Monday, February 8, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 3: Find the Fairlight

[This session happened January 25th.  My notes are getting better now that we are actually doing things rather than talking out the plans.  This session covers the Pleiades Group securing a Fairlight Excalibur for Bookie to use on the main run.]

Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)

Friday, March 13, 2076
Looking over the security on the boutique electronics store containing the only Fairlight Excalibur in the Seattle Metroplex, the Pleiades Group realized it would take hours to slowly bypass the many security layers involved.  Therefore, the Group decided to do a caper to get the Excalibur instead.

The Fin disguised herself as a sex-bomb lush to distract the small number of morning employees.  Murdoc assumed his physical mask personality of Grandma Tang (an unguessably old Chinese woman), then cast invisibility on Void.  Killroy positioned himself in the alley behind the store fronts, ready to get to the roof in a moment’s notice.  Sin had a previously stolen rigged BMW 400GT parked nearby and ready for use as a get-away car.  Prometheus was bodyguarding Sin’s body while he was jumped in.  Bookie was keeping Killroy off the local surveillance cameras and providing technical expertise on electronics to The Fin via micro-transceiver.

The Fin went in first.  Sashay-ing through the large revolving doors, the deep v-cut of her blouse immediately drew the attention of all three store employees.  She asked to be shown the high-end video equipment she needed for her “hobbies”.  She immediately received excellent customer service.

Shortly afterward, Murdoc as Grandma Tang entered the store.  Void passed through the rotating door in tandem with “Grandma Tang”, the invisibility spell keeping the store employees from being aware of her presence.  “Grandma Tang hobbled up to the service desk on the opposite side of the store, set down a computer deck, and then started to slam her cane on the service desk, demanding loudly in broken English, “Race start in 10 minutes.  You fix!”  Two of the store employees immediately brought an index finger to side of their nose, the third, being a little slow on the uptake, realized he had self-selected to assist the angry Chinese woman.  He put on his best customer service face and went over to help “Grandma Tang”.

While the attention of the store staff was split, Void started defeating the locks on the Fairlight Excalibur display.  Twelve seconds later, she signaled to Killroy the locks were unlocked and he was up.  She then stepped back to a nearby wall and, most importantly, out from under the skylight.

Killroy quickly scaled the back of the building to get to the roof.  He was wearing the physical mask earring and looked like “Green Mohawk Dude” [see Session 8 of The Third Run].  Just as he was doing this, an actual customer entered the store, a human male wearing khaki slacks and a polo shirt with a chain store logo on it.  This person was nearly under the skylight when Killroy shattered it with a blast from his automatic shotgun, shocking everyone inside the store (except the Pleiades Group members) into immobility.

Killroy jumped in through the now shattered skylight, landing adjacent to the Fairlight display.  “Bwa-hahaha!  At last – it is MINE!”  He pulled out an electronic clicker and pressed one of the buttons, making it beep.  He then attempted to lift the display case off the Fairlight Excalibur, intentionally failing.  “Oops, wrong button.”  He pressed the other button on the clicker, which made a be-beep noise.  Killroy then lifted the display case off and tossed it aside.  He reached into the display and took the Excalibur off its display, triggering all of the interior alarms, which, among other things, locked down the rotating door.

Pocketing the Excalibur into a satchel, Killroy turned to the innocent bystander and declared, “Don’t let The Man keep you down!”  Killroy then shot out an exterior window with his shotgun and exited, climbing into the perfectly timed stolen BMW 400GT that was just arriving.  Sin then drove Killroy and the car away.

Back in the store, the employees were blinking rapidly, just starting to come out of shock at the impossible thing that had just happened.  Void carefully exited through the missing window pane, careful to not make any noise while walking on the shattered safety glass.  The Fin pulled her clothes together and, stating her husband could not know she’d been here, left the store next, shortly followed by the bystander, who was seriously taking Killroy’s words to heart.

“Grandma Tang” resumed demanding her computer be fixed.  The store employee attempting to assist her explained that he couldn’t right now as he needed to talk with the police when they arrived.  “Grandma Tang” seemed to accept this, picked up her computer, and hobbled out of the store.  She asked for assistance stepping over the minimal ledge of the window frame and the employee assisted her leaving the store.

Shortly after “Grandma Tang” left the area, the local Knight Errant HRT arrived to secure the area.

End of Session

[Sometimes shock and awe is just the way to go.]

[Use of the clicker as misdirection was a last minute add to the plan and provided the crazy element that the employees’ memories would focus on rather than what anyone looked like.  Bookie (as NPC) was able to scramble the video recordings, so eye-witness reports would be all Knight Errant had to go on.  The Fin’s lush disguise would keep the employees from remembering anything above her neck and the “angry Chinese grandmother” clearly had no clue about computers, removing her from the suspect list in the eyes of the store employees and probably Knight Errant as well.]

[Next session is the side job for the Construction Gig side job.  Spoiler: it did not go as smoothly as this one did.]

Session 1
Session 2

Session 4 [Not Yet Written]

Monday, February 1, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 2

[This session happened January 11th, but I didn’t get around to writing it up until two weeks later.  My notes for what happened is barely a paragraph with side notes on which contacts will be used to get what and how much time and money it takes to get things.  We did work out which side jobs were going to be necessary for gear and to turn a real profit on this run.]

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it
Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily

Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)

Wednesday, March 11, 2076 [Later the same evening.]
With a plan in place, the Pleiades Group started hitting up their contacts to locate the necessary gear to complete the run.  Sin went to Danny Archer (his fixer contact) and Kaylee (his trusty mechanic/fixer) looking for arrestor wire – it was a long shot with both contacts, but with several military bases in town it was possible to find it.  Killroy went to his arms dealer, Leona, to locate an Aztechnology Striker and some thermite (for evidence destruction).  Void went to her fence, Sarah, for ten doses of NeuroStun X, willing to pay an expediting fee to get it quickly.  Void also contacted her fixer, Shisou Tomodachi, and asked for a set of Gecko Tape Gloves, also paying to expedite that acquisition as Void wanted time to practice with the gloves and associated gear before the job.  The Fin contacted Aung San, her fixer contact specializing in acquisitions, and offered 3000¥ for a working harpoon gun, with harpoons, no questions asked.  [The Fin effectively paid for a Shadowrun to steal the equipment.]

While this burst of communication was happening, Bookie finally returned from his scouting mission of the Everett Ares host.  The host looked brutal and he would need a topline cyberdeck to pull it off.  He’d hacked the Fairlight Hub, looking for the nearest Fairlight Excalibur in Seattle.  He’d hoped they had a warehouse or storefront of their own in town, but no luck.  The only Excalibur in the Seattle Metroplex was in a luxury boutique electronics store in the middle of Bellevue, the center of a AA security zone.  After a short discussion, the Group decided it was worth boosting the Excalibur to maximize Bookie’s run on the Ares host to get the route the target would take.

Additionally, Prometheus decided he needed a power-actuated fastening tool [a powered concrete anchor gun like John Malkovich uses in the movie Red] to anchor the harpoon gun for the Smash and Grab backup plan.  As he would likely abandon the tool shortly after using it, he did not want to just buy one and leave a trail for Knight Errant to follow.  He discussed this with Void and she agreed to go with him to a construction site after hours and help pick up the needed gear, plus anything else that could be resold at a profit.  Like a bulldozer or crane.

Thursday, March 12, 2076
In the morning, Void and The Fin, both disguised, went to Bellevue to scope out security on the electronics shop.  What they found was not good.  The store was on a corner, sandwiched between two adjacent stores and was replete with active security devices [apropos for a high-end electronics boutique].  The Excalibur itself was on a pedestal in the center of the store, inside an armored glass display case with biometric locks and several motion and vibration sensors INSIDE the case.  They brought this information back to the office so the Group could plan the heist.

End of Session

[A large part of the actual game time was dedicated to Bookie hacking the Fairlight Hub to locate an Excalibur.  Running a decker takes a relatively large amount of real time for the small amount of game time consumed, but what are you going to do?  Bookie’s player had hoped to find a warehouse where we could “liberate” more than one Excalibur so we could sell the extras to significantly increase our profit on the run.  No such luck.  The rest of the session was discussing what gear we needed and who we’d ask to locate it.  By spreading the search over many contacts, we kept the value of each request low, keeping the time increment on the contacts’ rolls to one day as much as possible.  This also made it difficult for anyone not part of the Pleiades Group from figuring out what we are up to and should make it very difficult for Knight Errant and/or Ares to track us through the gear after the fact.  This last part is very important to us.]

Session 1

Session 3 [Not Yet Written]

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 1

[This session happened December 28th.  The Other GM is running and has not told us what he named the run, so I came up with one of my own based on the plan we started putting together.  You’ll understand once you read this report.]

[You may also notice the session report is short on details.  That’s because my notes were skimpy and I did this write-up a month later.  Session 2 has similar issues, but we did a lot of discussion and planning in both sessions, which doesn’t require much transcription.]


Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it
Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily


Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)

Wednesday, March 11, 2076
The Fin was contacted at 6:00 PM by Svetlana, a fixer she has a good relationship with.  Svetlana had a job that she thought the Pleiades Group would fit.  The Johnson wanted a virtual meeting at a VR bar, but checked out as legitimate by Svetlana.  The Fin agreed to take the meeting.

Mr. Johnson turned out to be an orc, or at least appeared to be an orc in VR.  [The Fin took it as read that the Johnson’s appearance was a mask and in no way matched his (or her) actual appearance.]  The job was an Acquisition in Transit.  A package was going from Point A, in Everett, to Point B, in Renton, and Mr. Johnson wanted the package diverted to Point C, in Belleview, with the original owners none-the-wiser as to where it went.  Pay for the job was 30,000¥ with an additional 10,000¥ in expenses that would be reimbursed after the job completed successfully.  The Fin attempted to negotiate a better rate, but Mr. Johnson was very good at that dance and gave up no extra money.  The Fin accepted the job and received the full details of the job.  She kept a neutral face and left the VR meeting graciously.

After the meeting, The Fin triggered a group message to the Pleiades Group that a job was on the table and to meet at the office.  Once everyone arrived at the office, The Fin laid out the job: the group was being hired to steal a prototype weapon from Ares Macrocorp while it was in transit from a R&D facility in Everett to a testing facility on the far southeastern edge of Renton.  There will be two chase cars full of security, plus some security in the delivery van (a Bulldog).  The job is in 8 days, when the package moves.  The group doesn’t know the exact route or time the package will be moved, but it has to be done because The Fin accepted the job.

After some grousing about the low pay for making an enemy of Ares, the group settled down to do some serious planning.  Clearly Bookie needed to scout out the local Ares host so he can sleaze his way in and get the route and time the prototype will take from Everett to Renton.  Bookie set to researching the host on the decker boards.  [The GM never got back to him with the details, so this part happened during Session 2.]

After working out several different strategies to grab the package, the Group settled down on two different plans: a Sneak and Swap and a Smash and Grab.  It was decided that the primary plan would be the Sneak and Swap, performed by Void with assistance from Sin and Murdoc.  The backup plan would be the Smash and Grab, performed by Prometheus and Killroy.  The rough outlines of the two plans were:

Plan 1: Sneak and Swap:

  • Void jumps onto the transport while invisible (thanks to Murdoc) and deploys NeuroStun X inside to KO the security personnel.
  • Sin takes over the driving remotely (possibly with Bookie’s assistance) while Void breaks in and swaps the target case with a dummy case (to delay discovery).
  • Void sets GridGuide autopilot to have the vehicle drive itself the rest of the way and she discretely leaves the vehicle.

Plan 2: Smash and Grab

  • Sin uses an anti-vehicular missile from a gun platform to take out the lead escort vehicle.
  • Prometheus uses a harpoon gun to harpoon the transport with a line of milspec arrestor wire [the stuff that stops aircraft landing on aircraft carriers].  This will either jerk the truck to a sudden stop or slam it into a building, both scramble the security personnel inside well and good.
  • Sin uses the gun platform to take out the trailing escort while Killroy cuts his way into the transport.  Prometheus deals with any security threats from potential survivors from the escort vehicles using his Remington 950 sniper rifle loaded with APDS ammunition.
  • Once inside, Killroy grabs the package, Prometheus grabs the gun platform, and everyone gets out of the area as fast as possible.

With these two plans sketched out, the group starts assembling a shopping list of gear they were going to need to get the job done.

End of Session

[So a lot of talking and planning this session.  One of the plans we discarded involved a Chinook helicopter with a giant electromagnet dangling underneath to fly over and skyhook the transport.  Very cinematic, but also very obvious and we’d still have to deal with the security inside, who would be broadcasting our location as long as they were able.  We opted for simpler plans with fewer moving parts to reduce the number of things that could go wrong.]

[If we can pull off the job with the Sneak and Swap, I’ll be just as pleased as if I got to do the Smash and Grab, possibly happier.  The quieter job fits in better with the Pleiades Group reputation, but if push comes to shove, we WILL get the job done.]

Session 2 [Not Yet Written]

Monday, January 18, 2016

SABRE, Issue #1 – Pistolero Ambush!

[This session happened January 16, 2016, and is the first session with the newly revitalized superhero group SABRE.  This is a different group of players than the Shadowrun game, which has continued happening – I’ve just been swamped for the last month.  Shadowrun Session reports will resume next week.]

Aces – the team’s “Sorcerer Superb”
Mnemesys – teleporting martial artist with no official name, yet
Black Light – light manipulator with withering attacks
Mars – super-powered ex-professional wrestler
Sentinel – battlesuit-wearing inventor
The Terrapin Avenger –model and spokesman for TURTLE Armor™ line of battlesuit products from DanCo
The White Shade – mentalist with a Pulp style

Max Powers – President and CEO of Futuretech Systems and sponsor of SABRE
Chance Morway – PR representative for SABRE

January 10th, 2012, Capitol City, Downtown
At the end of a six months selection, testing, and training program, the newly revitalized SABRE was meeting for a briefing for the press conference on Thursday the 12th of January.  [A convenient fiction for me to have the PCs all in the same place and to provide a short description of the characters to the players.]  Mars, Sentinel, and The White Shade are long-standing members (although only Mars has continuous service since the founding in 2006), but Aces, Mnemesys, Black Light, and the Terrapin Avenger are new to the organization.

Max Powers was discussing the agenda for the press conference when Chance Morway stuck his head into the room and said, “You need to see this.”  Chance activated the wall monitor and set it to show the Channel 8 News Team working a breaking story.  Video from a traffic copter was showing a group wearing black tactical armor hauling deposit bags out of an overturned armored truck and placing them in large duffel bags.  Several people recognized the location listed in the bottom scroll as very close to SABRE Tower, where they were right then.  In fact, after opening the blinds, the scene could be clearly seen from the conference room floor-to-ceiling windows.

Sentinel immediately recognized the group as The Pistoleers, a temporary group periodically formed by the Pistolero Brothers, criminals he has run into multiple times.  The Pistolero Brothers are known to be smart, disciplined, and working to improve the technology at their disposal.  He shared this information with the group.  Openly attacking an armored car barely a kilometer from SABRE Tower seemed suspiciously arrogant even for them and the team suspected a trap of some sort.

The heroes split into three groups: Aces, Black Light, Mars, and the Terrapin Avenger for the first group, which would be teleported to the site by Aces; Sentinel and White Shade who flew there (Sentinel carrying White Shade); and Mnemesys, who teleported himself on site.  Aces put the lead team directly adjacent to the criminals, which surprised both groups as he failed to mention he was doing so to the other heroes.  Sentinel and White Shade flew left via a balcony and arrived directly over the scene, albeit roughly 10 stories above the scene.  Mnemesys arrived safely on the roof of a nearby business.

After the initial surprise of the suddenly appearing heroes, things got frantic.  Ray Pistolero backed up to some minor cover and plugged The Terrapin Avenger with a Lightning attack from his high-tech pistol.  The huge discharged knocked The Avenger out [although he would wake up quickly after a couple recoveries].  Jay Pistolero shot Aces, stunning the mage but failing to knock him out.  Black Light faded to invisibility and then unleashed a weathering attack at the fire arms all of the gunmen were carrying.  This destroyed the guns of the mooks, but only damaged the superior weapons of the Pistolero Brothers.

The mooks were divided into two groups.  The first group threw SlickFoam Grenades ™ at Mars, covering everything up to 10 m around him in low friction foam [6d6 Suppress vs Running and Leaping].  The other group fired spotlight bombs from launchers at The White Shade, blinding her for 10 seconds [10d6 Flash, Area of Effect: 1 hex].  Then Cybermind [criminal hacker with machine telepathy and control] stepped out of the armored car and commanded Sentinel’s suit to fly down to the ground.  It responded to Cybermind’s control, shutting Sentinel out of control of his own battlesuit.

This was the high point of the villain’s fortunes.

Mnemesys teleported amongst them, knocking Cybermind down and nearly unconscious.  Mars successfully grabbed two of the mooks and slammed them together, breaking bones and knocking them unconscious.  Aces recovered from being stunned and cast a healing spell on The Terrapin Avenger, bringing him back into the fight.  Sentinel, once again in control of his armor, used quick-drying foam to bind Ray Pistolero.

It was too much for the mooks who activated their jet boots and started jet-assisted hopping for the hills.  All but one was stopped or captured by the heroes before they could successfully escape.  The Terrapin Avenger stopped Jay Pistolero from escaping with a large area of effect goop ball.  Black Light used her weathering attack to destroy the jet boots on two of the mooks (she actually arrested one and the other was picked up barefoot by a nearby CCPD patrol car) and Mnemesys “ran” a third down.  Only the one Mars was chasing managed to escape, and then only due to a ready escape plan.

After gathering the criminals back together, they turned everything over to the Capitol City Police Department, providing statements and the captured evidence.

Later, The White Shade and Chance had a “discussion” about the text of the press conference on the 12th.  Having observed the advantage of criminals being unfamiliar with the powers of the new team members, Shade wanting to eliminate all description of the powers of the new team members.  This discussion went around several times, but eventually Shade was able to win her point.

Local and state news were all about the incident and speculation about the heroes fighting alongside SABRE for the rest of the day.  Are they new members of SABRE or did they just happen to be in the area?  Are they the new SABRE and the old team is retiring?  Who are they and what are their actual powers?

January 11th, 2012, Capitol City, Downtown
Sentinel (SABRE’s designated law enforcement liaison and contact point) received a preliminary report on the materials taken from the attempted armored car robbers.  All the weapons were extremely weathered [Black Light’s doing] and the police doubt they would have been a threat.  Attempts at test firing the weapons failed.  The weapons from the Pistolero Brothers were still partially functioning, but also showed signs of extreme weathering.  The foam weapons and the flare weapons are of different manufacture that the rest of the gear.  No serial numbers or locations for serial numbers and only one identifying mark: a stylized set of teeth/fangs in white framed by a white square.  No matches have been found in any database tried so far.

January 12th, 2012, Capitol City, Downtown
The press conference went off without a hitch, introducing the newest members of SABRE.  Chance and White Shade shared speaking duties, deflecting or redirecting questions about the new SABRE members’ powers and abilities other than to say they are “trusted and contributing members to the team.”

End of Session

[This was the first session with these characters and was all about getting a shake down of their powers and an introduction to the campaign.  It also helped me get a better feel for the characters so I can judge threat levels better as the GM.]

[After the game, we discussed how things went.  I requested that Black Light’s weathering power be modified as a 20” cone on the map was overwhelmingly huge and well beyond her power descriptions in her backstory.  The power was vital, so I wanted her to keep the power.  We agreed that either Area of Effect: One Hex would fit the bill much better, so she’ll be changing that.  This will let her do her thing while not warping the game on a meta level.]

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Board Game Review

I was not able to make it to Lone Star Gaming Fest (again!), but I have played several new boardgames recently, so I’m reviewing them as my semi-regular boardgaming review.

Aye, Dark Overlord (4-6 players)
I played this at Jon Con 1, a memorial convention/wake for a friend of mine who died very unexpectedly this year.

Aye, Dark Overlord is a game where the players take turns being the Dark Overlord while the rest of the table are the Dark Overlord’s goblin minions.  The Dark Overlord’s latest Evil Plan has failed and the minions have to explain why it wasn’t their fault, deflecting blame to the other minions until one of them is finally executed.

This game is all about spontaneous storytelling and blame deflection.  The Dark Overlord gives a sentence about what the Evil Plan was and then starts accusing the minions of making it fail.  The Minions have to come up with plausible (and entertaining) explanations of how it wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of one of the other minions.  There are cards that assist in shifting the blame, but the real fun is in the spontaneous stories of why you can’t be the reason the Evil Plan failed.

Also, it is NEVER the Dark Overlord’s fault, even when it is his fault.  Pointing out it was the boss’s fault to the boss is a fast ticket to being executed.

I enjoyed playing this a lot.  The first game was a bit stiff as the players learned the game.  In the follow-up games things loosened up and we all had great fun playing.  We played about 4-5 games in a row before I moved on to get snacks and a soda.

The Stars Are Right (2-4 players)
I played this for the first time at Jon Con 1 this year.  The Stars Are Right is a board manipulation game to make patterns of stars on the board to summon Cthulhu Mythos servitors.  First to 10 points of servitor creatures wins the game as the stars are now right to summon a Great Old One!

Each player has a hand of cards, each being a servitor of three levels of power.  The “board” is a grid of cards, each showing a number of stars, a phase of the moon, an eclipse, or a comet.  The servitors allow you to manipulate the board tiles in several ways.  If you get the stars on the board to match the configuration shown on a card, you “summon” that servitor into play, which grants you more abilities to manipulate the board each turn.  Servitors are also worth points each, which are necessary to win the game.

I liked the puzzle solving aspect of this game – how do I manipulate the board so I can summon one of the servitors in my hand, preferably one worth many points or providing a needed board manipulation capability.  As every player is manipulating the board on their turn, planning ahead is limited as the board can be completely different than when it was your turn last.  This means you need to think on your toes and be good at pattern recognition to spot possibilities on the board.

Splendor (2-4 players)
My wife hosts a tea on the second Sunday of each month, which tends towards board gaming with up to 7 different kinds of tea available to drink.  This game was brought by a couple who irregularly attends.

Splendor is a game of first to 15 points being the winner.  Points come from gem cards purchased by chips representing different gem colors or having enough gems to garner a patron(s).  On your turn you pick up additional chips, buy a gem card, or reserve a card and get a gold chip (which is wild, color-wise).  Gem cards also supply chip equivalents each turn, allowing you to buy more expensive cards with fewer chips.  There is a fixed number of chips in the game and the colors can run out if multiple players want a particular color.

This one is a lot of fun and, while it may sound complicated, can be taught to non-gamers quickly.  It is on my list to acquire myself now that Christmas has passed.

Cyclades (2-5 players)
I played Cyclades during my Christmas holiday and everyone at the table enjoyed it.  Control of islands on the board gives you gold pieces (I wished they had called them obols, but that’s my Classics degree speaking up), gold pieces are used to give offerings to the gods, the gods let you do things on the map.

There are 5 deities, four of which get shuffled each turn into a different turn order (Ares, Poseidon, Zeus, and Athena) and one that is always last and helps keep you in the game (Apollo).  Bidding is like bidding for genes in Evo – each player in turn order places a bid on the deity of their choice.  If a later player overbids them, the earlier player either bids on a different deity or ups their bid on this one until each player has an uncontested bid.

The deities let you do multiple things: Ares allows the builder to build armies, move armies across an previously existing bridge of ships to another island, and/or build a fortress to defend an island.  The overall goal is to control two metropolises by either building them or conquering them.  They are built by either having a set of buildings that the different deities grant access to or have 4 philosopher cards (from Athena).  There are also classic Greek monsters available as cards that can be purchased and that grant different one-shot abilities.

I very much look forward to playing this again

Mission: Red Planet (2nd Ed.) (2-4 players)
I bought Mission: Red Planet after looking at it several times over several visits to my FLGS.  Sending Victorian astronauts to Mars and fighting for control over the resources?  Sounds good to me, but will it be fun?  Then some Christmas money found its way into my pocket and quietly burned a hole large enough for this game.

Each turn each player chooses one of nine roles in their starting hand.  Each role adds 1-2 astronauts to waiting rockets and does something else.  Once the role is used, it goes to a discard pile, but one of the roles recycles the discard pile back into your hand.  When to do this is a critical choice that has to be made – the game is 10 turns long and you have to play a role each turn.

The roles are also numbered from 1 to 9 and each turn after roles are secretly picked, a count-down starts and when it reaches the number of the picked role, that player takes their turn.  In case of tie, the player who is closest in line to the first player goes and then the next and so on.  First player moves each turn to the person who went last the previous turn.

Mixed into the turn clock are three production rounds.  In the first round, each mine pays out 1 token to the player with the most astronauts in that region.  The second and third production rounds generate 2 and 3 tokens per mine, respectively.  These tokens are the victory points of the game.  There are also secret missions that score points, but I’m not going into much more detail to keep this review short (-ish).

A good game with multiple levels of strategy and a beautiful set of components - well worth the price.

Tokaido (2-5 players)
Tokaido looks beautiful game and follows its theme very well.  Players are traveling the Tokaido Road following different goals.  There are multiple ways to gain points and each traveler had a different power, so there is no one perfect way to play.

Movement is based on who is furthest behind going next.  Each stop on the road allows the player to do a specific thing, from getting money to giving offerings at a temple, to stopping to paint (gaining a piece in one of three painting sets to be collected).  Villages allow you to collect sets of tchotchke souvenirs.

I’m not certain how I feel about this game.  I’ve played it twice and there are two things that seem to grant too much favor to lucky players.  The first is which two travelers you get to choose between and the second is starting position.  Initial turn order is random and some of the most desirable stops in the first stretch of the road are the first ones.  Those fill up by player 3, so players 4 and 5 have to go further down the road to less desirable locations and wait for the other players to pass them before going again.  Some of the travelers have abilities that will always happen during the game, others have to land on specific locations to use theirs and go the entire game without being able to land on one of those spots.

This is a game I’m willing to play again, but I’m not certain I’ll ever buy my own copy.

Zombicide: Black Plague (2-6 players)
Zombicide: Black Plague is Zombicide with a fantasy re-skin, so I won’t go over how it’s played – you either know already or you just need to know it emulates zombie movies very well and is worth the price tag.  I recommend Zombicide: Rue Morgue for your modern day zombie apocalypse needs.  What I’m going to cover are the differences between the modern and the fantasy versions.

Players play one of six peasant survivors after the zombie plague swept over the kingdom.  The player cards are smaller and fit onto a tray that makes it easier to display what is in your hand(s) and what is in your backpack.  Pegs show what powers are active and the experience track is integral to the tray with a built in slider.  This is all good stuff.  Players also can take three hits before going down under a pile of zombies and can carry up to 5 items in their backpack, both of which are improvements from the 2 hits and 3 items in the modern game.

There are no cars, so this version inserts vault rooms with two entrance/exits on the board and vault rooms each hold an advanced weapon: either the Orc’s Crossbow or the Inferno spell (I might be wrong on the spell name).  In most quests (read: scenarios) you will need to find the blue objective to get the key to the vault(s), but not in the Tutorial.

The addition of necromancers to the zombie mix adds an additional sense of urgency.  They appear at one spawn point (bringing an additional spawn point with them) and try to leave the board by the next nearest one.  If they escape, that new spawn point becomes permanent - kill him and you get to remove any spawn point on the board.  Get six permanent spawn points on the board and you lose.

I like that they kept the starting equipment rules from Zombicide: Rue Morgue.  Being able to select who gets what from the starting items avoids early frustration in the game.

I’m interested in seeing what expansion material comes out for this version of Zombicide.  The 6 starting characters are good, but I’m used to playing with a wide range of characters to choose from.  I’m also used to playing with sets of Zombicide that have multiple add-on packs of zombies.  The second game of Black Plague I played we died due to walkers getting extra actions three times in a row because we weren’t killing them fast enough and ran out.

Worth the cost (once the retail copies make it into the shops - only Kickstarter versions available right now).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Session Report – Sam’s Run – Session 2

[This session happened December 14th and was the final session of this run.  My notes are a bit sketchy and it took longer than anticipated to sit down and write this, so it may be a bit thin on detail compared to other write-ups.]

Baelthor – male human mage with a loud mouth, preaching the anti-corporate word
Seul-ki – androgynous human from Korea, a laconic expert with swords
Ash – male human car shaman/rigger, speaks in the third person and follows The Spirit of The Road
Roadrunner – female elf, a twitchy rigger with a need for speed who self-identifies as an orc
Limbsaw – female human street samurai with a monofilament chainsaw, works body disposal on the side

Alfonz – male elf decker, works as a lawyer as his day job
Krombopulos Michael – male orc physical adept, is a major fanboy of “The Elf in a Gecko Suit”

Bee – Hired by The Fin to stand in for a gate guard
Lord Bowler – part of the driving crew hired by The Fin

Wednesday, March 4, 2076, 5:30 PM – Ash Wednesday
Having learned that the guard shift changed at 10:00 PM, meaning new guards would be showing up for duty before the run was complete, the team discussed options.  The team decided the easiest would be to have Alfonz hack the security company’s system and re-assign the scheduled guards to other posts at a slightly later time.  Alfonz hacked the system and sent them all to posts in Everett at 11:00 PM.  This would buy us some safety time in case it was needed.  [Spoilers: It was.]

The crew of impromptu car thieves rode up to the location of the target car collection in Bellevue, riding in an old model minivan with Lord Bowler at the wheel.  Lord Bowler stopped the minivan a block short of the target and let Krombopulos Michael out.

Krom went ahead on foot, keeping out of the sight of the gate guard at the target home.  Krom then jumped the fence and sidled up to the back of the guard shack.  He silently bypassed the card-reader lock on the door to the guard shack and rolled a NeuroStun X grenade into the guard shack, closing the door behind the grenade.  Seconds later the guard fell to the floor.  Krom contacted the team via micro-transceiver, signaling it was safe to approach.

Lord Bowler drove the minivan up to the front gate and let the rest of the team out.  By this point the NeuroStun X had dissipated inside the guard shack and Krom had the door open again.  Bee, wearing a close facsimile of the guard uniform took the unconscious guard’s equipment belt and badge and put them on.  She then stepped into the guard shack to stand watch while the heist was in action.  Lord Bowler left to wait at the first drop-off point.  There were five drop-off points set up in discrete locations various distances from the target, each with a car carrier ready to receive merchandise.  Lord Bowler’s job was to shuttle drivers back to the target after they deposited a car at the various carriers.

Meanwhile, Baelthor took two more grenades of NeuroStun X to the walking guard patrol, guided by Alfonz, who had control of the house security cameras.  Baelthor popped the “spoons” of the grenades and walked directly up to the guards, ignoring their orders to halt.  By the time the guards realized what Baelthor was up to, the gas was knocking them out.  [Edge was spent here to get this to go smoothly.]  Baelthor’s freakish immunity to the stuff protected him from the effects of the gas.  Once the gas dispersed, he called over the stronger members of the team to help drag the unconscious guards into the garage.

Inside the garage were a personnel elevator and a cargo elevator large enough to move three full-sized cars at a time.  Off to one side is an equipment area and the unconscious guards are all stashed there, bound by zip-ties and duct tape.  Limbsaw would spend most of the heist there watching the guards, he two monofilament chainsaws prominently displayed to keep them from getting ideas.  Seul-ki stayed with her in case something unexpected happened and fools needed to be cut down.

Two levels down was the storage lot for the 50+ vehicles to be stolen.  There was a round of appreciative whistles for the collection when the team stepped out of the elevator.  Ash and Roadrunner started moving out the cars – first two sets of modern cars able to use GridGuide to drive themselves to the first car carrier, then a classic car each to directly drive.  An hour later, they had performed this trick twice, filling up the first carrier with twelve cars.  This maintained the pace necessary to get all of the cars out by 10:00 PM, when traffic would die down and the exotic cars would stand out more.

Deciding to chance a large wave of cars to speed things up, over the next hour, Ash and Roadrunner sent out every remaining rigged vehicle with the exception of the damaged moving trucks and the two Nissan Hound helicopters.  Those would all go out in the final round as the chance of those being noticed by Knight Errant (or the neighbors) was highest.  This cleared 15 cars in just under an hour, leaving just over half the collection still in the garage.

As the next wave was being brought up, an angry man in pajamas and a robe walked up and started arguing with Bee about the cars leaving illegally.  Bee couldn’t talk the guy down and asked for help.  Looking through the security cameras, Alfonz recognized the man as one of the Assistant District Attorneys for Seattle.  Alfonz contact the man via commlink and the two talked.  The ADA was angry as one of the cars he tried to buy off of “Sam” [the deceased owner] had just driven out of the neighborhood and he knew the cars were supposed to still be in escrow.  After further negotiations, it turned out his anger could be quenched for 10,000¥.  Alfonz contacted The Fin to get approval for the expense and she gave it.  Alfonz transferred funds to an account the ADA supplied and the matter was resolved.

Due to the lack of rigged cars, the team was only able to get 3 cars out this round.  Ash did the numbers and realized that, at their current rate, they would miss the 10:00 PM deadline to get all the cars.  Gambling on security in order to make the run, Seul-ki was left guarding the guards alone and Baelthor and Krom was brought off of the response team to increase the number of drivers to five.  This increased the number of cars in motion enough that the last pass would just empty the garage just before the security company realized something was up, even allowing the helicopters 30 minutes to warm up.

To hide the helicopters while they prepped, the damaged moving trucks were brought up and positioned in a perimeter to obscure the driveway.  Then the helicopters were brought up and their rotor blades unfolded.  Ash and Baelthor each cast and maintained Silence and sat in one helicopter each as the helicopters were warmed up by Roadrunner.  This hid the whine of the engines and the thwop-thwop-thwop sound of the rotor blades.  The last sports cars were brought up and readied for a quick escape while the team waited on the helicopters.

Once the helicopters were ready to fly, the trucks were sent away using GridGuide.  Roadrunner remotely piloted the first helicopter away with Baelthor in it, maintaining his Silent spell.  Once it was far enough away it would not be noticeable, she set it to auto-pilot and jumped back to her body.  Ash had to leave the second helicopter to drive the last sports car away, so the sound of the helicopter spinning at full thrust suddenly broke across the neighborhood, setting off car- and house-alarms as the noise rattled windows.  Roadrunner piloted the helicopter away as quickly as she could, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the first 9-1-1 calls.  Ash took a moment to spray paint “Fuck the Po-Po” in black on the driveway before speeding away in the last sports car, heading out through the rear entrance of the of the neighborhood, just as the distant sounds of sirens could be heard approaching the front entrance.

Thursday, March 5, 2076
With the stolen vehicles stored away in safe garages until they were sold off or in the process of being sold, the team was paid by The Fin, along with a 1000¥ bonus for doing the job with style and no blood-shed.

End of Session

[So the session ran a bit long as we were trying to complete the run in a single game session.  If we’d been willing to split it to a second session, the GM could have thrown in some complicating incidents like car chases while we were stealing the cars.  Having a go-ganger pull up to one of the drivers in a hot rod and rev the engine for a race would have suckered in Roadrunner.  Another way to go would have had a street gang try to carjack one of the classic sports cars and the driver trying to get away.]

[This entire run was driven (pardon the pun) by The Fin wanting more cash than the regular runs were providing, plus her desire to own some of the cars from Sam’s collection.  She had to put together a small stake to pay the runners from, which is why it took nearly two months before she put the run into motion.  She also had to lean on her contacts to get a pool of lower end shadowrunners to pull from and access to car carriers to move the stolen vehicles en mass.  The pay-off for the run was an unqualified success as The Fin personally pulled in a six-figured profit after the run was over.  I’m hoping this will inspire the other players to start working on side-runs for their own characters.]

[Plus, it was fun playing a different type of character for a change, which everyone seemed to enjoy.  We made characters that were very different from our primary characters to try out different things.]

Session 1

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Parks and Wrecks - Chapter 3: Three Titans

[This session happened Saturday, November 14, and is a different gaming group than the Shadowrun group.  This group runs using the HERO System (Champions) and only plays once a month.]

Chapter 0 – Dramatis Personae

May 26, 1934, 21:01, Chicago, The Ambassador East Hotel
I’ve eaten dinner and had several stiff drinks.  By the clock on the wall I’ve been awake 15 hours, but I know it’s been longer.  We were in the Schattenkreis base for more than half a day, meaning I’m approaching 24 hours of consciousness, most of it requiring strenuous activity.  As long as the day had been before we returned in the stolen submarine, the 30 minutes that followed felt longer.

The submarine had been barely within the control of the engineer “driving” it.  Shortly after we arrived in Lake Michigan, an enormous explosion happened behind the submarine.  It was fortunate that we were pointed at the shore when we exited the portal – the explosion pushed the submarine to shore instead of rolling it.  Our immediate suspicion was that the explosion was an attack of some sort, but in hindsight it was clearly the gate to the Schattenkreis base collapsing or exploding, possibly both.

With the submarine more or less grounded on the rocky shore adjacent to the World’s Fair, evacuation of the boat was our priority.  We worked as a team to get all the innocent bystanders and rescued scientists safely to shore and then we dispersed to deal with the treat of the Copper Robot as each of us felt we could.  Helen and Simone headed to the Sky Bridge to deal with the Arcturus Star atop the central tower, Bak Mu started treating the injured by the passing of the enormous Copper Robot on the Midway, Kurt headed off to the nearby animal exhibit, possibly to find a mount, and I lost track of Jack.

Riley had not yet marshaled the US Army Robot to fight the Copper Robot.  The Copper Robot was about to step out of the Southern Lagoon on the far side.  I arrived at the near shore of the Lagoon, thinking furiously.  I came up with several options to go after the Copper Robot and quickly discarded most of them as too dangerous, too uncertain, or both.  I settled on attempting to use the Key of Solomon to freeze the Lagoon and hopefully trap the Copper Robot in the Lagoon long enough for Riley to arrive.

I stretched my hands out to the Lagoon and called upon the waters to freeze, trapping the “metal man”.  Not certain what to expect, I was pleased when the water nearest me immediately froze and the effect quickly spread.  I continued chanting my command to the water, focusing my concentration to will the waters to obey me.  To be honest, I’m not entirely certain it was necessary to continue chanting, but I did so.

As rime ice covered the surface of the Lagoon and started to thicken, the temperature of the air started dropping noticeably.  Unfortunately, this took longer than I had and the Copper Robot stepped out of the Lagoon before the entire thing froze solid.  A pillar of ice started rising from the center of the freezing Lagoon.  Intrigued by this, I continued to chant, hoping I was maintaining some semblance of control.  The pillar manifested arms and legs, cold radiating from it in waves.

At some point around here, Riley arrived, piloting the US Army Robot (which he later named “The ‘Merican” – who can fathom engineers and their naming schema).  He started trading blows with the Copper Robot, the Army Robot using a giant spinning blade, the Copper Robot shooting bolts of lightning from the enormous lightning rod attached to its back.  Then the ice being animated and stepped ashore to join the fray.  (I later learned Bak Mu was also involved, but, due to the distance, I could not see him.)

I was slightly distracted at this point as Kurt rode by on the back of an adult grizzly bear.  (I challenge anyone to say they would not have been distracted by such a thing.  I will call them a liar if they are able to do so with a straight face.)  The bear was apparently Jack in a new form and Kurt wanted to know where to go.  I pointed him at the Hall of Religion while attempting to maintain my chant.

I think this is where things started to go awry in relation to my control of the ice being as it started attacking the US Army Robot instead of the Copper Robot.  Its punches did little, but then it started summoning a blizzard around it.  I later learned that this bypassed what defenses the US Army Robot provided Riley.  An alternate theory is that Mr. Parks was in the area and usurped some measure of control from what may have been a djin from me.  We later found some evidence he had been in the area, but his control over djin is very speculative at this point.

Seeing the ice being was not doing what I wanted, I used the Key of Solomon to dispel it and then made my way to the Hall of Religion.  The ice being started slowly dispersing.

I later learned that Simone and Helen had made their way up to the giant, star-shaped light on top of the center tower of the Sky Bridge.  There they found two members of the Schattenkreis protecting the light.  Coincidentally, both Simone and Helen were still wearing the Schattenkreis uniforms stolen from the submarine base (the uniforms were much warmer than the summer dresses they arrived wearing at the Antarctic base).  This allowed Simone and Helen to bluff their way into control of the situation.  When Simone used the controls to shut off the Arcturus Star, the goons attacked anyways (the Star refused to deactivate).  Helen shot out the kneecap of one and shot the other in the shoulder, breaking his collar bone.  She ordered them to sit and they did.  Simone and Helen then took turns shooting at the heavy glass of the Arcturus Star itself until they shattered it.

This, of course, caused it to explode.

Simone and Helen were injured in the blast, but not killed – the two Schattenkreis goons were not so lucky.  The explosion had another effect on the goons – the World’s Fair maintenance uniforms they had been wearing turned into leather armor.  Whatever glamour had changed its appearance had failed.  The ladies decided to leave before actual maintenance workers and/or security guards arrived.

Just as the ladies were destroying the Arcturus Star, Riley was able to sever one of the arms off the Copper Robot.  The robot exploded into a shower of components seconds later.  I’m fairly certain that it was the ladies destroying the Arcturus Star that caused the Copper Robot to fall to pieces, Riley claims it was his actions that did the trick.  I’ve chosen to not press the matter as the ice being I summoned nearly killed both he and Bak Mu from the cold during the three-way fight.

Shortly after this point (I’m uncertain of the timing as I was busy running and not looking at my watch), Kurt, Jack, and I discovered that the sarcophagus lid was missing.  The Hall of religion was empty of spectators due to swarms of bees that had suddenly arrived.  The cold air side-effect of the ice being’s blizzard had driven the bees dormant, so the three of us were able to enter the Hall safely.  There were a lot of bees.

Following traces of the sarcophagus lid being dragged, we discovered a hidden maintenance door in the display room.  We pressed on and ended at the receiving dock for the Hall of Religion, where the tracks disappeared.  We followed the pavement from the receiving dock to the main road of the Fair.  There we looked around for a truck that might carry the stone sarcophagus lid.  We spotted one just down past the Hall of Science.  Grasping at straws, we ran to that truck.  It was damaged by electrical attacks from the Copper Robot that had missed Riley in the Army Robot.

Riley arrived at the truck at the same time as we did, wanting to use it to haul away the remains of the Copper Robot before the authorities arrived to take control of the situation.  The four of us opened the back of the truck, guns drawn.  Inside were just some barrels of heavy water, not the sarcophagus we were looking for.  I was dejected – Parks had gotten away with the sarcophagus and we never got our shot at him.

Riley and I got into the front of the truck to go get the remains of the Copper Robot.  In the front we found two bitter trophies: the coat and cane of G. P. Solomon, a.k.a. Mr. George Parks.  We had been that close.

Someone suggested that the Schattenkreis base had docking facilities for TWO submarines and we had stolen and crashed only ONE of them.  Riley drove the truck to the Fair’s docks as quickly as he could.  Once there we scanned the waters and Kurt was able to spot a periscope just as it submerged below the waters.  Kurt and Riley started arguing about whether to steal a boat or a sea plane to track the submarine.  I ended the argument by stating, “They’ve escaped.  We’ll try again next time.”

Then our entire team focused on assisting with the cleanup of the attack.  Riley was able to stash the Copper Robot’s arm he had cut off at the AEC Pyramid before the actual Army arrived and confiscated everything else.  It turned out that Riley had decked the Army Specialist exhibiting the Army Robot and then woke him up after the fighting was over, congratulating the Specialist on a job well done.  Bak Mu and Kurt started providing medical assistance, setting up the lobby of the AEC Pyramid as a medical triage area.  This tied the company’s name to the relief efforts, which no doubt scored us points with our employers.

After the sun set and the relief efforts were over, the team and Miss Decker secured a private room at The Pump Room for dinner and to compare notes.  Doing so brought the following to light:

  • The armor the Schattenkreis goons had been wearing was elven armor from the court of the Dark Elf King.
  • There were “fleshy bits” in the Copper Robot wreckage – suggestive of brain in a jar control system?
  • Telling the complete story of the robots and the elves to the newer members of the team, I realized that the makers of the giant robots are the Schattenkreis, not the dark Elves.  However, Dark Elf technology/magic involved somehow.  There is now the suggestion that Mr. Parks is working with the Schattenkreis/Dark Elf alliance.
  • Bak Mu pointed out that the submarine base was likely not the only base the Schattenkreis have and many people are missing from the Fair.  Perhaps the Schattenkreis are now kidnapping people for control components for more giant robots.

Miss Decker had several observations and recommendations.

  • Djin legends do not suggest they can control minds, so Helen’s family are more likely being blackmailed/threatened.
  • She suggested we needed to research Mr. Parks before going after him again.
  • She acknowledged that the Company may have some responsibility for the situation and offered to count the team’s activities involving tracking down Mr. Parks to be business related, meaning we were on the payroll and not doing this on our own.  We took her up on it

Tomorrow most of us are heading to New York City to start researching Mr. Parks.  Kurt made noises indicating he will be heading directly to New Mexico to scout out the doings of Solomon Industries and their tower site at Chaco Canyon.

Now to sleep.  It has been a tiring day and there is more work to do tomorrow.

End of Session

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Aftermath and Research [Not Written Yet]