Friday, December 17, 2010


I've finished up two 15mm-scale bunkers sculpted from a locally-available air-hardening clay called Ceramix. So here they are:

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I've painted up a bunch of STALKERs - that is, ragged post-apocalyptic survivors, mostly with gas masks. The minis are Post-Apocalyptic Survivors and Rim Mercenaries, as well as one I got from there as an added bonus to their USE ME ruleset.

So here they are:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Armed Colonists

I've painted up a bunch of 15mm GZG Armed Civilians, which would probably end up representing armed colonists, starship crewmembers, adventurers and the like in Traveller and other sci-fi games.

So here they are:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Encounters of the 15mm Kind

I've finished painting up a platoon of Grey Aliens (composed of a Grey Landing party [including one saucer], a Grey Infantry Team and three additional Saucers). So here is the result:

Friday, October 29, 2010

15mm TL7-8 Infantry

I've finished painting a platoon of mid-tech (TL7-8) 15mm infantry (Rebel Minis Spetznaz).

So here they are:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

15mm TL8-12 Space Marines

I've finished painting an entire platoon of 15mm Rebel Minis Earthforce Marines, which would probably fit well into the Traveller tech levels 8-12.

So here they are:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

USE ME 15mm sci-fi wargame rules

I came across USE ME (which stands for Ultra Simple Engine for Miniature Engagements) quite accidentally, while checking the site for new miniature releases. However, as I am quite interested in fast, rules-light games - both RPGs and wargames - USE ME caught my attention, especially since it seemed as a promising candidate for a mean through which I could introduce my spouse (already and RPGer) to tabletop wargaming. Also, the price was right: 6 UK Pounds including shipping, which is about $10; so, even if I would've ended up with a ruleset I didn't like, the risk of purchasing it wasn't THAT significant. So I ordered it.

I've received USE ME three days ago and read through it. This is a tiny, thin booklet of 32 A6 pages, out of them the basic rules take only 14 pages (introduction included!). And the rules are as simple as promised on the site, using only a single d6 for each roll and having a very small number of tables. I've already memorized most of the rules, except for some of the modifiers, but for that I've created a quick-reference sheet which fits nicely on an A5 page.

The rules themselves are very simple and straightforward. Each unit (called "character" in USE ME) has a type (infantry, light vehicle, heavy vehicle or super-heavy vehicle), a weapon type (sidearm, rifle etc) and an ELAN rating. The latter (ELAN) is a simple rating going from 1 (bad) to 6 (great) denoting the character's overall quality - encompassing things such as training, morale and so on into a single digit. ELAN influences a lot of things in USE ME, but first and foremost the order in which units are activated - they are activated from the highest ELAN to the lowest, with initiative (1d6 vs. 1d6) determining which side can activate first at each ELAN rating present on the table. Characters can act twice per activation, and can choose freely between action types for each action (for example, move and shoot, shoot and move, move and melee, shoot twice or move twice), with double actions of the same kind (e.g. shotting twice) incurring a minor penalty. Note that all unit types - infantry to super-heavy tanks - use essentially the same rules in this game, which is a good thing.

Ranged combat is simple as well - the attacker rolls 1d6 (plus or minus modifiers for ELAN, range and so on), and if the modified result is 4 or more the shot hits. If it hits, an opposed roll of 1d6 by the attacker vs. 1d6 by the defender is rolled for penetration, modified by the attacker's weapon and the defending unit's type; units can also be armoured for added protection. Depending on the penetration roll, the target could be unaffected, winged (i.e. lightly wounded), struck (i.e. severely wounded) or killed outright. The two wound types can be marked with markers placed on the table next to the miniature or on its base. Melee uses the same procedure, but hits are automatic (i.e. you only roll for penetration) and the defender gets a free counter-attack.

Characters could also be grouped into squads, which makes their activation, movement and targeting a bit simpler when using a large number of miniatures in the same scenario. Squads have a squad leader, and all movement and targetting uses the squad leader instead of measuring the distances for each and every member of the squad.

Simple rules for off-table support (including ortillery, that is, orbital bombardment of your gaming table!), for multi-battle campaigns, for snipers and drop-troops and for solo play. A simple (two A6 pages) point-buy force-building system is also included.

All in all, USE ME feels quite completely, especially when you consider its size. While I haven't tried it out in play yet, I get the feeling that it lives up to its promise of being a simple, fun, straightforward ruleset for miniature games.

There are a few drawbacks to USE ME, however. First and foremost is the lack of any morale system (though ELAN is said to encompass morale, among other things); characters will fight to the death no matter the odds, which is not very realistic unless you're using armies of robots or bugs. Also, the system seems to be geared towards typical, rifle-centric troop engagements, lacking specific rules for more unique weapons such as flamethrowers, submachineguns, shotguns and man-portable rocket launchers. But the good thing is that, with such a basic, generic framework of a system, you could easily solve this problems with a few very simple house rules (e.g. roll under ELAN on 1d6 for morale).

The rules are advertised as being generic sci-fi, but I think that they could be very easily used for any modern (i.e. 1900+), post-apocalyptic or near-future game. I might even be planning a WWII game using these rules, set in Stalingrad!

The bottom line is that if you're looking for a simple, fast, beer-and-pretzels system to have casual wargaming with, USE ME is a perfect match. If you're looking for something more complex and/or realistic and/or simulationist, you should look elsewhere, such as F.A.D.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Death's Head Regiment

I've finished painting the miniatures representing a platoon of the Kedeshian Death's Head Regiment from my Canopus setting. The minis are Eureka Miniatures 15mm Sci-Fi Stormtroopers:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Improved Goons!

I've improved my 15mm Armed Gunmen, adding gravel to their bases and applying matte varnish to the whole minis:

The Mars Project

I've come up with a nice side-project to me to try my developing modeling skills on: a sci-fi wargame milieu set on Mars in the early 2200's. Mars was first colonized by Humanity in the late 21st century, and an ambitious terraformation project began in the early 22nd century. Now atmospheric pressure has risen to a sufficient level to allow Humans to walk on Mars with only cold-weather clothes and a breather mask (which scrubs the excess CO2 out of the air and then condenses the air to a breathable pressure). But the terraformation process has awakened... Something.

For centuries there were rumors about something unnatural existing in Cydonia. However, the first explorations found nothing there but weathered hills and a lot of peramfrost. But a flash-flood caused by the terraformation effort (and a Free Mars sabotage of a major terraformation facility) swept much of that permafrost away, revealing a landscape of alien ruins long buried under the red sands.

And then... Something inside the ruins awakened, an ancient distress beacon. And on a distant world, the signal was received.

And now they have come to Mars to take back what was theirs millenia ago. But of course, the Earth Consortium would never allow them to do that. And so begins the Mars war.

On one side are the Earth Force Marine Corps, Humanity's best, defending Mankind's largest interplanetary colony from the alien threat, and also doing its utmost to keep Mars well within the Earth Consortium's iron grasp. Equipped with advanced rifles and combat space suits, these brave men and women are trained to fight in any environment in the Solar System, and they will fight well on Mars as well.

For them I'll be using Rebel Minis 15mm Earthforce Marines, which I have at hand, based and primed but not yet painted:

On the other side are the Grays, who once, in the previous incarnation of their civilization, have colonized Mars and tempered with Humanity's evolution. Now they are back, riding their silvery saucer-shaped starships and totting laser and plasma weapons. They have used biotechnology to adapt themselves to the Martian environment, and can breath on the Martian surface without needing a mask. Their technology, however, is but a fraction of what it was before their Long Night; they yearn to take once again possession of the Lost City of Cydonia and unlock its technological secrets.

For them I'll use one of the 15mm Gray lines of miniatures, most likely the Grays done by, which I quite like. I haven't bought them yet, but they are definitely in my to-but list.

On the third side is Free Mars, the independence movement founded by the original Human settlers of Mars. Their aims are to throw off the yoke of Earth Consortium domination and make Mars an independent state. While their equipment is outdated, they know the lay of the land very well and use the terrain to their advantage.

For them I'll use Rebel Minis 15mm Sahadeen, with their robes and hoods colored in a rusty shade. I haven't bought them yet, but they are in my to-buy list.

And in the middle are the newer colonists, Earthers who came to Mars to seek their fame and fortune and to escape the crowded, polluted mess which is Earth. The EFMC's sworn duty is to protect these civilians, while the Grays see them as Humanity's soft belly to be terrorized (or abducted to serve as guinea-pigs in their experiments) and Free Mars tries to recruit them to its lines.

For them I'll use unarmed 15mm miniatures in space suits, most likely from GZG.

The fun part is going to be terrain: sure, I'm going to buy a red tablecloth to put on the gaming table, but making pyramids, alien crystals and a "face" would be loads of FUN! I'll also make colony domes and other structure.

And of course, everything I'll paint or build for this project is going to be useful for Traveller games! :D

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Improved Lizards!

I've improved my Draco Infantry miniatures, adding gravel to their bases and applying matte varnish to the whole minis.

Here is the result:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back to the Hobby!

After several months of trouble and pressure in real life, I'm pleased to say that I'm finally back to the gaming hobby, and will resume updating this blog.

Today I've painted ten 15mm Giant Ants from Khurasan Miniatures. They are very useful as they can be very easily used as stand-ins for all sorts of bugs, from Giant Spiders in D&D to the Chamax in traveller.

So here they are:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fear the Goon Platoon!

I've finished painting a bunch of Rebel Minis Armed Gunmen (with a Sahadeen Heavy Weapons Pack thrown in for variety) for use as generic thugs/pirates/goons/militias in my upcoming Traveller game.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Impressions from the D&D 4E "Test Drive"

What is this?
I have never read through, let alone play, the 4th edition of D&D. My experience with D&D is limited to BECMI, 2E, and 3.0E. I'm currently using the Basic fantasy RPG retro-clone rules to play D&D-style games.

Wizards of the Coasts have released a free set of Quick Start Rules and a free full-sized adventure available for download by anyone willing to check out the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I figured that, since these materials are completely free of charge, they deserve, for the very least, a read-through. I have read through both files - the Quick Start Rules and the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure - during the preceding week, and now I will post my first impressions from reading them.

Things I liked
1) The overall Quick Start rules are very clearly written for the most part. I find it very easy to understand the game mechanics. Everything is laid out in simple language and in a very readable format. In the first glance it looks quite easy to learn and play. The rules look quite simple (critical hits, for example, have been simplified to simple maximum damage rather than different damage multipliers and chances per weapon type; bull-rishes and grapples have been similarly clarified and simplified). I hope this also holds true in the actual 4E rules.
2) Attack powers no longer have saving throws; instead, the attacker rolls an attack against a static defense rating (similar to how AC is handled in 3E or 4E); there are four possible defenses - AC, Reflex, Fortitude and Will. I like this as it looks quite logical and streamlines the magic system as well.
3) Skills are simplified. If I understand this correctly, instead of messing around with skill points (which was a bit messy in 3E), your skill modifier simply equals your ability modifier plus half your level (rounded down). There are also less skills than in 3E (which, IMHO, had too many of them) and the skills have been consolidated. Feats seem to have been similarly simplified.
4) There has been a significant effort to cut down on paperwork. Now most of your powers are either At-Will (usable any number of times per day) Encounter (usable once per encounter) or Daily (usable once per day). Similarly, your HP recover completely after an Extended Rest. Therefore things look easier to track than in older editions.
5) It seems as if there was a conscious effort to cut down on the "15-minute adventuring day" phenomenon. Not only are most powers usable once per encounter (rather than a finite number of times per day), and not only is it easy to heal during combat without needing expendable spells, but you actually get benefits (Action Points) from doing multiple encounters per day. I like that.
6) Leveling a character seems quite easy, especially at odd levels. Just add a few bits here and there and you're set, without much page-flipping. Am I correct?
7) Wizards finally can fight with magic and only magic all day long, as some spells are At-Will powers. This means that in 4E the wizard won't have to resort to a crossbow or dagger after casting a few spells (which, in previous editions, could be very few per day).
8) Minions. I love the concept - expendable foot-soldier monsters easy to play and kill without much accounting needed; it also highlights the "boss" monsters and focuses the action on them. These rules also allows the Fighter to shine, with all his At-Will powers that do additional damage to nearby monsters; he'll reap through hordes of minions, which looks cool and heroic!
9) The KotS adventure feels quite cool, and lets the players to do heroic stuff (stopping a death-cult!) at mere level 3.

Things I didn't like
1) Wizard spells have been narrowed down. One of the things I love about BFRPG (or even 3E) Wizards/Magic-Users is their versatility in the hand of creative players; in 4E it seems that most wizard spells are combat-focused and seem to have narrow applications. I'd miss spells such as Pyrotechnics, Obscuring Mist and so on which could be very cool in the hands of crafty players...
2) Some of the monsters presented in Keep on the Shadowfell look quite grindy. A lot of monsters have quite a number of HP that the PCs have to chew through; the worst offender is probably the Gelatinous Cube with its whopping 152 HP that would probably take a very, very long time to kill at level 2-3. I hope 4E monster are not like that in general, as I don't want combat to devolve into a boring series of round-after-round chopping with At-Will powers for a large number of rounds.

Things I'm not so Sure About
1) I'm not sure how heavily the 4E rules are tied to their fluff. Some of the fluff - such as the planar cosmology and some of the races - is quite different from the assumptions of previous editions and would be quite difficult to fit into existing settings or campaigns (such as my Wounded Gaia setting). Could 4E be easily played with different fluff, different races and/or different planar cosmologies?
2) Healing Surges. They are a cute little game mechanic which I like from a mechanical POV, but I'm not sure how I'd explain them in-game; how are these wounds healed instantly without rest or magic? Do all PCs regenerate? Could all PCs cast the equivalent of Cure Light Wounds a number of times per day?
3) Combat is designed for miniatures and a grid. A grid has the advantage of being easy to convert between mini scales (I like 15mm personally rather than the standard 28mm scale), but it means that you need to organize a grid in order to play (rather than play off-the-cuff).
4) Characters apparently start the game with a lot more HP on level 1 than in any previous edition. On one hand, this makes them more fit for heroic adventuring (and reduces their chances of being killed by weak opponents), but on the other hand it might greatly affect the feel of a low-level game.
5) What is "Passive Perception"? The quick-start rules refer to it, but it is not explained. Is that simply a Perception skill roll made by the DM, or something else?
6) Monster stat-blocks, while very readable in their format, are quite long. I like the BFRPG stat-blocks which fill one or two rows of text; the 4E stat-blocks are quite hefty, and seem quite a chore to write during prep.
7) The quick-start rules say that they are best suited for a party of 5 players. This might be a problem for me, as I usually can arrange for about 2 players in an average game. Is the game playable with smaller parties, such as 1-3 PCs?

The Bottom Line
I think that the 4E rules, as presented in the Quick-Start Rules, are quite well-written and well-designed. However, I do have my reservations about them, especially in regard to the required party size, the limits placed in wizards and the potential for grind.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

15mm Terrain Work-in-Progress

I'm working on my own set of 15mm terrain features to make my 50cm x 100cm table more interesting to play FAD (and Traveller!) on. Right now I'm at the initial stages of making the terrain, and most features are not even primed, let alone fully detailed or painted.

Here is a Celiran ("Lizard") prefab base-camp I'm composing:

There will be three prefab modules (or tents) made from these plastic bottle bottoms, as well as three water/fuel tanks (two made from old toothpick containers and one from an old aloe-vera gel canister and an old electric wire) and two barrels (I don't recall from where they came).

Here is an urban neighborhood I'm building:

The tanks are the same tanks I'm using for the base camp above. I'll build the buildings out of these three washing-powder cartons, either simply cutting windows and doors into them and painting the window frames around them when I paint the models, and/or gluing additional cardboard stripes to them to make rows of windows with actual frames.

I might also be buying a few barrels and crates from GZG to make terrain even more varied.


I've finished painting a bunch of Aslan/Kzinti miniatures ("Bear Men" by Stan Johansen Miniatures). I've chosen a reddish fur color inspired by some illustrations of Larry Niven's Kzinti I've seen some time ago. So here's the result:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Importance of Quality Control

Quality control - editting, proof-reading and playtesting - is an extremely important step of commercial game production.

When a player or game-master buys a commercial game, he or she expects it to be perfectly readable and playable as-is, or, in other words, worthy of the money paid to purchase it. Without adaquate quality control, errors and ommission would inevitably creep into the product, making it less comfortable to use, or, in extreme cases, render it unusable in its published form.

Masses of errata can kill games; this has happened in more than one version of Traveller, for example (MegaTraveller and Traveller 4, I'm looking at you), where otheriwse excellent games were greatly hampered by poor editing and, in the case of Traveller 4, the ommission of an important table from the ship-design sequence. A good proof-reader or enough playtesting would have avoided these problems.

So, when you set out to produce your own commercial gaming material, pay attention to quality control measures. In other words, have a playtest, listen to your play-testers, and use a human proof-reader (rather than simply the word-processror's spell-checker). These simple measures would ensure that your game will turn out as good as it could and should be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Make Room for the PCs

One of the most important aspects of setting design for most role-playing games is making sure that the setting accomodates the player characters (PCs), and, similarly, that it allows them to make their own decisions and make a significant impact on the setting. After all, the PCs are the heroes (or villains) of the game, and thus their decisions, their successes and their failures should be significant within the game and have an impact on the setting.

This is one reason why frontier or post-apocalyptic setting are very gameable. Without a strong, overbearing government (or other establishment), without strong law and order, and without powerful NPCs running all around the setting, the actions of a few brave (or vile) individuals become important. For example, if there is a powerful and efficient police force to drive back bandits and criminals, there would be less need for the PCs to defeat them; on the other hand, where chaos reigns, little would stand between the bandits and the control of the area - except for the PCs.

This is, for example, one of the problems I had with the official Traveller universe (OTU). With an enormous, all-powerful, omnipresent Imperium with no real frontiers, the potential for adventure and for making an impact on the setting diminishes. This was more or less solved by the New Era setting, which removed the Imperium and turned everything into a frontier, but this setting had its own problems. The very long timeline (several thousand years into the future) also dwarves, to a certain degree, the characters and their deeds.

Therefore I prefer settings where the forces of law and civilizations are limited and where the players can make a difference. In a Traveller game, for example, I prefer "hard" frontiers with a great unknown beyond them, frontiers where the central government only has a limited degree of control and where exploration and piracy are possible.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lizard Attack!

Stan Johansen Miniatures have made a series of very cool lizard/dinosaur humanoid miniatures with varied weapons. The minis are pretty solid and three-dimensional, and ripe with cool details. I've bought three squads of regular infantry (with carbines, rifles and pistols) and a pack of heavy weapon troopers (armed with rotary grenade launchers/chainguns, machineguns and rocket launchers).

They will be useful both for the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) as Droyne, for my Alternative Traveller Universe as Celirans, and for FAD wargaming.

These are my most detailed mini picture so far, and they took me more than two months worth of weekends to complete.

Invasion of the Space Cockroaches!

I've bought a platoon's worth of Spug from Spriggan Miniatures and painted them as "space cockroaches" for use with Traveller, as well as with Fast and Dirty (FAD) miniature games. I especially like their grav-bikes, which are sleek and cool.

So here they are:


I've bought a few 15mm robot minis a few months ago for Traveller and similar RPGs (maybe Shadowrun, Mutant Future and Paranoia as well?). So here they are, my first attempt ever at painting miniatures:

Welcome to my Hideout!

In this blog - the Space Cockroach's Hideout - I intend to share my thoughts about gaming, game-design, science-fiction and miniature gaming. It would be a general repository for my ideas, mad ravings and rants related to role-playing games and related matters, posted online for your viewing pleasure. I will also post photos of my latest miniature painting projects and I will review role-playing books and miniatures.

The Space Cockroach
AKA Omer Golan-Joel