Sunday, September 16, 2012

Faster Than Light and Let's Play

You are the Captain, your ship has been recalled from mothballs; underpowered, undergunned, and with limited supplies you are on the run from an ever encroaching armada with information vital to the war. And yet you and the few officers you could scrape up into your crew are all that stands between victory and defeat. This is Faster Than Light.

If you want to watch my continuing adventures as Captain, I've included a Let's Play video to go along with this review. This is the first in the series so check out the channel as I upload the rest of the playthrough.

Faster Than Light or FTL is a space simulation by Subset Games, and the closest I think anyone has come to giving you the feel of actually commanding a starship in battle. Now it is definitely an indie game, funded by kickstarter in fact, and is defined by this fact. The graphics are pretty, but there's no 3D or photorealism, FTL is more reminiscent of X-Com than a modern space game(e.g. Star Trek Online or even Descent: Freespace). One of the great joys of these types of games is in customizing your ship, replacing weapons and upgrading systems, and FTL has a very clean and very intuitive method for that. But really, the core of being a Captain in the vein of Star Trek is being able to yell "More power to shields!" or "Divert power from Life Support to the Engines!" This is the game that lets you do that, without the dogfighting that is rather inherent in many of the other games of the genre. The music is again, reminiscent of games of yesteryear, but surprisingly well done.

The various weapon systems all have a unique feel, and there are vastly different strategies one can take, for instance focusing on missiles, or drones, or ion cannons, or even starting boarding actions, but all these must be weighed against their costs and weaknesses. You'll often find yourself weighing the options of upgrading various subsystems versus the possibility of needing the scrap for repairs or fuel down the line. And there's nothing more heartbreaking than having to make the decision on who to send to try and repair your life support systems while there's a hull breach. To lock them in to almost surely suffocate, or risk the whole crew by opening the airlocks and hoping they repair it before everyone dies.

-Intuitive Energy control and weapon system
-Really captures the feel of being the Captain of a Starship
-Lots of tactical options for how you want to play your ship
-You will become attached to your crew...and their inevitable heroic sacrifices
-Randomly generated universe means a different experience every time

-Not all of the tactical options are viable
-You probably won't live long enough to see all of them
-Crew positions are limited(if you have more than 4 crew, the rest are simply relegated to damage control/security)
-Limited events
-Randomly generated universe can screw you over

All in all it's an excellent game for the price, as long as one manages their expectations. The game is a roguelike, and one should expect to die, a lot. Do not expect it to be easy, death is death, and you'll be right back at the start if you encounter it.  It was an indie game and they accomplished what they set out to do, making for a very enjoyable product. But it feels like it could have been so much more, I couldn't help but think that with a basic trading module this could have become a wonderful sandbox game as well akin to Freelancer, or implemented more uses for large crews. And after a few playthroughs one gets used to the same sets of events to know what to avoid.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I read from Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey brings the over the top action and grit to the urban fantasy stage, with a healthy dollop of noir right on top. James Stark has spent a decade in hell fighting in the gladiator pits after being betrayed by those he thought of as his friends, taking on whatever demon or monstrosity that they could throw at him, and coming out stronger for it. Now he's back, with a key that opens any door and a knife stolen from a Prince of hell, and he's ready to take revenge on the people who sent him there. Now he has a new name, Sandman Slim, the Monster who kills Monsters.

So, we would be remiss if we didn't compare our anti-hero to his peers in the genre. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, and Simon R. Green's John Taylor are the ones that come to the forefront. Well, here's what you do, kill their loves ones, send them to hell for 11 years, and release them when they're good and angry and just don't have any more fucks to give. Sandman Slim is the over the top, bloody adventure that reads as if Hunter S. Thompson and Robert E. Howard got together to write the most badass urban fantasy hero they could imagine.

While I try not to spoil much, it's pretty indicative that some of the first actions our protagonist takes on his return include mugging a druggie and cutting the head off one of his old friends. The drugged up streets of LA make for a fitting background for this revenge romp, and Sandman Slim does not disappoint. Our protagonist does not hesitate to brawl with angels and demons, all the while tearing up the streets and giving the finger to the magical oversight committee. 

On the other hand, it's certainly not a perfect novel, or anywhere near that. It feels a more than a bit unpolished, perhaps a result of the book seeming partly written in the middle of a drugged up rage. And although the side characters are interesting, they sometimes only get a little bit of the reflected limelight. We end up with barely sketched caricatures, when we really are rooting for these characters to step out and become three dimensional. Because the premise for so many of these are so promising, angels and devils and monsters all. There are loose ends galore and it almost feels as if we miss out of parts of the story that should be there. For example where the name Sandman Slim actually came from. The other issue is that for some, James Stark may simply not be a likeable protagonist. He does some pretty crummy things while learning to be a hero.

In the end, the best way that I can describe Sandman Slim is a gritty romp. As long as you don't expect a masterpiece, or a very original plot, then dive on in and enjoy this vulgar, bloody tale of revenge and ass kicking.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Growing up Geek: The Hermit Crab Races

So I figured that I'd add some of that maniacal laughter back into this blog, these stories may only be tangentially related to gaming, but they will definitely be funny. Because not only was I a geeky little kid, I was a geeky little kid in Florida, Dave Barry said it best in calling South Florida a magnet for weird.

There were of course, the hermit crab races. A game played in sailors bars, and best enjoyed, or perhaps only enjoyed after a copious amount of alcohol consumption. I recall that my mother, of infinite patience and no small amount of courage would take me as a treat. I had seen it once while on vacation and now requested it quite often. It was an open air bar along the docks, one where the sun and salt sea air mingled with the aroma of diesel fuel. Which makes the most wonderful rainbow patterns in water, although I don’t recommend trying it at home.
Perhaps I’m painting it as worse than it really was. This wasn’t exactly the dingy tavern where people outnumber teeth. It was filled with generally two types of people, the ones who actually worked the seas, usually on charter fishing boats or as yacht staff. And then the ones who had the money to pretend that they did while listening to Jimmy Buffet(a word to the wise, Thou shalt not take his name in vain) and getting drunk; the sea was their calling, the ocean their mistress, the waves mother to all, well, on the weekends at least. On the weekdays those Hawaiian print shirts were exchanged for much less exciting suits and ties. Still, it must have been a strange sight for them to see a five year old bellying up to the counter and demanding to see the hermit crabs. I can only be thankful that I was such a cute kid, otherwise I’m sure we’d have been tossed overboard.
Now, a hermit crab is not a very smart animal, nor is it easy to train(at least not by drunk sailors). Thus the hermit crabs, happy in their little shells, were plucked up, had a number painted on their backs, and were dumped in a bucket. There was of course no actual linear track, no, they were rather unceremoniously dumped out of the bucket into the approximate center of the table before they started their great escape to the false freedom of the edge of the table. In fact, their speed could be clocked at somewhere between snail and brain damaged sloth. But despite all of this, I was fascinated. Yeah, I think my mother caught on by then that I was a bit of a weird kid, as I faithfully cheered my hermit crab on to the finish edge, where if it was lucky, a slightly inebriated patron would catch it before it fell off entirely.
The slow and unlucky hermit crabs. Well, let us not talk about what happened to the slow and unlucky hermit crabs whilst amongst a bunch of drunken sailors. 

A small hermit crab
Less Sonic the Hedgehog than, 
Earthworm Jim sans suit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

PCs Ruining Everything - How My PC's founded the Kingdom of the Gnolls

Player Characters Ruining Everything. This is the first in what I hope to be a new series of posts, of the most insane, dubious, intentionally gamebreaking, and simply stupid things that PCs do. Bonus points if they have massive unintended consequences. So feel free to send in stories of how your PCs did their utter best to ruin things, and how you worked it out, preferably in a humorous way.

This one is actually two stories, how my PC's unleashed the ghoul apocalypse and founded the Kingdom of the Gnolls. For those that don't know what a Gnoll is, in DnD it's essentially a hungry gibbering hyena man, as illustrated by this picture here.

Now there was a war going on, and they were on a mission to take and hold a keep held by a rebel lord. I tried to impress upon them that it was a strategic position controlling the plains area and important to both sides. When that didn't work, I mentioned that it was on top of a burial mound filled with treasure.

To fill in the setting, they passed by some interesting things on the way there, just outside the city was an alchemist that had managed to create a bunch of ghouls and a few ghasts. They killed the alchemist, but due to a turning attempt by the Paladin most of the monsters were still alive<. The PCs of course, chose not to follow them...not enough loot potential. The actual loot in the alchemist's hut, well they burnt the place down with some of the lesser ghouls inside. As you will see later, the PCs go-to solution of BURN THE PLACE DOWN, will come back to haunt them later.

They also met a regiment of "Fearsome Orcs and Ogres" which were really a bunch of goblins and a 12 year old human orphan with an oversized helmet that had a sign saying ogre painted on the side. Just a little tidbit to explain how the war was being conducted(incompetently.
So the party had a very lucky druid survivalist character with them...same level as everyone else, but their survival rolls ended up bringing back enough food to feed a small platoon. So I end up rolling a tribe of gnolls as a random encounter one night, and because they had so much food, instead of alerting the rest of the characters, the person on guard just tosses a big leg of goat into the bushes when they hear the rustling and strange noises. Well, the gnolls decided not to attack...instead they're now following the party. And the party....they tended not to be very diplomatic to say the least, so there are plenty of dead corpses left behind. Which meant that the gnolls were happily following along as they got their meal ticket.

The PC's finally get to the keep, which is a large fortification with a pretty epic battle that they fight both upstairs storming it, and in the dungeons where all the former soldiers are now prisoners and are being forced to mine out gems and artifacts. The PCs actually pulled off some smart moves to take the place, using cover, subterfuge and planning out avenues of attack. I was well ready to reward them richly for this.

Well, they beat the guards and orc mercenaries occupying the keep, but have the bright idea of using the storehouse/barracks as a funeral pyre. Before they checked out if there was anything worth keeping inside the place...and then things start to go sour for them. They now have about three dozen prisoners, former soldiers of their employers actually, who are unarmed and now starving. The plan to occupy and hold the keep was rapidly going downhill, despite some of the non-good characters suggesting that the prisoners be sent on a march to certain death through a war zone back to friendly lines. Even the good characters were starting to question how to deal with them when it was revealed that even with pooled rations and lucky survival roles the PCs as well as the prisoners would begin taking damage from starvation before they made it back.

That night a group of assassins(from a former employer that they screwed over, but that's another story) hit them, which they beat off, barely, I think all the PC's were down to single digit HP or unconscious. But the last two assassins, who decided that they weren't being paid enough, run out into the night, where the gnolls have been getting hungry over the past few days because, well...where are all the dead bodies the adventurers usually produce!

The gnolls eat the last two assassins and the PC's decide, hey, you know what, we're going to starve or the gnolls will eat us if we stay here. So let's give the keep to the gnolls! So they give the keep to the gnolls, at this point I gave them a little reminder about the strategic importance of the keep to the area, but they decide to just book it.

Well, they finally get back to the city they had started from...which is now a burnt wasteland as ghoul fever rampaged through the place(remember those ghouls/ghasts that they didn't think were worth chasing down). Essentially a minor zombie apocalypse had played out in their absence. Which eventually burns itself out, but took the city state out of the war. And so we come to realize, that as the war ends, both sides have been devastated, and the PC's have given the most strategic piece of real estate...AND a tomb filled with all sorts of wonderful treasure that I had rolled up for them to take, to the Gnolls....

And that is how my PC's created the Kingdom of the gnolls

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

Dark Jenny is the third in Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse series, now I've actually been thinking about how to review this, since to really delve into it runs the risk of spoiling all the little twists and turns that Bledsoe has added. On the other hand, given that the novel is a pastiche of Arthurian legend as seen through the eyes and grit typical of a LaCrosse story, we all know how it's going to end.

Alex Bledsoe set out to retell the King Arthur(Marcus Drake) story and fit it into the Eddie LaCrosse universe, where good women die and sell swords get the short end of the stick. Which really creates the conundrum of whether to take this as a story of Arthurian legend in LaCrosse's style, or an Eddie LaCrosse novel that takes place in its version of Arthurian legend.

Taking it as the former makes for a good story. Some of the tension is lessened by the framing device and the fact that we know the general results of the fiasco, however it's the journey that matters, and it's one hell of a journey. Although it seems that every author takes their shake at rewriting the myth, what shines here are the well written characters that evoke love, hate, or awe, which are one of Bledsoe's strengths. These characters that we know from the legend are brought to life in a way that is quite fitting with the atmosphere of the LaCrosse universe. There are of course the trademark anachronisms that populate the LaCrosse universe, their version of Merlin for example throwing in a nice bit of levity into the book. And the twist on the tale that is woven into it is both respectful to the tale and logical to the fantasy noir nature of the novel. By itself, and in that respect it is well written and a novel take on the King Arthur mythos.

Viewing it as an Eddie LaCrosse novel is where I have a few issues with it, if only in comparison to contemporaries and to the other books in the series. The genre of fantasy noir, or the dark mirror of urban fantasy(perhaps fantasy urban? urban elements in a fantasy world) has certain authors that have put their mark on it. Glen Cook's Garrett PI series for example, or Martin Scott's Thraxis series, a benchmark that the first two Eddie LaCrosse books have met or exceeded. One of the features that crop up however, is a general progression of world and story, an accumulation of allies and enemies, and by virtue of the framing device of Eddie telling the story over drinks, we really don't see much of that. It's a recounting of a chapter that is now closed, and as such feels almost independent of the greater Eddie LaCrosse universe. In another series I would say that this makes it a good entry point for new readers, but the first book of the series is simply so strong that I would always recommend them to start there.

In the end though, it is a strong retelling of the Arthur tale in a fantasy noir style and with a good dose of both grit and playfulness. On the other hand it doesn't actually advance Eddie's life much and can likely be read out of order without too much worry. If you've been following the LaCrosse series then go ahead and get it, you'll enjoy it. If you haven't been following the series, start at The Sword Edged Blonde, and move on from there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

5 Childhood Cartoon Knockoffs Gone Wrong

My list of 5 horribly, horribly bad cartoons that we were exposed to as children. These are shows with really, little to know redeeming value, often cliche knockoffs trying to pick at the popularity of the shows we actually wanted to watch. Either way, we all cringed when they came up in the Saturday morning lineup. So here are my top, or rather, bottom 5 picks for the worst cartoons that we suffered through.

5. Street Sharks - TOTALLY JAWSOME. Remember shouting that catch phrase out? No? Well me neither, because it was unabashedly idiotic. A blatant knock off of the fondly remembered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, without any of the charm. Four conveniently color coded mutated brothers fighting crime and mad science. Oh, and add in a healthy dose of EXTREME! to the mix, as each has their own EXTREME sport and accessories. One can just imagine the creative process behind this series, "Turtles are making money, we need to get in on this! Quick, pick an animal, and make it extreme! The kids are into that aren't they? We can make them extra edgy, ohh yeah, skateboards, roller skates, bikes!" And in the end, they succeeded in making a particularly toxic melange that is recalled by 20 somethings to this day as the sucky show that was on when you didn't have any other decent choice.

4. Mighty Ducks - HERE COME THE MIGHTY DUCKS. Please, hide your children. So this came out at the tail end of the Mighty Ducks movie popularity, and had the appropriate quality of something coming from that end of a duck. Now, think back to the Mighty Duck movies, inspiring tale of underdogs, Emilio Estavez as the inspiring unorthodox coach, kids overcoming their issues and rising to the occasion. Okay, now replace all of that with: Aliens, anthropomorphized ducks, and a horribly overused plotline of "brave resistance fighters who have fled their evil oppressors to earth." And you have the Mighty Ducks cartoon. The only resemblance to the movie is their name and the fact that hockey is vaguely intertwined with, well I'm at loathe to call it a plot. Because coincidence of coincidences, hockey is a way of life for our alien heroes, thus we have vaguely hockey themed armor, a cast of insipid characters and aliens trying to play hockey. That anyone watched this show for more than a single episode thinking: "Oh hey, a cartoon version of the Mighty Ducks" and then cringing in absolute soul crushing horror as the realization settled in, boggles the mind.

3. Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century - Okay, so as much as I enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories, this series was just unnecessary. This is another show where one can imagine the creative process, "Sherlock Holmes is a classic! And Educational! Parents will MAKE their kids sit down for this. But we gotta add in Robots and gratuitous 3d. Oh, and it needs to be set in the future. And let's add in a female lead just for kicks and giggles." And thus, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century was born. If one stripped away the setting, and the 3d sequences, it might have made a good show. Instead, they tried to rehash old Sherlock Holmes plots with the added FUTURE elements. It simply did not work as intended, and the result was something that comes off as horribly dated and seemed to talk down to the audience at every step of the way.

2. Challenge of the GoBots - Do I really need to go into these? GoBots, for when your grandmother wanted to buy you those transforming robots and picked the wrong ones. Bog standard "formerly peaceful good rebels fighting their evil counterparts as the battle comes to Earth" plot, with the added horror of the fact that the Gobots were actually former flesh and blood beings implanted inside the robots. Yes, an extra serving of nightmare fuel for the GoBots. Just like you really would rather have had a real Transformers toy, you wished for the real Transformers cartoon when this came on.

1. Sonic Underground - There were good Sonic the hedgehog shows, there were decent Sonic the hedgehog shows, and then there was this crap. Because we all knew from the game that sonic was in a band, with his brother and sister, and heir to the kingdom, oh and they all sported bad 80's hair and sung at their enemies to defeat them. No? But, that was the premise of this piece of failed animation that found its way onto our TVs. The bog standard plot could even be slightly forgiven taking into consideration the source material, but the decision to have the main character in an 80's hair band and fight by music, that nothing can excuse. It feels like another of those: "What are kids into these days!" brainstorming sessions that came up with exactly the wrong thing. Now the reason this makes the top of the list is not simply the incredulity of the plot, but the fact that it had such potential to be a good show. They had the examples already of the atmosphere a good Sonic show needed, the animation for this was in fact better than most of the other Sonic series that had come out, and the theme song was surprisingly catchy. But, it failed to deliver, firstly by talking down to the audience with the whole fight evil with music thing, and secondly by pretty much ignoring the whole spirit of what made Sonic...well, Sonic.

There you have it, my bottom 5 childhood cartoon knockoffs. Disagree? Have fond memories of these? Well, let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost

Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost is the type of rip-roaring adventure that you didn't know you were nostalgic for. A ship, a crew, a stiff upper lip, and they're off to save the galaxy for England! Well, except for the fact that it's a rust bucket, there's an air of Flashman about him, and the most dependable member of the crew is the space hamster. Yes, they went there.

The story spares no expense at poking fun at various archetypes and films, including an extended reverse Blade Runner sequence, a visit to the Matrix, and a lovely send up of the Proud Warrior Race/Noble Savage. Really, one can tell that Frost enjoyed themselves in writing this book. Without that the story itself would have fallen a bit flat, but the jokes and parodies abound and the characters are quite the entertaining assortment that's essential to these space romps. I call it that purposefully, because it's hard to call this a Space Opera, given the lighthearted tone of the novel.

The British humor and sometimes campy characters make this a light and entertaining read, while still having a nice chewy center for those wanting a space yarn in the style of say, Firefly in its less serious moments, or Edgar Rice Burroughs through a fun house mirror. The Colonial attitudes are played for laughs, the "White Man's Burden" to educate the aliens and teach them how to brew a proper cup of tea.

Now, I have to say that I quite enjoyed it, but I'm sure it's not everyone's cup of tea. And there were parts that went from delightful gag to old quick, the aforementioned Blade Runner and Matrix nods, the laughs from them were often accompanied by groans. Still, a solid book, especially if you've read all too many space operas that couldn't sit back and laugh at themselves. Pick it up for some lighthearted reading, dashing adventure, and British humor.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin

Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin

Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin by Reality Blurs is an oriental setting for Savage Worlds, largely modeled upon pre/early industrial Japan, with a healthy dose of fantasy tropes. The pdf version I purchased came with a very nice color map of the area in the back, but otherwise the pictures and maps were black and white art. Actually they almost felt like sketches most of the time, which may have been an effort to either keep costs low or enhance the atmosphere of the product, but in comparison to other Savage Worlds tie ins, licensees, and setting books, it suffers a bit.

This is a book I was really excited to start to get into, and see if they were able to get the feel and atmosphere of the setting down. Swords, martial arts, and the advent of machines, there's a great wealth of material there that could be used for story material. And on the atmosphere, you can tell that they tried very hard at achieving it, authentic names for weapons along with descriptions, and simply the language used to describe things and people could have come straight out of a martial arts film.

Unfortunately, the meat of the product is somewhat lacking. Not in volume, it rolls in at 284 pages, but in style. As you read through the book, you come to the inevitable conclusion that this is not really in the spirit of Savage Worlds. In fact, it reads much like a D20 product that's been converted over to Savage Worlds, or a someone writing a Savage Worlds setting, but keeping the D20 sensibilities of a plethora of tables and handholding. It does not embrace the Savage Worlds concept of Fast! Furious! Fun! Of course, for an individual who wants something like that, it may be a boon. One instance of this is in character creation, they include defining interests, which are essentially further specializations of the Common Knowledge area. It provides guidelines to using character background and giving bonuses to Common Knowledge that should be gleaned from it, but it also feels limiting, as well as creating extra bookkeeping. Another example being in the Power Edges, they make an attempt to define and limit what could have been explained as trappings and ruled loosely in almost any other Savage World setting. There are even rules of fitting armor and rulings on what to subtract when someone picks up armor off a dead enemy without fitting it. While it's a nice touch, it's also nitpicky and additional bookkeeping that doesn't add to Fast! Furious! Fun! One interesting addition is the Reputation Rules, which is nearly identical to the Fame/Infamy rules in Pirates of the Spanish Main, except that one may go all the way towards the evil spectrum without losing control.

The same sensibilities run through the adventure creation rules, you'll end up rolling D100's and D20's to determine unique monsters and adventures. Which runs pretty contrary to what most Savage World settings try to run with. In other words, it's got a quality that allows one to get very deep into detail, and yet the cost of that is increased bookkeeping, and increased time that one would need in order to set up an adventure. Again, it feels like the writers were trying to recreate a D20 or GURPS or retro experience, as opposed to embracing the Savage System.

One of the bright spots in the book is the detail afforded to the setting. In fact, it provides details upon major towns, cities, locations of power and the like. On the other hand, they missed the mark in not linking the locations to Savage Tales. The Savage Tales by the way, are not ones that we are familiar with from other Savage Worlds products, instead of being loosely linked adventures or plot points, the book provides several mini campaigns which it calls Savage Story Arcs. These are essentially linked adventure series with very little leeway for deviation, each 'adventure' being described in anywhere between two sentences to a half page long description.

Overall, it was a solid reference book, but mildly disappointing. There is certainly a wealth of things that one can take from it, but I can't imagine playing the setting itself without heavy modification, and to play a campaign would require a good deal more work than one would usually go through in a Savage Setting. I would almost say that the Campaigns are more ideas for campaigns, that a GM would have to spend a lot of time fleshing out and improvising throughout. Also providing less room for going off the tracks and then returning later than other settings usually would provide. The big impression I get is of a book more suited for a D20 derived product than a Savage Worlds book. At $15 for the pdf, I'm not terribly disappointed, but it's not the definitive oriental adventures setting book I was hoping for, and it's not one that I would feel happy with at the cost for a print edition.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Savage Worlds AAR

Just finished running a quick and dirty Savage Worlds game.

The Backstory
A lone patrol through the jungle wanders its way back to base. Two orc grunts and their Sergeant, accompanied by an Elven Ranger and human medic. The grunts are very low on ammo and the Wild Cards are down to around twenty rounds each for their respective weapons. The orc Sergeant carries a single grenade.

The opposition
Ten Lizardfolk militia members have moved into a blocking position on the ford, using the river to penetrate deep into the supposed safe zone. Nine tribesmen armed with bows and axes led by their chieftain look to take revenge on the foreign invaders of the great swamp.

[Out of character rules explanations and game developments out of character will be in brackets]

After Action Report, Elsinore Skyhawk reporting:
I was on loan from the Rangers in order to accompany a patrol on deep patrol into the Red Zone north of the great swamps. Seven days in the jungle skirmishing with irregulars, but with real engagements to speak of. The village we had been sent to clear was a dud, no such settlement on the map coordinates. Anyways, we made contact with an enemy force around 1400 hours, about a mile out from the Extraction Zone. I was on point and the rest of the squad was in wedge formation behind me. I think they were as surprised as we were because about seven of them were in the water, trying to cross. Three were stationed on the opposite bank behind a pair of fallen trees. The range was between one and two hundred feet, but closed quickly in the beginning moments. [The group of three began in the third range bracket, but was in the second range bracket for the M1's carried by the squad within the first turn. The Lizardmen on the opposite bank had less range for their bows, and would need to use every other turn to aim in order to get a -4 to their attacks)

Our medic, Corpsman Copeland was the only one close enough to immediately get to cover, the rest of us attempted to move towards a rocky area. Fortunately their arrow fire was ineffective, as only three of them were able to fire, the rest struggled to get on land. The group of four to the west was the closest, and Sergeant Barnak sprang up and raced towards them, tossing a grenade. Two of the lizardmen were killed immediately in the blast, but the others made it to shore and began returning fire with their bows. I engaged the second group of three to the east. They had made it to cover, but I managed to feather one. Privates Grumnash and Krugnar moved up to support the Sarge along the west side, as well as providing covering fire for Copeland to dart forward.

In a display of battlelust, and despite the arrows falling about them, Barnak and Grumnash moved to engage one lizardman near the center of the skirmish in hand to hand combat, they succeeded in taking it down. Krugnar was less successful, and they engaged in axe work while I attempted to keep the other group of archers that had made land at bay.

[At this point the lizardmen were dealt a Joker, giving them a bonus to their trait and damage rolls]

The lizardman in combat with Krugnar was able to slip beneath the private's attack and plunge its axe into his stomach before moving back into the water. Barnak and Pvt Grumnash elected to retrieve their rifles in favor of going in after the lizardmen. Now three were in the water, with the three on the far bank continuing to pepper us with arrows, to little effect. Copeland moved towards the fallen Private, but it was obvious he would not get there in time.[Medic edge allows him a chance to revive an extra, but only if he gets there in the same turn]

I moved forward and managed to injure one of those in the water, the rushing river carried it off, and I can only assume it dies of its injuries. Two of them made it to the opposite bank, and those on the opposite bank got their first solid hit on us. Pvt. Grumnash fell to an arrow, I laid down covering fire, and gave a glancing hit to one of the Lizardmen[Shaken, but still up]. Corpsman Copeland, displaying great bravery, ran to where the Private was sitting wounded and immediately began administering first aid[He succeeds in his healing roll, and instead of wounded Grumnash is merely shaken].

Ineffectual fire from myself and the Sergeant is met by a return volley, just as the Private looked to be getting up, an arrow pierced his eye, there was obviously no return from that.

[Lizardmen again get a joker] Copeland bravely tried again to save the Private's life but as soon as he knelt down to work, he was hit by an arrow. [A very lucky arrow, in fact causes two wounds, and he fails his soak roll] Our return fire tags one of the Lizardmen on the opposite bank, it seems our greater range has been telling.

At that point the Lizardmen fall back, fading into the swamps, while we do our best for our medic. A short run back to base brought reinforcements, although last I heard Corpsman Copeland remained in serious condition. With two of ours killed and one grievously wounded, I do not know if we can call our engagement a victory, despite having accounted for Seven of them.

All in all I move that Corpsman Copeland be given the Silverleaf Medal of Valor with Holly Clusters, in addition to any awards his own service grants, and that Sergeant Barnak be given the Oaken Star.

Post Mortem:
Little modifiers from cover and range can add up quite quickly when one only has a D6 in shooting. Only the Ranger(D10) had a better shooting die, and accounted for most of the kills. In addition the Lizardmen suffered worse from both range penalties and damage rolls as a result of having bows to combat rifles. Next time I may have them using captured rifles instead, as they were seriously outgunned. They did have some good turns of luck, with two joker draws.

The big break for the heroes was probably that early grenade, there would have been more close combat otherwise that would have helped to negate their range advantage. Also, I should have played the Chieftain closer in, as it was he was lobbing arrows from the back and not really contributing any more than the extras. Either that or changed him up for a Shaman with a power or two in order to spice things up.

All in all I think the engagement took about an hour including looking up rules we had become rusty on. A quite satisfactory little Vietnam/Fantasy mashup that took little time to set up and little time to play. We used primarily the Explorer's Edition and Tour of Darkness to set it up, with a little help from the Fantasy Companion just to add in the elf, orc, and lizardmen races.