Boardgaming in Korea: First Alleyway

Over the years I’ve covered a lot of board game shops and board game cafes in Seoul but I’d be remiss to not mention my hometown, Gwangju. For several years now there has been a local haunt for tabletop folks at an eatery, The First Alleyway. This isn’t a place that sells any games or gaming supplies. It’s a full up restaurant. However you’ll find it’s a place open to folks playing games at the establishment.

AlleywayA

The place is well lit with several tables that can handle 4 people spaciously, or smaller tables for couples that can be shifted around to accommodate larger groups. While it doesn’t sell board games, there is a decent selection of games on hand. The choices lean towards lighter fare like King of Tokyo, Smallworld, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride, but a few meaty games like Dominion can be found too.

Just one of the various game shelves throughout the place.

Just one of the various game shelves throughout the place.

The policy of the place for playing games is relaxed. As long as people are buying food and drinks, the owner is open to people playing games at the tables. However on some packed nights during the early evening rush, they might gently ask some folks to move over to tables by the bar if people are more inclined to be just drinking coffee and water.

The interesting news for the place is that the second floor of the building will be open soon exclusively for gaming. A handful of tables will be set up, along with a more extensive game library including RPGs and classic hex and counter wargames (the owner has a soft spot for ASL). There is also a larger table set up for miniature wargaming along with another room that will be host for workbenches if people need some dedicated space for painting.

Now I’ve focused on the gaming potential of First Alleyway which is possible here, but understand you are playing at a public restaurant, so expect all the limitations and issues that come with that. But there are also some major plusses in the manner of craft beers and great western food. A staple selection of hamburgers, (real) pizza, sandwiches, and salads can be found on the menu. Not to mention a variety of offerings for the classic Canadian comfort food, poutine. The place also has a full bar with staff more learned in the art of pouring cocktails than some other places in the city. And their selection of beer is top notch.

AlleywayB

Its location and more info can be found on their facebook page. Gwangju is known for its Korean food. If you ever visit Korea, you are doing a disservice to yourself not to eat local. Yet if spending some time in Korea you might eventually have a hankering for something a little closer to home, and this restaurant certainly fits the bill. However if you are keen on checking out the local gaming scene, the First Alleyway is a must stop. A great place to play board games and at the very least have a drink or two.

Random Sci-fi adventure generator

TravellerArtASo my sci-fi Savage Worlds game is chugging along. Generally it’s a big sandbox game. The players are flying around in the Scalawag and seeing what trouble they can get into. I employ a sci-fi version of a job board. Each system they jump into they have a few options on employment opportunities. For my game I scooped up the idea of Traveller’s FTL travel. You jump so many parsecs and it takes about a week in this alternate space, regardless of the actual distance traveled. In effect is this age of sail feel for the game, allowing players to potentially run from the law or bounty hunters (and making pursuits after baddies all that more aggravating).

I also fell in love with an idea from Traveller Patrons books. Essentially when the PCs get a patron, after making the initial meet and accepting a job, the GM rolls a d6. While the typical results mean that opposition or the expected situation is what the patron described, there is a chance things could be far more difficult, or that the entire situation is not what it initially seems. I loved this concept as I’m certain I tend to telegraph any secret intentions from NPCs. Not to mention this sort of mirrors events in real life. Sometimes things are a lot easier than expected and sometimes well… sh%t happens and everything goes pear shaped.

A fan made supplement I’ve long gushed over, Savage Space, has a great adventure generator. But I wanted to tweak it some. I expanded the potential outcomes and settled on a series of 8 x 8 tables. As a GM you roll two different colored d8 to represent the rows and columns of the tables. In general an adventure framework is:

Players must [Do][Something] at [Location] against [Opposition].

So I have a series of tables for the Do, Opposition, Something, etc. As a twist, sometimes the players might have to go through some hoops to complete an adventure. Success or failure from previous adventures might impact future tasks, so I created another chart to mimic that. This would also potentially throw in complications to the adventure. To add some structure, certain types of adventures would utilize particular types of side missions, and additional charts I whipped up reflect that.

The end result you can find in my downloads section. This adventure generator isn’t perfect and sometimes you get some wacky combinations that need to be reworked some. However I’ve been surprised how flexible it is. It really has become a great way to spark adventure ideas and a helpful tool for creating a foundation for a potential mission. Hope folks find some use for it in their games.

Bolt Action: Empires in Flames

EmpiresInFlamesWarlord games has been diligently releasing their theater specific books and I was able to finally snag a copy of Bolt Action: Empires in Flames, their Pacific campaign book. This details quite a few parts of the entire Pacific and East Asia conflict from the initial invasions of Japan into China during the second Sino-Japanese war, engagements in Burma, to the final allied island-hopping offensive to take back territory from Japan. As with many of the previous books it not only covers some scenarios, special troop types, and unique rules for these games, but also provides brief historical background overviews of the conflicts.

The book is broken down into sections first dealing with the 1937 outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, then detailing the rapid conquests Japan had during the initial part of WW2, up to the final years of the war (with Burma and the other major allied offensives being their own section). There are only 8 scenarios listed in the book, but taking a page from Ostfront, there are lists of scenarios out of the main Bolt Action book that are recommended as ones that would be applicable for that period of the war.

Although the scenario count is limited, many have some unique layouts in terrain to give them a twist from your typical games. Additionally, they employ some special rules incorporating night fighting, mines, or amphibious assaults, or ones more specific to the stress troops had in a jungle environment (like exhaustion, monsoon rains, or deep mud). There are also quite a few suggestions for the density and type of terrain that should be on the table for these games. I’ll admit it’s a little disappointing more rules weren’t included but there is enough to add some wrinkles to your typical game which could capture that feel of jungle fighting.

One thing that stands out included in the book is a complete army force list for Chinese national forces. If hankering to duke it out during the initial Japanese invasion into China, this book has you covered with some Japanese theater specific lists. But along with that is a complete list of units and vehicles that would be thematic for the Chinese national army at the time. It certainly is a very niche force, but an interesting option if looking for something different in your typical Pacific theater games.

Along with this new force list are also some new units for both Japan and the allies (both US and Britain), including rules for Mongolian Russian troops. There are a sparse number of heroes and a few vehicles. Most of the new units are for infantry troop selections. Rules for horse limbers and mule-packed guns are also presented as troop options.

Amphibious rules are presented, as well as rules for night fighting, city fighting, and minefields. There are some additional rules that attempt to capture the challenges of fighting in the jungle (monsoon rains and deep mud). Another interesting rule tweak is exhaustion. This rule potentially strips away troops from infantry and artillery units. Exhaustion can also impeded Run orders (units must always check leadership, even with no pins) and units in reserve are more difficult to bring in. It’s a bit of a gamble if playing with the jungle specific rules for exhaustion as it can randomly effect just the attacker or just the defender (or possibly both sides).

The Good – The book provides a nice overview of the different types of engagements that typified warfare in WW2 for this region. Touching on the years up to the start of the war, along with the initial part of the Japanese military campaign is also welcomed, as it’s something not quite visited in typical WW2 rules.

The theater-specific rules are okay and having additional units are always welcomed. The detailed scenarios aren’t groundbreaking but do offer some different challenges from your standard Bolt Action game. It’s especially nice to have a complete army list and theater-selectors for a Chinese national force, which certainly stands out from your regular Pacific wargame book.

As with many other Osprey books, the art is great. It’s well organized and having the special rules dedicated in a single section at the end of the book is nice.

The Bad – There is a lot of ground and history to cover, but it would have been nice to provide some more scenarios. As with many of the other books, a fair number of scenarios are presented more as generic battles with a Pacific flavor rather than detailing a specific battle. Even though the horse limber rules are presented again, it’s a shame the rules for flag bearer units weren’t included.

The Verdict – Empires in Flames is a niche book. It certainly is for a player wanting to focus on the Pacific war. Most of the rules covered have been seen elsewhere in other campaign books (although it’s nice to have them collected in one book here again). So if looking for tons of new rules, some might be disappointed.

Additionally the number of scenarios provided might be considered a little sparse. However the ones provided offer a nice snapshot of the particular types of battles seen in the Pacific. There are quite a few suggestions for table layouts, special rules, and theater-selector lists to use too.

I think Osprey has hit their stride with putting these campaign books out. Empires in Flames manages to present a wide range of different conflicts in the Asian region well. I don’t consider this book a must have for everyone. But if war in the Pacific is your bag, you’d be remiss not to pick up this campaign book. It’s got a lot of meat in between its pages to keep a Bolt Action fan happy.

Review: Harbour

From Tasty Minstrel Games, Harbour is a 1-4 player game where players are competing trade brokers in a fantasy harbour. It is a compact game that will play in about 45 minutes or so, easily allowing you to get in a few games in one sitting. It revolves primarily around selling and producing goods, all the while trying to buy up special buildings for additional options during your turn and victory points. Once a player has a total of 5 buildings (including their starting warehouse building), the game ends.

Turns run pretty simple. A player moves their meeple to an unoccupied building, and then takes the action on the building to the best of their ability. If goods are sold, the market is adjusted to reflect new prices and the next player takes their turn. Simple.

Each player has an initial warehouse building which tracks the number of different goods that they hold. There are four types of goods (fish, stone, wood, and cattle) and the price of these goods range from $2-5 dollars. Paired with these prices is a required minimum number of goods for that particular type which must be in your warehouse if wanting to sell. As a mental cheat sheet, the price of a resource equals the minimum number of stored goods (so if stone was $3, you’d need at least 3 stone in your warehouse).
HarbourCover
The catch to this is once you sell a good, you sell everything, regardless of the actual price of the goods. So if you’ve got 5 wood stored away and decide to sell it for a measly $2, you have to unload all of it. None of it can be saved for later sales (although certain building types allow you to bypass this restriction).

Added to this is a very fluctuating selling market. It’s hard to describe effectively without diagrams, but essentially goods that are sold move down a track and reenter the market at the lowest value. All unsold goods move up in cost (and the required number of stored goods needed to sell). Depending on the value of the good sold, you can really shake up the market. Low value resources won’t change the market much, but selling higher value goods can really alter the prices of everything else. What compounds this is that most buildings are $6-8 so you are always selling 2 or more resources to get the cash needed to purchase them.

Aside from a winning condition, owning buildings means that other players have to pay a good to use it. Buildings themselves have different abilities which typically allow for the gain of goods coupled with losing some others that are owned, or the shifting of the market. Some buildings also have other properties that allows for storage of more resources, cheaper building prices, or allowing a player to use an opponent’s building for free.

Players can purchase a limited choice of buildings out of a deck of 36 different kinds. Most abilities for buildings are shifting the loss of a few goods to get a small gain in another, or just adding one or two goods to your warehouse. There are a few buildings that allow for gaining of more resources depending on owning particular building icons. However these are few and far between.

Another layer of variation is that the game comes with different player abilities and starting buildings. You have the option of starting out with everyone having a generic player mat. But you can also choose from 14 different player mats with different abilities and matching building types. So out of the box there is quite a lot of variety making room for a different play experience from game to game. You also can play the game solo playing against an AI opponent, so you can stretch the game play even further

The Good – Harbour is a fun little game of worker placement and resource selling. There is a surprising amount of variation in building and player types that give the game a lot of replay. It plays pretty fast and the manipulation of market prices and gaining of select goods is engaging. It’s not overly complicated but certainly will make you think some in how to tangle out what goods to work on and the opportune time to sell and purchase buildings. The artwork is light and whimsical capturing a fun fantasy theme of a fictitious harbor. You get nice, thick, card stock building cards and chunky, wooden resource tokens too.

The Bad – While the market moves prices in an interesting way, it practice it becomes exceedingly difficult to predict. It’s almost too volatile in a 3-4 player game and certainly favors the player that can jump into selling goods early. While there is some room for having a combination of buildings to gain a lot of resources, typically you are only having a net gain of 1 to 2 goods a turn.

This leads into my major gripe with the game. It just seems to end too quickly. You really can’t construct an engine with owned buildings before the game ends. It also creeps into a snowball effect for the few players in the lead. Once they have an advantage of a building or two, it’s almost impossible to catch up.

The Verdict – Harbour is an okay game. Hands down for the price you are paying (less than $20) it’s an immense value. The small box offers a lot of replay and can even offer an engaging solo game. However, while there is room to explore different strategies there never seems enough time to fully develop them.

You’re in a frantic race to gain the right goods at the right time and if you miss out, you can really fall behind. If an opponent is in the lead and can capitalize on another market opportunity, you’ll find yourself in a deep hole that’s too hard to get out of for a victory. So you have to usually jump into buying what buildings you can afford right now, over planning a turn or two to try and pick up other buildings that could offer a deeper ability interaction with others you own.

In the end, I don’t find Harbour a bad game. For such a small package, there is a lot of enjoyable game in the box. But it’s not an amazing game. While the play is engaging and you have some interesting choices, the market is so volatile and the building types so limited in function, it doesn’t allow for a lot of strategic maneuvering. It’s an enjoyable game. But oddly for how much it allows for some careful planning and thoughtful choices during play, other bits like the constant market price swings just make that decision process squandered some.

I think the most saving grace is the price, box size, and card variety. It leaves a small footprint on your shelf and doesn’t sink deep into your wallet. If looking for a relatively light worker placement game with some market interaction, Harbour isn’t a horrible buy and you can squeeze a large amount of play out of it without it getting repetitive.

[House Rule: Players only get to use another player’s building for free if they own more top hat buildings than their opponent. Getting top hat buildings is pretty easy to do. This tweak allows for an advantage if a player delves into owning multiple top hat buildings allowing for a potential strategy. As RAW, it’s a little too to easy to counter by simply gaining one top hat building.]

Dropping Swimming and Climbing skills (or how I learned to love Athletics)

TravellerArtCQuite a while back I talked about some of the fan made settings I liked. One was a great classic space opera ruleset called, Savage Space. There were some really cool ideas in that one, and I latched onto it and used Savage Space to port over to a some other conversions I whipped up.

Savage Worlds doesn’t get saddled down with a lot of different skills. However occasionally you get a few that sort of overlap, or mushroom into a ton of different options that just don’t really amount to much practical differentiation in actual play. The Investigation and Streetwise skill come to mind. Yes there is a difference in how the skills are applied and how they are supposed to work in specific situations. However I can see some players making an argument that either could be applicable to particular challenges.

One that certainly stood out to me was the swimming and climbing skills. A ways back I was working on a Traveller hack using Savage Worlds and ran into this skill problem with swimming and climbing. Traveller uses Athletics as a catch all skill for tests of physical activity. You were never penalized for not having it, and could always test against strength, dexterity, or endurance if needed. But a good way to show you had all round physical prowess were skill levels in Athletics.

While digging through Savage Space, I saw the writer picked up on the same vibe. Climbing and swimming were not skills in that setting. Instead a uniform skill called Athletics was used. I loved it. As RAW, if most characters wanted some decent representation of physical ability they would need to spend 4 points, both to raise swimming and climbing to d6. That is a chunk of points and nearly a third taken up for something that would likely be used in limited situations. There should be other (and better) options.

I’m running another sci-if game and certainly wanted to revisit this again. So I latched onto the idea of an athletics skill. A skill that could represent the overall physical ability of a character. The pickle was would I tie it to strength or agility? So I decided to use both. The skill below has sort of become my go-to skill to cover a lot of physical tests:

Athletics (Agility or Strength, see below)
Points used to raise this skill are either based on Agility or Strength, whichever die type is higher for the wild card. This skill replaces Climbing and Swimming from the Savage Worlds rule book. This skill is also applicable for tests of physical ability. It represents the overall fitness of the character and how well they might complete some physical tasks. If a character was a professional athlete they would likely have at least a d8 for this skill.

Wargames Factory Saxon Thegns

As I mentioned awhile back I’ve been dragging my feet some painting up my SAGA warbands. I wanted to have some flexibility with my models and opted to pick up a few more sets of figures to build both Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane warbands. Further a lot of battle board abilities for Anglo-Saxons revolve around 10 man units. Having a lot of warriors seems the way to go, so I wanted quite a few models to explore these abilities more.

Wargames Factory’s Saxon Thegns come 32 figures per box. There are plenty of head, shield, and weapon options. A few standards and horns are provided. While not specific for SAGA you also get a lot of bows which are great for other game systems (cough…Frostgrave…cough) and if looking to combine this with other plastic unarmored Saxon sets, a good way to have plenty of bows for your levies. There are also hefty 2 handed Dane axes allowing you to deck out some hearthguard if wanted. My one complaint with the weapons would be that the spears look a little anemic.WargamesFactSaxC

My other complaint would be the necks of the models. The manufacturer suggests cutting down the neck some before assembly. This is a bit of a pain and can be difficult to get just right. Fortunately the models are plastic and with the right amount of glue and pressure, you can get them assembled in due order. I would recommend going for a more viscous plastic cement. The figures fit well together, but you might want to fill the gaps in some for the arms.WargamesFactSaxA

The hands are modeled open to allow different arms to be placed in. The thumbs look a bit odd sticking out but once you’ve got weapons set in the hands, they don’t stand out. Overall the models assemble pretty easy aside from the slight hiccup with the heads. The detail on the figures are not bad. Some of the body and arm details are muted, but overall they look good.

You basically have 4 bodies for the set. Yet with the options for heads and arms, along with different angles you can assemble them, the end result is enough different poses to make up for the lack of body types. One more ding to the set is that no bases are provided. So expect to buy some bases along with the box.WargamesFactSaxB

Another manufacturer out there for medieval plastic sets is Gripping Beast. Likely people will want to know how well the 2 figure lines compare. The pic below is from each company for Saxon Thegns. The one on the left is from Wargames Factory and the one on the right is from Gripping Beast. I think they are very comparable for scale and can mix and match them freely. If anything the Gripping Beast figures seem a little more stocky in the arms and shoulders. Yet once painted up and based, they don’t really stand apart from each other.WargamesVsGrippingBeast

There are a lot of positives for the minis in this box. The Wargames Factory kit does have a lot of different weapon and shield options. The head choices aren’t bad (though are a chore some to glue onto the bodies). The price is also reasonable for what you get and I’m glad to have picked them up. However, I’m on the fence about recommending these Thegns. They aren’t bad figures. It’s just that for armored plastic Saxons I think there are better options out there.

Red Army – Wargames Factory

WGF-W2003-2For a long while now I’ve been pretty much sticking with 20mm for my Bolt Action platoons. I’ve accumulated quite a few different nations dabbling both in the Pacific and European theaters. Usually when I jump into a wargame I end up picking up enough models to fill out a couple of armies. It’s just so much easier for me to spark someone’s interest in playing when I’ve already got an army for them to try out. So for Bolt Action, going 20mm was not a problem at all for me.

However I realize that if I was dumped into a gaming scene where I’d be typically playing against folks with their own armies, well, I guess they might frown a little on me pushing around 1/72 scale troops and tanks. So I wanted to work on another nation army that would be a ‘proper’ 28mm scale and settled on fielding a Russian force. One aspect of my choice was that I’d be able to dig up some 1/48 scale armor and vehicles. I could have chosen some other smaller nation, but rounding that out would likely be difficult. The downside of course would be that I’d have to whip up a lot of models. Russian armies work with having lots of bodies so I certainly wanted to look into plastic kits.

There are a few options out there but in the end I decided to make the bulk of my troops from using the Red Army box sets from Wargames Factory. These are pretty nice sets of around 30 figures with a variety of small arms. Most weapon options are for Mosin Nagant rifles and PPSh-41 smgs, but there are quite a few DP-28 lmgs and various sniper rifles also. My complaint would be that I wish there were more rifles. You can get about 15 figures with rifles from a box set. From my 2 sets, I wanted to squeeze out a 3rd rifle squad but it looks like I might have to stick with making that a smg scout squad instead (was able to get a free 12 man rifle squad though for a total of 3 rifle heavy units).

The figures are pretty well sculpted with a fair amount of detail. It’s hard plastic that is a snap to assemble with cement and they don’t appear to have excessive mold lines (although there are some and you can see from the photos I still need to trim more). Another small bit I love about the box is that lipped bases are also provided. There are a couple of prone figures that don’t get any benefit from the bases, but it’s a nice touch.
RussiansA
There are a variety of heads but most are with helmets with a smaller proportion having caps. There are a some officer caps and a few female soldier heads also. As a nice touch, you have the option of making a couple of female troops which is cool. Something historically accurate and adds a little variety to how your force looks on the table. I made one of my sniper teams women and working on converting my field medic to be female.
RussiansB
As pistols and other accessories go, the sprues are a little lacking. They are present but in a limited number. However there are tons of ammo pouches and field kits. So certainly you can deck out your troops to have some additional details. I will grumble some that the entrenching tool and canteen are modeled as a single piece which somewhat limits options for attaching them.

Arms are modeled individually and at first I sort of groaned looking at this, worried how much of a chore it’d be to piece them together properly. However each arm is paired by letter along with a matching body figure making it a much easier process. Still, you’ve got individual arms, heads, and other gear kit bits to glue. Expect your assembly of troops to take a while.
RussiansC
Nonetheless the end product is fairly good. They are digital sculpts but they look like they can handle some detail rather well. I’ll complain about wanting more rifles, but there are enough different weapons between smgs, sniper rifles, and lmgs to provide lots of options. While most of the bodies are single sculpts, with movable arms and heads you can get enough dynamic poses to give the models variety. Adding more kit options and about 5 body figure types, you end up with enough to make your force look engaging with plenty of differences in poses. Hands down, the quality and price for these kits are hard to beat and are an exceptional value for wargaming. Well worth looking into to bulk up your Russian force.RussiansD

Building ruins for Frostgrave

I find Frostgrave fun especially with its low model count and small table space. However as it takes place in a ruined city, you certainly need a lot of terrain pieces. It does demand having a pretty cluttered layout too, so that was something I had to assemble for my games.

Over the years I’ve gotten a little lazy with terrain. I just don’t feel the need to put tons of time into building and painting it. I just need something serviceable and looking decent enough. I’d rather put more time into painting miniatures over building an awesome house. So I was looking for a quick and dirty way to whip up some building ruins.

I settled on hacking apart some old styrofoam I had horded from packaging material. Cut apart into sections and assembled with PVA glue and toothpicks as simple dowels, I got a few sections of walls put together. I also went ahead and got a few flat pieces with some odd chunks added to create some crumbled wall sections which would offer a little cover from ranged shots, yet not impede movement much.FrostgraveRuinsA

I had to try and work on adding some texture to the walls some. I decided I didn’t need to make an intricate pattern, just some large stones etched into the walls. As a super quick way of doing that I figured I’d need some guide lines. Using a small piece of plasticard about the width of the bricks I wanted, I quickly placed tick marks on as layers of bricks.FrostgraveRuinsC

Then I connected everything using a straightedge and a marker to form horizontal lines. One key tip would be to make sure you had all the lines even around the corners. I would then go back and rather unevenly draw in vertical lines to make the brick pattern.FrostgraveRuinsB

FrostgraveRuinsDI needed some way to form some texture in the surface though. I could then go over each line with a knife, but figured that would take a lot of time. Not to mention I might end up gouging out larger chunks of styrofoam if the knife caught up on the material. Instead I used a soldering tool which would melt the styrofoam. Mind you this was tricky as you could easily go too deep into the material. Also, I would do this in an exceedingly well ventilated area (I also had a fan behind me blowing air away from me) as the fumes are pretty toxic. However the end result was pretty nice.FrostgraveRuinsE

All of this worked fine and dandy for low walls but I also wanted to get some elevated pieces together. I had some second level wall corners made that used a chunk of foamcore board as the floor section. This looked okay but I also wanted to give the floor some texture. I ended up cutting out thin sections of cardboard and gluing them in as flagstones. I didn’t need to do the entire surface, just enough to give the appearance of a few stone pieces. With a wash and a bit of drybrushing, they really add some texture to what would look like a flat piece of foam board.RuinsComplete

I’m pretty happy how they turned out. They look decent and are certainly cheap to put together and paint. Lastly, I was able to get a nice amount of terrain to put together for my Frostgrave games. Give it a try if you need a quick and dirty way to make a bunch of ruins. I’m doing a bit of a different setting for my games to match up with using current models, but these would look just fine on a snow battle mat.RuinsFinal

Dumping lefties from PC games

Flame and the FloodI do love me some PC games. I never quite got into consoles as I was that odd generation where I sort of bypassed the old NES systems and instead was doing PC gaming. By the time consoles were really taking off, I was playing stuff like Wolfenstein 3D, Red Baron, Doom and the like on PCs and never looked back. So over the years I sort of languished with odd keyboard handling as a left handed player.

For a long time it seemed that old trend was dead. Publishers and game developers made sure to add the ability to remap keys as you saw fit. As a left-handed person for PC gaming, this meant I could finally alter basic movement keys away from your customary WASD to something more comfortable for me. Typically that meant using the arrow keys instead. Fast forward almost 20 years and it seems like we’ve gone a complete reversion with efforts of some game designers regarding including key binding customization.

I recently picked up the Flame and the Flood, expecting as a PC title the simple aspect of being able to remap keys would be an included feature. Nope. I am locked into using WASD. While not completely unplayable, I tend to accidentally jump back onto my raft a lot when trying to navigate back and forth from the docks and island screens.

Controlling the raft using the mouse is also a challenge. So I’m trying to use the WASD keys, all the while frantically moving over to also right click any salvage that pops up on passing islands. As for attempting some quick maneuvering to dodge a boar, or a quick swing of a staff to shoo some wolves, good luck with me doing that with deft control using with just a mouse. I purposely play these types of games on a PC over a console for the functionality of being able to use a keyboard and mouse. When I am locked into a right-handed control scheme, it’s disappointing.

There are a surprising number of popular titles popping up lately that don’t bother with the ability to remap keys (or at least include it as a feature at launch). State of Decay seemed like a great little zombie action title, but after playing the demo I waited and was hopeful at launch rebinding of control keys would be implemented. Quick maneuvers, dodges, and attacks are key to that game. Sadly, at launch it didn’t have that feature and I had to wait for nearly a month for that to be finally patched in.

Some games don’t even bother. Telltale Game’s Walking Dead series had limited key mapping. Fortunately movement was both arrow and WASD keys. Unfortunately there were some critical time tasks where you had to quickly mash the E or Q keys. That meant I ended up scrambling to fumble around the keyboard while doing them.
Walking Dead
Bethesda Fallout 4 is another culprit with limited keyboard mapping. Throughout the Fallout games and Skyrim I was happy to see I could alter just about any key wanted. I was expecting the same with Fallout 4. I found lock-picking was locked into using WASD to force the lock left or right (completely different from previous games where they were remapped to whatever movement keys you changed). I also found the settlement portion extremely frustrating.
building-settlement
I never understood how people were able to get all the minute control needed to place and move objects for settlements. After seeing some tutorial videos I realized there was some other keyboard functionality with the settlement workshop screens that I was missing. Sure enough, when I had bound the arrow keys for movement, I ended up disabling them for the workshop menu. My workaround was having to rebind the character movement keys back to WASD so that I could use the arrow keys for settlement construction. Now for working on settlements I end up rebinding keys, and do this…every…single…time. Needless to say, I haven’t bothered getting into the settlement feature much.

I realize that left handed players are a minority, and making games that we can easily enjoy is a low priority for PC video game developers. It just stings some, especially as this trend of not incorporating complete remapping of controls seemed to have been buried in the past. Now it looks like making games more accessible to left handed PC users isn’t a worthwhile endeavor for some game studios anymore and we are dumped to the wayside.

Drones and Probes for Gates of Antares

I haven’t taken the plunge yet for getting an army together for Gates of Antares. Instead I’ve been using a lot of my 15mm sci-fi stuff as proxy forces and have been having quite a bit of fun. Maybe later I’ll consider eventually getting a batrep done. Seems 15mm is a great way to jump into the game if on the fence wanting to give the rules a test drive.

I’m liking the Algoryns and might work on that faction. However Warlord Games is still trying to expand that model range for them. And sadly the choices for that force are only in metal. While I dig the heft of metal figures, the cost compared to plastic kits is pretty hard to swallow. Might have to clear my bench some of stuff to paint before I consider jumping into another range of models.

Nonetheless one thing I’ve been missing with my proxy forces is a way to represent drones and probes. GoA uses gobs of em. I really dig having some small bonus abilities represented by models on the table. However I wanted to actually get a figure down that I could push around over just using tokens or painted bases.

I picked up some cheap plastic beads I felt would fit the bill for using as probe models. The cost for a huge gross is dirt cheap. Just head to a craft store and check out the craft jewelry section. Being about 7-9mm across, they are perfect for drones.ProbeB

I wanted to have them floating about though and was considering using some wire, but then I stumbled on some clear plastic tubing for modelling. The material is acrylic and the stuff I got was in 3mm diameter. Perfect for mounting a floating drone onto a base.ProbeA

The pickle I had however was that the tubing was pretty large so I had to drill and file a larger hole into the plastic bead. Fortunately the beads have a hole already in them (for stringing wire and string through). So I could easily use those as a guide hole when using a larger drill bit. Drilling and filing a portion out of some 20mm slot bases, I was able to use a bit of instant bonding cement to assemble the entire thing.ProbeC

The downside of using beads is that there is a small hole drilled into the top of my probes. So I had to use a bit of green stuff to fill it it. I also used green stuff to fill in the gaps for the slot base.

ProbeD

A bit of paint, drybrush a tad, some flock for the base, and bam…there’s a spotter drone. One thing I like about the model is I can use a variety of colors to indicate different types of drones and probes. The downside is that the beads have a particular pattern on the surface making my painting schemes a limited some. This was a quick prototype and I didn’t quite get the pattern and look to what I’d like, but I can touch it up later.ProbeE

Hope folks find this helpful. It was super easy to do and pretty cheap. Considering you can end up with a lot of spotter drones for your units, along with support choices, I think you’ll end up needing quite a few drones for your typical GoA force. This isn’t a bad way to get a lot of models assembled for your force quickly (and cheaply).