Speed painting Imperial Guard test models with oil paints

Inspiration

Marco Frisoni mini painting tutorials get me excited to sit down and try things. When he tossed out a “this is already quite interesting” remark halfway through this week’s video on oil painting, I couldn’t help but think “you’re right Marco, I should speed paint an Imperial Guard army like this!”

I’ve been orbiting the idea of rebooting my IG army for Warhammer 40k 9th edition, so I had some Anvil Digital files waiting their turn. I printed four and got started with color test models.

Basic idea

I wanted to see if I could get away with a three-step process for mass producing guardsmen:

  1. Spray acrylic primer/basecoat
  2. Cover with oil paint
  3. Remove some of the oil paint

I want to use airbrush tricks, transparency, and color theory to produce decent tabletop-quality models with little effort.

Materials

Since I’ve been a Frisoniac for a while now, I have been using Molotow One4All as my primer/basecoat since last year. I have a big bottle of black and I love it. Just last week I received an order of several other colors from the same line. Time to give them a try!

For the airbrushed basecoats, I used Petrol, Purple Violet, Sahara Beige, and Liquitex Titanium White ink.

Basecoat paints
Molotow One4All and Liquitex ink

I used Windsor and Newton Winton Oil paints for steps 2 and 3. I wanted a low-chroma appearance, so I mixed a Payne’s Gray from French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, and an olive drab from Sap Green with just a touch of Magenta. I also used Ivory Black and Burnt Umber here and there. A few other colors and mixes I ended up not using, or using and not liking (such as the Pthalo Blue / Burnt Sienna mix).

Oils on the palette

The experiment

Step 1. I sprayed two of my test models with a basecoat of Petrol, and two with a basecoat of Purple Violet. Then, I took one of each and sprayed from above with Sahara Beige. The remaining two I sprayed from above with Titanium White. A promising start.

L to R: Petrol/Beige, Purple/White, Purple/Beige, Petrol/White

Step 2. Next, I slapped on oil paints. I tried different combinations of gray and olive drab on different elements of each figure, with burnt umber and black on things like weapons and boots. The fellow on the right in these pictures got a warm gray and a cold gray, which I hoped would look good together. I didn’t take a picture of this step, but they looked horrible as expected.

Step 3. After letting the paint set a while, I gently wiped away excess oil paint from the high parts using make-up sponges and Q-tips. Results were mixed.

Test results. The two on the left show promise.

I liked the two on the left enough to highlight with a little Titanium White. I think these will do nicely.

Role models for a whole army?

The extra highlight only took a few minutes, but if I paint 100 of these, that’s 5 hours of extra work. I think I will try one more iteration on a whole squad, something like this:

  1. Spray half with Petrol and half with Purple Violet
  2. Spray all generously from above with Sahara Beige
  3. Spray all sparingly from above with Titanium White
  4. Apply and remove oils: modified Sap Green, homemade Payne’s Gray, Ivory Black, and Burnt Umber

I suspect I will get best results by undercoating with purple for models that will have more gray parts, and undercoating petrol for models that will have fewer gray parts. I guess I’ll prove or disprove that hunch in the next test.

Ultimately I want to paint in batches of six, with a cycle time of one hour per batch.

Stargrave Dead or Alive: pursuit of Tamix Phage

In my first ever game of Stargrave, the crew of the Errant Wanderer chased down a bounty named Tamix Phage in a solo scenario from the free Dead or Alive mini-expansion. Dead or Alive gives rules for randomly generating various bounty hunting jobs your crew can embark on, with special rules for using decision trees to guide the actions of the bounty mark and their gang.

A showdown at the starport

Through coercion and bribery, Captain Varga Driima has finally tracked Tamix Phage to a nameless planet orbiting some backwater star. Someone has tipped her off. We find our crew having chased Phage to a small starport as she attempts to board an escape craft and slip through their grasp.

A backwater starport

I chose the starport setting based on terrain I had on hand, and rolled for a random mark and gang. The scenario generator produced a team of hard-bitten combatants. Tamix herself, described as a “Mercenary and murderer” who leaves “a trail of bodies a parsec long,” wore an alien armor suit that could take free Snap Shots at models during their own activations. Her gang consisted of a hardy mix of recruits, sentries, troopers, snipers, and a grenadier.

Tamix Phage directs a pair of sentries.

My own crew was designed for campaign multiplayer games, nimble, loot-focused, and a little tricksy. To take down a mark like Tamix Phage, I would really need to play carefully.

A costly victory

Varga pauses to watch Phage gasp a chain of obscenities between bloody coughs. When “Bounty Confirmed” chimes on his wrist deck, Delsom turns to speak, but the bark of incoming fire interrupts. The officers break into a wordless run; they’ll settle accounts back on the Wanderer.

“Bounty Confirmed”

The Reclaimers brought down their quarry, but paid dearly. Tamix Phage’s Snap Shot alone took down three crewmates, and only Captain Driima, First Mate Delsom Lang, and two other crew escaped from the starport. If this were a campaign game, the bounty payment might barely cover hiring replacements afterward (though perhaps I would have played a bit differently in a campaign game).

Triumphs and tragedies

Several moments provoked cheers and groans in this game.

On the first turn several models threw smoke grenades to screen my crew’s advance. This worked, but I got too cocky moving my Captain into one of the smoke clouds. You can’t shoot into those clouds, but you can charge into them with weapons swinging! That is precisely what the closest of Phage’s sentries did, tying up Captain Driima in close combat right away. What a disaster.

Oops.

Luckily my roguish captain has a power called Quick Step. At the top of the next turn I activated that power, allowing Varga Driima to waltz right out of combat into nearby cover! My pathfinders made short work of the baffled sentry.

Why stand and fight when you can skulk and ambush?

In fact, those pathfinders accounted for most of my crew’s kills and big hits, including the shotgun blast that convinced Tamix Phage to flee the scene. Many of my “hooray!” moments resulted from their ability to move right where they were needed and then aim true (plus some dice luck, of course).

MVPs

On the other hand, most of my “oh no!” moments came from Phage’s Snap Shot ability. This allows a free +1 shot at every model who activates within or moves into Phage’s line of sight. What’s the big deal, it’s just a +1 shot, right?

I kept rolling critical hits. My dice were especially manic on turn 2, where my runner’s weapon jammed, Snap Shot landed a crit and killed my hacker, and Phage dodged my pathfinder’s crit by also rolling a 20.

Phage’s corridor of death

Then there was Charlie the Chiseler, whom I dub Lucky Charlie posthumously. Chiselers get a large bonus for unlocking physical loot tokens. Charlie reached the central loot crate to open it on turn 2. With Charlie’s special bonus, I needed to roll a 7 or higher on a 20-sided die, a 70% probability.

He failed on turn 2.

He failed on turn 3.

He failed on turns 4 and 5.

By the time he succeeded on turn 6, the rest of the crew were either dead or fleeing, and the bad guys swarmed. Charlie hauled his hard-earned loot into the cover of a smoke cloud…

…which promptly dissipated.

He died on turn 7.

You had one job, Charlie.

My triumph began when Captain Driima bravely hid in a smoke cloud and blind-tossed a frag grenade at Phage. This marked the first time I had managed to hit Phage with anything, and it was solid enough to stun her. Then, after barely dodging a Snap Shot, my pathfinder managed that big shotgun hit, which hurt Phage enough to switch her from Fight to Flight.

Clever and lucky? Yes. Brave? Well…

Once Phage turned and ran, I realized I had maybe one turn to bring her down before she escaped off the edge of the table. Abandoning all caution, First Mate Lang ran headlong around the corner to face Phage’s Snap Shot. He dodged! Lang was just under four inches away. He could take a shot, but success seemed unlikely.

No time for self-preservation.

Instead, he activated his Target Designation power, hindering Phage’s ability to dodge future hits. This allowed Lang to power move just close enough to lock Phage in combat if she tried to move away. Lang would be outclassed in close combat, but at least it would slow Phage down if necessary.

Next turn, Driima rounded the same corner and dodged the Snap Shot. He had a clean shot, enhanced by Lang’s targeting projector. It came down to a single die roll, and I rolled high. Phage fell on the spot, and the job was done.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

That turn, after several turns of rolling no result for Unwanted Attention, I rolled a 20, summoning a trio of the pirate fleets’ best troops. No sense hanging around anymore. Surviving crewmates scattered to meet up at a rendezvous point and count their money.

The cavalry arrives, prompting a hasty retreat.

Frostgrave to Stargrave first impressions

The Stargrave rules provided a tense, exciting game, with lots of high-stakes rolls and surprising outcomes. Compared to Frostgrave, a few changes stood out.

Generally, armor in Stargrave is lower than in Frostgrave, and health is higher. Combined with the rules for being Stunned and Wounded, this leads to a broader range of combat outcomes occurring more frequently. In both games it seems like models can take about two or three solid hits before they go down. In Frostgrave I often feel that when getting hit a model either dies or completely shrugs it off. In this game of Stargrave, models took hits and ended up Stunned quite often, which led to being faced with more frequent puzzling decisions about what to do next.

Plenty of interesting outcomes.

I just love the Bribe power, being able to simply say “nope” and have an incoming shot automatically fail. I also love the idea of all our expendable grunts being susceptible to bribery. Of course they are.

Grenadier’s turn? Nothing a little bribery won’t fix.

Power moves solve something that bugs me about Frostgrave. I tend to build fast, nimble teams focused on getting treasure and getting out quick and clean. In Frostgrave that often means my wizard falling behind my thieves and treasure hunters. Being able to activate a power and still move a little bit helped my Captain and First Mate feel more dynamic and center stage. I prefer this; they’re the stars of the show, after all.

Officers staying right in the thick of things.

I cannot wait to get a Stargrave campaign going with my friends. When we do, you can bet I’ll write about it here.

See you, space cowboy

Open Combat: Ambush at the Greenfire Portal

Comrade Patrick offers another battle report, this time from our recent game of Open Combat.

John and I got together earlier this month for a quick midweek game of Open Combat. It was to be John’s first game; I had played Open Combat a few times over the last few years and found it to be an excellent rules-lite skirmish game for small scraps featuring 6-12 figures per side. The […]

Open Combat: Ambush at the Greenfire Portal

You know those models you paint because they look so cool, but you don’t have any idea what you’ll use them for afterward? Open Combat provides a cohesive, well-balanced game for using whatever fantasy models don’t see enough love on the table. This was exactly what I needed for my Wurmspat and Garruk’s Reavers WH Underworlds warbands.

Thanks Patrick for singing the ballad of our brutal clash!

Stargrave Crew: The Reclaimers

I just finished painting my Stargrave Crew! Let me show you.

Stargrave

In a galaxy torn apart by the Last War, vast pirate fleets roam from system to system, robbing, extorting, and enslaving. Amidst this chaos, thousands of independent operators – smugglers, relic hunters, freedom fighters, and mercenaries – roam the dead stars in small ships, scratching out a living any way they can.

Stargrave: Science Fiction Wargames in the Ravaged Galaxy

Stargrave is a narrative tabletop skirmish wargame, the sci fi successor to the popular game Frostgrave, written by Joe McCullough and published by Osprey Games. To play I needed a crew consisting of a Captain, First Mate, and up to eight crewmates.

Varga Driima, Captain of the Errant Wanderer

Varga Driima, second from left, and his assembly of skilled retainers

The Last War ruined Varga Driima’s interstellar trade empire, but his nose for opportunity never faltered. He escaped the collapse of his homeworld on the Errant Wanderer, a nimble cutter that keeps him one step ahead of trouble. Now he plies his extensive former trade network to find and gather valuable goods, information, and loyalties. He also picked up a thing or two about fighting dirty.

Delsom Lang, First Mate, pirate deserter

Delsom Lang, second from right, and his squad.

Delsom fought in the Last War and, like everyone else, he lost. After six grueling months stranded on the fallen planet Demeter III, he surrendered the remains of his squad to Wyatt Galven’s pirate fleet. Disciplined, coordinated, and professional, Delsom and his team were natural fits for Galven’s armada. They quickly found their place as a raiding party, but just as quickly found they had no stomach for Wyatt Galven’s atrocities. When circumstance and Varga Driima offered them an alternative, they took it.

The Reclaimers

A bond forged in adversity.

Since joining forces, Varga and Delsom have formed a close bond of friendship. The crew works together like they’ve trusted each other for years. With a little luck, perhaps they’ll carve out a sliver of peace together in the Ravaged Galaxy.

The Reclaimers

These ideas grew together in spurts over the course of a couple months. I’m thinking of doing a follow-up post about it. Would you be interested in reading more about the creative cycle I undertook to develop this crew? Please say so in the comments.

Frostgrave: The Silent Tower

My friend Patrick published a battle report from our recent game of Frostgrave. Go check it out!

(That marauding bear mauled two of my warband to death, but Elder Futhark the Sigilist didn’t mind. They’re called expendable thugs for a reason…)

The next scenario in our Frostgrave campaign was straight out of the second edition rulebook: The Silent Tower! “Frostgrave has many dangerous places, yet few are as notorious and feared by wizards as this tower. A null-field, it negates all magic, leaving spellcasters powerless and vulnerable. Only the most daring and reckless dare to venture […]

Frostgrave: The Silent Tower

Modular Frostgrave utility pieces

I built several versatile terrain pieces to supplement the standard board tiles in our collaborative modular Frostgrave terrain board. These “utility pieces” are helpful for breaking up boring flat areas, blocking line of site, providing traversal, and approximating urban features. Let me give you a tour.

The building blocks of fun

Dungeon tiles and stackers

I first learned about dungeon tiles and stackers from Black Magic Craft, but I built mine based on designs by RP Archive. I needed to fill volume fast, and RP Archive’s larger size stackers did the trick.

The popular three-inch dungeon stacker

RP Archive’s floor tile design incorporates ideas introduced by Wyloch’s Armory. They work together with other elements of RP Archive’s modular system, more of which I intend to build later.

A dungeon floor tile

I was daunted by the quantity of stackers and tiles required to fill out a 3’x3′ Frostgrave board on their own, but I like having several of each on hand when setting up a game with our other terrain. I may crank out a couple more every now and then between other projects.

Mini stackers

Though they have their place, three-inch tall dungeon stackers challenged me on a table covered with inch-and-a-half tall board tiles. I needed to scale down. I chopped up a couple in-progress floor tiles and assembled my first “mini stackers.”

Mini stackers

I love these more than I can describe. They do all the things I want utility pieces to do, and they fit and complement the other shapes of our table.

I need maybe three times the number of mini stackers I have. These will be my standard palette cleanser project for a while. They ended up similar to the original Black Magic Craft dungeon stackers, so I may also try some with those dimensions.

Scatter sticks

I made a handful of half-inch by half-inch by three-inch rectangular prisms to spruce up stairs and add cover to exposed platforms and bridges. They come in handy but they are too easy to bump and displace. I may experiment with blu-tac.

Rampart sections

RP Archive shared how to build these modular rampart sections and I couldn’t help but give them a try. They were a little fiddly to build but the result was worth it. Have you noticed that RP Archive shares good ideas?

Utility pieces in action

My favorite gaming terrain balances two goals:

  • Interesting gameplay
  • Immersive visual storytelling

I try to meet both goals by mixing elements that emphasize one or the other. These utility pieces fall firmly in the “interesting gameplay” category. I can use them to block or connect things as needed to provide the best chance of a fun game. Visually, they just need to avoid distracting from terrain in the “immersive storytelling” category.

A setup from five minutes of playing around.

I pair utility terrain with eye-catching terrain to give my friends and me the best experience I can.

Visual storytelling scatter terrain

Afterward, it stores away very nicely as I plan my next build.

What will I do with all this extra space?

Our modular Frostgrave

About a year ago my gaming group decided to collaborate on a terrain board to prepare for the release of Frostgrave 2nd Edition. After some back-and-forth in our Slack team, we agreed to build modular tiles using shared standards for certain key geometries and base coat colors. We could consult each other remotely, build in isolation, and then come together with a cohesive result when circumstances allowed.

Knowing we wouldn’t be able to meet for games for maybe a long time, I cherished having a shared project with a big payoff to look forward to. Once we finally got together on my back patio for a socially-distant campaign kickoff, I knew we were onto something wonderful.

Sweet payoff

Basic elements

As our basic modular tile, we chose 1.5-inch thick XPS foam attached to and cut to fit a 12-inch by 12-inch peel-and-stick floor tile. This proved the right balance for us between cost, consistency, portability, and adaptability.

Anatomy of a board tile

For color, we shared a gallon of Clark+Kensington Black Chiffon latex house paint for our common gray base coat and used our own individual tubes of raw umber craft paint for brown.

Beyond those few standards, we were each free to make whatever we wanted. We chased our muses far and wide, with beautiful results.

My first tile

I started with a concept for a floating villa that crashed to the ground and toppled over sideways.

One weekend I was stuck inside because my state was on fire, and my house had no electricity. I knew an opportunity when I saw it! I assembled most of my tile that day, and added and refined elements gradually for another week. After a few more enjoyable evenings painting, I had my first tile done.

By then we had five of the nine tiles we would need for a standard Frostgrave game. I started daydreaming of a canal district to build next.

Canal district

I thought canals would be interesting both visually and tactically, but I struggled to choose a satisfactory design. If I built the canals into the tiles themselves we would be limited where we could place them, and I couldn’t commit to a single canal width.

After mulling it over, I found a solution. I would paint canal water across whole floor tiles, then build free-standing 6-inch by 3-inch blocks to place on top of them wherever we needed. That way, I could use more or fewer blocks to create waterways of different widths. I used a cookie cutter to add arches to about a third of them, to use as bridges and sewer entrances.

A pile of canal banks/bridges.

Carving bricks into the sides took many evenings half-listening to sitcoms. After that, I was ready for any shortcuts I could find. Luckily, Comrade Patrick had kindly given me most of a roll of Christmas village vinyl cobblestone streets, which topped all these canal banks in no time. I liked that solution so much, I extended it to a couple full-size 12-inch by 12-inch flat “utility” tiles to support free-standing terrain and fill out our board.

My finished tiles so far

For the canal surface, I bought a few stiffer floor tiles and painted the sticky sides with successive layers of acrylic inks and Mod Podge to build up a sketch of an ancient frozen canal. The flat tiles combine nicely with free standing scenery and with built-in terrain tiles to balance flexibility and playability with visual appeal. Surplus 6-by-3 blocks can even be stacked on the flat tiles to create interesting height variation.

Development continues

Now that we’re up and running, our scheme can support sporadic incremental additions whenever we feel like making them. I have three more tiles in progress, and a number of supplemental free-standing projects to extend the variety and usefulness of our board. The best part: we have re-entered the virtuous feedback loop where the games we play inform and inspire the terrain projects we undertake. I plan to share more about ongoing and future projects as I go through them.

Mustering my SAGA troops for Oathmark

I plan to give Oathmark a try. With a SAGA: Age of Magic Great Kingdoms warband more or less finished and materials for a second The Horde warband on sprues, I decided to combine them into a rare alliance between the squabbling barons of Glostmurk in our homebrew world of Uthdyn. These petty nobles united briefly in the great War of Coins against the dwarven peoples, so this will be perfect to bring to my dwarf-loving friends. After this project I should have two opposing SAGA warbands and one unified Oathmark army.

To get started I took inventory of the relevant models in my collection. Let’s see what we have here…

Not a bad start for finished models. SAGA units use multiples of 4, while Oathmark uses multiples of 5. I’ll need to figure out how to add a few stragglers to each unit without them standing out too much. I hope I wrote down my paint scheme.

Now for a peek at my Pile of Potential. These guys I will want to paint or repaint.

As I look this over, a sequence emerges.

  1. Come up with backstory for two more barons – a horse lords one and a shaggy frontiersmen one.
  2. Design an Oathmark Kingdom combining all three baronies.
  3. Build and paint enough models to field a standard Oathmark army
  4. Finish building the second SAGA warband.

I’ll probably iterate back and forth, but this list will give me a framework. I’ll be saving the chariots and most of the Mongol cavalry until last. I need to decide how many to build as horse archers and how many as melee cavalry, but not today.

So there we have it. I hope you enjoyed rummaging around my mind and my model collection with me. I plan to post about progress as I make it, and maybe also a little about our ongoing Frostgrave campaign.

Laserblade Battle Report: Debate on Thordis

As planet Thordis rises to sector prominence thanks to its peerless mastery of gene splicing, two rival sects of the Gospel of the Helix clash over the relic of a saint.

With school out, I took advantage of the boredom to arrange a game of Laserblade with my kids. I showed them my whole sci-fi collection and had them each pick any ten models they wanted. They chose based on looks alone, so each team featured an eclectic mix.

This battle took place on a planet in Iara Omicron, a homebrew space sector generated at Sectors Without Number, based on the RPG rules Stars Without Number. Welcome to Thordis!

Dawn breaks on a reclamation zone on Thordis.

Thordis is one of two inhabited planets in the Teciboe star system. Based on its random attributes I decided this skirmish would represent a localized sectarian clash there. The crews would fight over the sole graven likeness of a holy figure common to both sects. Dr. Okoye pioneered the genetech so critical to both the faith and fortune of Thordis. His statue has been discovered in the reclamation zone, and both sects claim it as their own.

This ancient relic depicts holy Dr. Okoye conducting an experiment.

These factions disagree about the philosophical purpose of genetic manipulation. The Extendants believe genetech is for enhancing and developing our inherent humanity, while the Transcendants believe in shedding humanity in favor of what lies beyond.

The Extendant faction. Most names randomly generated, but two were chosen by my son. Can you spot which ones?
The Transcendant faction. Names chosen by my daughter. See footnote.

The team that picked up the statue and carried it off their own board edge would likely win, but this required starting their turn with a model touching it. Dr. Okoye’s statue stood in the open in the middle of the battlefield, so this fight became a meat grinder.

Turn after turn the faithful rushed forward and died, until finally Roki got its hands on the statue and lived for a moment. Tombari and Akitola rushed forward to address the situation.

A pivotal clash.

Seeing its comrade in peril, Yntymak rushed headlong and smashed into Akitola, spewing neurotoxin mist from its tear ducts. This was Yntymak’s own special formula, and even Akitola’s enhanced antibodies were no match. Akitola soon dissolved into a lumpy puddle.

Akitola’s first death throes.

After so much carnage, watching Akitola dissolve proved too much for Tombari and Suliat, who fled the battle but can never escape their shame.

Tombari and Suliat run away.

Tombari’s cowardice left Roki an opening to retrieve the statue and begin to retreat. It hunkered down behind rubble as Baatyr moved up to support.

Dr. Okoye moves at last.

Meanwhile, Adesegu sprang forward to repay Yntymak’s cruelty, as Chiwetei took aim through the ruins. His advanced optimization-treated neural network steadied his hand.

The Extendants rally.

Chiwetei’s hyperblaster discharge found its mark, abruptly ending Roki’s moment of triumph. Adesegu made short work of Yntymak nearby.

Roki falls.

To its team’s dismay, Baatyr decided to flee, joined by Storm. This set the stage for a final last ditch “debate” between Adesegu and Joomart.

Baatyr and Storm run away. Their enhanced reflexes make them very effective at scampering off.

Joomart won the initiative roll and moved up to the statue. If it could survive the coming attack from Adesegu, the Transcendants would win the day. The Extendants had just one die roll to change the outcome.

The rivals met at the base of the statue to decide whose faith would prove worthy of claiming the prize. Adesegu delivered his argument with a pair of horrific talons, while Joomart advanced its reasoning with a giant power-sledgehammer. Their discussion was brief.

We all held our breath as the final die was cast…

Adesegu delivers his points.

…and Joomart fell, and the surviving Extendants hauled off the statue to their holy temple to stand witness for all eternity to the rightness and certainty of their beliefs.

I had great fun hosting this battle between my kids, and hope I can talk them into doing it again. Meanwhile, stay tuned for my coming adventures in solo play, featuring Five Parsecs From Home.


Footnote: the daughter I mention is a foreign exchange student from the Kyrgyz Republic. She has a special love of board games and competition, so she enjoys a round of Laserblade. The names she gave her Transcendants each have a meaning in the Kyrgyz language, and they are:

  • Baatyr: hero
  • Arstan: strong like a lion
  • Joomart: smart
  • Almambet: a heroic historical figure of the Kyrgyz people
  • Azamat: good guy
  • Sabr: patient guy
  • Yntymak: nice guy
  • Kylych: sword
  • Roki: her dog’s name back home
  • Storm: her other dog’s name

FiveCore Battle Report: Safehouse Raid at Containment Zone QN7

Global Marshals intelligence has discovered an underground safehouse of the notorious Blossoms cartel. A Special Enforcement Team (SET) arrives to destroy the safehouse just as a cartel thug crew returns home from today’s robbery. Now the thugs scramble to preserve their hideout and destroy nearby evidence.

My friend Mark and I got in a game of FiveCore by Nordic Weasel Games. We rolled everything randomly including force composition and scenario.My son (age 9) set up the terrain and named our troopers.A lawless slum in Containment Zone QN7.Mark ended up with a squad of riflemen led by two leaders, accompanied by a light machine gun and a sniper.Mark’s team from left: Almight, Baku, Deo, Bob, Deku, and Jotoro.Due to some strange rolls I fielded a well-armed crew of just a single rifleman joined by two light machine guns, a sniper rifle, and two grenade launchers. My side also had the quality advantage, but lacked any leaders.My team from left: Reginald, Jeremy, Gus, Jeffrey, Gas McDoobie, and Bob.We decided Mark’s team would be a global marshals “justice” squad deployed against my team of successful lowlife hitmen thugs.Next we rolled for objectives. My team needed to move into base contact with objective markers 1 and 2, while Mark’s needed to destroy objective marker 6 with demolition charges.The view from my table edge. Objective marker 1 is the green one at top left. Marker 2 is the yellow one in the middle, and marker 6 is the one beyond it in the ruins.Instead of points values, FiveCore balances forces using a victory point handicap. Since my SET had three more heavy weapons than the cartel thugs plus the quality advantage, Mark started the game ahead by 6 victory points! I had my work cut out for me.So naturally I started the game with a blunder, moving Reginald the machine gunner into an exposed position.Oops.Sure enough, SET machine gunner Deku shot Reginald dead in the first turn.“Reginald! Whyyyyyyy?”Meanwhile thug grenadiers Gus and Gas pushed up along their left flank, taking care to avoid SET Bob’s sniper nest.Both teams traded fire for a few turns as each of us tried to move in on our objectives.FiveCore allows any of your models that didn’t shoot in your turn to perform reaction fire on your opponent’s turn. When firing, you roll a weapon-dependent mix of shock dice and kill dice, looking for 1s and 6s. Results range from the target flinching behind cover, to fleeing, to falling down, to outright dying.For a while both teams jockeyed for position and forced each other to duck back under covering fire.Then Thug Bob destroyed a data cube at objective marker 2.We like to keep our client records confidential.With just a stash of black market VR slash films left to destroy, the thugs got reckless and rushed the remaining objective marker.Fortune favors the bold?Meanwhile, SET rifleman Almight managed to slip in during a break in suppression fire and reach the demolition target!Detroit Smash!After a furious firefight, Jeremy the sniper forced Almight to panic and flee from his objective before he could arm the explosives, while the other SET rifles managed to kill Thug Bob dead.By a spectacular stroke of fortune, Gas McDoobie managed to survive SET Bob’s sniper fire long enough to torch the VR stash! He perished shortly thereafter.Nothing ventured, nothing gained.Nearby, Jeffrey the machine gunner avenged Reginald, plastering Deku’s viscera against the ruined wall.“Reggie owed me money, you monster!”The thugs had a shot at winning, as long as they could keep the SET from detonating their hideout!But then Almight managed to recover and arm the demo charge.Tick tock.We called it there. I couldn’t see a way to disarm the bomb in time. Jeffrey, Jeremy, and Gus promptly vanished into the endless hab stacks of QN7.Having both achieved our objectives, our outcome was down to body count, and Mark’s was higher. He won by so much he could have subtracted his handicap VP and still beaten me.We had a blast. FiveCore is light on mental arithmetic. With random generation of everything, a pick up game requires almost no effort beyond remembering the rules and making tactical decisions.Next time we will each custom build a team and one character without consulting each other, and let the VP handicap take care of balance. We also plan to try out the Man to Man alternative activation rules. Stay tuned.