming turned out to be my big project for 2019. I have painted 46 Modiphius Trek miniatures alone. That doesn’t count all the Trek Heroclix I have REpainted. As of now, I have close to 60 Star Trek miniatures painted and ready to go, whereas I had exactly zero in 2018. Not too shabby. And I’m not done: I have two more Modiphius sets coming up soon, and a dozen or so ‘clix to repaint to supplement my forces. Considering how much I’m loving the Fantastic Worlds Star Trek stuff, I don’t see myself stopping soon.

Forgotten Heroes 2019
Forgotten Heroes 2019
Terrain Time 2019

Finally, I wanted to take part in and/or possibly host a challenge, and I did both. I contributed to Forgotten Heroes again this year with Zangief and La Bandera; and I hosted the first ever Terrain Time here at Dead Dick’s Tavern, which allowed me to see some truly inspiring work from everyone who built something for the challenge.

So, all in all, it was a pretty productive hobby year, despite not having much in the way of actual gaming to report. Hopefully that will change in 2020!

Hubbard’s World: Race to the Source: A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log Supplemental: We have determined the science team entered the jungle to investigate an unknown energy source; one that seems responsible for the sentient, animate plant life we have discovered here on Hubbard’s World. This planet is fraught with danger; we have already lost Ensign Gatwick, and we discovered the body of Ensign Jorgensen, a botanist assigned to Dr. Hubbard’s science team. Further, a Klingon spy managed to escape the camp before we could stop him. What he was doing here is unknown, however it’s a good bet the communications array fell victim to Klingon sabotage, and that the Klingons now know everything we do. We are going into the jungle to find the source of the strange energy and to discover the fate of our missing scientists.

The humidity was oppressive and brutal. Even Spock was showing signs of exertion. All around them, the flora of Hubbard’s World seemed an impenetrable, dark curtain; eerily silent, with none of the insect or animal sounds common to jungles on planets everywhere. Still, Captain James T. Kirk felt as though they were being watched.

Dr. McCoy wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Are we there yet?”

Spock consulted his tricorder. “I assume you are speaking rhetorically, Doctor. Scans indicate we are still some distance from the source of the energy readings.”

“Your Vulcan physiology may be used to this kind of heat, Spock,” said McCoy, irritably, “but we humans aren’t meant to live like this, breathing soup.”

“Although my planet’s temperatures average several degrees higher than the current temperature here on Hubbard’s World,” Spock replied,”Vulcan is an arid, desert planet with far less atmospheric carbon dioxide. We would all breathe more comfortably there.”

McCoy smirked. “So, you’re saying it’s not the heat, it’s–“

“Finish that sentence at your own risk, Bones,” said Kirk. “What else is that tricorder telling you, Spock?”

“It is presently informing me that we are not alone, Captain.”

At that moment, a disruptor blast incinerated a nearby tree. The three men quickly took cover.

Kirk scowled and drew his phaser. “Klingons!”

Scenario: The crew of the Enterprise, in search of the missing science team, is making their way through the inhospitable jungle to the source of the strange energy readings that seems to be affecting the plant life on Hubbard’s World. The Klingons are doing the same.

Victory Conditions: The teams are searching for clues to find the source of the energy. This is represented by a series of 3 encounter markers. The first team to discover the path to the energy source by finding the last clue may nominate a point within 6″ of the model that discovered it. The first team to move all their models off the board from this point wins.

Special Rules

Dense Foliage: The jungle is dense and difficult to move through. Speeed is halved, and models must pass a Brawn test every round to avoid becoming entangled.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity: The jungle is oppressive; all models have a penalty of -1 to their Brawn and Melee scores for the scenario. (In addition, any miniature who utters the name of this rule aloud is immediately attacked by his own teammates.)

Ambush!: Because the Klingon player won the last scenario and the spy escaped, the Klingons have been forewarned and have had time to set up ambushes in the jungle. The Klingon player may replace up to 2 encounter cards with ambush cards. When activated by a Starfleet model, place a Klingon model 6″ behind the model that activated the encounter. This model attacks immediately and counts as Gettin’ the Drop on the Starfleet model. The model will activate normally on the next turn. If this encounter is activated by a Klingon model, it counts as no effect. Shuffle the card back into the deck.

Forces: The Enterprise crew is down a man, as Ensign Gatwick fell victim to the dangerous plant-beings of Hubbard’s World last scenario. As a result, only Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Ensign Heathrow are available for this scenario. The Klingons consist of Korgal, a Klingon lieutenant, and four Klingon warriors, plus any that are activated by ambush encounters.

Turn 1: The Enterprise crew gets initiative. Spock activates first and moves to within 3″ of an an encounter marker. Being Observant, he can activate it from there. The card drawn is “What are you doing here?” A friendly Grade 1 model is lost in the jungle, and immediately joins the team. Ensign Stansted, a security officer, somehow got separated from the team. He’s back now! Korgal, the Klingon lieutenant activates, moving towards a nearby encounter marker, but not close enough to activate it.

Dr. McCoy heads off towards another marker. Like Spock, he’s Observant, and soon discovers a clue! Tricorder readings indicate that the energy signature is strongest in this direction. (This is the first of three clues needed to discover the path to the source.)

The rest of the turn (out of sequence) has the remaining Klingons moving into the jungle towards encounter markers, getting closer to the Enterprise crew. Kirk uses his Voice of Command twice, first to allow Ensign Heathrow to move (he promptly gets entangled in the jungle), then to make Ensign Stansted move. Finally, Kirk moves. No one can activate any more encounter markers, and no one else gets entangled.

Turn 2: The Enterprise crew retains initiative. McCoy moves and activates an encounter: it’s an ambush! A Klingon soldier appears behind McCoy and immediately fires, but McCoy manages to dodge aside. Ensign Heathrow fires at the Klingon lieutenant, inflicting one wound!

One of the Klingons meets one of the more dangerous plants on Hubbard’s World: a Deathspitter, so named for its ability to spit death. It immediately does so, dissolving the screaming Klingon into a puddle of goo with its caustic digestive juices.

Kirk uses Voice of Command to command Ensign Stansted to act; he triggers another ambush, this time with fatal consequences. The dirty Klingon shoots him right in the back, and Ensign Stansted’s brief tenure with the landing party comes to an end! Another Klingon finds the second clue: More tricorder readings indicate the energy is this way!

Kirk activates and shoots the Klingon that took a backshot at McCoy, vaporizing him instantly. Spock moves, but doesn’t do much else. Finally, two Klingons team up to take down the Deathspitter, as neither one wants to end up like their friend.

Turn 3: The Klingons gain initiative. Korgal moves towards cover and fires at Ensign Heathrow, killing him! Sadly, that accounts for all the Starfleet security officers in the landing party. Spock stumbles into some quicksand and begins to sink. He’ll have to pass a Brawn test to get out on his own, because the only person close enough to assist him is a Klingon soldier! He shoots Spock instead, causing one wound! McCoy and a Klingon soldier exchange fire, but neither one hits the other.

Captain Kirk sprints towards Korgal, trusting in good old-fashioned brawling to get the job done. He takes a Heroic Action to charge the lieutenant, but it doesn’t go well for him. Kirk falls victim to the Klingon’s Dirty Tricks, which gives Korgal an extra die to roll in Melee. Kirk is bested this round and takes a wound!

Turn 4: The Klingons get initiative, and Korgal must act first. He’s locked in melee with Kirk, so it’s 23rd century fisticuffs right out of the gate. Kirk rolls two 10’s, which not only beats the Klingon’s roll, it increases the strength of the attack by 4! The Klingon lieutenant falls below the double hand chop of Captain Kirk! Then, Kirk acts, firing at the Klingon who is facing down McCoy. He rolls yet another natural 10, increasing the attack strength and vaporizing the Klingon soldier! (That’s why he’s the Captain.)

Spock passes his Brawn test easily and extricates himself from the quicksand, but the Klingon fires at him again, causing another wound. Spock is KO’ed! McCoy finds nothing of interest when he finally gets close to an encounter marker.

Another Klingon blunders into another Deathspitter, with similar results as last time. The Klingon’s Wilhelm scream quickly turns into more of a gurgle as his whole body is reduced to essential salts and amino acids. The final Klingon sprints towards the center of the board, where one of the last two encounter markers is located. Could it be the last clue?

Turn 5: Spock fails his Will test to recover, so he’s still out cold. The Klingons get initiative. The one who moved last takes cover and shoots at Captain Kirk, causing a wound. Kirk only has 1 wound left! Kirk returns fire and kills the Klingon. The sole remaining Klingon fires at the Deathspitter, rolling exceedingly well. Well enough to kill it, in fact. Then he continues his movement towards the encounter marker in the bottom corner of the board. Dr. McCoy moves towards Kirk to administer medical aid, but doesn’t get close enough.

Turn 6: Spock once again fails to pass his Will test and remains unconscious. The Klingon gets initiative again, after a truly abysmal roll by Starfleet. He moves closer to the encounter marker in the corner, betting all his chips on it being the last clue. Captain Kirk activates the encounter marker in the center. It turns out to be nothing, which means the Klingon is going to discover the last clue and likely win the scenario, unless he is stopped! McCoy moves closer to Kirk, but that’s about all he can do…

Turn 7: Spock remains unconscious! The Enterprise crew (what’s left of it, anyway) gains initiative. Kirk uses Voice of Command to order McCoy to fire on the Klingon. Despite rolling a natural 10, McCoy misses! (The Klingon rolled a 10 on his Dodge, which resulted in a tie.) The Klingon can’t reach the encounter marker, so he fires at Kirk. He hits! Kirk goes down!

Turn 7: Spock fails his Will test AGAIN. Kirk fails his Quick Recovery test. Both remain unconscious. On the last turn, it’s just Dr. McCoy and the last Klingon. McCoy takes his (thematically appropriate) action to revive Kirk, but the Klingon has more than enough time to discover the final clue and make his escape.

Victory to the Klingons!

The hiss of a hypospray preceded Kirk’s return to consciousness by several seconds. His eyes fluttered open. Instantly alert, he tried to stand, only to be firmly pushed prone.

“Easy, Jim,” McCoy said. “You’re not there yet.”

“Bones!” Kirk sat up anyway, ignoring his doctor. “The Klingons-“

“Got away,” McCoy said. “With Spock.”

“We have to go after him!”

“How convenient for you,” said a sneering voice. “for here he is.” Korgal and several Klingons surrounded the pair, disruptors drawn. Two of them held Spock between them. The Vulcan was bound and unconscious.

“Take them,” ordered Korgal.

Analysis: This was a dramatic game! The final clue was the last encounter marker activated, so the encounter deck was fully exhausted. It didn’t go very well for Starfleet; despite having better quality forces, they were just outnumbered. The Klingon ambushes really gave them an advantage, both with the free attacks and additional forces.

Although we were pretty good about making the recovery rolls for Spock, we forgot all about Korgal. As a Grade 2 model, he was entitled to recovery rolls too. Also, I’m pretty sure we forgot to roll for entanglements due to Dense Foliage most of the time.

The next scenario was supposed to be the last of the campaign, but in true Fantastic Worlds/.45 Adventure fashion, we need to play a “Captured” scenario first, as all the heroes have been taken prisoner.

Check back soon for “Captured!” (I couldn’t think of another title.)

Hubbard’s World: Outpost Laertes: A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log: Stardate 1315.9: We have received word that Federation Outpost Laertes, a science station on the newly-discovered Hubbard’s World in the Klingon neutral zone, has gone silent. We arrived in the system to discover a Klingon battle cruiser in orbit around the planet. Our repeated hails to the outpost remain unanswered. Of course, the Klingons deny any knowledge of the outpost’s fate and would like us to leave. Commander Spock, Dr. McCoy and I, accompanied by Ensigns Gatwick and Heathrow from Starfleet security, are beaming down to the planet’s surface to investigate. Chief Engineer Scott has been given command of Enterprise in my absence.

Outpost Laertes looked abandoned. Vines and creepers already encroached on the small clearing where the science team’s supplies still lay neatly stacked in crates and barrels. The jungle seemed poised to quickly reclaim the ground where the Federation outpost stood. A standard Starfleet communications array, clearly damaged and inoperative, sat atop the basic, prefab building that served as both laboratory and living quarters to the missing scientists.

Spock regarded his tricorder. “Fascinating.”

Kirk and McCoy traded glances, but the Vulcan didn’t elaborate. “Well, don’t keep us in suspense, Spock,” said the Captain. “What is it?”

“Life sign readings are overwhelmingly vegetable in origin. I estimate some 97.56%”

McCoy’s uneasy gaze took in the vast jungle around them. “You don’t say. That’s fascinating, all right.”

“There is no trace of the science team,” continued Spock, coolly ignoring the doctor, “at least not in the immediate area.”

“Jim! Look!”

Kirk whirled and focused his attention where McCoy indicated. Four bipedal, plantlike creatures began to shamble out of the surrounding jungle. They looked like walking flowers, but much more menacing. They began to converge on the clearing.

“It’s like the jungle is coming alive,” said McCoy.

“Incorrect, Doctor,” said Spock. “These beings were certainly alive prior to our arrival, and did not spontaneously animate, as you suggest.”

McCoy flushed angrily. Before he could respond, Kirk stepped forward. “I am Captain James T. Kirk of the United Federation of Planets. We come in peace and mean you no harm.” In response, one of the plant-things ejected a stream of liquid in Kirk’s direction. He quickly stepped aside as it splashed on one of the supply crates nearby. Immediately, it began to smoke and hiss as the outer casing began to dissolve.

“Well, that’s darn rude,” said McCoy.

“Rude perhaps, though likely unintentionally so,” said Spock. “There is no indication that attempts at verbal communication should be effective, or that these beings possess any sense of hearing, at least not in the way we understand.” The plant things crept closer. “Phasers on stun, Captain?”

“When was the last time you stunned a houseplant, Spock?” asked McCoy. The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

“Let’s not do anything we regret,” said Kirk, adjusting his phaser. “Low heat setting should be enough to show them we can defend ourselves if need be.”

Scenario: The Enterprise crew beams down to the site of the science outpost to find it deserted. They must search for clues to discover what happened to the science team. While they do so, they are attacked by some of the plant creatures of Hubbard’s World. Meanwhile, a Klingon spy is hiding near the camp, hoping to learn everything he can before he makes his escape, both about the Federation technology that now lies abandoned and about the landing party from the Enterprise.

Victory Conditions: The Enterprise crew must find three clues in order to discover what happened to the science team and in order to discover the strange energy readings. For every clue the Enterprise team discovers, the Klingon spy automatically gets one piece of information that is of value to his superiors. Once all clues have been found, the first team to move all the surviving models off the nearest board edge wins the scenario. (Only the Klingon spy needs to leave the board for the Klingon player to end the scenario.)

The Enterprise crew beams down to the science outpost.

Turn 1: The Enterprise crew gains initiative. McCoy activates first, and heads immediately towards the building. He activates the encounter marker there and discovers a clue: the remains of a Federation science officer, Ensign Jorgensen, one of the botanists assigned to the science team. He’s been partially dissolved. McCoy passes his Will check, and as a result he doesn’t have to spend next turn throwing up. One of the plant creepers spits its corrosive liquid at Ensign Gatwick, but misses him by a country mile.

Spock activates and heads into the jungle. He passes his Brawn check and is not entangled by the dense foliage. He activates an encounter marker (no effect). Another plant creeper spits at Spock, but the Vulcan ducks aside. Kirk uses his ability, Voice of Command, to make Ensign Gatwick act next. Gatwick fires at a shambling plant creature, but fails to hit.

A plant creeper creeps closer. Kirk shows Gatwick how it’s done. He steps forward and blasts one of the shambling plant creatures that spit at his first officer, killing it. Ensign Heathrow takes aim at an approaching plant creature, but he misses.

Turn two starts off with one of the plant creepers spitting its caustic juices all over Ensign Gatwick, who lets out a Wilhelm scream and dies horribly. Oh, the humanity!

Kirk uses his Voice of Command ability again, this time to allow Ensign Heathrow to go first. He spends a Hero Point, takes a deep breath, and vaporizes the nearest plant creeper to his position.

The plant creeper nearest to Dr. McCoy attacks, but the doctor has no intention of ending up like poor Jorgensen. The plant misses, McCoy returns fire and kills it. Kirk fires at the plant creeper that killed Ensign Gatwick and kills it, too. Spock heads deeper into the jungle and activates another encounter marker. Another clue! Tricorder readings indicate a strange energy coming from farther off in the jungle. All the vegetation on the planet seems imbued with this strange energy. Did the science team go investigate?

Turn 3: No plant creepers remain, so the Enterprise crew has the run of the board. Ensign Heathrow heads off into the jungle, but fails his Brawn test and gets entangled in the thick vegetation before going too far.

Dr, McCoy stumbles directly into a slumbering plant beast! This one’s huge, and it’s not happy!

The Plant Beast wastes no time. It swats Dr. McCoy hard, knocking him back and inflicting one wound!

McCoy is down, but not out. Spock activates next, moving back into the clearing and firing his phaser. He hits the Plant Beast squarely, inflicting a wound. The Plant Beast barely feels it! Kirk fires at the Plant Beast, wounding it; then immediately spends 2 Hero Points to take a Heroic Action, charging forward and firing again for another wound! Now the Plant Beast takes notice!

Turn 4: The Plant Beast gets initiative and charges Kirk, but Kirk spends another Hero Point and manages to evade the Beast’s grasping tendrils. Spock fires again but misses; McCoy tries to administer aid to himself but is too stunned and fails his roll. Kirk fires at point-blank range and finally kills the huge Plant Beast. Ensign Heathrow manages to extricate himself from the clinging foliage, but blunders into a spore cloud and is knocked unconscious for 2 turns!

Turn 5: Once again, with no opposition, the Enterprise crew has board control. McCoy moves into the jungle to revive Ensign Heathrow. He is successful! Spock and Kirk likewise enter the jungle, heading for encounter markers. Spock finds nothing, but Kirk discovers a final clue: the signs of several humanoids passing into the jungle is a clear indication that the science team went in search of the strange energy readings. The vegetation seems to have grown back abnormally fast. If not for their tricorders, the crew may have missed the science team’s tracks altogether!

At that very moment, the Klingon spy makes his move! Armed with the information on the Enterprise crew and their plans to seek the energy source themselves, he quickly attempts to race back to his superiors!

Turn 6: The Klingon spy gains initiative and flees into the jungle. He passes his Brawn test and is not entangled, but is slowed by the dense foliage. Spock activates and attempts to flank him. He fires at the Klingon, but misses. Kirk once again uses his Voice of Command to order Ensign Heathrow to pursue. The Ensign gives chase and fires, but he misses! Kirk all-out sprints into the clearing, trying to get as close to the Klingon as he can. He spends two Hero Points to take another Heroic Action, and fires, but he misses his mark! (Looks like they all need to go back to Starfleet marksman school!) McCoy chases after Ensign Heathrow, but gets entangled in the brush.

Turn 7: The bad luck continues for Starfleet this turn. In a last-ditch effort, Kirk commands Ensign Heathrow to take the shot! Sadly, the Ensign misses again, which allows the Klingon to slip away into the jungle!

Victory to the Klingons!

Analysis: The rules changes I made worked well and sped things up considerably. Not having to roll for wound location and keep track of deteriorating abilities made each shot count.

My first thought was that the scenario favors the Klingon player, since the Klingons only need to move one model off the board to win. Additionally, until the spy is revealed, Starfleet takes all the lumps from the plant creatures. But, considering the Starfleet player can just shoot the spy and win by default, this balances things out a bit. Turns out in my game Starfleet got the yips when it counted most and missed the Klingon with every shot!

I built the characters using a variety of archetypes from both Fantastic Worlds and .45 Adventure 2nd Edition, which was the core rules engine I used for the game mechanics. The Special Abilities listed are taken with my rules changes in mind, so nothing that would require wound location or stat changes. I also changed “Ray Gun” to “Phaser” and “Blade” to “Melee”, purely for thematic reasons.

Captain Kirk (Grade 3): DR 5 Brains 4 Will 4 Brawn 3 Guts 10 Phaser 4 Melee 6 Dodge 3 Speed 5 Brawler +2d10, Pugilist +1, Leadership, Tactics +1d10, Nerves of Steel +2, Voice of Command, Quick Recovery, Heroic Action

Mr. Spock (Grade 2): DR 5 Brains 6 Will 5 Brawn 5 Guts 7 Phaser 3 Melee 3 Dodge 3 Speed 5 Genius +2, Observant, Immune to Fear, Incredible Will +1, Nerve Pinch (Dirty Tricks), Undying Loyalty, Well-Prepared

Dr. McCoy (Grade 2): DR 4 Brains 5 Will 5 Brawn 3 Guts 8 Phaser 3 Melee 3 Dodge 3 Speed 5 Genius +1, Leadership, Medical Knowledge, Nerves of Steel +2, Observant, Undying Loyalty

Starfleet Security (Grade 1): DR 4 Brains 2 Will 2 Brawn 3 Guts 6 Phaser 3 Melee 2 Dodge 2 Speed 5 Sharpshooter +1d10, Tactics +1d10, Devotion, Nerves of Steel +1

Klingon Spy (Grade 1) DR 4 Brains 2 Will 3 Brawn 4 Guts 4 Phaser 2 Melee 3 Dodge 3 Speed 5 Brawler +1d10, Ferocious, Fencing +1d10, Bruiser +1

Up next: Race to the Source!

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