Wednesday 31 March 2021

New models for Rogue Stars - Part 5: Bajj Maranti

Introducing Captain Bajj Maranti, also known as "The Scourge of the Twelve Systems" following her dealings with the infamous organised crime network, the Baker's Dozen.  She waged a private war against them and eventually crushed the entire network, though her ruthless pursuit of the goal earned her a lot of enemies along the way...

This model is a female Xin Youxia and comes from the Alternative Armies Ion Age Year 2 collection.


Bajj favours twin vibroblades and is highly proficient in their use.


Armour is Khaki over a Bonewhite bodysuit. Flesh is Dwarf flesh, hair Beastly Brown. All received a sepia wash followed by highlight of the base colour.


Her cloak is inspired by Mendoza's billowing one from the Mysterious Cities of Gold (Number 1 Son is currently re-watching it for the 3rd time...), GW red gore (25 year old pot) inside and GW something-blue (free pot of paint with a magazine, can't remember the exact name!) outside. Rather than a shading wash, I blended in black ink for the shadows on both and blended in some white for the highlights, hopefully this'll make the cloak a bit brighter than it might otherwise have been.  Boots are black with a Humbrol dark grey highlight, weapons GW chainmail and black wash.

Bajj will be appearing in her first Rogue Stars adventure in a few days time...

Tuesday 30 March 2021

New models for Rogue Stars - Part 4: CP Models Starport scum

I thought that it would be useful to have a few alien civilians for my sci-fi games.  CP Models have some nice ones and this pair come from their "Spaceport Scum" set.

 On the left we have what I have painted as some sort of fish-person. The skin has been painted with a blue/green/silver mix and a thin purple ink wash to try and give a scaly effect. I imagine that the nozzles either side of the chest are misters that keep its skin moist.  On the right is a hefty but short individual that could perhaps be a heavy-worlder.

Monday 29 March 2021

New models for Rogue Stars - Part 3: The Prisoner (no, not that one)

From the Alternative Armies HOF139 Penal Legion Prisoners set comes this manacled miscreant who will prove a useful objective in a number of scenarios both sci-fi and modern.

These days, orange seems to be the norm for prisoners but I decided to go old school and use the classic white-with-black-arrows. Not much to say on the paint scheme, it's pretty obvious from looking at him!

AA figures to tend to suffer somewhat from "banana fingers" and this chap is no exception.  A couple of GZG security types accopmany him on the first picture and you can see that he is pretty big compared to them.  Height isn't too much of an issue given how people vary in real life, but his hands do look huge.  Presumably he must have used those meaty fists to get into (or out of) all sorts of scrapes both before and during his time inside.

That said, he's still a nice figure and as always with AA figures, has plenty of character with his angry squint and semi-shaven head!


Sunday 28 March 2021

New models for Rogue Stars - Part 2: CP Models Space Ogres

CP Space Ogres are great!  Proper 15mm Ogryns if you're building a smaller-scale 40K Imperial Guard army.  

I got these a fair while ago but lockdown home schooling has delayed a number of plans!

Vallejo Russian Uniform Green uniforms with Reflective Green armour & webbing. Dwarf flesh hands & faces, Beastly Brown boots & weapon furniture. Gun metal is GW chainmail, visor is GW enchanted blue.  They'll provide a bit of extra muscle where it's needed.

"You'z ready for a scrap?" "Yeah mate!"

Comparison with a normal human.


Saturday 27 March 2021

New models for Rogue Stars - Part 1: Werewolves... in spaaaaace!

Back at the end of 2020 I decided to get a few extra character models in preparation for Rogue Stars.  They'll also be handy in various other games such as Tomorrow's War, Black Ops and others.  I got a few humans but mainly concentrated on non-humans, something I'm a little short of.

First up we have a few Alternative Armies Beotan werewolves.  I love the fact that you can order individual models from their packs to get the exact mix you want.  I didn't need a whole set, just 5 specific models.

Wolf pack on the prowl...

I've used a warmer colour scheme than that on the AA web site, mainly Vallejo Game Colour.  Beastly Brown was used as the base coat for the fur and the harnesses are Khaki. Hands, muzzles and ears are dwarf flesh, this was dabbed on quite roughly because the later stages help to bring it all together.  Claws and teeth are bonewhite. After a sepia/matt varnish wash over the whole model, the fur was drybrushed with cold grey, then a stonewall grey highlight. The harnesses were highlighted with the base khaki, claws & teeth with bonewhite, then a dead white tip. Weapons are GW chainmail with a black ink wash.

First up we have the team leader with his Cupid pistol, HUD monocle and communications gear. He come from the 4th Tesseran Command squad.  Something I've been thinking I should learn to do is the "gem" style of painting on lenses etc.  I tried it on the eyepiece and for a first attempt, I'm reasonably pleased how it came out.

Next, we have a couple of wolves armed with Maia machine pistols from the 2nd Tesseran.  They have great expressions!

This next wolf is a snarling loader from the 3rd Tesseran Support pack and carries a Juno rifle plus an ammo box.  He'll be useful as a medic, courier or the like.

Finally we have their support, an Apollo ADS armed wolf, also from the 3rd Tesseran.  Rogue Stars doesn't actually have rules for bigger weapons like this so I'll only be using this on TW or other larger-scale games.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Rogue Stars - first game

Following on from my recent review of Rogue Stars, I had a quick test during lunch break to see how the rules work.

A couple of starship crew, an IMEC (Interstellar Mining & Extraction Consortium) technician and a Mercenary bodyguard are fleeing back to their shuttle.  Their stolen grav sled is damaged and finally gives out and crashes just short of their ship.  Local scum Shades and Tough are investigating the shuttle for their gang when they hear the crash and see the column of smoke...

The playing area is 24"x6" (the windowsill by my desk, as you can see); the crew’s grav sled crashed on the left, 3 ruined buildings and several stacks of oil drums lie between that and a raised area where the shuttle (AKA Thunderbird 4) is parked on the far right. I just grabbed the under construction scenery I had to hand plus 4 figures from my "civilians" box.

The battlefield

Crew: IMEC has an autopistol and flak vest. The elite Merc has an accurate assault rifle.  Total XP value 71. 

Mercenary and IMEC technician in their stolen grav sled.

Scum: Veteran Shades has an autopistol, Tough has an SMG and a couple of frag grenades.  Total XP value 75.

Shades and Tough guard the shuttle.

Usually you'd have 4 or more figures with a combined XP of 200 but I wanted to play it quickly just to get a feel for the rules.

Shades and Tough win the initiative.  They head out to see what's happening past the buildings.  Shades walks down the slope from the shuttle then sprints (fast x2) round the outside of the first building.  Tough follows at a more sedate pace.  The Merc reacts to a failed scum activation by walking from the grav sled over to the nearest building and peeping round the corner.

Scum on the move...

Merc peers round the corner.

 While Shades keeps watch, Tough trots past him to the cover of some barrels towards the far end of building 2. The Merc leans out, takes a shot, misses. Tough sees the puff of dust as the bullt hits the wall above him and leaps up, poised to fire a burst with his SMG... 

Tough stands to fire at the Merc...

Showing much better aim this time, Merc takes him down (Marksman x 2) with a quick double-tap, putting one bullet through the torso and one through Tough's right arm.  Failing to live up to his nickname, Tough (Tough x 3) is knocked prone, SMG skittering away, his arm seriously injured and his torso critically injured.  He's gonna bleed out if he doesn't get some serious medical attention.

But the Merc gets his shots in first!

Tough goes down. Blood spatters the pavement.

Seizing their chance (and the initiative), the Merc and IMEC start moving.  Both advance down the outside of building 1 until they get to the corner overlooking the barrel stack sheltering Tough by Building 2.  Merc dashes off at 90 degrees between the two buildings and ducks into the darkened entrance of Building 2.

Move, move, move!

 IMEC clambers in through the corner of Building 1 and up to the shattered second floor.  Peeping over the broken wall, she has a good view over the street outside.

Things are hotting up!

 Shades dashes forward, rip's Tough's bandanna from his head and crams it into the gaping hole in his body to try and stem the bleeding.  

Shades considers whether his "First Aid at Work" training is adequate.

Surprisingly, Tough revives enough to try and stagger to his feet, snatching his SMG on the way up.  Snarling and angry, he pulls out a frag grenade and tosses it (Chucker) down the street towards the Merc.  Building 2's doorway shelters the Merc, who is buffeted by the blast but miraculously unhurt.  As he steps back out into the alley to take a shot at Tough, his luck runs out.  Wrong-handed and still groggy, the injured Tough nevertheless swings up his SMG and squeezes off an astounding shot, hitting Merc in the Torso and taking him out of action.

Tough's revenge!

Tough chuckles (then coughs blood).

IMEC gasps at the events unfolding below.  Shaken, she empties her autopistol magazine at Tough but fails to hit anything.  Reloading, she focusses on controlling her breathing, takes a steady 2-handed grip… and shoots Tough through his remaining arm.  Tough goes down again (serious wound to left arm) and this time he stays down.  Both arms will be permanently crippled and he'll need hospitalisation to deal with that torso wound.

Tough goes down again.

IMEC ducks back out of sight and drops down to the ground floor.  She dashes through the building and hops through the window opposite the doorway of building 2.

He looks beyond help.

Merc is lying in an expanding pool of blood.  IMEC thinks he's dead but there's no time to check.  Stepping over his body, she ducks inside building 2 and sneaks (stealth x3) through. A moment to climb through the window on the far side and sprint across the street and she's sneaking through the shadows inside building 3...

Shades walks back down the outside of buildings 2 and 3.  Where has the woman gone? He thinks he sees a movement inside as he passes the end of building 2, swings out, pistol up.... nothing (failed spot test).  Again, there!  Pistol up through the window, take aim... but nothing there (spot test failed again).  He ducks back into cover between the windows, cursing under his breath.

Can't see her in the shadows.

IMEC reaches the end of building 3.  She can see the shuttle!  Open ground, but she can make it, she knows.  Taking a breath, she hops down from the window sill and starts running.  Before she's gone 5 paces, Shades pivots round the corner of the building and shoots her in the back, sending her face-down onto the soil between 2 piles of oil drums.

There she goes!

It's not fair!  She's nearly there!  She can make it, come on!  Get up!  IMEC grits her bloodstained teeth and pushes herself upright.  5 more paces and she'll be in the shuttle.  She concentrates on getting there.  But that's not what she should be concentrating on.

Almost... there...

Shades steps up behind her.  He throws his arm around her neck, presses his autopistol to her right arm, just below the shoulder, and pulls the trigger.  This time she doesn't get up.

You're not going anywhere...

 Wow, what a game!  Very cinematic, action flowing back and forth, tense situations, dramatic escapes, calamitous injuries.

I know I got lots wrong, there are so many modifiers to keep track of for equipment, multiple traits, wounds/pins/stress etc.  I was always forgetting one or another, though things would have been easier if I wasn't trying to look after a 2 year old and eat lunch at the same time.  I couldn't use any proper character sheets and the dice disappeared every time I put them down, so plenty of distractions!

The action/reaction mechanic works very nicely.  In a lot of IGOUGO games with a limited number of turns, you feel you really have to be doing someting with every figure every turn to make the most of them.  In this game, it's fine to leave someone standing around watching while their team-mates carry out a whole series of actions.  It means they have no stress and are ready to intervene with a reasonable chance of success if enemy reactions endanger the main protagonist.

There were a number of occasions where character skills provided that extra point or two to score a hit or avoid an injury.  I'm still not sure whether D20 (as opposed to say a D12) is really necessary but it does allow for varing degrees of success.  As an example when shooting, the amount by which you exceed the target number will affect what body part you hit - thus an extra point or two of marksman or melee skill might tip it from only a torso hit to the atacker's choice of torso or arm.  With arms usually less armoured and more susceptible to damage (or loss of weapon), this could give you a greater chance of disabling your opponent.

It's obvious that you do need to print out your character sheets (I only used some hastily scribbled stats on a scrap of paper) to keep track of stress, pins and wounds properly. There was also a lot of flicking back and forth through the rulebook because I hadn't had an opportunity to print out the quick reference sheet.  This has already been remedied in preparation for the next game, and armed with my new bag of counters I shall be ready to track up to 50 pins, wounds and stress across both forces!

I have a narrative already running now, ready for my first proper sized game.  What were IMEC and the Merc fleeing from? Will the starship crew send another landing party to find out what happened? Will Tough be out for revenge if he survives the trip to hospital with Shades?

Sunday 21 March 2021

Rogue Stars: review & thoughts

Rogue Stars

Rogue Stars came out in 2016 and I thought I'd wait to read a few reviews before getting a copy.  Months stretched into years but I remembered about it last year and ordered a copy for lockdown reading.

I have mixed thoughts on Rogue Stars.  I enjoy the game itself, but the presentation really brings it down.

Lots of initial reviews were rather negative.  In the same way that Frostgrave was seen as "the new Moredheim", it seems that many viewed Rogue Stars as "the new Necromunda".  This was possibly because of the way it was touted in some sources, but this is in fact a very different kettle of fish and such comparisons were completely unfair.  There is very little in the way of "gang development", only a single page of campaign rules.  The action is also much more tightly focussed and detailed, with smaller groups of characters.  There were also complaints about the amoutn of clutter created by counters on the table tracking various stats, but we'll come onto that later...

I like the main act/react/stress mechanic.  The team with initiative can choose to activate any figure, rolling 1 to 3 "activation dice", needing to score 8+ to activate.  Every success can be used to carry out an action (walk/run/shoot etc).  Every action you take adds a stress counter and every stress counter gives a -1 penalty to that character's next activation roll, so the more you do, the more likely you are to start failing activations.  Failing an activation gives your opponent an opportunity to react or to try and take the initiative.  They roll a reaction die, needing a 10+ to activate or a 16+ to take the initiative.  They will accumulate stress from actions in the same way, thus making it harder to react as time goes on.  If you wanted, you could keep activating the same character over and over again but at some point you'd have so much stress that you would be guaranteed to fail every time.

It differs from the Tomorrow's War reaction system (anyone in LOS can react to a unit that takes an action) in that if the initiative player fails their activation roll, any member of the opposing squad can try to react, regardless of whether they can see the initiative team.  This makes it a much more involved game, with more to-and-fro of action than any other game that I've played.  When the initiative switches, all stress from the squad which previously held initiative is removed, therefore there are often times when you may voluntarily pass the initiative to the opposing force just to get rid of all the stress on your characters.

Because of the way in which the reaction/initiative system functions, there are no "turns" that you can use to set an artificial limit on the length of the game but the fact that you can repeatedly activate the same character over and over again means that the game never seems slow like other IGOUGO ones can at times.

Each player has a squad of a particular "theme" such as miners, space pirates, militia, cultists, merchants etc.   Your theme affects what equipment and skills are available to your force.

Your squad includes 4-6 characters and you have 200XP to spend on creating them.  No-one has a base XP value to which you add things, instead they start at zero and their total cost is calculated by adding up their "Traits" (skills such as marksmanship, first aid, melee combat, physical characteristics such as size, toughness) and their equipment (weapons, cybernetics, armour etc).  Some characters may also have psionics.  Some things have a negative XP cost, for instance "Civilian" subtracts 10XP from your value but has penalties for acting/reacting and morale and restricts you to civilian equipment.

There has been some criticism of the choice to use D20.  I think a D12 or D16 might be better in some ways, probably the former because they're much easier to come by.  Skills add between +1 and +3 to your rolls, so even someone highly skilled won't get a particularly large bonus to their roll.  Alternatively, you could choose to double the bonuses from skills, this would make them more worthwhile having but still allow the effects of stress to build up gradually. I certainly prefer it to the restrictive use of D6 in some other games, though I was always rather partial to the 2D6 system used by Battletech and the way it used the bell-curve to average number of missile hits, damage locations etc.

Some concepts are a rather different to a lot of other games I've played, for instance taking "wounds" from being shot/melee combat.  I spent some time trying to work out how many wounds characters could survive before I realised that having wounds just adds penalties to various rolls, so more wounds = less chance of surviving future hits, poorer performance in melee combat etc.  This could have been explained a bit more obviously in the rules, as could the results of being "pinned"as a combat result, but the lack of space has pevented this, which brings me on to my main problem with the rules as published.

The game is limited by the Osprey format of size and page number - author Andrea Sfiligoi has said that he already fitted in more than he really should which has resulted in a small font size and no index.  There are no character sheets or quick reference sheet but Sfiligoi has explained that would have had to miss out campaign rules in order to fit one in.  Various useful items are available from the Osprey or 1D4 chan web sites, though not all in one place.

Quick reference sheet downloaded makes the game much more playable

Some searching on the internet is needed to find all the extra rules.  Counters (or D6) for tracking wounds, pins, stress should be placed on character sheets, not on the board.  Sfiligoi has made this clear in other places (the official character sheet has spaces for these counters/dice) but it should have been mentioned in the book.  As a result, one of the big complaints I've seen is about the number of counters you have cluttering the tabletop, a problem which doesn't exist if you use the character sheets as intended.

Note the spaces at the bottom for counters!

Example character sheet (with bad illustration)

The layout of the book is confusing due to space restrictions - the aforementioned lack of an index doesn't help.  An example would be climbing - this isn't mentioned in the movement section of "Actions And Reactions" on page 11, instead it appears in the terrain part of "The Environment" on page 36.

Rules and errata download from Osprey

I have no problem with extra rules or expansions being available as downloads, but it's marketed as a complete game, so you shouldn't have to spend time and effort tracking down missing parts of the basic rules from multiple sources on the internet.


Rules expansion from 1D4chan

There are various parts of the rules that seem to be missing or don't make complete sense:

  • Extra Legs trait - more legs doesn't necessarily mean faster - after all there is already a separate "fast" trait.
  • There is no option for character to have wings (but you could just use flight pack rule for this). Khurasan Parasachnids and The Scene Hawkmen spring to mind and for those of a Star Wars bent, winged Geonosians.
  • No "stat line" is a feature of the game, but it might be easier to have one rather than trying to remember all the special rules.  Characters don't just have one or two special rules, they can have 7 or 8 scattered through equipment, traits etc.  Take movement - crawl/walk/run/sprint scores might have +2 from "extra legs" and +3 from "fast".  Easier to record this as 1/2/9/11 instead of having to remember to add up all the modifiers every time. Same goes for shooting bonuses etc.
  • No shotgun in rules (but was added later in errata/FAQs) - big omission, it's one of the standard weapons that law enforcement or colonists often have in sci-fi stories because it's so flexible.
  • Machine gun does same damage as assault rifle but costs more and has disadvantage of being "heavy" (ie. move penalty). Corrected slightly in errata - should also have "infinite rounds". I'd still say that it should do more damage than an assault rifle, most modern GPMGs or LMGs fire larger rounds at a higher rate than an assault rifle or LSW and thus do more damage if they hit you.
  • Silenced weapons (Needlers) are available as equipment, but silencers for other weapons are not included in weapon upgrades. You could add this easily - say 2XP to fit to pistols, SMGs or assault rifles.
  • No bigger weapons - misile launchers, grenade launchers, underslung grenade launchers etc. 
  • Entangler overpowered.  Civilian so available to anyone but "disentangler" is intelligence gear so available to only a single member of a Star Cop squad.  Has a fairly high points cost the same as an assult rifle or heavy blaster but if the target fails a saving roll then become "entangled".  Anyone entangled is unable to move or fight and unless they have psionics, they are essentially out of the game.  Extra equipment in addenda online includes cheap disposable entanglers but these are trying to fix a problem that shouldn't really exist.  A better option might be to restrict the entanglers use to certain scenarios.
  •  Restrictions in themes don't always make sense.  No-one can have cybernetics to start with (though anyone can pay for cybernetics to replace damaged body parts later) except "Cyborgs" squad. Given the danger of their work and the possibly limited access to cloning or advanced medical services, I'd imagine that mercenaries, pirates and miners would all seem likely candidates to be allowed one squad member with cybernetics but only the pirates can have a single "cyber-weapon".  Similarly, some of the restrictions on equipment seem unnecessary.  "Inelligence" equipment can only be used by a single member of a Star Cops squad.  Flight packs, sneak suits, electromag shackles should be available to all Bounty Hunters and Star Cops.  Having the intrusion kit only availabe to cops doesn't make sense.  Some obvious themes to use the intelligance equipment are missing, a black ops or government agency theme should be available, also some sort or organised crime. You can't have an entire squad of sneak-suited infiltrators.

A number of these issues could be solved by simply ignoring the rules you don't like but this would prove a problem in more competitive games.

I also think there are too many pictures, though the artwork is nice.  Scenery and figures are marvellously painted by the talented Kevin Dallimore but often pedestrian in layout.  This is partly a result of the figure style, many are just static "standing around" poses and not very dynamic.  As a result, many the little scenes are not very inspiring and do not really "tell a story", they are just figures arranged in varying combinations in front of some scenery.  I wonder about co-operation between the miniature photographer, illustrator and author - did it happen?  They could have tried to tell a story with the miniatures, added a few effects such as smoke, kept consistency in the groupings (they vary randomly between photographs) and used those as the example squads.  The other Copplestone figures in a few of the photographs are more interesting and gel togeter better in their scenes.  I'm not sure which came first, the artwork or the figures. It might have been better to have the full page artwork including a small box-out of the relevant painted figure.  This would have allowed them to use the in-text photos to illustrate or clarify sections of the rules instead.  Fewer pictures and more text would have made this a better book, in fact you could have lost the majority of the pictures with no effect on the rules.

Example of layout.
Something that I haven't touched on yet is cost of additional items, this is actually very minimal and a big plus for the game.  The small model count and flexibility of character creation means that if you already play other sci-fi wargames/skirmish games, you've probably already got the figures you need and you'll be able to represent them easily using the wide range it traits and equipment.  This is the chance to use those really cool figures you just had to buy even though they didn't fit into any of your existing games...

Even if you decide to buy some more figures, it won't cost much to get enough interesting characters together.  I'll be playing in 15mm scale and there are a wealth of manufacturers from which to choose.  Ground Zero Games have a wide range of civilians/colonists, security, technicians and aliens. Brigade Models also offer technicians, andn various character packs,  The Scene have special forces, monsters and more. I decided to add a few extra character models from CP Models and the Alternative Armies HOF and Ion Age ranges.  Alternative Armies have the benefit of allowing you to order individual models from virtually all of their different packs so you can select the exact figures that you want without any wastage.

CP Models ogres and Alternative Armies humans.

CP Models spaceport scum

Alternative Armies Beotan Werewolves

I splashed out on some sets of counters to track pinned, wounds and stress (on the character sheets remember!) but these are cheap enough and you could just use some D6 instead.  I bought some very nice bags of 50x22mm counters in the appropriate pale blue, red and yellow from Cymbeline Games for only 99p a bag plus P&P. 


Scenery is something you might need to invest a little more in.  Given the small-scale skirmish nature, this is a game that benefits from lots of scenery with which the individual characters can interact (climbing, hiding behind, looking inside, activating as scenario objective etc).  As with figures, if you're already a gamer you've probably got a reasonable bit of terrain and buying/building some extra scatter scenery doesn't need to be all that time-consuming or expensive.

Overall, I'd grade this a C.  As a game system, this is a B+ set of rules I will definitely be playing again for smaller scale character-based skirmishes.  Unfortunately, the presentation and the effort required in finding the extra rules means that the core rulebook only gets a D-.  This is not a reflection on the author, illustrator or model painting, more a result of the restrictions of the Osprey size and layout (pictures vs text).  It's an example of something which is very much less than the sum of its parts.  This is not the off-the-shelf set of rules that it's sold as - it requires research and other additional work to make it playable.

If you want an enjoyable set of rules that are exciting and immersive and you don't mind taking on some extra homework, then this is a rule set I think you'll enjoy.  If you want something you can pick off the shelf and play immediately, I'd have to advise you to look elsewhere.