Gilbert & Marshalls Raid – Part 2

Turn 6 – After flattening Mili, the Yorktown Group sailed south towards Butaritari Island. Both Dauntless Dive Bomber squadrons landed for refueling. The Wildcat squadron flew South and discovered an unknown number of Jap aircraft in hangers and a Jap Light Cruiser. The Light Cruiser is deadly to the Yorktown if it closes within torpedo range. A heavy anti-aircraft detachment overlooks the airfield and a supply ship is anchored in the harbor.15 - Turn 6 Yorktown Group

Enterprise Group’s two Wildcat squadrons ambushed a Jap Fighter Squadron at takeoff and shot most down. One float plane has Wotje under radar coverage with no planes are in the air but there may be planes on the ground. No ships are in the vicinity.14 - T6 Enterprise

A float plane scout spotted a Jap supply ship in the Jabor Island harbor.16 - T6 big Picture

Turn 7 – The Yorktown group dispatched all three destroyers to intercept the light cruiser. The F4F Wildcat circled the Jap airfield daring the planes to attempt to take off. The Yorktown launched a rearmed and refueled squadron of SBD Dive Bombers. The three destroyers fired torpedoes at the Jap Light Cruiser heavily damaging it. The Jap ship lightly damaged one destroyer. The F4F Wildcats continued to dare the Japs to attempt to take off from Butaritari Island.18 - Yorktown Destroyers Attack

In the North the Enterprise Group used its PT boat to shoot up the remaining Jap aircraft on Maloelap with its 50 caliber machine guns. The three air squadrons made the short flight to Wotje where they spotted Jap planes still in their hangers. Unfortunately, one F4F Wildcat flew too close to the airfield and a plane was shot down by Jap anti-aircraft fire. The Enterprise ordered his PT boat and a destroyer to steam at full speed to Wotje to hopefully shell the Jap AA detachment and the planes on the landing field.17 - Turn 7 Enterprise Group

Turn 8 – The Yorktown’s Squadron 1 of Dauntless dive bombers sank the Jap Light Cruiser. The destroyer force is being split. One destroyer is ordered to steam to Jabor Island and sink the Jap Supply ship. The other two destroyers are ordered to bombard Butaritari Island, sink the supply ship and shell the airfield. The Yorktown herself will slowly steam towards Jabor Island to allow her two Dauntless and single Wildcat squadron to be recovered.19 - Turn 8 Yorktown Group

Turn 9 – The detached Destroyer and PT boat are hitting Wotje with their guns. The Japs got a squadron into the air, but it was heavily shot up on take-off. The two ships should be able to reduce the fuel depot and the anit-aircraft gun without any difficulties. The Enterprise air wings can either hit the Japanese planes or shoot up land targets.20 - Turn 9 Enterprise Group

My easternmost scout float plane approached Kwajalein Atoll from the Southeast. I’d hoped that the damage inflicted by the Enterprise group due East of Kwajalein would allow my scout plane to get a quick glimpse of the Japanese forces. It did not work. My scout was intercepted by Jap fighters and one of the three scouts was shot down. Remaining scouts pushed on hoping to get into extreme radar range of Kwajalein before turning back.21 - Turn 9 Scout Attacked

Turn 10 – I get two sub units. During the rest of the battle they skulked around, sank a Jap ship or two, got depth charged, and managed to escape. That is it for my coverage of the subs. This is not a knock-on US Submarine forces in the Pacific. They sank the Jap Merchant Marine which crippled the Pacific fleet, air force, and starved their troops. The successful US submarine strategy made island hopping feasible because Japan could not adequately resupply isolated units.

22 - Subs

The Kingfisher scout found a lot of trouble. First, the southern approach to Kwajalein is guarded by a naval gun covered by a heavy AA unit. The remaining Jap squadrons are on full alert. The Jap fighter is coming up on our tail and radar picks up at least two Jap squadrons forming up over Kwajalein.

This changes my strategy. First, the Enterprise needs to stay well to the East of Kwajalein to hopefully avoid detection. This great distance means the air wings have a long way to travel to hit the Kwajalein fuel dump or airfield. The distance does give the fighters more time to shoot down incoming Jap planes. Last, dive bombers must destroy the coast gun before the PT Boats or destroyers can approach Kwajalein. Few long run plans remain unchanged after the enemy is contacted.23 - Turn 10 Scout Approach

The Enterprise Group has good and bad news. The good news is the PT boat and destroyer will reduce Wotje Atoll next turn. The fighter wing based at Wotje has been destroyed. The bad news, the squadrons are about out of fuel and need to land and rearm. You can only launch one squadron a turn so getting everything rearmed, refueled and airborne takes multiple turns. The Scout’s contact report from Kwajalein means the Enterprise cannot move towards Kwajalein unless the Jap squadrons are destroyed.24 - Turn 10 Enterprise Group

The Big Picture: A minimum of three Jap squadrons are within strike range of the Enterprise. Enterprise will not have their air units back for multiple turns. One squadron of F4Fs is being refueled and rearmed and can supply combat air patrol on turn 11. The other two squadrons must land, refuel, rearm and launch before the Japs arrive. This takes time. Kwajalein is guarded by at least one coast artillery unit. Yorktown cannot support Enterprise or attack Kwajalein for many turns. Until Yorktown recovers her planes she must move slowly. 25 - Big picture turn 10

Turn 11 – The Enterprise Air Commanders are jammed into the radio room. Static crackles as an anxious, young, and stressed out voice comes over the speaker. The transmission is from the OS2U Kingfisher Scout Flight Blue Hawk. Three scout planes were in the flight.

“This is Blue Hawk 1. Blue Hawk 2 exploded in air. No survivors. Four Jap fighters are on Blue Hawk 3. Blue Hawk 3 is smoking. Oh NO! Blue Hawk 3 is on fire. She is going down. Hard landing. THOSE JAP BASTARDS ARE MACHINE GUNNING BLUE HAWK 3 ON THE WATER!

I’m heading for the cloud bank.

Damn, I’m not going to make it. Two Tony’s [Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien] are coming up on my tail. I cannot shake them.

Engine on fire. Bail Out! Bail Out! I’ll keep her level as long as I” ……………………………… static.

The radioman twists his dials. He slowly shakes his head and tells the commander: “transmission lost sir.”

Commander Jenkins: “Walker’s report last hour may have kept the Enterprise from sailing into multiple squadrons of Jap Torpedo Planes and Bombers. Those were brave men. Brave men…… “he looks at his shoes and leaves the radio room. Others follow.

The crews of Blue Hawk 2 and Blue Hawk 3 are listed KIA. Blue Hawk 1 was listed MIA presumed KIA. KIA was confirmed after the Marines took Kwajalein in February 1944 and the Jap records were reviewed.

Lt. Walker and his crew (Blue Hawk 1) were awarded the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross – Posthumous.
Lt. jg Emerson and his crew (Blue Hawk 2) and Lt. jg Cox (Blue Hawk 3) were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross – Posthumous.26 - Turn 11 Scout dies

Turn 12 – Yorktown will soon recover the last of her squadrons. She is sailing almost due West towards Jabor Island. The two destroyers which shelled Butaritari Island and sank the Jap supply ship are sailing at top speed to rejoin the Yorktown in the waters off Jabor. One destroyer is almost within range of the Jap Supply Ship anchored at Jabor.

One scout squadron is East of Jabor. The second is between Enterprise and Kwajalein.

Enterprise has recovered all squadrons and is launching a wing of F4F Wildcats this turn. Next turn the second squadron of F4Fs will be launched. Without adequate Combat Air Patrol, Enterprise will not close on Kwajalein.27a - turn 12 big picture

Time for an update on victory conditions. Only 3 Jap Squadrons are alive. Two of the three fuel depots are torched. Only the Kwajalein depot remains. The US Navy has sunk 6 ships against a goal of 10. I’m in excellent shape midway through the scenario. 27b - Update on victory conditions

Turn 13 – Heavy Jap Raid Intercepted West of Kwajalein – Two Jap Squadrons, Torpedo and Bomber, launch attacks on a destroyer escort steaming towards Kwajalein. Since I pushed as hard as possible on Radar, the Japs may not have spotted the Enterprise. One F4F Wildcat will attack the Jap squadrons on my half of the turn. A second F4F squadron has just taken off from Enterprise and can probably engage next turn. A squadron of land-based Jap Fighters is coming up from the SW to engage the Wildcats.28 - Turn 13 Jap Air Force

Turn 15 – Starting the Mop-Up – The Jap air units have been heavily chewed up. The torpedo and fighter squadrons returned to Kwajalein. They proved no match for the F4Fs. The Yorktown’s fighter squadron should arrive in two turns. The Dauntless Squadrons are either hunting down stray shipping or converging towards the coastal gun. Last, the heavily damaged destroyer and the PT Boat Squadron are rapidly approaching Kwajalein from the NW to avoid coming under fire of the Coast Gun for as long as possible. 29 - Turn 15

Turn 16 – The net is closing on Kwajalein. Two damaged Jap Squadrons landed and all three F4F Wildcat Squadrons can pounce on any Jap Aircraft attempting to take-off. Aircraft are vulnerable when attempting to take off and gain altitude. A Dauntless squadron will attack the Coast Gun next turn. Last, the PT Boat squadron and a heavily damaged destroyer are in bombardment range.30 - Turn 16

Turn 17 – Mopping Up – All Jap air units capable of harming my carriers have been shot down. Only a handful of Jap fighters remain. The Jap coastal artillery is almost destroyed, and US Navy ships are bombarding Kwajalein.31 - Turn 17

Turn 18 – Jap Airpower Destroyed – All Japanese aircraft in the region have been destroyed. The damaged F4F Wildcats are returning to their carriers. Some pilots were lost, but the survivors gained valuable combat experience. Only the Dive Bomber Squadron is aloft close to Kwajalein. The heavily damaged destroyer and the PT Boat squadron can shoot up the fuel depot. 32 - Jap Airforce Destroyed

33 - Dead Planes

Goals Achieved – Time to Retreat – On turn 19 the last Jap fuel depot was destroyed by Naval Gunfire. The Dauntless Dive Bombers sank enough shipping to satisfy Admiral Nimitz. All of the aircraft are returning home. Yorktown, Enterprise, and their immediate escorting vessels retreat West at top speed. Hanging around makes the carriers vulnerable to Jap surface ships and submarines.34 - Fuel Burning

35 - Victory

Doolittle Raid
Meanwhile, the US Navy Carrier Hornet launched B-25 land bombers at long range against Tokyo. The raid did little damage to the Japanese military but did great damage to their pride. Drunk with Victory, the Japs do not concentrate their Carrier strength in the upcoming battles of The Coral Sea and Midway.36 - Doolittle
Post Battle
Scrambling is a costly purchase at 10 research points and I only have 8 points. Scrambling lets your fighters take off and move 50% of their full movement in one turn. This increases their combat effectiveness about 25-30%. I bank my research points and move on to the next scenario.

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Gilbert & Marshall Island Raid – Scenario 4 US Pacific Order of Battle WW2

Admiral-Nimitz Admiral Chester Nimitz

A Pitch Meeting
Admiral Chester Nimitz: Commander in Chief United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT)
Representatives from the Office of Naval Planning:
Vice-Admiral Overly Optimistic; Captain Ignore the Risks
Admiral Nimitz’s Aides: Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee”; Master Marine Gunnery Sgt “Really Salty”

Vice-Admiral Overly Optimistic & Captain Ignore the Risks are escorted into Admiral Nimitz’s office at Pearl Harbor by Master Chief Petty Officer Coffee. Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty stands in the corner.

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Admiral! Have we got a plan for you!

Nimitz: “Well let’s hear it”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Lets send Enterprise and Yorktown (two of our three fleet carriers in the Pacific) to raid targets in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands!”

Nimitz: “Aren’t Enterprise and Yorktown essential to keep the Jap Fleet out of Hawaii?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes Sir, but this is hardly a problem. Barely an inconvenience.”

Nimitz: “Excuse me?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “The Japs would never imagine our sending most of our fleet carriers to raid the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.”

Nimitz: “I’m sure they would not expect it. Are there any worthwhile targets in the area?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Absolutely not sir! In fact, this is a backwater with a couple of airfields, 8 air squadrons, three refueling depots and some small garrisons.”

Nimitz: “So you want to raid an area with low value targets?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir, that is a primary feature of our plan!”

Nimitz: “Aren’t those targets spread very far apart – so far that we would have to split our already thin force to hit all of them?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir they are, that is one of the highpoints of this plan.”

Nimitz: “The raid would take place over a period of days because it is impossible to strike all of them at once?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir! Having the targets spread out over a huge area will also eventually alert the Japs we are in the area no matter how asleep at the switch they are.”

Nimitz: “Are the 8 squadrons a threat to our carriers?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir they are!”

Nimitz: “I’m guessing there are not any Jap naval units in the region.”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Guess again sir! Intelligence suggests there are at least 14 naval units in the region plus an unknown number of submarines.”

Nimitz: “And each of those Jap ships carry long lance torpedoes which can be used to deadly effect against large naval targets?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir!”

Nimitz: “Isn’t the Jap navy a considerable danger? Don’t you consider this a problem?”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Exactly sir, that is one of the primary advantages of our plan. Our inexperienced carrier pilots can hit widely scattered air, ground, and naval targets almost every single day they are in danger. Think of the combat experience they will gain!”

Nimitz: “Let me summarize. We send Enterprise and Yorktown which are irreplaceable and essential to the defense of Hawaii to hit low value targets in a backwater theater of operations. In that backwater are 8 land-based air squadrons capable of damaging and sinking our carriers. The carriers must split to hit all of the targets. There is an unknown naval threat in the region, and if our units blunder into a sub pack, cruisers, or a battleship they could be sunk.”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir! The people back home and President Roosevelt will love it!”

Nimitz: “And if it fails, I’ll be commanding a WW1 destroyer tasked with sailing across the Pacific towing extra fuel on a raft to launch a solo torpedo attack on the Jap Fleet in Tokyo Bay. I’ll be sure to remember both of you when I need busted Lieutenants to run the mess hall and steer the fuel rafts.”

Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Gulp! Permission to leave sir?”

Nimitz: “Permission granted.”

The door closes.

Nimitz: “Spit it out you two.”

Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee” – “Can you believe these two? They even seemed sober.”

Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty – “These are the officers senior gunny’s who served in the Spanish-American War said were best suited to individually captain rafts carrying bulls eyes for naval gunnery practice.” [Both senior nom-coms laugh a lot, then they realize Admiral Nimitz is not laughing with them. Both snap to attention].

Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee” – “Permission to speak Admiral.”

Nimitz: “Always in private Coffee when I’m not up to my eyeballs in reports.”

Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee”: “You are not really considering enacting this plan are you sir?”

Nimitz: – “I think the worst the Navy can do is to become predictable. Until the new fleet carriers start arriving in 1942, we must use our limited assets to keep the Japs off balance. Otherwise, they will concentrate their forces and destroy us, take Hawaii, take Australia, and it will be 1950 until we can knock them back to Tokyo. Sometimes a good poker player has to win some small pots when all of the big cards ae running against them.”

Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty – “Sounds like a good way to lose a lot of money at poker Admiral.”

Nimitz: “Maybe so, but I’m one of the best poker players in the fleet.”

Scenario Objectives:
Primary Objective – Do not lose a carrier. My carriers will be well behind a screen of scout planes and will stay 1+ turn flight away from land air bases until the air units at that base have been destroyed.
1] Destroy 8 Jap Squadrons – there are 5 widely scattered airfields. To ensure success for this goal the two carriers must be split into separate task forces.
2] Destroy 10 enemy ships – There are no known ship locations or concentration points. Logically, ships may be close to the three fuel depots.
3] Destroy 3 fuel depots – Their location is known to US Naval Intelligence.
4] Avoid any damage to US Carriers – This secondary objective clashes with the other three secondary objectives. To achieve the other secondary objectives, the carriers must be put at some degree of risk.

1 - Objectives

You begin with the carrier Enterprise. I purchase the Yorktown and an air wing consisting of one squadron of F4F Wildcats and two squadrons of SBD3 Dauntless Dive Bombers. Most targets are land based purchasing torpedo squadrons makes little sense.

2 - Buying the Yorktown

3 - Buying Yorktown Air Wings

I have two Carrier Groups. The Enterprise group is to the North and is first targeting the Maloelap Atoll. After it is reduced the next target is the Wotje Atoll. Then the threat situation will be reassessed and if feasible they will target Kwajalein Atoll – the target furthest to the West.

The Yorktown group initially targets the Mili Atoll. After it is reduced, they steam South to attack Butaritari Island. If I am able to destroy the air wings, fuel depots, and any shipping in the area the Yorktown group will steam North, Northwest towards Kwajalein Atoll. It is unlikely that the Yorktown group will be able to attack Kwajalein with anything other than aircraft because of the distance they have to sail to hit Butaritari Island.
4 - Initial Deployments

Turn 1 – Only one squadron can be launched per turn from a carrier. When the mission starts Enterprise’s squadrons are in the hangers. My research goal of acquiring every radar advance has paid off – a Jap ship is spotted on the horizon. My two Kingfisher float plane scouts will move ahead. Enterprise will launch its SBD Dauntless and the group will steam East.

5 - Turn 1

Yorktown started with all three squadrons airborne. A costal gun is spotted on Mili Atoll. Costal Guns are bad news and it must be reduced before any ships steam into range. Two unidentified Jap ships are in the harbor. No Jap aircraft are in the skies and the airfield is just out of ground spotting range. The SBD Dauntless dive bombers should nail the costal gun next turn while the F4F Wildcat strafes the airfield.

6 - T1 Yorktown Group

Turn 2 – Yorktown’s dive bombers destroy the coastal gun on Mili. The F4F will strafe the airfield. The Jap ships in the harbor are a gunboat and a supply ship – neither of which have long range guns. My destroyers can now sail close to Mili to destroy the fuel depot and the ships. My aircraft will destroy the airfield. The oil depot is the lowest priority target because it cannot attack or move.

7 - t2 - Yorktown

Enterprise: My superior radar allows my scout planes to move further out without being spotted by the 2 Jap ships. My Dauntless will attack next turn.

8 - T2 Enterprise Group

Turn 3 – Yorktown Group – Mili Atoll – The Jap squadron was destroyed on the ground. The only AA fire was from the gunboat and it was ineffectual. The destroyer and cruiser escorts steam towards Mili to bring the Jap ships under naval gunfire.
The Enterprise Group’s Dauntless destroyed half of the Jap supply ship. All squadrons are in the air and the naval escorts (excepting the support ship providing AA cover) steam towards the retreating Jap supply ships attempting to reach Maloelap Atoll.

9 - T3 - Mili airfield destroyed

10 - T3 Enterprise Group

Turn 4 – Enterprise Group East of Maloelap Atoll – The Enterprise air wings sink one Jap supply ship. Escort ships are ready to engage the remaining supply ship. If there are Jap planes on Maleolap, they have not taken off.

12 - Turn 4 Enterprise Group

Yorktown Group – Mili Atoll – The Jap ships were sunk by the air wings and naval gunfire.

11 - T4 Yorktown Group

Big Picture – the Enterprise and Yorktown task forces are moving further away from each other. My scout planes are covering the North and East. Southeast and South are largely unknown outside the radar range of the Yorktown’s air wings.

13 - Turn 4 - Big Picture

Turn 5 – After sinking four ships, destroying an airfield and a costal gun, and blowing up an oil depot the Japs must be on alert.

14 - Turn 5

 

 

 

Hive of the Overmind

Hive of the Overmind is a Mutant Crawl Classics (MCC) adventure module for 0-level characters. MCC encourages starting a campaign with players running 2-4 zero level characters in a “zero level funnel adventure.” Most of the zero level characters die with survivors becoming first level characters (called “seekers” in MCC). In sum, you start MCC by running a pack of zero level characters in an intro game funnel. Most of the “zeros” die in the funnel. The survivors pick a class and become first level MCC characters.

hivecover

This is an unusual and brutal start to an RPG. The only thing I can compare it to is the old Paranoia game. In Paranoia your character is in a future gone wrong. Each character has multiple “clones.” When your character died, a clone was uncorked with all memories and skills of your deceased character up to the moment of the predecessor’s death. Permi-death only occurred when your character and all of its clones perished. Paranoia was renowned for a huge casualty list and frequent “total party kills” (TPK).

My review of Hive of the Overmind is based on two things. First, I and five others played in the module at a MACE game convention. Each player ran four 0-level characters for a total of 24. All 24 died in a TPK. Second, I purchased a pdf from http://www.goodman-games.com. I’m hoping to avoid spoilers. My review is aimed at GMs considering purchase.

Hive of the Overmind has 20 pages. Fifteen are encounter descriptions, maps, results tables and other information directly related to the scenario. The remaining five pages are illustrations (mostly possible game encounters) and advertising. No pregenerated characters are provided.

There are multiple problems with the module. First, characters “awaken” in a combat situation with no escape route. Characters are on a tiny six-hundred-foot-high plateau. The design forces characters to follow a largely linear path holding few choices with no retreat possible. I prefer players having more options.

Second, there are not one but two impossible to defeat combat opponents. The only way to “win” is persuading one impossible for zero level characters to defeat opponent to destroy the other impossible to defeat opponent. Characters will largely watch from the sidelines as one super-powered foe destroys the other over-powered opponent. I prefer modules with more than one way to solve the quest.

Third, there is a potential total party kill room. That is not in and of itself a problem. My problem is the TPK is utterly unknown to the players and can be randomly triggered. Enter a room. Do nothing obviously dumb. Everyone dies. Game over. In my play experience our handful of zero-levels survivors managing to reach this room died. Game over. I dislike TPK traps triggered by anything except very bad player decisions.

My GM who ran this module at MACE did a fine job. The total party kill room was run as written. The players were experienced with RPGs in general and most had experience playing Mutant Crawl Classics

Fourth, there are two means of escape. One involves mind control and the other is obtaining a super high-tech item and escaping inside it. Survivors are now newly minted first level characters owning a super powerful vehicle. This would be a play balance game breaker. If the zero levels win, most GMs would remove the item from future play. I view this as “well played. Now I’m taking away the spoils of your victory.”

I would extensively modify this module before running it. I would change the location to somewhere players could escape from. I would provide player motivation with something other than, “you are trapped with only one way forward.” I would replace the two super powered opponents. Placing the encounter in a less isolated locale makes modifying or removing the two means of escape rather easy.

You might get the impression that I think this is a bad module. That is not the case. Many ideas and encounters in Hive of the Overmind are quite clever. The main opponent is interesting. Excepting the TPK room and the two over-powered opponents, there is good play balance. And by “good play balance” I mean a fun gaming session with perhaps a 50% kill rate. Unfortunately, I cannot describe and praise the many good points of this module without disclosing a lot of spoilers.

On a ten-point scale, I would give this module a 5. This is not fun as written. The module has many fun ideas and could be easily modified. But absent modifications I do not consider this to be a fun 0-level funnel adventure.

Wrigley

We got Wrigley fifteen years ago as a rescue puppy.  She is now elderly and mostly sleeps.  Pictures are from today.

wrigley sly look jan 29 2019

wrigley gaze jan 2019

Everytime I see her I’m amazed how small she is.  I’m even more amazed how small she is in pictures.  Her top weight was 20 pounds and she has gotten scrawny as she got elderly.  Her personality is so big it is hard to remember how small she actually is.

Panzer

I got a miniature schnauzer rescue last March and named him Panzer.  Miniature schnauzers have a lot of energy and Panzer has a lot of energy for the breed.  Someone bought Panzer as a puppy for their grandmother and did not tell the grandmother.  She did not want to have a puppy like this so we got Panzer.

What does Panzer mean?  Panzer is German for Tank.

Why name him Panzer?  He is fearless, has amazing traction with his huge feet, and will bull through any obstacle.  This is also a German breed.

Below are a couple of pictures from January, 2019.  We just had him groomed.

panzer at attention jan 29

panzer butt spots jan 29

Panzer has spots on his butt which show up when he has been groomed.

panzer jan 29 of 2019

Below is a “normal” picture of Panzer in motion.

normal panzer jan 29 of 19

 

Review of Pillars of Eternity 2

Overview:
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is the sequel to the Pillars of Eternity Computer Role Playing Game (RPG). This review is based on 70 hours of play on medium difficulty. My characters are now 18th level and I’m approaching the end game. I purchased the game in December during the Steam Christmas sale without buying additional content. I’ve also played Pillars of Eternity 1 to completion.

In Pillars of Eternity 2 (Pillars 2) your character wakes up from a coma on a ship. In Pillars 1, the dungeons below your keep had a massive human statue made of adra. The god Eothas animated the statue, destroyed your keep, killed most of your friends and servants, stole part of your soul, and marched off to the Deadfire Islands. You are even more of a plaything of the gods as they order you to find out what Eothas is up to and stop him if necessary. Nothing comes easy for a Watcher (someone who can see souls and talk to dead people).

1 - character screen

2 - small island

As expected in an RPG sequel, your collected items, knowledge, levels, etc…. have been whisked away. You start as a first level character with a first level fighter character (Eldar) on your ship begging to be recruited. You have recruitment slots for up to four companions who are directly controlled in combat or run by the combat AI.

The Deadfire Islands are politically complex with five major factions and several sub-factions. Your actions build a reputation with each faction, sub-faction, and island. All factions offer quests large and small. Some factions are enemies, others are allied, and all want you to do things either too dangerous or too trivial for them to dirty their hands with.

3 - relationship wheel

4 - island exploration

After the initial shipboard battle and walkabout with the gods in the “god dimension,” you find yourself on an island with a small wrecked ship, one potential party member, and a small amount of salvaged goods. Several others can be recruited on this island. You must complete some quests to get your ship repaired. It seems like I’m dropping a ton of spoilers, but we are only fifteen minutes or so into the game. Pillars 2 starts by dropping a big bucket of information on your head, but the info dump is skillfully done.

Once your ship is repaired the Governor of the island encourages you to set sail for a specific port on a different island. You can ignore these instructions and sail away to explore and meet other factions on your own. You might try looting every ship and village encountered. Unlike Pillars 1, once you get your ship all map locations are discoverable. Map icons indicate if the dangers on an island or encounter area may be over your head – but nothing stops you from charging forward. I mostly followed the large breadcrumbs dropped in my characters path by the developers.

5 - world exploration map

6 - exploring at sea

Characters, Party Building and Combat Strategy
Like most long RPG games, Pillars 2 has a lot of combat. There are different character classes with different skills and abilities. I suggest recruiting characters encountered in your travels instead of recruiting generic minions from a bar. Characters encountered while traveling have better back stories, more entertaining dialogue, and will each cough up a couple of quests. A fighter, a priest, a wizard, and a cipher (sort of a wizard) can be quickly recruited. The Pillars combat system is best managed by having a strong tank backed by spell casters and ranged weapons specialists.

Your personal character makes up the 5th party member. I suggest playing a ranger with a bear or lion companion. The ranger is the best missile weapon combatant. A good archer deals a lot of the total party damage. A ranger also gets an animal buddy. Selecting a “bear buddy” provides a second “mini-tank” melee character. Last, rangers can select mechanics and stealth points when leveling up which enable lock picking and trap detection/removal. There are a lot of locks in the game. Some areas have quite a few traps.

As I gained levels I selected fighter perks on absorbing damage while wearing very heavy armor. My fighter build was “tank” used to tie up a lot of enemies and absorb most melee damage. Other party members dealt ranged damage or combat buff/debuffs. In this combat system, the mage and priest are better utilized on buffs and debuffs instead of dealing direct damage. Your cipher can deal a lot of physical damage quickly and the ranger can do considerable damage with missile weapons. Priests and mages can carry wands/rods/staffs which deal endless amounts of small ranged damage when not casting spells. In the Pillars magic system, most spells can be cast during a single combat and be ready for use in the next combat encounter.

In most conflicts my tank rushed forward to engage and block the enemy. My “bear buddy” was held in reserve to block leakers. My mage and priest buffed/debuffed, the ranger used their bow and the cipher either fired pistols or dealt direct magic damage. The mage was a secondary ranged damage spell caster. The cipher and ranger concentrated on one eliminating one supporting enemy at a time (missile weapon wielder or spell caster). Melee enemies were usually concentrated on last unless they broke past the fighter/bear line and engaged a supporting character. A “tank build” can absorb a tremendous amount of punishment before dropping.

7 - a serious monster

8 - boarding action

The drawback of tank builds with heavy armor is they attack very slowly. The lighter the armor the faster you can get off attacks. I usually had my secondary troops in relatively light armor so they could cast spells or fire ranged weapons rapidly. But this did make them vulnerable if an enemy melee character locked them in an engagement.

The World is Amazing
Very few computer RPG worlds provide such an “immersive experience” that I felt mentally transported into a different world. The first Fallout, Morrowind, Freedom Force and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines all did it for me. Pillars of Eternity 2 hits this mark. The backgrounds are very reminiscent of what you see in the Caribbean and Central America. The complex factions dislike each other for very good reasons. Most factions have both good and bad points.

Your character lacks knowledge of the islands. They must be explored to find out what is going on. The sounds and background music gave you the feeling you were on a schooner in an Alt-Caribbean environment. I got a real sense of “exploring the unknown” (at least to me) from this game. I seldom get that “exploration of the unknown” experience in an RPG. I cannot remember the last time I did not turn off the music in an RPG. I still have the music playing at a low volume in the background after 70 hours of play.

The faction and relationship map associated with your main character gives you an excellent overview of where you stand with the various groups.
The artwork, background animation, and voice acting for Pillars 2 are outstanding and build a frontier environment where many factions struggle for supremacy. Some factions are rising, others falling, and some long for days gone by before they were superseded by other factions. The factions did not seem “generic.”

9 - nifty architecture

10 - map of one city section

11 - easy to navigate city map

Games hitting this mark usually become favorites I replay multiple times. Games coming close to this mark (Icewind Dale; Fallout: New Vegas) also get replayed. Otherwise excellent games that felt generic (Oblivion, Daggerfall, Silent Storm, any of the Baldurs Gate series) get one play through and are discarded.

The screenshots provide a taste of what I’m talking about with Pillars 2. But in the background you hear waves crash, see water drop over a falls, and listen to faction leaders who have darn good reasons for hating another faction and vice-versa. The architecture reminded me of a cross between the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and Inca cities from Peru.

12 - spooky environment

13 - things get weird

Pillars 2 is Not as Depressing as Pillars 1
Pillars 1 had one of the most unique and depressing story lines of any RPG. Something is causing children to be born without souls. Nobody knows what is happening to these souls. Various groups are being blamed for “the Hollow Born” and atrocities acted upon various scapegoats are common. Yuck! Compelling, but a real downer of a story line.

Combat and Items
At average difficulty the fights were balanced. The game gives ample warning if you were potentially biting off more than you could chew – but nothing prevents your characters from picking fights with enemies which can easily snuff them out.
I strongly encourage players to turn the combat AI off all party members. With some thought you should be able to run a battle far better than the AI. The combat takes place in real time but can be paused at any time. Effectively managing your buff/debuffs is essential to victory against challenging opponents. Scouting ahead helps a lot. Thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent’s helps. But my advice is RPG Combat 101 and nothing about the combat is uniquely good.

One knock against Pillars 1 seen in Pillars 2 is generic, bland magic items. There is great play balance, but no truly memorable weapons, magical trinkets, armor or whatnot to be had. I would periodically review inventory items and compare to equipped items. Items would be swapped around, and obsolete stuff sold. But I never felt a twang of regret from taking an obsolete but colorful item out of action.

The combat system works well and has excellent play balance. But the items are blah. The storyline is more interesting than your tactical combat strategy – which for most RPG games is a good thing.

You can create items and increase the power of many existing items. But components needed for upgrades are few and far between. My advice is to save most components until the middle game and then use them to create “legendary” items with power upgrades fitting your combat style. Beware of using rare components to make one-shot potions or scrolls. Still, I never created anything “memorable” enough to bring up in chit-chat over drinks with other gamers.

It takes a lot of money to buy better ships and expensive provisions. It costs a lot of money to enchant legendary items with great powers. Many things in this game cost a lot of money. Think about your goals an prioritize your funds in that direction.

What About Your Ship?
You have a ship. You can buy better ships and equip each ship with better stuff. You can recruit crew and over time your crew gains levels and fights, steers, cooks and does other things better. Ships can be named (I sailed the Salty Dog). But ship combat is highly stylized and pretty boring. If you learn the ground combat system, you should win any ship-to-ship fight if you can manage a boarding action without being sunk.

Maybe I failed to grasp something about ship combat, but I found it simplistic and boring. I did far better when I managed to board the other ship. Ship supplies, equipment and crew morale must be managed, but this is easy.

I loved sailing the Salty Dog and exploring the islands. It was a blast. Ship combat was a boring diversion from happy exploration.

14 - ship combat example

15 - ship crew guns provisions

Content Warning: Pillars 2 has some normal RPG content issues: drug use, slavers, prostitution, etc….   There is nudity (tiny figure on the screen) in the bathhouse and a couple of other places – but the nudity fits the locations where it is used (prostitutes, bathhouse, etc….).

But Pillars 2 has content that is pretty far out there for a RPG game.  The game is rated “M” (17+) for a reason.  Some language is unsuitable for those under 18.  How unsuitable?  Think “f-bombs” and more.  Most of the language is utterly unnecessary for the plot.  Vulgarity just for the sake of vulgarity is sloppy writing and game design.  A little more creativity would both ease the concerns of some purchasers while broadening the vocabulary of other users.

My Recommendation?
Pillars 2 excels at providing a rich, engrossing environment peopled with memorable characters and factions. You get a sense of mystery, enchantment, and exploration. Combat is well balanced. Your side-kick characters have interesting personality quirks and foibles. I was not excited about the magic items, ship combat, or the squabbling gods of Pillars 2. If you are like me, most every god would be exterminated, and the Pillars 2 pantheon would be replaced with something more interesting.

If you like RPGs I would absolutely buy this game. If you like interesting worlds, NPCs and factions to interact with I would buy the game today. If your primary RPG enjoyment comes from crafting neat stuff and having extremely exacting tactical combat, you might want to hold off for a year or so and buy Pillars 2 when the price falls further.

I really loved the game and do not regret the 70 hours I’ve put into it. I’ll replay it from start to finish after the three expansions go on-sale as a reasonably priced bundle or “game of the year” edition.

Last Set of Toys – National Toy Museum Part 4

These toys caught my attention for one reason or the other.  They don’t fit the other categories.

Erector Set – My brother Jones builds and repairs things.  He played with an Erector Set and other building toys as a kid.  In our family, my wife is the repair person.

erector

Cootie was one of the dumbest toys I inherited from my much older brothers.  I doubt if they requested it for Christmas or a Birthday.

cootie

Easy Bake Ovens cooked using a light bulb.  My wife is a good cook, but the baking part from her Easy Bake Oven did not translate to adulthood.

easy bake oven

My parents watched The Lawrence Welk Show religiously.  The Lennon Sisters appeared on the show.  I found out in Kansas City that they had paper dolls.

lennon sisters paper dolls

Mystery Date had one of the most gonzo TV commercials of my childhood.  You can see the commercial at youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHsQpTbQ9Uo  Below is a vintage copy of the game.

mystery date

The Mr. Potato Head display was very eye catching:

potato head

Pushme-Pullyou from Dr. Doolittle was one of the more deranged creations that got airtime.

pushme pullyou

We got a little dog named Snort when we moved to Alabama in 1988.  Snort was scared of pretty much everything – except My Little Pony (MLP).  A My Little Pony was left in our yard, Snort got it and was very aggressive.  My Little Pony had very heavy plastic bodies and long nylon hair tails secured with a giant metal washer.  Snort put her paws on the MPL, took the hair in her teeth, and pulled with all of her might – for months.  She eventually got the hair and the attached washer out of the doll.

my little ponys

Mego Superhero dolls were something I had no interest in – until Twisted Toyfare Theater came out.  That was a blast. This was followed by the Robot Chicken TV show which also portrayed Mego Superheros in a less than flattering light.

mego

My wife and her siblings had a Creepy Crawlers set.  You made bugs out of melted plastic.  I never got one, but asked for one several times.

creepy crawlers

I really wanted a metal Batmobile as a kid.  The one I wanted had ejector seats, fired rockets, and had a blade that dropped from the nose to cut the Joker’s nets.

batmobile