Operation Dragon’s Hoard: The Final Run and Post Mortem

This post should have been appearing back in March. However, General Winter came a calling and the final run of Operation Dragon’s Hoard was delayed due to the show being cancelled after an unexpected amount of snow.

In my last post on Operation Dragon’s Hoard, I covered some major tweaks I’d made to the plane to make it look more crashed. I also covered some other tweaks I’d thought of making to add some extra detail. However, I ran out of time to make these alterations. They might be something I come back to in the future but honestly I think the game looked pretty great anyway.

The only other tweak I haven’t previously mentioned was to add some low cover for the insurgents. This was the Spectre Jersey Barriers I covered last week. This low cover was designed to give the militia a bit more staying power, especially after the great explosives massacre that was game 3 at Vapnartak.


After a night spent in York and a 1:30 drive down to Newark, Peeb and I managed to get to the Gamer’s Lounge to set up one hour before opening. Everything was really well organised, with easy access to the venue and plenty of parking. The switch over to using bubble wrap rather than the foam blocks continued to be a better choice. Unfortunately, just after setting up we spotted some large chunks of plaster surface that had cracked in transit and would need repairing. Luckily there were some big chunky terrain that could cover it up.

As you can see, we did a few little tweaks to the game layout. The biggest addition is the construction buildings from Supreme Littleness Designs, adding some much-needed vertical elevation to the board. Combined with the jersey barriers, it now looks like the plane has come down close to an abandoned building turned militia stronghold. I also assembled the two adobes to be a little less square. Is this practical town planning? Not really. Does it look better? Yes.

During the first game of the day (traditionally run between myself and Peeb while everyone attending was in “look around the show” mode) we had a good few pieces of action. This was the shot just after one of the operators loosed an AT4 round down range to knock out the MMG team on the first floor. Adding in the multiple levels really helped to make the game more interesting, especially as it gave the insurgents a slight advantage in a few cases.

And here it is again from the Operator eye view. Picking up the teddy bear stuffing and painting it for smoke clouds really adds something to the game.

Later in the game, four of the operators stack up on the edge of the plane.

Partway through the game, one of the RPG gunners spotted a possible shot by threading his explosive payload under the wings. Instead, thanks to a scatter roll, he managed to catch himself in the blast radius.

Game 1 ended with the BLUFOR having wiped most of the enemy off the board, popped smoke and then began to retreat with black box in tow. All at the cost of one killed operator and some injuries.

Board reset for game 2 – a few different operators ready for the players to use.

As always, blowing the cockpit is among the first objective everyone does.

For game 2, I decided to tweak the setup and have a technical waiting on the board. Thanks to a very low body value, this turned up once the players had started moving and so required a bit of careful planning. In the end, the technical managed to cause some injuries before being shredded by close range assault rifle fire.

What couldn’t be planned for was a lucky RPG shot flying straight across the board to hit a Good Samaritan trying to heal up an injured colleague. The RPG was a perfect shot and 6D10 damage has a habit of overwhelming even body armour.

I spent the final game talking to a few people so didn’t see much of the action. However, it sounded like the insurgents caused a fair amount of damage to the oncoming operators.

With the last game done, it was pretty quick to get the game packed up and begin the drive back to York. Overall, running a game at Hammerhead was great fun. Although I kind of wish we had been in the main hall rather than the Gamer’s Lounge so as to get the most eyes on it, it was still quite busy. The team behind Hammerhead was great, with plenty of emails and help on the day to making running the game super smooth. I also got some really nice feedback and advice from the Mantic rep at Hammerhead which made me start planning ahead.

Also The Terrain Tutor covered my board in his video – click here


With this being the last run, and no more game days planned due to real life work, I think it’s time to look back at the project.

First up,

What Went Well:

  • It Got Done – This was a project that went from initial concept to execution in just over a year. I managed to get four runs out of the game, going to multiple different shows and getting a lot of people to have eyes on the game. Everyone who played it seemed to enjoy it so it’s safe to say mission accomplished
  • Crashed Plane – The crashed plane, the very expensive cornerstone of the map, was a risk. But in the end if fulfilled the role I intended it to have – it caught the eye, with plenty of people rubbernecking as they walked around the various shows.
  • Scenario – Simple idea (recover crashed plane), multiple fun objectives (especially with multiple BLUFOR players) and a great show of the Plausible Deniability’s rules with stealth and new weapon systems.
  • Gradual Evolution – Although not the traditional way, varying and improving on the game between shows meant that even people who had seen the game before still stopped at the table to check in and look at the tweaks. It also meant that the work was spread throughout the project rather than being front-loaded before the game even hit the board.
  • Skirmish Sangin – I finally got to show Skirmish Sangin (and my book) to people. A common phrase said while near the board was “I’ve heard of Skirmish Sangin/own a copy but I’ve never played it”. As it’s a ruleset I very much enjoy (enough that I wanted to write a book for it), getting to show it off was really great.

That said,

What Didn’t Go Quite So Well:

  • Game Length – Due to the game lasting 2 hours, we only managed to get 3 games run through at each show. With game one normally being between me and peeb, this massively reduced how many people actually got a chance to play. When I next run a game, I’m going to aim for something closer to 1 hour. As for what I would change I’m not sure. Possibly reducing the number of figures or switching to a slightly faster playing ruleset.
  • The Boards – I used my Ford Fiesta for transportation which meant I had limited space. As much as they looked fantastic, I’m in half a mind if I would use moulded boards again. They were very heavy and had to be repeatedly repaired after breaking chunks of the surface up.
  • Pick Your Team – This was an idea I had to take advantage of the cards I had printed for the teams but as cool as the idea was, it didn’t quite work – it was very hard to balance and I’m not sure it was as exciting as my brain thought it was.
  • Multiple Missed Targets – As you may have noticed, a few of these posts included comments about “not managing to do tweaks I’d want to”. This meant there were ways I could have improved the game but missed out on due to time. Next time I think needs a bit more planning.

Overall though, the Operation Dragon’s Hoard game has been a pretty great experience. I got to go to various wargames show, get people playing moderns and show off something I’ve made. I’m already thinking a game we might do next, possibly inspired by the recent trip to London for Salute. So maybe you’ll be seeing another set of project posts coming soon. But not for a while – I have to work out where I’m storing all this stuff.

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: March Update

Last month saw Vapnartak and the first run of Operation Dragon’s Hoard for 2018. As you can see from my last post, there were one or two things I wanted to tweak after that run. Originally the plan was to spend the rest of February prepping the game ready for its run at Hammerhead and then have a full day giving a different crowd a chance to play it.

Well that didn’t happen. So instead, here is the update on what I managed to tweak coming into March.

You’ve already seen most of the detail on these buildings in my impressions piece. As much as I like the adobes, they are a little bit generic. These new building should help to give the OPFOR a bonus by giving them a height advantage. To fit the buildings in to the setting, I shifted the location slightly from random village in the desert to the outskirts of an abandoned oil facility. Much like the rest of the board, there was a lot of tan spray paint applied to give it the “dusted in constant sandstorm” look.

The bigger change was working on the plane. Up until this point, the only structural change I had made to it was the initial cuts to break it into five pieces (main body, nose, tail, wing, fuel tank). This was effective for gameplay purposes but it did give it the look of having just applied a hacksaw to it rather than ripped apart in flight. I’ll admit, battle damage is something that I always worry about – from my airfix days, it can be quite easy to go over the top and ruin it. Seeing as this had already been an expensive process already, the idea of having to redo the plane didn’t appeal. So, the plane was to go minimal – show off the impressions of lots of damage without completely shredding the plane.

Before applying dremel to plane, the first task was roughly working out the planned destruction I was going to cause. The background to the mission was that the plane went down in a storm. However, I decided to tweak it to make the downed plane a little more interesting. The new idea was to have it go down to a burst of cannon first stitching its way along the wing (possibly from the ZPU I have sat on my desk). The action plan was to rough up the broken edges of the plane with semi-random cuts, rough up the wing tips, expand the break on the wing to include a shell hole and then add additional damage to the right wing and right tail.

This was my first time using the dremel so took me a little while to get 100% comfortable with it, especially getting used to the safety concerns (always wear eye pro) and making sure not to run it late into the evening. However, it did make the job ridiculously easy. I managed to get all the cutting done really quickly. I would definitely recommend picking up a dremel for hobby projects – I’m going to be looking at some other cutting surfaces and tools to assist with it..

So key bits of cutting are:

  • Rough cuts at various angles along the hacksaw cuts – This was freehanded with only a limited amount of planning to give a semi-random look to it.
  • Deeper cuts on the wing tips and right hand tail plane – Designed to show ground damage and debris
  • Expanding damage on the wing break – So that it tied into the new story, I created an entry and exit point of an AA shell.
  • Additional damage – I took a chunks out of the broken wing to show additional damage. Some of this gap was then filled in with tin foil to show crumpled metal rather than just a void.
  • Shell holes – to add detail, I sunk a drill bit in a straight line through various points around the right wing. I then extended the exit hole for dramatic by putting the dremel in and then cutting out slots in a radial pattern to give the impression of an explosion. The cutting left some unevenly sized bits of plastic, giving the impression shredded metal and broken structural elements.

Once the cutting was done, it was painting time. Two different metallic paints were roughly applied, in slightly different quantities. The second coat was applied relatively watered down and then dabbed away to give a little bit of a less defined edge to it. To finish off, the usual drybrush of Iraqi Sand as my hobby sensei taught me.

Seeing as there is no show to recap, we’ll jump ahead to future plans. Although I’d be happy to run the game as-is, I think there are still a few tweaks to do to the plane. The big thing is building up the internal structure of the wings. This will be done in two parts. First up is adding new bulkheads of plasticard to prevent vision straight down the entire wing section. The next will be adding plasticard sections into the shell holes, giving the impression of bracing structs. I’ll also be adding some thin wire to represent the cabling. I’m also planning to do something to add more junk to the cargo bay. There will also be another round of painting, with the aim to neaten up the blast marks as well as adding some oil smears and other effects. Finally, some general maintenance to fix up any chipped paint and make sure it looks the best it can be.

Next update will be after Hammerhead. Expect some minor tweaks before it but honestly, I’m pretty happy with how the board is going to look. Once Hammerhead has been run, I think I can call this demo game a success.

…. and then start planning the next one with a year and a bit to do it in.

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Vapnartak, York

If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series on Operation Dragon’s Hoard, check out the page I’ve set up for it at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog/demo-game-operation-dragons-hoard/

Last weekend was Vapnartak. This was a show I’ve been particularly looking forward to; Its one of my “local” shows (thanks to one of my buddies in the wargaming being based in York) and it’s also a massive event spread over three floors (and mezzanines). Its big enough to lure many of the southern companies (such as Empress) up to the frozen north. Getting to run a game has been on my wish list for a while and I was a little disheartened when they initially reported they had ran out of space. However, thanks to the guys at York we managed to squeeze in and we were off to the races.

PRE-GAME TWEAKS

So with the whole uncertainty around if I was running a game, I didn’t manage to do the main task of making the plane look a little less hacksawed by using my new airbrush and dremel. With only two weeks, the idea of having to repair it in the event of dremel related mishaps was too much to take. Instead, the focus shifted to improving the other elements on the table.

First stage was repairing the boards. This was pretty simple – reapply the filler, textured paint and the cover up with lashings of Zandri Dust. The repair work was mostly effective. However afterwards there were one or two places where I don’t think the filler had set properly before I painted it and so it wasn’t quite as hard-wearing as it should have been. However, between these tweaks and changing how I transported the boards (bubble wrap rather than foam spacers) meant there were no massive chunks of surface that had been knocked away.

The next step was to add some more terrain elements. Finishing off another RedVectors buildings gave the OPFOR some height (useful for the marksman) and make the board look a little less empty. As I mentioned in the impressions on them, this one is great but I did have one or two events where the rooftops dropped through the rest of the building. Luckily no figures were lost to the fall damage.

Another element I think that was missing from the board was debris. Even if you ignore the straight edges on the plane wreckage, it’s easy to notice the lack of material that a plane shredding itself in mid-air would eject. This would also add some more detail to the board and provide some difficult ground to cross. Building them was pretty simple – get more plasticard, cut out kidney shapes, add plastic elements from the C130 kit and then cover in filler. Some of the plastic elements were trimmed to be closer to the ground making them look like they have sunk into the sand.

Once assembled, the same process I used on the boards again came into place. The difference this time was that I added a rough spray of grey over the plane elements, oversprayed by the base colour and then finished off with some drybrushing grey and the old faithful, Iraqi Sand. Overall I think they worked out quite well – it helps to make the board look closer to the ideal.. The only issue was again due to the filler. It hadn’t set correctly and so, as you can see above, a few bits chipped off over the weekend. It’s easily fixable but if I had more time it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Moral of the story – don’t try to rush things at the last-minute.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to upgrade my central objective from “white SUV” to something more suitable to the mission title of “Dragon’s Hoard”. After throwing a few ideas around, the idea of a big chunk of gold was just too tempting. I’d already bought the components I was going to use as part of Bank Accessories pack from TTCombat in 2017 and just hadn’t got round to building the actual objective. With time pressure adding focus, I built the pile of gold you see above. The three stacks were to act as the base, with one of the smaller piles placed on top for detail. The other smaller pile was chopped up into single bricks to be loosely scattered around the base.

After basic construction, the next stage was adding the tarp. This was the classic modelling standby – toilet paper with watered down PVA painted over the top. Once this was dried, painting began. Rather than painting up like terrain, this was closer to a figure – sand on the base, black undercoat, base colours, lashings of agrax and then drybrushing. The tarp was painted dark blue first before going over the top with a layer of light blue. Gold on black is always interesting and it took several coats to get the look I was after. Also Agrax is still my method of choice for fixing any issues with painting.

Something else I needed was smoke cloud, both for the operators to deploy and also to mark when explosions went off. Rather than cotton wool, one of my fellow SESWC members pointed me in the direction of teddy bear stuffing. After a Saturday where I couldn’t find any in Edinburgh I went to Amazon and ordered 1kg of the stuff. Now, I may not have anticipated just how much 1kg of stuffing is. The package was literally straining at the packaging when it arrived. To put it mildly, I don’t think I’ll be buying much more, even if I decided to model shooting lines for a Napoleonic battle.

Once I’d pulled lumps of smoke off the pile, it was painting time. Rather than just dropping lumps on the board, I used some old bases to keep the clumps anchored to the ground. Rather than just using the same colour for all of the smoke, I set up a few schemes. The white smoke had Mechanicus Grey spray for the lower portion with white spray paint for the top half. The black smoke was a little more involved. The bottom was black spray done relatively close to the clump for a dark colour. The next step was black again but further away. Finally, a light dusting of grey for the top of the cloud. For a first attempt, the smoke clouds worked fine – the only change I’d make would be to get a glue gun to stick the smoke to the base.

Some of the final prep was getting some more cards printed out. This was for a few reasons but primarily, it was because I repainted my insurgents. Along with finishing the other insurgents, I had I ended up with a fair number of cards left over to fill. This was a perfect excuse to keep working on the Task Force Operator pile, with a particular focus on some of the cool gear people may want to pick (such as the airburst grenade launcher). I also added the December releases to the list of guys I have on cards so pickup games of Skrimish Sangin will be even easier to arrange. Once again, personalised card creator knocked it out the park in terms of service. Downside: I didn’t do any post processing on the images so you can plainly see which cards are from which packs I made. However, they were once again a hit.

As I mentioned in my last post, the game at Fiasco ran well but it did feel like the operators, once on the objectives, were basically fated to win which is fine but not quite as exciting as it should be. Having managed to use two of the cards in the new pack for some Technicals, I decided that the operators going loud (be that by lots of gunfire or by blowing the cockpit) should prompt the arrival of some insurgents reinforcements. This basically moved the response squad from a building to a much larger threat, as a four man team of veterans were accompanied by two technicals with HMGs. The operators, thanks to the technicals lacking armour and BLUFOR having brought AT weapons, would find it relatively easy to destroy these reinforcements, as long as they react fast enough. This also makes the end game as exciting as the start, forcing the players to change-up the plan rather than getting all the time in the world to work out how best to approach the problem.

DETAILS OF THE DAY

After setting up the boards on Saturday afternoon (thanks to traders and game organisers being let in early), Sunday morning was a quite relaxed affair where we were able to turn up, get the figures out and then get ready for everyone turning up. Once again, we managed to run the mission three times, rotating players and observers each time.

Game 1 was the usual show started in that I get to play against my number 2. As well as making the game look busy while everyone is doing the early morning lap of the show, it’s also a chance to iron out issues and show off exciting gameplay. Game 1 had a nice mix of stealth and violent gunplay with BLUFOR achieving most of their objective before we called time.

Game 2 brought in some of the public to participate. I actually disappeared off for my lunch break during this battle so I didn’t see all of it but there was everything from awesome sniper shots, some clever tactics and a slightly explosive fumble that luckily didn’t cause any harm other than the need for some fresh pants.

Heading for the black box leads to some close quarters gun battles.

The final game of the day showed just how deadly Skirmish Sangin can be. Thanks to the operators picking a lot of explosive weapons (ranging from two AT4s to the multiple grenade launcher and airburst grenade launcher) the game was all action all the time. With both BLUFOR players ignoring stealth in favour of all action all the time, this was one game where the technicals were actually rolled out. The .50cal scared a few people, but the return fire was able to cut

The pickup takes an airburst round, shredding the insurgents near it
Later on, the MGL gunner engages the horde of technicals heading for the gold.

THOUGHTS ON VAPNARTAK

That was the game, how was the show? Well, apart from two evacuations after someone set the smoke alarm off twice, it was a fantastic show. Vapnartak does really well thanks to its timing at the start of the year, dragging in everyone looking to pickup new projects for a new year. The range of sellers is always great, and I was very excited to see both Spectre and Empress there. The combination of these two (plus people like Pig Iron Productions and Crooked Dice) is perfect for any ultramodern gamers.

Speaking of gamers, thanks to the size of York it’s perfect for meeting up with people you’ve only talked to online. Putting voices to names is always exciting and getting to talk about the hobby is one of my favourite things.

PLANS FOR NEXT TIME

So what’s next?

  • Work on the plane – change the edges of the cut to look less uniform, curl some of the panels, add some interior details (dangling wires and cargo nets) and then tweak the paint job
  • General repair work – make sure there are no chipped edges
  • Get the new buildings from Supreme Littleness Designs ready for action – I’m really excited to get these buildings into action. As I want to build and paint them up myself, there is going to be a little bit time to put aside to get these things built up but they should improve the look of the board and provide a nice tactical challenge for the players.
  • Tweak the battle – We’re almost there. The final gameplay tweak is going to be adding another two-man patrol to the OPFOR start. However, this patrol will be further back – they are not designed to be sentries, instead they will be backup once the action starts.

Something else I’m thinking about is future games. In the projects post for this year I’d mentioned my plan to do a second demo game, with its first run at Fiasco. As fun as this would be, one of the things I realised is that I kind of missed going to Vapa as a customer rather than as someone demoing. Chatting to the figure makers was limited to during a few small breaks. I also didn’t get to do as much browsing as I would like. Combining this with possible work schedules and I think I’ll be having a year off. Game 2 will be bumped back, giving me some more time to work on what exactly I want to do.

CONCLUSION

I’m so glad that we managed to show off at York. I’m even more glad that people really seemed to enjoy it. I had lots of great feedback from people (as always, a downed C130 draws the eye) and was really happy that lots of people totting cameras stopped to take proper photos. Seeing as the planned items is also much smaller, I think we are almost there with this game. Fingers crossed, the version shown at Hammerhead will be the definitive version, perfect for its final planned showing. So keep your eyes open for the final part of Operation Dragon’s Hoard at Hammerhead in March.

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Fiasco, Leeds

If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series on Operation Dragon’s Hoard, check out the page I’ve set up for it at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog/demo-game-operation-dragons-hoard/

Operation Dragon’s Hoard had its first public showing last weekend. This was a pretty major turning point for this project – as well as having the game running, it also needed to actually attract people to it from the horde walking past.

Pre-Game Tweaks

Reminder of what the board looked like at Falkirk

Remember the massive list of things at the end of the last post? Unfortunately due to a couple of reasons (mainly the potent cocktail of other releases, work and finishing a book off), I didn’t manage to get any of the physical tweaks to the board done. I really don’t want get into adding more damage without having the correct tools and material for the job so I pushed back those changes to the long gap between Fiasco and Vapa.

One thing I did decide to do was adjust some positions of bits of terrain in order to change-up the dynamics. BLUFOR now approached the board from a full edge rather than just a corner piece. They also approached the plane side on rather than head on, meaning that the detached wing became less of a trench line. The other two points were shifting the buildings around, and moving the technicals from parked locations to more dispersed. As well as improving the look of the board, it helped to make things a little bit more natural looking.

The final decision was to adjust the number of characters on both sides. BLUFOR was reduced to two fireteams (8 in total) while OPFOR was maintained at 16. The aim with this was to keep a relatively quick pace of play (allowing for a quick turn around) while also providing a challenge. BLUFOR should still have a slight advantage but there should still be a little more balance that what was seen in the original run.

Details Of The Day

Part of the reason for choosing Fiasco as the first run was it’s on my home turf. Needing only to drive 30 minutes into Leeds to get to the Armouries meant I had a pretty relaxing morning. As I wasn’t a trader I could only use the back entrance for drop off. Luckily, there is a cheap nearby car park to leave the car in. In addition, being in Yorkshire meant I could grab my usual York based gaming buddy Peeb to help out.

Setup was relatively painless – the tables were already placed out in the hall and just need a quick swap round to create a more level surface. A quick look around the hall also made me realise I need to a bring a tablecloth next time to cover up the table underneath.

As it was pretty quiet at the start of the day (everyone more focused on seeing what was available rather than wanting to sit down to a game), I decided to jump into a quick game against my buddy in order to give the table some activity. To make it easier to stop and reset once someone became interested, we went for a tiny team of operators (just four) against the rebels. This first game was pretty relaxed so it ended up being a testbed/photo gathering chance. I also got to see Mr REDVector himself, and show off his buildings being put to good use.

Peeb decided to go loud in a rather spectacular way by shredding a patrol with a 40mm grenade and causing enough suppression to worry the elite reaction team hiding in the building.

The game also saw one of the OPFOR team manage to sneak behind the BLUFOR operators. Rushing up the wing and standing on the engine, he was interrupted by the operator snap firing. This shot managed to hit the OPFOR, dropping him. Nice try, but no one out sneaks Wyse.

At the end of the game, which ended with the BLUFOR operators with two figures down and the other two suppressed, we decided to do a few tweaks. Bringing the rest of the BLUFOR team on the field, we also moved the OPFOR DMR nest to tweak its field of fire. Rather than seeing across the entire board, the rear DMR now just had a good shot into the gap between the two plane sections.

As you might be able to guess from the lack of photos of Game 2, it was full on. Both myself and Peeb took control of the OPFOR forces to go up against three players (split up with 4 – 2 – 2 in terms of figures). Overall it was a bloodbath, with BLUFOR using its explosive advantages and reasonable skills while snapfiring to reduce the OPFOR team down to only three survivors before calling it.

After another gap (during which I ran round the floor grabbing some purchases while Peeb watched the table) and then we had time for one final game. Three kids took command of six operators and in perhaps a shocking display of the impetuous of youth, managed to achieve the most objectives of any games during the day. Highlights include an early maneuver that saw two operators pile on to a single militiaman and (I quote) “shank him”.

After the game was done it was time to pack up. Everyone we talked to seemed to like the board (especially the centerpiece) and many of those who got to play came away with saying how much they had enjoyed it. I also really liked how many people said how they had seen Skirmish Sangin before but were tempted to get back into it after seeing it being played.

Thoughts on Fiasco

As for Fiasco 2017 what did I think about it? It’s very definitely on the smaller side of shows, with a focus more on local clubs and retailers. As such, it got really quiet by the start of the afternoon and I think many people were there to simply get in, buy and then get out. The other thing is the hall is a little dark. Black curtains and roof worked okay but it did lead to lots of slightly overshadowed photos.

The location is great, relatively central to Leeds and only a short walk to the station. Car parking is expensive if you want to park right next door to the event but a short walk away is £3 all day – one of the joys of being on a Sunday.

Overall as an exhibitor doing something for the first time and with free accommodation in the city, it worked out great. I’m also tempted to come back next year with a new demo game but we will have to see.

Plans For Next Time

The next event is going to be Vapnartak in February at York Racecourse. This is the first Big show of the year I’ll be going to and as such I want to improve the board even more. So there are a few points to look at.

Fix the broken edges on the boards 

I really like the boards and they seem to have held up pretty well to models and dice bouncing off it. However, the edges have been suffering and so I need to do some emergency repairs. Luckily it should be relatively easy to repair. The bigger issue is how best to prevent this damage from happening too often.

Detail the plane

Yeah okay, I know I mentioned this one last time. Same plan however I should be getting the necessary tools (dremel and airbrush) and material (wire and aluminium foil) at Christmas

Improve the central objective

Still trying to decide between gold transport and mysterious box – either way this should be more interesting than the objective to “look through car”.

Tweak the balance

So we’re still not 100% on the balance. I think that 6 BLUFOR seemed to be the best number to balance speed and the giving the players enough toys to play with. On the OPFOR side, I want to tweak the composition. Primarily, I want to adjust the elite reinforcements so they don’t just roll out of building.

To make the game a little more exciting, I’m tempted to get some cards made for vehicles and have the OPFOR backup arrive in a pickup and backed up by a .50cal truck. This would force BLUFOR to get into a good location rather than letting them sit back and plink. It also helps with the action movie esque flow.

Build more explosion markers

I’ve learnt the ways from a friend at SESWC, but I think I need more. Especially if the Operators get more explosive weapons.

Make more cards

It’s safe to say the cards are a hit, with lots of comments and questions about them. With some upcoming releases and the possibility of swapping some figures out, more cards are needed!

Conclusion

So overall I’m calling Fiasco 2017 a success, which is a strange thing to say based on that name. The game worked, people enjoyed it and I didn’t destroy the terrain in transit. I should be doing an update post just before Vapa in the new year so keep your eyes open for that!

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: 100 Years of War, Falkirk

All the posts so far have been leading up to this: the first play through of the game. The original plan had been to go in at the deep end and running the first attempt at a proper show. After that fell through, running the trial at a smaller event made a little more sense. 100 Years of War is an anual event run by the Falkirk Wargames Club

After spending the Saturday typing up a play sheet, Sunday saw me waking up at 8:30 to drive over to Falkirk (about 45 minutes from my flat). The weather was a bit grim but it wouldn’t really matter much. The venue is a community hall, very easy to get to by car and with plenty of parking nearby. Its also really bright, great to see in a wargames club venue. In addition to my game, there were quite a few other being setup, including a huge Indo-Pakistani air war game next to mine and a ridiculously large Boxer rebellion game further up, complete with the walls of Peking. Overall, it was a great event – a very relaxed time that I am looking forward to next year.


So, lets take a look at the first game. The picture below shows the layout (although the gunner on the technical was removed before play began). Three players each took a fireteam (created by choosing four operators from the decks I’d made) while I took the OPFOR. My force was randomly generated, based on a dice roll for number of characters and then draw from the pack. Although this was fun to do, I think it may have made the game too easy.

There were four objectives for BLUFOR to achieve

  1. Destroy the flight deck with thermite
  2. Secure the black box
  3. Search the white SUV for important documents
  4. Destroy OPFOR technicals 

As the game begun, the players headed off for their objective. Fireteam A headed for the broken wing section in order to dominate the flank and then advance onto the white SUV. Fireteam B started close to the nose section and so they set off to place the charge. Finally, Fireteam C moved to grab the black box, as well as setting up to hit the various vehicles. All groups started infiltrating (using the stealth rules from the new book).

As they crept closer, one of the militia marksmen managed to spot an operator from Fireteam A. With no suppressed weapons, this basically meant they would have a limited time before they were rumbled.

With a ridiculously high shooting skill, Fireteam A’s marksman was easily able to shoot down his target and incapacitating him. Fighters nearby were unnerved by the sound of this first attack and started locking them in place with morale tests. Fireteam B used this distraction to get into the cockpit and placed the thermite device.

On the other side, Fireteam C got to work. The first shot sent a UGL round flying across the board and into a technical. The resulting explosion set off the fuel being stored there, destroying the asset and taking down two insurgents in the blast. The anti-material gunner 

Fireteam B and C also opened up, engaging the group near the white SUV. The first shot took down the middle of the group with the morale effect pinning the rest of the squad in place.

Fireteam C saw the fight starting and decided to use this distraction to sneak up on the black box. The fireteam leader sprinted to the box before kneeling next it.

Unfortunately, this move exposed him to the waiting sniper. Swinging the anti-material rifle around, a quick shot hit and inflicted massive damage, immediately killing him.

As the next phase started there was a sudden blast as the thermite detonated, immolating the sensitive equipment and achieving one of the objectives.

After being pinned down in the open, one of the militia sprinted to seek cover in the back of the plane. However, this move exposed him to gun fire and he was taken out by the dead eye marksman from Fireteam A. Also note the two operators in cover behind the wing, easily able to pin down anyone trying to move up on them.

Covered by their team mates, more operators started to move up on the white SUV, seeking to quickly snatch the intel. 

Having reloaded his grenade launcher, Fireteam C’s grenadier sighted the red technical and sent a round flying towards it. Another hit, another asset destroyed.

I must have forgotten to grab a picture but I should mention what happened to the machine gunner on the roof. Fireteam B’s SMG character, still standing close to the nose section, managed to thread a difficult shot through the plane and land an incapacitating hit on him.

Moving round both sides of the plane, the operator catch the last few enemies in a cross fire allowing easy access to the SUV. Both Fireteam A and B took full advantage of the cover provided by the wreckage, including crawling under the wing.

One final bit of excitement – as one operator was search the vehicle a militia man spotted him with the intel and opened up. He didn’t cause any damage and in the next turn, his target rallied and took him down.

As the game ended, nearly all of the OPFOR lay dead or incapacitated. BLUFOR took one casualty and managed to achieve all their objectives. Scratch one for the good guys. All three players had a good time which was great to hear.


After a short break for lunch (including a trip to Subways located 2 minutes from the hall), game two began with three new players picking three new fireteams. I also changed up the enemy team and the objectives, the black box now on the other side of the board. I also set up my OPFOR a little differently

Rather than jumping straight into the shooting, BLUFOR this time managed to actually be a little more sneaky.

While Fireteam A setup at the nose, Fireteam B and C can be seen above moving up on the central part of the plane.

Of course you can’t stealth forever. Fireteam A held off detonating the charge as long as possible letting element of Fireteam B sneak into position next to the engine. The insurgents didn’t spot him but did notice the marksman rushing forward.

As we learnt in the first game though, spotting marksmen never ends well. Before the alarm could be set off, the LMG gunner from the sentry team was taken down by a well-aimed shot, momentarily pausing the sentries as they have to handle the sudden appearance of BLUFOR.

Hearing the sound of gunfire one of the militiamen ran to the back of the SUV and opened up on a prone operator. His shots hit home but the body armour absorbed it all.

Before the shooter could get away, a BLUFOR SMG operator managed to get behind him, drop him with a quick burst and then begin grabbing the intel from the SUV.

Back on the wing, Fireteam A and B moved up. Fighters from Fireteam A, who had blown the cockpit, now moved to join the fight, including one who rushed up to the wing. An insurgent way back on the edge of the board (just out of shot) started shooting but was swiftly silenced by the combined efforts of an entire fireteam.

Meanwhile on the other side of the board, Fireteam C was causing havoc. Having taken out a technical and the marksman, the subsequent morale tests (and their many failures) had pushed lots of troops around and into less advantageous positions.

Seizing the opportunity, two operators moved up and started what was the strangest fight. As the shotgun wielding breacher turned the corner, the closest enemy managed to avoid all the shots fired at him, pass a morale test, drop prone and get into cover. Before the breacher could even act, the insurgent leader came screaming in from out of nowhere and engaged him in close combat. Luckily the leader manged to fluff two turns of close combat before the breacher threw him to the floor. The machine gunner eventually engaged the man under the car, forcing him to surrender.

Start of the final phase and the only effective fighter left on the board was the lone RPG gunner still frantically trying to reload his RPG. As the Operators closed in, two players almost caused a friendly fire incident. As a LMG gunner crept into position behind the tail, his AT gunner compatriot tossed a frag at the last insurgent alive. It didn’t land exact but luckily scattered enough that the plane’s tail absorbed all the shrapnel while still vaporizing the hapless goon. With the operator’s ears ringing we called the game.

Again, BLUFOR wiped OPFOR from the table (even managing to capture two of them) and got all the objectives. BLUFOR did end up losing one character to a PKM burst (this was the team leader in Fireteam A). Once again, everyone left the table having really enjoyed it.


So after getting back and having some time to think back over the events, there are a few things that I think worked and a few that need improving.

What worked well:

  • The baseboards: I am really happy with how the baseboards look and work. They look great, didn’t chip too badly despite having dice and terrain on them all day and I was easily able to carry them around by hand from car to table.
  • Terrain: The whole “crashed plane on board” idea worked. Despite not using a huge amount of terrain, it managed to successfully break the lines of sight and present something interesting to play around. It was also successful at grabbing people’s attention, with lots of people walking past stopping to take a look at it.
  • Cards: Everyone who played (and many people who walked past) commented on the cards. Having the stats plus picture in a handy format really made it much easier for player to get to, rather than having to check bases or look at descriptions.
  • Basic play sheets: The basic playsheet/quick reference I wrote up reduce the QRF down to four pages. People seemed to find them very handy and by the end of both games players were working out the modifiers.
  • Everyone enjoyed it: The most important part of running the game. Talking to everyone after the game, all of them said how much they had enjoyed playing and liked the system.

What Didn’t work well:

  • It was too easy: Both games saw the BLUFOR operators walk away having ripped OPFOR a new one and with minimal casualties. This is way to easy – the ideal is that the players should be able to do all the objectives but it would be a close thing.
  • The demo board gaps: The tables I was using had metal rims on the edges of them. This lead to there being a slightly higher point in the centre, leading to some gaps appearing. I think I should bring something to help level it out but I’m unsure what. Something to think about.
  • Transporting the boards: Moving the boards in my car was a bit of an experience – while driving back a sudden brake caused them to come sliding forward. Ideally, I need something that will both protect them and stop them shifting around.
  • Standing up all day: I really need to get used to being on my feet all day. By the end of it my legs were aching. Basically I need to stretch more.

So before the next showing, what am I going to do?

  • Detail the plane: As mentioned previously, I need to make the plane look more like it crashed and less like someone took a hacksaw to it. The plane is to add some structural elements to the joins, paint on some different textures (smoke and oil). Additionally, the board needs more clutter from bits of wreck that were ripped off, like panels of the fuselage or bits of cargo.
  • Better objective: Speaking of cargo, the middle objective needs to be improved. The white SUV was a good placeholder but it needs to be something more exciting for the main release. I’m still deciding what it should be but whatever it is it needs to be very important.
  • Rework the balance: The game is too easy. My solution is two-fold – increase the number of OPFOR and make the objectives take longer to succeed at. I think my time/AP estimates were off when it comes to placing a demolition device or checking for documents
  • Tweak the layout: The core idea is there but I think the buildings should be adjusted to make them more than just show off where the enemy are staying. I also want to add some elements to make it look like the insurgents are working on a recovery operation. Finally, the technicals need to be a little more spread out
  • (maybe) Paint up more operators: I really like the start of the game where people would pick their operators from the deck presented to them. If I go ahead with my plan to add some permadeath to the event (operators lost in the morning will not be available later in the day), I need more specialists (MG, UGLs and DMRs primarily) to prevent later teams from being screwed.
  • Tweak the timing: I’m tempted to drop the teams down to only two fireteams vs equivalent insurgents to speed up play and allow for more playthroughs of the scenario. It would be nice if this was a quick game that players could jump into. However, I’m not decided on this just yet.
  • Other things: I have some other ideas to help get the players in the mood for the game. However, these are secondary to getting the main game fixed so I’m not stressing too much about them yet.

That’s all the update for now. The next update will be after Fiasco but keep your eyes on the Wargaming Week posts for WIP photos as I work on my tweaks.

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Part 4 – Final Approach

So there has been quite a gap since my last update (back in May) and since then a lot has changed. The game went from pie in the sky idea to actual game that is about to run in the next few days. I am both excited and terrified.

THE PLAN

So in the last plan I fired off a big long list of what is going on with the demo game. However, a few things changed

  • I didn’t make it to Claymore in August – ran out of time to get ready for it. On the other hand, not worrying about it did mean I really enjoyed the Spectre Weekend
  • I’m not 100% sure on Salute in 2018 – there is a lot of logistics to sort out around it (being up in Edinburgh obviously makes travel a huge issue)

However, the cool thing is I can now update that the game is confirmed for two shows! I can confirm I’ll be at the following shows running games

  • October 2017 – Fiasco, Royal Armouries in Leeds, 29th of October
  • March 2018 – Hammerhead, Newark Showground, 3rd of March

I should also be at York in February but we are still working on confirming it.

Of course, there is another event I’m going to this week…

 

THE SCENARIO

Scenario is ready. I decided that I wanted to a co-op mission – focus more on the players working together with their small fire-teams while I run the bad guys. The character sheets are all on cards makes this even easier so I can hand over a selection of troops and let the players parcel them out as required. I mentioned on Monday about the cards and I’m really happy with how they have turned out.

As for the objectives, I’ve decided on four that should force the players to push deep into the map rather than just sitting back and having a long range fire fight. These objectives are:

  1. Recover the flight recorder.
  2. Destroy the flight deck in the nose compartment (every operator has thermite grenades for this task).
  3. Check main compartment for sensitive information.
  4. Destroy OPFOR assets.

 

For the flight recorder, I looked up some example online, realised that the core of one looks like a fire extinguisher piece for the C130 and decided that that would be the objective. Quick, easy and simple to paint.

I’ll probably tweak them once I’ve done the first run but the multiple locations should lead to each

In addition, I’m also starting the game using the stealth rules I wrote as part of Plausible Deniability, letting the operators sneak onto the board without being pinned down out in the open areas. It also helps me to show off the new features of the book.

To finish, this is the description I’ve been sending to people and should be appearing in the various programs for each show:

Operation Dragon’s Hoard

A Special Forces team has been dispatched to investigate activity around a crashed transport plane somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula. A co-operative game using Radio Dishdash’s Skirmish Sangin.

 

THE BASE

The base boards are all done! These are obviously the foundation of the demo game so getting them finished was pretty important.

Last time you saw them they looked like this. The wooden portions had been assembled, the foam was added and then the polyfilla was placed on top. We eventually switched to using plaster as it was easier to buy in bulk. On top of that, I painted on a layer of thinned down PVA and sprinkled on sand to create some variations in texture. Then painting happened with spray can after spray can. First up was some textured paint (requiring 4 cans for 5 boards) then a spray of Zandri Dust for the base colour.

The final stage was a scruffy drybrush of Iraqi sand to break up the brown colour. I’m pretty happy with the final result but the real test will be how well they stand up to the process of driving to and from Falkirk as well as a whole days play on them.

THE CENTRE PIECE

As mentioned last time, the centre piece of the board is a downed C130. Having bought the kit. I then had to build it (as seen here covering my desk). The build was fun, although I was a little slapdash (hence some of the seams you can spot in the photos).

And then this happened after using a razor saw on it

After cutting it up, each part was then placed onto plasticard bases. Left over foam from filling the interiors of the baseboard was then added to fill gaps or add some decoration, topped off with a skim of polyfilla. Then the same process used on the boards was used – sand, textured spray paint, Zandri Dust spray on the top.

The next stage is to some addition damage and details. I’m actually planning to hold off on this for my first game – my hobby fund ran a little short for this month. However, they will be ready for the game in October. I intend to add some plasticard struts and wires dangling, as well as cutting some more of the panels away from the airframe.

This shows the wing and drop tank basically finished with the final drybrush layer. I think they do a pretty good job of showing off “aircraft that has been downed and left in a sandstorm for a while”.

I just about managed to get the entire plane finished before finishing this post. The final touches is just more sprays of dust and a big brush for drybrushing. The final effect looks dusty which is exactly what I was aiming for.

To add – I’m not finished with decorating this plane. I still intend to add some more damage to it but I just ran out of time and bits to be able to do it and guarantee to have something ready for Sunday.

THE SCENERY

My plan last time to go minimal on additional terrain was actually implemented. For the first run, I’ve decided to go with two adobe buildings from REDvector, five rough ground patches made from foam to provide half and full height cover and a collection of technicals (already painted) to be objective targets/cover.

The rough ground is made a similar way to all other terrain on the board – plasticard base, foam offcuts on the top, layer of polyfilla and then desert paint. The end result almost blends into the surface which I’m not 100% on. This is one element I might revisit.

It’s not a great photo but this also shows the buildings finished. Textured paint, spray paint, wet drybrush across most of it and then some brown paint on the beams. The brown helps to break up the scheme, prevent it from turning into just a sea of dust.

The terrain is one place I might tweak, either adding another building or more areas to break up line of sight. However, all this depends on the first run.

THE GAME

So with all these things at the correct stage, the biggest piece of news is what’s happening on Sunday. I am taking this game out for its first two runs on the 24th at 100 Years of War. This is an event that Falkirk Wargames club is running, bringing players along to take part in a whole series of games themed around 20th Century warfare. For me, it’s the perfect place to run a trial run – everyone going has some wargaming experience and it’s not a huge event.


Its really exciting to see how I’ve managed to actually get the game ready to go. Everything on it has been painted by me and its quite satisfying to see it laid out – this is my first terrain project and I’m amazed I even got it finished. The next step is to make sure the game side of it goes well Expect a full report next week as to how the battles went and to see the whole thing laid out on the table.

 

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Part 3 – Building Boards and Buying Planes

If you are wanting to stay informed about this build, the best way is to follow my blog using it’s RSS feed or sign up to email updates using the box at the top of the sidebar.

 

Since the last time I wrote about my demo game plans a fair amount has happened. I’m going to split it up into a few sections but there has been a lot of progress

The Plan

The initial plan was to run the demo game at two shows (Leeds and York), with Leeds being the starting point and York being the big focus on getting it right. However, after some thoughts I’m extending the trip the board is going on. Rather than the first trip being in October, I’ve changed up the target dates. These are entirely unconfirmed so they can and will change.

  • August – Claymore, Edinburgh,
  • October – Fiasco, Leeds
  • February – Vapnartak, York
  • March – Hammerhead, Newark
  • April – Salute, London

Yep, that last one is Salute. Having been there again this year, I would be really interested in helping to expand the games there and bring something that I missed this year – a board showing off ultramodern rulesets. Having four events before it gives me plenty of time to test out, tweak and balance. Rapid iteration of any tweaks will be the aim of the game.

The Scenario

The basic scenario idea is down – two teams clashing over a downed cargo plane in an attempt to take control of it. However, I’m still working out the exact details. Should it be two roughly symmetrical teams (two groups of elites) or embrace the asymmetry and have one team comprised of elites and the other team being numerically larger but with lower skill or with an additional form of support (such as a technical or two).

I also realised in my first post I said the words “three way fight”. After having more a thought about this, I decided that only having two teams made more sense. It’s a simpler setup for players to jump in on and also means there will not be a GM controlled side. It also means less people are need to get a game going!

Once the style is worked out, I can then start rolling up the stats and assembling the force sheets. Inspired by Tiny Terrain‘s board at Colours, I think I’ll be getting some top trumps cards ordered (probably multiple sets as a just in case). Having a card that contains a character’s details and what they look like is easier to use than a normal character sheet. I’ll also be doing an activation sheet for me (as the GM) to have – reminding me who goes when rather than having to keep referring back on forth.

I’ll also need, once selected, to get all the figures painted up and good to go. Luckily I have a few months to work on it.

The Base

As you can see the boards are well on their way thanks to a full day of work on Easter Saturday alongside my dad. All the woodworking has been done (combining the 2′ x 2′ pieces with the wood battens) and the base layer of foam is in place. So far, only the test board has had a thin layer of filler applied to it. This was down a misbuying on my part – I bought pre-mixed filler rather the powder need to mix up a pourable amount. I spent an evening using half a pot before realising the mistake I’d made.

The boards are still at my parent’s house and so I can only carry on working when I go visit them. My next trip is in June and I intend to take some extra time off to apply the filler and then get a chance to paint it before having to shove it in the back of my car. The plan is then to drill dowel holes to increase stability when assembled. The test board will hopefully become my photography base; I can use the dowel holes to mount a background on and the textured surface should be more interesting than whatever is on my desk.

The Centre Piece

Of all the things I’m terrified of doing as part of this whole demoing game process, building the centre piece is pretty high up the list. The reasoning is two fold: the model I’m using as the wreck was very expensive and it will make or break the board as a whole. If the plane takes up too much space it ruins the balance and playability of the demo. If I paint it up terribly then it doesn’t tie the board together and it will catch attention for the wrong reasons. If I make a terrible mistake while assembling it, it might be doomed from the start.

However, I have a plan. I’ll build the plane as if I intended to keep it fully assembled, making sure the interior is decorated (at least in base colours). Then once finished, I’ll take a razor saw to it and cut it up into sections. The exact proportion of each section will be inspired by the Modern Warfare map I took the idea from. Each of these sections will be mounted onto MDF bases. The bases will then be enhanced with additional bits of terrain such as piles of sand the plane has dug into or cargo that has been forcibly ejected from the downed plane. Then they will be painted up and weathering applied.

The look I’m aiming for is of an aircraft that was shot down, the fires have gone out and the weather has started to affect it. So less raging fires and more sand.

The Scenery

My original plan was to use Sarissa’s excellent factory model as part of the table but after looking at the size of it, I think it might end up overpowering the table. Instead, I’m thinking of going for a more open look, with a few rocky outcrops made from leftover foam and maybe two of the Knights of Dice buildings. One of the teams will probably start close to some of Spectre’s SUVs, to represent how they arrived in the area. From their, it will be a case of playing around with layouts until I find the way that works and looks the best.

Conclusion

Overall its gone from “not doing much” to “oh god do everything”. Getting the boards started was a big help but there is still a long way to go. I’m still unsure about the decision to bring the first show forward but we shall see. Hopefully the next update will start showing more of what I’m up to.

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Part 2 – Further Planning and Physical Things

So since last time, I’ve done a few things to get ready for building the demo board I have planned out.

  • Emails have been sent out to get the ball rolling on actually booking space to run the game at two shows. It might be a little early for some but better early than late.
  • Continued working on the scenario and forces. Looking at three way brawl, going to have to test/practise the scenario a few times.
  • Sat looking at Italeri C130s and mentally preparing to spend that much money on something I’ll be cutting to pieces. Plan is to cut into three (nose, centre of body + wings, tail + bit of fuselage) and then build up the broken support structs using plasticard.
  • Built my first two buildings to go on the board. Originally I just thought about only filling the board with shacks but a few larger buildings will set the scene better and a change in elevation will be more interesting to play over.

The buildings are from Knights of Dice (delivered by Shiny Games in the UK). I picked up Desert Compound 2 and Desert Residence 1.  The buildings went together super well, just had to pop them out of MDF frame (assisted by the MDF crowbar that came in one set), pop out any inner bits and then assemble together. A few of the guys on the Spectre Operations group came up with some nice advice about building them. The dry run went together really well so next step is gluing everything together and then break the primer/textured paint out.

I’m also going to look into getting some detail items to set the scene. Thinking fencing, tv aerials and air conditioning units to be attached permanently with some more situational stuff (like sandbags) to be left loose and added when needed.

In a few day’s I’ll be grabbing the bits I need for the board (as well as maybe a little extra) and finally pushing the button on the most expensive item that makes up this build.