Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A few thoughts on GASLIGHT rules.

One game doesn't really give enough data for a major appraisal of a rules set. However, some points of the GASLIGHT rules can be addressed.

First, I like how quickly they play. With only three units per side it's probably not surprising, but the resolution of each unit's action took a mere matter of moments to deal with. The rules are card-driven, and I used an ordinary deck of playing cards, with a different denomination of card for each unit. 20-sided die are used for combat, vehicle handling and morale.

The GASLIGHT forum saw some recent discussion about utilizing an end-of-turn card, in the same style as the Sharp Practice 'Tiffin.' For the sake of friction of war I decided to use such a card for this game, and think it worked well. Both sides had turns which saw them steal a move over the opposition before the turn ended.

It did lead to frustration in the native camp when the golems failed to activate before the warband accompanying them. This caused a roadblock, which I deemed made the leader of the warband impatient. It set him off to tackle the Pond-friendly natives near the huts rather than concentrate on his mission, to the detriment of the golems.

GASLIGHT movement rates are set distances rather than random, as in Sharp Practice. Vehicles have their stats rolled at random before the start of the game. In the case of the S-G Mk II Steam Exploration Vehicle used by Willoughby Pond, it rolled rather well.

The golems aren't really covered by the rules, so I counted them in the same manner as vehicles, with some house rules added. I ruled a hit from an artillery piece or fusillade of bullets required each to roll a Sustain die. Failure meant the golem stopped moving. The witchdoctor controlling the things could make just one attempt on her next turn to restart a stopped golem on a successful Start die, but in this game she failed every time. 

As Dr. Vesuvius commented on the previous post, GASLIGHT tends to be one-sided when natives face off against Colonial Powers equipped with VSF trappings. There were instances in the recent game where the natives could have given the Pond Expedition a severe drubbing.  The S-G Mk II can be a clumsy beast when presented with more than one target, and those spaced well apart. Had the witchdoctor recovered control of the golems, or had the warband accompanied them instead of haring off on their own scheme, things might have turned out differently.

On reflection, should I play the scenario again, I'd add another golem or two to the native force, or increase the Start and Sustain attributes of the existing three. I could also ensure the native warband leader minds his duty so he accompanies the golems into contact with the enemy. 

I've yet to play the rules in an armor-vs-armor encounter. Other gamers (Hello again, Dr. V!) report rather odd results which are hard to explain away in game terms. I've a few ideas for another steam vehicle, which I hope to build in the fullness of time. 

So, on the whole I like the rules. They seem to have some idiosyncrasies, but I need to play them through a few times to get a better feel for them. As for the next game, it'll probably be the beginning of the Sharp Practice mini-campaign, as mentioned previously. At the moment I'm busy working on a commission for some Very British Civil War structures, the first of which can be seen here.

 Boer War veteran Brigadier-General Sir Robert fFyfe-Robinson, KCB, inspects a blockhouse defending the boundaries of his village against all comers. The stovepipe shows provision has been made for that most British of institutions - a nice cuppa!

I've kind of watched AVBCW from the sidelines, unsure whether the genre appealed to me or not. It's not that I don't already have enough on my plate to deal with before starting a new period, oh no. But it does look awfully tempting...


mysteriousbill said...

Having played several games I find that you can end up with two vehicles chasing each other around the board after the poor bloody infantry has been gunned down.

You must give soldiers a way to threaten vehicles (firebombs, satchel charges, hornet nests).

You also should treat some big weapons as very dangerous, allowing penetrating hits to go automatically to the catastrophic results table.

Anonymous said...

The rules allow you to add 1d6 extra movement to your infantry to get a more random movement feel. We sometimes invoke this rule depending on the size of the table, the number of players, and the scenario.

If you don't think vehicles die fast enough in GASLIGHT, you can use the Battles by GASLIGHT vehicle damage chart, which is much more deadly. The rules allow you to tailor them in this way with NO difficulty.

You might have wanted to play the rules as written once or twice before modifying them.

A J said...

@mysteriousbill, Interesting. I've read elsewhere that infantry really need some form of anti-vehicle weapons to stand a chance in GASLIGHT. Having played the game, I can see the point. Something to resolve in the next game.

@anonymous, thanks for the tip about variable movement. I *could* have played the rules straight first, but saw no fun in that. ;)

Danjou's Hand said...

I find for natives (in my case they're usually lizard folk)that either increasing their unit size to 20 or giving them twice as many units (my preference), in addition to a small movement bonus to reflect their knowledge of the landscape (perhaps 1d3"), tends to help balance things. Imperial units best pray their shooting is accurate lest they end up in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.'s unforgiving melee.

Maybe I'm unlucky, but my vehicles have proved to be rather cantankerous. They rarely start and if they do, they more often than not fail their sustain roll. Never the less, I second the suggestion of @mysteriousbill that you need some way for infantry to deal with a vehicle -especially if they're native units. Perhaps some kind of improvised heroic attack where they pry open the hatch and stab the crew with spears?

A J said...

Good ideas, Danjou. I like the idea of prying open hatches. One account I read of in WW2 had a Japanese officer gain entrance to a Lee tank in just this way, killing and wounding a number of crew before he himself was killed.

As for increasing native force size, I agree it'd help. I found in playing Sharp Practice it pays to increase native Groups to at least 12. As you say, the Colonial player has to hope firepower will do the job before the native enemy gets into hand-to-hand


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