Sunday, May 18, 2014

Alien Menace, Session 2: Aliens Draw Blood

Last night we had our second session of Douglas Cole's Alience Menace game.

You can see his writeup here:
GURPS Alien Menace Session 2

Overall, it was tough. Long story short, we advanced in the same vector as we were last time. We checked some sectoids, and as we did so our rear guard Christine spotted some small (SM-4, 18") floating discs. She warned us and then opened up with considerable effect. She's an NPC, and less points than the PCs, but not by much . . . and anyone worth their weight in transporting to another planet(!) must be worth bringing.

We rapidly headed back, having heard nothing ahead of us. We set up an ambush around the corner. One of our guys was just a little too far forward and ended up in a one-on-one or so fight with the discs. He got shot, badly, in the exchange. We eventually dusted the floaters, and then advanced to engage some sectoids we heard. We nailed them but I think we put ourselves into a situation where we can't bring all of our firepower to bear when we need too. That ended up with Colton getting singed in the chest and getting his arm crippled.

The one downside to group movement is our approach from last time - either move as a squad in overwatch, or send one scout ahead - changed. We ended up all moving up into the combat instead of just getting a glance around the corner and sending 40mm grenades to scout for us. That's how we dealt with 4 sectoids without them getting a significant shot off last time, but this time it became a firefight.

Colton blew down one sectoid with grenades and fragments took care of the other. But once we went around the corner some floaters opened up on us. Colton took one out with excellent grenade shooting, while my guy (A.B. Karabus) put some lead downrage to no avail (lots and lots of bad rolling.) Colton got shot back, too, despite Luck and a Tactics-based re-roll. It just wasn't enough and he's down to one arm and has a quarter-sized hole in his Dragonskin armor.

That's where we left it - A.B. prone in front shooting, Colton prone behind and effectively one-armed, one squad member hauling Ethan around, and the rest of the team moving up. Casualties are making the odds of a successful mission a bit lower, so we need to shape up our tactics and our shooting next time if we want to recover our mission MacGuffin.

Fun game.

Mistakes we made:

- advancing around the corner at all without using smoke or other cover.

- leaving only one person on rear guard.

- all going to look at the dead sectoids.

- setting our ambush so that one shooter (Ethan) was able to engage and be engaged by the enemy before anyone else. Had he been back, say, 2 yards, the enemy floaters would have had to drift into multiple sitelines and been torn up before they could blast him. Honestly, with the scrolling map and no way to spin it and look at it from different angles, or lay down sighting cones, it's hard to tell where is good and where is not.

- no leg armor and wussy arm armor. I know my feeling isn't universal, but I can't see going into battle again without some better limb armor. I bought a ST 17 so I can ignore some of the downsides of encumbrance. Real life shooters might not wear shin guards and thigh guards but screw it, blaster fire is proving to be an instant limb cripple and turns us from fighters into casualties in one shot.

Rules notes:

- My full-auto approach is working okay. Not great, but good enough. As fights get closer in, it will matter more. I also shot on the move or from the hip and didn't bother to aim, just point.

- We did the my-side your-side movement approach before going for interleaved initiative one 1-second time. I'm not sure it made any difference than how I do DF, which is also my-side your-side but never varies from that.

The VTT was Virtual in tabletopishness and Actual in its frustration. Lots of little stuff:

- the all-powerful mouse wheel is how you zoom, unzoom, and scroll the map. It's also how you turn your icon. We got more used to that but it's trivially easy to mess things up.

- the way modifiers zero out makes it unclear if I've set them correctly until I roll. Not sure why, and it makes for cascading rolls (cumulative modifiers) seem like they'd be tricky.

- the difficulty in customize the window sizes and text sizes makes even the 17" screen I use a bit tight. I'm seriously considering trying it through my HDMI connection to my TV next time, but I'm not sure how the headphones/mic will work if I do, since I use my 12-year-old-and-still-flawless Sennheiser HD280 headphones and the laptop's built-in mic. But I need screen acreage.

- my character sheet has picked up nonsensical skills like HT-based Tactics. Weirdness from the GCA to FG transfer, maybe, but I'm too unsure of the VTT to risk deleting anything.

- I actually rolled a few times and had it not count because I didn't get the dice (or the skill roll) sufficiently over the Chat Window to display the roll to others. Honestly, all rolls should be public by default, with a hidden section for the ones you want to hide. Rolling a 5 on 3d when one die misses the chat box and having that invalidate the whole roll just sucks. We joked about "has to roll on a flat surface" and "dice that fall off the table don't count" stuff, but I've never made someone re-roll the whole 3d when that happens, but it does in this VTT. Annoying.

We're getting more used to Fantasy Grounds but still the interface is a distant second behind face-to-face play.

And a random note - I've never seen Firefly, so choosing Adam Baldwin's character from Full Metal Jacket wasn't a double-play on him playing some dude in Firefly. Animal Mother just got on the list because I decided I wanted to tote an MG and then it just grew from there when I started thinking of fun characters who use MGs in fiction.


  1. From a Fantasy Grounds veteran:
    • The modifiers clear when the dice are rolled, always (even if you didn't mean to). You can hover over the "dots" to see the "name" of a particular modifier that's been activated. If I'm setting up for a shot with a lot of modifiers, I'll quite often apply them in advance, and drag the mods from the mod-box to a quick-key slot; click the slot or press the associated F-key combo to fire it off again.
    • Won't break anything if you delete a weird skill entry—you can just put it back if it turns out it was needed. We actually use the skills list for a lot of non-skill rolls, too. For example: Frequency rolls (Skill=the Trait in question, Skill#=Frequency roll).
    • The thing about die rolls missing the chat window (AKA The Table) is really irritating—lost some good rolls that way; we've gotten in the habit of "dropping" the dice on the window, rather than "throwing" them at it—"throwing" doesn't make it roll any better (just feels better) :P
    • For "fields of fire" you can use "cone" pointers—they won't be ideal, limited to a 90° angle, but they would help.

    1. I've asked Eric for a scalable cone. We'll see. I'd settle for vision-blocking. :-)

    2. I've never had vision blocking so I've never developed a "need" for it


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